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When the sun went out in the middle of the day, the King sent immediately for his wisest advisors and scientists. They told him, with complete assurance, that it was something called an eclipse; by candlelight they demonstrated the principle of a planetary body moving between the sun and earth and blocking its light.

“It will pass in a matter of minutes,” they told him.

When darkness still reigned several hours later, the King became impatient. He wanted answers; he wanted the sun back. He pointed to the great water clock at the end of his great hall, which marked out the days, and said that if the advisors had no answers for him by the time the sun ought to rise, he would have one of them executed each hour until the sun returned.

Whilst the unfortunate men threw themselves wholeheartedly into their research, their hope was soon to degenerate into despair, and when the dawn hour passed in darkness, they still had no answer.

The axeman was sharpening his blade ready for the first neck when the great hall’s door swung open and a figure stepped forward in the dim candlelight.

“Who approaches the King?!”

The guards stepped forwards with their halberds raised, but lowered them in confusion when they saw the intruder clearly. She was a tiny, emaciated woman in a plain old dress, walking forwards slowly and leaning heavily on a stick.

One of the guards turned towards the King. “It’s the cunning woman from the village,” he called.

The King stood up. “What does she want?”

One of the advisors looked up with new hope. “Perhaps she knows why the sun has gone out,” he said. “They say that she has knowledge that others do not.”

The King strode down the length of the hall to meet the woman.

“Why has the sun gone out?”

She stood still and smiled at him in silence.

“Answer me,” he demanded.

“There is no answer,” she said.

A chill gripped the King. “Then why have you come?”

The cunning woman looked up at him. “To see a doomed man.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: The Three Word Wednesday prompts this week were Cunning, Degenerate and Emaciated.)

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