One Magic Spell
by Vera Searles
He was born during a full eclipse of the moon at low tide, and he had the body of a human but the face of a fish, with an eye on each side of his head and gills just below his ears.
His mother, the High Witch of Lamra, wrapped the new babe in a sackcloth and flew with him to the bridge. “You are a curse on my reign of Lamra,” she said. “ With your face, no human female will ever mate with you, and there will be no progeny in our line. I can’t change you into a handsome prince, for no Witch of Lamra has the power to alter one of her own bloodline. Therefore, you are banished to the sea, to grow up in the realm of the Merms until you are eighteen, when you will be granted one magic spell. Mind you, cast it wisely, for it is irrevocable.” And she threw him from the bridge.
Into the water he fell, and down, down, deep, beyond the night sea, he found the beauty of the castle of the Merms, where the maidens suckled him and named him Tyr. They taught him the ways of water living and he was content, growing from babe to child to man.
* * *
The morn before he was eighteen, the mermaids sang his name to wake him for his journey. “Tyr, Tyr,” they called. “Tomorrow you are eighteen and will be able to cast one magic spell.”
He looked at them, his friends and sisters, who had nurtured him and loved him and accepted him in spite of his strangeness. “I must leave for Lamra today,” he said sadly.
“We know,” they cried. “And we suspect the spell you will cast is for you to become entirely human, with the face of a handsome prince, so human females will mate with you and keep the bloodline of Lamra ever fruitful.”
With human arms he embraced each one in farewell, and then up, up, he swam, to the surface, where he covered his nakedness with sea kelp He trod for the first time on solid land and in the distance he saw the castle of Lamra where his mother, the High Witch, lived, and he began to walk toward it.
Several young girls passed him on the path, and screamed when they saw his face, and threw stones at him. A woman came after him with an axe, shrieking, “Monster! Monster!” But Tyr was able to outrun her. A drunken man roared with laughter as Tyr went by. No human he passed made any gestures of friendliness or offered him food or drink, but screamed and ran from him. Tyr knew that if he had a human face, he would be accepted in the land of Lamra, by humans and by his mother, the High Witch. Long into the twilight, he sat in the shadow of her castle, thinking.
At midnight, he became eighteen. He cast the one magic spell that had been granted to him, then went back to the bridge and dove in, back to his true home with the mermaids. Happily they gathered round to welcome him and asked, “ But Tyr, didn’t you cast the one spell you were granted?"
“Oh yes,” he said. “I cast it wisely, for it is irrevocable.”
And in the morning, every maiden in the land of Lamra, including his mother, the High Witch, ran screaming from her bed, for every male now had the face of a fish.
Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author