On cold and clear Sunday night’s I often find myself meandering to a body of water on the outermost reaches of civilization. For this is the best way to catch a glimpse of a water spirit that has grown rarer with the spread of man. If you should wish to see it too then you should heed my warning. Find a river or stream surrounded by dense woodlands and observe from a distance. The creature itself may seem unstartled at your presence and may very well be friendly but it likely does not understand the danger that it poses to you.
I must elaborate on my first encounter with one of these fantastic creatures which occurred some time ago. A night which I had stumbled across a small village in the northern most reaches of the country. In a clearing not far from the village, what appeared to be every man, woman and child who resided there was gathered at a lake. There were all kinds of accusations being thrown and the whole ordeal seemed very much like a trial. Not wanting to upset these villagers or to get involved in their affairs I turned to take my leave. However I was halted by a sound somewhat similar to hooves. I dared to creep ever closer and hid behind the tree closest to the crowd. There I saw the magnificent black beast standing like a proud horse with a mane of snakes. It trotted so casually through the crowd of villagers and each of them backed away. When it had reached the center of the clearing the village folk pushed a young girl towards the animal. They urged her to climb upon the horses back. The girl refused. She was obviously scared, I couldn’t help but wonder why. In an instant two burly men separated themselves from the crowd and lifted the girl up onto the horse being cautious to not touch the creature themselves. She screamed. The men backed away. For a moment the being upon whose back she was placed seemed confused. It stood there, head held proudly. A calm fell upon the girl and the crowd. Then without warning the creature bolted towards the lake and both were gone. The girl didn’t even have time to scream, the last noise she made being a gurgling one.
Once the villagers had dispersed I picked up my courage and approached the lake to investigate. I crept up to the edge of the water and peered into the darkened depths. I could see neither the animal nor the girl. I doubt I was staring into the lake for very long or with much concentration but I suddenly felt like I was being watched. That was when I heard what sounded like hooves hitting the ground behind me. I spun round to see the beast staring at me tapping what looked like a reverse hooved foot on the floor. Upon seeing it at such a close distance I could tell clearly that it was a black stallion not much bigger than a regular cart pulling horse. Its eyes were somehow magical, black in colouring but there was a depth and shine to them which seemed it would pierce a man’s soul. The mane of the creature was not snakes as I had initially thought but rather some form of water weed that floated as if the air was water. Its face was so close and in all it appeared to mean me no harm. If anything the stallion appeared lonely, I use this word only because I could not find another that described the solemn air about it. The more I drank in its features the more curious and charmed I became with this fantastical beast. I had resisted until then to reach out and touch the beast but I could fight the urge no longer. Slowly I raised my hand. As my hand came up the horse like creature displayed the side of its neck. I stretched the tip of my fingers and gently brushed against its fur, if that really is what it was. To my surprise it felt like no fur I’d ever touched before, not exactly soft or wet but something entirely different. Quickly the horse head rose up back to its proud position. I jerked my arm away only to find that the water weed mane had encircled my arm. I was trapped to the beast. It turned towards the water. I pulled away. The mane tightened. I realised instantly that I was to end up like the girl before me. My survival instincts kicked in. I pulled the blade from its place on my belt. The creature began to pull. Sinking my heels into the floor I tried to slow the movement while I attempted to cut the weed. Both efforts were useless. My prospects were looking bleak. As hope appeared to thinning I quickly severed my hand. Then I merely watched as the beast literally disappeared into the lake.
The next morning, after a somewhat restless night and doing my best to hide my arm, I approached the lakes edge once more. The water was crystal clear but there was nothing living in the lake aside from a few aquatic plants. Upon the shore near to me I discovered a mess of clothes and water weed, which had been washed up there at some point. As I pulled them free from the lake I believed I recognised them. They looked similar to what the young girl was wearing the previous night. That was when a young boy approached me. He looked at me with sad eyes and said something that would haunt me.
“They belonged to my sister. Everyone thought she was guilty. So they brought her here to be judged by the kelpie…”