Their eyes opened wide when they perceived the richness of the place, the wooden floor, the glittering cones, the blindingly white shirts, the squires’ proud, albeit beer-flushed faces. The old woman held the little boy close to her, lest he stumbled and broke something. Then, she took a cautious step forward and asked the nearest man, “Beg pardon, sire, what is this place?”
Unfortunately, she had talked to the squire whose turn it was to bowl. Distracted, he missed the cones on the far side, and his bowling ball hit the tunnel wall instead before disappearing in the darkest recess of the gallery.
The man swivelled around and yelled, “Darn old beggar woman!” His angry, drunken voice wobbled. “Now I’ve lost my ball! How am I going to play, huh?”
His comrades, as drunk as he, roared with laughter.
The squire got even angrier. Madness showed in his eyes as he glared in every which way.
Then he discovered the boy, half-hidden in the folds of the old woman’s cloak.
In one swift movement, he jerked the boy away from the old woman. Slowly, he picked up an axe.
His malevolent eyes glinted. “Found me some new ball,” he slurred.
And chopped off the boy's head.
The other squires cheered, some clapped their hands, others laughed so hard that they fell backwards. “Now let’s bowl!” the squire hollered. New cheers echoed through the gallery.
The old woman had sunk to her knees. Her old, wrinkled face contorted with disbelief, grief, and anger. With tear-blind eyes, she stared at the squire.
Then, she whispered, “I curse you all, cruel squires.” Her voice rose thunder-like. “Curse you, proud and cupid men! May all your riches and your fortune disappear! May you all perish!”
A loud rumbling followed her words, the earth shook. And several huge rocks came tumbling down in front of the Bowling Gallery, blocking the exit.
The mountain continued to groan and rumble and tremble.
The squires, sobered up by a rising panic, started to retreat further into the old gallery. From working here day by day, they knew their way; they hoped to be able to get away through a side-tunnel. But deep inside the mountain, secret rivers started to swell as if fed by the old woman’s tears, and icy floods came rushing through the tunnels.
There was no escape.
That evening, all the squires drowned, one after the after, and the old woman drowned, and the waters flooded tunnels and galleries, covering all the remaining silver forever.
That’s how the squires had brought about the downfall of their mine and of their blooming village. After the old woman's curse, no one ever dared enter the tunnels again.
It is said that there are riches galore in those tunnels and that it takes a brave man with a pure, loving heart to discover them.
But maybe, that silver is cursed forever, tainted with the young boy's blood, hexed by the squires' inhuman deed.
(to be continued)
(to be continued)