Prompt Images

For as far as I can remember back, we were people of the woods. My mother, my sisters, and I were all in a little cabin, where my youngest sister and I shared a bed, and my middle sister slept on a pile of hay.

I never questioned it. I never thought about it. It was the way things were.

My bed was made of rope and a hay mattress, my middle sister slept on hay just as I did, with a blanket just like mine.

I should have. I should have. I should have, but didn’t. And that is where our differences began.

Because, you see, I have three eyes. My name is Arcadia, my middle sister is Ashenkept, my youngest sister is Acacia.

Ashenkept, when she was born, had two eyes. Acacia has one, in the middle of her face, just above her nose.

“Arcadia,” my youngest sister asked me one day, “Why are we so different from the townspeople? Why do they look at us so strangely?”

I kissed her gently on her brow and hugged her close. “They’ve never seen an eye as beautiful as yours.” And it was true, her eye was the most beautiful green, like an emerald.

Ashenkept’s eyes were golden. If we were deep in conversation, then I couldn’t look away from them. They were transfixing, and spoke to her cleverness.

I loved both of my sisters very much.

I wondered some days if my mother loved any of us. She spent much of her time trying to belittle Ashenkept, calling her “Little Two Eyes,” giving her potato sack clothing to wear, and generally being cruel.

Acacia began to model her behavior, and my heart broke into a dozen pieces when I realized it.

I gathered my sisters to me and took the goat out of the stable for a walk. “We’re going to have a chat. Like they do in town when they see Ashenkept.”

“How did you know they talk to me in the town?” Ashenkept was skeptical.

“How do I know when rain is coming? Or when father returns from the hunt? How do I know anything at all? I see daydreams, clear, lingering moments. That’s how I knew we needed a walk today.”

I knelt down in front of Acacia. “Tell me, what color are my eyes? I’ve never asked before.”

Acacia looked at me strangely. “Blue.” She tapped next to my left one. “Blue.” She tapped next to my right one. “Purple.” She tapped above the one in the middle of my forehead.

I closed all three of my eyes and nodded. “Ah, fair enough.” I stood. “Ashenkept, you’re going to get a special gift next time you take the goat out. Make sure you eat what you’re given by Mum or she’ll get… weird. Like… not cruel, but… confused.”

Ashenkept quirked her lips. “Maybe she’s overdue to be confused.”

“I’m being serious, Ashenkept! Who knows what she’ll do to you! Make you sleep with the goat in the stable? Make you go hunting with father? I swear, sometimes you don’t do what’s in your best interest.”

“I swear, I should run away from home,” she muttered.

I sighed.

We walked in silence until we got to the grazing yards, where we all lay on the grass as the goat ambled about nibbling on dandelions. We made idle chatter about the town, about what father might bring home from hunting, and so on. The goat’s shadow lengthened and we all made our way back home.

Mother had made some broth and had some bread and potatoes from our last visit to the market. She had two eyes, also. They were brown, but father’s were gold like Ashenkept. He had one. Well, now he only had one. He used to have two, but he wears an eyepatch after a hunting incident with a boar.

She put Ashenkept’s portion on a little stool in front of the fireplace. I took mine from the table and sat with my middle sister.

Mother called me back to the table.

I didn’t understand her. I didn’t understand why she treated Ashenkept like a dog in the house.

Shrugging, I mouthed an apology to Ashenkept, and sat across from my mother.

* * *

The next day was beautiful. It was warm, comfortable, and cozy inside the cabin.

It was another warm winter day outside, the kind of upswing that ends in a snowfall in a day or so.

Ashenkept took the goat out.

When she returned, she didn’t touch her meal, but was in high spirits. As we got ready for bed, she pulled me outside, away from prying ears. “You were right! I did meet someone! And she’s beautiful!!”


“And what? We just… talked.”

I narrowed my upper eye. “Mm-hmm. Sure you did.”

Ashenkept breezed past me and scurried to flop on her bed of hay.

“Where were you two?” Mother asked.

“Just outside,” I said. “Looking at the moon.”

* * *

My dreams that night were noisy.

They were always noisy before the winter festival, where the townspeople would gather, drink mead, and father would make his way home. Travelers would come from far and wide to be a part of the festivities.

My sisters and I were forbidden to go. I asked why once, only once, as a child. My cheek was red for two days and ached for just as long.

