A Darkling's Tale..

The following I worked on for a bit. It's for my Changeling Tests.. but I won't update until I've rewritten all of the stories for the test results. You'll note Grimm's Fairy Tales and Edgar Allen Poe have an influence here =)

A Darkling's Tale:

There was once a miller who had a beautiful daughter, as she was grown up, he was anxious that she should be well married. Her father was convinced that the first best suitor should be suitable. Not long after a very rich and austere man asked for her hand. The miller could see nothing wrong with him so he betrothed his daughter to him.

The girl didn’t care for him. She felt no trust. Not a day went by that when she looked at him; a chill crawled up her spine. One day her betrothed said, “We shall soon be wed, I shall have to ready the house.” Out of innocent curiosity she inquired, as to where his house was.

“My home is out west in the dark woods. But before you can see it, I must clean it up a bit.” She excused herself from the dinner table not before he announced that she should visit on Sunday afternoon. ‘I have already invited guests for that day, and that you may not lose your way – I will spread ashes along your path.’

Friday came, and she felt dread crawl under her skin when she spied the dark woods beyond her father’s cottage. At long last her curiosity got the better of her. She filled her pockets with peas and lentils to sprinkle on the ground as she went along. On reaching the thorny entrance to the forest she found a slightly worn, but hardly noticeable path.

She walked the whole day through the bracken until she came to the deepest, darkest part of the forest. There she spied the lonely home, a dim and mysterious building, with all shutters and doors closed. This did not please her at all. No one seemed to be home even as the sun was setting, so she decided it best to see what was inside.

Not a soul to be seen! What silence reigned throughout! Suddenly a voice cried:

“Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair,
Linger not in this murderous lair.”

The girl glanced long enough to see the voice came from a bird, colorful in such an odd and dirty place. It swung in a cage on the far wall, again it cried:

“Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair,
Linger not in this murderous lair.”

The girl passed on, going from room to room, but they were all empty. At last she came to the cellar, and there sat a very, very old woman, who could not stop shaking her head.

“Can you tell me,” asked the soft-spoken maiden, “if my betrothed husband lives here?”

The very, very old woman shook her head harder, “Ah you poor child, what a place for you to come!” She continued rocking back and forth, “This is a Fae den, a murderers’ den.” The lady stopped rocking long enough to stir the cauldron. “You think yourself a bride and that your marriage will soon take place, but you will only dine with death at your marriage feast.” Her gnarled finger pointed to the steam rising from her cauldron, “Do you see the water I’m obliged to keep on the fire! As soon as that dark and unwholesome Fae has you, he will kill you.” The old woman rocked back and forth again, “He will eat you.” But then, the croaking voice softened just a little, “He will eat you, but you are not lost.”

Thereupon the old woman led her behind a large rotting cask, which hid her from view. “Keep as still as a mouse,” she whispered urgently. “Do not move, do not speak, or you will be the dinner! Tonight, tonight when the wicked Fae and his minions sleep, we will flee.”

The words hardly escaped the hags haggard lips, when the ragged crew came home, dragging through the entrance another young girl. The bird began to squawk its call before one of the minions cackled and threw the cage down. They were drunk and paid no heed to the girls mewling and sobbing. They choked her with wine to drink, three glasses full: three glasses of intoxicating red, white, and yellow. Soon her mewling and sobbing stopped.

The Fae with his long fingers tore her dainty clothing and laid her out on the table. The cleaver was soon in hand, and they tore the beautiful body to pieces, sprinkling salt where they may.

The poor bride crouched trembling and shuddering, she now understood her fate. It was at this moment that one of the Fae squealed in joy. A gold ring, remained on the little finger, but try as he might – he could not draw it off. Her Fae husband took the hatchet and hacked off the finger, but the finger sprang into the air, falling behind the casket into the bride’s lap. They lit a lamp but could not find it.

“Have you looked behind the cask?” said one of the treacherous minions. But the old woman called out, “Come, eat your suppers, let the thing be till tomorrow; the finger won’t run away.”

The ragged crew shared a laugh at that and ceased the search. The very, very old woman had mixed a sleeping draught with their wine, and before long they were all lying on the cellar floor. As soon as the girl was assured, and it was a very, very long time till she was, she came from behind the cask. Lightly she stepped over the contorted bodies of the murderers, all sleeping like angels close to one another. Every moment was renewed with dread as her steps creaked on the old wooden stairs.

She passed safely and slowly, and she with the old lady, hand in hand, opened the door and hastened as fast as they could from the Fae’s murderous den. The peas and lentils had sprouted in the night, all large enough to see where her path had taken her. All night they made their way through the briar and bramble, and it was morning before they reached the mill. The girl wept as she told her father, the old crone took to warming the young girl with blankets.

So the day came for the marriage feast. The bridegroom arrived; in his wake a familiar company of guests approached. The miller had taken care to invite all of his friends and relations. Soon all were eating merrily and the father asked that each guest regale them with a tale. The soft-spoken maiden sat very still, and did not say a word.

‘You, my love look tired,” said the bridegroom, turning to her, “perhaps you had a dream you would like to share?”

“I will tell you a dream then,” said the soft-spoken maiden. “I went alone through a dark and dreary forest and came at last to a lonely house; not a soul could be found within, but a bird hung on the far wall and cried:

‘Turn back, turn back, young maiden fair,
Linger not in this murderer’s lair.’

Again the bird cried:
‘My darling, this is only a dream,
So hush my sweet, no need to scream.’

I went through this wicked home, room to room, but they were all empty, everything was dim and lonely. At last I came upon the cellar, and there sat a strange and very, very old woman. She could not keep still. I asked her softly, if my betrothed lived here and she answered, ‘Ah you poor child, what a place for you to come!’ She continued rocking back and forth, ‘This is a Fae den, a murderers’ den.’

I had no where to turn, but this very, very old woman let me know, that my betrothed would kill me without mercy and afterwards eat me.

‘My darling this is a dream’ teased the bird.

‘The old woman hid me behind a large cask, and scarcely had she done so when the Fae and his ragged crew came home, dragging a young girl along with them. They gave her three kinds of wine to drink, white, red and yellow.’

Her dark husband turned to her with a questioning glance, “But it was only a dream?”

“Hush my sweet, no need to scream.’ The bird cried.”

The soft-spoken girl smiled, the guests chuckling at her clever retort:

‘They tore her dainty clothing, and butchered her upon their dining table, sprinkling salt as they went.’

“My darling, this is, only a dream.” She reminded her husband – still more guests chuckling.

‘One of the little minions spied a gold ring left on the dead girls fingers, and it was too difficult to draw off. The darkest and tallest of the Fae took a hatchet and hacked off her finger, but that finger sprang into the air and fell behind the great cask into my lap.’

The soft-spoken maiden threw an object onto the floor, “And there, is the finger with the ring.”

The bridegroom during the recital had grown very pale indeed. But the soft-spoken maiden had gained the art of enchantment with fear and curiosity, and he found he could not resist her tale or her words. He tried to escape then. But the guests seized him and the murderous minions and held them fast.

Instead of a feast, there was a banquet, decorated with the hanging bodies of the murderous band – clinking against each other like chimes in the wind.

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