This is a (very) short story I wrote on request from the fabulous Minraed--she had a last minute request for a "medieval" type story to add to an issue of SF Magazine. Lucky for her, I work great when given last-minute writing assignment and I love Ye Olde English.
Everyone in the small village knew the legend of
the fountain—the final resting place of a village girl who had been claimed
against her will by a noble of the land. It was a lake created and fed by a
small stream that ran the length of the village, and four hundred yards more. A
brisk walk would bring a man there in under five minutes. But no one visited
this place, and those who stumbled upon it in the darkness often crossed themselves
in fear before slipping away as quickly as their trembling legs would allow. No
fish swam in these waters. No hand stirred the surface to seek a drink. A worn
statue stood in its center, a memorial to the unhappy woman, and the hollow
stone eyes seemed to follow intruders with displeasure.
As a young boy, he had heard the whispers, and taken them to heart. Ma and Da
had little to say beyond, "Ye keep well clear of that place," and he
did. He and all of his boyhood friends held the fountain in a dim, mystic reverence
As a young man and a squire to a knight, he was
stripped of his presumptions.
One by one, the lessons that he had been
carefully taught were knocked from his mind's grasp, and replaced with
information more suitable to the service of the king. Whether this new
information was to his benefit would be hard to say. But he became a useful
squire to his knight, and accompanied Sir Eston to more than one successful
battle and tournament, which brought glory and fame to the king of their land,
and subsequently to Sir Eston. But not to the lowly squire.
"Ye must find
a venture of thine own to stand conqueror o'er, m'son, for that is the way
glory is won," the burly knight told him.
He rode out alone, a day's steady ride returning
him to the land of his upbringing, and in doing so he passed the haunted fount. But the lessons he had learned as a squire of a
ferocious knight drove all thought of ghosts and bewitchings far from him. All
he saw now was a pool of water to quench his mount's thirst. He let the mare
approach the brink, dip her snout to the surface.
How long he sat there for, he could not tell,
but he started as if waking from heavy sleep.
There, on the farther bank, stood
a female form, lovely and shimmering in the dim shade. Whether she saw him as
well could not be doubted, and yet she made neither movement nor noise. She
was, in truth, a living statue—but for her hair that fluttered in the low
breeze, and her keen eyes that gazed unblinking upon this traveler. He stared
The movement of the horse's head brought him to
himself. He did not know how much time he had lost, but the sun had surely
moved on while he idled. Or had he idled at all? Had he not rather been
He immediately heard the laughter of his sir knight ring in his ears, and he
blushed for shame. There were no such things, Harold Eston insisted. 'We live
in an age of science, boy. Those stories are for the young and foolish. Ye are
grown to a man now, heed them not."
But heed he must, for the mare ailed, and shook,
and as the horse fell heavily to the ground he was thrown, which was the sole
reason he managed to keep both legs whole. He needed only one look to know
that there was no hope. He looked again
at the copse where the vision had been , but there was nothing save the
With a feeling of dread sapping his knightly honor, he left
quickly by the nearest overgrown grassy path.
The next day it was widely reported that a late
traveler had seen the fountain run red, and the villagers discussed the event
till it was well nigh threadbare and wondered whom of them was so foolhardy as
to run counter to the legend.
And in a quiet stable of a roadside inn, a young
man was preparing to go a mission of honor by negotiating to purchase a new
horse, and silently concluding that despite the age of science, some legends
were better left to themselves.