Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Wily Old Glashtyn

Here comes another story from my collection, Folk Tales of the Sea People.
I'm not overly happy with the painting I did for this one, but I'm still posting it as it still counts towards my goal of 52 paintings in a year! I think this picture is the result of what happens when I don't think enough about what I'm doing... Anyway, enjoy the story. It has a few surprises.

The Wily Old Glashtyn, July 2014

The Wily Old Glashtyn

Once upon a time, in a kingdom where Merfolk reigned, there lived a mermaid named Damla. She was young and pretty, and caught the eye of many young mermen, though she held out against their advances for she dreamt of being carried away by a handsome young prince.
Damla prided herself on her pale pink hair, for it was such an unusual colour, and her eyes which were bright blue and looked so splendid. Damla’s scales were like sapphires and her tail supple and curvaceous. Though she did not court vanity over her appearance, Damla knew it was her looks that drew so many men to her. They were rich and clever, handsome and charming, but still she denied their advances, and would not allow a single man to court her. She held out on her hope of a handsome prince, and was caught daydreaming many a time when she was supposed to help with her lady’s laundry.
There came a day when an old Glashtyn came into the town where Damla dwelt. Glashtyn are known for their wisdom and magical abilities, so once the old gentleman was settled in his rooms at the inn, many a man or woman sought his advice and assistance. Damla was not interested, for she did not believe the Glashtyn could give her anything she wanted.
Every day, she passed by the queue of people who waited to seek the Glashtyn’s help. She looked at them scornfully, for she did not need help, she only needed for a handsome prince to look her way.

After the Glashtyn had been in residence for a while, a foreign prince, Meredith, came to visit the nobles of the town. When he called at the house of her lord and lady, Damla caught sight of him and thought him very handsome. His scales were dark green and glossy, his eyes golden and his hair spread about him in long black waves. Damla abandoned her work and spied on him as he floated around the gardens. His tail was long, his body strong yet slender, and as he talked with Morgan, the lord’s son, he laughed gaily, a sound which made Damla’s heart glad. Damla desired the handsome Prince Meredith, and decided that somehow, she must meet him. Then he would certainly be hers.
So when Damla noticed the prince alone in the garden, she made certain to swim out under pretence of carrying out chores.
Prince Meredith glanced at her, and Damla bowed gracefully. “My lord,” she murmured softly. “Please forgive my intrusion.”
The young mermaid expected the prince to fall in love with her on sight, as had so many men, but he merely grunted and swam away.
Disappointed, Damla continued with her work, and thought of how she might attract the prince’s attention the next time.

Meredith appeared before Damla again the following day, and this time he spoke to her.
“You there,” he called out.
“Yes, your majesty?” Damla bowed and smiled attractively.
Meredith held out a letter. “Take this to Morgan.”
“Yes, your majesty.” Once again flooded with disappointment, Damla took the letter from the prince’s hands. Her fingers brushed against his and she felt a rush of delight. She peered up at him hopefully, but he appeared not to have noticed. Bowing once again, the frustrated young woman carried the letter to the study of the lord’s son, and passed it on to his butler who would convey it into the young lordship’s care.

On her way home, Damla wondered why the prince was not enchanted with her. It frustrated her greatly that she could not win the one her heart desired. She thought of how the prince had laughed with young lord Morgan, and wondered that maybe he did not care for looks. After all, Morgan was not a handsome gentleman. But Damla always thought him to have a gentle soul and a kind heart, for the young lordship spoke to everybody as a friend, and was known to defend those who could not defend themselves. He did not push matters with anybody, and in truth had been one of very few who had not asked courtship of Damla.
Thinking of Morgan’s way with people, Damla decided to do her best to let Prince Meredith see the goodness in her soul, too.

