(This fairy tale is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License)
There once was a young girl by the name of Myriad. She was a wonderful wonder to behold with shimmering red hair that sparkled like hot coals of a cooling fire. Blue were her eyes, and oh, so radiant a blue were her eyes that a glance from her could bring light to the darkest heart and was a balm for the most forlorn soul. She was the youngest of twenty children, and she herself was a shepherdess at the edge of the Great Forest.
When she was a little girl, she had fallen into the lair of Will O’ Wisp and had made a friend of that ghastly creature. That alone is a great proof of her amazing abilities to bring light where there is dark.
This particular instance I am about to relate happened when she had seen twelve summers, and at that time, it was a fine fall in the Great Forest. The leaves of the trees had turned a thousand shades of orange, red, brown, and yellow. Some of the leaves had even fallen to the ground below, draping the forest floor in a thousand pretty colors. Seeing all this, Myriad decided to go for a walk to view all the splendid colors as soon as her chores were done.
She got the sheep in the pen and was about to head out when her father, the ever-loving man that he was, told her to bring a shawl in case the air cooled quickly (as it often does in the great forest). She ran back into the cottage, grabbed her shawl, and off she trod into the forest.
She admired how the sun shimmered among the reds and yellows. The light was broken into tiny pinpoints of light as it was filtered through the boughs and leaves above her. Feeling quite merry, she began to hum a little tune that was fresh in her mind. She had traveled along in this manner for only short while before she came upon the ogre of Gallowpeak.
For those who don’t know, the ogre of Gallowpeak was one of the most ornery and spiteful creatures one could meet in all the Great Forest! To make matters worse, as soon as the ogre set his eyes upon poor Myriad, a tiny piece of his heart that was still left for loving fell in love with Myriad! Oh, imagine a creature that had lived for hundreds of years falling in love with a girl not yet thirteen! Of course, the ogre of Gallowpeak had no shame or honor.
Irregardless of the impropriety of such a thing, the ogre cast a hard eye upon her and demanded that she be his bride that very day. Myriad looked up at the powerful creature who could toss her like a rag doll from one end of the forest to the other if he so chose. But aside from being a gentle and beautiful soul, Myriad also had a strong bit of wit on which to rely. In truth, wit is often all anyone can rely on when outnumbered or overpowered.
Myriad took stock of the situation and ever so gently, she spoke, “Gentle lord, I have no dowry or trappings for such a thing as a wedding.”
“I care not,” replied the ogre.
“Well, you must understand that it is the law of the land that all my older sisters be married before I. We cannot have any spinsters in my family.”
“I care not for your laws or your family. I care for you alone,” the ogre boomed.
Myriad replied, “Then if you care for me, then give me a fortnight to prepare for a wedding.”
At this, she had the ogre. For on one hand, he wanted Myriad to love him, but on the other hand, he wanted her for his wife that very day. He decided on a compromise of seven days. At the end of seven days, she would be at the top of Gallowpeak mountain for the marriage, or the ogre would come and find her. He had said the word “find” with a tremor of ominousness in his voice, and Myriad did not want to know what he would do when he “found” her. One thing that she did know was that she had to find some way of stopping the wedding.
Myriad ran home and told her father what had happened. The father knew that even if he should gather a hundred men, that would not be enough to fight such a one as the ogre of Gallowpeak. Myriad, for her part did not know what to do either. She had been able to postpone the wedding, but she knew that unless she left the Great Forest and never returned, the ogre would find her. Yet, even if she did leave, then his anger would flow to her family and to the gentle countryside that she had grown to love. That, she could not abide.
At last, she happened upon an idea. As I mentioned before, she had become friends with no other than Will O’ Wisp. She was surprised at herself that she hadn’t thought of it before. Surely the powerful lord of the swamp would have some idea for stopping this marriage!
Immediately, she ran to the domain of Will ‘O Wisp. Once inside his domain, she found him asleep. He awoke with a frightful start at Myriad’s hurried awakening, and though Myriad had grown to love Will ‘O Wisp as a brother, even she was frightened at his unearthly waking. Though she didn’t show it, she grew even more frightened after she told him her sorry tale, for his anger could barely be contained. The baleful orange eyes of Will O’ Wisp were filled with an unearthly fire, and his thin lips were set in snarl after snarl as she relayed her tale of woe.
