You probably think that you’ve heard it all, right? Nothing can really surprise you anymore. You’re bored by stories of knights and dragons and treasures and dungeons.
But did you ever hear the tale of the Leech and The Mud-Puddle?
Long ago, and far away, farther away than the great glass cities of the western stands, in a small brackish bog along the side of the road, there lived a leech.
It was quite a common leech, small for its age, and living in the furthest mud puddle, completely hidden from the road. It lived quite a calm life, drinking blood from the occasional fish and toad, content with its place.
“Oh, what a big place the world is! That I am quite safe and cozy here in my little mud puddle, away from such terrible things as wars and spells wizards, I should count myself to be very lucky!”
This it said to itself quite often, and was content.
One morning, the leech was nibbling upon the leg of a frog, when a fox came down to drink. “Oh, friend fox, will you lend me a bit of a meal, to-day?” the leech asked.
“No, little leech. I cannot lend you a bit of a meal to-day. I have promised my aid to a young blind orphan, who has given his word to the king. I shall need my strength, and cannot give you anything.”
The leech was a very little bit sad at this, but who in the world cares for a leech? So, he returned to the leg of his frog, content that no terrible things would drag him into that wide wicked world.
At noon, the leech was curled up in his mud-puddle, sleeping soundly in the reeds with a belly filled with frog’s blood, when a raven poked his head about, and shook the leech awake.
“Oh, friend raven, do not shake me so! I am afraid that you have got me sleeping!” said the little leech.
“My apologies, little leech. I have promised a blind orphan my aid, and was searching for the hourglass that I had hidden about here, the one that may stop time for three turns.”
“Such a powerful spell? Please, do find it, dear friend raven. I do not like the thought of such a terrible thing being so close to me!” the leech shook all over in fear, and buried himself deeper into the reeds, and paid the raven no more heed.
That evening, as the sun was setting, the leech crept out of his hiding-place in the reeds. “There has been such a lot of commotion to-day! These dreadful, terrible things are creeping in from the wide wicked world, and making such a lot of noise about my quiet mud-puddle!”
“Indeed, little leech, they have.” An great brown bear peered into the water, blinking his big brown eyes. “Pardon me, little leech, but do you know where I might find a tea kettle? Friend owl has told me that there is a most important tea kettle hidden hereabouts, and I have promised it to a blind orphan.”
The leech quivered. “Not a magical tea kettle, surely! Friend Raven was here earlier, and he was searching for a magical hourglass.”
“No, little leech. The tea pot is merely a tea pot, but it has an exact measure that is very important. Have you seen it?”
“I have not, friend bear. Perhaps you might try the mud-puddles closer to the road.” The leech whispered fearfully, and swam off.
The leech was very worried now. “First, Friend Fox, then Friend Raven, and lastly Friend Bear. All of these things are very worrisome, and the wide wicked world is getting so awfully close.” The leech settled into the reeds, for a long sleep.
The next morning, the leech woke up, and swam off looking for a tasty meal. Scurrying about the mud-puddle, he looked for a frog, or even a fish.
“Oh, Friend leech!” a faint voice caught his ears. Looking up, the leech saw a young boy, white of eyes, with a terrible stab wound upon his leg.
The leech’s eyes grew wide. “You must have come a long, long way in the wide wicked world.” He said. “From a place filled with wars and wizards and spells. But who has hurt you so terribly?”
“My two elder brothers. I was sent on a terribly long quest for the king after my brothers failed. I had thought that they would be the better a facing a troll, but they were turned to stone by his mirrors. So, I have had to do the deed. But my brothers ambushed me, and poisoned me, and left me here to die.”
The leech was greatly saddened these words. “I am but a small leech, good at nothing but drinking blood and running away. But if you put me against your leg, I can drain the poison from your blood, and seal the wound.”
The boy frowned ever so sadly. “But you will lose your life, Oh friend leech.”
The leech gave a small sigh. “I am just a lowly scavenger who is afraid of the wide wicked world. But this I can do, so please, allow me to do this for you.”
The boy nodded, and scooped the leech from the water, pressing it about his wound. Swiftly, the leech sucked up blood and poison all in one turn, and then died on the spot, as the poison was too great for his body.
Saddened by the death of the small leech, the boy laid it into the water, and turned to leave.
“Going so soon?” the leech’s small voice reached up from the small mud-puddle. “I am quite curious as to why the king has sent you on this terribly long quest into the wide wicked world.”
The boy turned, and the leech smiled up at him. “It appears that I am not quite so dead as I had thought myself to be. So, please tell me, why did the king send you out on that journey?”
“The kingdom has turned into a terrible wasteland, and an old seer has declared that the only thing that can save it is the waters of life, which were said to be protected by a most terrible guardian. That was the troll. But my brothers, who are both of them accomplished duelists and criminals have stolen the water that was to be used to heal the kingdom.”
The leech swam in a circle. “If you are searching for waters of life, then you are welcome to mine.” He said ever so quietly.
The boy frowned. “I know that you were dead, and now you were not. But the waters are supposed to be defended by a terrible guardian, and what can be more dangerous than a troll?”
The leech shrugged as best as a leech could shrug. “Whatever could be a more terrible guardian than the wide wicked world, with its wars and spells and wizards?”
The boy smiled, and scooped some of the water from that small mud-puddle that could not be seen from the road, and placed it into a rusted tea kettle.
Thanking the small leech, the boy walked off, and the leech settled into his mud puddle, content with his quite safe and quiet place in a small mud-puddle in a brackish bog in the wide and wicked world.