Faërie Lore, Folk Legends

The Worm of Whispermere

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There was a fearsome serpent known as The Worm of Whispermere and no-one ever knew when it would appear and everyone went in fear of it whenever they took one of the paths through the wood or over the desolate hill. But it was part of the life of the land and the soul of the territory that everyone knew they belonged to. Then one day a brave knight came on a quest to slay the serpent and he rode through the wood and out onto the desolate hill with a fearsome spear and a sword and it was said that the serpent was no match for his terrible weapons. The knight rode back to the town and announced that the serpent was dead and drowned in the mere on the desolate hill. The knight decreed that his deed should be recorded in the annals to ensure his fame and then he rode off in quest of further adventures.

As for those left behind, for a while they felt safe to walk across the wild places without fear. But something was missing. Those places no longer felt so wild; in fact they felt ….. empty. Something had gone out of the world and the world had shrunk, become shallow. So it seemed. It wasn’t just that the serpent had gone into the deep mere. The mere itself was no longer deep, no more in fact than a shallow pool with not a whisper of mystery about it. The very deeps of the world had re-adjusted themselves. The shadows at the woodland eaves no longer beckoned or repelled. They were just ….. a bit of shade under the leaves. The path into the wood had been enticing with a bit of the spice of danger attached to it. Now it was just a muddy track that didn’t go anywhere particularly – only across that bare hill with nothing much to be said for it. So it seemed. Some remembered old stories, but less as time went on until there was nothing much to remember except some old tale about a knight, though no-one knew his name.

But if you take the muddy track through the wood and go onto the hill and find the pond, you may also find, looking into it, that the waters hold a secret and if you listen to the whispers in the ripples on the surface they might carry that secret to you so that, somehow, you might hear it. But if the deeps of the world with all their attendant fears and fascinations were then to tilt back out of the empty waters, and the shadows creep back through the eaves of the wood, might you discover the world to be a place where you could find yourself facing the knight, or whoever he would be nowadays, come to slay a serpent? And would you refuse his offer as an unwanted imposition, or would you accept his promise of security?

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