The Wishing Well is part of a collection of children’s stories (of the same name) that are very popular in the Lone City, particularly the Marsh. For Violet, it has always symbolized her father, as he used to read it to her when he would come home from work. The Wishing Well tells the tale of two sisters, gifted with one wish each after saving a water-spirit, and how those wishes change their lives.
Once, in a time long, long ago, there were two sisters who lived in a small village by the sea. The elder sister was raven-haired, with eyes as dark as coals, somber and serious. The younger was fair, joyful, and quick to laugh, with eyes like fire, a bright and burning amber.
One day, while on an errand for their father, the sisters came upon an old well, lonely and forgotten, its crumbling stones covered with moss. The sisters peered into its depths, but they could not see the bottom.
“We should drop a coin in,” the younger sister said. “And see how deep it is.”
“What does it matter how deep it is?” the elder sister asked. “Besides, that is a shameful waste of gold! Come, Father will be angry with us if we don’t return soon.”
But the younger sister had already taken a coin from her pocket. She held it over the opening of the well for a moment, where it glittered in the sunlight—then it fell, spinning, into darkness. The sisters listened, but they could not hear the plink of the coin as it hit the water. There was no sound at all.
“It must be very deep,” the younger sister said in a hushed voice.
“Nonsense,” the elder sister scoffed. “It is probably dry, that’s all.”
Suddenly, there was a low rumbling deep beneath the earth and a thick fountain of water sprayed up out of the well. Out of that fountain, stepped a water-spirit. Her skin reflected rainbows in the light, like crystal, and her long hair flowed in golden waves around her. She was robed in a dress of palest blue, and when she smiled at them, both sisters felt their knees weaken and their hearts tremble, for she was the most beautiful creature they had ever seen.
“You have awoken me from a dreamless slumber,” she said, in a voice as bright and sweet as a bubbling stream, “And broken the spell cast upon me by an evil man. To thank you, I will grant you each one wish.”
The elder sister, who had always thirsted for knowledge and loathed her simple life in the village, spoke first. “I wish for intelligence surpassing anyone in this world,” she said, “so that I may create new and wondrous things, and push the boundaries of learning.”
The water-spirit touched one finger to the girl’s forehead, leaving a shimmering drop of water that wove itself into strands as fine as gossamer, creating a delicate crown around the girl’s dark hair. A moment later, the crown dissolved. The elder sister’s wish was granted.
“And for you?” the water-spirit asked the younger sister.
The younger sister thought for a moment, for she was quite content with her life and did not know what might improve it.
“I would like to be able to speak to the trees and the stars,” she said shyly. “To listen to the music of the sunsets, and understand the whispering of the wind, and hear the laughter of a running brook, so that I might better understand the earth, since it gives so much of itself to me and my family.”
The water-spirit smiled at her words and laid a finger against the younger sister’s heart, and the drop of water she left behind did not change shape, but glittered like a diamond, strong and pure, until its brightness became overwhelming and the sisters had to look away. And when they looked back, the drop had vanished. The younger sister’s wish was granted.
The two sisters returned home and at once set about using their gifts. The elder sister found she could read twelve books in one sitting and remember them perfectly. She began to have ideas for new inventions, and she worked tirelessly to create them. People celebrated her as a great thinker, and asked her for advice, and plied her with gold to create mechanical objects that would solve their problems or make their lives easier.
The younger sister, meanwhile, spent much time alone, wandering the woods and speaking to the trees, or listening to the waves lapping at the shore, or learning the secrets of the ages from the stars. And she kept all of their words in her heart, and felt a great peacefulness inside her, and was content with the beauty of the world.
The sisters grew older. The elder sister moved away from the village, enticed by the life of the city, bustling with people, where her inventions and advice were revered, and she quickly became a wealthy woman of great importance. But the younger sister stayed by the seaside, and fell in love and married, and continued living a simple life.
Slowly, the elder sister started to feel that there was never enough—never enough gold, never enough knowledge, never enough materials to create the wonderful inventions she imagined. And a darkness grew in her heart when she considered that her sister had a knowledge that she herself did not, and jealousy began to eat away at her.
So she returned to the village one night. The younger sister welcomed her with open arms and insisted that she dine with her and her husband, and their young daughter. Their cottage was simple but cheerful, as was the dinner, and the elder sister felt her jealousy writhing like a snake inside her, for how could the younger sister be so happy when she had nothing? No gold, or jewels, or admiration?
“I wish to ask you for a favor,” the elder sister said.
“Of course,” the younger sister replied. “Anything.”
“I wish for you to share your gift with me,” the elder sister demanded. “I wish to speak to the stars and laugh with the rivers and hear the quiet words of the wind.”
The younger sister smiled. “Come,” she said, and led the elder sister outside.
The two sisters reached the edge of the sea where the waves washed gently against the sand. “The water-spirit allowed me to converse with the wind and the waves and the stars,” the younger said, “and that is a gift I cannot share. But anyone can hear them. Listen. They are always speaking to us.”
The sisters stood in silence for several moments. But the elder sister quickly became angry. She heard nothing but the rush of waves on the sand and what was so special about that? Suddenly, she felt certain that the younger sister was trying to play her for a fool.
“You lie!” she cried and, grabbing a dagger from her belt, she cut the younger sister’s throat. “Now there is no one on this earth who knows more than me.”
The elder sister left the body on the beach and returned to the city. But perhaps, if she had stayed, she would have seen the waves wash the wound clean, and heard the trees cry out in mourning, and listened to the wind sing of its sadness at the younger sister’s passing, before gently lifting her body up and placing it among the stars.