The Legend of the Accursed Mountains
Daybreak crept through the small window in the room Sihana shared with her sister, Ajola. Dust motes floated in the beam of light, and Sihana stretched and yawned.
Dressing without making a sound on the cold, dirt floor proved difficult. Even harder, was creeping past the room where her mother would just about be waking for the day. Somehow, though, she managed to exit the small, wooden shack she called home without detection.
Crisp morning air washed over her face, waking her senses. Her nostrils twitched at the acrid scent of rain that lingered in the air from the night before.
As she found the loose stone path that zigzagged into the Accursed Mountains, doubt began to set in. What if the legend is true? What if I really do become cursed?
Shaking her head until all doubt fell out, she marched along the loose stone path. Before long, she came to a dense thicket of spruce trees, with a dark blue lake swelling around the rocky banks. As she stood next to the water’s edge, the lapping sound soothed her anxieties, giving her the strength to keep walking.
Sihana didn’t know why it was so important for her to enter the mountains. Prokletije, as her mother always referred to them, held some kind of magical power over her from the first time she heard the legend.
Two men—brothers—were hunting in the mountains, one beautiful summer’s day. These brothers were always in competition with each other, and often squabbled over who was the best hunter, fighter, lover. Until one day. One fateful day. Whilst out hunting, they came across a beautiful fairy. With long, golden hair and blue eyes the size of tea plates, the two men stopped, transfixed.
The first brother, Leotrim, took it on himself to demonstrate his physical prowess, while the other, Rezar, simply talked. He asked the fairy questions, told her she was beautiful. When it came to the end of the day, the brothers’ sense of competition reared its ugly head. They asked the fairy whom she liked best. They forced her to choose. But she couldn’t. Instead, she replied, “Leotrim, I love you for your strength and bravery.”
“Ha! Bad luck, bro!” Leitrim said, slapping his brother on the back.
“Oh, no. I haven’t finished,” said the fairy. “I love you for your strength and bravery, Leo. But, I love you, Rezar, for your good looks and gentle disposition.” She smiled at Rezar, and he touched his fingers to her cheeks.
In an explosion of rage, Leotrim took his dagger from its sheath and plunged it into his brother’s chest. “Now, you can only love me, fairy,” he said, grabbing her wrist and striding back towards his home.
By the time they got back, his mother was waiting for their return. “Mother, I have battled with my brother for the love of this beautiful fairy. Her name is . . . “
“Elira,” she hissed.
“Elira. We are to marry, mother, isn’t that wonderful?”
It took a moment for his words to register. When it did, his mother’s face flushed as she said, “No! How dare you?! Rezar was your brother, and you slay him like a goat on the hill. I curse you and your new wife, and I curse those wretched mountains that caused the evil in your mind. May every child you ever bear, and the children of your children have nothing but bad luck and unhappiness as long as they live! And those mountains . . . may all who enter looking for love, come away with hearts filled with hate.”
Sihana shuddered. Every time she thought of the story, her skin tingled. As she reached a steep incline in the path, she heard the oddest, most out of place, thing: singing. A male voice, deep and rich. There were no homes in this part of the mountains; nobody lived here. Yet, his voice travelled towards her, filling her with warmth.
As she reached the apex of the hill, she saw him. A small pool, with water of the deepest blue, sat in a level grass clearing. Inside the pool, a young man with dark hair and eyes, swam. As she moved closer, she could see his clothes, discarded by the edge of the pool.
Even though she knew she should walk away, she couldn’t. Invisible strings pulled at her clothes, forcing her closer. She cleared her throat, and the man looked up.
“Oh, hi. You made me jump. I was just having a little swim before the start of day.” He swam over to Sihana and climbed out of the water. She was relieved to see he hadn’t removed his breeches. He held out a dripping hand and said, “I’m Dashurie. It’s nice to meet you.”
As their skin connected, a spark of electricity fizzled through her arm and into her chest. “Sihana,” she replied.
Hours passed, as they sat on the edge of the pool, talking and laughing. When dusk settled around them, Sihana rose to her feet.”I have to go home. My mother will be worried.” When he took her face in his hands, she melted inside. Their kiss felt warm and natural, like their lips were made for each other.
As she ran back down the path, Dashurie called after her, “Come again tomorrow, my love. I will be here, waiting.”
Pausing to look back at him, she said, “Okay. I promise I will.”
She ran all the way home, not caring how angry her mother would be, or how skeptical. The legend of the mountains was rubbish, and she knew that as a fact. She had nothing but love in her heart. Love: not hate. The mountains were magical. She had always known that. And where magic resided, anything could happen.
*This story is loosely based on a legend surrounding the Accursed mountains in Albania.*