Once upon a time, just beyond the river lay a kingdom in the shadow of its former glory. The king married off his only son to the most beautiful woman he could find, hoping she’d bring luck with her.

Alas, the woman his son married was beautiful, but barren. When she could not produce an heir, the prince – repulsed by her very existence – declared her a witch and condemned her to exile. Once he was king, the prince remarried – of course – and his new wife was perhaps even more beautiful. She gave him three healthy baby boys – Charming, Puissant, and Dashing.

Enraged, the exiled queen plotted her revenge. After spending a few lonely, seething years in a small cottage in the woods, she chanced upon a girl. Watching from between trees, she saw a woodcutter drag the girl into the clearing and raise his axe to kill her, but one look at the innocent youth stayed his hand. With a heavy heart, he left the girl without a backward glance.

She will do quite well, the queen smiled.

Soon, the kingdom’s past glory was restored, and the triplets blossomed into brave, strong men, and there wasn’t one handsomer than they. And on the day of their eighteenth birthday, the king held a magnificent ball, to which he invited the entire kingdom

The exiled queen knew it was time to execute her plan.

In the guise of an old woman, she entered the ballroom with a veiled girl by her side. “Your highness,” she bowed. “I come from afar, and when I heard that today is the birthday of your son, it was my heart’s desire to gift him something. Am I unwelcome because I come uninvited?”

Everyone is invited,” the king answered cheerfully. “What is your gift, old mother?”

She swept an arm towards the girl and said, “Your highness, my daughter – Kallisti.” The girl was unveiled and there were series of gasps. She was more beautiful than any had laid eyes upon.

“Mercy on my soul!” the exiled queen cried when she saw the triplets. “There are three of you! Alas, I have only one daughter. My liege, present my daughter to whom it pleases you to.” With everyone’s attention on Kallisti, the queen disappeared.

Each prince claimed Kallisti be given to him, and the princes who’d never disagreed on anything were now ready to draw blood. “Enough!” the king commanded. “Kallisti will choose for herself.”

She had a month to choose a prince, in which each one fell in love with her to the point of obsession. They showered her with gifts, serenaded her, and tried their best to win her love. Slowly, all love between the brothers waned and turned to bitterness. On the final day, each prince made a last attempt to bribe her.

“I offer you all the riches in the world. I will fight and conquer in your name. I’ll name colonies after you!” cried Prince Dashing, brandishing his sword.

“I offer you the promise of eternal love and merriment. I can offer you riches and cities like any other prince. But I offer you my dearest possession – my heart,” declared Prince Charming, down on one knee.

Prince Puissant bowed his head and only said, “I shall always be your faithful servant.”

Kallisti and Puissant were to be wed immediately.

Blinded by hate and jealousy, Charming and Dashing declared war on Puissant; each wanted Kallisti for himself. The king’s pleas fell on deaf ears as the exhilaration of fighting for love swathed each brother. The glorious kingdom was torn into three and engulfed in chaos, just as the exiled queen had plotted.

Charming attacked from the front with his army, and Dashing attacked him from rear with his navy. Puissant’s defences gave way soon, and he was murdered by his brothers, who then proceeded to battle each other for their beloved.

Civil war broke out. Neighbouring kings seized the opportunity to conquer more territory, and attacked it from all sides, tearing it up. Dashing survived Charming only long enough to marry Kallisti; and the king soon died of a broken heart.

The exiled queen lived out the rest of her days in peace with in the woods; her revenge was complete.

Nakashi Chowdhry