Sunday, 7 September 2014

Three Brothers and a Draug

Here comes another story from Folk Tales of the Sea People.

Three Brothers and a Draug, July 2014

Three Brothers and a Draug

There were once three brothers. Their names were Marinus, Pontius and Pelagius, and apart from their names they were identical down to the very last detail. Each had short red hair, each had pale green flesh and glossy, emerald-coloured scales. When they spoke and when they sang, you could not have told the difference. Whether they danced on two legs or swam by tail, they remained perfect copies of each other.
They lived together in a house with three of everything, and had much fun being identical brothers, for it was rare and they were much admired for it. Their identical nature also allowed them to play many tricks, and it is for these tricks that this story is told.

We Siren-folk, as you know, enjoy going to the surface, to sing in places where the sea meets the land. The three brothers lived near a wonderful cove where they liked to clamber onto the rocks and sing with the wind. It was a popular place with all folk from their area.
However, one day, unexpected problems appeared, in the form of a Draug.

The Draug sailed back and forth across the cove in his half-boat. His skin was pale, his hair a writhing mass of grey and his eyes white as though blind. The Draug was a spectre, but his presence unnerved everybody. Hhe was an ill omen for any that laid eyes upon him, and he was a fiendish fellow who would have drowned all Siren onlookers had they been unable to breathe beneath the water.
Indeed, when the days became warmer, and Land-walkers came to the beach, the Draug began to catch them unawares.

The three brothers were especially troubled by the presence of the Draug, because they liked the Land-walkers. They watched the ghost-sailor force unwitting mortals to race him across the cove. Of course, his unearthly boat always moved much faster than they could, and the three brothers saw many a soul being carried away by the wicked Draug, as a dying mortal body sank into the depths of their sea.

The dead became a problem, for the folk of those parts were unaccustomed to dealing with so many deceased Land-walkers sinking into their territory. A large hole was dug into the sea bed, and each day another body was found within the town and interred within the hole.
Gradually, the Land-walkers began to realise that the cove was unsafe, and stopped going there.

Marinus, Pontius and Pelagius mourned the absence of the Land-walkers, for they were interesting creatures. The Draug was a pest and it was high time somebody got rid of it.
Being the bold sort, the three brothers decided that somebody should be them.
“How shall we defeat the Draug?” Marinus wondered.
“We have to beat him in a race,” said Pontius.
“But it is impossible to match the Draug’s speed,” said Pelagius. “If we should lose, we lose our lives and the Draug takes our souls to the Otherworld, and we shall be doomed.”
The three brothers fell silent as they contemplated this problem. As they were so identical, even in thought, they reached a conclusion – the precise same conclusion – at the same time.
“Ah, maybe if we...” began Marinus.
Pontius nodded. “Yes, definitely.”
“It has to work,” agreed Pelagius. “But who shall approach the Draug?”
They drew lots to decide which of them would have the task of approaching the Draug, and it turned out that the task would fall to Pontius.
“Wish me luck!” he said, and set off in search of the ghoul.

As it happened, the Draug was sailing upon the water, near the rocks where the three brothers liked to sit and sing.
“Hie, Draug!” Pontius called.
The spectre turned his gaze to the siren, eyes gleaming eerily. “Yes?” it hissed. “You dare to address me?”
“Yes!” Pontius nodded. “I want to challenge you to a race.”
At the mention of a race, the Draug became more interested. “A race? I accept your challenge. When you lose, I shall take your soul.”
“If I lose, I shall. But if I win, you must leave here forever.”
“I agree to your terms,” the Draug replied, without deliberation. “We shall race across the cove at midnight by the height of the moon. Say your goodbyes, for tomorrow you shall be gone.”
“Or perhaps you will. Until midnight then, Draug.”

At midnight, just as agreed, the Draug was waiting at one side of the cove. But it was not Pontius who went to meet him. It was Pelagius, so identical to his brother that the Draug did not notice the difference.
The Draug glowed in the moonlight, spookier than ever.
“Hie, Draug!” exclaimed Pelagius. “I am ready to race!”
“Then we shall be off.”
The race began: the Draug in his half-boat and Pelagius swimming furiously through the water. But no matter how fast Pelagius swam, the Draug in his boat was faster.

Almost halfway across the cove, the ghoul laughed, certain of his success. He had not seen the Siren pass him. But suddenly someone bobbed out of the water ahead of him, beyond the halfway point. Glancing back, the Siren called out: “Hie, Draug! I hope you’re ready to leave!”
The Draug frowned and sped on as the Siren ducked back beneath the water, swimming as fast as he could. None but the three brothers knew this swimmer was not Pelagius, who had begun the race, but Marinus, who had been waiting halfway across the cove, until the Draug’s half-boat neared.

But the Draug, with his unearthly speed, soon overtook Marinus. Again the Draug laughed. He was close to the other side of the cove now, and had overtaken the Siren so long ago that it would be impossible for him to catch up.
Proud, the Draug stood up as he neared the end of the race.
But an astonishing sight awaited the ghost.
For upon the rock sat the very Siren who had challenged him, hair dripping wet and expression lazy.
“Hie, Draug!” Pontius waved. “I thought you would never get across that cove. You are so slow!”
“This is impossible!” exclaimed the Draug. “I should have won.”
“You lost. I beat you,” Pontius said. “And now you must leave this place forever.”
The Draug grumbled. But an agreement was an agreement, and when it came to ghosts, an agreement was law.
The veil between the worlds opened. As the Draug began to sail through on his half-boat, he turned back to Pontius. “How?!” he demanded.
Then, in the distance, the Draug saw two heads pop up above the waves: two Siren identical to the one who had beaten him. The Draug realised he had been tricked, and screamed with race.
“Tricksters!” he yelled. “I shall take you all to the Otherworld!”
The Draug stamped his foot so hard that he upset his boat and fell right overboard.
The Draug screamed again and disappeared. He was no more, for a Draug separated from his boat was dead for good.
And so, the corpse that had once been a Draug was the last body to be buried in the big pit in the sea bed.
The three identical brothers lived long and prosperous lives off the story of how they defeated the Draug. Identical down to the very last detail.

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