The universal soldier came back in the middle of winter. If you thought he was quite done with war you are mistaken. The fort he came to was as true to a castle complete with moat, donjon and turrets. From far it caught his eye and marched he as though he would even skewer the devil for his right of entry. He just stopped to see if his entry was contested or not. No he was no mouse nor carried milk in his veins to balk even before the gates of hell.
Battle scarred he was and the sword clanked with every step to warn the folks to make themselves scarce.
The castle was ajar. He could see a blazing fire burning in the hall as he turned to cross drawbridge. He did not have to wait. The doormat carried a superscription across the unspotted width, “Take Rest”
So went he in as lord of the manor from hunt. He plopped into the large divan and without bothering to remove his boots he slept. How long did he sleep he would not recall but he just heard his name spoken and he instantly obeyed. It was familiar voice. His major had demanded him to check out the mirror on the south wall for further orders.
He found the wall and there was a mirror. The Army was definite in its facts. Did it ever fail him? No he went closer to read the instructions.
He saw the wall and as instructed he addressed in code for instructions. The mirror was specific where his company was to join battle. Instantly he marched to the place. He came back all the more bloody. He saw winter had given over to spring and he came back to the fort every time for further instructions.
Once he was somewhat taken aback by the bed of snow drops around the moat was as red as blood. He shrugged his shoulders and said that all the blood spilled must show up some place. “It cannot be helped.” He did not give it another thought.
Just as before he straightaway went to the divan neither looking to the right or to left. He fell asleep. The major once again called him up to say that there were seven knights who were to be taken out by single combat. He was to check the mirror for details.
“Terror, terror on the wall, / who is the bravest of all?”
For all the blood the soldier could not see the mirror. He took it that there was some snafu and he went back to sleep.
When he opened his eyes he saw seven dwarves around his divan. One said in an accusative tone,” You didn’t wipe your feet of blood. ” another one said, “You left blood all over the parquet floor. The third dwarf said, “You ruined the western wall! So did three other dwarves carp at the drowsy soldier.” The seventh dwarf came forward and said “where is my mirror? I cannot see my face for all the blood you shed.”
“It cannot be helped.” said the universal soldier.
The seven dwarves deliberated and the leader stepped towards him and said, ” We are not flesh and blood and this is an enchanted castle.” One dwarf anticipating violence said, “No blood letting, please.” The third one explained they were immune to his rage, Another dwarf offered him bread and water till his service ended.
“Service? You demand of me amends?” the soldier cried. “Yes”, replied the fifth gnome, “the mirror must be set to its pristine condition”
“Is this a dungeon then?” the soldier screamed, “You said it.”
answered the sixth little creature.
“Don’t try to follow us” cried the last dwarf with a wink, “doors, gates,windows,transom, clerestory windows, fan-light are all doing their job. ”
In that womb of silence the seven dwarves melting into thin air was imperceptible.
The soldier sat on the divan. Looking about he saw a thin beam of light falling on the south wall. But for that the outside world had shut itself on him.
(Adapted from Brothers Grimm)