The prince had stayed many days in the house of Damla’s lord and lady. Damla had attempted to cross paths with him countless times, but the prince was extremely busy, and somewhat preoccupied. Many visitors called upon him and when he was not receiving them, Meredith was usually in the company of the young lordship.
Damla had almost given up hope when a stroke of luck came upon her. She had finished her work for the day and was readying herself to leave, when she heard crying outside. Damla went outside and followed the sad noise, and rounding the corner she found three fish in a tangle of netting.
“Oh dear!” she exclaimed. It was not unheard of for the netting of Landwalkers to be washed into the kingdom, though it was rare for anybody to become trapped within it.
The fish whimpered. “Please help us! We were swimming and this net came upon us!”
“Of course I shall help you,” Damla said. She wished the prince were there so he could see her in her good deed. But he was nowhere to be seen. Carefully, Damla began to make sense of the tangles and knots within the net, trying hard not to injure the poor little fish caught inside. The work was difficult, and Damla hurt her fingers as she worked at the coarse netting. She freed one fish, who darted about her in a panicked fashion whilst she sought to free the others.
“What are you doing there?” Young lord Morgan swam up to her in curiosity, and saw the fish.
“I am freeing the fish, lordship,” Damla replied. She lifted her head from her toil and blushed when she realised that Prince Meredith was accompanying him. “Your majesty,” she uttered.
“Oh the poor fish!” exclaimed Morgan. “Do take care, won’t you?”
Meredith held out a small knife with a sharp silver blade and a pearl handle engraved with his royal insignia. “Cut them free,” he said. “You will save them a lot faster.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” Damla said humbly, grateful of his help and his attention. She silently said a prayer of thanks for the situation that brought them together, and cut the fish free of the net.
The three fish swam about the Merfolk, crying out their gratitude.
“It is thanks to the kind young lady here that you are saved,” said Prince Meredith.
The fish swam close to Damla, their fins brushing against her cheek. “Thank you!” they cried, and swam off happily.
Prince Meredith took back the knife, and also took the remains of the net from Damla’s hands. He cut it to pieces before handing it back. “There,” he said, smiling at Morgan and Damla. “Now it will cause no more trouble.” He and Morgan swam away, leaving Damla to dispose of the net.
Though she was pleased that the prince had spoken to her and helped her, and found her in her good deed, Damla felt sad that he showed no interest in her. After disposing of the remains of the net, she sat down and sighed sadly.
The lady of the house came upon her and stared. “Damla, whatever is the matter? I cannot have you sitting here looking so miserable! Tell me child, what is wrong?”
Damla was embarrassed to have been seen by her lady, and felt awkward. She could not tell the ladyship that she wished for the attentions of Prince Meredith, who was above her station.
“I wish for the affections of a man,” she said. “But he does not notice me.”
“Men,” said the ladyship. “Are fools. Sometimes they need a little push. Do not give up hope.”
“Thank you, ladyship, but I have tried and failed many times to gain his attention,” Damla replied mournfully.
The lady looked thoughtful. “Then, perhaps it is time you sought some help,” she said. “If you truly desire this man, then seek the help of the Glashtyn, Murchadh, though be warned that he asks much in return.”
“Are his prices high, ladyship?”
“They are strange,” the lady replied. “I sought his advice on gaining more children, for his lordship and I always wished for more sons and daughters, and his fee was that he become my next child’s namesake.” It had been happy news within the house that the lord and lady were to bring a new life into the world. “So the name of our next child, be they maid or man, shall be Murchadh.” Upon seeing Damla’s confused and concerned face, the lady smiled. “Do not worry that he might ask too much, Damla. The Glashtyn is wise and will not ask of you what you cannot give. Now, hurry away and see him, for it is gloomy to see your face so despondent.”
“Yes ladyship. Thank you, ladyship.” Damla bowed and hurried off to the inn where the Glashtyn dwelt.

