Short story inspired by the following verse. The verse is from Shetland and is supposed to ward of the Mara (Nightmare).
De man o' meicht,
He rode o' nicht,
Wi' nedder swird
Nor feard nor licht,
He socht da mare,
He fund da mare,
He bund da mare,
Wi' her ain hair,
An made her swear,
By middin; meicht
Dat sho' was never bide a nicht,
What he had rod, dat man o' meicht.
The Lords Nightmare Edit
The lord of the village was dying... Since his young wifes death a few months before, he had been sullen and moody, and now, though his mood had suddenly improved, his health was failing him.
The best healers had been unable to make any difference to their lords declining health, and now, he was no longer able to rise from his bed... The end was nearing...
The chamberlain knocked softly at the door to the lords bedchamber and entered.
"My lord, is there anything you require this evening?"
"I fear I am beyond help old friend." groaned the lord, "soon I will join my wife in the beyond, and we will no longer be together only in my dreams.", he smiled faintly.
"My lord?" asked the chamberlain, "you dream about her ladyship?"
"Every night since a few weeks past my friend, she comes to my dreams every night, just like it used to be. Leave me now old friend, sleep is coming..."
The chamberlain worriedly left his lords chambers.
After worrying he softly stepped back up to the door to his lord and friends bedchamber. As he was about to knock, he heard noises from the inside, like a couple in the midst of lovemaking. Not wanting to embarass his lord if he sought comfort in the arms of a chambermaid he left.
In the morning, the lords health was even worse...
"I hope my lord enjoyed himself last night?", asked the chamberlain as he brought his lord his breakfast.
"Enjoyed myself?", said the lord surprised, "I guess you could say that. I had the most wonderful dream about my love."
"So, my lord did not have - ahem - female conpanionship during the night?"
"No, of course not!", the lord responded, angrily, "You really think I would dishonor her memory so soon?"
"Of course not my lord!" the chamberlain hastily retorted, "but I heard... noises... like two people... in passion, my lord."
The lord looked shocked, his anger evaporated.
"But I was alone! How could you have heard two people? Does my lady really come to me during the nights?"
"No my lord, the priests have assured me, she rests in the Light.", said the chamberlain, now clearly worried, "I will tell them of this at once if you allow my lord?"
The lord sighed, "Of course my friend, you have always served me well, do what you feel is best."
The chamberlain hurried to the villages small chapel, almost bowling over an old, unknown man in ragged priests robes as he entered.
"Ho there messire!", said the old priest, "but thee almost knocked over these old bones in thy haste to enter the chapel, dost aught trouble thee?"
Relieved to find anyone at this time, the chamberlain blurted out. "The lord is visited by passionate dreams of his dead wife in the night, but I heard two people in his bedchamber and he was alone, dreaming of her!"
"Take me to thy liege at once.", said the old priest, "Me old head may yet hold some trick to help him."
Running, the chamberlain and the priest arrived at the lords bed.
"My lord, this priest says he may help!" the chamberlain huffed, out of breath.
The old priest looked at the stricken lord, poking and prodding him with stubby fingers, and finally nodding. "Ye're being ridden by a Nightmare."
"A nightmare!?", asked the lord, "but I assure you priest, my dreams are pleasant, joyous even."
"Shut yer yap and open yer ears if ye' want to live!", shouted the old priest, stunning the lord and his chamberlain into silence, "I didst not mean a bad dream, but a Nightmare, a daemon, a Succubus, likely veiled in the guise of your departed lady."
Both men paled. "I will have guards in the room this night my lord!", said the chamberlain after he caught his breath.
"Nay", said the old priest, "for if thy lord is not alone, the mare will nae show herself. Only the one ridden by the mare can bind her. THEN the guards will be useful."
"How do I bind a daemon priest? I am weak."
"Binding tha mare is nae hard even in thy weakened state. All ye need do is pull a hair from tha mare and bind her with it, and she can nae escape."
The priest pulled a bag of strongly smelling beans from his pocket. "Gound these and pour boiled water on them, the concoction will keep thy lord awake to catch the mare."
The chamberlain rushed to the kitchens, later returning with a mug of steaming, darkish liquid.
"Drink it all, the taste is odd, but it will keep ye' awake.", said the priest as the lord slowly sipped the odd liquid.
"Priest", he asked, "How would I get a hair from the mare without raising her suspiscion?"
"Thou couldst ask to braid her hair.", said the priest, "but now we must leave ye, darkness is fast falling."
The old priest and the chamberlain left, guards posted outside the door with silvered weapons blessed by the Light.
The lord lay restless, then a comely figure appeared. For an instant, the lord seemed to see horns and hooves, but clearly it was his wife, returned to him.
For just an instant, she looked surprised, then she smiled and spoke.
"My love, you are awake." she breathed, "I feared I would only see you in your dreams.", she smiled.
The lord fought his mind telling him this was his beloved wife and not a foul daemon.
"It's really you.", he forced himself to smile, "Will you allow me to brush your hair like I used to my love?"
The figure smiled lovingly and reached for the hairbrush on the bedstand. "Of course my love."
She sat on the bed, her back to him, and he started brushing her hair, after a while pretending to hit a snag. "Ow!", she cried as he pulled a few strands of her long, somehow black, rather than his wifes auburn, hairs out.
"Sorry my love!", he said loudly, as he swiftly bound her hands with the hair.
The instant her hands were bound, the daemon reverted to her true shape, horns and tail and hooves. Screaming in impotent rage as the guards rushed in, impaling her with their blessed weapons.
Over the following months, the lords strength and health slowly returned. After a few years, he took himself another wife and lived happily with her and their children.
The old priest left the day after the lord caught the Nightmare with her own hair.
His current whereabouts are unknown...
--Nouala 08:32, 10 November 2008 (UTC)