There is an old forgotten tale that reveals the existence of healing waters, hidden in a cave at the end of the old world. It was rumored that the waters could heal anyone with just a few drops, no matter the injury or how close to death a person was. It was also said that in order to find the cave the waters resided in was to have a desperate need and an even bigger desire to find it but the only way the blue wisps would appear to guide you to the cave was to judge the seeker’s heart.
It was said the wisps would lead only a worthy heart to the cave, despite the company of the Worthy. The stories also warned that where good hearts are welcomed, dark forces await to corrupt them and should tread carefully when following wisps.
The story tells of two teen brothers who searched out the waters to heal their mother, the village chief, from certain death. Not only did they hope to save their mother, but heal the rest of the town from a growing epidemic that sentenced half the town to their demise. The youngest brother had begun to show symptoms of the illness. The oldest brother knew they did not have much time left before he was also infected and all hope of recovery would be lost.
They walked a week, through the forest and up the cliff, overlooking the violent sea below, but there was no sign of any cave anywhere. They had lost all hope until the oldest brother yelled out to the wind in frustration, “ What good is the existence of these healing waters if no one can find them?! They might as well not exist instead of giving us a false sense of hope!” His anger grew as his brother got worse each day and became weaker.
With tears in his eyes, he helped his brother up from resting on a log when the younger brother saw a small blue light catch his eye. The oldest almost dropped his brother as he yelled out, “It’s a wisp! We are saved!" The younger boy got up quickly and saw a line of wisps as far as the eye could see. They celebrated and hugged each other before running off. The wisps did indeed guide them to the cave. And once they arrived, they began filling their canteens as fast as they could.
The oldest brother urged his younger brother to drink immediately. When he did, his symptoms disappeared and he felt alive again! Their hearts danced, knowing their mother and their village would be ok. The oldest felt a sense of pride. He had saved the town and his mother. He knew when his time came, he would be a great leader to his village.
But as they rushed to fill up the canteens, one of the containers fell and rolled off into the darkness of the cave. The older brother went to retrieve it but once he descended into the shadows, a gentle voice called to him, “Are you here for the magical waters, dear boy?” The adolescent stepped back, startled. It was short of a miracle that they found the cave, but yet it seemed they were not the only ones who were present. The voice was soothing and feminine and perhaps that is why he instinctively began to walk towards it after he composed himself.
The voice asked again if he was looking for the waters to which he responded with his reason behind his quest.
“I see, “ said the mysterious voice. “That must be why the wisps chose YOU.”
The boy asked who she was and if was also brought here with the intent to heal herself or someone she loved.
“No, my dear boy. Those waters are not meant for me. You see, I am not like you, or your brother. In fact, I’m not like anyone or anything you are familiar with. But please, don’t be alarmed. I’ll be happy to explain everything to you, if you wish.” Once the boy nodded, she began her story.
“We have existed for much longer than humans have. We are spirits, creatures of and from the Earth and its elements. It was said that we were meant to protect the world…”
The voice continued after a thoughtful pause, “ When the humans came, we befriended them. We shared our stories and wisdom with them. We warned them of the evils that lurked in the shadows. At first, the humans listened and helped us protect the Earth. They even wrote down our stories and passed them down to their descendants for many generations. But then, they started hunting us down, seeking our powers and gifts for themselves and their ulterior motives. Some became conquerors, others became kings, and some went as far as to become powerful warlocks that brought destruction upon mankind. The plague that threatens your town is also a consequence of a human interfering with our magic.”
They boy asked how she knew of the plague to which the woman answered that she knew about it through her gifts.
“I smelled it on your brother when he came in, before drinking the healing waters. The waters themselves used to flow freely in the rivers until it was used as an immortality potion, which is why the wisps hid it here. They judge very carefully who may enter, so as to not taint their miracle.”
“And you? What is your name? What are you called and why do you hide in the darkness of this cavern? Are you afraid of us? Of humans?”
