"Lo! Hark to the cries o’ the mewling maid,
Soon to be sundered, as foretold
In twisted roots and lofty boughs,
Where grimmest fate was writ of old.
For has not ev’ry creature known,
For all the ages of the world,
O’ the seething lust o’ Coally Nag,
For ripe and tender little girls?"
Coally Nag is an ancient nature spirit whose shifting form is that of a demon horse, and who yearns eternally for a human bride.
He has just met a young girl named Sarah, and with their union they are destined to bring about the end of all men...
This is an illustrated folk tale, excerpts of which may be read below.
A Very Wild Jig
One day in the harvest-time when Sarah was walking home, a queer little man stepped out of a thicket of briars and declared that his name was Coally Nag. Sarah had not seen Coally Nag before, but Coally Nag said that he had seen Sarah more times than he had seen mayflies hatching at the river’s edge.
"Come with me to my house,’ he said. ‘"It is through the woods and under the hill. There we can eat shrews’ bones and dance a very wild jig," and he did a queer little jig to show her what he meant.
The Horselings of Man's Ending
"Six times shall you accept my seed, so that I may sire upon you my progeny.
There shall be seven foals, and each shall grow to be more terrible than the last:
The first shall be Despair, and he shall trample the homes of men beneath his sixteen hooves.
The second shall be the filly Goatface, with knives for eyes, so that whomsoever she looks upon be sliced all to the littlest shreds.
The third shall be Man-About-Town, the stallion with three hearts, all blacker than midnight’s blood.
The fourth shall be Nuzzle-Muzzle, whose breath is a poison gas to melt the skin and flay the lungs.
The fifth shall be Hateful Pony, who shall earn her name a thousandfold.
Lastly shall come the twins Morgon and Gorgon, a pair so fell that at their birthing you shall be split asunder like a rotten gourd and never see the sun nor breathe the air any more."
The Foes that I Slew on the Highest Hills
"I am Coally Nag, and I was old when the world was young! Aye, and when first I galloped upon the seashores I felt stone beneath my hooves, for the waves had yet to grind that stone to sand. And when I was a foal, the high places of the earth were low and the low places high, so that the graves of the foes that I slew in the seas lie now on windy mountaintops, and the graves of the foes that I slew on the highest hills are sunk now beneath the briny waves. And not once in all the long ages of the world have I suffered a breaker of oaths to live!"
The Wedding at Midnight
And so that night when the moon was highest in the sky, Sarah was married to Coally Nag. The ceremony was performed by Sad Old Mister Wibberdy, who catches wicked children with his long, long fingers, and for their witnesses they had the nixies and the crows and the sprites. Sarah wore a dress of fine spiders’ silk, as befits the bride of an elder one, and Coally Nag wore naught but his ebon skin, as was his wont.
When the ceremony was over, Coally Nag said to Sarah, "Come, wife, let us away to my house which is through the woods and under the hill, for I am keen to dine upon shrews’ bones, and long have I been desirous of a very wild jig."