The children gathered quickly, for their beloved Grandmother was going to share a tale of her youth. They moved in a fury, sitting close to hear her. “I was told this story by my Mother’s Mother, who heard it from her Mother’s Mother. It is an old story, almost forgotten” she said to them “and you’d do well to listen close. There is a lesson to be learned in it’s telling”
The children waited patiently as the old woman sipped her tea. She began slowly.
“This is how it was told to me, sitting by the hearth much like you are now…”
Many years past lived a rather remarkable woman. She was remarkable because any fabric she worked would, when finished, be a most amazing garment. Her skill became well known and word of her talent traveled quickly.
In time a vain and conceited courtier came to hear of the Seamstress and her incredible skills. She sent a messenger with word for her to come to her manor home at once for a commission that would pay more than she dreamed possible.
The woman, hearing this, left immediately without telling anyone for how long.
The trip took a long time, and she came to the Courtier’s home after a season had passed. She was greeted with a welcome fit for royalty. The Courtier held a grand feast and games in her honor. Many a person came to praise the woman for her skill.
After the festivities ended, she was shown to a luxurious room to rest till morning.
Early after the sun had risen the Courtier, accompanied by her lifelong companions the Minstrel and the Knight, and came to the Seamstress’ room to discuss the commission.
The courtier looked to the seamstress with a playful grin.
“I wish for you to make for me a gown. Not just any gown, mind you, but one that will make Queens look green upon me.”
The Seamstress bowed saying, “As you wish M’lady, but there are things I would need to do this.” The Courtier looked first to her companions and then to the seamstress.
“What is it you require to make this for me? Ask and you shall have it.”
The Seamstress bowed lower. “I will need fabric of the finest cut, in a color of your choosing.”
With a sly smile she turned to her companions. “And what color should it be?” she asked.
The Knight replied first, loud and booming. “The color should be blue, as it suits you so well” he smiled, thinking himself clever.
The Minstrel stepped forward, the smile growing on his face. “You should be adorned only in colors that show your truest nature. The palest blue for your feminine beauty,” he said with a flourish of his arms “the most delicate of reds for the power in your heart,” he bowed, drawing his mandolin from his back and striking a soft chord “and the purest of white, for your unspoiled innocence.”
A secret smile flitted upon her lips as she felt her heart rise at the words. She swallowed, steadying her voice, and said to the two men “The one who brings me these colors the swiftest shall have of mine a token.”
The two men, having vied for the Courtier’s affection since childhood, set to the task in fervor.
The Knight, known to be one of great strength and honor, set to the road to ask a boon of his liege. He had served him well for many years and hoped that would win him favor.
The Minstrel, having traveled far and wide over the years, knew of many a merchant who would have such a thing as he needed to win the Courtier’s heart.
After three days had passed, both men returned to the manor bearing parcels. They met with the Courtier in the room set aside for the Seamstress.
“These are both quite wonderful” the Courtier said, running her fingers along the most beautiful fabrics she had ever seen “How am I to choose only one?”
She grinned and turned to the seamstress “You will make two gowns, one from each of the parcels. I shall decide then the one I will wear to court.”
Slowly she turned to the men. “Until then, you have both shown great dedication and resourcefulness in finding suitable fabrics for my gown, so you both shall have a token from me.”
She walked to the Knight, pulling from her sleeve a handkerchief. She tied it carefully to the hilt of his sword. “Thank you, sir. You have shown great honor and kindness to me.”
She next moved to the Minstrel, slowly removing a fine comb from her hair. “Thank you, kind Minstrel. You have brought a wondrous song of color to me.”
Turning, she walked to the Seamstress and placed her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “You may take your leave of us now” she said to the men “for the seamstress and I have much planning to do.”
Over the next three weeks, the Seamstress worked tirelessly cutting and stitching each piece with great care. On the third day, a messenger arrived, bringing news of her husband who waited for her at their home. He was ill it seemed, with a fever that would not subside. He was dying, it was sure. She went to the Courtier with this news. “You have not filled your duty to me as of yet” the Courtier exclaimed “you may not leave until it is finished.”
