There was a time in ancient Ireland when the people believed in magic and in druids and spells. One of these days, a king had been elected to rule over the land. This angered Lir, the lord of the sea, deeply for he had wished to become the supreme ruler of the realm.
To appease Lord Lir, the king gave one of his daughters to marry. The two lovers were blissfully engaged in a joyful life together. Years passed and Lord Lir's winsome wife bore him two darling children, a girl and a boy. After a short period of time there followed a set of twins, two boys. However, during the delivery something went terribly wrong and in the wake of her babies' first cries, the king's daughter exhaled her last breath.
During her time of death, the two oldest children had been swimming in a nearby lake. But these were no ordinary swimmers. They possessed gills for breathing and webbed feet as they were, after all, the offspring of 'the ruler of the land beneath the waves'. A messenger met them by the shore, who announced they were wanted by their father. The daughter and son went home immediately only to find Lord Lir overcome by sorrow as he was seated beside their dead mother.
As the four children grew Lord Lir's spirits declined until one day he met his late wife's sister. Taking notice of the connection between the two, the king offered his second daughter's hand in marriage in order to keep the Lord happy and gift his grandchildren with the affection of a mother again. The new family thrived under the influence of their stepmother.
The mountains were crowned with light, and the lakes and rivers had odd flowers that shook a rain of jewelled dust on any animal that came down to drink. The horses of ancient Ireland were swifter than any horses that are living now and they could go over the waves of the sea and under deep lake-water without drowning themselves. Lord Lir's four children each had a horse that was whiter than snow and more intelligent than the average person.
Everyone in the kingdom adored the children of Lord Lir, except their stepmother. Through time, she had developed a fierce jealousy of the love and devotion Lord Lir had for his children. Her hatred pursued them as a wolf pursues a wounded fawn. She resolved she would stand for it no longer and sought to harm them by spells, poisonous potions and druid magic.
The stepmother ordered hundreds of servants and commoners to do the deed. But in their hearts, they could not bear the thought of murdering the children and refused the wickedness.
Opting to do the dreadful task herself, she took the children and their horses for a ride one day. The five of them paused by a small lake, where the stepmother persuaded them to bathe in the crystal clear water. Little did the children know, that was the moment their malicious stepmother struck them with a rod of enchantment. Startled, the stepmother came to discover the children were too pure to rid herself of them. Even the evilest of evil was aware that killing purities with a heartbeat, was the greatest sin of all and would doom you to an eternity of hell. As the legend claims, the children of Lir were beyond beautiful with their skins as white and soft as swans' feathers, eyes like the ocean and voices that could make an angel shed a tear.
At this she bowed her head and started an incantation. The children looked at each other in fear as they saw a glowing circle envelope them on the water. They saw their stepmother open up her cloak from which a great lightball emerged and hurtled towards them, burning all in its wake.
The ball of light hit the water and caused masses of steam to rise and surround the children as they lost all feeling in their body. Soon, the four of them regained their sight only to see their stepmother laughing at them. The daughter tried to attack her and flailed her arms about furiously but nothing happened except the splashing of water. She turned to look at her brothers only to see that they had all been turned into swans.
'This deed shall not remain unpunished, for the doom that awaits you will surely be worse than ours.' The daughter thundered in a wild fit of rage just before the stepmother disappeared in thin air.
As swans, the children had to spend 300 years on the lake near their father's castle, 300 years in the Sea of Moyle, and 300 years on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, near the Island of Inishglora. To end their curse , they would have to be blessed by a monk.
When the king got word of his daughter's actions, he was hot with anger. And like his granddaughter had predicted, he said 'This wicked deed shall bring severer punishment on you than on the innocent children, for their suffering shall end, but yours never shall.' The king, who also had Druidical power, struck with his wand and cursed her to an eternal existence as an air demon.
But the time came when the 900 years of banishment were ended, and the children were free to make the journey back home. Flying for days above the sea, they landed at the castle once so well known, but everything had been changed by time—for all that remained were ruins, crumbled walls and overgrowth. So mournful was the sight that they did not remain for long, and flew back to the island of Inishglora, thinking that if they must be forever alone, they would go where they had lived last, not where they had been reared.
By the will of the universe, the siblings stumbled upon an old willow tree –where coincidentally, their stepmother was sleeping in the form of an air demon, a pitch black bat. Spotting the creature nearby the daughter brought the tip of a wing up to her beak, gesturing for the others to be silent. In order to protect her brothers from further evil, she resolved to a risky plan that could possibly cost her her purity.
It dawned upon the three brothers what their sister was about to do, and they opened their beaks to protest, but it was already too late. Flying up to the branch where the stepmother was hanging from, upside down and sound asleep, the daughter whacked the bat to the ground with a mighty swing of her strong wings. Disoriented by the sudden pain and commotion, the air demon did not have long to think before she was pecked to death by the daughter's knife sharp beak. With this, she was damned to life in hell and never to be seen again.
Days after, the swans were attracted by a faint bell sounding across the sea. Flying to the mainland, they saw a white-robed man on the shore and realised he must be Saint Patrick, who as had been foretold, was bringing Christianity to Ireland. Sailing through the air, they heard the bell once more and they knew that all evil spirits were fleeing away.
The children of Lir approached the land and as they touched the ground beneath, the weight of time fell upon them. The siblings resumed their human bodies, but appeared hundreds of years old. Knowing his duty, Saint Patrick baptised them and all but one died. The daughter gazed down at her brothers, laying side by side, once more children. As though no amount of time had passed, they lay in their night-clothing, like they would have when their father came to kiss them goodnight. He would have seen their cobalt eyes closed in sleep and touched their foreheads and golden tresses with gentle, loving hands. Their time of sorrow had ended and their last swan-song was sung.
The daughter, pale and wrinkly as she was, looked up at Saint Patrick with tears brimming in her eyes. The white-robed man took her hands in his own and told her that part of her purity had gone along to hell with her stepmother after killing her. And despite the fact the deed had been done for the greater good of her family, that did not excuse her sin. Saint Patrick said that therefor, she would live life over and over again, incarnate as both swan and human until purity returned to her once more.
Through the centuries, the daughter died time and time again, only to be reborn as a baby with the same white wings and vague memories of her previous lives.
Please note that this is an existing myth and that I merely rewrote the story in my own words, adding and alternating a few details so it will fit in with the plot of The Clock House.
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