The Bells of Belloch

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Once upon a time there lived a mayoress, who ruled over the city of Belloch, snuggled among the hills. She had been left the keys to the treasury by her grandmother and, when she descended the stairs to inspect her inheritance, she found there riches uncounted. Among these, there were also two large, heavy and beautiful bells that were mounted on their stands but did not let a sound.

Then the mayoress was told, “The uvulas of the bells are missing. It was foretold that before the bells are made to toll, you would not be able to speak, laugh or dance.”

And, indeed, from that day the young mayoress was silent, sober and her feet pinned to the ground. She ordered new uvulas to be made, but none seemed to fit. She had the bells struck with mallets, but the sound was all awry. There was no escape from her predicament but to issue a proclamation asking for help.

“Whoever can find the uvulas of the bells shall be richly rewarded by the mayoress,” the proclamation said and was sent along with messengers to every corner of the Belloch City, and to the neighbouring ones as well.

So it was that the captain of the city watch heard it, while he sat at the table with a cup of wine in his hands. He often had cups of wine nearby, as he drank from morning to night every day of his life and was never sober, but let the city of Belloch be guarded by his inferiors.

The reason for his drunkenness lay in a time when the captain had still been a young boy.

He had a brother dear to his heart, with whom he spent many days in play and many nights in conversation. Each summer they went to the Lake of Belloch, although they were warned that many only got out on their bellies, for it was the home of an undine. The two young men did not heed these warnings, but jumped and swam in the green waters, finding refreshment and joy in such pastimes.

One very clear and fine day, they noticed there was something glimmering at the bottom of the lake. Captain’s brother was the first to jump, but he never swam out. He, too, was found on his belly because the shimmering things he had tried to get out of the lake had been too heavy. Since that day, the captain no longer jumped or swam in any lake or stream. As time passed, he started to drown himself in drink, which he did not stop once he was made a captain.

The captain now knew what his brother and he had tried to pull out of the Lake of Belloch – those were the two uvulas for the mayoress’s bells. But he thought, “Nobody ought to meet their end in the lake ever again, diving for these things, not even for our mayoress’s sake,” and he waved the messenger away.

Nevertheless, that same night he was visited by the spirit of his brother. Water dripped from his hair and clothes while he begged the captain to go back to the lake. In the morning, the captain dismissed the dream, thinking it had been induced by wine and the mayoress’s proclamation.

But on the second night, his brother came once again, and again he pleaded with the captain to get the uvulas for the bells. In the morning, there was a puddle of water next to the captain’s bed, which he ordered to be mopped up and would not think about.

When his brother’s spirit came for the third time, however, the captain could ignore him no longer. The dream was not a false one, he now knew, and he did not drink a single cup of wine that day. Instead, he mounted his steed and forbid anyone to accompany him, riding by the straight road for the Lake of Belloch.

There the captain stood where he had stood on the fateful day his brother was lost, and he dove into the lake the way his brother had done. The first time he barely went deep enough to touch the uvulas. The second time he managed to put his hands around them and knew they were too heavy for him to lift, and he would also drown trying. But the third time, the undine came to the captain and warned him to stop trying to take the uvulas out of the lake.

“I told your brother the same, but he would not listen,” she said. “He is now one of the many spirits and ghosts that plague my lake, having found neither peace nor rest after death in these waters. But you should go to the mayoress and ask her to bring the bells to me instead, for they first ought to be tolled under the surface of the lake.”

The captain came out of the lake spitting water on the grass and he did as the undine had instructed. He returned to the city of Belloch, where the mayoress still neither spoke, laughed, nor danced. He stood before her in audience and told her everything that had passed, and she listened to his words with care.

Then she ordered the bells to be taken out of her treasury, put in carriages and brought to the Lake of Belloch in a long procession. By the toils of many men, they were removed from their stands and lowered to the bottom of the lake. Down there, in a manner undisclosed to any person on the shore, the undine fitted the uvulas in their places and tied the bells with ropes.

The bells then began to toll and at their sound all the ghosts and spirits of the drowned people rose from the lake up in the air like mist. Among them was the captain’s own brother and he bowed deeply to both the mayoress and the captain before he joined the apparitions that were sailing on the wind.

As they went on their way, the liberated hosts of the dead raised the bells from the Lake of Belloch and took them along, coursing the sky. Then they hung them in the highest tower of the Belloch City, and the bells began to toll once more. The people city came out of their houses with tears in their eyes, and so they saw their mayoress returning. She was singing, laughing, and dancing down the streets, and they all joined in.

And the captain – he got his reward and was never drunk again in his life.

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