Along a lonely road in a forest, there was a pool. In the pool lived five nymphs. The nymphs swam in the pool during the day and slept at night. They were naked and slender and pale. Dark hair spilled over their shoulders and deep, beautiful eyes stole the souls of men.
The nymph’s were evil beings that fed off men. They lured the men into the pool with them, drowned them, and devoured their flesh. In their cannibalistic state, their skin became streaked with black, their eyes became smoldering pools of nothingness, and their teeth became sharp and pointy. As they ate the flesh of men, their lovely, pale beauty returned to them.
One day a boy named Leyte and his grown-up brother, Daurk, set off down the path that led down to the village. Leyte was the lazy sort and he constantly annoyed his energetic, obedient elder brother. Leyte and Daurk were going to the village from their farm to enjoy a week of festivals. Daurk had not wanted to take lazy Leyte along with him, but their mother had said they both had to go or neither of them could go. Leyte had complained about the road being too long after they had been walking on the road for an hour. He had convinced his elder brother to take the shortcut through the woods instead of the road so they could save time in getting to the festival.
Leyte and Daurk were walking along the path through the woods now. Daurk was annoyed because he knew Leyte would spoil his time at the festival. Daurk had been planning on spending the week with his girlfriend. Now that he had Leyte in his charge, he could not do that. Damn his mother and father making him take his miserable, little brother along! Leyte did not deserve to go to the festival, to begin with. Leyte never pulled his own weight on the farm. Everyone constantly had to yell at him and eventually do the work for him. Wretched, irresponsible kid!
“I am tired,” Leyte complained suddenly. “Can we take a break? I want to take a break! My legs are hurting!”
“Shut up and stop yelling! All right, we can take a break! You have fifteen minutes to rest your lazy legs!” Daurk snapped impatiently. He sat down next to his brother as Leyte lay down on the cool grass under a tall tree and promptly fell asleep.
Daurk frowned as he heard Leyte beginning to snore. He shook his brother roughly to wake him up. Leyte either purposefully ignored him or really went on sleeping. Daurk was so upset he could have torn out all his hair. Getting up, he went down the road a ways to help calm him down. He decided he would walk for five minutes to wear off his anger and then go back and wake up his brother.
Daurk passed a pool to the side of the grassy path. It was out in full sun as the trees grew away from the water. Daurk stood at the edge of the pool. The cool air around the pool and the green water helped calm him down. As he stood there, a lovely woman appeared out of the water. She swam towards him with a wide, white-toothed smile. She reached out to take Daurk’s hand in her own slender one.
“Hello,” said the lady in a smooth, honeyed voice, “Who are you, handsome one? I am Nige.”
“My name is Daurk,” said Daurk automatically. He was staring at the lady in fascination. He had never seen anyone so beautiful. It was the useless sort of beauty that comes with a woman that cannot do any decent work. Daurk usually ignored such women. He was only interested in girls who had a clear sense of duty and reliable household, farm, and motherly skills. But this woman was different. Daurk could not ignore her loveliness.
“Daurk,” crooned Nige, “You look so upset! Whatever is the matter?”
“Nothing; nothing at all!” Daurk said hastily. Nige did not need to know about his personal problems. “Um, what are you doing here?”
“I swim here every day,” Nige said sweetly. “Would you like to get in?”
The way Nige asked the question made Daurk feel like he could not refuse. “Why not?” he said. “I have nothing else to do. To swim with a pretty lady such as yourself would be delightful.”
“Oh, really, I am not that pretty,” said Nige modestly, fluttering her eyelashes at Daurk. She took his hand and guided him out into the water. The instant Daurk was out in the deep of the pool, four other women appeared out of the water. Daurk experienced a momentary flash of fear as he saw the woman’s eyes gleaming with some dark, evil hunger. Suddenly, he was being shoved and pushed under the water and many pale, slender hands were dragging him down into the deep. The pretty woman had become deadly woman!
Daurk struggled and yelled for help, thrashing in the water. His yelling awoke Leyte, who came running down toward the pool. Leyte stood paralyzed by the edge of the pool, staring with horror at Daurk as the nymphs dragged his brother under. Leyte was too afraid to enter the water. Daurk shrieked at him to do something right before he vanished from sight.
Leyte did not know what to do. What would his parents say when they found out Daurk was dead? They might expect him to all sorts of extra work. But he could not go to the festival alone. For one thing, plenty of his parent’s friends would see he was alone and question him about it. And another thing; Daurk’s girlfriend would pester him to no end. Slowly, Leyte turned away from the pool and dragged his unhappy feet home.