The Seamstress returned to her room with tears she could not stop. She feared she would die of grief if she were to live without her husband there with her.
At this time the Knight decided to pad his hand in this game, and bring the seamstress a gift and assistants to help her.
“I have come to you with a gift and a boon, dear lady” he said, as the assistants carried in a beautifully crafted spinning wheel “to aid in your work, I give you this spinning wheel and the services of these three women.” The Seamstress stood, looking fearfully at the Knight.
“I would accept the wheel if it pleases you, sir, but the women cannot help me in my work.”
“Then they shall follow the course of your hand and use your thread to make the gown for me, to exacting measure to the one you make!” He stepped close to the Seamstress, anger growing red in his face. “If you deceive my servants and cause them to fail, your heart will be torn asunder by my sword…” he whispered. Turning towards the door, he motioned to the servants to begin work and left.
With great fear the Seamstress took up the stool by the spinning wheel. This was to be the threads that would adorn the trim of the gown, decoratively woven into flowing knots and vines. If she finished the gown, she could return home and nurse her husband to health again. At the though of he husband her heart grew heavy and she began to weep. She remembered long ago her mother told her never to spin with a heavy heart, for it would bring ill luck to the one who would wear the threads. She knew deep down that this was true, but she set to work regardless. Her husband was far more important to her than the fortune of a heartless Courtier.
With tears flowing heavily she worked the spinning wheel all day and well into the night. As she worked, the servants began to point to her and the wheel and fearfully mumble amongst themselves. The Seamstress, concerning herself only with the thoughts of her husband’s illness, quickened her pace and continued to work unabated. After spinning most of the thread needed, she stood and paced the room for a long moment. She was tired, her hands and back were sore, and she felt as if she could not go on. Turning towards the servants, she caught a glimpse of herself in a large gilded mirror.
Scarcely believing her eyes, she saw not her own, but her grandmother’s reflection. Falling back into the spinning wheel, her eyes could only focus on the thread she had just finished spinning. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, reflecting a hundred-fold of hues and shades. She lifted herself upon the stool, knowing this was a task she must complete, for her dearest love would be dead soon. She continued spinning and sewing until the first rays of morning shone through the bedroom window.
She had completed but one gown, using the Minstrel’s fabric, and a doublet fit for the Knight from his own. They matched perfectly, but for a small seam that was unfinished on the hem of the gown.
She turned to the servants and spoke in a hoarse and withered voice. “You shall tell them this: To the Lady, I have made the most beautiful of gowns, like no other before it. It is perfect in every way. To the Minstrel, I have chosen the fabric that is appropriate for a gown of this quality, and it is his. To the Knight, I return your gift in kind, for you shall wear your cloth to match the Lady.”
Sitting before the spinning wheel, she told the servants to gather to her. “This will be the last thread I shall ever spin, for my love is surely dead and my heart is soon to follow. You must set the last seam, but tell no one it was you.”
She began to spin the wondrous thread slowly, till soon the wheel stopped and she lay dead at the base.
Fearing retribution from an angry ghost, the servants did as asked, carefully stitching the last hem on the gown with the newly spun thread.
As two of them laid out the gown and doublet, the third went to find the Courtier, Minstrel, and Knight. They all quickly made their way to the room the seamstress was in.
The Courtier, upon seeing the gown, snatched it up and moved quickly behind the changing screen, stepping over the body of the seamstress as she went. The two men looked at the doublet as the servants relayed the message from the now deceased seamstress.
The Courtier rushed from behind the screen to the gilded mirror the seamstress had seen her doom in. Enchanted, she twirled and swayed in front of it, admiring herself.
The Knight, seeming quite pleased with the turn of events, picked up the doublet and held it to him, making sure it would be a good fit. “Do you think we’ll stir their hearts at court?” he asked the Courtier. His question went unanswered, as the Courtier danced in front of the mirror. “I am more beautiful than even the Queen” she whispered in awe of herself.
