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The Soldier and the Coachman, Part Two

The Night Collector gave this to me in Novembris 403, in Glen Marach, since I had just finished reading Chapter One aloud.

 

CHAPTER 2

Wagers

 

            Now listen well my dears as this tale has only just begun!  Your young soldier man is walking towards the castle that is inhabited by those tricksome Fair Folk and the only thing he has with him be his blue rugged sack and his deck if cards (which have never yet been tested mind you!). Look into the fire again.  Look and see and you will see the same thing our soldier sees

 

            The soldier stared into the flames of the hearth as he waited for his company to arrive.  The castle was run down and dust covered everything there. Indeed, the only thing not dusty was a large table. No doubt in times past did knights gather around it, but now the only things that came to this table were the Fair Folk. The soldier spent his day pacing around the castle and seeing if anything was of interest-, which there wasnt.  Now he sits in front of the hearth waiting for his company to arrive.  And arrive it does, and in a most unusual way!  The sky had now been darkened by nights cloak and a strange cold wind moved through the castle.  Laughter seems to travel on this wind that now swirls around our soldier.  This laughter grows louder and the dusty tapestries on the wall begin to shiver from the wind themselves, and as they do they seem to shimmer and the soldier could swear that for the moment the images within them have come to life! The fire in the hearth rages and blasts outward from its stone prison and the soldier turns to behold this fires outburst. The flames nearly touch his face and he jumps back to avoid them and as he does he bumps into something. Well, someone, that is. He turns to see the room filled with images from the tapestries: buxom young peasant girls, nobles, and farmers to name a few. These people from tapestries are odd though. They seem to shine with a strange glow. It is as if the light reflects from them as they move. Truly our soldier has never seen anything like this!  He glances towards the tapestries which are now only a strange tangle threads, like a weave that has had random threads of the weft pulled from it and left hanging.  Stunned, he turns his gaze back to the new company.

 

Well, well! A Fair Folk wearing a beautiful blue black taffeta gown says with a sly look and a grin. Looks as if weve some company tonight my friends.  By the looks of him, I think hes a gambling type! Have ye come to play at cards with us my dear young man? The Fair Folk smiles and gives an ethereal laugh as she turns and makes her way to the table. The others follow her- some laughing, others just watching the soldier with rapt interest. The soldier follows as well.

 

Yes, the soldier says. Ive come to play at cards with you goodly folk.  I am longing for a grand game and no one here in town has been able to grant it me.  The soldier moves to the head of the ancient table and takes out his deck and begins to shuffle. A mutter fills the room as the goodly folk exchange words and glances to one another all the time, the fire light reflecting form them.

 

Well take you up on that good soldier.  For we have not had a good game in a while as well, but be warned soldier, we play a high stakes game here. The beautiful lady leans close, very close indeed to the solder and looks directly into his eyes. A very high stakes game soldier. I wonder what it is youll wager. The Fair Folk leers at the soldier and rises from the table.

 

What shall he wager? this gorgeous being asks at the top of her lungs. What shall he wager?

 

I like his coat comes a voice.

 

I like his teeth, hes got nice teeth goes another.

 

How abouthis spirit. Says the leader rather directly. She turns and looks at our soldier. Would you wager that?

 

Yes

 

There is a stunned silence in the room that is quickly followed by a round of odd laughter.

 

But you too must have a wager!  What have you that you can put to the table my comrades?

 

The leader thinks on this for a moment and then looks to on of the torn tapestries. Weve several barrels of golden ore in a room behind that tapestry there.  Would that suffice young master?

 

Show me.

 

And show him they did!  Some of the folk in the room pressed a secret stone within the wall and a door way appeared.  Into this hall they went and rolled out six barrels.  They pried the tops of these barrels of and the gold ore within gleamed by the firelight.  They brought a piece to the soldier who bit into it and smiled back. Very good says the soldier. Let us play!

 

Shuffle. Cut. Deal.

 

 Oh how they played that night.  Hand after hand they play, our soldier winning every one.  The Fair Folk try as many tricks as they can and still they do not win.  The evening passes away and early in the morning the morn the Fair Folk are not pleased. They become very frustrated with our soldier and all of them at once slam down their cards and leer at the soldier.

 

Not fair! Not fair!

 

Ive tired cheating and its no good

 

I say we take his teeth anyway

 

Enough! yells the one in the blue-black gown.  She then looks her companions over and turns her gaze to the soldier. Yes, something is a miss my young lad and well have no more of this.  Time to collect on our wager my comrade.

 

Fine, says the soldier. But allow me to ask you a question before you do and the soldier throws his sack upon the table and looks at them all. My question is what is this?

 

For a moment they all looked rather puzzled and in unison answer: A Sack.

 

Well if this is a sack, then get in it!

 

A pleasant grin takes the soldiers face as the Fair Folk in the room begin to panic as scream as they are drawn into the bag. Swearing and cursing all the way they are! And would not you be as well if you were being compelled into some old blue sack? Once all the Fair Folk are in the bag our soldier ties the bag shut and throws it over his shoulder.  The bag is wriggling and moaning from the beings with in it.  Once outside the soldier throws the bag on the ground and proceeds to beat its contents until pained cries come forth.

 

Oh, please stop, let us go! Let us go!  Ouch quit it, oh quit it you mean man!

 

Have you had enough? The soldier asks, I will gladly beat this sack some more if you havent

 

No more.  Please young master no more!

 

I will stop and let you go under one condition:  You must make an oath that youll never come to this castle and this town again.  Lets its people be!  Will you swear it?

 

Yes, We swear it, just please, please let us out of this cursed sack!

 

With that, the soldier opens the sack and one by one the Fair Folk leave it.  As the last one leaves, the one in the dress who seemed to be the leader of the lot, the soldier grabs a hold of its ear and rips it from the Fair Folks head.

 

Yewouch! What did you do a horrible thing like that for?  I need that.

 

I know you need it. Before you go I want you to make an oath to serve me

 

Never, you must be loony!

 

I am not loony, I have a sack! The soldier thrust it at the one-eared Fair Folk who then shied away from it at once.

 

Alright, alright. I agree to serve you. Can I have my ear back now?

 

No. This I keep so that youll hear me when I call you. It will also remind you of your oath, The soldier says as he put the ear in a small pouch. Now be off with you or Ill put ye in the sack again!

 

            The Fair Folk shimmers and disappears in a cloud of sparkles.  The soldier with six barrels of gold ore makes his way back into town.  The town rejoices at his return. Celebrations are had in his honor with plenty of food and drink.  Now much richer the soldier buys this castle (and gets rid of the tapestries!) and it is here he makes his home.  Not long after the handsome soldier found a beautiful lady.  They were married and shortly after came a son, a son as handsome as the soldier. They were so happy as a family with the wealth they now had.  But we all know that money doesnt by happiness, dont we?  There are some other things that money cannot buy as well. Money cannot pay the coachman to pass you by. Nor can it pay him to pass your beloved son by

 

           

 

Chapter Three

The Healers Glass

Previous: The Soldier and the Coachman, Part One