The Legend of Merida and Kes

For all of you who are following my progress, it’s very slow. I’m halfway through the NaNoWriMo experience and I can tell you already that I’m behind. I’ve got a lot to do, but, I’m happy. I’ve created a story within a story, sort of within a story and although the edits are going to be massive at the end…it’s shaping up to be an epic of sorts. Below is the Legend of Merida and Kes:

Kytö gently got up, out of bed and went to his files. He searched for the legend of Merida and Kes and tapped to begin. Icons as options appeared, he needed text only, and he read:

“The legend of Merida and Kes tells the tale of a love only imagined. Fierce and relentless, the love took hold of the two never to leave them. It is said even after death, the souls are linked, forever inseparable.

Merida lived with her father, a fisherman, in painted house by the sea. Her livelihood and her future were tied to the sea.

Everyday Merida would wait for her father on the shore, as the sea lapped at her feet and she would watch for the little boat silhouetted against the setting sun, to come in with its precious load. When the boat came in, Merida would hand her father a knapsack containing his supper and, together they would go to the market to sell the fish he had caught. They lived this way, content with each other and their world for many years. Once a month, when the moon was full, Merida would become half fish, for she was a mermaid.

(This was in the time where humans and beasts melted at times, into one, where they could converse with one another.)

One day a stranger arrived on shore. Broken and unconscious, eyes closed and barely breathing. Upon seeing the stranger, Merida ran to him to see how she could help. Instantly, she fell in love. She gazed upon his face dirty and burned and ran her fingers across his jaw. She felt his warm breath on her hands and then remembered herself. She was Merida, her father’s daughter, one of the guardians of the sea. She would help this man, but she could do no more.

The man was surprisingly light, as if his bones were hollow and his flesh were paper. As Merida dragged him to her house she wondered if he were real, or whether he would even survive, so fragile he seemed in her arms as she lifted him and carried him across the sand.

And indeed, the man proved to be the most real being to Merida, as everything else around her began to fade. As the stranger drew strength from the broth Merida offered him and as he drew courage from Merida’s compassion, the man began to improve.

Merida’s father could only watch on helplessly as he saw the man, whose name was Kes, fall in love with his daughter. Merida too had succumbed to a kind of magic which can only be found in someone who is so far removed from one’s own reality.

Kes could remember nothing from his past, except a memory of a name, which worried the old fisherman. The stranger had been with them for nearly a month and soon it would be time for Merida and the rest of the fisher-folk to change into their truest form and take to the sea. Merida’s father presumed he would see Kes’s truest form at that time also. He suspected that he was not the same as Merida and her people; something about his eyes shone too brightly and gleamed gold like the sun.

As the moon waxed little by little in the night sky, Merida and Kes continued to grow closer until the finally the moon was at its fullest, pregnant with expectation.

The lovers moved closer and closer to the sea to allow them to swim, without hindrance, when the change came. The sands were teeming with the fisher-folk, all naked, clothed only in moonlight. The children giggled as the mothers and fathers held on tightly to their hands. For some of them, it would be their first change.

Kes felt a tingling as the moon rose to its highest point in the sky. As stars appeared one by one, by one, right next to the silver disc, like stray diamond dust, suddenly all he could hear were frantic splashing and cries of relief and release. For some of the fisher-folk, the oldest ones of the village, they would not return.

He looked for Merida as she waved helplessly from the sea. She realised that Kes was not like her. All night Kes waited on the shore and Merida tread water. They gazed at each other with longing until sunrise when suddenly, as the sun hit the horizon, a different kind of change took hold of Kes.

His arms grew longer and his chest swelled. His mouth and nose merged to form a sharp, hard beak, which curved to a deadly point, and within seconds, Kes was in the air, feathers of gold glinting in the early sun. He circled in despair and delight. Memories came flooding back. This is who is was. For a moment, he forgot Merida but then he saw her swim to the shore. She would change back now and he would be forced to circle overhead and only perch near her where she sat.

Merida called to Kes and Kes came. He landed near her on a boulder buried halfway in the sand. He purred and cawed gently in answer to her tears. Why were they so different, she asked the wind?

All this while, the old fisherman only watched. There was nothing he could do, the bond somehow, had been formed and this was the way it was meant to be. They were destined to remain childless, he knew and this would be the biggest blow for his Merida, as the fisher-folk could only mate in the sea when they changed.

