Ancient Publishing

Sample story from 'Memory of an Ill Wind and other stories'

The Nøkken

"Go on, Silas, go and give your mother a hand," said his father. "You are always loafing around in a dream, never in the real world. Come on, lad, get up and do something."

"Yes, sure. I'll go and collect some herbs for mother." Always wise to acquiesce with his father he would find a way to pursue his path of reverie. Silas was an old spirit, very wily and skilful in using diplomacy to avoid discord and gain his own way, graciously.

Silas was named after Sylvanus, the Roman god of trees, and it was true that he did spend a lot of his time in the forests, thinking, meditating, using his mind to recall knowledge and wisdom hidden within, but his parents misunderstood his nature and wanted their son to work for them in the way they understood. This was the culture of this little hamlet in West Sussex, known as Lyminster.

Silas was a young man, green, truly pagan, not as we know pagans today but spiritually simplistic, a child of the forest. Having collected a full basket of herbs he rested against the trunk of an old oak tree in the forest, his eyes closed against the bright light of the sun which occasionally flickered across his eye lids. He spoke quietly to himself the Morning Prayer to the Sun as the rays of warm light penetrated his closed eye lids and nourished him.

Suddenly, he was startled by a very strong bright light and opened his eyes to see a figure standing in front of him. The figure glowed a beautiful subtle light of pale green and blue. It was a very old and evolved Ancient, whose garments flowed gently, pulsating peace and purity. Silas held his arm over his eyes to shield from the bright illumine.

"Greetings, my son," said the Ancient, and dimmed his light in graciousness to Silas. "I apologise if my light is too strong for you."

"Greetings, my Lord," replied Silas. "But who are you? Are you from another world?"

"I have been sent. I am here to warn you. You will meet someone today and this will be for a reason and purpose, as in all things," said the Ancient.

"Oh, why? For what reason?"

"It is meant and I have been sent here to guide you. It is a challenge you have been given and it will either make you or destroy you, but I am here to advise you as you will need to meet this challenge. It is your time that this should be gifted to you."

"What is this challenge and who shall I meet?" asked Silas, a little puzzled by the seriousness of the Ancient's intent.

"Are you afeared by this?"

"Yes, a little."

"Have no fear, for within fear there is a declaration of insecurity and a lack of confidence. It is an expectancy of weakness and that is not right. Fear is because we have let a situation or a person be too strong for us. So, find courage, my son, and your strength will see you through this. Abandon fear and this will be your armour. She is a Nøkken, who you will meet, and is there to destroy you if you do not destroy her first. That is the nature of this. Rest for now, but when it is evening, go towards the lakes and there you will meet your challenge."

"Then, I shall do as you bid. Thank you for this guidance," said Silas.

"Remember, have no fear." The Ancient faded away and was gone.

* **

Silas awoke from his browsing against the oak tree and remembered all he was told. "What a strange dream," he thought, but he knew he would live its purpose and face the challenge he had been warned of. His spiritual age had inspired his intuition through the knowledge he held in his mind. The sun had retired to slumber for the night and the fullness of the silent moon gleamed quietly in the blackened sky of winter, shining from its barren, empty world, a reflection of the beauty that once was. One day there would be grass growing around the obelisk and that would promise so much for the future, but that is another story. Silas brushed his leg against bramble but it failed to tear his tough skin trousers. He was well protected with his winter clothing although a little naïve in his ventures, daring out in the middle of the night as he neared the lake of the Knucker Hole, especially as it was Thursday and the Nøkken was known to be more active this night. The lakes were well flowered with water lilies and particularly red ones, a bloody sign of many victims that a Nøkken had slaughtered in these lagoons. Something disturbed the waters in front of him and he studied the lake for further movement. A Nøkken rose out of the water and beckoned him with her long, slender, delicate fingers. Like an Irish siren her deep, dark hair hung down to her shoulders and her eyes shone like diamonds. Riplets of water ran and caught the shine of the moon across the rise of her naked breasts.

"Oh no, I know your type," said Silas.

"Type? What do you mean? Am I not attractive enough for you?" She lifted a violin out of the water in her wily manner, placing it under her chin, and started to sing and play an enchanting melody to soften his misgivings. The music was so beguiling that the trees danced and a waterfall paused in hesitation to listen, so sweet was the refrain.

"What is your name?" asked Silas.

"Huh, I know that one. You may not call my name," said the Nøkken.

He had been told and he knew that a Nøkken could be defeated by calling her name, as this was believed to destroy them.

"So sweet a face deserves to be called. I would want to know your name. Now, that I am in love with your beauty how can I fall for your charms if I cannot identify with you?"

"Love does not require a name. Is it not enough you have my constant attention?"

The Nøkken continued to play her music and sung further to lure his mind into a gentle utopia of safe sanctuary. He was also wary because if he entered the water he knew if she was to scream in a particular spot like a loon she would drown him.

"I will not enter the lake. I know you are not a child of God," said Silas.

Suddenly, she stopped singing and a tear released from her eye. "No, that is true and that is why I am so sad." She then started to sing of her soulful loneliness and her longing for salvation.

"I know you to be a kelpie. You will shape shift into a horse and entice children to take your tail. Glued to you in this way you would then dive into the water, pulling the children with you and drown them stuck by your tail."

"Why do you say I am a kelpie. I am nothing of the sort."

"Then show me your ear."

"Why should I?"

"You have a slit in your ear and that is a sign of a kelpie."

"Come to me and I will show you my ear, proof that I would be all that you desire." She beckoned softly with her slender finger, enticing him with her sex.

"Let us have simplicity."

"Why simplicity? Am I not simple enough for you?"

"No, you are false. Only truth can exist in simplicity. For within truth there is no falsehood but within falsehood there may be an element of truth."

The Nøkken had not reckoned on him being so canny and wise, a youth of the forests and fields. He was determined to test her, relishing the challenge. He was not afraid and knew how not to make himself vulnerable to her cunning enticement.

"Am I not true in the way I look? Am I not simply beautiful?"

"But beauty may hide great ugliness. You are devious, my lovely, and if you are devious your false words demonstrate your weakness to anyone who values truth above all things. There is no weakness in simplicity and truth. There is strength."

Silas could see that his words had hit their mark and there was a hesitation in the Nøkken's look, but she was tenacious, insistent in her intentions.

"Come to me and let me prove my worth."

"Then I would know you are a Mistress of Hell, and not a child of God, and it would be too late."

"What do you fear?" asked the Nøkken.

"If I was to fear someone it would be because I had allowed them to become too strong over me and this is a lesson I have learned well. I do not fear you, my lovely, because I can see through your mask of deception. I know I am stronger with truth as my banner. I declare myself as I am, but you hide behind beauty. Show yourself and be true!"

"I have nothing to hide. Am I not completely naked in front of your eyes?"

"You only deceive yourself," said Silas. "I try to give truth, and if I may not give truth, I give nothing. If I spoke your name you would be destroyed."

"But you do not know my name and you never shall," said the Nøkken.

"Oh, but I do. You are my sacred contest and my antagonist," said Silas, as he noticed the fear surfacing in her eyes. "Your name is Nemesis!"

Immediately the Nøkken disappeared in an exploded fountain of water. Splashed with the foul-smelling spray Silas washed his face in a nearby stream and remembered his dream. It had all been true.

The Nokken hidden amongst foliage The Nokken
The Nokken

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