When Myriad completed her story, Will O’ Wisp stood there towering over her, shaking in anger. At last, Will O’ Wisp spoke, “I will rend him limb from limb. I will chop him in a thousand pieces with my swamp axe, and scatter him over the Ocean of the East. I will…”, but Myriad stopped him in mid-sentence.
She cried, “Oh, you mustn’t! I have no love for Gallowpeak, but I cannot have him destroyed on my account!”
At that, Will O’ Wisp looked shocked and stared at Myriad for a long while. Then, he laughed his cold, strange laugh. “There are things inside you that I will never understand,” he replied. “If that is what you wish, than I shall acquiesce. What would you have me do?”
“I just don’t want to marry him. That’s all. I wish him no ill will.” Myriad replied.
Will O’ Wisp stood there thoughtfully for a long moment. Perhaps he stood there for two long moments. While he was doing so, Myriad put her shawl over her head. At that, old Will O’ Wisp remembered something he hadn’t thought in many a year. An old witch of the grey shawl had told him a secret that he had kept for a long time.
“There is an old saying that if you can grab an ogre at the knee for seconds three times three, he must grant you one request. If it is in his power, he must obey. However, if you loose your hand before those nine seconds are complete, he has power over your name and you must grant him one request, and obey it. I think we both know what he would ask of you should you fail.”
Myriad shuddered. Nevertheless, she plucked up her courage and said, “Then that is what I must do.”
Will O’ Wisp then told her that when she goes up the mountain in seven days’ time, she must walk right up to the ogre as he sits on his stone throne. By gently putting her hand on his knee, he might not notice her plan. He told her that he would disguise himself and be near her to protect her when the time came. He also told her that the ogre of Gallowpeak has a group of spies at his command, and to tell this plan to no one. In fact, she should not visit Will O’ Wisp again till after this whole ordeal was behind her.
In order to fool the ogre, Myriad acted as if she were going to get married. Her mother cleaned up her best dress, and she made sure that her whole family would attend the wedding. Of her plan, she told them nothing. They were sorrowful for her going away, and the ogre’s spies saw this, and indeed, those wretched spies were satisfied that she was preparing for the wedding.
The seventh day came all too soon, and Myriad and her family began the trek up Gallowpeak mountain. There were three tens of people all told, but no one seemed like they wanted to speak. It was a sombre trek indeed. For her part, Myriad was scared that she would fail, so she too was very sombre and quiet. She also was worried because she hadn’t seen Will O’ Wisp at all in that sombre company. At last they reached the giant stone gates of Gallowpeak. The gates swung open and the thirty people went inside.
When Myriad was presented in the hall of Gallowpeak, she took her place next to the ogre. There was a small bench adjacent to his stone throne on which she sat. As soon as she sat down, she reached her hand for the ogre’s knee. The ogre, on seeing this thought that she was seeking to hold his hand.
“Aren’t you the forward one?” he cried. Then he clasped her hand tightly, and called for the guests to take their seats around the hall, and for the entertainment to be brought out. Myriad’s face grew pale as she realized that she might not be able to grab the ogre’s knee without him noticing. A group of dancers came out, and they all performed magnificently. However, in her present condition of consternation, poor Myriad could not enjoy it. Yet, she certainly did pretend she enjoyed it every time the ogre cast his eyes upon her, though every second seemed interminable and her heart thudded in her chest as she thought that her plan would fail.
One of the dancers in the troop stood out for her poise, rhythm, and speed. She was leaping to and fro like a stag. From one end of the hall to the other, she danced. The others soon stopped in amazement. The musicians continued to play, and the dancer whirled and gazed on the ogre all the while. The ogre let loose Myriad’s hand and began to clap along with the music. Myriad’s heart grew light again with a tiny sprig of hope. That sprig of hope bloomed in Myriad’s heart as she let her hand drop to his knee. Her father didn’t know what to think when he saw her on what he thought was such good terms with Gallowpeak. Little did he know the reason for her impropriety.
On seeing Myriad drop her hand, the dancer danced all the faster and more wildly. The ogre paid no attention to the hand that held his knee fast. A few seconds passed, and the dancer made an amazing spin that surprised all there. The ogre was laughing and clapping to the tune’s time as six seconds wore on. At the count of seven, the dancer accidentally slipped and fell. The music jarred to a halt and the hall was silent at the count of eight seconds. At that instant, the ogre glanced down and seeing a hand on his knee, he gave a fearful knowing glance at Myriad and tried to pull it away. But he had seen too late for nine seconds had passed!
