Telling Tales 4
The Spirit Preparing
Ping went the hammer. Crack went the walnut. “Crunch,” crunched the soldier. “Oh, I will not survive this night and it is all my comrade’s fault. If he hadn’t been beaten, he never would have sought revenge! If he hadn’t skipped work to gamble, he never would have been beaten! Yet now he is safe with the regiment guarding a wall that no one will ever attack and here am I, to be devoured this night by a dragon!” The thought of guarding the wall reminded him of the spirit that he had freed. There was no sign of him, nor smell for that matter.
Ping went the hammer. Crack went the walnut. The soldier ate another walnut. “Crunch.”
“Ho ho!” cried the spirit.
“Aaahhh!” screamed the soldier.
“Ha ha,” said the spirit. “That was a good one. You should have seen your face.”
“What are you doing here?” asked the soldier.
“I assume you’re in trouble, else you would not have thought of me,” said the spirit. “Can I have a walnut?”
“Help yourself,” the soldier sighed.
“What’s the problem?” crunched the spirit.
“I am to face down a dragon that will surely kill me. It has been terrorizing the tsarevna nightly for a year and the tsar has decreed a great reward to the man who can deliver her.”
“Very enterprising of you,” commended the spirit, helping himself to another walnut.
“My comrade set me up while I was drunk! I cannot fight a dragon!”
“You are rather small,” agreed the spirit, “and you lack horns.” He showed several of his to the soldier.
“Please put those away.”
“I have an idea,” said the spirit, and he ate another walnut, “but you should really save some of your walnuts if it is going to work.”
The soldier scraped the pile away from the spirit, then pushed one back his way. The spirit was relieved. “Go on,” said the soldier.
The spirit ate happily and said, “Take this claw of mine that is curved nearly into a circle. Put it around your finger and it will make you strong. Take this skin from my foot and wear it like a glove. It will make objects in your hand large and heavy. Take this skin from my back and wear it on your other hand. That which you touch will turn to metal.”
The soldier looked doubtful. The spirit’s scaly and gnarled skin was rigid and tough and smelled like socks after three days of marching.
“You’re lucky I’m not having you eat one of my horns. I could, you know,” said the spirit. The soldier slipped on the gloves and the ring.
In the distance, there was a sound like thunder.
“You don’t have much time. Pick up that hammer with your heavy hand.” The soldier did so and the hammer grew to the size of a sledge. “Put it down.” It shrunk back to its normal size.
“Here comes the dragon,” said the soldier.
“I almost forgot!” said the spirit. “Eat this horn.”
“Oh,” sighed the soldier.
“You’ll thank me later,” said the spirit.
“Gaaaahhhh,” choked the soldier.
“Ha ha,” said the spirit, “you should see your face. But seriously, here what you need to do – pay attention, there’s not much time.”