8.02 / February 2013

Right Velmy

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There was once a woman called Right Velmy, who lived in a small, crooked house that sat upon a hill. Each morning, a fog swirled up the hill where her crooked house sat. The fog swirled as high as the windows and it tapped at them. This woman had eyes like candle flames and two hands with nimble sewing fingers and she wore her long black hair in a high and haughty ponytail. Right Velmy was not a witch, though she did know a little magic.

Right Velmy earned her living as a seamstress. With her nimble fingers, she sewed beautiful dresses and gowns, crafted to flatter even the most ungainly of princesses. Laced into a gown stitched by Right Velmy, a princess became not only lovely, but, as required for courtship, she appeared to be charming, obedient, and good. There was a hint, of course, of magic about Right Velmy’s gowns, though not so much that it frightened away her customers, at least not very many of them. And what about those princesses who were already beautiful, subservient, kind? They didn’t need Right Velmy, but neither did she have use for them.

One day, the queen, who was powerful but not lovely, rich but not kind, appeared at Right Velmy’s door. The queen promised to reward Right Velmy very richly, if she would sew her a fine and magical gown. Right Velmy agreed.

She worked on the queen’s gown for many days and many nights, engraving sharp and graceful seams, with long and swooping stitches. Her needle was silver and when she sewed the queen’s dress in the dark of the night, the silver needle caught the moonlight and gleamed. Right Velmy didn’t need a thimble, for her fingers were curiously strong and quick and flexible, but she wore one anyway. It was golden and encrusted with rare jewels, and when she sewed in the daytime, the sunlight glinted from it. With her silver needle and thread like a spider’s silk, she drew cursive letters in the sunlight and in the moonlight and the cursive letters stitched a spell and it was this spell that made her gowns so special.

After many days and nights had passed, Right Velmy completed the gown, which she brought to the palace and presented to the queen. The queen was delighted, for when she put on the dress, she was beautiful and everyone immediately perceived her to be very meek and obliging. She knew the use in appearing so, even though she was not, and even though she was the queen.

Instead of the gold they had agreed upon, the queen paid Right Velmy with a pair of magic gloves. The gloves looked and felt like a splash of water and they fit Right Velmy as if they were made of her own skin. Right Velmy accepted the gloves. She knew better than to refuse.

The legend grew of Right Velmy’s skill with her silver needle and jeweled thimble. It spread far over the land, reaching kings as well as queens and princes as well as princesses. Even though Right Velmy herself was not a princess, and even though some people, in fact, believed she was a witch, many men wanted to marry her. Princes from kingdoms near and far traveled to Right Velmy’s kingdom, then to her village, then to her crooked house on the hill, all clamoring to claim Right Velmy’s hand in marriage.

One day, the first of Right Velmy’s many suitors reached her doorstep. This prince, who was very handsome in a way that was not too perfect and didn’t make Right Velmy uncomfortable, bent to one knee before her.

“Dear Lady,” the prince said, “Your skill with a needle is famous and so is the flickering of your candle-flame eyes. I can even see, by the dress that you are wearing, that you are kind and obedient. If you would only be my wife, I would honor you with a feast of five hundred hogs and a party that no one would ever forget.”

Right Velmy, despite the dress that she happened to be wearing, didn’t much want to marry. Yet Right Velmy very much liked pork and feasts and festivals and so she considered the offer very carefully. “What must I do to receive such an honor?” she asked.

“Only give me your hand and it is yours.”

Right Velmy slipped into her kitchen, picked up a gleaming silver knife, and sliced off her hand at the wrist. Three drops of bright blood splashed the tile of her kitchen floor and then the cut sealed smoothly without even a seam or a scar. She wrapped the hand in butcher paper and presented it to her suitor.

The prince was surprised by the hand, which was heavy and dead but still warm, and he was angry about Right Velmy’s trick. Yet he dared not go back on his word. So the elegant and handsome prince declared that the next day be dedicated to feasting and he offered five hundred of his own hogs to roast for the villagers.

