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The Soldier and the Coachman, Part Three

Nathan Harte came by this in Avrilis 404 and gave it to me.

Chapter Three

The Healers Glass

 

 

            Can you believe that he managed to play rounds of cards with the goodly folk and win?  Truly the soldier has a rare spirit and luck indeed, thanks in part to the mysterious gifts he had received for his kindness. I cannot say that helping beggars will always yield such results my dears! Very often there is more than meets the eye to beggars isnt that true?  But that is another story to be told and I must return to the dying son.  Surely the Coachman is on his way to give the son a ride.  Can you not hear the sound of hooves on a gravel road?

 

Every healer and surgeon had come to the boys bedside, but to no avail.  The soldier was so over come by grief that he neither ate nor slept for days.  His wife joined him one day and pleaded with him. I am so tired wishing and crying!  I do not want our son to die. There must be something we can do! Indeed there was. The soldier remembers the pouch with the ear of the Fair Folk within it.  He jumps from his chair and takes the pouch out from a locked box.  He picks up the ear and calls into it I call you now.  You vowed to serve me and I call you now. There is a cold wind that blows through the room and in with it comes a dense fog.  When the fog clears the one-eared Fair Folk (still wearing the blue-black dress) is standing in the room with them.

 

I have heard your call.  Speak your will soldier.

 

My son lays dying in the next room you will tell me how to heal him.

 

Very well then. Take me to the dying one soldier.

 

 

The soldier took the one-eared creature to his sons room. The beautiful wife followed, all the time gazing at this remarkably beautiful being.  

 

This is my son.  I fear that he will die, for no surgeon, healer, or sorcerer has been able to help him.  I beg you, please tell me how to cure my son.  Old one-eared walked to the bed and looked the boy over carefully.  The Fair Folk muttered under her breath, and then pulled a small glass goblet almost magically from the folds of her gown. She went to the water pitcher and filled the glass and then handed it to the soldier.

 

Hold up this glass and gaze at your sons bed.  What do you see soldier? 

 

There is someone standing at the foot of the bed.  He is quite pale and wan-wearing a hat and vest. He carries some type of whip.  This look terrified the soldier and he went quite pale himself.

 

Ahh said one-eared as she walked aimlessly around the room, not even looking at the boy or his father. That is the Coachman.  He comes to you all at some point.  All must ride in his carriage.  Only he knows where your ride shall stop. She fixes an eerie gaze on all in the room. You see, the Coachman is at the foot of the bed and you still have time. All you need do is sprinkle water from this glass over your son and the Coachman will leave, with out collecting his passenger. Should you have seen the Coachman at your sons head, it would have been to late. He will collect his passenger no matter what.  Indeed, you are lucky soldier. The last sentence was filled with distaste for the soldier.

 

            The soldier gazes through the glass once more and sees the gaunt Coachman at his sons feet. He then lowers the glass, dips his fingers in the water and sprinkles the water over his son. His son starts to revive and the soldier hold up the glass again just in time to see the Coachman turn and leave.  The wife is now overjoyed to see their son well again and the soldier cries tears of happiness. The lady Fair Folk walks over to the soldier and tries to take the glass from him, but the soldiers quick reflexes win and he holds the glass high above good old One-eared.

 

This is a fine glass my oldfriend. If you give me this glass I will give you your ear back and release you from your service to me.

 

The Fair Folk thinks on this a moment and then shrugs her shoulders casually. Why not?  Id like to be rid of you after all.

 

            The soldier takes the ear and hands it to the Fair Folk who now turn and walks down the hall.  No big commotion like her entrance, she just walked away.  Now the soldiers head was swimming.  He was so happy to have his son back and now he was thinking that with the left over gold ore he would travel the world with his wife and son.  They would travel as he began his new career as a healer. So travel they did through many countries and many kings until returned to him homeland.  The return was welcomed by many-not just him, but the people and the courts as well, for he had returned to sad news and sad times. 