The ogre knew that the three times three seconds had passed, and a sharp cry of pain escaped the ogre’s lips and pierced the silent hall with a mournful echo. He lept away from Myriad in one bound as if to run away. But as he tried to take another step, it was as if he hit a large wall, though nothing visible stood in his way. He slowly turned back to Myriad and dejectedly asked, “What is your request?”
“I cannot marry you,” Myriad simply said.
“That is not a request. Ask and I must grant whatever you ask if it be within my power,” the giant replied all the more dejectedly.
At this, Myriad paused to think. She must word her request so that there would be no loopholes for the ogre to cause trouble for her later. At this, the dancer who had danced spectacularly went up to Myriad. She whispered something in Myriad’s ear. At this Myriad smiled.
Myriad said in a loud voice, “My request is that you follow my commands in all things from this moment until the end of your days.”
The ogre hung his ugly head and said, “Your request is granted.”
During this exchange, Myriad’s family had been very confused about everything that was taking place, but when the ogre said those words, the hall echoed with a gasp and then a cheer of twenty and nine voices at once. They didn’t understand how Myriad had done what she had done, but they were ecstatic!
Myriad said, “My first command to you is that if you seek a wife, you find one who has lived at least as long as you have. It is most unseemly for an ogre such as yourself to be traipsing around with a child like me.”
The ogre meekly shook his head, while Myriad’s father nodded sagely in agreement.
Myriad spoke again. “I also command you to practice being kind to everyone. I know that there is much good in you. You must have some higher feelings than you know. Your love for me, though unrequited, is proof of that.”
The ogre again nodded his head.
Myriad spoke a third time. “To show you that I owe you no ill will, I command you to come to my cottage for supper this very evening.”
At this, Myriad’s family gasped again in surprise. There was still much to fear in looking at that giant of an ogre standing before them. Myriad’s father did not nod so sagely as he had at her first command, but if he was displeased, he didn’t show it.
Myriad made sure to speak to the dancer and invite her to dinner as well. After all this, the family strode out of the hall, through the stone gates, and down the mountain with Myriad, the ogre, and the dancer trailing behind. In fact, before the thirty and two reached the cottage, the three stragglers seemed to be on the noble and good terms of friendship.
The dinner that night was a bit tense at first on account of various fears of both the family members and the ogre. The ogre didn’t know how to behave at a dinner table, but Myriad and her siblings were patient teachers of etiquette. For the family’s part, there was still a lot of fear of such a powerful creature in their large, but meager cottage. However, after everyone had eaten, a few songs were sung and some stories were told. Soon, the ogre found something inside him that had never existed before (or if it had existed, it had been a very long time). He found himself feeling feelings of warmth, gratitude, and friendship. He began to sing along with the songs and tell a few yarns of his own. All this warmth and feeling of belonging he had never experienced before, and his ugly face became a little less hard as he began to smile and laugh along with the family.
It came out in the course of the night that the amazing dancer had been none other than Will O’ Wisp. At this, the ogre grew angry for having been fooled, but Will O’ Wisp whispered some things to the ogre that at first made him more agitated, and they whispered together for a while longer until Will O’ Wisp had set the ogre quite at ease. The rest of the evening went by in a blink of a happy eye.
I dare say that once again, young Myriad had made a friend out of someone who heretofore was incapable of such relationships. As the years passed, through Myriad’s gentle guidance, the ogre grew ever more gentle and kind to all around. He took a female ogre to be his queen, and she too became as gentle as Gallowpeak himself. His spies became farmers, blacksmiths, and other tradesmen. His dark and stony mountain became a park of sorts, and people from far and wide would travel to that mountainside and marvel at how it now bloomed with rare and beautiful flowers where only harsh and jagged rocks had once laid claim. It became a destination for picnickers, and all these, the ogre accepted quite gracefully and majestically. Thanks to Myriad, he came to be known as the gentle ogre of Gallowpeak.
So ends the story of how Myriad met the ogre of Gallowspeak.
(This fairy tale is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License)