This is the 100th post!
There was once a poor couple who lived by the sea. The poor man would go fishing while the poor woman would collect seaweed and driftwood out of which she would make shoes to sell at the market. Now it happened that although they had always wanted a child, they had remained childless and this saddened them both.
One morning, the old man took his battered boat out to sea to catch fish. After a while something caught at his net and he began to pull it in. Firstly the boat began to tilt and after a little while the sea began to churn and foam violently. The poor man began to wonder if he should let go of the net, but it was the only one he had and so he was loath to let it be claimed by the sea.
He continued to heave on the net and leaned backwards to counter the weight of whatever was in the net. Suddenly, to his shock the vast gleaming head of a water dragon rose up from the sea, water falling from it's great jaws. It's fearsome bulk, though huge was yet light within the waves. It arose up until it seemed that the poor man could see nothing but the gleaming scales of the beast before him. The poor man fell back in his boat and shook with terror.
The dragon leaned over him and said in a voice like the roiling of the waves,
"Are you so poor that you would rather catch me in your net, even at the risk of death?"
The poor man told the water dragon that he was extremely poor and that if he could catch no fish, he and his poor wife would starve. He had not meant to catch the dragon in his net and apologised sincerely. The dragon took pity on the poor man.
"Release me from your net and I will grant you three wishes," the dragon told him.
The poor man thanked the dragon and carefully freed the dragon from his net. He wished that he and his wife might always live in comfort, always have enough to eat and have an exceptional child. The dragon chuckled and bowing his head agreed. Then he merged with the dark waves and sank beneath the foaming sea. The poor fisherman turned his boat around and headed back to the shore.
Imagine his surprise when he drew his boat upon the sands and found a large and comfortable house where his poor ramshackle hut had been. At the door, his wife stood dressed in silk and velvet and the finest lace. He trotted towards her and as he did so, his tattered rags fell from him revealing a fine linen shirt, a velvet waistcoat, breeches of wool and a silk coat embroidered with blue dragons and elegant fish in silver. On his feet instead of the driftwood and seaweed shoes, he wore boots of the finest Spanish leather.
That night the fisherman and his goodwife ate well and over supper, the fisherman told his wife about the dragon. She in her turn praised the dragon and kissed her husband.
The following morning when the fisherman awoke, he dressed in equally fine clothes as the ones he had sat down to supper in. He went outside to stand upon the beach and there he saw a large rock shaped like an egg. It seemed so beautiful that he felt compelled to touch it. As he did so, it cracked and fell apart leaving at its centre a little girl made entirely of stone. Her hair was dark as obsidian, her eyes as grey as flint and her skin was pale and smooth as alabaster. Her lips were pink as rose quartz and she smiled like the sun on a diamond, a sparkling bright smile. A most exceptional girl, whom the fisherman instantly felt affection for. He reached out his hand and she took it in her own cool fingers. His wife was as delighted as he was and they called the little girl, Petra because she was made of stone.
For many years, they taught her all they could and when they could not teach her, tutors were brought to the house to teach her. She became quite wise and quite compassionate for a little girl made of hard stone. On her 18th birthday, an old woman came to visit the fisherman and his wife. She wore a green dress and a red apron and her face was as wrinkled as an old apple. Her old eyes were dark, yet full of laughter. They couple took her in, remembering when they were poor and gave her a good meal. Then she said to them both,
"Have you not a daughter?"
They said they had and called Petra who came into the withdrawing room with a book in her hand. The old woman asked her if she loved to read and Petra said she did. The old woman asked her what she knew of Love and Petra said that she had read many books that spoke of the subject and while some praised Love, many others were deeply hurt by it.
"Therefore grandmother, I can make neither head nor tails of it and perhaps it is best I experience it at least once before I make up my mind."
The old woman said that it was a wise decision and kissed Petra gently. Suddenly Petra's hair flowed and her skin blushed and softened. Her eyes blinked and became a little greener and inside her, the stone heart of hers, softened and beat softly; and Petra lived at last, not merely as stone, but as flesh and blood and bone.
The couple thanked the old woman who laughed and laughed until she vanished and all that was left was the trace of her laughter in the air. For the old woman was a faerie and the mother of the sea dragon.
Not long after, Petra met a handsome gentleman whom she fell in love with. She learned the bliss and the joys of love with him and was on the verge of marrying him, when he fell out of love with her and went away. Now she knew the pain and the deep sorrows of love and stood by the sea's edge adding to the tide with her tears. The sea-dragon came to her then and asked her if she would rather be returned to her stony self. She shook her head and the dragon swam away never to be seen again.
Petra never fell in love again until she met a man who stirred her heart and proved himself true to her in every way by marrying her and buying her a huge library so that she might continue her studies.
As for the fisherman and his goodwife, they had a statue made in bronze of their little stone girl so that they might remember her by. Every night for as long as he could, the fisherman took the finest fish in his catch and gave it back to the sea as a tribute to the dragon and through him to their exceptional child.