In the woods, there is a small, overgrown path. This path leads to a small, overgrown clearing. In this small, overgrown clearing lies a weathered, moss-covered gravestone. There is no name chiselled onto it nor any flowers or gifts on the grave.
Only after a few drinks will farmers in that land speak about it. They will lean in close, so you can smell the manure and the booze on them and see all the cracks that the Sun and the wind have carved into them over the years. And then they will hoarsely whisper that that is where Lily White is buried.
If you ask them anything more, they will bumblingly excuse themselves and leave. You can try asking someone else at the bar. You can try, but in places like this with simple people like this, darkness is all the more terrifying. Not even all the airs and graces of the royal court itself could hide the stink that wafts through the crowd here when you ask about Lily White.
This is because she had grown up with all the other labourers in the lower fields of one of the medium-size farms around these woods. Even as a child she was pretty, but as a young lady she was particularly ravishing. She had black hair falling around her smooth skin and enchantingly dark eyes as her graceful curves suggested much, much more.
She was so beautiful that the farmer asked her father for his son’s hand in marriage to her. We know little about Lily White’s parents, but we can assume that they agreed and so it was that Lily White got married to the farmer’s son.
That did not last long, for soon it was the farmer himself sneaking into Lily White’s room at night. And then his son turned up dead one day after a farming accident while the farmer’s wife killed herself in her grief.
The farming community was shocked, but the farmer was a respectable man–reasonably wealthy, in fact–and so he did the right thing by the customs of the day: he married Lily White, so that she would be taken care of.
Unfortunately, three days after the handfasting ceremony when the awaited period of waiting had passed, the farmer’s heart stopped beating over his oats and tea in the morning.
Three funerals in as little months at the same farm. This was enough to start the town talking. The Mayor himself stepped in and visited the farm. Lily White was living there with a handful of servants and the old labourers on the fields. The Mayor spent a whole day there talking to her, but eventually came back to the town and went straight to bed early. Apparently, the conversations had been exhausting, such was the pressure and stresses of his job.
The next morning, the Mayor announced to those that would listen–and he would repeat to anyone that subsequently asked–that he was satisfied that Lily White was comfortable and managing the farm well. He further believed that this was all just a series of unfortunate events, and any dark rumours against the character of Mrs White would be dealt with swiftly and harshly. He would have to go and check-in on her, as was his civic duty as mayor, you know, just to make sure things were going well over there. But he had every confidence in her managing the farm.
And so, just to be sure, the Mayor started visiting Lily White regularly. At first, he would ride out there on his fancy white horse once in a while. But then it became once a week and, before long it was almost once a day. Eventually, he just asked her to move into his home at the centre of town. His wife was old and bed-ridden, but he had plenty of servants that would look after Lily White’s needs and she could go shopping in the fancy shops down the Main Road.
The next thing the townsfolk knew, Lily White was living at the Mayor’s house and appearing on his arm as he strolled through the town. He would gaze hungrily at her beautiful form whenever he thought no one was looking, but answer any questions about the arrangement as him just doing his civic duty. Besides, women cannot be left alone out on remote farms when the dark woods are just there and bandits could come raiding at any time.
And then the Mayor’s wife–already poor of health–drew her last breath a few month’s after Lily White moved into their home. Now, the Mayor’s wife was already old and sick with consumption, so this–like some of the other events–could well have been pure coincidence. But, as some of the more cynical townsfolk and farmers liked to point out, it was funny how often coincidence happened around Lily White.
The Mayor, though, did not suddenly die. No, he kept living quite well and, in fact, got more active in the town. He started imposing a tax on merchants trading there. Then taxed the farmers that came into the town. Eventually, with a royal letter that he had secured, he rode out to each farm to individually tax on the harvest for the town’s coffers.
Perhaps not unusual, right? Taxes tend to be imposed by the lazy and the powerful, right?
Except that clothes began to arrive at the Mayor’s house. Packages of all manner of fancy thing, from hats to dresses. Dressmakers from out of town would appear in sparkling carriages before riding off quickly. Each time Lily White would step out of that house, she was dressed head-to-toe like some court princess. More and more gold and jewels began to glitter from her form as the number of servants that followed her expanded.
And then one day a royal carriage appeared at the Mayor’s house. A whole regalia of soldiers with bright muskets and snappy horses followed it. Out of the intimidating carriage stepped a prince briefly before disappearing into that mysterious house.
All fell quiet in the town. Everyone was waiting and holding their breath. No one knew quite why, but they were all nervous for what would come from this visit by the prince.
They were not disappointed: when Lily White left the Mayor’s house with the Prince, the Mayor stood howling, red-faced with snot and tears streaking down his chubby face. But the Prince’s soldiers stood with their muskets ready before the carriage. Not even the bewitched Mayor was silly enough to try anything here.
And so Lily White rode out of town and never looked back. Some say she is consort to the King now, the Prince having died in a riding accident? Some say she slipped off to a foreign land where she married an Emperor after his first wife passed away? Some say, though, that she eventually grew old and her hold over men weakened, so she had to settle for an old, fat noble marriage where could at least live in comfort wearing her way through the former wife’s cupboard?
Who knows where such people end up. All that we do know is three days after Lily White left with the Prince, the Mayor strung himself up by his neck from his balcony overlooking the square in town. He was very much dead by the time the locals woke up and found him; his face purple and his limbs cold and stiff.
After all the taxes and the abuse, the locals did not care much for his final resting place. But, as were customs of the day, he was buried in a box in the ground with a gravestone to his name. Only, his name was not on it and the box was put in the ground far away in a little clearing at the end of an old hunter’s path in the woods.
Then the locals appointed a new mayor. They made sure he had a young, healthy wife. They made sure he had a small farm too, and got rid of all those unfortunate taxes.
And then the locals went back to the fields and tried to forget about the dark days of Little Lily White.
But, somewhere far away, she is out there wrapping her merciless tentacles around some powerless man’s heart and squeezing every drop of gold from his doomed existence.