One of the servants looked to the Courtier. “Begging your pardon M’lady, but the seamstress has passed. Shall we make arrangements to send her to her family?” she asked.
“Heavens no! That would be a cost I do not wish to incur. Throw her body from the window. It should wash downstream easily enough. Then it will be someone else’s problem.” she said with a sideways glance.
The Minstrel stood horrified. “And what of the game M’lady? ‘Tis my cloth you wear and so should I be the one whose arm you take to court!” he said, coldly staring at the Knight. The Knight set aside the doublet, taking a stance of attack. “Do you dare presume to take my place, in my clothes!” he bellowed.
At this the Minstrel’s hardened expression softened a bit. He stood loose, moving towards the Knight. “We need not fight, the Lady will decide to whom she wishes to accompany her to court” he said melodically with strange twinkle in his eye.
“What say you, dear Lady, who shall accompany you to court?” the Knight said, standing full and powerful. The Courtier stood before the mirror still and looking at her reflection said “I really doesn’t matter which of you goes. When the prince sees me, I will steal his heart and he will make me his princess.” She looked at them in the mirror sourly. “Decide amongst yourselves, I care not. But decide quickly, we will be leaving for court shortly”
The Knight squared himself, the Minstrel stood firmly in place. “We shall settle this, you and I” the Knight growled coldly. The Minstrel smiled. He had, hidden in his sleeve, a slim dagger. He knew the Knight’s armor would not withstand a sharp pierce from it. “So be it” the Minstrel chuckled, loosening his stance.
The Knight lurched forward, grabbing the Minstrel by the collar. Shifting to avoid the pressure of the Knight’s weight, he drew the slim blade. Thrown off balance, the two men tumbled across the room to the floor. With a loud crash the Knight’s expression turned from rage to confusion. From the breast of his armor protruded the handle of the small, deadly blade. “’Tis a fault of mine, trusting the honor of a rogue” he spat through the blood filling his mouth. Rising to his elbows he spoke to the servant closest to him. “Tell my liege I die defending love” and fell to the hard floor, cold and dead.
The Minstrel kneeled down beside the Knight and drew his blade from his chest. “I will accompany you, M’lady. I have won the contest” he spoke in a calm and melodic tone. He received no answer. Looking to the Courtier, he found she had been toppled in the scuffle, as had the gilded mirror. He moved to her side quickly, taking her hand in his. “Are you well, my love?” he asked softly. After a moment he dropped her hand and stumbled backwards.
There lay the Courtier, a long sliver of reflective glass squarely through her heart. Her eyes, looking for her truest love to comfort her in her last moments, were staring softly into the instrument of her death, the piece of mirror.
The Minstrel stood with a tear in his eye. “So is the cost of vanity and greed”
The Minstrel left that day, never to be seen again. The Knight was given a quiet burial which was attended by his liege and squire but no others, and the Courtier was laid to rest in an unmarked grave near her home, fearing she may come back to haunt the halls in which she once conspired in to rule.
Love is powerful, and so is pain.
The curse in this tale is that of a spinning wheel and a gown.
The spinning wheel is made of hearty oak and carved with tiny intricate knotwork over the entire surface. It’s curse was placed by accident. The pain felt by the Seamstress was absorbed through the tears that fell upon it. The thread produced is that of unsurpassed beauty and value. The price for it is the life of the spinner, who ages till death while working the wheel.
The gown is made of the finest satin and velvet in pale blue, light pink, and white lace. It was cursed by happenstance. The Seamstress, not thinking clearly, wished for the gown to show the greed and vanity that brought it into existence. The curse causes any who wear it to become enthralled by their own beauty and worth, followed by the urge to act upon it.
Both the Spinning Wheel and the Courtier’s Gown have been lost to the ages, although their value has risen to epic proportions. Their recovery would be valuable to collectors and sages alike.