I fell in love with a boy. He cptured my heart and held it just as he held me. But I was a river and could not be held.
But I cannot fall he had replied for I am a man. You shall stay with me and I shall stay with you and together we will live here in this house.
I told him that I could not for if I stayed far from the river then I would cease to be. Should he keep me he would only have me for a short time but should he come with me to my river then we would live together long and happily
She shook the water from her hair, and stood, the droplets sang out above the river before finally collapsing back into its owner its trail marked like a hail of rain on the water. She was unobserved as she always was. Only sometime ago when she was still young had she ever been seen by man.
That was many an age ago and even then she had been thought a waking dream. Ever she would watch them come and go, bathe in her waters or collect a little of her for their food pots. But that was many years ago and everything had changed but her.
Instead of collecting water in buckets they used nasty pipes now that smelled wrong in her river, instead of them wading in her to spear her fish or placing nets in her. These days they whipped the water to frenzy with their fishing rods and spread nets across her estuary where it met her lord’s domain. She had once had company when she wished it though it had been rare that she had. She spoke once with the spirit of the loch at her head, the dryads of the great woods that surrounded her for though a creature of a different type they were akin to her in way she did not understand. She talked with the pixies that came occasionally to her edge and with the fairies that once flitted over her fair bosom. She had talked at one time with the water creatures of the near sea at her feet. Mermaids and serpents and things stranger still but they had gone many a long age ago. She was always replenished by storm and falling rain and rising tide, never would she empty, never would she run dry but never would she ever be happy as she once had been for the loneliness hurt her more than she could say. No matter the storms that lashed the land, the rain that fell or the floods that occurred always would she be unfulfilled and unhappy. She longed for someone to talk to, someone to sing to.
So she watched from the water from her sandy bed and billowing reed banks, from the fast flow of the shallows to the cold darkness of her depths.
She would lift her voice in the night and sing calling out for her emptiness to be filled up, for her loneliness to end, for it is ever lonely being the river.
With this in mind she endeavoured to do that which she had not in a long age and rising sang out over the loch at her head for the spirit that once had talked with her. Though she did not much like its company she longed for anyone to converse with, to commune with and share her fears but the spirit never answered her song. Nor could she sense its presence in the depths, as she had once been able to.
She sang for the pixies dryads and fairies of the old forest but the old forest was long gone and they with it for no answer did she receive, though she sang loud and long. She waited and sang her song at the ocean and the domain of her lord but she knew that he would not come. For never had she seen him, he preferring to hold court in the darkest depths of his ocean lit only by fish that glow in the stygian depths of only the deepest of seas. She had of course not seen this but only heard tell of it by passing mermen and maidens for she had never left her river. She hoped instead that some of the creatures of old would answer her song and keep her company for at least a while but though she sang and she sang no answer did she hear. This did not bother her unduly as she had often called to them in the past for them not to answer, replying only when they wished to and she not wishing to talk to them anymore.
But the sea smelled odd, she could not put a name to it nor was it exactly a smell but it did not seem right to her. But she was the river and there was little she could do and so after a while she hid not sing to them anymore and a time passed until someone called to her.
In her excitement at another voice she rose quickly soaking the sorry looking stromkarll that graced her banks calling to her.
With a wry look and its spluttering and ringing its clothes over the stromkarll said; I thought I would not be able to rouse you, so many are so sleepy and I thought you the same.
No I am fresh and vital as I ever was she said but I have not been able to sing anyone to me in an age, it is good to make your acquaintance stromkarll. For she knew what the sorry looking creature was and its purpose though she had never met one before. She did not know why she knew the creatures she could talk to, she had always just known what they were and what to expect of them. If they were good or bad or capricious like sprites are or like herself. She was of neither nature, she could be serious and whimsical by turns, malevolent and charitable by others, she was simply what she was.
The stromkarll told her a tale of woe, as it is the duty of the stromkarll to do. She looked at the white garbed thin little fellow with his lank blond hair and over large nose. The huge blue eyes looked up at her as he told his tale.
