The Well Drinker
By June Narber
Long ago in a village, there lived a handsome young man named Sebastian that caused all who saw him to swoon. Standing quite tall, his dark coloring of raven hair, blue eyes, and perfect skin caused a sensation to whoever beheld him. Wherever he went, the young ladies fainted, the men felt insanely jealous, the older women felt weak in the knees, and the horses were known to fall to the ground comatose as he passed by.
Of course, Sebastian was aware of his startling appearance and proud of his good fortune. As a result, he often took things that didn’t belong to him as he saw fit. Such was the case in the drinking of water from wells along the road in his journeying.
In the Land of Hercury at that time, it was the custom that before drinking from any water well, one would ask the protector or spirit of that well for permission to drink. It was assumed that it was okay once one asked as no well spirit was ever reported as telling a thirsty passerby no. One might guess Sebastian was unaware of this custom, but in reality, he simply didn’t care.
One day, the red sun was particularly hot and Sebastian was especially thirsty. Known as a great lover of water, he preferred this beverage to the finest wines from the vineyards or the richest milk from the prize dairy cattle. So he had a natural attraction for wells especially those with certain special reputations as having healing powers or simple bringers of good luck.
“I am so thirsty today,” he proclaimed proudly to the air, for there was no one else round to listen to him, “But today I must have something special. I desire a water so sweet and so rare that it will quench me as no other.”
He ventured to a hill far outside of any known village. He had heard a story of a hill so green that it rivaled the rarest emerald. And on this hill stood a well that was quite difficult to get to. This was because this hill looked easy to climb but it was full of difficult sharp rocks to maneuver around and slippery slopes. Few knew it, but the spirit of this particular well had made the hill difficult to ascend to protect the water that was in her well. The water in this well was being saved for someone very special: a human worthy to drink the purest of all water ever made. For in so doing, the soul would be cleansed and long life granted to the drinker. Little did the well spirit know of Sebastian’s determination.
In a matter of minutes, he had scaled the hill virtually leaping over the boulders, slippery slopes, and holes that had deterred previous water seekers. He even had stepped over a bottomless pit that had swallowed several that had come before. And worst of all, he was oblivious to the obstacles he had stepped over and with that, he had no hesitation to take what he found at the top of the hill.
“Awe…what a find. A most wondrous well,” he proclaimed as his nostrils sniffed out the unusual water vapors emitting from the diamond shaped well top. Without pausing to ask permission, he lowered the golden water bucket into the dark abyss of the well and brought up water so pure that it glowed like shining crystals sparkling in the sunlight. Sebastian’s eyes were closed so he didn’t even see how different this water was. He then gulped the entire bucket down.
Now the water spirit was speechless. Staring at this handsome intruder, she could not respond because no one had ever gotten this close to her precious water before. First, shock rocked her tiny angelic form and then anger such as never felt before started in her butterfly-sized heart. Then it grew and expanded outward and soon the well started to shake.
“Cool. An earthquake,” Sebastian said to himself, “I’ve never experienced one of those. Hey, even the ground shakes at my presence,” He joked out loud as he lowered the bucket for yet another giant drink of the forbidden liquid.
“Man of the land, how dare you drink from my well!” the water spirit cried out.
“Who said that?” Sebastian said in a low and somewhat confused voice. Never before had anyone ever approached his glorious countenance when he chose to drink as NO ONE dared.
“For your theft and for your rudeness of not even asking permission to drink, I return to you what you so carelessly give: unstoppable selfishness.”
Then the air became silent and the well spirit manifested in her radiant amber humanoid form. Stretching out her arms, she threw a painless invisible negative energy toward Sebastian that attached to his person. Then she retreated deep in her well because her power was in the water itself and with Sebastian’s drinking it, it had exhausted her.
This happened quickly and Sebastian stared dumbfounded at the glorious angry amber woman who had appeared and disappeared just as quickly.
“How strange! So that was one of those water spirit creatures,” he mumbled to himself, “Lovely but well, that was the best water I’ve ever had and it was so worth this long day’s walk to get here!” He walked home without thinking twice about the well, the water spirit, or her parting words.
Time passed but it did not pass well for Sebastian.
Upon arriving back at his home, he slowly began to notice that people walked past him without so much as even glancing at him. Horses stopped falling down, men ignored him, and the worst of all, the women seemed to no longer notice him. Sebastian had no idea what was wrong.
A few weeks later, Sebastian’s world had gotten so bad that he decided to go to the wise old village woman known for her sage advice. Upon entering her small, brown cottage, Sebastian called out. “Old woman, I seek your advice,” he said.
Moving slowly, a crouched old woman slowly walked out to the center of the main room wearing a very old and very worn crimson robe. Her long gray hair hung around her face and her eyes glistened as she looked at her visitor.
“Hello young man. How may I be of assistance to you?” she said.
“Old woman, my luck has gone from perfect to none. Women no longer faint at my approach and everyone else just ignores me. Whatever I seek runs away from me. I tried to eat a sandwich and even it got up and walked off of my plate. I can’t bear to live like this anymore. It is like the world has come to hate that which it once adored,” he moaned.
“Have you any idea what might have caused this change of fortune, young man?” she asked.
“No. I don’t, “ Sebastian replied as his azure eyes glistened with confusion.
“Several moons ago you took something that you had no right to take. And in so doing, you broke the heart of the well spirit known as Lucia. In the gulping of her holy water, you brought upon yourself a hundred fold of what already existed in your mortal heart. As your heart was a heart of great selfishness, all those around you there after, became equally as selfish in your presence. That is your punishment for not only stealing but for stealing without a conscious.” The sage woman replied sadly.
“You mean that last golden well I drank from has caused this great sadness to come to me? But what good is a water well if one can’t drink from it when thirsty?” he angrily asked.
The old woman gazed into his eyes and in a small voice she said, “All you had to do was ask.” In stunned silence, understanding finally came into his eyes. And then tears began to form in his eyes and for the first time in his life, he wept.
As he cried, something mysterious happened. The old woman grew younger. Her long gray hair took on the blackness of the raven’s wing and her wrinkly skin turned smooth. In a blink, she became the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Blinking back tears, he stared at the wonder in front of his eyes.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am Lucia, the water spirit of the golden well. In your selfishness, you took my life force without permission but in your humility, your tears have restored what was taken. You are forgiven and your life is now returned to you.”
Dropping to his knees (mind you for the first time in his very vain life), he knelt before the glorious female standing before him.
“Don’t leave Lucia. I ask forgiveness for what I have done but ask that you stay with me. For I have never seen someone more beautiful than myself.”
Sighing, Lucia rolled her eyes. “This one will need a little more work,” she thought to herself. But gazing into his sea blue eyes, she felt the first ember of love. “With you, I shall remain.”
And for the first time, a water spirit gave up her immortality to live a life with a mortal. For long they lived and loved and many daughters came from this union. In fact, legend has it that the current Hercurian queen descended from Lucia and Sebastian.
To think, a water spirit and a vain male fell in love! And that was the beginning of the House of the Golden Well, one of the longest families to ever dwell in Hercury.
Copyright © 2016 June Narber, All Rights Reserved.