One foggy morning, on a farm, there was born to a sandy-haired cow, a calf with small ears, a black pelt, and red eyes. He was delivered by the wife of the farmer, who was not herself a farmer, but still wanting of a trade of her own.
The farmer was troubled by the calf’s strange appearance and declared that he would sell it, but his wife entreated him to keep it. She told him that this calf may have come to her to teach her what trade she might take up. The couple were beloved of each other, so despite his nervousness, the farmer yielded.
His only condition was that the calf, who would grow to be a bull, be kept away from the rest of the herd. And to this, his wife agreed.
And so, the farmer’s wife became the calf’s keeper.
One day, after feeding on his mother’s milk, still teetering on legs that had yet to learn steadiness, the happy calf passed by the kitchen where his keeper was working.
“Come to help me clean, have you, my little love?” the keeper asked.
The calf opened his mouth and cried out, a strange cry that sounded like crowing of a rooster.
As his keeper stood startled, a sudden stream of water appeared and swept through the kitchen. The water rushed past and over the keeper’s feet and up to her knees. She was afraid, but also curious. For when the stream washed away, it left no wetness behind. But the kitchen floor was cleansed of all the grime and dust and soot from many years of cooking and treading by shoe and hoof and paw.
Not in weeks of scrubbing could the floor have gleamed so freshly. The stones looked as if they were newly laid and polished. Even her husband noted when he walked in for dinner that evening.
Two times did the calf crow like a cock and summon streams of ethereal waters. Bracing and cold when they flowed, the waters left no dampness behind. He did so when his keeper asked for some aid in cleaning the home or the barn. And she noted that the calf’s horns were growing in, and they were a bright blue color that glowed when he crowed.
His keeper knew for certain then that this was a power the little calf had manifested. Two thoughts did she have. One was to guide the calf in fostering this power, for which she would need the aid of a wise witch who lived nearby. And her second thought was of how she could use the calf’s most helpful talent for her new trade: a cleaning service.
It was well that the keeper started her trade when the calf was still small, and his glowing blue horns were hidden beneath the long shaggy black locks that grew charmingly upon his head.
But it was these very horns that gave the calf his name. His keeper made up what she deemed a grand name from words that described those horns.
“This is the mighty Glormadarck!” his keeper would say, flourishing her hands at the shy little calf.
When he did not cry out and summon the cleansing stream the first few times he was bidden to do so, his keeper was laughed out of the door. But she was not dismayed nor deterred.
“Perhaps, my little love, I can discover another trade,” the keeper said. “Perhaps you were made for some other purpose.”
The calf cried out then, for he had not understood what his keeper had meant for him to do. But in that moment, his confusion cleared.
He summoned a stream, and it was the beginning of the humble yet enchanted service of the great Glormadarck.
The calf grew older.
The people of the town came to know the young bull as friendly, even though many still eyed him with some measure of unease, especially as he grew bigger and bigger. With his black pelt and red eyes, he was quite striking. But more so were all struck by his bright blue horns. The children never feared him though. They would dash and toddle right up to him, and he was so gentle with them that there came no complaint or concern.
In time, the keeper had children of her own, a boy and girl, clever little twins with sparkling brown eyes, like their mother. For a while, she stayed at home to care for them, and the cleaning service took a recess. Glormadarck loved the babies and was curious about them. They were so small and fragile. And by that time, he was strong and possessed of an impressive heft. The baby twins loved him too.
According to his gentle nature, Glormadarck let his friend and keeper be while she tended to her children, and to herself after the great work of creating them.
He too sought another aim or aspiration in his life besides cleaning.
There was a heifer who had caught his eye and his interest. But he was not allowed to go among the other cows. That was the deal his keeper had struck with her husband, the farmer.
So Glormadarck would wander the moors at night, drawn to the vast lake, lowing quietly to the waters, calling to something by some instinct he did not understand.
The keeper’s children soon grew old enough for her to return to her work, bringing them along with her. And so, Glormadarck too returned to his work, happily so, letting the twins ride upon his back and ruffle the shaggy hair upon his head.
All was well, until a strange and terrible thing happened one day.
The keeper was collecting payment. Her twins were old enough to play with the other children, and she had let them go, for her task would not take long, and she would soon collect them as well. They would go home early and together prepare a feast to welcome the farmer home to dinner.
As the keeper walked along the street, she heard a cry she knew well. It sounded like the crowing of a rooster, but deeper and louder. Before she could wonder why the bull should cry out now when there was no cleaning to be done, the cry changed. It cracked like thunder, and deepened. And then a roar was heard, not of a beast, but of water. A great rushing of water.
A river crashed through the street. As people fled and clung to walls, trees, and posts, they saw to their horror that many children had been caught up in that river.
And charging fiercely through the waters, as if there were no river at all, was Glormadarck.
His lips were curled up and his red eyes drawn down. He snorted and the waters ahead of him turned to steam. The keeper had seen such a countenance before upon the face of a bull, but never upon this bull. Never upon Glormadarck’s gentle face.