But mother didn’t know that every year I visited it in my dreams.

She didn’t know that I saw the joust at the edge of town. That I watched the barkeep carouse until dawn. She couldn’t keep my third eye from seeing what it sought out recklessly, and that I could not experience.

This was my seventeenth winter. I can only assume it was my seventeenth winter dream of the festival as well. But in the thick of it, I saw my hand reach out and spin a blond girl by the shoulder, only to wake before registering the face.

I sputtered in confusion. My hand. My hand? And who else? I looked at my right palm, and then the back of my wrist.

Acacia muttered something about roasted squirrels in her sleep.

I smiled at my youngest sister and used the blanket to cover her up.

The weight of the dream crashed into me as I looked at my mother’s closed door. Somehow I was doomed – destined? to go to the winter festival.

I got out of bed and got dressed in my warmest clothes. I felt too awake to sleep now. I left the cottage to get a log for the fireplace from the stable.

On the edge of the horizon, I could see a hooded figure amongst the trees with a junque cart.

I blinked, and she had closed the distance between us. I held my breath involuntarily.

“Tsk, tsk. Little Three Eyes, what am I to do with you?” The MageMerchant gave me a wide grin with her beautiful, wrinkled face. “You don’t know what you don’t know, yet you see too much, yes you do.”

“I… I should get back inside.” I took a step back. The MageMerchant took a step forward.

“When three moons pass,” prophesied the woman, “Your mother will have one less daughter in her house. And when four moons pass, she will have no daughters left at all.”

The MageMerchant pointed at the sky. “One midnight gone. Goodnight, Little Three Eyes.”

Despite myself, I bid her goodnight, and escaped into the cottage.

* * *

The next day, my little sisters were sent together to tend the goat.

Mother had taken Acacia and I to the side, saying that she was “worried” about Ashenkept. “She didn’t eat her food,” mother said. “Naturally, she must have found food somewhere else. Someone is feeding the skinny bird, and I’ll have her caught in the act.”

Father came home during the day, carrying a bear in a wheelbarrow. I gave him a hug and he patted my head before turning toward the village to sell the meat to the butcher.

He returned with stew meat at the same time that Ashenkept and Acacia returned. Mother took Acacia and I aside again, but Acacia was quite confused. She had fallen asleep on the grass as the afternoon had worn on.

Mother turned to me. “Arcadia, you will go with her next.”

I didn’t bother objecting. Sometimes it was better just to do as the woman said.

* * *

Ashenkept was in high spirits again. Despite having barely touched her stew the night before, she showed no signs of hunger, no complaints. When we got to the grazing field, she and I lay opposite each other, heads resting ear to ear.

She sang in a soft, lilting voice:

“My older sister Arcadia,

I wouldn’t dream of tradin’ ya.

Close your eyes my darling,

I’ll wake you with a starling.”

I struggled against the weight of the song’s magic. Deep, personal, attaching itself to my mind like a mossy covering, I could barely catch her singing it again.

“My older sister Arcadia,

I wouldn’t dream of tradin’ ya.

Close your eyes my darling,

I’ll wake you with a starling.”

My two lower eyes closed, and my middle eye almost closed… almost.

When Ashenkept was satisfied, she took a small table from her deep pocket.

“Unfold little table, you must spread,

Meats, fruit, cheese, and some bread.”

My middle eye opened fully, and my blue eyes began to blink open. I leaned on one of my elbows. “Oh… I get it.”

Ashenkept’s eyes grew wide. “You big pretender, you should be asleep.”

“And you should eat when the rest of us eat!” I bit my lip. The table was now as big as a tree stump, and full of food. I reached out for a pastry and Ashenkept batted my hand away.

“The MageMerchant said that if I let anyone else eat from the table, it will break the spell.”

I seethed. “That old witch.” My stomach growled. “Eat a bit, then put it away, and maybe we’ll find something together we can tell Mother.”

“No. I’ll eat what I like. You’ll tell her what you like.”


“What?! For years I’ve been getting the smallest portion in the house, Acacia treats me like I’m beneath her, you don’t help much either, and don’t get me started on Mother.”

I took a long, shivery breath. “You’re not thinking about the consequences.”

“Then don’t tell her.”

I winced. “That’s not fair of you.”

“Life’s not fair. Nothing about MY life has been fair.” Ashenkept looked at me with tears running down her cheeks.

