Freia was a prodigiously pragmatic young woman who had been the target of enormous tragedy. Freshly wed at the wisening age of nineteen, she witnessed the arduous and gruesome death of her husband, Pallas, with nothing to do but be witness to the slow decay of life—helpless in the face of nature’s Law. No one knew the root of the affliction her poor husband was consumed by, as it came swiftly with the precision of a reaper’s scythe and left with no theatrics, its only evidence found in the additional tombstone’s presence in the cemetery. Freia, now faced with insurmountable hardship, invited the sister of Pallas to reside with her, so that the women may provide each other with aid and comfort in their respective bouts of melancholia. Her name was Lydia. Quickly and observably by the village, the two women grew to become the most ardent of companions.
It was November. The world sighed its last breaths of life to prepare for the dead of winter to come, expelling the remnants of its russet red leaves and harvests, gathering its life closer to its bosom to protect until later. It was silent and dying, and the air grew thick and anxious. People locked their shutters and held their children’s hands and guided them around puddles and ice with novel caution. Whispers skidded across the barren landscape and whistled through one ear to another. Murmurs of concern and fear and perhaps a mixture of the two that transformed into violence infused the very air they breathed.
Somehow, in the way one can trust that the moon will return once it has disappeared, Freia trusted that this was an inevitability that she must conquer in time, much like all other inevitabilities.
She woke to her door being kicked down into a thousand shards of dark wood and watched as they picked her up, and picked her Lydia up, and threw them to the streets in the dead of night. She dared to breathe when the bell tower rang once and her neighbors chained her to the ground. She screamed the name of her lover as she saw Lydia also chained across the square.
The women learned they were on trial.
The mayor looked at Freia and asked, “Detestable woman—where were you the night your husband died?” The crowd—now a living, breathing, singular entity—leaned forward in trepidation and vile excitement.
Freia let out a cry of anguish. “How cruel to mock me with such a question. My husband died for forty-seven days—I by his side with every torturous rise and fall of the sun. Never would I find it in my temperament or desires to murder a man, no less my husband! The most beloved of my life! It is only the cruelest gift from the Devil that I suffer still at the hands of my grief. Do not accuse me with such fiendish accusations, for you surely aim to worsen my torment.”
“Is it not true, woman, that you murdered your husband so you may bewitch the respectable Lydia to accompany you for life? Her betrothed, Basil, has vowed that she is a different woman now—completely unidentifiable in temperament—and is surely under external influence.”
Hearing this, Lydia spoke up with fierce indignance. “My good sir! Never have I heard such an atrocious claim. I am under no bewitchment. The good-hearted Freia took me in at the face of intolerable toil, saving me from utter desolation.”
Freia knew of the functionings of men’s minds. The trial was no determinant of guilt, but rather a rally for her condemnation and imminent death. But her mind thought not of her own demise; all she could think of was her Lydia. She loathed a solitary existence without the constant permeation of all that is beautiful and light—without Lydia. Her spirits were soothed by Lydia’s defense for her honor, futile as it was, for it signified that the women shared an understanding of their circumstance.
The thought of an existence in which Freia could no longer gaze upon her beloved’s face at any time brought a wretched misery to her unlike any other—it was a life devoid of happiness and beauty, only rife with melancholia. She knew she was not alone in this sentiment and that it was reflected precisely in Lydia’s wavering face, shaped by tragedy. After all, such a tangible love could not exist unreciprocated.
The women would die for each other.
Freia promised herself that if Lydia had shown desire to expunge her culpability for their crimes, she would bestow upon Lydia the gift of freedom through her death. If Lydia wished to be saved, it would have been Freia’s cosmically-bound duty to ensure its effectuation.
But Lydia understood their love and that meant she understood that there was only life together or death together. Love was not for the weak; it was only given to those brave enough to seize it.
The women decided to be brave.
With the strike of his gavel, the mayor ended the trial. He ended their lives. “Guilty!” he bellowed, and his announcement was met with voracious cheer.
To burn at a stake. How crude. Freia hesitated to blanch at the implications of such a brutal death, likely permeated with unbreathable smoke and bleeding arms, for she wanted to stay strong for Lydia. But she feared that she had not the strength enough to spare. It would not be an easy death, as it had not been an easy life.
They lit the fair lovers like a heavenly torch. The flames burned black as they consumed the wood and fabric and skin. The village’s face was lit by the angry firelight, beating helplessly against their gluttonous expressions.
Freia said to the crowd with a rueful smile: “If I must lose my everything, you will too. She is mine.”
She went silent first. And upon her death, Lydia screamed once—a piercing shriek infused with agony, fear, and relief.
Her head snapped up and she devoured the world with her eyes wide open, whispering, “Oh.”
She died on her own, freed.
There was never an ulterior motive or some extravagant plan. It was just that she loved her.