A traveling scholar stopped near a lake to refresh himself. Per tradition, he paid his respects to the lake spirits. Placing a chunk of bread on his folded handkerchief, the traveler bowed and asked permission to wash and cool himself next to their pool. He then removed his jacket and washed his face with the cool water.
After wiping his face, he opened his eyes and was startled by a pair of hands thrust from the water. He tried to jump back, but the hands securely fastened themselves onto the men's hair. With a great tug, the traveler was yanked under the surface. He knew well the fate of those taken by the waterfolk, and rather than struggle, he accepted his fate and relaxed.
Downward, he was drawn until the light faded, leaving only shadows. The man could hold his breath no longer and relaxed, causing a great burst of bubbles. Expecting to inhale the pool's water, confusion overcame him when suddenly an enormous bubble enveloped him.
Up his shot, and in seconds, he broke the surface. The traveler quickly grabbed the bank and hauled himself out of the water. Clearing his lungs of water inhaled, he righted himself and stood in awe as a great battle between two water sprites occurred. Two more joined the fury and managed to subdue one of the sprites.
"He's mine. It's my right," shouted the restrained sprite.
"No," exclaimed the largest of the three.
"It is the law, and all who fail to honor and respect us are ours to deal with as we please. Besides, it has been so long since I've tasted human," spat the captive.
"The law is the law, and you broke it. Look there on the bank," said the second sprite.
The captive focused on the small bundle near the water's edge.
"We should tell Mother of your treachery," spoke the largest.
"I beg you no," pleaded the captive.
Behind the group, the water began to boil as the Queen rose and glared at the captive spirit.
"It seems you feel breaking our codes for a taste of flesh is cause for merriment," said the Queen.
"I meant no harm. Please let me go," pleaded the sprite.
"That is no longer an option. What remains is for me to decide what to turn you into as punishment for your selfishness," said the Queen.
The traveler coughed and then bowed to the Queen. "Seeing that it was I whom the transgression was committed against, may I plead for her," said the man.
In stunned silence, the Queen glared at the speaker. "What manner of man are you who'd champion the one who desired his flesh," asked the Queen.
"A simple scholar, Your Majesty. A man who believes in justice and fairness for all," said the traveler.
"Very well, speak your terms," said the Queen.
"It is my wish that the sprite be transformed into the most beautiful fish ever seen this side of Paradise and that she be adored by all who see her for one year," said the scholar.
"You would grant me this?" asked the sprite.
"Yes, and the pledge that, after the year, we shall sit on this very bank and talk of your adventures as a fish," said the man.
"So be it," commanded the Queen.
"Remember that while all will adore you, many will covet you, so best to stay away from hooks and nets," said the man.
Bowing deeply to the Queen, the traveler turned and, after a few steps, spoke.
"Thank you, dear ladies. I shall count the days until I can again admire your beauty."
The scholar then vanished behind the hedge.
"We, too, shall be counting as this should be an interesting year. Don't you agree, little fish?" said the Queen. Then, the sprites slipped beneath the surface to count the days for a year.