 

His King was dying and no healer and no surgeon could help. The soldier was called at once to the Kings private chambers where around him had gathered his family and advisors. The soldier filled the glass and looked through its magical panes. There he saw the Coachman standing at the Kings head ready to open his carriage doors and take his passenger.  The soldier lowered the glass and looked grave. 

 

It is too late. There is nothing that I can do, says the soldier quietly. 

 

Your King lies dying and naught can be done? Says a small female voice.  A young woman with a crown stands from the bedside. If the Coachman needs a passenger then let him take me.

 

No! The soldier cries and thinks for a moment. No, if he needs a new rider, then let it be me!  The soldier holds up the glass and addresses the Coachman. Coachman, if you need a rider than let it be me rather than this man.  Hear me well Coachman. Will you take me a passenger instead?  The image in the glass strokes his beard and ponder and then looks at the soldier and smiles. He then nods as he turns from the kings head.  The soldier feels a chilly breeze move through him as if the Coachman has passed through him.  The soldier wets his fingers with the water from the glass and sprinkles it over the king who slowly starts to revive. As the kings color come back to face, the soldiers color drains away and he staggers out of the room and into the room across the hall. The soldier crawls into the bed shivering and achy.

 

            His wife and son are sent for.  They join him and cry next to his bed for hours. Why?  Why did you tell the Coachman to take you? they plead. The soldier manages a smile and asks his son to put water into the magic glass.  The son does so and hands it to his father who takes is and gazes at the foot of the bed where stands the Coachman with a grin on his face and whip in hand. The soldier summons his strength and speaks.

 

Coachman, before you take me as your passenger Ive a question for you. The soldier then pulls his other out and places the rugged blue sack on the coverlet.  What is this Coachman?

 

It is a sack. An eerie whisper floats on the breeze

 

If this is a sack, then get in it Coachman!

 

            A look of terror sweeps across the Coachmans face as a shadow with substance comes from the foot of the soldiers bed and flies into the sack.  Quickly, the soldier grabs the bag and ties it shut. He had done it!  He had really done it!

 

Ive caught the Coachman!  Ive got him! He had totally revived and he and his wife and son were jumping with joy.  

 

I am the soldier that caught the Coachman! and the soldier laughed until his belly hurt. He reveled in his boast. The soldier, no longer a young man but not quite and old man, he was just a man. The man who would be famous in story and song for many years to come thought it best to take this sack and put it somewhere where it could never be found. He decided to walk until he found the thickest forest with the tallest trees. When he found the tallest tree he climbed to the very top branch and there the tied the sack with the Coachman in it.  

 

            Once back home the soldier was once again the toast of the town. He was happy to see his son and wife again and they were happy to see him.  For a time, all were very happy.  The soldier grew into an old man his beard turning brittle and grey.  His son had aged into a fine young man and took a lovely lass for his wife. While everyone in the town was happy, a strange thing started to happen around the world. Wars were going on (for when are they not?) and its players would fight all day and wound many, but yet neither side would yield any dead.  This perplexed them until they stopped fighting due to exhaustion and tending the wounded.  Small children that fell from trees would walk away. Old widows taken with plague would lie in bed coughing, and waiting.  It was not long before this strange occurrence came to the soldiers town.

 

            The soldier awoke one morning to the sounds of shuffling and moaning outside his window.  He made his way to it and saw the aged people, many of them, wandering in the courtyard below. These were the wandering people. The people ready for to ride in the Coachmans Carriage. But no Coachman came for them, nor the wounded in the wars, nor the sickly.  The wandering people stared at the soldier with horribly vacant eyes that would plead if they could.  It was then that our old soldier realized the wrong that he had done by ticking the Coachman into his sack.  So, he went on a journey; one that he had gone on long ago-to the thickest forest with the tallest tree.  And that tree he climbed again until he reached the blue sack with the Coachman. He untied the sack from the tree and brought it back home.  He placed the sack on his bed and went to kiss his sleeping wife, and hug his son. Back to his bedchambers he came and there he took up the sack upon the bed and began to untie its top.

 

 

Chapter 4

Coachman

Previous: The Soldier and the Coachman, Part Two
Next: Part Four Coming Soon