Damla felt humbled as she joined the line of people awaiting the Glashtyn Murchadh’s counsel. Whereas she had once scorned those people for needing help, she now understood that not everything could be done alone, even if you were a noble.
The line was long and slow-moving, and Damla found her patience wearing thin. She had finally reached the front of the queue, and was wondering how she might put her question to the Glashtyn, when the innkeeper’s wife came out and stated that Murchadh would see no more people that day.
Damla was disheartened, but refused to give up. “Please, ask him if he would see just one more!” she begged. “I have been waiting a long time.”
“He said no more today,” repeated the innkeeper’s wife, not unkindly. “I am sorry. Come back tomorrow morning and you’ll have better luck, dear.”
“Tomorrow morning I must go to work,” Damla sighed. “Please…I’m desperate.”
The door opened behind the innkeeper’s wife, and a brown, wizened face peeped out. It fixed Damla with beady black eyes, and nodded. “One more,” the Glashtyn agreed. “Come in, Damla.”
“How did you know my name?” asked the Mermaid as she followed Murchadh to his rooms.
The Glashtyn chuckled. “Would you rather the truth, or a more magical answer?”
Damla hesitated and wondered if Murchadh was trying to trick her, for his smile was clever. “Is there a difference?” she asked. 
He motioned for her to sit down, and settled on a bench opposite. “The magical answer is that I know every name by looking into the face of its owner.”
“And the truth?” Damla asked curiously.
“The truth is that many a young man – handsome, kind young men at that – have come to me, seeking advice on how to capture the heart of the pretty young maid with pale pink hair.”
“Oh.” Damla blinked. She had not suspected that men would seek a Glashtyn’s help in gaining her affection.
The Glashtyn smiled. It was a smile that was gentle and wise, but full of dirty grey teeth. Damla felt a little uncomfortable in the old gentleman’s presence, for his gaze was very knowing and he looked like a tramp. Murchadh’s body was short and squat, and his clothing tattered and discoloured through a great many years of wear. Sparse white hair poked from beneath his brown cap, and his beard was thin. Murchadh folded his knobbly hands and watched Damla patiently as he awaited her reply. When it did not come, he spoke up again. “Fear not, Damla, for anything you tell me shall not escape this room without your say so. A Glashtyn does not do good business by sharing gossip about the business of others.”
“But you told me there are men who came to seek your advice about me,” Damla said unsure.
“Yes,” agreed Murchadh. “Because it concerns you, and I am certain you know of the many who wish to court you.”
Damla nodded.
“So, do tell me of why you are so desperate to seek my help.”
“I am trying to gain the affections of a man…” Damla began. There was no use in hiding anything from the Glashtyn, who would surely look into her eyes and know the truth if she did not speak it. “It is Prince Meredith I yearn for,” she admitted. “He is handsome and his laughter makes my heart glad. I have tried many times to gain his attention, but he does not notice me, not for my looks or for my kindnesses.”
Murchadh nodded as he listened, and plucked dirt from beneath his nails. “It seems to me that the gentleman’s heart does not lie in your direction,” he stated.
“Yes, that’s it,” Damla nodded. “Is there any way I can make him look my way? I always dreamed that I would meet a handsome prince, but this handsome prince seems not to dream about me.”
“You wish for him to look at you?”
“Yes!” Damla’s eyes widened. “Oh Mister Murchadh, is there any way?”
The Glashtyn observed her thoughtfully. “I will tell you the same as I have told others who have sought such advice from me.”
“Yes?” Damla held her breath. This was it, now she would be able to make the prince hers!”
Murchadh took Damla’s hand and patted it gently. “It is unwise to alter a heart’s true path,” he said kindly. “Turn away, dear girl. Turn your eyes to one who will love you willingly.”
“But it is the prince that I want,” Damla insisted. “If I turned my eyes from him, wouldn’t I be altering the true path of my heart?”
“I thought you would say that,” Murchadh nodded. “I can help you, Damla, if you are willing to pay the fee.”
Damla did not even think about it, so desperate was she to gain Prince Meredith’s heart. “Anything,” she said. “What is your price?”
Murchadh leaned forward. “I shall give you a talisman which you must wear. Set your mind to it and you shall gain Prince Meredith’s attention.”
“Yes, of course, but how much do you ask?” Damla asked again.
The Glashtyn bent and kissed the back of Damla’s hand, his lips dry and coarse against her soft skin. “If you cannot gain a kiss from the prince within three days, you must marry me.”
Damla stared at the wizened old man. “I must marry you?”
“Yes, if you do not gain the prince’s kiss.”
“All I must gain is a kiss?”
“Just one kiss. I shall know if you gain it,” Murchadh replied. He saw Damla’s expression, which spoke of her distaste, and laughed. “Do not worry, dear girl, for I am not wicked. I shall help you as best I can to win your love’s heart.” He took a star-shaped talisman from his pocket and hung it on a cord. “Do you agree to my terms?”
Damla was doubtful, but her lady was so certain of the Glashtyn’s abilities, and Damla herself knew she could attract men easily with her beauty. Surely a kiss would not be hard to obtain?
“I agree to your terms, Murchadh.”
“Good. Now, wear this around your neck and return here after your work tomorrow.”
“Thank you!” Damla fastened the cord around her neck and touched the star-shaped talisman gently. It was made from grey stone, and was a little plain, but to Damla it was now the most beautiful thing in the sea, for it would bring to her what she wanted.
Damla rose, and the Glashtyn saw her to the door. “Remember,” he called after her. “Return here tomorrow.”
“Of course!” she called back.
Happily, Damla swam home and began to plan how to cross paths with the prince the next day. Surely with the extra help of the talisman, she would not fail.

