Then a terrible series of years struck. First, there was an early frost that killed most of the crops before they could grow. The youngest sister kindly divided her own crops among the townspeople, though no one was full, no one went hungry either. It wasn’t long after that when the town well water was tainted. The middle sister found a new well, it was far from town and hard to reach, but the water was clean and the town could survive. Then the weakened town was struck with plague. The eldest sister worked tirelessly, but because of the sheer number of the stricken she had to dilute the cure. There were very few deaths, but most of the town was left weak as they did not receive enough of the cure.
The town survived because of the sisters, but there were those who believed that the hardships were because of the father in the first place. Three of these men decided that it was best to do away with him before he brought something to the town his daughters could not combat.
The men were making their was to the tree that the twisted man tended to sit beside. On the road they met the eldest daughter. She called out to them. “Gentlemen, I’m on my way to the well to get water for some of my patients. It would be a great help if you could come and carry some.” The men agreed because she’d tended to them while they were ill during the recent plague. Along the way the asked her where she had learned about medicines. “My father.” The woman answered. “He taught me.” The men finished helping her deliver the water and she sent them on their way with a handful of tealeaves that eased pain as thanks. They continued their trek to the tree but the youngest man was having second thoughts. His daughter had very nearly died in the plague. The eldest sister’s medical knowledge was what saved his daughter in the end.
As they walked down the road they saw the second sister stumble out of the brush. She looked up. “Hello there! Do you tree have a moment to help me with something?” They agreed to help because she found the herbs that her sister used to make medicines. She led them to a grove and set them to work harvesting on of the trees, explaining that her sisters needed the components. While they worked she left and returned with an assortment of wild roots and rare herbs that could be used as seasonings for each of them.
“How did you learn how to find these?” They asked her.
“My father showed me.” She answered. “He has sharp eyes, he taught me what to look for.” When they reached the road and parted ways the bundles of food felt heavy in their arms. The man in the middle actually began to lag behind. His daughter had become sick from the town well water and he could not help thinking of what might have happened if the new well had not been found.
As they passed the home that belonged to the twisted man and his daughters they saw the youngest working in the field. They stopped and offered to help. She happily accepted. “Did you learn this from your father?” the oldest man asked.
“I did!” She cheerfully answered. “He could only keep a small garden, but he taught me everything about growing plants.” She sent them away sometime later, each with a small basket of vegetables. Now the oldest was having doubts also. His family had lost their entire stock of food to the frost. Without the youngest sister’s skill with farming his children would have starved.
Finally the men reached the tree. The twisted man was sitting on a stone in the fading twilight while the branches swayed above him. He watched them approach. The three men looked at each other.
“You raised your daughters well.” The oldest man said.
“You taught your daughters everything.” The middle said.
“I taught them what they needed to know.” The twisted man answered softly. “They continued learning from there.”
“Thank you.” The youngest said.
“You’re welcome.” The twisted man replied.
The men took their baskets and went back the way the came. Leaving the twisted man to watch as the first stars appeared and wait for his daughters to come and walk him home.