You may, perhaps, be feeling a touch of darkness just now, of despair, of grief.

Feelings, alas, that many watermaidens and snowmaidens understand all too well.

Most, of course, are solitary sorts, keeping themselves hidden in their rivers and springs and ponds, hiding from mortals and fairies alike. A few have even, by choice or coercion, spent their lives half-frozen behind snow and ice, a condition that, however cold and uncomfortable, keeps their hearts secure from pain. Others live only through a single rainfall, a life too swift, too ephemeral, for sorrow or joy.

But even the most solitary watermaiden may find herself grieving over the loss of a nearby tree, or the disappearance of a favorite owl. Even the most frozen snowmaiden may hear a crack in the ice surrounding her, and for a moment – just a moment – think of pain, or feel despair. And those who have spent thousands of years hiding in the depths of their lakes, can tell you of long dark nights, when they wondered if they would ever see light dance through their waters again. Others sing of lost friends, of lost loves, of moonlit evenings they must not forget.

And those a little less solitary, a little closer to mortals – their sorrows can be even sharper. Many have watched as their homes are threatened, or sobbed as fewer and fewer birds arrived each year. Others have dared to talk to mortals, and even more – something that can bring joy or pain.

After all, watermaidens can fall in love, even if they are made of water.

And today, by decree fee, the Official Day of Watermaidens, is a day for remembering those sorrows, those fears, those despairs.

A day where the shimmer on the water you see, out of the corner of your eye, might be no more than a shimmer or a flash of light. Or where a twirling mist might be just an ordinary mist. The water shaking in your glass nothing more than a nearby breeze.

Or it might be a watermaiden, letting you know that she understands.

Watermaidens Day is the brainchild of folklorist Nin Harris. As always, I'm just borrowing it for fun.
For the most part, water maidens and snow maidens avoid each other. The single touch of a water maiden, after all, can melt even the coldest heart of any snow maiden, or turn her hands to clear water. The snow maidens, in their turn, can freeze a water maiden in her tracks, or worse, trap a water maiden beneath ice. That last, it is whispered, has happened to more than one unwary water maiden choosing cold oceans to explore the ice of Antarctica, or a glittering glacier, or even merely returning to her lake for a forgotten item. Some, after a few goblets of hot molten rubies, have even spoken of the long standing war between the two, marked by flurries of battle here and there, fights that have left lands glittering with melting ice, and covered rivers with rushing slush.

The fairy courts, of course, have forbidden such things, but the water maidens and the snow maidens have never been ones to pay too much attention to the decree fees of the fairy courts – even when they hear these decrees, which is not often.

And so, the water maidens and snow maidens keep their distance. Usually.

But every few years, a few snow maidens and water maidens do gather together to celebrate Water Maidens Day.

Not in only one place, of course – that is too much cold for any water maiden, even those who inhabit the icier regions of the world. And snow maidens cannot journey far from their clouds, or their snow; they die swift deaths if they do, and so they are unwilling to travel far to meet the water maidens.

Still, some of the more adventurous, the ones who do not wish to remain hidden in hills of snow, or beneath ice laden trees, and who find even a frost-lined fairy court far too warm for them, do venture out to half frozen, watery lakes and ponds, or deep bays by the sea, and call lightly to the water maidens.

Sometimes, this call is only a puff of wind, or a swirl of snow. The water maidens are always alert at this time of year, of course, watching carefully for ice and snow, or the rush of fairies seeking cold and warm sunlight to flavor their winter feasts. And if the water maidens do not respond to wind or snow – well. The snow maiden can always howl in the wind.

They are kin, in a way, the water maidens and the snow maidens. It is a call they cannot resist.

Eventually, the water maidens emerge, shivering.

They have only one remedy against the cold of the snow maidens: dance.

And so they do, the snow maidens dancing with them, for as icy as they are, as frozen their hearts, no snow maiden can resist the call of the dance.

So be cautious, when you travel today. If you see a melting icicle, or a sliver of ice across a puddle, or, in warmer regions, a cool pond or lake, be wary. Watch. That shimmer? That flicker of light that you cannot be sure you saw? That green sparkle on the ice?

