The Gifts of the Merking (678 Words)
There was a king, called Oldan, whose power was so great and so feared that it seemed limitless. Land and sea were subject to his will. The source of his power was magic books he had found in the sorcerer’s cave, the sorcerer himself long-dead. Because Oldan was young and unwise, his power became larger to him than himself, and each day he tested it as if he couldn’t believe it was true.
Many of his deeds were foolish. Some of them were cruel. All creatures learned to fear him because of his unpredictable desires. So when Oldan demanded tributes from all kinds and kingdoms, there wasn’t a man, fish, bird, or mouse that didn’t mourn. Many of them went to the merking, Dunbhas, for advice.
“What will I give him?” asked a squirrelqueen.
“Give him this,” said the merking, giving the squirrel a beautiful comb made of green stone and set with pearls.
“What will I give him?” asked the king of a neighboring land.
“Give him this,” said Dunbhas, giving him a fish net woven with golden thread.
“What can we give him?” asked the king and queen of the sparrows.
“Give him this,” said Dunbhas. He gave them a necklace that sparkled like the sun on clear water.
The merking was called on first to pay tribute. Dunbhas rose to the sea’s surface and met Oldan in the surf of the deep waters. With him the merking had brought a beautiful chest.
“If your tribute is not worthy, I will cage you,” said Oldan.
“That is your right,” said the merking. “And I have brought you nothing more than my greatest treasure.”
Oldan opened the chest. His face colored with rage. Inside was nothing more than a shell, living coral, and a carved seahorse.
“You’ve brought me trash,” said Oldan.
“I’ve brought you life,” said the merking. “All the gold and pearls in the mountains and seas are nothing to the dirt beneath your feet. The lives of your subjects should be more precious to you than what they carry in their hands.”
The king shook with rage. But looking at the poor objects and the frightened faces around him, he was ashamed. His shame made him even angrier than before and he ordered the merking imprisoned.
But Dunbhas was not forgotten by his friends. The king from that neighboring country spread his net woven with golden thread, and the sparrows lifted the corners, carrying in the net the fastest and cleverest squirrels. They flew to the king’s high tower. The tower was guarded from the outside, but no one should have been able to reach the window.
There was a fire burning in the hearth but the king himself was nowhere to be seen. Finding his books, the creatures burned them. But when the books burned, their flame was so fierce that the whole room burned and the castle itself was in danger. The animals barely escaped, the squirrels clinging to the net and chattering with fright.
Dunbhas heard the cries from above. Realizing the danger the castle was in, he tried to work his own magic, but apart from the sea he was powerless. He cried to the Shaper of All Things, whose magic is present in all forms of life and all that is hidden and revealed, and his cry was answered.
The sea churned and frothed, and the waves rose, battering the castle walls and pouring in the open windows. The moment the fire was put out the water subsided. Oldan, seeing what had happened, was terrified. Without his books he was like a child, scared and pathetic. He ordered the merking brought to him once more.
“I am sorry for what I did,” said Oldan. “Don’t drown me!”
“Rule this land with kindness and wisdom,” said the merking, “and you will have no reason to fear drowning.”
So Dunbhas withdrew to his own place. And whether or not Oldan learned his lesson, and whether the squirrels didn’t keep the golden net for themselves to play in, I leave to you.
This story is inspired by Deborah Devellier’s beautiful painting, “Sea Treasures I.” View the piece on Art.com and support the artist! This story is also written in response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt, “Disrupt.”
Image (c) Art.com.