My childhood was much like any other’s during that time. However, my mother coddled me incessantly and could only be made to part with me when either my father demanded or Bram requested it—which was frequently. My parents suspected that my presence eased Bram’s yearning for his own grandchildren, and suffered no qualms about my accompanying him wherever and whenever he sought my company.
Initially, he would take me on short walks around my parents’ property. But as I was able to walk on my own, he’d allow me to lead as we wandered aimlessly to fleeting strikes of fancy. The one exception to my carefree exploration was that he would never allow me to visit what we generally referred to as my mother’s stream. If ever I ventured too close, Bram made sure that something absolutely extraordinary could be found immediately elsewhere.
When I asked why we couldn’t go to the river, he was always quick to respond that it was too dangerous and was better left alone. I learned quickly that Bram was immovable once resolved upon something. And so it was that I learned to content myself with the walks he preferred to take in the countryside, learning key plants and animals native to our countryside, which he would point out as we went.
As I grew older, we began to venture farther away from home. It was then that Bram began instructing me in increasing detail. He’d tell me of why plants in a certain area might be dying, why animals were traveling the way they were, how to use a green forked stick to do some ‘water witchin’’, and even how to feel if it was going to rain. But, I couldn’t content myself with only learning forever.
One day, when I was just about five, I’d had enough of learning, and wanted to do something I’d been dreaming of for about as long as I could remember.
“Bram, how come we can’t go fishin’?” I asked indignantly, my own dark, wavy hair, which was so much like my father’s, flouncing to the side as I cocked my head at him. My hazel eyes implored him for mercy, as I regarded him with the same haughty, uplifted eyebrow my own mother used.
Bram looked up at me from the plant cuttings he was collecting, his green eyes filled with genuine curiosity as he quoted me with upturned white bushy brows, “Fishin’?”
I knew that he was correcting me for improper grammar, but I was undeterred and retained my challenging attitude even while he kindly asked, “Why do you want to go ‘fishin’’ so badly, Daine?” His face was etched by the lines of a loving grandparent.
“Well, Bram,” I replied authoritatively. If he was going to correct me on the proper way to say what I wanted to do, I was going to tell him exactly why it needed to be done my way. “It’s what boys are supposed to do!” I told him exasperatedly.
“Papa’s always working, and since you don’t really have to work, you can take me. So, like I already asked you, how come we can’t go fishin’?”
Bram couldn’t help but chuckle at me as I stood looking down at him with my arms crossed over my chest, my hip cocked, and my eyes clearly stating that my logic absolutely necessitated that we go immediately.
“Daine, you are absolutely right. It is what boys do during the summer. But I have another idea for you—a betteridea. What would you think about going to school? Most of the other boys that you know will not have the opportunity to go. It would make you . . . special.” He allowed the word to hang between us, letting the idea of being privileged above other children lure me in.
I silently toyed with the idea in my mind, getting a feel for it before I replied undeterred, “Hmmm . . . I don’t know, Bram. It’s summer now, and I really want to go fishin’. William Thiery goes with his brother every day, he says. He says they get lots of fish, and then they eat them. I love fish, Bram. I’ve just got to catch some too! I want to catch the biggest fish ever! And,” I schemed, whispering conspiratorially, “maybe, we could keep him in one of Mama’s bowls on the table!”
Bram regarded me, his knobby hand thoughtfully brushing the length of his white beard. I could tell he was truly considering all the points of my finely crafted argument.
When I almost couldn’t stand the silence a moment longer, Bram finally voiced his conclusions. “I don’t know about putting a fish in a bowl on your mother’s table, she probably wouldn’t like that one bit.” His eyes twinkled up at me, and I grinned at the idea.
“But, you are pretty convincing, Daine. So, how about I make you a deal? If we can talk to your parents about you going to school, then I will take you fishing.”
