The Bold Soldier of Chendl
This is a tale of Chendl.
There was in the days before the War a house in the Inner City of Chendl that was as beautiful as the Royal Palace, if not as large; but after the war no one would live in it because it was haunted. At the stroke of twelve there came a ghost, that ran up and down the stairs; and when it struck one, it would place itself behind the street-door, and begin to howl so horribly that everyone felt pity for it. But by royal edict no priest was allowed to enter the house and no one else had the courage. So thus the house remained empty, although the ghost every night cried: "Release me! Release me!"
This had continued a long while, when an old soldier from the Wars came to the city, who, on hearing people speak of the house, said he would sleep a night in it, if a thousand gold pieces were given him beforehand. Belvor the King heard of this soldier's boast and summoned him to the palace. The old soldier said he feared neither goblin nor devil; for what his god protects is well protected. The king then said: "Give me thy hand as a pledge, and tell me with what I must provide thee." "Give me," said the soldier, "a good supply of wood cut small, a dozen bottles of wine, a bottle of brandy, and a pot full of dough, together with a good pan, that I may bake my cakes." "That thou shalt have," answered the king; and when the soldier had all he required, he went with it at nightfall into the house.
Having struck a light, he carried all his gear into a room on the first story, in which there still remained a table and two chairs, and then made a large fire on the hearth, by which he placed his dough, that it might rise a little. He next broke the necks off his bottles, and so did not long continue altogether sober, though he well knew what he said and did. Thirst being now succeeded by hunger, he took his pan, set it on the fire, and threw into it a good ladleful of dough. The cake promised well, smelt most temptingly, was already brown on one side, and the soldier was in the act of turning it, when something suddenly fell down the chimney into the pan, and the cake was in the ashes!
The soldier was not a little angry at the disaster, but reconciled himself to his fate and filled the pan anew. While the cake was baking, he looked at what had fallen down the chimney and found it was an arm-bone. At this the brave warrior began to laugh, and said: "You want to frighten me, but you won't do it with your arm bone." he then seized the pan, to take the cake out: but in the same instant a rattling was heard in the chimney, a number of bones fell into the pan, and the cake into the ashes.
"Now, by sweet voice," said he, "that is too bad. You ought to let me be, for I am hungry!" But every time he tried to bake his cake, one bone or another fell, and, at last, a skull, which the soldier hurled as far as he could send it. "Now the sport will end," said he, and began to bake, when a bell began to sound from a nearby temple. He counted; it was twelve. In the same instant he looked up, and saw that in the corner facing him the bones had united and stood there as a hideous skeleton with a white linen over its shoulders. The soldier called to it merrily: "Ha Sir Skeleton! How goes it? You are uncommonly thin. But come and eat and drink with me, provided the cake and wine will not fall through you." The skeleton made no answer, but merely pointed with its finger. "Well speak then," said he laughing; "but if not, then make yourself scarce." The skeleton continued pointing, but said nothing, and the soldier ate on leisurely, taking no further notice of its movements. The temple bells now struck half-past, and the skeleton striding out of its corner, approached the table. "Ah," cried the soldier, "say what you want, but keep at a distance, else we are no longer friends. I know the power of an undead touch." The skeleton made signs with its boney hands and pointed towards the door.
The soldier grew weary of this, took up his brandy and said: "Well, I'll go with you, do you only go first." The skeleton went first as far as the stairs, and made a sign to the soldier that he should go down; but he was prudent enough not to do so, saying: "Go you first, always first; you shall not break my neck." They thus descended into a passage, in which lay a heavy stone, having an iron ring in it. The ghost made a sign to him to raise the stone, but he laughed aloud and said: "If you want to lift up the stone, you must do it yourself." The ghost did so, and the soldier then saw that there was a great hole beneath it, in which stood three iron pots filled with coins. "Do you see that money?" said the skeleton. "Aha, you speak," cried the soldier, highly delighted, "that's capital. Yes, I see something that looks like gold."
"I was cursed while the treasure went unfound. You have released me, the treasure is yours." said the ghost. "A pretty fellow you!" said the soldier. "You first, down there and help me with the gold." The ghost reached out its hand and said: "I beseech you. Take the treasure before the bells ring again." "Much obliged all the same, no; I know you birds. I'll take your treasure, but you must fetch it for me." The ghost was silent for a moment, then jumped down into the hole beside the treasure. The soldier laughed and poured out his bottle of brandy atop the ghost. "Ho sprite-kin," cried he, "by the Laughing Rogue I bless you, may the wine of sleep put you to rest. Wander no more!" and with that the soldier slammed the stone lid shut upon the hole.
That morning the old soldier went to the king and collected his bounty. The ghost was heard no more. The paladin Torc who had failed to protect his king from the servants of Nerull was finally at peace. The soldier left Chendl that day and was never seen again.
Adapted from "The Bold Soldier of Antwerp" retold by Benjamin Thorpe