When the sun set, Kes changed back to his human form. The lovers embraced and kissed and cried. Kes told of his past and how he had flown too close to the sun and was carried by the west wind and finally dropped in the ocean. He had no family but he had a duty to his people to return, as he was the rightful ruler of his land. He promised to return before the next full moon, he told Merida and his father.

Before he left, secretly he spoke to the old fisher man. “Make Merida forget. She deserves a future without me,” he said.

The old man knew that only dark magic would have the power to make Merida forget her love for Kes. He had lived many years and he knew all about the power of love. He refused at first, even though he knew that Merida would suffer in Kes’ absence and in the knowledge that she would never bear his children. Kes pleaded and finally made the old man promise him that he would find a way to make Merida forget that she had ever met the birdman, Kes.

Kes left in the morning, believing that he would never see Merida again. His heart was heavy and with every step he took he felt as if every bone in his being had been shattered.

Merida, meanwhile sang the fisher-wife’s song, which told of a heart’s patience and strength, whilst waiting for her beloved to return from their work at sea.

That evening Merida went to market alone with her father’s catch as her father had an important errand to complete, he had said. She did not wonder what this task might be, as she wondered only about her love, the birdman, Kes. And all the while she sang as she sold fish to the folk of her village.

The old fisherman, in the meantime had gone to visit the wise witch who lived in the caves above the sands. She was cursed, or blessed, one could never agree on which, as she had stopped changing many years ago and was forced to remain upon the land until she died.

She knew both light and dark magic but practised only the magic of healing. The fisher-folk were simple folk and rarely needed charms and curses. So when the old fisherman arrived asking for a cure for his daughter, the witch smiled and readily agreed. When she asked what ailed her and the fisherman replied that she had fallen in love with a birdman, the witch shook her head.

“I cannot cure your daughter,” she said, “for she has no sickness.”

“But he has left and will not return. He loves her enough to ask me to help her forget him.”

“But that goes against the laws of love. By asking her to forget only binds his love further. There is nothing I can do.”

“Can you not give her a draught which will help her forget?”

“But that will be dark magic. Light magic and healing will have no part in this.”

The conversation went on until dawn. The witch finally relented.

“I will give you a potion which will be somewhat of a kindness. Both Merida and Kes will forget their love for each other, but they will also be unable to love anyone else. However, it will only last for the duration of one of their lifetimes. As soon as either one of their souls should leave their bodies, they will remember the love they carried for one another. Is this what you want? There is always a price to pay.”

“I will pay you, whatever I have.”

“You do not understand, Fisherman. It is not I who demands payment.”

The fisherman thought he understood. All he saw was the belief in his daughter’s eyes, that Kes would return. All he foresaw was the pain when she watched the horizon only to see it remain empty. He felt like he had no choice. If Kes were to return, then perhaps the old man could reconcile himself with the fact that Merida would be happy despite not being able to bear children, but it was Kes himself who had told him that he would not return. For Merida’s own sake, he wanted Merida to forget him. This way, too, the fisherman would be able to keep his daughter forever. She would remain his devoted daughter.

Reluctantly, because he felt as if the only choice he had left, was all he had left, he asked the witch to prepare the draught.

It swirled black and blue and green and yellow, like the sea, the darkness, the sun and the earth. When the old man held the glass vial in his hands, it seemed to be filled with a kind of resentment, which hummed and whined to be released.

Merida was already home when the fisherman returned. She was fast asleep and for a moment, the fisherman had second thoughts. His daughter looked too peaceful to be in any pain but then he thought of the morning and the hope which would rise and die with each nightfall until eventually Merida would find herself broken when the moon became full. What if she chose not to return to shore? What if the heartbreak forced her to remain in the sea? The fisherman could not bear to see the pain in Merida’s eyes.

Gently he shook Merida awake, kissing her forehead the way he would when she fell asleep on the sands as she waited for him, when she was only small. Her eyelids fluttered open and she smiled.

“What is it Father?” asked Merida. The old man held her hand and explained to her that she had been looking pale recently. He told her that he had been to a medicine woman who had advised that Merida take the medicine which he held in his hand.

Merida laughed and tried to persuade her father to go to bed, but the old man was as stubborn as his daughter. Merida finally relented and drank the potion which was bittersweet to the taste.