Bram used one of his gnarled index fingers to beckon me closer. I knelt down beside him in the tall grass, the tall oak trees above shading us from the sun. As I bent my head close to his, he looked carefully around to make sure no one was near to overhear us. Whispering in an equally conspiring tone, he spoke next to my ear, “I know of a place where this really huge monster of a fish has been hanging out.” His eyes were large and bright as he drew away to look directly into mine. “William Thiery will never catch anything like this fish in his entire life,” he unnecessarily elaborated.
I leaned back, my eyes gleaming with promise and visions of glory.
“So, what do you think?” Bram inquired. “Do you think we can go and ask your parents about school?”
I was too caught up on the idea of catching his massive fish, that was no doubt at least as big as I was, that I could only manage an enormous grin and a wild nod of my head.
That evening Bram presented his plan of my receiving an education to my parents over dinner. However, Bram’s idea of school was not exactly what I’d had in mind as I’d mulled over the suggestion that afternoon. I’d assumed going to school meant frequenting a structure of sorts that was widely recognized to be a school, with other children, and with a teacher whom I did not yet know. As Bram expounded his idea to my parents, my conclusion that school might not be as bad as I originally thought it would be, vanished.
Bram informed my parents that he wanted to be my private tutor. If permitted, he would teach me to read and write in French, Latin, Greek, and English; complete complex mathematical equations; and even proficiently perform scientific experiments.
At first my parents were disbelieving that the old man genuinely desired to do such a thing. But, as Bram sincerely continued to tell them of his plans for me if they agreed, I could see the approval becoming ever more evident in their eyes with every word he spoke.
And so it was, with little to no convincing needed, my parents readily agreed to Bram’s proposition. He was to be my teacher, and I his only student.
In two weeks, the day after my fifth birthday, Bram would come to collect me from our home. And then everyday thereafter, I was to gain my formal education day by slow and difficult day in the confines of his home, until the evening when he’d finally return me home in time for supper.
As I lay in bed that night, I was secretly outraged that my parents had not even asked me what I wanted. They didn’t even know that the only reason I’d agreed was because Bram promised to take me fishing. Why couldn’t I just be a boy and fish whenever I wanted to?!
The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that after my parents saw the giant of a fish Bram was going to help me to catch, they were going to forget all about this whole school mess and decide that I should take up fishing permanently. With that in mind, I lulled myself to sleep on thoughts of a magnificent battle between boy and fish. In the end—I bruised but still standing—stood victorious. And the fish that was no smaller than one ofMaman’s cows, my unprecedented prize of triumph.
Bram arrived at our house early the next morning. I was just beginning my chores when he’d arrived. Upon entering the house, he informed my mother that he needed me immediately, and that my tasks would have to wait until I returned.
Seeing the pole in the old man’s hand, my mother gave him her quirked eyebrow, and with a smile, began to interrogate him. “Really, must you have him now? He’s only just begun his chores, and I do not think that I can part with him until he is done.” She loved to tease him by adding a haughty lift to her already upturned nose.
“Oh yes, Madame Dalton,” he bowed his head low, “it is absolutely imperative, and will be a matter of life and death if he does not come with me now.” Speaking so that only she could hear, he jovially added, while looking at her with his head still bowed, “At least, for him it is.”
My mother and friend stood silently while they exchanged knowing glances with one another. I looked on hopefully, and prayed to the gods of fishing that Bram could somehow convince my mother to let me go with him now.
“I don’t know, Monsieur Macardle,” she feigned a serious tone that I could not then tell was forged, “Daine has not finished his chores, and how will I ever teach him responsibility if you are always taking him away? I think it would be best if he were to stay until he has finished.”
Hearing that, my hopes deflated entirely. If Bram couldn’t convince my mother, then surely no one could. I looked down at the floor that I had been trying to sweep, and despite my best efforts, my bottom lip stuck out and began to quiver.
My despair was such that I almost didn’t hear my mother when she spoke to Bram. I looked up at them from under the mass of hair that had fallen forward to cover my disappointment. It was her hazel eyes, so full of love and amusement, that drew me in.
“Ah, my good sir will not always be this way. You’d best take him now, Bram, before I’m able to reconsider. And,” she added for good measure, speaking loudly and excitedly, “make sure he catches me a really big fish!”