It started a time ago, he commenced (for our kind have little notion of the passing of years in human terms) when the men became more numerous. I found that woods in which I would sing a song or tell a story to the dryads were now gone and stone things in their place. I have always been a traveller you understand moving from place to place singing for my supper, spreading the news of the land but I seemed to pass fewer of the folk on my way. I realised I had neither met an elf nor faerie in a long time, on the positive side there were no trolls on bridges or talking bears anymore and I was mighty glad to see the back of them. So I started looking for the folk and I travel far and wide so I thought it would not be difficult but I was wrong. I have seen a few along my way and talked to one or two and the story seems the same. We are being pushed from this land from the woods and forest, glades, streams and rivers. Many go to sleep and never wake, others have travelled and go always north where there is less smoke and noise. I have never been north to tell you if it is better there, perhaps I shall go there next for I also feel tired beyond all reason. I once was able to walk for an age without trying now scarcely do I take a step without feeling weariness creep over me. There are none now that can be raised within a day’s walk of you and I myself go north, will you come with me.
I cannot I replied for I am the river and the river is me and though I can leave it for a time I must always return to it or I too will fade.
I am not disappearing and can awake as I wish. How do I not have the sickness you talk of.
I cannot say the creature replied with a cough but if you will not come with me then I must take my leave.
I asked a favour of the stromkarll before it left and that was for a song as I had heard little of singing but my own in an age. He lifted the harp from his shoulder and sang to me and that was the last anyone did for an age.
I spent the time in the tasks I had always done but longed to hear singing again, longed for someone to talk to and be with but there was not now anyone that could see me or talk to me in this land.
It was then as if reading my very thoughts that the boy came to the river. He sat on my banks and played a tune on an instrument I did not know and after a while he began to sing as if to me though he could not have known I was there. My heart soared to hear his music, so sad and lilting, soft and sweet that I was drawn to it. I shaped myself in the reed beds and listened to hear him better.
He did not see me but I saw him and realised an answer to my longing. I would take the boy and he would sing to me and with me in my depths through the passing days for the future.
A sprite is capricious by its very nature and it was something I wanted and so I planned to trap him and draw him to me for he had to submit to me before I could take him.
Humans were not to be for us and I knew this as I always had, though had no idea how I knew; they were a kind apart, separate from us though alike in ways. So I decided to lure and charm him until he was enchanted with me and would submit to the river and be mine.
He returned on the next evening with the same strange instrument and again sang for me. I showed him small flashes of my skin in the water, a sudden sight of my long and beautiful hair mirroring the sun and saw that he noticed me though he pretended he did not.
I preened myself the next morning made sure my lovely long black hair was shining that my eyes were bright and my teeth clean and prepared to show myself to him that night but he did not come in the evening but at midday and again played for me.
I stood in the reeds, showing him only small glimpses of me through them until he finished his song.
I felt my heart soaring as he turned to me when finished playing and addressed me directly.
Who are you that waits in the river reeds as I sing but will not show yourself?
I am simply me I replied and I came to hear you sing.
Will you not show yourself to me he asked and I stepped out from behind the reeds into his sight though the harsh noontime sun hurt my skin.
You are naked, it was a statement rather than a question but I responded anyway. I have no need of clothes. I expected him to stare at my body but instead he looked directly into my deep brown eyes and in his I saw desire. He smiled at me and I asked whither he would come into the river to join me but he responded that he could not for he would get his clothes wet.
I suggested that he remove them but he said the river is fast flowing and deep and I cannot swim that well. Will you not come out and sit with me awhile.
It was not as I had planned but I was able to leave the river for a while and when he saw my full beauty then would he be enchanted and would return with me to my home. I will play you a song if you come sit with me he said and lifted the strange instrument onto his lap and began to play. I was mesmerised by the music he played and the song he sang and I left the river and walked to him, sitting by his side.
