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The keeper of her soul

This is the traditional folk tale version of The keeper of her soul from Barath's Collected folk tales of the Western Lands.

Once upon a time there lay a village at the foot of a great mountain. The folk of the village were simple folk who lived simple lives. Within the village there lived a maiden most fair who was not yet wed. One day a handsome prince, on his way from one castle to another, lost a shoe on his horse and stopped at the village to have his horse shod.

As the prince waited at the smithy he chanced to spy the fair maiden and was much taken with her. Forthwith he plied her with loving words, silken seduction as soft as the wind, and had his way with her. She was not loath for he was fine of form and fine of dress. His horse shod and his lust sated, he went on his way, not looking back, for he was a prince and she was but a village maid.

Alas for the maid, their loving bore fruit and nine months later she gave her life to deliver into the world a baby girl named Lutetia. The child was a strange one, beautiful, and yet withal given to dreams and trances. When she came into her womanhood it was seen that she was gifted with great gifts of sorcery.

The villagers said that it was not mete that she should be just a rude village witch. They gathered between them such wealth as they had and endowed her with it that she might study with the great wizards at the Academy. In return they asked that she come back to the village and live with them and defend the village against the dragon which nested high in the mountain above the village.

So she did; she went to the great Academy and there she studied the high arts of sorcery under the finest wizards in the Western Lands. She was determined, however, that the fate that had befallen her mother should not befall her. No man should ever have his way with her. She placed her soul in a great green jewel, hard and impenetrable, so that no man might ever touch her soul.

Her studies completed, she returned to the village of her birth. High in the mountain the dragon Azgeroth knew that she had returned for dragons are ever sensitive to high sorcery. Azgeroth bided his time and studied her sorcery from afar that he might know her ways and her skill.

When he had judged that the time had come he flew down from his nest in the mountain and challenged her. Long did they struggle with great spells and much magic, but in the end he defeated her.

As she lay there Azgeroth took the jewel from her and told her that he would not kill her for if he did so, the fire in the jewel would die, and he delighted in treasure above all else. And he told her that she might continue to practice her craft but that she may not interfere with him for he was the keeper of her soul.

So it was for many a year. Lutetia healed the sick, blessed the crops, did small magic for the villagers, and great magic for visiting lords. But when the dragon raided the village and carried away youths she did not raise her hand against him.

Lutetia was a great sorceress and cast a subtle spell to call to her a hero who could slay the dragon for her. For many a year no answer to her call came and then, one day, a hero rode into the village. He ignored the cheers of the villagers and the roses cast into his path by the village maids and rode forthwith to the bower of Lutetia.

"What would you have of me," he asked her.

"I would have the dragon Azgeroth slain and the jewel that holds my soul returned to me," she replied.

The hero looked upon Lutetia and saw that she was wondrous fair and he said, "It shall be as you ask but you must give to me your hand in marriage."

"So be it," she said, "For I must be the keeper of my soul."

Forthwith the hero set out and climbed the mountain, halfway to the sky, to the nest of Azgeroth. There he fought the dragon in a mighty battle. Great were his wounds but in the end the dragon was slain. He took none of the treasure which lined its nest, save only the great green jewel which held Lutetia's soul.

He hung the jewel about his neck and made his way back down the mountain and back to Lutetia's bower. Half dead, half alive, he appeared at her door. Lutetia greeted him warmly but she saw that he wore the jewel hung from his neck and that he did not mean to give it to her. She divined that he meant to keep it that he might be the keeper of her soul.

She said nothing of this but greeted him warmly and spoke soft, admiring words. She tended him and dressed his wounds and touched him with healing hands. And she made for him a potion which she said would heal his hurts but she lied for it was poison. He drank it, believing her, and he died.

She stripped the jewel from his body and placed it around her neck, saying "Only I shall be the keeper of my soul." But she did ill thereby for the jewel had long been in the nest of Azgeroth and was now a thing of dragons. As she hung it around her neck she forthwith changed shape into the shape of a dragon.

No longer a woman, she flew away to the nest of Azgeroth and made it her own. Now, forever more, the dragon Lutetia nests in the mountain, high above the village of her birth. And there she is free and forever more the keeper of her soul.

This page was last updated January 1, 1999.
Copyright © 1998 by Richard Harter