My face broke into the largest smile it could manage. I dropped my broom and ran out of the door, pausing only for a moment to turn and shout, “C’mon, Bram!”
The old man laughed as he quickly left the house in order to happily herd me to a pond that was on the edge of his property.
The pond was large, and over it hung the boughs of many leafy trees. The water rippled as fish mouthed the surface, eating their breakfast of various insects.
“Okay Daine,” Bram whispered, “I want you to whisper from now on. Do you see that little eddy over there where the stream flows into the pond?”
I nodded my head.
“Just to side of that is where the fish I told you of has been lazing about. Now, if we walk quietly around that way, and set our line just between that eddy and the stream, I bet we’ll have him.”
We quietly walked around the pond. My little heart thumped with anticipation and excitement. We stopped on the bank not far from the eddy and I watched, completely engrossed, as Bram deftly tied something to the hook that looked like a mayfly. “This is called a ‘fly’, Daine. You use it to hide your hook. The fish see something they think looks like breakfast, bite down, and much to their surprise find themselves with a hook instead. You ready?”
I again wordlessly nodded my head. My apple-round cheeks were beginning to hurt from smiling as big as I had been for so long.
“Alright then, here’s what we need to do,” Bram whispered again as he came around behind me with the pole in his hand. Carefully, he placed the pole in my hand and adjusted my grip. When I had it, he placed his capable old hands over my own. “You need to cast the line into the water. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do it. I’m going to help you.”
With a few quick flicks of our wrists, he easily zipped the hook to exactly where he’d said it had needed to go.
I waited, eyeing the water with large, excited hazel eyes. Watery plops could be heard from where the other fish continued to chomp the surface of the pond. Instinctively, I doubted Bram’s judgment. There were fish biting the water everywhere except for where we’d thrown our hook.
Bram continued to hold my hands. Together, we began to slightly jerk the fishing rod a few times, causing the fly in the water to twitch too.
The seconds seemed hours to my all too excited mind. Still leaning over me, Bram began to speak something that was barely over a whisper. I felt a thrill reverberate through my entire body as his words began. Just as quickly as he started, he was just as soon finished, and the echoing feeling vanished.
Suddenly, the rod lurched down in my hands as a fish pulled and darted in a wild attempt to release itself from our line.
I let out a whoop of surprise and joy. “Bram, did we get it?!” I exclaimed, reveling in the feel of the bowing pole and the strength of the fish it held.
Affectionately the old man replied, “We caught something, but I don’t know if it’s him. Let’s bring it up and see.”
Together we began to walk backward over the rocks and bramble. The line jerked recklessly as the fish fought to free itself. As we backed away, it was pulled out of the water and onto the muddy, pond’s edge. It flopped determinedly against the hard ground, its gills working desperately in an attempt to bring water into its lungs.
I stood there dumbfounded as I looked down on the biggest fish that I had ever seen.
Bram was right, it was a monster. It was so big, that it would have been impossible for me to bring it out of the water by myself.
Bram clapped me on the back, “Excellent job, son!” and then he walked to the fish. Placing a hand under its white belly and another toward its tail, he lifted it up and brought it over to me so that I could see it face-to-face.
I was absolutely terrified. I’d never fished a day in my life before, but yet here I was staring at the biggest fish I’d ever seen, complete with two matching rows of razor-sharp teeth moving up and down in its gasping mouth. I just knew its unblinking eyes were staring all of the hatred it could muster at me.
“Would you like to touch it, lad?” Bram asked me gently.
I think he knew that I was afraid. But of course, I just stood there staring at my fish in stupefied wonderment. I barely managed to shake my head in a no.
Bram chortled and cheerfully laid the fish down on a bed of grass away from the pond. I followed him in silent awe. “Daine, I’ll be right back. I need to go and get a basket from the house so we can carry that thing back for your mother.”
He wasn’t gone long, but in his absence I finally managed to compose my flood of emotions into something I could actually express—fishing was fun!
