Friday, April 19, 2013

The Fountain

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.


"The Fountain"

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 of superstition.

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 back, entranced.

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 witched?

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 whispering trees. 

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.

~ fin

1 comment:

  1. Very cute short story, Spladoum. I din't know this one from you.