You might be seeing a water maiden sip sunlight just before she slips back into the dance. Or a snow maiden adjusting the the ice on her dress.

Or the edges of a war.

After all, it is the Day of the Water Maidens.

And this year, the Snow Maidens intend to dance.

Water Maidens Day is the brainchild of poet, writer and scholar Nin Harris, whose story Your Right Arm. recently appeared in Clarkesworld. (Which means that if you're nominating for the Hugos this year, she's eligible for the Campbell.) I'm just borrowing it for fun.
Today I must advise you to pay careful attention to the rain.

You see, barring a few seductions here and there, water maidens tend to live rather solitary lives. Oh, that's not to say that they don't find the peace of their ponds and lakes and rivers and springs interrupted by mortals more often than they would like, or find their careful flower arrangements disturbed by children or alligators, or find themselves glumly removing trash from their waters. But none of these activities exactly involves conversation, and even these days, some fortunate water maidens can avoid even all that.

But that doesn't quite mean that they don't crave company. Quite the opposite. Or that they don't wish to dance.

The difficulty, of course, is arranging such matters. Water maidens have never been terribly comfortable with the formality of fairy courts. Or, for that matter, vice versa – many of the noblest of fairy queens have been known to make quite unkind comments regarding the puddles that water maidens often leave in their wake – to say nothing of the occasional unfortunate events with wilting water lilies and seaweeds. So gathering at the fairy courts – although this may be their right and privilege – is rarely the first choice.

Nor are water maidens ever particularly comfortable long away from water, or in water that is not their own. They can stand on land, certainly – they have even carried out the occasional seduction there, from time to time – and have even been known to venture a mile or so away from their water to obtain one of the latest electronic devices, or particularly fine chocolate. Legend even tells of three maidens who never fail to creep to nearby windows to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. (They are reportedly all on Team Dragon, and have threatened violent flooding if the final episode does not contain dragons flying in triumph.) But these are for short periods only – an hour or two, at most – and not quite right for a gathering of water maidens.

And so, when a water maiden craves company, she summons the rain.

You might see it – a touch of mist over a puddle, or a pond; a glimmer of light on a river, or a shimmer against a white cloud. Or you might see it on the edge of the sky – a thin grey line that for a moment, flashes silver and gold.

And then the rain, summoning the water maidens.

Watch carefully, when the rain comes after something like this. Watch very carefully, for that flash of other, for a sudden shimmer, for a touch of cold on your skin.

It might just be a water maiden, inviting you to dance and sing.

Particularly today, which is, by decree fee, the official Water Maidens Day, a day for all water maidens to emerge from the waters.

Water Maidens Day is the idea of poet, writer and folklorist Nin Harris. I'm just borrowing it for fun.

(Also, for those of you in the northeast currently buried in snow, the water maidens feel you. They really, really do. But even their magic has limits.)
Once again, the fairy courts have met and declared that today is, by decree fee, Official Watermaiden's Day.

Now, the trouble is how to inform the water maidens.

It is easy enough for the fairies to send out messages to mortals: a dream here, an enchanted drop of water there. Nothing spectacular, of course, nothing overt: just enough to let a mortal spend a moment or two, perhaps, thinking of water and dreams, shadow and light, or the sound of a drop of water falling on crystal. Nothing more than that; nothing that might let mortals know that fairies really are, well, real. A moment, and it is done.

Water maidens, however, are harder to reach. They have never been ones to come to fairy courts, after all, which are, they explain, far too dry for their tastes. Even the ones concealed behind waterfalls, or filled with dancing fountains. They are still filled with – how can the water maidens put this? – air.

And so the water maidens stay in their ponds, their rivers, their springs, climbing out only to explore a puddle or two, or perhaps snatch a luxury item or two from an unwary mortal, or even – for particularly bold water maidens – an hour or two of shopping.

Which means that the fairies must deliver the decree fee to the water maidens.

