A/N: The Nacken's Song toys with Leroux's ideas about Daddy Daaé filling his daughter's head with tales of the North. It was written for PFN's Halloween morbidity contest, and tied for first place.
Thank you to The Scorpion for organizing the contest, and all of the work that it entailed. We writers owe you our gratitude!
The Nacken or the "Water sprite" is mentioned in the old Nordic folktales as early as in the tenth century. He is a solitary being who can be seen close to the water, mostly in small lakes or in streams. You can never really know how he looks…the most common tales say he is a handsome, naked man - a very erotic being - sitting in the stream, playing the most beautiful music on his violin. He entangles human beings with his wonderful music.
… courtesy of Morion
The Nacken's Song
Along the gravelly, rutted rues
Of wintry Paris; worn and weary,
Trod the bundled, frigid few
To their home-hearths blazing cheery,
Afore the night's unfurling gloom
Should swallow them in snowdrifts dreary.
Nay, one lady, grave and fair,
Remain'd atop the Garnier,
Enfolded in the frozen air,
Wringing icy fingers; waited
Where the grey roofs tower'd high
And gargoyles perch'd, sublime and sated;
Sentinel lords o'er passers-by,
For her love, two hours' belated,
Until the darkness cloak'd the sky.
Christine Daaé, Northern daughter,
Flaxen locks and rosy face;
Whispers tales her father taught her:
Trolls and goblins, dolls and lace.
Of Skogsra leading hunters' slaughter,
Children of the changeling race.
Or milking maids, who at first sight
Would fancy Nacken water sprite,
And dared give chase in blind delight.
Tho' the best-loved tale, she oft did say
Was Little Lotte, asleep in her bed;
And in her dreams, was carried away
By an Angel's voice inside her head.
On seas of song, she'd blissfully sway
'Til into the night, day brightly bled.
Upon the stones, this poor Mam'selle,
In ribbons blue and baubles borrow'd,
Breathed a song she knew very well,
Hiding hated tears and sorrow,
Fearful that dim fate had fell'd
Her childhood friend; for on the morrow
With the dawning of the sun,
Man and Wife would wildly run
Toward Sweden's freedom, finally won.
Raoul de Chagny, her youthful lover
Swore to steal her away that night
From watchful, yellow eyes that hover,
Lurking in shady, shelter'd heights,
Or depths of the opera ne'er discover'd,
Where darkness reigns in place of light.
Cursing cold black's baneful tiding,
O'er her lost love bitterly wept,
Unaware in bowers hiding—
Death's Mask—to the shadows kept;
In cavernous hell no more residing,
Closer to empyrean crept,
Bent to banish from his life,
Long lonely years; no more in strife
With Christine as his living wife.
The Shadow beckoned to his singer;
Calloused by her hidden tryst,
He steeled his smile and wrapped cold fingers
Round her little, lily wrist.
Above her hand his corpse lips linger'd,
Blessing it with a ghostly kiss.
And with calm countenance barely shored,
Vaingloriously gestured to her hand.
She braved a glance and to her horror,
Found on it a golden band:
A wedding ring, no less no more,
To bind her to the darkness, damned.
"Erik, poor Erik," she whisper'd low,
"Pray, do not take me there below,
'Cross Averne's lurid ebb and flow
To your bleak tomb's dank recess
Where daylight bold holds little worth.
And thus embraced by death's caress,
I'll sleep upon my funeral berth.
I ask no silk, jewel or largess,
Nay—just to live above the earth!"
But Angel cruel refused to listen,
Sweeping down dark halls, unheard,
Halting not, 'til torchlight's glisten
Met them in the mirror blur'd.
And wounded by her grim admission,
To his bride, cried, undeter'd:
"None, save this, I can deny!
Gentle wife, your eyes please dry;
Your husband loathes to see you cry."
Beneath the opera they descended
Thru labyrinths iced in winter's wake;
His boat o'er waters veer'd and bended
To his lair beyond the lake.
With fair Christine, the ghost intended
Day forever to forsake.
He asked, "Recall sweet Music's fire?
Thru memories veil'd, sift and sieve.
It lifted you to lofty spires
And in my song, you'd joy to live
Beneath the spell of Apollo's lyre;
Music anew, I'll gladly give."
Her gaze was bright and glassy-eyed,
But trembling lips at once belied
Her saddened soul. In vain, he sigh'd,
"Those perilous paths, my warning heed:
A fool's death waits, if there you roam.
Christine, take refuge here with me;
Happily make this place your home.
Now rest your head upon my knee
While I read to you from this fairy tome.
"You've heard of ellevolk's leafy keep,
Of gygers' knolls, or wood nymphs' tails
In forests bosky, play and sleep;
Or of drown'd draugs' shrieks and wails,
And sailors call'd by sirens deep
To lose their way in violent gales.
But water Nacken, solitary,
Is wickedest of all the fairy.
O'er his fine form, maid's eyes tarry
'Til desire clouds right and wrong,
And with fair fiddle, wooden hollow,
Lures her from life's clanging throng
To watery grave in beryl streams shallow.
If e'er you hear the Nacken's song—
Christine, please swear you will not follow."
With bated breath, she flinch'd in fear
When spider fingers deftly brush'd
A wayward lock behind her ear.
Ashy cheeks red ruddy flush'd,
Leapt to her feet, lest he draw nearer,
And to her bedroom's haven, rush'd
To bolt the door and turn the lock,
Then hours listen'd for a knock
'Til hands turn'd quarter round the clock.
Thus into dreams at last she stray'd
When all about was eerily still;
Specters cut in hues array'd
Wove their gossamer webs until
Sleep's feeble fabric quick was fray'd
By a violin's muted trill.
The music danced, the music addled;
Bow strokes strong to pierce the gloom.
