Emrys looked at the three blue chairs.
One of them was his daughter.
The Red Mage had done this. His guards had captured Emrys’s daughter and taken her to their master. Now, along with the chairs, they’d come to make Emrys an offer. If he could identify which chair was his daughter, the Red Mage would set her free. If not, the chairs would be tossed onto a bonfire he’d organised to entertain the villagers. The Red Mage had earned his name. Red was his favourite color.
Tears welled up in Emrys’ eyes. A guard prodded him. “Hurry up. The Mage is on his way. He expects an answer soon.”
Desperate now, Emrys studied the chairs, which at first glance looked identical. He turned to the guard. “Am I permitted to walk among them?”
“Yes. But remember—” the guard tapped his longbow— “I can fell you in a second. That won’t help your daughter, will it? Do nothing but look.”
Emrys nodded. Flanked by guards, he walked to the sky-blue chairs. They still looked identical. He inspected each one, even getting down on his hands and knees and peering at them. Then he got up and nodded to the guards.
They lined up and made him stand in the middle.
A horn sounded. The guards stood to attention. A procession wound toward them, headed by the Mage himself. Clad in a glittering, blood-red cloak, he wore a long, black hat topped with a red star. He stopped in front of Emrys and gave a cruel smile. “Have you chosen?”
“Yes.” Emrys pointed to the chair in the middle. “That one.”
“Impossible!” The Mage glared at him.
“No,” said Emrys. “When your guards took my daughter, she was picking strawberries. There’s a smear on that chair. Your magic wasn’t good enough. If you’d removed all traces of strawberry…”
The Red Mage turned purple. “Enough!”
“It’s my daughter.”
“You’re right.” The Mage’s voice sounded different now. Emrys thought he sounded scared. “There’s a problem. You see, I gave the magic a powerful twist—a flourish, you might say. And it’s one I can’t undo.”
Emrys looked at the Mage and saw that his face had gone pale. “I’ve made my choice. Release my daughter.”
…the Mage himself turned into a chair. Instantly, Emrys’ beloved daughter regained her former shape. She looked around, caught sight of her father, waved and ran to him.
Emrys embraced her.
Over her shoulder, he studied the new chair.
“Gentlemen.” Emrys bowed to the guards. “I won my daughter back, fair and square. I now claim this chair.”
The guards bowed.
Emrys, daughter in one hand, chair in the other, marched home.
He set the chair outside his barn. “Now, every evening, the setting sun will again bathe the Red Mage in his favourite color. And I’ll give him company.”
Emrys chained a large, fierce, ugly pig to the chair.
And everyone lived happily ever after.
— Brenda Anderson