Ten nights before their wedding, Richard took Alexandra for a walk on the verandah. Here is what happened....
She was unsure what to do or say. Heat stung her neck and face once more but, far from cold, her skin burned from his touch and the feel of his strong arms about her.
Oh, God, what am I to say to him now? I want him to kiss me once more.
She managed to drag forth a ragged breath. “Richard...you are making it very difficult for me to breathe, I fear.”
“Well at least you’re warm, sweetheart.” He cocked an eyebrow and caught her gaze, a smile flirting about his lips.
He’d achieved the near impossible. He had made her laugh. Gazing into his marvelous eyes, she gasped, “Yes, but if I faint from breathlessness it will be your fault.”
Placing her hand on his arm, he softly drawled, “Then I’d better escort you inside before it occurs. I’m afraid your father would skin me alive if that happened. I have a strong suspicion he knows how to do it!”
Still flushed and laughing, she replied, “Perhaps you are right, then. There is an old Orkadian tale of a particularly loathsome elf called Nuckelavee. A dreadful sight, he is devoid of skin anywhere on his body. I am particularly fond of men with their skin intact, as it happens, and do not believe I would care to meet you at the end of the church’s aisle without it!”
Amused laughter escaped his lips again and his jollity infected her. “Certainly not, Alexandra! As it happens, I, too, am fond of my skin.” Motioning toward the door, he asked, “Shall we, my dear?”
Here is the rest of the story. (Don't you just love that part?) NUCKELAVEE was a monster of unmixed malignity, never willingly resting from doing evil to mankind. He was a spirit in flesh. His home was the sea; and whatever his means of transit were in that element, when he moved on land he rode a horse as terrible in aspect as himself. Some thought that rider and horse were really one, and that this was the shape of the monster. Nuckelavee's head was like a man's, only ten times larger, and his mouth projected like that of a pig, and was enormously wide. There was not a hair on the monster's body, for the very good reason that he had no skin.
If crops were blighted by sea-gust or mildew, if livestock fell over high rocks that skirt the shores, or if an epidemic raged among men, or among the lower animals, Nuckelavee was the cause of all. His breath was venom, falling like blight on vegetable, and with deadly disease on animal life. He was also blamed for long-continued droughts. For some unknown reason he had serious objections to fresh water, and was never known to visit the land during rain.
He also hated the smell of pungent smoke. It drove him into an extreme and diabolical rage. In this state, he would vent his wrath by smiting all the horses on the island of Stronsay - the island where kelp was first burned in Orkney - with a deadly disease known as
Once propagated, Mortasheen would soon spread throughout the islands where kelp was burned. Nuckelavee's revenge was terrible and complete.
Enraged, he starts on a wild rampage of plague, killing cattle and many other creatures, and bringing bad crops. The only one to stop him is the Mither o’ the Sea.
The Sea Mither granted life to every living thing, bringing warmth to the oceans and calming the storms that were the sorrow of many an Orkney family.
But, as in all good tales, the forces of good must have a bitter nemesis. The Sea Mither was no exception.
She had a very powerful, and hostile, rival in Teran, the spirit of winter. Teran's screaming voice was heard in the fury of the winter gales and his anger seen in the mountainous waves that crashed against the seashore.
Each spring, around the vernal equinox, the Sea Mither returned to Orkney to take up her summer residence in the sea.
Her return always prompted the beginning of the "Vore Tullye" - the Spring Struggle - a fierce battle against Teran that lasted for weeks and manifested itself in devastating storms that churned the sea into a boiling froth.
However, the result of this conflict was always a foregone conclusion. The Sea Mither had returned, refreshed and strong, and always triumphed over her adversary.
Once overcome, Teran was bound firmly at the bottom of the sea and thus began the Sea Mither's beneficent reign. She would immediately set to work restoring the damage caused by Teran.
She stilled his violent storms and calmed the raging sea. Warmth and life returned to the water, interrupted only by the occasional squall, caused by Teran as he struggled to break his bonds.
