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Bardic Arts

Jack and the Mermaid

by
Ghislaine d'Auxerre
September, 2008 (A.S. XLIII)

It was a trader that sailed between islands.  A fast and sturdy ship with a crew of seasoned sailors.

Well almost all of them.

He was younger than the rest; no more than twenty, and he had only been sailing for about six months.

He loved everything about the ocean.  Her strength, her mysteries.  When he could, he would run to the prow and lean out as far as he could to feel the wind and salt spray in his face.

The other sailors would joke and say that young Jack had two brides; one on land and one in the sea.

Being the newest, Jack was given the job of the morning watch and sounding the bell to set the hours. On one of his watches, jack walked the deck.  The water was calm and the dawn was breaking over the horizon.  He checked the sunrise and rang the first bell of the day.

[ring the bell]

But, another sound joined it.  Light laughter came across the soft breeze.  As clean as the bell and just as beautiful a song to his ears.

He made his way slowly to the edge and looked over. The water was brilliant blue;  fathomless and glittering above and below with the sunlight.  There, beneath the surface, he saw her.

A mermaid.

The most beautiful maiden he had ever seen.  Perfect porcelain skin blending into emerald scales.  She smiled.  Her eyes were hauntingly beautiful.  As deep as the oceans and twice as old.

His longful gaze was stayed as she laughed once more and disappeared beneath the water.

Jack did not tell his mates of his sighting for fear of being called "crazy" or a "fool".  However, it was not the only time he saw the mermaid.  Every morning as he rung the bell he would hear her sweet laugh and he would watch her and say "good morning".

[ring the bell]

Now not all voyages are pleasant or gentle.  There are those dangers that are common to both ships and sailors alike when they are on the water.  Storms at sea were to be greatly feared as many a vessel had gone down from its fury.

The sky was an ashen grey and the wind tore through; chilling and soaking all aboard.  All hands were on deck and the waves washed against the hull sending all sprawling and tumbling over each other.

The storm's ferocity swelled and the crew was simply trying to hold on to keep themselves from being swept over the sides.

Jack clung to the rail next to his post.  He had to be ready to signal warnings or commands by the captain.

That command came and he pulled the rope that would sound the bell.........

[attempt to ring bell.  no sound]

........but nothing came out.

He screamed at the bell as he tried more furiously......

[attempt to ring bell.  no sound]

........but still no sound would come.

Then through the roaring in his ears came the sound of her voice.  As clear as if she stood beside him.  It was his mermaid.

"I can save your ship," she spoke "but I must have a promise from you."

"What?" asked Jack as he pressed against the rail to look down to the water.

"Your heart.  Freely given.  Be mine and none aboard shall perish and they will make their way home safely."

He gazed into her hopeful eyes through water that he could not say were ocean spray or tears.

"You have my heart.  You always had....."

The next moment the ship heaved and he fell over the edge and into the churning sea.

Shouts of "man overboard" could be heard above him. But they were quickly hushed as the storm suddenly ceased and the iron clouds gave way to streaming sunlight.

They all crowded the side rails to where their mate had fallen.  They were stunned to see him alive,.....but not alone.  A mermaid of the most perfect features swam guardingly around him.

He spoke quietly but clearly; his voice traveling to them on the breeze.

"You are safe and your journey home shall be uneventful.  I beg a favour.  As you have been my brothers upon the sea, please go to my lady who lives on the land and tell her what has happened.  Help her understand and know that I ask her forgiveness."

This was the story they told his bride as they sat at her table.

As the bell would no longer sound, it was removed.  It was also agreed that it should be given to his bride. Some felt it should be done out of sympathy, some out of superstition and fear of the unnatural.

The men left her; quietly staring out her window at the open sea.

She closed her eyes and with tears streaming down her cheeks spoke to the wind.

"I forgive you, my love.........my Jack."

Behind her on the table, the bell rung out loud and clear one final time as if to say "thank you and farewell".

[ring the bell]


"Mists Bardic Competition." -- Ghislaine d'Auxerre


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