There was once a widowed lord with two comely daughters. Though the loss of his wife brought the lord great sadness he was consoled by the love of his daughters who grew into fine and beautiful young ladies, sharp of mind and possessed of great spirit. The girls doted on their father who, though only in his middle years, they imagined to be enormously aged and ever in need of their support. The father smiled and was grateful for their company.

The widowed lord’s daughters had each a room of her own, side-by-side in the lord’s great house. In both rooms a balcony window looked out upon the grassy acres of the lord’s estate. One night, by way of these windows a stranger visited the daughters and quite against their will lay down with each, one after the other.

The widowed lord was struck with grief and anger when he found that his daughters had fallen with child. He disbelieved their tales of a nightly visitor and of a forced act upon their virginity. He cursed his daughters and swore to expel them from his home when they had done with childbirth. The daughters were distraught and sought solace together, not knowing whither to turn for help.

When the time of the births grew near, the widowed lord refused a doctor or midwife to aid in the delivery, and so each of them suffered great pain. The first of the daughters gave birth to a swarm of bees that circled the light in the girl’s room, flew through the window into the lord’s estate, there to pollinate the flowers and build a hive in the great oak that stood by the pond. The second of the daughters gave birth to a swarm of wasps. They circled the light in her room, flew through the keyhole, about the house and stung the lord to death.

The two daughters lived long in their father’s house, gorging on bread and honey, and were not visited again.

Christian Butler-Zanetti is a librarian and literacy teacher in a London secondary school. In 2006 he began publishing stories and drawings through his own Broken Umbrella Press. In 2015 his story 00 was published by Savoury Days. Christian is a member of post-punk/DIY band The Pheromoans and is active in various side-projects, including the spoken word/sound collage group The Teleporters. He also performs as preposterous self-styled poet/comedian/fringe figure Mad Headed Octogram.

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