In a small village in Scotland, there lived a poor fisherman whose living was by selling fish he caught in a nearby loch. The loch was a protected bay or rather a lake, formed by a narrow arm of the sea. It was a beautiful sight to behold, oh yes it was, the sparkling, crystal-blue lake, set in the midst of a splendid rocky basin. The fisherman was getting old and so was his luck. That year, no fish was he able to catch for they had dwindled. One day, while out in the loch in his small boat, the fisherman could stand it no longer and yelled out in remorse, “Oh! ye sea-maiden, Princess of The Blue. Has thy heart dried of water like the rocks that surround thy kingdom.” Instantly, the water before the fisherman’s boat began to churn and froth, sinking into a whirlpool, out of which rose a woman, half human and half fish. She had deep-blue skin, slender hands and blue-green eyes. Golden hair, like silken cloth woven from water, framed her heart-shaped face and fell in a graceful, wavy cascade till her waist. The rest of her body below the waist was scaly and ended in a delicate tail-fin. The rude surprise of the sea-maiden’s appearance almost had the old man toppled overboard. When the sea-maiden spoke, her voice was like that of water being drawn through a rock flute. “Neigh, dear fisherman, has my heart hardened into rock. But in return for supply of fresh fish I will have your first son when he comes twenty years of age.” The desperate fisherman agreed and was immediately rewarded with a prized catch of fresh fish. The sea-maiden’s promise sustained every day since and the fisherman never went in want of fish. But ever since, time began to roll rapidly and in a few days, his first son would be turning twenty.
When the first time the young lad asked his father what was bothering him, his father had refused an answer. After much persuasion the fisherman disclosed to his son, the sea-maiden’s demand and the young lad requested his father’s permission to seek out the maiden and destroy her. He was a strong lad no doubt, powerful and fearless, but seeing his father hesitate, he bade him go to the smithy and ask the ironsmith to forge a sword of superior blade. The fisherman returned with a sword which he gave to his son. The young lad gripped the sword and sliced the air with it but the blade shattered under his wield, into a hundred fragments. The second time, his father returned with a mightier blade and the young lad gripped the sword and sliced the air with it but this time the blade broke into two halves. The ironsmith personally felt humiliated and forged a sword a third time, this his mightiest. “It must be one hammer-headed fist that stakes this blade.” The fisherman returned with the sword to his son. The young lad gripped the sword and sliced the air with it, and this time the blade firmly held. Much more confident than afore, the old fisherman declared his consent and the young lad mounted his father’s black horse, fully prepared for the travel.
On his travels, the young lad came upon a black dog, a falcon and an otter quarrelling over the spoil of a sheep’s carcass. Momentarily coming off horseback, he divided the carcass between the three, giving three shares to the dog, two shares to the otter and a share to the falcon. As a token of gratitude, the black dog, otter and falcon promised him their services should the young lad ever need them. He accepted their regards resumed his journey. Thus, at length, the young lad came upon a king’s house where he was accepted as the herd. His daily wages would be determined by the amount of milk his cattle yielded every night.
The first time the herd took them grazing, there was not much grass and that night the cattle yielded no milk and his meat and drink was meager. The next day the herd and his cattle roamed hither and thither and on the last legs of hope, they came upon a grassy, green glen. The cattle, having grazed on plenty of tender grass, yielded much milk that night and the herd had meat and drink of generous proportions.
Now, it so happened that the grasslands belonged to an evil giant, infuriated by his pastures being grazed on. The next day, when the herd returned to the same spot, the giant charged at him bearing an evil-bladed sword, shouting “HI! HO! HOGARACH!!!” Pulling out his own sword, the herd gave counter-charge and when the giant was up close, the herd leapt upwards and took the evil giant’s head off his shoulders in one swift swipe of his mighty sword. The headless body of the giant shuddered and swayed but did not fall. It raised its sword and stumbled forward in a headless attempt to avenge the herd. But the young herd smiled and coolly kicked the giant’s fallen head onto its path. The evil giant tripped on its own head and fell to ground, the evil-bladed sword flying out of its slackened grip. The headless giant died instantly, but the sword that flew out of his hand smacked loudly into something in the distance, hidden behind a park of trees. Leaving the cattle to graze peacefully, the herd went looking for what it had smacked into.
What will the herd find ?
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