Despite Damla’s planning, luck threw the prince into her path before she had any chance to bring a plan to a start: the prince was wandering the front gardens as she walked toward the house to begin her work for the day. Damla smiled faintly at the sight of him, for Prince Meredith was handsome and a pleasure to behold. He seemed particularly happy today, and she slowed in her pace to watch him as he wandered amongst the plants. When he saw her, the prince swam over.
“You are the one that saved the fish,” he said.
“Yes, your majesty,” Damla bowed and smiled at him.
Prince Meredith smiled back. “I remembered because your hair is such a lovely and unusual colour.”
“Thank you, your majesty.” Damla began to feel excited. The talisman was working!
“You are most welcome,” Meredith smiled. “It reminds me of a particular flower in my home kingdom. I have promised to have some sent to Morgan as a gift for his mother, so you shall certainly see them growing in the gardens sometime in the future.”
“Oh, that would be lovely,” Damla smiled again and nodded. “Do you like flowers, if you don’t mind my asking, your majesty?”
“All flowers, all plants, all creatures,” Meredith nodded. “The seas are filled with the most wonderful things.” He smiled widely and gazed at her with such bright eyes that Damla wondered if the talisman would make him kiss her so soon. She smiled back at him and waited.
But suddenly, Morgan called out from behind her. “Merri, we’ll be late!”
“Ah, do excuse me,” Prince Meredith grinned cheerfully and swam to meet the young lordship. Damla cursed the man’s sudden appearance, for it had interrupted her conversation with the handsome prince.
When she reached the house, Damla was agitated to discover that the prince was away with Morgan for the entire day. She did her work that day in a bored manner, disinterested and wishing she had been allowed a moment longer with the prince.

Upon reaching the inn that evening, Damla had little patience for the long queues and pushed to the front. “Mister Murchadh is expecting me,” she told the innkeeper’s wife, ignoring the complaints of those who had been waiting in line.
“I know,” said the innkeeper’s wife. “But you must queue like the others.”
Grumbling to herself, she joined the queue.

As before, Damla was the last to be allowed audience with the Glashtyn.
“Tell me of all your exciting new encounters with the handsome Prince Meredith,” Murchadh smiled.
Damla felt irritated. It was as though the man knew that she had seen the prince but briefly that morning.
“He spoke to me this morning, and he was friendly and very lovely,” she told him. “I had planned ways of meeting with him but I needed not have done so, for he came to speak with me before I reached my lady’s house this morning. The talisman you gave me is certainly working, Murchadh.”
“Yet he has not kissed you,” the Glashtyn observed.
Damla shook her head. “No, he has not. I thought he might, for he smiled so beautifully and his eyes were so bright, but then young lord Morgan called to him, so he had to depart.”
“That is all you saw of your prince today.”
“How did you know?”
Murchadh motioned to the window. “I saw them depart the town this morning, and they have not yet returned.”
“It is true,” Damla nodded. “I must wait until tomorrow. Is there anything more I can do, Murchadh?”
The Glashtyn stood and went to Damla. He touched her long, pale pink hair, an action which made her feel a little disgusted, for his hands looked filthy.
“You must cut your hair tonight,” he told her. “Cut it into the style of a young gentleman, for it is far too long.”
“But I love my hair,” Damla protested.
Murchadh frowned at her. “You told me you wanted the prince’s attentions. Which do you love most, Damla, the prince or your hair?”
“Prince Meredith, definitely.”
“Then it is a small sacrifice to have him notice you.”
Damla pouted. She didn’t want to cut her hair! “But he complimented my hair today. Why should I cut it if he likes it?”
“Do not argue, dear girl. If he noticed your hair, you have good reason to cut it, for he will notice it again. Come back tomorrow and tell me of the events of the day.”
“Oh...” The Glashtyn’s words did not completely make sense to Damla, but he was wise and surely knew better than she.
So when Damla returned home, she took up her sewing-scissors and cut away her prized long hair before the mirror. Damla was sad to lose her hair, for it was her favourite thing about herself, but the sadness was overcome by renewed hope that Prince Meredith would notice her and kiss her.

When she went to work at the big house the next day, Damla gained much attention from those around her, all because of her hair.
“Why did you cut your beautiful hair?” asked Muir, the gardener. He loved Damla’s hair and held her fast in his affections, indeed he had begged courtship of her many times, but she had always turned him away. Damla thought that Muir was a kind and smart man, and she quite liked him for his friendly ways, but he was not a prince.
“It grew too long, so I decided to cut it,” she told him. Damla regretted her deed a little, for she missed the feeling of her hair about her shoulders.
“Well, that’s a pity, for it is so lovely,” said Muir, noting the look of remorse in Damla’s eyes. He smiled gently. “Fret not if you dislike it, for your hair shall grow back over time, and it being so short allows everybody to see more of your lovely face.”
Damla nodded gratefully. “Thank you Muir.” She headed off to continue in her work, hopeful that if Muir had noticed, the prince would notice too.