Upon reaching the farmhouse, Leyte’s mother demanded to know where Daurk was. Leyte was uncomfortably escorted into the living room by his father, and forced to explain why he had come home without his brother. In the end, he told his parents what had happened.
Leyte’s mother, Marcie, burst into tears and rushed from the room, holding her apron to her face. His father, Paros, looked angry and disappointed. He glared at his son. “And you did nothing to help your brother? If you had, he might not have drowned! Did I not tell you to follow the road? Your whining has cost your brother his life! Lazy, irresponsible child! Come with me!”
Knowing instinctively that his father was going to punish him, Leyte jumped up and fled from the room. Paros pursued him with surprising vigor and caught him at the corner of the woodshed. He dragged his struggling son by the wrist into the darkness of the woodshed and took up the cow whip. Paros beat his son like he had never beaten him before. When he was done teaching Leyte his lesson, blood was streaming from his son’s back and Leyte was sobbing bitterly. Paros left the woodshed angrily, locking the door behind him.
Leyte lay miserably on the floor of the woodshed, lacking the strength to move. Tears kept streaming down his face until, at last, they subsided and Leyte grew calm. He struggled to his feet and went to the door. When he found it locked, he sank down in despair.
It was his fault Daurk had been drowned. He should have driven off the evil ladies with sticks and rocks. Leyte felt terribly, terribly sad that his brother was dead. But being sorry would not bring Daurk back to life or stop his parents from hating him forever. Unless . . .
Leyte got up and went to the back of the woodshed. There was small room in the back of it where Paros kept his alchemical supplies. Paros had been a wandering magician that had passed through the village and, after falling in love with Marcie, had settled down to live an ordinary life. But he still practiced alchemy occasionally and Leyte had watched him sometimes. Perhaps Leyte could make some sort of spell that would kill all the evil ladies and bring his brother back to life.
Leyte began to get out old, musty books from the shelves and looked up nymphs in them. He found plenty of odd, interesting facts. In one book he found a recipe for a cake that would supposedly kill cannibalistic woman. There was a sketch of a woman next to the recipe that looked sort of like the lovely women in the pool. Upon reading the recipe, Leyte found he had no idea how to begin to assemble it. It called for dried mouse flesh, bat wings, the breath of a toad, and a splash of sunlight amongst other ingredients. Leyte realized he would have to go and beg for his father’s help; except he was locked in the woodshed.
Leyte was just going to go and scream and yell and pound on the door for all he was worth when he saw an axe in the corner of the room. An idea occurred to him; he would cut the door down! He picked up the axe, went to the locked door, and got to work. It was hard and sweaty work, especially since Leyte had never swung an axe in his life. His hands were covered in blisters when he was done, his shoulders and bleeding back were aching, and tears were streaming from his eyes. But the door had been demolished.
Leyte was leaning on the axe, gasping for breath, when Paros appeared out of the darkness outside. It was nighttime, and he had a lantern and a key in his hand. He stopped and stared at Leyte in utter astonishment. “What have you done?” he demanded.
Leyte gulped. “I-I cut down the door so I could get out. I mean—I was wondering if you could help me make a sort of cake—”
Paros brushed past his son. “Well, I am glad to see you have been doing a bit of work, even if it is for the wrong reasons! You are still in serious trouble, boy, and don’t go about forgetting it!”
“No, sir. But I need your help. I thought I could make a cake to kill the nymphs and bring Daurk back to life, only I do not know how to do it. I wanted you to help me, but I was locked in and—”
Paros frowned. “Have you been meddling in my things? Have I not told you never, never to meddle with my things?? There are all sorts of dangerous things in there! Where have I put my whip? Just wait, boy, I am going to beat the life out of you! Do you never learn what we teach you?”
Leyte fled back into the little room at the back of the woodshed. “I am learning! Please do not beat me again, father. I-I only wanted your help! Please?”
Paros could not find his whip, for one thing, but he was also hopeful that perhaps he could teach Leyte to do something other then laze around. “All right,” he said grudgingly. “But I will not stand for it if you disobey me again! Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir, father, sir. Look, I found the recipe but I do not know how to make it. The ladies in the pool looked like that.”