It is quite a daunting task: preparing messages that cannot drown in water or vanish in mist, yet cause no harm to the crystal clear waters some water maidens still jealously guard. (Alas, other water maidens have found themselves guarding polluted waters – but that is something that impacts all fairy realms, not merely those of water.) Preparing messages that cannot be seen by mortals.

Preparing messages that water maidens will see.

Some fairies, it must be confessed, simply dodge out of the task entirely, decree fee or no decree fee. You must not blame them too much: they are, after all, fairies, and in some sections of the world it is simply too cold or too hot to ask anyone, especially a fairy, to do anything that involves getting out of a bed or that is not strictly confined to drinking tea brewed from moonlight or eating ice cream carved from starlight.

(This last, by the way, is a specialty of fairies from the Antarctic; should you ever be fortunate enough to taste some, be sure to have some restorative tea of pennywort and mint nearby – the effect on mortals is said to be quite devastating.)

Other fairies, either more diligent or more interested in saving their ears, noses and feet from the fury of the fairy queens (who can become quite creative when crossed) resignedly show up to their assigned clouds or caves or tall standing stones and set to work.

I fear that their precise methods are so secret that were I to attempt to list them here, not only would this blog disappear, but also every computer attempting to read this blog. Oh, not right in front of your eyes, of course. You would just happen to find yourselves distracted – just for a second – a cat, perhaps (fairies love to work through cats) – the scent of chocolate (fairies find this very practical) – a sudden explosion (fairies work with what they need to work with) – the sudden realization that you really, really have to call this person right away, like now (fairies also like to work through guilt) – only to find, when you turn back, that somehow you or someone else has moved your computer. Someplace. You'll find it, of course. Very soon. In the meantime, you might as well head out and buy a replacement – you've wanted one for awhile, haven't you?

By the time you return, or think to use a cell phone or table, this blog entry would be quite, quite gone.

So let us not risk your computers. Let us instead discuss what happens when these messages are released into the wind and the rain, or, in certain particular cases, delivered in person by fairy hands.

Don't try to look for them: you will never see a fairy, much less a fairy message, when you are looking.

But you might see a quick swirl of air, a quick dazzle of light, a shadow where you should not see a shadow. Or hear a joyous tinkling bell or a howl of the wind, in a place without a bell or wind.

And if the drink you are holding in your hands quivers a little, for no reason at all; if you think you hear an echo of music while you stand in the shower, or see a rainbow as you pour water into a pot; if you see the wind spin up the falling rain into a whirl of water and dance, or find yourself dreaming of water; or simply feel your breath suddenly catch –

Well. That might be a water maiden, catching a fairy hand.

Watermaidens Day is the brainchild of folklorist, editor, poet, storyteller and scholar Nin Harris. I'm just borrowing it for fun.
Today is, by decree fee from some of the more remote fairy courts, the Official Day of Watermaidens.

Thus, you may have found yourself wondering – quite helplessly, through no real fault of your own – how to catch a water maiden. You may have found yourself thinking of the wealth some of these water maidens are said to guard, although in truth this is only a few of the water maidens, and only in particularly cold or particularly swift or particularly deep rivers and lakes that can be explored only while holding a flower grown from a living diamond in your mouth, with a ruby formed from a broken heart in your left hand and an emerald formed from bird song in your right. Try to swim to the bottom of these lakes or rivers without all three, and you may well find the bottom, but not the gold, unless you know how to transform the laughter of water maidens into spun gold. (Most alchemists recommend starting with unicorn hair.)

Or you may be telling yourself, more practically, that a water maiden has fewer calories than the chocolate that will be going on sale tomorrow – although this, you should be warned, is not entirely true. Water maidens themselves cannot be consumed –they swiftly turn to water in mortal mouths, a defense developed against bears and other less civilized creatures – and frequently demand very luxurious, very caloric, gourmet meals. You may be better off indulging in the chocolate.

Or, you may have sipped a glass of tap water, or gulped down a bottle of pure spring water trapped in plastic, and found yourself dreaming of a wild eyed maiden with blue – or was it green? – or clear? – or dark? – hair.

In any case, you may now find yourself wanting – more than wanting, craving to summon a water maiden.