He stopped the song momentarily to say thank you as I sat. Then resumed and I watched as he played and sang.
I did not understand the words of the song but they called to me and I felt somehow part of them. I closed my eyes and just listened till a deep undertone began growing deeper and deeper. It was not a sound I had heard his instrument make before and was both taken with it and horrified by it at the same time. It became more insistent as time passed and his song began to fade. I opened my eyes to find his blue eyes looking directly into mine. I felt the scratching at my wrists at the same time and knew I was ensnared.
The soft willow bonds he had put on my wrists did not hurt much but the pain of being a fool did. For I now realised that as I had been trying to lure him he had lured me and I could not break willow and while in sunlight as strong I could not dissolve and run back into my river. I was a prisoner and I could do nothing to break away. I tried to tell him that if I move too far from the river I will stop existing but nevertheless he placed his hand over the willow bonds and led me up the hill beside the river and into the small white cottage that sat at the top.
There he told me that he had heard my song on days and nights without end and eventually seen glimpses of me from his windows. And then on certain nights all of me when I took form to sing or dance and that over time he had fallen in love with me.
I laughed at this and asked if what he said was true though I had no reason to doubt it and he avowed that it was. That he had learned eventually of my nature and found a way to trap and hold me for he wanted to be with me.
I looked into his eyes and knew it to be true. But you do not understand I said, I also wished for that, it is why I came to you to have you join me in the river for I also love you and am desirous of your company.
But I cannot he had replied for I am a man. You shall stay with me and I shall stay with you and together we will live here in this house.
I told him that I could not for if I stayed far from the river then I would cease to be. Should he keep me he would only have me for a short time but should he come with me to my river then we would live together long and happily. He asked what he would have to do and I said submit to the river until drowned and then I shall breathe life into you.
He could not do it, he said and I watched him cry as he said that neither could he keep me prisoner as had been his plan but would return me to the river straight away for he loved me. He slipped the willow bonds from my wrists and led me to the river and there he watched as I dived in then turned to look at him.
He turned and walked back up the hill and into his house. I saw him watch me from the window and I made sure I would stay where he but no others could see me then eventually he would realise my beauty and come to me.
I saw him watch from the window for many nights and days and I watched back showing to him my beauty, but he did not return. I listened to him sing at nights but could not be with him for eventually I would cease to be, so far from my river. But he still did not come and my loneliness grew and grew and finally being able to stand it no more I took form and without bond walked to his house and there I became his and he mine.
I knew it meant I would fade but I had decided that is what I wished for should I be able to be with him in the meantime. And so we spent a time together and it seemed long to him for he grew grey before my eyes and one day said to me that his time had come to pass from this world.
I will die soon, he had said, for though you have not aged I am now old and will soon pass from this world.
This could not be for only some little time had passed and I had not yet faded and I told him so. Perhaps that was true for you and your people, he said but for me thirty years has come and gone since we first met and my span of years is nearly over.
But so little time. I said.
I have loved you every day of it he replied and holding me led me from his house and down to my river and there kissed me telling me to return to myself and live more.
I did not know wither I could but as my foot touched the water I felt life slip back into me. He held out his hands to me and I saw that age had taken him and so asked; if you had the same choice again would you have come to me in the river?
With all my heart I would have, he replied and I fell backwards holding tightly to his wrists as I dragged him under my ever-changing surface. He struggled at first but a river is strong and as he faded I breathed life into him with my river and we kissed again and again.
And again we were together.
Our union had known no issue in his world but in mine, my mighty womb birthed many a faerie and elf, halfling and sprite. I noticed after an age that the woods returned and I gave birth to dryads and pixies and all called me mother.
I was big by this time and over the ages moved to my foot and thence into the sea with my love always beside me and there we birthed mermaidens and men, and all manner of other creatures. The ocean smelled clean again and was soon filled with the folk as had the land around the river been when we left and with my love beside me we watched the ages pass forever.