Read Once Upon A Time – part 1 first.
Once upon a time a tree stood before a broken cottage and waved its grisly burden in the breeze. Three men hung from a branch, their faces dried and pruned tight, their eyes gone and now ragged holes stared at any who dared to pass by. The villagers avoided this sad corner of their land and it grew dark. Tales of haunting and night whispers kept the people at bay.
One day a traveller came to the village, a tall and beautiful woman. She had no fear of the tree and its burden and lay down to rest beneath its leafy boughs. For many years the corpses had whispered to the tree till their tongues grew black and shrivelled and they had no words left. Now the tree took up their voices and whispered to the woman as she slept. She knew these voices and they held no fear for her, for they had never done her harm. They told her what she wanted to know, where she might find the man she once called father.
The man who tragically lost his daughters to the wild river and the evil sorcerers had flourished the wake of murder and his public grief. He was now the village’s spokesman; important, respected, remarried with a new daughter on whom he lavished his affection.
The young woman had learned something of the brothers’ art and travelled as a healer, offering what help she might. She plied her trade in the village, finding much call for her arts among the villagers. Into every tea she brewed or poultice she placed she used a sliver of bark taken from the tree that bore the dead men’s voice.
The next night the three brothers whispered into the dreams of the villagers, reminding them of what they once were to each other. The villagers were filled with tears and remorse. All except the man who lived in the largest house. He was filled with fear. In the night that followed the three brothers whispered into the dreams of the villagers and told them how the man had killed them and how they had saved his daughter. On the next day the villagers were much affected and many words were hushed as the man passed. As the nights passed and the whispers continued the mood of the village turned against the man they had come to respect.
A week passed and the man’s daughter from his new wife tearfully spoke out against her father. She was not doubted, for all the villagers had heard the truth of what had come before. They were not surprised when the youngest daughter revealed herself and demanded justice for herself and her sisters and for the brothers who had saved her.
The villagers cut down the tree and laid the brothers to rest in the gardens of their house. From the wood they fashioned a coffin for the living – a punishment for the man, and a penance for the villagers. The box they placed in the field behind the village. They cut off the man’s feet that he could never escape and placed him in the box. Its lid nailed down he was trapped, the wood whispered to him in the voices of the three brothers of the things that he had done until he was driven insane by their endless murmurs of his crimes. The sisters took the house of the brothers for their own and continued the good works that had always been done there.