Indeed, Prince Meredith did notice. He stepped out of Morgan’s bedchamber as Damla swam past with a basket of laundry, and exclaimed in surprise at her hair.
“You cut it!”
Damla stopped and turned back. “Yes, your majesty. I felt it had become too long.”
“Well...” Meredith swam around her, touching her hair here and there. “Ah, you missed a little at the back.” He took out his pearl-handled knife. “May I?”
Damla nodded, blushing. “Thank you, your majesty.” Her pulse quickened when she felt him take hold of her hair.
Prince Meredith cut the wayward lock of hair expertly. “Much better. Would you mind if I keep this?” he asked, showing her the piece of hair he had cut.”
“Of course, your majesty!” Damla smiled brightly. A lock of hair was often a keepsake between lovers. That Meredith wanted a piece of hers was promising.
“Wonderful,” the prince smiled. “Mother will not believe I met a maid with hair the colour of her flowers, but now I can show her your hair and prove it to her.”
“Oh...” Damla felt disappointed, and hugged the laundry basket to her chest. “I am glad to help, your majesty.”
Meredith touched Damla’s hair again, and brushed it into style with his fingers. “That is much better,” he smiled. “You look quite pretty.”
“Thank you, your majesty.”
The door of Morgan’s bedchamber opened and the young lordship peeked out, looking sleepy. Meredith glanced back and laughed. “Morgan, your hair is a mess! Go and brush it.”
Wordlessly, Morgan ducked back inside his room, letting the door glide shut behind him. The prince chuckled and smiled at Damla. “I have never known someone to be such an untidy sleeper,” he said. Once again, Damla’s hopes rose, for he smiled so beautifully at her.
“Well, I promised Morgan that I would ask the cook for something to wake him up, and I shouldn’t keep him waiting any longer.” Morgan chuckled. “I fancy Morgan would lounge in bed all day should he be allowed.”
Damla gave a pale smile and nodded. “He must be feeling very tired.”
“After our busy day yesterday, he is positively exhausted,” Prince Meredith agreed. “What is more, he barely slept for half the night!” The prince grinned. “I must not make him wait any longer, nor should I keep you from your work. Take good care of your hair.” The prince swam off, and Damla smile faintly to herself. His hands upon her hair had been nice, and his words had filled her heart with hope. She could not wait to cross paths with the prince again.
Yet luck was not on her side that day, for Meredith was also tired from his escapades with the young lordship, and both he and Morgan spent all day sleeping.
Damla finished her work and went to the inn, joining the constant line for Murchadh.

“You did not gain his kiss today,” the Glashtyn noted, before Damla had even sat down.
“No, but he liked my hair, and he touched it and said that I am pretty,” Damla smiled and told the Glashtyn, in great detail, about her encounter with the prince. “It is only unfortunate that he slept for the rest of the day,” she finished.
“Unfortunate indeed,” agreed Murchadh, gazing at her sympathetically. But your hair looks wonderful. Tomorrow, you must go to your work wearing the clothes of a gentleman, rather than the ladies attire in which you are accustomed to dressing.”
“Why?” Damla asked. “What difference does it make if I wear those boring clothes?”
“Which do you love more, your clothing or the prince?” asked the Glashtyn.
Damla sighed. “I understand,” she nodded. “I shall find the clothing of my brother, who has gone to work in a distant kingdom, and I shall wear that to work tomorrow.”
“Good,” said Murchadh. “Now remember, tomorrow is your final day. If you do not gain a kiss from Prince Meredith, you must marry me.”
“I know. I shall return tomorrow as usual.” Damla left, impatient to get home and find her brother’s old clothes. After the events of the past two days, Damla was filled with hope and certainty that tomorrow, she would gain Prince Meredith’s kiss.

The next day, upon reaching the big house, Damla found that her choice of clothing was much to be remarked upon.
“Why are you in the clothes of a man?” asked Cook. “It is rather unbecoming on a young woman.”
“I was bored with my usual clothes, so I borrowed these from my brother,” Damla said. “They may be plain, but they are comfortable.”
“I think Damla looks lovely in anything she chooses to wear,” Muir told Cook as he passed by.
Cook rolled her eyes. “You would, Muir.”
Damla could not wait to see Prince Meredith that day, and hurried off without finishing conversation with her friends. But neither the prince nor Morgan was anywhere to be seen that day.

