I tossed and turned on my pallet, unable to sleep. My wife had been coughing throughout the night and had woken me up. I looked at her thin yellowed face and I thought of Yasna, alone in that cell, and how she had looked throughout her trial. I rose to dress myself. It would be nothing, I thought, for me to free her, and she could slip away into the woods, and later I could pretend to have some business abroad, and I could take a horse and help her get to a far away village that we traded with where I had friends. But then wrong thoughts came upon me, and I began to think that I would stay with her and make her love me. I was a man among men, robust and vital still. I would give my house to my sons. It was time for them to step out of my shadow and grow into themselves, and my wife would not miss me. She had guilt enough for us both, and I was tired of living a half life.
I had begun to put on my leggings, but then a sudden weariness overtook me, and I fell back on the straw. Was she guilty of drowning my daughter, I wondered and has she enchanted me to see past her crimes and make me lust after her as I did? I closed my eyes and fell into that land between sleep and waking where strange dreams arise and mix with our daily lives.
I knew I was standing at the spot where Vesna had been pulled out of the water, but it all looked different somehow, blue and clear to the pebbles at the bottom. I looked into the water and saw a submerged woman, lying still.
‘Vesna!’ I called out, and she opened her eyes. She held out her arms to me, and I saw it was not my daughter, but another. Her skin was pale, her hair was green, an icy chill surrounded her. She opened her mouth to speak but only air bubbles escaped it.
Across the the span of my forehead, I heard everything she said clearly: Yaroslav, you hounded me, though I did not want you. You were betrothed to another and I was already a mother, but you thought that because I had no man to protect me that you could have me. You caught me in the woods that day, and though you did not mean to, you killed me. I ran from you, and when you felled me, you saw the blood that poured from my head. You were afraid, and you laid me in the water, and thought that no one saw you. I saw and knew, and what I could not forgive is that you let my child grow up wild as she did, without once extending your hand to help her. And now you want justice for your own, while my child, innocent and humble, will suffer for it.
I was moaning and shaking when my wife woke me.