That night, before going to sleep, Right Velmy put on her magic gloves. To ensure that the empty glove stayed in place, she plucked one long, black hair from her ponytail, threaded it through a needle and stitched the edge of the glove to her forearm. When she awoke in the morning and removed the gloves, a new left hand had grown. The fingers on this hand were even more nimble than those of her last hand. The gold and jeweled thimble fit her middle finger even more perfectly than before. And the fingernails were polished like the insides of seashells.

Each day after that, when Right Velmy opened her door in the morning, she found another suitor bent before her, who promised her great riches. One pledged a wagon full of gold. Another presented a cart full of diamonds.

To each suitor, Right Velmy asked, “And what am I to do for such treasure?”

“Just give me your hand, my lady.”

And so Right Velmy removed herself to the kitchen and sliced off her left hand with her silver kitchen knife. Three drops of blood splashed the floor as the wound healed.

Each of the suitors kept his bargain, though disappointed, and did not tell anyone of Right Velmy’s trickery out of shame for having been so easily deceived.

Each night, Right Velmy pulled her magic gloves over one real hand and one stump, and with one black hair plucked from her ponytail, she carefully stitched up the seam. Then, as the first sunlight splashed through her window, Right Velmy awoke with a new left hand, more flexible, nimble, and lovely than the last. This went on for many days.

After collecting the riches of ninety-nine wealthy princes, Right Velmy opened her door to find yet another suitor marching up the stone steps to her crooked house. The fog swirled around him, but she could tell that he was, like all the others, a man of distinction.

Overcome by the loveliness of her candle-flame eyes and by the reputation of her silver needle, enchanted by her gown to find her kind and obliging, the final prince threw himself at her feet. “Lady, I have come to ask you to be my wife.”

Right Velmy stroked the top of the prince’s head with her newly grown hand, the fingernails glossy like pearls.

“Why should I become your wife?” she asked.

“If you become my wife, I will give you a mountain of gold,” the prince said.

“What do I need to do?” asked Right Velmy.

“If you become my wife, I will shower you with jewels,” the prince said.

“What is it that you want from me?” asked Right Velmy.

“If you become my wife, I will hold the biggest festival this land has ever seen, with one thousand hogs roasted and cake and cider and music and dancing.”

A whisper of misgiving tugged at Right Velmy’s ponytail. It warned her to beware, that this prince was not like the others. But her good fortune had made her greedy, and so she persisted. “In exchange for the riches, what would you have me do?”

“Why become my wife!”

“Would you give these things in exchange for my hand?”

“I suppose that’s one way of putting it.”

Right Velmy was exasperated. “Well put it that way then.”

“Put it what way?”

“The way I said.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Say you’ll give me gold, jewels, and a great feast in exchange for my hand!”

“Haven’t I said that?”

“Say it.”

“I will give you gold, jewels, and a great feast in exchange for your hand.”

“Ah-ha!” And into the kitchen Right Velmy ran to cut off her left hand at the wrist. Three drops of blood splashed the tiles on the floor and then the wound sealed up neatly, without a seam or a scar. She wrapped the severed hand in butcher paper and presented it to the prince.

“Oh no,” he said, unwrapping the paper, and turning a little green. “That’s not what I meant at all!”

“It’s what you said.”

“Is it really your hand?” The prince poked at the lovely fingers, curled but lifeless. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“But can you sew like that? With one hand?”

“What?”

“Can you sew? I don’t mean to be a douchebag here, but that’s the only reason I wanted to marry you. You know? So you could sew all of those magical clothes I hear so much about.”

“We’re not getting married.”

“Oh! Well, that’s probably for the best.” The prince edged backward through the door, out of Right Velmy’s crooked house, keeping both eyes on her. “Here’s your hand back.” He passed her the half-wrapped package. “I hope you can, er, get along okay with that injury?” Then he dashed away, down the path.

Outraged, Right Velmy hurled the hand at the prince. It hit him on the back with a satisfying thunk.