“It is strange not to see the young lordship and the prince about the house,” Damla commented to Cook later that day.
Cook shrugged. “Do not be too surprised. They left long before you arrived this morning, for a final trip.”
“Yes, for Prince Meredith shall return home tomorrow.”
Damla’s heart sank. If she could not gain Prince Meredith’s kiss by the end of the day, she would have to marry the old Glashtyn!
All day, she waited for Morgan and the prince to return. But they did not. She waited long after her work was done for the day, her face becoming sadder with each moment.
The lord’s butler found her waiting at a window, and seeing her expression, told her to go home. “Everything will be much better once you’ve had some rest,” he said kindly, not knowing of the reason for her sadness.
Defeated, and fearful of what was to come, Damla drifted toward home. Before she got there, her sadness became too much and she sat down, crying.
She did not know how long she was there, but after some time she was interrupted by a gentle voice.
“What is the matter?” Damla looked up to see Prince Meredith, with Morgan at his side.
“Oh, your majesty!” she cried harder.
Morgan patted her shoulder and Prince Meredith sat down beside her. “Would you like to tell me?” he asked, voice soft. He looked at Morgan. “Go on to the house. I shall join you shortly.”
Morgan nodded. “Take your time.” He swam away, and Meredith put his arm around Damla’s shoulders.
“What makes you cry so much? And why are you wearing the clothes of a man?”
Damla sighed. “I wanted...I wanted to gain the kiss of the man I long for, but he has not given it to me.”
“If he does not notice you, there must surely be a better man for you,” said Meredith. “You are a pretty young woman, and you look lovely with your hair short. Even those clothes are becoming on you. Any sensible man would be a fool not to notice a lovely lady such as you.”
“I am the fool, for I sought the advice of the Glashtyn. He gave me three days to gain the kiss of my beloved, and I have failed. Now I must marry Murchadh!” Damla began to cry again.
Prince Meredith held her tightly and patted her back. “Do not fret, for the day is not yet over,” he said kindly. “The Glashtyn Murchadh is a wily one, for I have sought his advice myself.”
Damla lifted her head. “Really?” It was then she noticed the star-shaped talisman that hung on a cord around Prince Meredith’s neck. She had not seen it before, as it was mostly hidden beneath his shirt.
The prince nodded. “I needed his help on a matter, and through him I learnt how blind I had been. However he did not ask my hand in marriage as his payment.” Meredith smiled gently. “Though he is a handsome fellow, wise beyond his years and very quick-witted. I do not think you would suffer were you to become his wife, though he asked a very high price from you.”
Damla sighed, and wondered how the prince could believe Murchadh to be handsome, for the old man was certainly far from it.
“Do not worry,” Prince Meredith said. “Go to Murchadh and tell him I think he asks too much of you. Ask of him that you pay by some other means.”
Damla nodded, and Prince Meredith helped her up.
“I am sorry for troubling you, your majesty,” she murmured.
The prince shook his head. “I am glad that we happened upon you, for you certainly should not cry alone. Go now, and tell that wily old Glashtyn what I said.”
“Thank you, your majesty.” Damla bowed and swam away. The prince had been kind to her, and though he had not kissed her, she felt calmer about going to see Murchadh. She would tell him what Meredith had said, and then Murchadh would have to ask her something else, instead of her hand in marriage. Then, even if Prince Meredith was lost to her, maybe one day another handsome prince would swim into town.
Damla sighed and joined the line outside the inn. Prince Meredith really was kind.

“I did not gain his kiss today,” Damla told the Glashtyn when she went into his room.
“You know what this means,” Murchadh smiled toothily.
Damla folded her arms. “Prince Meredith told me that you ask too much of me,” she stated.
“You told him of why you came here?” The Glashtyn sounded surprised.
“He found me crying and asked what was wrong. Of course, I did not tell him that it was his kiss I wished for.”
“But you still failed. Now you must marry me.”
Damla stared at him. “But Prince Meredith said that is too much!”
“It matters not what he thinks, for it does not involve him,” said the Glashtyn.
“Let me pay by some other means,” Damla begged.
But Murchadh shook his head. “The terms of our agreement stick. You must marry me.”
Damla started to cry again. “Please give me one more day,” she asked. “I have had poor luck these last few days, for on the first day, Prince Meredith was away, and on the second day, he was sleeping, and today, the third day, he was away once again. I saw him but briefly and had no chance...”
“I understand,” Murchadh patted Damla’s shoulder and stroked her hair. “Go to him tomorrow. That will be your final chance.”
“Oh Murchadh, thank you!” Damla hugged the Glashtyn gratefully. “Is there anything more I can do?”
Murchadh patted her back. “Tell him,” he said.
“I cannot!” Damla exclaimed, recoiling.
“Why not?”
“It…It is not right for a servant girl to say such things to a prince!”
The Glashtyn chuckled and smiled at her. “You are such a silly girl. It was not right for a servant girl to cry and tell of her problems to a prince, either, but you did. Now, go home and sleep well. Tomorrow, dress as beautifully as you can. Find Prince Meredith, and tell him of your feelings.”