She too was afraid, for she saw that her children were among those who were tumbling through the water. They were the bull’s waters, ethereal and airy. But just as unstoppable as rapids full of natural waters.
So long did the waters persist that the keeper feared they would not recede.
But at long last, they did.
And the people of the town went searching for their children, finding them frightened and shaken, but unharmed.
Many whose tolerance of the bull had always teetered on a knife’s edge, turned against him. And they quickly turned others against him too in that very moment. Rising to his defense were the twins, who even pushed down a child or two when they cried out against the bull, before the keeper gathered them up.
Glormadarck did not defend himself, but retreated back, and ran off, as the cries of the townsfolk called for him to do.
The keeper returned to the farm with her twins, but Glormadarck was not there. She waited for him, but he did not return, and by nightfall, she left her twins with their father, and searched for the bull in the moors and by the lake.
There she found him. And though she had been frightened before, and angered by fear for her twins, though she had wanted an answer for why he had done as he had done, she now felt fear only for the bull. She now remembered that he had only ever been gentle. But she remembered too his fierceness when he rushed with the river he had summoned.
She asked him why he had done as he had done. And she regretted that they had no language between them that would let him answer. She shivered from the cold and damp, though she had clothed herself well and soundly against the chill. A warm glow rose from Glormadarck’s red eyes, and that glow warmed his keeper even as a hearty fire would do.
The cold seemed not to bother Glormadarck at all. The keeper noticed a wound upon his flank, a cut too deep and precise for a branch. She thought he must have been struck by some knife or tool before he fled. She lamented the cruelty of her own people and treated the wound as best she could. But the wound too seemed not to bother him at all. He sat down upon the soft moss and lowed in almost a whisper. She sat down beside him, warm against his great side.
“My little love,” she said, kissing him upon his nose.
She sat with him all night. For he too was her child.
That night, the keeper had a strange dream.
By the lake shore, there galloped a magnificent horse, a stallion whose coat was white as snow, and whose mane was of soft silken locks that he tossed about his graceful neck. He neighed and reared and cantered, and from somewhere came the laughter of children.
The stallion bore something upon his back, not a saddle, but a sack full of glittering jewels and sweet-smelling treats, and as he cantered closer, there came squeals of delight from children. And now the children came into sight, running toward the horse and his sack full of treasure. But as they drew closer, the stallion’s mane began to grow and writhe, ensnaring the children.
The children did not notice at first, but soon, they began to cry out in terror. The stallion opened his mouth, menacing the children with his razor teeth, and a rotted gray tongue that dripped with foul poison. The children wept and the children despaired.
From somewhere, there came a familiar cry, a crowing, and the thundering of heavy hooves.
A great black bull, eyes afire, came charging at the stallion. But the children were still in harm’s way. So the bull cried out again, and his cry cracked open and turned to thunder. He summoned a great river to rush at the stallion, pull free the children, and carry them away to safety.
The bull and the stallion clashed then. The stallion sliced at the bull’s flank with a sharp hoof, and the bull stabbed the stallion with his horns and flung him back into the murky waters. The bull stamped his own hoof upon the beach, branding the sand and rock with an unseen mark that the stallion dare not cross again. The bull then turned to follow the course of the river he had summoned, his eyes still flaming with anger.
When the keeper woke in the morning, the sun was bright, and the moss was warm and dry.
And Glormadarck was gone.
She returned the next night, and the next, and many nights thereafter, but she did not see him again.
And so, she too did not return to the moors by the lake.
Some years hence, the keeper’s daughter, who was old enough by then to help both her mother and her father in their work, delivered a calf of a sweet and playful cow. The girl found the calf to be somewhat strange and yet also familiar. After she cleaned him off and let him feed, she went to fetch her mother.
“I want to keep him, for he is already dear to me,” the girl said, “but should we not take him to his father?”
The keeper smiled at her clever daughter then, as they both looked upon the little black-haired calf with short ears and red eyes.
They went to the moors by the lake, and waited till night. It was cold, and they were fearful, until they heard a familiar lowing.
They followed the sound, and there in the moonlight filtered through fog, they saw a great dark shape moving toward them, and yet felt no fear.
Emerging from the fog was their friend, Glormadarck, whose eyes glowed and warmed them.
All the more so did his eyes glow when he saw his son.
And all the more so did his eyes glow when he saw the calf’s mother.
The keeper and her daughter had brought the cow in the hopes that somehow, she could follow her son.
Glormadarck approached the cow, brought his mouth close to hers, and from his mouth flowed a mist made of ethereal waters into and through the cow. And though she did not look transformed, she was. Only her eyes showed it, glowing warmly, and her eyes flicked off a silver dew. She smiled with those eyes at the keeper and her daughter.
Glormadarck allowed himself to be kissed upon the nose. The calf looked wide-eyed at the weeping people who lay their hands upon his sweet little head and said their goodbyes to him.
The keeper and her daughter watched three shapes melt into the mist, leaving behind only a soft warm glow that soon faded. And a sweet memory that would never fade, but would live on as a legend.
The legend of Glormadarck.
Copyright © 2023 Nila L. Patel