That night, Right Velmy used her magic gloves to grow a new and better hand.

She dreamed, that night, about revenge.

The prince, however, felt guilty as he hurried away from Right Velmy’s crooked house on the hill. He had offered to marry her. And he had rescinded that offer just because of a little deformity. He certainly didn’t want to marry Right Velmy anymore, disabled as she was, and therefore unable to sew or to please him in even the simplest ways. But this prince was particularly rich and particularly softhearted. It was well within his means to provide her with gold, jewels, and feasting anyway. So he ordered that everything be done as he had originally agreed.

The next morning, Right Velmy sat in her crooked house on the hill and rocked back and forth and stewed. Her left hand was re-grown, the bones long and fine, the fingers elegantly shaped, the skin smooth as porcelain. But Right Velmy felt that she had been humiliated by the prince’s rejection and so she was very angry. She thought about what she might do to the prince when he failed to deliver on his promise, which he would surely do.

She might turn him into a toad. She might slice him into many pieces. She might tie him upside down from the rafters of her crooked house and tickle him until he hemorrhaged and died. Her magic gloves helped her to think and so she put them on.

But as Right Velmy was considering her revenge, a delicious aroma climbed swiftly up the hill to her house. It was the scent of feasting and merriment. Then Right Velmy heard a clanging. A wagon, full of gold, was chugging up the hill. Another, behind it, was loaded with jewels. A messenger announced that gifts of gold, jewels, and feasting had arrived from the prince.

But it was not gold or jewels or feasting that Right Velmy wanted. Not anymore. She wanted revenge! Right Velmy’s face turned purple and the foggy mists swirled around her. She stomped her feet and flapped her arms. She was so angry that she pulled her own hair. Then she bit her lips with her own teeth and beat at her thighs and her belly with her hands. She threw herself to the ground and she wailed.

It was almost an ordinary temper tantrum, except that Right Velmy was wearing magic gloves. The gloves felt the wrath of Right Velmy, lifted it into the air and into the fog that surrounded her, and called out to the one-hundred severed hands.

One prince had thrown his hand to the pigs, but they hadn’t entirely eaten it yet and so it lifted itself on three fingers, scurried to Right Velmy. Another hand had been buried, but it crawled up from the ground, slapped the dirt from its palm, and scurried to Right Velmy.  A third hand had been oiled and lotioned and kept by the bed of the princely suitor. This one slinked out of the bedchambers, crept over stone corridors and carpeted passages, swam a scum-covered moat, and then crawled to Right Velmy. The discarded hand that Right Velmy had thrown at the most recent prince, and which landed in the grass by her front door, hopped only a few feet to reach her.

And so all of the one hundred hands scurried like spiders, raced to Right Velmy, swarmed upon her crooked house. They saw Right Velmy wailing and flailing and abusing herself with her teeth. They saw that she kicked the ground and she kicked at her own legs with her feet and that her gloved fists were tearing at her hair, punching at her head and her face and her torso. They felt her rage and it welled up within them.

So the enchanted hands picked up sticks and clubs and wooden spoons and beat Right Velmy until she was soft and purple, then mushy like a rotten peach. Then they beat her even further until she was dead.

Once Right Velmy was soft, purple, pulpy-once she was completely dead-her right hand picked up the silver kitchen knife and sliced her newest left hand off at the wrist. Then the new and newly separate left hand took up the knife and sliced through the wrist of Right Velmy’s right hand until it, too, was free.

The enchanted hands scuttled off like an army of spiders, into the forest and under rocks, and were never heard from again.

As for Right Velmy, the magic gloves nuzzled themselves over the stump ends of her arms. The next morning, Right Velmy’s body had disappeared, along with the gloves. Later that week, the queen found the magic gloves returned to her, nestled among her socks and her underwear.

 


Allison Wyss is originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She now lives in Washington, DC and studies creative writing at the University of Maryland. Her work has appeared in Metazen. The story of Right Velmy is part of the novel she is writing.
8.02 / February 2013

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