But, as winter approached and the equinox grew near, the Sea Mither, exhausted by her labors over the summer, was forced to confront Teran again.
Breaking free of his shackles, another battle - the "Gore Vellye" or Autumn Tumult - ensued. But this time, Teran would emerge victorious, gripping the islands once more in a terrible embrace.
His foe banished, Teran would once again reign supreme and for a while every living creature had to submit to his tyrannical rule. Nuckelavee was one of his creatures.
The Orkney folklorist, Walter Traill Dennison, lived in Sanday
in the nineteenth century. He knew an old man who was credited with having once encountered Nuckelavee, and with having made a narrow escape from the monster's clutches. This man was very reticent on the subject. However, after much higgling and persuasion, the following narrative was extracted:--
Tammas, like his namesake Tam o' Shanter, was out late one night. It was, though moonless, a fine starlit night. Tammas's road lay close by the seashore, and as he entered a part of the road that was hemmed in on one
side by the sea, and on the other by a deep fresh-water loch, he saw some huge object in front of, and moving towards him. What was he to do? He was sure it was no earthly thing that was steadily coming towards him. He could not go to either side, and to turn his back to an evil thing he had heard was the most dangerous position of all. So Tammie said to himself, "The Lord be aboot me, any tak' care o' me, as I am oot on no evil intent this night!" Tammie was always regarded as rough and foolhardy. He determined, as the best of two evils, to face the foe, and so walked resolutely yet slowly forward. He soon discovered to his horror that the gruesome creature approaching him was none other than the dreaded Nuckelavee. The lower part of this terrible monster, as seen by Tammie, was like a great horse with flappers like fins about his legs, with a mouth as wide as a whale's, from whence came breath like steam from a brewing-kettle. He had but one eye, and that as red as fire. On him sat, or rather seemed to grow from his back, a huge man with no legs, and arms that reached nearly to the ground. His head was as big as a clue of simmons that is a clue of straw ropes, generally about three feet in diameter, and this huge head kept rolling from one shoulder to the other as if it meant to tumble off. But, what to Tammie appeared most horrible of all, was that the monster was skinless. This utter want of skin added much to the terrific appearance of the creature's naked body. The whole surface of it showed only red raw flesh, in which Tammie saw blood, black as tar, running through yellow veins, and great white sinews, thick as horse tethers, twisting, stretching, and contracting as the monster moved. Tammie went slowly on in mortal terror, his hair on end, a cold sensation like a film of ice between his scalp and his skull, and a cold sweat bursting from every pore. He knew it was useless to flee, and he said, if he had to die, he would rather see who killed him than die with his back to the foe. In all his terror Tammie remembered what he had heard of Nuckelavee's dislike to fresh water, and, therefore, took that side of the road nearest to the loch. The awful moment came when the lower part of the head of the monster got abreast of Tammie. The mouth of the monster yawned like a bottomless pit. Tammie found its hot breath like fire on his face: the long arms stretched out to seize the unhappy man. To avoid, if possible, the monster's clutch, Tammie swerved as near as he could to the loch. In doing so, one of his feet went into the loch, splashing up some water on the foreleg of the monster, whereat the horse gave a snort like thunder and shied over to the other side of the road, and Tammie felt the wind of Nuckelavee's clutches as he narrowly escaped the monster's grip. Tammie saw his opportunity, and ran with all his might. Sore need had he to run, for Nuckelavee turned and galloped after him, bellowing with a sound like the roaring of the sea. In front of Tammie lay a rivulet, through which the surplus water of the loch found its way to the sea, and Tammie knew, if he could only cross the running water, he was safe, so he strained every nerve. As he reached the near bank, another clutch was made at him by the long arms. Tammie made a desperate spring and reached the other side, leaving his bonnet in the monster's clutches. Nuckelavee gave a wild unearthly yell of disappointed rage as Tammie fell senseless--on the safe side of the water.
Now aren't you glad you visited and read my scary tale? Thanks for coming. Oh, and have a safe Samhain!