She rose from her bed and lit a candle,
Afraid she'd wake her ghoulish groom;
With fingers shaky, turn'd the handle,
Bent to find she knew not whom.
Mind bewitch'd by music's guide,
She flung the front door open wide,
Wander'd to the waterside;
Down she trod, as one bemused
And knelt o'er mirrors, unaware;
Smiling faintly, nimbly loosed
The soft waves of her yellow hair;
And in her image pale diffused,
Saw the water's deep despair.
Slipping to the boat unseen,
She steer'd the way she'd come before.
Beyond the lake, a pale white sheen
Glided 'cross the distant shore;
The fine form of Raoul de Chagny
Her love, she'd thought to see no more.
Blue eyes wide in disbelief,
Faint heart ousting bitter grief,
She leapt to rocky ground's relief
For northern Sweden ready to fly;
Cast away her dismal fate
To dream of morning's blessed sky,
And dusky sunsets roseate.
She bade the lair one last goodbye
And frantically cried "My dearest, wait!"
Mid-stride he halted, taken aback,
Then calmly, languidly twist'd round
His mouth was wide and yawning black,
Yet from his lips there came no sound.
At once he vanish'd thru stone cracks
Into forbidden undergrounds.
With steadfast mettle she trail'd along,
Winding thru the labyrinth long,
All the while, listening for the song.
She walk'd in silent darkness slowly
Fearful that she'd never find him.
Fingers grazed o'er flint walls lowly,
Braced for doppelganger grim,
When thru the murk rang music holy:
A violin's doleful Requiem.
Sanctus did its summons sing,
Leading her to the depths of hell.
Shadows stretch'd like devil's wings
Thru endless paths; she tripped and fell
O'er cellar rats and unknown things,
'Til death hail'd with its silver smell.
Candle high like funereal mourner,
She cross'd herself and turn'd the corner,
Screaming at the sight before her:
Everywhere the walls ran ruddy,
Swath'd in red-fringed drapery;
Sick, she knelt on stone floor muddy—
There, sprawl'd cold upon the lee
Was the murder'd body, bloody,
Of her love, Raoul de Chagny.
His eyes and lips were frosted hoary;
Round his neck, a rope's death mark.
She back'd away; on slick ground gory,
Slip'd and snuff'd the candle dark.
All around the Nacken's story
Fiercely plea'd for her to hark;
Death's cold fingers clutch'd her mind;
She stumbled through the passages blind,
Caring not which way they'd wind.
Thru icy tunnels, terror chill'd—
The violin's song grew wildly welter'd
—Fleeing, lest she too be kill'd.
Here and there; she furiously will'd
Lead feet to carry her to shelter.
"Erik, my Erik!" she cried in anguish,
Frantic in the throes of strife,
"Do not leave me here to languish—
Come and find your little wife!
You've won," she sobbed, "my soul is vanquish'd—
I swear I'll live with you for life!"
Still, escape ever eluded her;
Jutted, jagged path stones hew'd her
As the Nacken's song pursued her.
A dervish, round the tunnels whirl'd;
Fire feet ached and raw throat burn'd
Until, at last, the path unfurl'd
To well-known ground, where rock met silvern
Thru the cavern, echoes purl'd
Above the noxious Lake Averne.
Down to the lake front, she went dashing
Where the boat bobbed 'long the edge,
And heedless, ran thru waters, splashing
Midst the slippery silt and dredge,
'Til all at once, she came down, crashing
Thru a sunken, rocky ledge.
The shifting bed of Averne thunder'd;
Perilous stones collapsed asunder
'Neath her feet and pull'd her under.
She flail'd and fought against the rocks,
Yet they held fast, like pitiless tyrants
Pinning down her frilly frock
With crushing weight, so swift and violent,
She ne'er had time to cry in shock
Before her captor forced her silent.
Black and hellish, heavy laden
Waters clasp'd her cold limbs chilly,
'Til her struggle slowly faded
And fingers flutter'd against chantilly
Clouds of cloth 'round her cascaded,
Pale drifting like a waterlily
By peaceful waves; her frenzy slaked
And seal'd her fate, no more to wake—
Drown'd upon the glassy lake.
Along her death path, Shadow strode,
Pierced by eerie light within:
A pair of yellow eyes that glow'd
Behind a figure, shroud'd thin.
Humming remnants of an epode,
He drew from his cloak, a violin.
Bloodless face and yellow eyes stared,
Admitting neither rage nor hate,
As one who's wholly unprepared
To see such forlorn, tragic fate;
So slowly was his mind ensnared
By bitter care of one too late
To save his beloved, macabre bride.
He dove down to her watery abide
And pull'd her to his corpsy side
Beyond the tumbling waves' rote,
From waters slithering serpentine.
In blood-red ink: his requiem's notes
He scrawl'd on paper white pristine,
Then finally 'cross the top he wrote
In messy letters, "For Christine."
He placed it under her cold, dead hands
And slid his bony fingers, tangled,
Into her hair of seaweed strands
With ragged breath; his heart was mangled
When he glimpsed her wedding band,
And said in low voice strange and strangled:
"Christine, Christine, my careless reacher—
I warned about the Nacken creature,
Yet you'd not listen to your teacher.
Dear, do you find this game grows dreary?
All that could be giv'n, we gave;
Now on me, rest your heavy head weary;
Know, with you, I'll share my grave."
With one last kiss to each eye bleary,
He let her slip beneath the waves.
Bent to do just as he swore,
The phantom leapt from sepulchral shore
Beneath the gloom, to rise no more.
Christine Daaé, Northern daughter,
Death-dim eyes and tresses long;
Believed the tales her father taught her:
Truth or fable, right or wrong.
Now she sleeps below the water,
Victim of the Nacken's song.