“As Kassardis approached his maimed and mangled wives, they scrabbled for their weapons in whatever way they could, clutching their gory injuries. For Kassardis was a ghastly sight: malnourished, clad only in rags, and with a terrible light in his eyes. They should have known then that the fate Kassardis had chosen for them was far worse than they ever could have expected, but they were fools with little imagination, and so chose to fight anyway.

Kassardis took the pommel of his blade, and with all his strength struck each of the wives across the head, knocking them unconscious. It took four blows from the great enameled hilt of the sword to fell Littari, but eventually the pints of blood she had lost stopped her struggle.

With great fierceness, Kassardis drove off Ipreski’s retainers, and tearing scraps of cloth, bound the gushing wounds of his wives however he could. He knew however dire their injuries seemed, they would likely survive, having been bred for generations for thick blood, tough skin, and other valued traits to place them above his other potential wives.

Exhausted, the silver prince finally dragged himself to the road, where he waited for a merchant’s cart, and went to a hard-scrabble town to find an apothecary. There, he bartered the remainder of the old swordmaster’s belongings for medicine, keeping only the blade and the old man’s boots, which he put on.

Finally, there in the gulch, Kassardis made camp, and over the next few days tended to his wives with incredible care. He sewed up gashes, blotted dried blood, and fed them water as they suffered. And though he tried his best, Littari would surely never speak again, Ipreski surely never walk again, and Vastoki’s nose had long since disappeared into a pond.

On the third day, Vastoki, the youngest and most calculating, could finally speak, and when she did she was astonished.

“You fool!” she croaked, “Do you seek to garner my sympathy? When I am well again, I will subdue you, husband, and take you back to our great kingdom and our rightful throne. This changes nothing!”

“Of course,” said Kassardis, “Violence is inescapable. The Very Wise Frog was right.”

And to Vastoki, something had changed in Kassardis. He was more relaxed, and more tense at the same time, like flexible steel. A great truth had settled into his flesh, and his calm was a terrible thing to behold.

“I came to find the land of Samura, where peace is eternal,” said Kassardis, “But instead, I find that I must carry Samura with me.” And he grasped the hilt of his sword and stood, and Vastoki finally realized how tall he was.

“None of the three of you will ever agree to share me, and none of the three of you can best the other,” said Kassardis, “You are already too poisoned by violence. I will run from you, and you will find me, again and again, and again and again you will destroy yourselves in trying to claim me. And again and again, I will tend to your wounds, and flee, knowing that I will never truly escape.”

“Again and again you will destroy yourselves until you are mere hunks of flesh, crippled wrecks of meat. And there will come a day when you have become so ruined that even I will be able to best you in combat, and you will submit to my peace.”

Vastoki did not believe Kassardis at first, for she was a fool, but she humored him anyway. “And what then?” she scoffed, “Your kingdom, my silver prince, will ever await you. It is worth a hundred thousand cattle, and half a million sheep. They will send more wives. Ten thousand of them!”

“And I will tend to them too,” said Kassardis.

It was then that Vastoki knew the truth of Kassardis’ words, but she could do nothing about it, for violence was inescapable. She knew she could not turn from her fate, for the vain hope that she would still win grasped her beyond all reason.

“You will never rest!” she spat, and her missing nose wept blood, “You will flee for all eternity!”

“Such is the cost of peace,” said Kassardis, “Even if I should care for ten thousand maimed wives.”

Then he tightened his wives’ bandages, and soothed the struggling Vastoki, and left them ample supplies. And though his wives spat and cursed at him, they could do little but let him leave, his countenance calm and resolute as he said one last thing:

“I will see you in Samura.”

– Tales of the Silver Prince