I would have told my mother the truth that day: what I was, what I’d never be. But there was a sorrow in her deeper than mine, and when I asked her the reason she showed me a room where twelve coffins lay waiting: one for myself, and one for each of my brothers.
With a hand on her swollen belly, she told me: “If I bear a son, your father will build a thirteenth coffin. If I bear a daughter he will have the twelve of you killed, for she alone will inherit our kingdom.”
The words I’d been longing to speak died in my throat. The throne might have been mine, my father’s cruel whim averted – but what did that matter, if it came at the cost of my brothers’ lives?
We hid ourselves in the forest while my mother gave birth. When it was finished she hung a cloth from her window: red as blood, the colour of peril. Our sister was born a girl.
On pain of death, we could never return home.
We had no other way to go, and so we went deeper into the forest, h