It seemed so simple, but the thought of confessing the truth terrified Damla. As she tried to sleep that night, she pondered how to tell the prince. Then she began to wonder: what were her feelings? Slowly, Damla realised that she could not yet love the prince, for she had known him only a few days, and their encounters had been brief. Still, she was fond of him, and thought she could certainly fall in love with him over time.

The next day, Damla dressed in her most beautiful outfit, styled her short hair as Prince Meredith had done, and headed to the big house. She was not due to work there today, but was filled with determination – not to mention desperation – to see Prince Meredith and confess her feelings, before he left for home.
Damla started up the long path towards the house. It passed through some gardens and curved around to the servant’s entrance. Damla had decided she would go in, immediately seek out the prince and tell him the truth. It would cause her much trouble, for she would be breaking protocol, but she did not care. This was her final chance.
But Damla did not get as far as the house, for what she saw outside the servant’s door shocked her.
Prince Meredith was there, with Morgan in his arms. As Damla stared at them in their embrace, the prince leaned down to press his lips to those of the young lordship. Damla could see well that their kiss was one born of love, and the pair did not part for a long time.
“I love you,” Morgan uttered affectionately, gazing up at the prince with an affection in his eyes greater than Damla had seen in any face--except that of Prince Meredith, whose loving expression mirrored that of the young lordship.
“I love you too, and I shall return before you know it,” Prince Meredith replied. “Then we shall leave here together, and be wed.”
“I cannot wait! Let me journey back with you!”
The prince smiled. “I had hoped you would say that.”

Before they could notice her, Damla swam away, tears in her eyes. It was impossible for the prince to love her when he loved another. And it was another man that he loved, not a woman! Damla felt a little insulted. Then, as she made her way towards the inn, everything slotted into place. Unbeknownst to her, Prince Meredith had also sought the advice of the Glashtyn over matters of the heart. Prince Meredith wished for the affections of young lord Morgan. The Glashtyn must have known that the first time that Damla visited him. She had been tricked!
By the time she arrived at the inn, Damla was not sad or frightened, but angry. She pushed her way to the front of the line and into the inn.
“Mister Murchadh is breaking his fast,” said the innkeeper’s wife. “You must join the line.”
“I shall see him right now!” Damla continued on to the Glashtyn’s room and burst in. “You tricked me!” she exclaimed. “You knew Prince Meredith wanted another man! You knew I did not have a chance!”
“I gave you ample chance to change your mind,” Murchadh replied. He set his food aside and rose to greet her. “Come, sit down and calm yourself.”
“I will not calm myself,” Damla snapped, though she did sink to the bench opposite the Glashtyn. “How dare you mislead me? Could you not have told me that Prince Meredith loved another?”
“It was not your business,” Murchadh said. “Calm down now. I warned you that it was unwise to try and change the true path of a heart. I advised you to turn away, but you were determined. And now your time is up, and you must marry me.”
“But you tricked me!”
“You promised, Damla.”
Damla realised she had no choice. Sighing, she nodded. “I shall not forgive you for this,” she said, defeated. “Very well, I shall marry you. But please answer me something, though it is not my business.”
“What do you wish to know, my lovely one?”
“What payment did you ask of Prince Meredith? And what counsel did you give him when he came to your door?”
The Glashtyn smiled. “The payment I asked of him was his kingdom, and the only counsel I gave him was as I gave you yesterday: Tell him.”
If Damla had thought she had any remaining hope that Prince Meredith might one day notice her, it disappeared in face of Murchadh’s words. To know that the prince had given up his kingdom in favour of gaining Morgan’s heart was to know that Meredith truly loved the young lord, more than anything.
“And what of the talisman you gave him?” she asked. “Did your magic not help?”
Murchadh laughed and smiled at her fondly. “People are so silly,” he said. “There is not an ounce of magic within those talismans, but the idea of it is enough to give people the courage they need to do what they must. No magic led the hearts of young lord Morgan and Prince Meredith to meet, for they have loved each other since they were small.”
“Morgan came to you, too,” Damla realised.

