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Mar 2010
Long ago in shadows when the world was in magic robed,
Thus begins this tragic tale from times old,
A Mother and a bright girl did have a cottage near a hill,
On the edge of a creeping forest did they live.

Poor they were yet happy too with songs at dawn,
Nor did their stomachs in hunger churn or yawn,
Life was hard but they got by with chickens hatching hatching,
Eyes in the night always watching watching.

The Mother did always caution her delightful daughter,
“Freia, don’t be a lamb to the slaughter,
Wrap your apple blossom face from the dead eyes of dogs,
Beware the men who haunt the forest fog.”

The bright days were dreamed away in peace and solitude,
No neighbours did intrude,
Time slipped away over the misty mountains and innocent lambs,
The years ran on, so silently they ran.

One day in late autumn when Freia had maidenhood reached,
She was asked to gather wood for heat,
The days were getting shorter and the spiked nights were colder,
Shadows scratched by their door.

“Give me my red scarf quick for I want to be a girl good!
For you I will get sticks of tinder wood!”
But before she let go her dancing daughter dear
The Mother did speak of fear.

“Freia, hush and listen! Return quickly for I am in fear soaking,
Watch out for the wet croaking Water-Goblin
Who reigns and dines beneath the river and hides in woodbine,
Take heed, Lady Night upon the sky shows her signs.”

“Never fear, dear Mother wise of mine,” said Freia,
“Blind Mistress Night, ha!
She will never ever catch or lay her black claws upon me,
Just wait and see! Back I will be.”

Freia skipped and slipped into the forest loud with sound,
She was collecting wood from the ground
When an idea came darting and burrowed into her curious mind,
“There’s no Water-Goblin! It’s a tale to scare and blind.”

And to prove her Mother wrong about tales tall and long
She went to the riverbank to sing a song,
The place was dark and no bird sang in the gloomy twilight,
Bright bones upon the bank caught her sight.

A frosty wind licked her and goose-pimples did appear,
Her spine chilled and shivered,
She tried to brush off the terror in which she was crippled,
Upon the river her eyes spied a ripple.

Something was swimming and straight to her heading!
Her legs grew heavy and she stopped humming,
She stayed rooted as up her legs crawled spidery lice,
She stood like a statue carved out of ice.

Bubbles were breaking above the tar-like water ring,
The gap closing between her and the thing,
“O, why did I to this dead river come running and singing?
How I wish I was at home skipping!”

It was as if some magic older than time kept her frozen,
Freia had thus been chosen,
The gap between her and the creature was fast closing,
If only she was at home safely dozing!

She tried to shout but only dry silence puffed out,
Her eyes bulged, she was clouded in doubt,
Tears fell upon her cheeks but she still could not scream,
Cruel, O how wrong everything now seemed!

Something dark, something bleeding green greed
Crept from the water with fluid speed,
The creature from the river wrapped a long strong arm
And held Freia’s gentle palms.

“Mine!” it gurgled through gnashing sharp teeth.
“Please, no!” spoke Freia in fever’s heat.
“Bride you will be!” the scaly creature hugged and hissed,
With jagged lips he did upon Freia plant a kiss.

The Water-Goblin, for indeed it was he,
Dragged away Freia by the knee,
Into the cold and dank river he waded,
O, how his touch she hated!

“I’ll drown!” Freia screamed, “To the shore take me!”
“Please, no!” she tried to sense make him see,
“I’m sure to slip and sink and in the water drown and weep!”
“Will not,” spoke he, “Magic bubble I shall for you weave!”

He spun his murky magic and just as he had promised and hissed,
A large air bubble circled Freia’s body and hips,
He lowered her ever deeper into his Netherworld Kingdom,
Up above the sun into the horizon did drown.

The green-eyed Water-Goblin a wedding banquet did hold,
It was a hideous party truth be told,
The guests he had invited made Freia’s skin crawl,
Demons of all kinds smiled and prowled.

The poor girl dizzily danced with the greedy groom,
Her speech slurred and darkness loomed,
Her pulse quickened and her breath came in bursts short,
Her husband’s nails did pinch and hurt.

A year and a day passed away like a carnivorous nightmare
And Freia birthed a baby golden haired,
“Pretty child,” grunted the Water-Goblin, “Is it a boy?”
“No, it’s a girl,” spoke Freia with joy.

Freia enjoyed the happiness by and by tick,
But soon she became homesick,
She wished to see her Mother and to her show the baby,
In that watery Kingdom she was but a trophy.

