KELDER AND BRYELLA

A SANTHARIAN FAIRY-TALE

 
Master Tribell's Miraculous Narrations   
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Introduction. This fairy tale about two children who get lost in the woods and meet with Dula the witch exists in several versions throughout Sarvonia. This particular tale, in which they lose their way because of their conniving stepmother, originates from the region of Voldar and Nyermersys. Will good triumph over evil once more? And what exactly is Dula's role in it all?

 

et me tell you the story of two children. Their names were Kelder and Bryella, and they were brother and sister. They lived together with their father, who was a woodcutter. Their mother had passed away a long time ago, so long ago that they barely even remembered her. For a long time it was just the three of them, and though they struggled to make ends meet, they were happy. While their father was out in the forest cutting wood, Kelder also went out to find anything that might help them – he went berry-picking, and mushroom-picking, and wood-gathering, and root-digging. Bryella in the meantime kept the house neat, and cooked their dinners, so that when her father and brother came home, they could rest their tired feet.

But then one day, their father decided that they needed a mother to take care of them, and not long after he married a woman who had two daughters from a previous marriage. From then on things were getting worse. Gailigen, their new stepmother, favoured her own daughters in everything, punishing Bryella for the least perceived slight. They ate all the food and then complained that they were still hungry, they made a mess of the little hut and complained they were tripping over everything. They lounged around the house all day, never doing anything to help poor Bryella. Their father did not notice anything amiss, as he was gone from dawn to dusk, and when he was home the stepsisters took care to be seen as little angels. Kelder did his best to gather even more from the forest than before, and to help his sister in any way that he could, but there was only so much that he could do.
 

One day the stepmother, who would do anything for her daughters, started plotting how she could get rid of the two children, so that she and her daughters would have all the father's attention to themselves. She decided to lure them both into the forest and leave them there. Acting upon this plan immediately, she told the two children that they could have the day off, her own daughters would take care of everything. Both Kelder and Bryella became very suspicious at this announcement, as their stepsisters had not helped even once since they had come to live with them, but a day off was a tempting enough reason to go with her.

Gailigen took them as deep into the forest as she dared without getting lost herself, and then managed to lose them and retrace her steps home. She thought her job well done, but she had forgotten one thing: as she was almost always home, and Kelder was out in the forest all day, he knew the way back home quite a lot better than her. With his suspicions in mind, he had even paid very close attention to the way they had been going. Before nightfall, they were back home and their stepmother was left biting her nails for her failed plan.

She realised that she would have to go about it differently. She was determined to succeed, just temporarily at a loss as to how to go about it. Until she heard a rumour that a witch had come to a nearby village. Deciding that this was her chance, she donned a cloak and made her way to the village, where she quickly found the witch. She was the one that everyone kept a careful distance from, and yet looked at with awe, and more than a little bit suspicion. For a moment she was taken aback at how young the witch looked, with her plain black clothes. But there was no mistake possible, this must be her – someone belonging to the village would never stick out quite like that.

Stepping up to the witch, she introduced herself, saying that she needed her help. For a while the witch was silent, while Gailigen got the disconcerting impression that she was looking into her soul with those clear eyes of hers, laying bare her every motive. Then came the soft reply: “I am called Dula. Let us talk.” Gailigen explained to the witch her conundrum, and while she was there decided to ask her to cast a spell so that her daughters would find good husbands, since they were already well past the age where most girls would start taking an interest in such things.

When she was done, again there was a lengthy silence, even longer than the first one. Gailigen was just starting to wonder if this had been a good idea, when Dula nodded her head once. “I will need some things from you. First, a lock of hair from yourself and each of your daughters – yours will serve to carry out your plan, theirs to find them a husband. Then I will need five leaves of the Nightshimmer vine and five seedpods of the Fireblossom flower. When you have gotten me these items, take the two children into the forest as you have done before, and I will take care of the rest.”

Happy with this result, and even happier that the witch had not asked for a huge sum of money as she had expected, Gailigen hastened back home to gather the requested items. She felt that she had got the better end of the bargain. In one fell swoop, she got rid of her two stepchildren, and her daughters would marry well, all for the price of some plants. She could hardly believe her luck! The locks of hair were not hard to come by, but for the other ingredients she needed more time. She explained her absence to her husband as a visit to distant relations. When she had gathered everything, she delivered them personally to Dula, agreeing that she would take the children the very next day.

