by Sarah Earlene Shere, ©2023 

(May 26, 2023) — Tears ran down Elisa’s cheeks as she touched her bleeding fingers to her lips. She did not cry out in pain for fear that even a whimper could be interpreted as a spoken word, and THAT she could not do. The fairy in her dream made it clear: Elisa must keep silent till all the shirts she had woven for her brothers were complete, elsewise all her years of hard work would be in vain.

Elisa looked about her with a start at the sound of the demonic creatures that resided in the churchyard. The low snarls, scratching, heavy breathing and chewing sent chills up and down her spine. She lifted her eyes to the sky, where the moon and stars reminded her that light shines in the darkness, and prayed in her heart for God’s protection and enabling to carry on with the task before her.

Elisa only had one shirt left to finish. This would be the last time that she would have to sneak out of the palace to the churchyard to collect the stinging nettles that grew on the graves. Tonight would be the last time that she would have to tread them with her bare feet till they became flax that she could spin and weave into a shirt. Soon eleven shirts would be complete. Then she could give each of them to her eleven brothers; she would be able to speak again and tell them she loved them; the spell their stepmother had placed on them years ago would finally be broken. The eleven wild swans would, once again, be princes!

However, evil lurks not only in demons, but also in the heart of man, even those who appear to be holy. The archbishop leaned with his mouth close to the king’s ear as they watched Elisa from the shadows. The king’s eyes filled with tears as his heart began to break at the sight of his beloved bride calmly kneeling amongst the demon creatures that resided in the graveyard. He began to believe the cruel accusations the archbishop had spoken to him against Elisa from the first day they found the beautiful, mute girl in the forest; these were the words the holy man repeated now.

Herein lays our lesson: judge not with eyes that can only see the surface, for it may be that a saint kneels in the dirt among the demons, while a demon resides within a man draped in holy cloth.

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