“Please let me visit my mother?” she kept pleading.
“Never!” he kept repeating.
“Please?” Freia was all honey, clever and charming.
“Never ever!” he was no more laughing.

And so it went on, and on, each and every day,
The Water-Goblin did for an end pray,
“Wife go then,” he one day gave in and readily flipped,
“Back you must come!” he spat through rotted lips.  

“Go now,” he gestured with claws ******
And at the child in the crib he pointed,
“The baby tender and sweet will with me stay,
Come back or else she pays.”

Freia begged, “To my dear Mother I want to baby display.”
“Hark and hear!” he kicked the cot of clay,
“Listen to my dread law. The child here plays.
Return to me by dark of this day.”

He took her to the surface and released her from the spell
Which kept her prisoner in the river red,
She went away yet still she heard a warning burning in her ears,
“Be back before dark or else they be tears!”

When to the old cottage she arrived she wiped her tears,
Her Mother was sitting in the rocking chair,
In the very air floated cobwebs, dust and impending doom,
The room was cloaked in layers of grainy gloom.

Freia rushed to her Mother feeling sad and weak,
It had been a year since they last did speak,
Mother and daughter warmly hugged and held each other fast,
“O, my doll, you return at last from the past!”

Freia did to her Mother tell her tale from beginning to end,
She was broken and needed to mend,
To her Mother she told about her beautiful baby,
Outside, the light was fast fading.

“I must now go back to my darling child before dark
Or else my dread lord will bark
And wreck vengeance most sharp upon my precious pearl,
O, how I miss my darling girl!”

“But don’t you see?” began the wise Mother true,
“The Water-Goblin has no magic over you.
It is said that whosoever returns to dry land can the spell break
If they keep the Water-Goblin at bay till daybreak.”

“Will the vile Water-Goblin free me and my child sweet?
And will he shift this curse? O, do speak!”
“Yes! You and the baby will be safe,” the Mother explained,
“The Water-Goblin will crack and be in pain.”

“Now we wait for the night of shadows long,” said the Mother poor
As she bolted the door,
“Go and bar the kitchen windows, I begin to feel sick,
Lock also the house on this side, be quick!”

No sooner had they barred the door of the cottage old
When the wind howled down the valley cold,
Night shrouded the land and black things moved outside,
They heard the rain pelting the hillside.

The storm with titanic volcanic fury spoke,
Everything fled even hope,
The cottage door with demonic force did vibrate,
Something was tearing the cottage.

“Has he come for me?” Freia shook in her Mother’s arms,
“Has my Master come to inflict harm?”
“No!” shouted her Mother over the thunderclaps,
“It’s the storm perhaps.”

Scratching was heard and they began to fearfully pray,
The panel above the doorway shattered,
Sharp shards of glass everywhere cascaded and scattered,
“Come back!” the thing outside banged and battered.

“It’s the wind. Only the wind, darling dear,” the Mother cleared
Her frightened daughter’s eyes full of fear,
The noise and the angry threats of the unseen creature
Drove darts of icy terror into their features.

“When will this nightmare end?” asked Freia with concern.
Replied the Mother, “Dawn is about to be born.
This Water-Goblin has to go back to his Kingdom before sunrise
Or else he will lose his life and prize.”

Crash! Something broke, splinters of wood in the air flew,
Cracked claws clawed across morning dew,
A hairy paw with nails long and sharp shot through the opening
Above the door and for the lock began searching.

A heartrending howl of frustration then was heard,
Without warning the probing fist did disappear
And there was an unnatural silence in the morning land,
The Hour of the dead Wolf was at hand.

Bang! Something outside the door had horribly burst,
Something had been flung with frightful force
But the cottage door was strong and held firm and fast
The Mother dryly spoke, “The terror has passed.”

“Has it?” said Freia as she with caution went to unhook the lock,
The handle was cold and her heart still in shock,
Her brow and hands wet with the nightmare’s perspiration,
She paused before the door in desperation.

Something lay on the ground before the door all blood and bone,
The sight would bring tears even to a stone,
Freia saw what the Water-Goblin had used to batter the door with,
O, how she wished to stitch her eyelids!

For there lay the lifeless body of her baby on the earth,
This was the baby to whom she had given birth,
Only a small finger remained of the golden curled girl,
The Water-Goblin’s curse had done the worst.



©Rangzeb Hussain
Rangzeb Hussain
Written by
Rangzeb Hussain
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