She wasted no time the next day, again telling Bryella and Kelder that they were to take the day off, and that her daughters would take care of everything. The whole plan played out exactly as it had before, with both Kelder and Bryella suspicious about it, but glad to take the day off. Knowing what had happened before Kelder again paid close attention to the road that they took, assuring his sister that he would know the way back. But when the time came to go back, and Gailigen had again lost them, suddenly everything looked very different. For a long time, Kelder kept up a brave face, leading his sister in what he hoped was the right direction, but at the falling of night he had to admit that he had lost the way. With his knowledge of the forest, he found them something to eat and then installed a bed for the night, hoping that the morrow would bring good council.

That evening, when the two children failed to come home, Gailigen rejoiced silently. When they still did not appear the next day, or the day after, she knew that she had won. Her deal with the witch had brought forth its fruit – except that after a while she noticed she did not have her desired wish after all. Once the father had realised that his son and daughter were gone, he went looking for them. He left his work for what it was, instead roaming the forest calling for his children. Even when she assured him that they must have run off on their own accord and did not want to be found, he just looked at her, then went off again. He had little attention for her, and none at all for her daughters, who continued to laze around. They had nobody to vent their boredom on, where before they'd had Bryella to harass. At least, she comforted herself, they would find nice husbands eventually. The witch had held one part of the bargain, she would keep the other one as well.

But then things started happening. At first it was sounds at night, coming from outside the house. Shufflings and scratchings, growing louder all the time until it kept her awake all night. When she told her husband about the sounds, he looked at her strangely; he had heard nothing at all. Then one night the origin of the sounds made itself clear – there were spiders, hundreds of them, thousands, all pouring in through every nook and cranny, every opening in the house. She tried to get away from them, but they engulfed her, they crawled all over her body. Her husband, who had been asleep, woke up from her screams, but he saw nothing at all, just his wife trashing about, until she got to her feet and ran out of the house and into the forest. She was never heard from again.

Kelder and Bryella, in the meantime, had been trying to find the way home. Every day spent in the forest saw their desperation increase, though both did their best to put a brave face on it. What Kelder found, Bryella made into a lunch. Then they went doggedly on, hoping that the next turn would bring into sight a familiar tree, or a brook that Kelder would recognise. One evening, towards the approach of twilight, rather than seeing a familiar tree they spotted the unlikeliest of sights – a young woman, dressed all in black, sitting primly on a fallen tree. And... was that a bee hiveling next to her? Neither Kelder nor Bryella were sure later on, for as soon as they approached the human-like form dissipated and there were just quite a lot of malise flying about – perhaps more than usual, but nevertheless doing bee-like things.

Bryella was the first to muster up the courage to talk to the woman. The clear-sighted gaze did not daunt her: there was nothing in her soul that would not bear the scrutiny. Perhaps the strangeness of her sitting here, of all places, made her halt for just a moment, but her desperation was high enough that this did not stop her. “Hello? I was wondering if perhaps you could help us. My brother and I are lost, and we are just trying to find our way home again. Do you think you could set us in the right direction, please?” There was silence for a little while, as Kelder came closer too, not entirely trusting of this strange young woman. The answer, when it came, was nothing close to what they might have imagined beforehand.

“Ah, but you do not need my help. If you go just a little bit further, there is someone there who will be able to help you far better than I. Run, children, and all will be well.” The children's eyes went wide in amazement, and quickly they ran past the woman, calling a thank you in passing. They did not remember the reply until much later, when they puzzled over it many a time. “Goodbye Bryella. Goodbye Kelder. And good luck to the both of you.” When Bryella looked around one last time, there was nobody near the fallen tree.

As the woman had promised, when they had gone on a little way, there was somebody there, calling their names. It was their father, who had not stopped looking for them once since he had discovered their disappearance. The reunion was a glad one, and when it was over suddenly Kelder started recognising things around him. He was never sure how he could not have noticed them earlier.

When they came home and realised that their stepmother was no longer there, they rejoiced even more. When their father learned from them that it was she who had lured them into the forest, he was very angry with her, though it came too late: she had already been punished. As for her daughters – ever since she had given their locks of hair to the witch Dula, they had not been able to set a foot down without scorching the ground beneath their feet. When people saw it, they assumed the two were bad people, and did not trust them. Whether they had learned their lesson and later found Dula and got her to relieve them from their curse, this story does not tell.

What this story does tell is the ending for Kelder, Bryella and their father – inside the house they found a casket filled with goldbards, enough to let them live comfortably together for the rest of their lives. It was not until much later, when Bryella heard a story of Dula the witch, that she realised who it was that had helped them, and who the gold must have come from. She was forever grateful, no matter how many bad stories she heard about her.
 


The Journey

 

"Keldar and Bryella", composed and performed by Coren FrozenZephyr
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