As you might guess, it is hardly an easy task, even for those living near water, even for those who have built homes on clear lakes in the hopes of seeing these maidens, contenting themselves with glimpses of birds and alligators instead. Those living near deserts may have even less hope. But. It can be done.

It does not take much: living water gathered from the earth – not the water trapped in pipes that rushes to your homes, too wild or beaten from its imprisonment to be controlled, but living water stolen from the surface of the earth – distilled starlight (best stored in bottles carved from aquamarine) – a piece of unworked turquoise, the claw of a dragon, a lace from a seven-league boot, the flight of an owl, all pummeled and mixed together. When you have it, shaking and stirring in your hands, sing.

Do not worry if you can sing or not, or if the neighbors will hear and call the police, or if the nearby dogs and cats will object to the sound. Sing.

Wait.

Or, instead, take a cup of liquid in your hands as the twilight creeps upon your home, and hold it, for a moment, thinking of water maidens and other things that lurk in the shadows. Sip it slowly, and place the cup by your bed as you dream. And if, in the morning, your pillow is a little damp, and you remember hints of green and blue and clear and cool and smooth and tingly and soothing all at once –

You may find yourself singing songs of water and dreams later that day. You were warned.
Small blue winged birds have told me that this is the Official Watermaidens Day.

Not that water maidens are exactly official. Indeed, few of them have even been inclined to do their duty in faerie courts, and their few attempts to establish legal identities in mortal realms (for a few of them are enthralled with the magics of mortals, but find that credit cards are not usually issued for watery springs lacking legal identities, and yet they do not quite have the cash on hand to purchase iPads and the music and art that can flow from them) have only ended in a few trembling water droplets at the edge of the buildings that house bureaucratic nightmares. For water maidens, you understand, cannot survive long on land. Eventually, their water calls to them, or the earth and the air sink into them. A clever water maiden might still manage to return to her river, or spring, or lake, if she feels the air inside her in time. Less clever water maidens may find themselves lost in the earth.

Given this weakness, I admit that I am at loss to explain just how the water maidens have spread throughout the world. But they have: you can even find them in Antarctica, trapped beneath frozen lakes, or riding on the backs of leopard seals, laughing as they chase penguins through the icy waters, and in desert oases, where they wait in warm waters, dreaming of dancing on the solar winds. Some have fallen in the streams beneath erupting volcanoes, their tears mingling with the fires to form the black glass of obsidian, which in turn has sometimes been used as a weapon.

Indeed, any bit of still water might conceal a water maiden – the remote lake, the raging river, even the pond choked with garbage and weeds. Be cautious.

Particularly around water lined with trees. And places where the trees hang over the water, where shadow and light shimmer on the stillness, and your eyes smart against the green of summer and the winter snow.

There.

That motion, that circle spreading across the water.

A fish, you might tell yourself, until you hear the song. A bird, you might tell yourself, until you hear the words, words formed in your own true language, whatever that might be.

A particularly clever bird.

A small flash of shadow. A hand.

Be careful. Be very careful indeed.

For they are tricky, these watermaidens, tricky as a drop of water dropped upon a hand. Tricky as the smoke from fires. They may take any form they wish – a harmless fish, a water bird, a leaf drifting upon a water.

Or, if they wish, they may appear human.

Almost human.

The beauty will catch you first, the shimmering skin and hair, so beautiful you may not even notice the way the skin shifts in color, from green to blue to brown to green to white and back again, shimmering like the water they rise from. Hiding the way the features shift so that you see whatever face you would deem most beautiful, the features you most desire to see. Desire, yes, that is it, a desire as strong as the longing for water when your mouth is dry as dust.

And beneath her skin, the slow ripples, the slow movement of water.

Or you may see nothing at all, nothing but a flash of light, a splash of water, a shimmer in the air. Just enough to make the world spin for a moment; just enough to make you remember your dreams, remember the way shadows shift in the twilight.

Or you might taste something in your water today – just a little something.

Sip carefully. This day does, after all, belong to the water maidens.

(Thanks to Nin Harris for creating the day.)

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