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In a kingdom by the sea - the same kingdom as the Dragon’s keep - where the water swelled and crashed against a jagged coast and sheep roamed through rolling waves of emerald green, lived a poor fisherman and his three daughters. The fisherman  may have been a poor man but he was noble. He raised his daughters to be headstrong and fearsome for the world was not kind to meek maidens. He may have been only a simple fisherman but he would not stand for his daughters being damsels in distress. This fisherman, Caderyn, raised his daughters on his own - their mother had been taken from them much too soon. Every morning while his children still slept Caderyn would brave the squalls off the coast to haul in a meager catch. Whatever he caught would be sent to market while he and his children ate only fish head and cabbage stew - the head was the only part they could not sell. Every morning before the sun had crested over the horizon Caderyn would kiss his sleeping children on the forehead. The sea had tanned his skin as tough as leather but inside he was as soft as sheep’s wool. His oldest daughter, Zíva, slept near the hearth so that she could tend the fire late at night when the flames had died to keep her sisters warm. He brushed the flaming strands of hair from her forehead and gently kissed her goodbye. The passion in Zíva’s heart burned as bright as her flaming red hair. Caderyn made his way carefully across the room to where his middle daughter, Rhiannon, slept fitfully in the corner. Rhiannon’s beauty shone through the grime on her face and ragged clothes but her fitful sleep troubled Caderyn. He patted Rhiannon’s honey hair to soothe her troubled mind. He leaned down and kissed the sleeping girl on the forehead just as he had done her sister before. Finally, he turned to the other corner to bid his youngest child farewell. She was not there. Morzanna, his youngest daughter with hair as black as a moonless midnight, was not sleeping on her straw pallet. Morzanna was a smart child but sometimes her mind was more trouble than good. 

Caderyn’s catch had been smaller than normal this month and he wanted to get on the water before the morning tide - to see if it would change his luck. He roused Zíva.

“Zíva, wake up please, the little one has gone missing again,” he whispered to his eldest daughter. Zíva rubbed her eyes sleepily and blinked up at her father. 

“What has she done now?” demanded an annoyed voice from across the room. 

“Oh, Rhiannon, I’m sorry to wake you. I was going to ask your sister to look for the little one; she is not on her pallet,” Caderyn explained to the now wide awake Rhiannon. 

“She probably snuck off in search of fairy circles again. She will return. She always does, Father,” Zíva said before her sister could say something much less positive. 

 

“Please search for her,” was all Caderyn said in return. “I am hoping the sea is kinder for me today but I will catch no fish if I am worried about your sister,” he said wearily.

“We will look for her, father,” Rhiannon said, aware that her attitude had upset his father. She was headstrong, more so than her sisters, and sometimes it caused her to think without speaking. She loved her sister of course but sometimes the antics of the little one made a hard life harder. 

 

“I would run off too if I was called by my childhood nickname well into womanhood,” Rhiannon thought as she pulled her bits of rag tight around her cold shoulders. “I will stop calling her ‘little one’ as soon as she returns home,” she decided. 

Zíva and Rhiannon, dressed in their threadbare cloaks, headed to the dilapidated lean-to that they used as a makeshift stable. Their beautiful steeds stood stomping the ground and flicking their tails underneath the failing structure, curling tendrils of their hot breath wafted through the cold air. Zíva’s horse shone in the dim light of dawn; her regal steeds mane was the orange of a fall squash in the dim light. But in the sunshine, it burned as bright as Zíva’s own. Rhiannon’s equally regal horse stood snorting as the cold wind whipped her face. The mare’s beauty was equal only to Rhiannon and she was just as stubborn. Their sister’s black mare was noticeably absent. 

It was strange enough for a poor fisherman to own an old mule to pull his cart, let alone three prized horses. But one night Caderyn had a dream. He dreamed that a mermaid crawled onto his boat while he was at sea and gave him instruction to follow to turn his luck around. He was wary for mermaids are tricky creatures, but when he awoke he followed her instruction anyway. When he returned from sea he buried three fish heads at the base of the three apple trees in the clearing behind his rickety shack. The next day as he returned from sea he heard braying and stomping in the clearing. He went to investigate and standing in the clearing whinnying and braying were three beautiful creatures. Three horses - with coats the color of his own daughters’ hair. He approached the creatures cautiously but they did not spook and run away. He patted them all on the head and picked apples from the three trees for them to eat. After feeding them their apple treats he led each horse to his dilapidated home and presented each daughter with a horse of their own. Maybe the mermaid was not tricking him - this time. 

 

People from all over the countryside tried to buy the mares from Caderyn. He needed the money and his daughters knew this so they agreed to sell their companions. But try as they might, each horse was fiercely attached it to its master. They would not leave the girls’ sides…

Image Attribution:

Zíva's Horse: https://goo.gl/images/Ko4HzU

Rhiannon's Horse: https://goo.gl/images/CwRk9n

Morzanna's Horse: https://goo.gl/zvAG6L

Author's Note: For this story, I wanted to introduce the rest of my main characters. If you notice, the number three is going to be very important to this story. So is the appearance of other magical creatures (such as the mermaid) - aside from the Dragon. The inspiration for this part of the story comes from "The Celtic Dragon Myth" from Celtic lore as the title says, and "The Dragon and the Prince" of Slavic origins. The number three is very important in both tales. In both tales there are three prevalent males - in the Celtic myth a poor fisherman has three sons and in the Slavic myth, there are three princes. More from both of these myths will be seen in later stories. For the storybook as a whole, I am combining elements from many dragon myths to turn into my own narrative. For these characters, I decided to make the poor fisherman have three daughters instead of sons. Gender flipping the source material seems like a good way to put a fresh twist on an old story. I want my female characters to be dynamic and strong instead of a "sexy lampshade" or damsel in distress. The names in this story have specific meanings. Two of the names are of Celtic origins; Caderyn (the fisherman) is a revised spelling of Cadeyrn which means "battle of kings" which will be important later in the story. Rhiannon is also of Celtic origins, it is an anglicized form of Rigantona - a Celtic name meaning "great queen," plus it's a Fleetwood Mac song, so double win. The other two sisters get their names from Slavic roots. Zíva means "living, alive" in Slavic and was the name of a Slavic goddess associated with life, fertility, and spring. Morzanna is an alternate spelling of Marzanna or Morana, meaning "death or plague" and is related to the goddess of winter and death. All name meanings are from behindthename.com. I hope you enjoy coming along on this adventure. 

 

Bibliography: "The Celtic Dragon Myth" by J.F. Campbell (1911) and "The Dragon and the Prince" from "Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources" by A.H. Wartislaw 

 

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