It was a cold autumnal evening in damp, ancient woods. Jacquez and Diego, two young friends, walk side by side. Diego, the younger of the two, sings as they walk...
'The night is cold My lips are blue, The night, she draws me in But I fear not, For here with you, I'm happier than-'
'Shh! I'm trying to think,' says Jacquez.
'I think thinking might be your problem, don't you think?' says Diego with an impish grin.
'I'm just uncertain about this forest.'
They walk on until they come to a clearing in the woods. Jacquez tells Diego to stay put whilst he goes and finds them some firewood.
In the midst of the slowly darkening woods, Jacquez searches, without luck, to find suitable firewood.
Everything was either wet or rotten, there was no way he would be able to make a flame.
He takes the bad news back to the clearing. Together, he and Diego shared a pot of cold stew and huddled together to ward off the cold. Both of them are thinking the same thing
'We aren't going to last the night.'
But Diego has an idea...
He rummages through his knapsack and pulls out a dusty old tome. He frantically flips through the pages before slamming it down on the ground and pointing to the top of the page.
'Here look!' he says, with bright hope in his voice. 'The Flame Merchant! If we summon him, everything will be alright.'
Jacquez is skeptical but too cold and weary to argue. He hands over his carving knife, and watches as Diego begins the summoning.
First, Diego carves a simple rune into one of the nearby trees, then be begins to chant...
'Creature of night, Hear our plight, Lend us your warming flames tonight.'
At first, nothing happened, and Jacquez was almost relieved, but then
a strange sound arises, seemingly coming from all directions. They realise it as the quaint tone of the hurdy-gurdy. Soon, a voice begins to sing along with it.
'The night is cold, My lips are blue, The night, she draws me in, But I fear not, For here with you, I'm happier than sin...'
The last word was drawn out, like a snake. The two friends turn to see a strangely dressed man, playing the instrument they'd heard moments before.
'Fear not, my friends, for I am here, To give you the warmth you hold so dear, As the Flame Merchant, lies I cannot tell, To you my child, My fire I'll sell
Jacquez stepped forward. 'We need a fire that'll see us through the night, what do you charge?'
'For ten whole hours on this fine night, I'll give you my fire so bright, And all you need give me in return is,
Jacquez pushes Diego back as far as his arm will allow.
'Don't worry,' says Diego 'I have a plan. Hey Flame Merchant!'
'So careless, so young, so pretty and brave, Are you willing to buy the fire you crave?'
'To seal the deal and receive your warmth you must sign this contract, And in ten hours when morning comes, I will be right back.'
Diego took the quill presented to him and signed before Jacquez could protest. The Flame Merchant grinned.
'Flickering, flickering, life of my soul, Bring your light to my friends so cold, Burn up their fears for hours of ten, When you are through die down again.'
Soon the song was over and the Flame Merchant was gone and in his place, a large fire raged.
'Listen, Jacquez, I know you're mad, but all we have to do is leave in before he gets back. We'll sleep for seven hours, and be far away, where he can't find us.
Jacquez reluctantly agreed, and he huddled down into a fitful sleep.
The next morning, they finally managed to reach the other side of the woods. The two friends were halfway to a nearby town, with another hour still to go until the Flame Merchant went looking for payment.
In the town, they checked into a small inn at the centre of town called The Phoenix Lair.
The barmaid showed them to an old and gaudy room. The two of them settled, feeling like they'd escaped their ordeal.
But soon that crooked tune began once more.
'Fear not my friends for I am here, To give you the warmth you hold so dear, My promises I always keep, And now, my reward, I've come to keep.'
Jacquez turned to tell Diego to run, but when he looked, his friend had vanished.
Jacquez is frantic, but he knows that he must keep a clear head to save his friend. He pulls out Diego's tome and begins,
'Creature of night, Hear or plight, Lend us your warming flames tonight.'
The music started up once more, and soon Jaquez was once again face-to-face with the Flame Merchant once more.
'Please give me my friend back.'
'See the cheat and how he pleads, Face the consequences of your deeds.'
'Please, I'll do anything!'
'Ah, my friend, you are in luck I'm feeling kind today, Answer my question, but if you get cannot, Then I will go away.'
'I will answer your riddle, Flame Merchant.' Jacquez was never particularly good with riddles, but he had no choice but to try his best.
The loftiest cellars I can eat, Yet neither paunch or mouth have I, I storm whenever you give me meat, And when I drink I die.
Jacquez thought long and hard about what the answer could be. He paced the room, hand on chin, desperately racking his brain for answers.
'Well, my friend, it has been fun, but no answer you give so I must run.'
The Flame Merchant turned to leave, but Jacquez was determined.
He ran out of the room after him, rushing past the main room of the tavern. As he did so, he glimpsed the fireplace by the corner of his eye.
'Fire!' he shouted. 'Fire!' The Flame Merchant turned around and grinned.
To make my lose at my own game, The world can be so cruel. But since I gave you my word, I must now give you your fool.
The Flame Merchant vanished, and for a moment, Jacquez was worried that he had been tricked. Without hesitation, he immediately ran back to the room.
There, sitting obliviously on the bed, was Diego. 'Where did you go, Jacquez?' he said. 'Oh, nowhere.'
Diego remembered nothing of the ordeal, but Jacquez made sure to eventually tell him, lest he make the same mistake again.