Monday, 7 January 2013

The Pilgrim

Very loosely based on an old Russian folk tale.

Many years ago, a very tired and hungry pilgrim wandered towards a village at dusk, he had been traveling all day and hoped to find a bed and shelter for the evening. As he neared the edge of the village he spotted a graveyard and in the corner of his eye he noticed something move , he crouched down behind an old tree trunk and quietly watched as a figure arose from within one of the graves, the figure, white and spectral slowly glided out of the graveyard and headed towards the town. With his curiosity peaked the pilgrim walked into the graveyard and found one of the tombs with its stone lid slid halfway open, looking into the half open grave the pilgrim noticed a rotting corpse that had evidently been there for sometime, the phantom obviously shared the grave with a mortal man who had unwittingly become landlord to the unholy creature , the wise pilgrim forced back the top of the grave, sat on top of it and waited.
After an hour or so the spectral Creature returned, seeing the pilgrim sitting atop of its resting place the foul phantom hissed and backed away slightly before saying with a snakelike voice " Who dares to shut off my tomb ?"
Calmly and showing no fear at all the pilgrim replied  " I do and you will not return to it until you have satisfied my curiosity to what you have been up to this evening ".
At this the Creature visibly changed, it grew in height exposing its skeletal features beneath its rotting shroud, its massive jaw opened revealing enormous fangs as talons popped from its bony fingers, it screamed as it flew towards the pilgrim its fetid breath hitting the pilgrims face, but the pilgrim was fast and backed away quickly and from behind his back he pulled forth a large silver crucifix, 
" Back Demon" the pilgrim cried as he held the cross towards the Creature. At this the Creature calmed and returned to his spectral form and replied " Very well "
 " If you must know what i have been doing this evening i shall tell you, i am what you humans sometimes call a Vampyre only it is not blood that i seek , it is souls, i am a harvester of souls, i have just drained the life force from two young sisters in the nearby village, in just one hour they will be dead and their souls will become mine, their life force will belong to me, feeding on human souls makes me immortal however i cannot remain outside of a tomb for very long so let me go back to the grave " After hearing the Creatures words the pilgrim now knew he had something with which to barter. " Tell me foul thing " said the pilgrim 
" Is there a way that the two sisters souls could be saved this evening if i promise to let you return to your stinking abode? "
" Yes  " said the Creature 
" But you must promise on the souls of your own children that we have a bargain and once i have told you the way to release these sisters from the grip of death you will let me return to my tomb "
The pilgrim promised to keep his side of the bargain and the phantom recounted the ingredients of the potion that would be required to save the poor sisters souls, the pilgrim ran to the edge of the woods and quickly gathered the hemlock, wolfsbane and root of mandrake which when ground and added to water would make the life saving elixir.
On reaching the village the pilgrim soon found the house in which lived the endangered siblings, a crowd had gathered outside of their house and crying and lamenting could be heard from outside, the pilgrim entered the building to find the children's mother and father crouched heartbroken over their child's beds and members of the family close by, trying to comfort and console each other,
" Please, let me help " announced the pilgrim.
" But who are you ?" asked the father of the girls
" Never mind " said the pilgrim " Just trust me " and at this he ran for the kitchen and began to boil water for his potion. After grinding with a pestle and mortar the plants the pilgrim had gathered were added to the boiled water, the potion was now ready and was poured into two cups, one cup each was given to the girls parents and they were told to pour some of the mixture into each dying girls mouth, the results were instantaneous, immediately some colour returned to their faces, they began to mumble as if dreaming and then finally they awakened looking none the worse for their experience.The family were so happy they began to dance around the beds of the sisters, " Oh pilgrim"  said the father
" How can we ever repay you for your wisdom and kindness ?"
" Please " the pilgrim replied
" Just some food and drink and a warm bed for the evening and perhaps a hearty breakfast before i make my way then you will have more than repaid me " At this all who were present agreed that the pilgrims modest request was a small price to pay for what he had achieved and the pilgrim ate a hearty meal washed down with some fine ale and retired to a comfortable bed for the evening.
The sun shone brightly in the morning through the bedroom window where the pilgrim slept, he awoke and tried to shield his eyes from the bright glare of the morning sun, it was then that he noticed that his hands and feet were bound to the four corners of the bed!
" You must face your death " said the mayor of the town as he walked into the pilgrims bedroom,
" The punishment for witchcraft in this village is to be burnt at the stake "
The poor pilgrim could not believe his own ears, he tried to explain, he told the villagers of the Creature, explained how he had risked his own life and the souls of his own children to save the souls of the two sisters but his protestations fell on dead ears.
At dusk the pilgrim was carried out into the center of the town and tied a few feet off the ground to a large stake, the villagers built a nest of birch and yew branches around the bottom of the stake which were lit by a torch held by the mayor, as the smoke and heat from the fire seared towards him the pilgrim could just make out the old village graveyard in the distant end of town and through his watering eyes saw the Creature arise once again from the grave , just before he passed out with pain, as the flames licked at his legs he saw the Creature point towards him as a hissing voice whispered on the wind " Your soul, its mine, its mine ".

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