The Last Kelpie

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Tomos Alyn Merryweather decides to put a stop to a lot of superstitious nonsense. There's no Kelpie in the lake at the head of the valley. His plan goes wrong when he discovers the Kelpie does exist but he's in for a even more of a surprise when he meets Ngherihgilherin in person. They agree a bit of haunting should stop Esme Cole bullying people but that doesn't go according to plan either. Still all's well that ends well.

Fantasy / Romance
4.0 2 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Tam was three quarters of the way along painting the last side of Mistress Cole’s new fence when she came bustling out of the house and told him to stop work immediately. He looked at her in surprise.

“I’ve not a lot more to do to finish Mistress.” It was only four in the afternoon and he wouldn’t normally finish work before five or six. Plenty of time to get the job done.

“Well I’ve a visitor coming and I don’t want you cluttering up the place while they’re here so be off with you. You can finish the fence tomorrow.”

“But Mistress...” He got no further before Esme Cole cut him off

“Don’t argue with me. I said you can finish it tomorrow. It’s not as though you’ve anything better to do. Be thankful I employ you at all.”

Tam’s lips tightened but he said nothing. In truth he wasn’t sorry to knock off early. The day was hot and the fumes from the paint had given him a headache. Why she had to have the fence painted white was beyond him. Treating it with oil to preserve it was a better option in his opinion. It brought out the natural colours and the grain of the wood and it smelt a lot nicer than the paint. Mistress Cole followed him and watched while he cleaned the brushes. He put them and the paint in the outhouse and started down the path hearing the snick of the door behind him as she went back inside.

He walked to the Watkin’s farm on the other side of the village and apologised to Clem for the fact he wouldn’t be there first thing as he’d promised since he’d to finish Mistress Cole’s fence. He started up the lane on his way home and that was when he realised he had forgotten his jacket. He stopped with a snort of annoyance. It was a hot now but it was September and the evening would be chilly. He didn’t want to annoy Mistress Cole by going back to ask for it. She seemed to regard his mere existence as a source of irritation and he’d no wish to be on the receiving end of more of her rudeness.

Then he remembered he’d hung it on the corner post at the far end of the garden on the bit of the fence he hadn’t done. He could reach that from the outside and needn’t bother her at all. He walked round to the back of the Cole’s house. He was stretching his hand out to lift the jacket down when he heard voices just the other side of the fence. Mistress Cole was entertaining her guest in the garden and very near where he was. If he took the jacket now they might notice and the last thing he wanted was for her to think he was eavesdropping on her business. He heard Mistress Simmons say

“None of the girls will do it Esme. Not after last year. Poor Dafni had to eat her meals standing up for a week. Best give it up if you ask me.” He realised they were talking about the Kelpie catching nonsense. He heartily agreed with Mistress Simmons. There might be a Kelpie living in the lake at the top of the valley though he doubted it but even if there were they should leave the poor thing alone. It had never done anyone any harm and to be trying to catch it and keep it locked up so as to force it to give the village gold and goodness knows what else was plain wrong.

Everyone knew there had once been Kelpies and other creatures of the Faeirlun but they had all gone. Left when the Great Sundering was healed and Morven and her people were reunited with the other Faeirlun and they all went to live on the Floating Isle of the Magician Hemlis, a place of fabulous beauty that sailed the five oceans. That had happened over five hundred years ago and most people these days regarded the story as a fairy tale rather than history. Tam knew it for truth because his ancestor Agnes Merryweather had been a friend of Morven back when Morven had been hiding from her enemies. She’d been passing herself off as a farmer and had worked the land at the very head of the valley. That Agnes had played a small part in healing the rift between the Faeirlun was no small source of pride to the Merryweathers and the tale had been told from generation to generation down the centuries. He was jerked out of his thoughts by Mistress Cole saying

“That’s why we’ll make Tam do it.”

His eyes widened in shock. Mistress Simmons also had the same reaction judging by the tone in which she said

“Tam? But he’s...”

Mistress Cole cut across her “He’s a virgin which is the main requirement. What’s more he’ll be stronger than the girls at getting a rope on it and getting it back down here.”

Mistress Simmons’s voice betrayed her uncertainty as she said “Are you sure Tam is a virgin? And Esme, Kelpies are, er, male. He might react a lot worse to Tam...”

Correcting Mistress Cole was a delicate business. She’d a keen nose for an insult and a long memory. Tam grinned. Then his good humour vanished at Mistress Cole’s next words

“He’s a virgin all right. He’s a pauper living in a hovel and as feckless and useless as they come. No girl in her right mind would give him a second glance. It hardly matters if the Kelpie doesn’t show up because it’s Tam. It’ll give everyone time to forget about Dafni’s experience.”

“But what if the Kelpie takes it amiss and attacks Tam? I wouldn’t want him getting hurt.”

“Oh so what if it does! He can run away.”

“I suppose so. Well if he agrees to do it but I don’t think he will.”

Mistress Cole laughed but there wasn’t much warmth in it. “He will if he knows what’s good for him Rose. I’m sure you’ll support me in this. Don’t forget the shearing contract is due to be renewed. It’d be a shame if Master Simmons lost it now wouldn’t it?”

Tam ground his teeth and resisted the urge to call out and tell Mistress Cole what he thought of her. The voices faded and he guessed they were returning to the house. He didn’t much care at this point so he grabbed his jacket and strode off through the orchard. He was seething with anger at Mistress Cole and her scheming and greed. Still forewarned was forearmed and he’d just refuse to do it never mind ‘what was good for him’. By the time he was half way home his normal good humour had reasserted itself. The sunshine made the stubble fields shine; leaves were turning red and gold, there were blackberries and elderberries in the hedges and the bees and butterflies were busy making the most of the last days of warmth. The sky was blue and all in all the world was too beautiful to worry about the likes of Mistress Cole.

The land was productive and the weather was kind. Harvests were plentiful and no-one went hungry but to people like Esme Cole if you didn’t have plenty of money to waste on trinkets and high, new fences that you painted white then you were beyond saving. After two miles he reached the three cottages that belonged to various members of the Crabtree family who worked the land just below the woods. The track rose steeply once it passed the Crabtree’s, climbing up through the woods to the head of the valley. His house was perched on a ledge of flattish ground half way up the slope. It might be an old fashioned one storey cob cottage with a wood shingle roof and an outside privy but it was no hovel and the view over the village and down the valley was spectacular.

Tam lit the fire and set the kettle to boil then stripped off his clothes and washed at the pump. The beauty of living alone and with no neighbours meant you didn’t have to worry about things like nudity. He made himself a Linden blossom tea and a slice of bread and jam. As he took his plate off the dresser his eye fell on his little white china horse and he smiled. Then his expression dimmed and he sighed. Mistress Cole had been right about one thing; he was a virgin and like to remain one until his dying day. In a week it would be his twenty sixth birthday and two weeks after that it would be the Apple Fair at Endon. Ten long years since that carefree day full of fun and laughter and half understood feelings.

He wondered what had happened to Gil. He wished he’d acted on the impulse he’d had when Gil presented him with the little fairing he’d just won on the hoop-la. He sighed and took his tea and his bread and jam out on to the terrace and sat in the old rocking chair. As he watched the sun sink westwards the idea of leaving Appeldor came into his head for the first time. There’d been Merryweathers in Appeldor for more than six hundred years but he was the last of the family so what was the point of staying? Seven years since Granny died. Ten since that never to be forgotten day and there’d be another ten and another and then one day he wouldn’t be young Tam but old Tam and much as he loved his garden and the woods, and the rhythm of the seasons it seemed a long time to be all alone.

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