“We can’t change the past. And I can’t change the future. But I can change how I respond to it.” I stood up. “I’m taking the goat back. Are you coming with me or not?”

“Stay with me,” softly said Ashenkept.

I closed all of my eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll wait for you.”

* * *

We ambled back in the darkness under the light of the second moon.

Mother was waiting for us to come back, and scolded us both soundly before sending us to bed without supper.

I slept dreamlessly that night, but Mother woke me early in the morning to ask me questions about Ashenkept.

“Mother, have you met the MageMerchant?”

She recoiled. “You are not to speak of that unholy follower of the King Ravenna in my presence ever again.”


“Simple. She promised me magical children and I ended up with you three.”

I was suddenly glad that I never revealed my second sight to her in any spectacular way.

“Ashenkept is getting fed by someone,” prodded Mother.

“She’s more resourceful than you give her credit for.”

“That girl? Lazy, stupid, annoying child couldn’t tell a poison mushroom from a potato plant. No, someone is feeding her.”

I shook my head and got up to leave. When I opened the door, Ashenkept was standing just outside Mother’s room, trying to look busy.

I grabbed her by the elbow. “Tonight. You’re escaping tonight,” I hissed.

Ashenkept turned icy white. “What? Leave you? And Acacia?”

“We’ll find you eventually. Right now you need to go somewhere safe. Find the MageMerchant. Or the tailor or bartender. Hell, work at the palace, anything, but you’ll die of a broken heart if you stay here.”

* * *

The plan was hatched and Acacia was left out of it.

Ashenkept left under the third full moon with her table of food, a change of clothes, and orders to go straight to the village.

Father noticed she was missing. But Mother threw a fit.

“Ungrateful little…” she mumbled after letting out a vile string of insults on her own flesh and blood.

Father put on his “lucky tracking” furs. Then he went off into the woods.

I woke Acacia and told her to be quiet, that we were going to see something extraordinary.

Mother had retreated to her room, and I packed a basket and took what meager savings I had squirreled away, bits and bobs, odds and ends, in a trinket box. Near the bottom of it, four gold coins.

Bundling Acacia out of the house before she could say goodbye to the only person left who could stop us was no easy task. I promised her that we could return one day, successful, and make peace with Mother. “But not today. Acacia, do you trust me?”

Acacia nodded and took my hand.

We put our hoods over our faces, and set out for the festival.

* * *

At the front of the village was the MageMerchant.

Breathless, I asked if she had seen Ashenkept.

“Seen, yes, quite some time ago. Today, no, Better luck inside little One eye and Little Three eyes.”

I squared my shoulders against the endearment. “My name is Arcadia. Her name is Acacia. We are more than what you see.”

The MageMerchant grinned. “So you are! So you are.” She motioned towards the pulsing streets of merchants, revelers, and patrons.

“Don’t let go of my hand, Acacia. I don’t want to lose you in the crowd.” I stood on tip-toe looking for Ashenkept’s fair curly locks. From one side of the village to the other, until we stood at the jousting arena outside the King’s Summerhome.

I saw a face that I’d only seen in my dreams.

A tall knight reaching for a favor from a lady… with blond hair… Surely it couldn’t be…

Dressed in lilac from cape to dress, she produced a purple ribbon to tie on to the jousting weapon. Without her burlap, she was nearly unrecognizable. But her petite nose and golden eyes gave her away.

* * *

Somehow the knight didn’t die in the joust, despite being completely smitten with my sister.

We reunited with her later that night and she cheerfully stated that the knight had essentially proposed. Acacia was ecstatic. I was aghast. “You can’t just run into the arms of the first man you see.”

“I told him no.”

“Oh thank heavens,” I released a breath I didn’t know I had been holding.

“He’s persistent, though. We have a rendezvous later. And he hopes to get me work at the Summerhome with some of his influence.” She paused. “What will you two do?”

“I don’t know. But we’re not going home until we have an apprenticeship secured and lodgings.”

Acacia looked up at me. “I miss Mom.”I hugged her. So did Ashenkept.

“We’ll be all right,” I told them both. “We’ve been through worse. And the world could use a bit more magic in it. I’ll be happy to oblige.”

V. Buritsch

A freelancer, fiction writer, podcast listener, fantasy reader who sometimes remembers to write for herself on occasion. She has a BA in English and Management, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more