The Glashtyn laughed again, his eyes bright. “He did, on the same matter. I gave him the same advice, but he needed not a talisman to give him courage.” He smiled. “You are learning to be perceptive, dear Damla. You will be an excellent wife to me.”
Damla sighed. She did not want to marry the Glashtyn. But she had promised, and he looked upon her with kindness in his eyes, so whilst she had no choice, she thought it better that her husband were gentle.

Damla married Murchadh that same day, and he went to live with her in her house. He treated her kindly and did not ask anything of her but a warm dinner, and for her to see away the people that wished to speak with him, for at times he became quite tired from solving everybody’s problems and making everybody see what was in front of them.
As the days passed, Murchadh seemed to become younger. His skin became smooth and his teeth straight and white. He shaved away his beard, and his hair became full and black, growing beyond his shoulders. Sometimes he teased Damla that his hair grew faster than hers, for by the time her short hair had grown to her shoulders, Murchadh’s fell in a river of waves down his back. Murchadh stooped less and his back straightened; soon he stood as tall as Damla. His body became strong and lean. When they ate together, he told her amusing stories and complimented her on her kindness and thoughtfulness.

Over time, Damla became rather fond of the Glashtyn, and thought him quite handsome. She forgave him for the wily way in which he tricked her into marrying him.
But all things come to an end, and one day, the Glashtyn Murchadh died. Damla was inconsolable, for she had grown to love him. A group of men came from the big house to help bear his body to the funeral. Among them came Meredith and Morgan, hand in hand.
“A pity he died so young,” said Morgan. He hugged Damla and kissed her cheek.
Meredith nodded in agreement. “He was so wise, and so handsome,” he said. He too, hugged the widowed woman, and likewise kissed her cheek.
Damla started to cry. If only Meredith had kissed her cheek so long ago, she would never have married the Glashtyn. She would have met another man, married him and had children, and none of this would have happened.
“Oh, don’t cry now,” Morgan said gently. “You made him very happy, for he liked you the moment you strode into his room.”
Damla had not the heart to tell them the truth of what happened, but nodded and wiped her eyes. “Thank you for coming,” she said.
They left the room and she turned to the mirror, wanting to tidy herself before she went to her husband’s funeral. Within her reflection she saw that age had crept up on her and she was no longer beautiful. Her skin was becoming wrinkled, her eyes tired and red from crying, and her hair had lost its unusual colour, instead growing white from her head. “And now I am alone,” she murmured to herself. “With no children, nor anyone to love me, for I am old and no longer beautiful.”
Muir, who had been listening, approached her. He had married twice, though his wives always left him, and though he was still handsome, his looks had faded over time. “You are still beautiful,” he said gently. He offered her his arm. “Come, everyone is waiting. My daughters and I will take care of you so do not worry.”
Numbly, Damla slipped her hand into the crook of Muir’s arm, and allowed him to lead her outside.
They followed the funeral procession through the streets, and Damla saw that the entire town had turned out to bid Murchadh one final farewell. Many couples held hands and hugged each other as they watched, and sobbed. Here and there, she noticed people wearing the star-shaped talismans that her husband had given out. Damla lifted her head to comment upon this to Muir, and realised that he, too, wore one of the talismans.
“You went to him too,” she said quietly. “Did he help?”
Muir smiled at her with affection. “He told me to have patience.”
“And what did he ask of you?”
“He asked me to take care of you when he was gone,” Muir explained. “He was a clever man. He knew before any of us that he would marry you, and he knew that he would die young. By what magic means he did that, I know not.”
Damla nodded and held tighter to Muir’s arm, crying silently. Even though he had tricked her, the manipulative, wily old Glashtyn had known the future, and planned accordingly. She thought of Meredith, and how he had given his kingdom for Murchadh’s advice. And she realised: through this, Murchadh had been a prince. She had gained her wish of a handsome prince without even noticing, but now he was gone.
Murchadh had taken away her youth, but also planned what would happen to her after he had departed. Though her heart was not yet ready to accept a new love, Damla knew she had it within herself to find the true path of her heart, which had perhaps led to Muir all along.

And that is why, should an old Glashtyn ask you for your hand in marriage if you fail in gaining your wish, you must stop and ask yourself: is that what you really wish for?

This story was a bit of a strange one, wasn't it? I must admit it ran away with me when I wrote it, and grew a mind of its own. It was going to have a different ending originally! I wonder if this is how, with geniune folk stories, we have ended up with many, very similar stories? Was it a case that, every so often, a storyteller changed the story? Who knows...

There are more Folk Tales of the Sea People here. 

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