Clodagh O’Connor

Trading Tales

How ugly he was, his oddly split tail hanging down from the rock where he sat, his soft dark hair lifting in the wind, strange bumps on his face.  The lure of his song was too strong to resist though, she had to answer it with her own. She swam closer to the shore, letting their combined sounds wash over her. He saw her and beckoned her closer. Fearful, but curious, she swung up beside him and he gazed at her with wonder.  Her seaweed hair hung around a flat-featured face, her tail curled under her and she met his stare directly.

“So the stories are true”, he said. “Are there other mer-folk like you?”

“Dive with me and see them”, she replied, leaping into the water. He followed her without hesitation and together they descended. Long before they reached her kingdom the man turned and swam to the surface. She followed and held him afloat as he fought to regain breath.

“It is too far for me”, he explained, when he could speak once more, “Will you not come to my palace?”

“I cannot move upon land as you can”, she said “but I will return to this rock to meet you tomorrow and we will share stories of our kingdoms.”

For many weeks they shared their stories. They grew accustomed to each other and no longer thought the other strange or ugly. Their sadness grew stronger at each parting, until one day the mermaid said, “I will find a way to come to your world”.

She left him then, diving into the depths where the sea-witch lived.  The deep sea was cold and dark, but the mermaid could see faintly glowing pearls lighting the way to the caves she sought. The witch smiled to see her approach.

“What is it that you desire, my child?”

“To walk among the earthbound, to be with my love.”

“Why leave your home, my dear, when your prince could come here? I wish to meet him. Put this over his head and he will breathe under the water as we do.”

The mermaid took the round object in her hands in wonder. She hesitated then and asked, “What do you require for payment?” The witch replied, “I would see this prince of yours, bring him here when you find him.”

The mermaid immediately swam back to the rocks, but the prince was not there. For many days she haunted the shore, singing sadly at the place where they met, but no answering music came to her. In despair, she returned to the sea-witch and asked for a spell to bring the prince to the shore.

“You want to see him, dearie? Just look into my scrying pool.”

The mermaid’s gills contracted as she caught sight of her beloved dancing with an earthbound princess. He was holding her close as they spun gracefully around a great hall. He had never held her in such an embrace. The witch watched her changing expressions with glee, but simply said, “Your love will be on the shore tonight. Remember to bring him to me.”

She heard his song as soon as she surfaced by the rocks. She swam to him and presented the witch’s gift. He slipped it over his head and together they dived deep. A great sense of unease came over the prince as they approached the sea-witch’s cave, it was only then that he discovered he could neither speak nor hear.

The witch stood over the mermaid and forced her to look once more into the scrying pool. “See how your love gazes deep into the eyes of that princess, how can he love you with your flat face and sharp teeth? He will not leave the beauties of his land for the roughness of the sea.”

The mermaid was swayed by the witch’s words; accepting gifts from such a creature put her under her power. The witch pressed her advantage and handed a small trident to her. “One stab through the heart,” the malicious creature whispered, “and he will be yours forever.”

The prince held out his hands as she approached him, seeing the weapon, but trusting his love. The mermaid gazed deep into his eyes, raised the trident high and slashed twice. Gashes opened in both sides of his throat, the mermaid ripped the covering from his head. As his legs transformed into a sleek tail, he took his first breath as one of her kind.



Clodagh O’Connor has been an aspiring writer since age 8, but only really starting to scribble now (in her 50s). She also writes haiku, has two sons and one husband, is interested in telecoms, likes maths and makes origami boxes.


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