She slept fitfully after that. Dreams of hawks and flying and falling filled her mind’s eye. She felt as if she was drowning, suffocated by the salt water sea, which had nurtured her like a mother and she could not understand why. When she awoke, her eyes were filled with tears and she could taste the salt in which she had dreamt she was drowning. But she remembered nothing of Kes.

The old fisherman did not sleep that night, as he watched his daughter toss and turn in her bed and when she awoke he wiped the tears from her face and tried to hold her close. Merida confused and angry, pushed her father aside. She knew who he was but she had forgotten how to love him, she did not recognise the love in his eyes. Love was tinged with grief and Merida’s father remembered the witch’s words. He finally understood his foolishness and could do nothing except mourn the loss of his daughter.

The following weeks passed in near silence between Merida and her father. She no longer waited for him on the shore, instead, she met him at their stall in the market. She helped sell the fish and she cooked for the both of them, but she ate alone. She felt something was missing but could not fathom what it might be. She felt cold and lonely and she no longer smiled.

At the next full moon, Merida and her father waded into the sea but Merida felt no joy or relief in the change. She swam to shore and waited for sunrise. Her tail flapped in the water as the tide rose and pulled at her. Ignoring the sea, as if it were an annoying child, she watched her father. Something seemed to have happened to the old man. Elders surrounded him and he nodded solemnly. Occasionally he would look back at Merida and their eyes would meet. Suddenly he dove into the dark waters and she did not see him return.

Sunrise brought nothing but emptiness for Merida. She walked on two legs back to the hut, which seemed darker and shabbier than before and she set about bathing and dressing. She would leave this town, she decided, and find somewhere else to call home.

Meanwhile Kes had also forgotten about Merida. He knew only war and of ruling. He became a harsh leader, unrelenting and unforgiving and many of his people resented him.

One night, while he slept an assassin entered his room. As quick as a flash, the stranger slit the throat of the sleeping king and somewhere far away from Kes’ kingdom, Merida screamed out in pain.

As Merida writhed on the floor, images of Kes and her father flashed before her eyes, their voices, the memories of their touch, the warmth, it all overwhelmed her until she could bear it no more. She found a knife tucked away in her skirt, which she used for opening clams and looked at it with hope. It glinted in the pale moonlight and Merida could stand it no longer. Deep and sure, she thrust the knife into her chest until the pain in her chest overtook the pain in her heart. Eventually, that too, passed and Merida, of the fisher folk was no more.

It is said that when Merida died, moments after Kes, her soul rose up into the sky in search for her love but was pulled into the sea. Kes’ spirit flew, in the form of a hawk and scanned the oceans until he found Merida, the mermaid leaping through the waves. They would follow each other thus, merging as one, once every month when they would become one soul, half fish, half bird and this is how it would be for all of eternity.mermaid

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About BarelyHereNorThere

I'm a writer. I've just discovered that. It's taken a good part of my life to work out that this is what I want to do and now I must keep doing it. I'm lucky that my lifestyle now permits me to follow my dream, relatively unhindered, but now, there's no going back. Welcome to my worlds. View all posts by BarelyHereNorThere

4 responses to “The Legend of Merida and Kes

  • Gonçalo Julião

    I have read it all at once, I could not stop! So much potencial, so much to add and episodes to dig deeper! You’ve got something started and it is beautiful. Beware of common places, make change of every already existing thing. We all create from something that exists, even from fiction, but it is our work to create new realms!

    • BarelyHereNorThere

      Thank you. I’m trying to stick with the tradition of myth and legend in this one. Familiar elements are there in every myth, which is what I personally find so comforting about them, from Hercules to Krishna, there’s something we’ve all heard before. I hope Merida and Kes didn’t sound too familiar though. The rest of the novel should, I’m hoping, remain as original as I can make it, but there is no escaping repetition. I sometimes wonder whether all there is to write, has already been written…a big fear of mine. The fultility of creation, I suppose.

      • Gonçalo Julião

        Both characters hold their own! Merida reminds me a little of Menina do Mar and the girl from the Song of the Sea, but her and her people to me are magical and believable. As for Kes… he is a golden bird! They are star crossed from the very beginning, doomed to be apart. Hey, I know I may have sound a little “advisy-ish should mind my own business” and you are right, familiar elements are there in every myth. It’s hard come up with unheard of things, it’s true, thus making writers wonder whether or not it’s worth the trouble. Bjork did that micro bio nature bit sounds into a weird and conceptual album, so who knows if we are all missing the point… I digress, though. Keep going!!!

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