Paros looked at the book Leyte had shoved into his hands. He looked at the mess of books Leyte had left littered around the room. He frowned again. “I see you got a good look at the ladies while you stood around and did nothing and they drowned your brother!” he snapped. “Get to work! I will tell you what to do. If you do anything wrong, I will make you drink what you brew up!” Paros started snapping out instructions while he picked up the mess Leyte had made.
It was the middle of the night when Leyte finished the cakes. There were seven of them exactly. They were small and round, topped with icing and a candied cherry. Leyte so wanted to eat the extra ones, but his father said, “You go right ahead and eat one, boy, and you will kill yourself! Those cakes are full of poison! They are magically made to be irresistible, but you are going to resist them, aren’t you?”
“Yes, father,” Leyte said meekly. He was tired and starving, since he had not had any lunch or dinner that day, but Paros made him clean up all the baking things. When the small room was tidy, Paros took his son back to the house and made him a sandwich. Leyte ate it hungrily. When he was done, Paros made him two more and watched him eat them both.
“Are you still mad at me?” Leyte asked.
“Yes. But at least you are not useless after all. You have the makings of a decent magician. And you are trying to fix what you did, aren’t you?”
“Yes, father. But—I do not know if it will work. Will it?”
“Speak full sentences, boy!” Paros snapped. “Yes, it will!”
“I have a name!” Leyte cried. “Don’t call me boy! I hate it!”
“Do not talk to me like that! Yes, I know you have a name, but you are not living up to it! When you have earned your name, I will start calling you by it! Go to bed, and do not wake up the whole house by tramping inconsiderately around!”
“Yes, father, sir.” Leyte went meekly up to bed. He shared a room with his younger brother, Eros, and he had to creep quietly into bed. After a minute he started to cry. He cried himself to sleep.
The next morning, Leyte and Paros set off down the road. They took the shortcut through the woods. When they came to the pool, Paros and Leyte sat down on the bank. Paros took out two of the cakes Leyte had made. They were topped with green grapes. “Here,” he said, handing the cake to Leyte, “Eat your lunch, boy.”
“But you said they would kill me if I ate one!” Leyte protested.
Paros slapped him. “Shut up! Do you want the nymphs to hear you say that? You could spoil this entirely with your stupidity! Eat it!”
Leyte felt tears brimming in his eyes. He looked away from his father, and took a tiny nibble of his cake. It tasted pretty good, and he did not suddenly feel sick or dying. He heard a splash, and he looked up to see a group of pretty woman swimming towards them. They smiled at Paros and Leyte.
“Such delicious looking cakes,” one of the women said longingly.
“We do have some extra cakes,” Paros said politely. “But I am not sure if there will be enough for your pretty selves to be satisfied. We only have five.”
“I am sure one a piece will do,” the lady said, fluttering her eyelashes at Paros. She took the cakes he handed her, and shared them out with her companions. “They looked simply divine! We do thank you.”
Paros nodded. He watched the nymphs all take a bite of their cakes. The nymphs all made faces, “Ooh, they taste simply dreadful! I suppose it must be to human tastes. How awful. I do feel so sick!”
Leyte’s eyes opened wide as the nymphs were transformed into croaking toads. The left over cakes turned into little lily pads. The toads began to croak, and a young man spilled out of their mouths with each croak. The young men swam out of the pool and up onto the bank, yelling to each other in confusion.
The young men slowly regained their dazed senses and stumbled away down the path, nodding their thanks to Leyte and Paros. Leyte saw Daurk swim out of the pool. He waved to his brother and yelled.
Daurk came out of the water and sat down next to his father. “Whew. That was a ghastly experience! How did I come back to life?”
“When your brother killed the nymphs, they spat up all the young men they has eaten over time,” Paros explained.
Daurk looked at Leyte in disbelief. “Wait a minute. Leyte saved me? Leyte killed the nymphs? Lazy Leyte?”
Paros nodded. “Yes. And since you boys have only lost a day, you still have time to go to the festival and enjoy it. Leyte, you deserve to go. I am proud of you. But when you come back, Leyte, I expect you to do your fair share of work on the farm.”
“I will, father,” Leyte said happily.
Paros nodded. “Good. I see you have properly learnt your lesson. Tell your brother all about what happened to you on the way to the festival. One more thing; Eros told me how much you cried last night. I am sorry I whipped you so badly.”
Leyte waved to his father as he and Daurk set off down the path. He skipped happily along next to his elder brother. He was going to enjoy the festival!
~A short story by Layla