by Ravemore

Muirne sat in the tavern shadows, resting from a long day on the road. Smoke tendrils were thick and created a haze around the fire in a nearby stone hearth and the tallow candles on the half dozen or so wooden tables spread throughout the common area. The smell of roasted pork and potatoes permeated the room. She had been looking intently at the skinny and nearly emaciated man seated at a nearby table. He was working on his fourth platter of food, stuffing his face as fast as he could. He had the look of a desperate and haunted man. The inn keeper was also watching him, and was muttering to his portly wife while casting furtive glances towards the ravenous man.

Murine got up from her comfortable spot and glided over to where the man was eating. He barely glanced at her when she sat down next to him. She smiled and leaned in towards his ear and whispered “You are being consumed by greed… but not your own. Do you wish to be free from this curse?” He dropped his fork, nodded, and a tear dribbled down his cheek, to his chin, and then dripped onto his worn shirt. He whispered back, “I cannot live like this any longer.” With this Murine motioned the inn keeper over and ordered a quarter slab of salted beef. He raised an eyebrow, but quickly scooped up the handful of long cross coins she laid on the table and hurried off to do her bidding.

After the dried and salty meat was placed on the table she instructed the skinny man to eat it. He did so… tearing into it like a starving dog. After a few minutes he reached for his mead tankard, but Murine deftly moved it out of his reach and commanded him to eat more. He ate the salted meat until his tongue began to swell and he begged her for drink. She cast his mead to the floor, stood up, and commanded him to follow her outside. He obeyed her without question and followed as instructed. She led him down the dirt road running in front of the inn, but veered off near a stream that passed under a small stone bridge. After they were out of sight from the road she turned to the man and said “Lay on your back near the water and look to the sky. Open your mouth wide, keep it open, and do not close it until the time is right… and you will know when that time comes. Under no circumstances are you to drink of the water from the stream.”

The skinny man nodded and did as he was told, the sound of the running water nearly driving him mad with desire to slake his thirst. After a few minutes of laying on the ground in the feeble light of a half moon, his eyes widened and filled with a look of horror. Two thin, gangly, arms shot out of his open mouth and a creature began to pull itself free from between his crooked teeth. Its flesh was pale, like a dead bloated fish. The man’s lips were stretched further, and the corners of his mouth split with a slight pop as his jaws were distended. His eyes bulged and his skin began to turn blue from lack of air as his mouth gave birth to a spindly little humanoid with large round black eyes containing no whites. The creature wailed, cursing vehemently as it struggled to pull itself free from the man’s mouth. Finally, with great effort it dragged itself out and leapt for the water, drinking it fast like an animal deprived of water for days. The skinny man scrambled to his feet and ran to where Murine leaned against a tree, yelling “What the Hells!?” She merely shrugged and said, “It is called Alp-luachra, of the Sidhe, a fairy creature and a follower of the Unseelie Court. It consumes your sustenance as you eat it, depriving you of nourishment until you either take your own life… or die of starvation” The man then ran toward the road, casting fearful glances behind him, and was never seen in those parts again. He grew old in another county… and told this story often to any willing to listen. (22)