The voice whispered, “Yes, I am afraid. The last time I encountered a human, I was badly wounded. I thought the healing waters could save me but they did not. I have been waiting for hundreds of years for the wisps to find a worthy human to enter. I waited for a kind heart to help me heal.”
The boy was very curious to know what happened to her but she promised to answer all of his questions if he could first go on a quest to retrieve a berry, found deep in the cave that, once eaten, would restore her health and powers. In exchange, she promised to grant him a wish.
“You need me to retrieve it? Can’t you just go for it yourself?” The boy did not understand why such a powerful being would need him.
The mystical voice chuckled but politely said, “My dear boy, if I was not in such a horrid state, I would not have waited hundreds of years for someone to appear. But do not fret, child. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to. I do not wish to force you into something that has nothing to do with you. I am not offended by your rejection.”
The boy paused a moment before asking, “Can you grant me any wish I desire if I retrieve your berry?” The woman patiently answered yes. “No matter what it is?” In the same manner, she once again answered yes. He knew his brother was too kind and gentle to take up arms when necessary and questioned what would happen to the village if anything were to happen to him and had to take over.
“Can you make me a great warrior to protect my village when my mother passes, and I take over? Can you make me a conqueror of my enemies?” The voice reassured him that she could do it right away, after she consumed the berry. The boy agreed to bring it to her, and after she explained where to find it, he descended to the darkness.
The youth was inspired to become the mightiest warrior his village had ever seen, in part, to protect them of course, but perhaps also to secure his position against any threat. He was convinced only he could reign properly and justly.
However, the boy never came back. His younger brother tried to follow nto the cave, where he had last seen his brother, but a horrible shriek was heard when he brought with him the light of the wisps that illuminated the darkness. He was startled to see, hiding behind a crevice, an old woman in a black cloak with big black wings, shielding herself.
“Be gone!” The old woman begged, hoarse and desperate. “Be gone and leave me be in the darkness!”
The young boy was terrified but remembered his brother and asked her if she had seen him. “He was here, speaking to someone the last time I saw him!”
The old woman began cackling and peered behind her black wing momentarily and answered, “ The boy went to fetch me a haw berry so I may regenerate and leave this forsaken place once more.”
The young boy, who knew very well what a haw berry was, yelled out, “ He wouldn’t dare! He knows of the warnings of Hawthorn Trees! He knows the Fairies curse all who disturb them!”
The old woman shrieked as he got closer to her and in between her howls she said, “Indeed, he will be cursed! You brought him here, unworthy, to fall into temptation, as all ill hearted men do! Now he will serve me, in exchange for great strength and mighty victories!”
The witch laughed and confessed she never did share the name of the fruit that he agreed to seek. She revealed the boy was so tempted by the wish she would grant if he retrieved it that he never bothered to ask about it, only where it was.
The kid did not understand and drew closer, but she opened her wings with such might, she threw him back to the entrance of the cave. He caught a glimpse of her horrible haggard face, her eyes piercing straight into his soul. He had never felt such terror before.
In the distance was the bellowing of a bull. The boy realized it was his brother, because he knew the creature would rely on the curse of the fairies to turn him into a mighty beast when he attempted to interfere with their Hawthorn tree. It was then also that he was aware who the old woman was. The wisps formed a trail out of the cave, dimming as time passed. The cave would close soon. He gathered what canteens he could carry on his own and sprinted as far away as he could. When he returned to his village, he made it just in time to save his mother and many of the villagers. When they asked him how he found the waters and where his brother was, he told them the wisps had shown both the way but that his brother was lost in the cave.
He did not reveal how the wisps had meant for only him to find the waters and how his brother’s weak and ambitious heart had fallen prey to The Morrigan. The Morrigan stayed close enough to to wisps to bring a kind heart who often brought with them a less worthy companion that she could prey on. The village would find out why she lured her ambitious brother but could never come close to him, the Worthy. The light of the wisps, like his pure heart, would protect him from her tenebrosity, while his brother was cursed to become the mighty bull she would use to win her battles against man.