“Bram!” I shouted as I saw him walking toward me with a large wicker basket in hand, “that was the greatest thing ever! And look at this fish! William Thiery is going to piss himself when he hears about it!”
Bram laughed as he walked to me and crouched down to once again hold the fish in his hands.
“Did you see me, Bram!? I did it! I caught the biggest fish in the whole world!” I was dancing and jumping at this point, unable to contain an ounce of my overwhelming five-year old joy a single moment longer.
“Didyouseemehuh!Ican’tbelieveIcaughtafishonmyfirsttry!Dadisgoingtobesoproud!” I jumbled out in my excitement.
Bram, always calm, said nothing as I zipped around him in youthful bliss. He retained an ever charmed smile on his face as he watched me. I’d seen the same look on my parents’ faces, and guessed that that is what adults did when children were so happy they could scarcely breathe.
“Alright Daine, let’s get this cleaned up.” He withdrew a long and sharp knife from the sheath on his belt and crouched down as he cradled the fish over the water. “But, before we do anything, we need to thank the fish for giving himself to us.”
I nodded and solemnly bowed my head. With my face lowered, Bram began to again speak in a language that I didn’t know.
I eyed him from under the cover of my dark hair. What on Earth is he saying? I wondered as I watched him and listened. I felt what I can only describe as a warming, or a tingling, that grew and seemed to fill the world around us. The air suddenly felt alive. I looked around. Everything shimmered with life, colors, and depth that I had never seen before. My head came up, and I marveled at the scene around me.
When Bram was done with what I believe was his prayer, I could have sworn that it almost felt as though the Earth sighed in sadness that his words were not continuing.
“Daine,” Bram’s voice now said in its usual timbre, “come close, I want to show you how this is done.”
I quickly crouched beside him in the mud and forgot everything I’d just seen in the experience of learning how to gut a fish.
* * *
My parents were rendered entirely speechless when they saw what lay on a bed of grass in a basket upon their table.
“I’ve never seen a fish like that come out of a pond,” my dad finally managed.
“Nor have I, Robert,” my mother added absently. Her eyes and mind were unable to truly tear themselves away from my fish.
Myself, well, I practically overshadowed the sun radiating with my pride.
“Daine here is one amazing fisherman. He just threw his line in, zigged it a bit, and within a minute had this beast on his line. Ha, if he did not have the chance of gaining an education or of learning from a master carpenter, I’d say he’d have quite a future in fishing,” Bram boasted as he ruffled the wavy hair on my head.
Mother just shook her head in disbelief, and went to work cooking the brute for us for lunch. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever had a fish that tasted as wonderful as that one did. When we were through eating, stuffed so full that our bellies hurt and all of us were eying the massive quantity of fish that remained upon the platter unenthusiastically, Bram stood and informed us that he would be leaving us for the next few weeks. It was necessary he explained, to acquire some oddities before he felt comfortable in beginning my instruction. But, as he assured me, he would most definitely be back for my birthday.
With Bram gone I was entirely left to my own devices. I spent the next few weeks causing mischief around my father, annoying my mother, and generally acting the biggest pest that I possibly could. As such, it was a relief to my parents to know that in only a few short weeks, I would be away for most of the day doing something constructive with Bram.
YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE LIFE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN.
All that you can do is make the most of what you’ve been dealt—fight a good fight, resist being beaten by circumstance, and hope that somehow, despite it all, you’re able to accomplish the impossible.
But even then you cannot change the fact that you were born cursed.
I am one of those unlucky few upon whom the Curse of the Four Fathers has fallen.
It is I who must bear the burden of having a life that is unchangeably intertwined with the Fae. A sorrow made all the more great by knowing that where they are tragedy, loss, misery, and despair most assuredly follow.
As a Druid it is my responsibility to uphold the boundaries that keep the worlds of the Tylwyth Teg, and our own, separate. As a man it is my only ambition to protect the family and woman I so desperately love.
The only problem: I’m not sure this curse will allow for me to do both.
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Genre - Paranormal Fantasy, Horror
Rating – PG-13
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