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The Feast of the Rats

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There are numerous dark legends that have circulated throughout the world since ancient times. Tales of headless fiends dwelling in the forests or she-demons disguised as beautiful maidens who will lure unsuspecting men to their grotesque deaths due to their sexual interests.

However, this is one story that has been told since the middle ages that details the gruesome and hideous fate of an oppressive ruler who had committed heinous crimes against his people.

In the witch-cursed and haunted country of Germany, there is a lonely eerie-looking stone tower that stands on a small, isolated island in the Rhine that serves as a chilling reminder of a horrific event that occurred hundreds of years ago. The tower is famously known as the Mouse Tower.

Long ago, when Europe was primarily governed by the Roman Catholic Church, the tower was once the property of a cruel and oppressive archbishop ruler who never hesitated to exploit and impose his authority on the poor peasants of the land. Each day, whenever he passed through the town, they would be legally obligated to pay tribute to him. They would bow to him and make small little offerings to him with pastries or occasionally a small sum of money.

He often walked surrounded by bodyguards and if anyone did not show him the respect he thought he deserved, he would immediately order the execution of the transgressor and they’d kill them right then and there, often in a quick but very bloody fashion. The initial use of the then-unnamed Mouse Tower was a platform and lookout for passing ships. On it the archbishop had placed archers and crossbowmen.

If any vessel passed by without paying their proper tributes to him, they’d be greeted with a storm of arrows upon them. Old nautical records detail stories of people finding ghost-ships aimlessly sailing around what is now called the North Sea filled with people long dead after having their bodies mutilated with arrows.

Rumor had it that the religious tyrant was far worse than he seemed. Not only was he a draconian ruler, but he was also a sadist. Within the tower, he would supposedly relish in torturing innocent peasants who could not defend themselves after being given false charges on crimes they did not commit (these crimes were later attributed to the archbishop as well).

They dreaded the tower, and often claimed that they saw people being led in there by guards of the archbishop, and many never came out.

There was no doubt that this religious authoritative figure had quite an unpleasant reputation going around the town. Many resented him and saw him as nothing more than a nefarious man who used the name of their Lord and Savior for the sake of fulfilling his own selfish wants. But since the peasantry was primarily illiterate and ignorant of how to govern themselves, they had no choice but to obey him.

To make matters worse, during his reign, a great famine struck, and the vast majority of them were left without food. This resulted in the deaths of numerous infants, children, and elders of the peasant class. The streets echoed with the mourning and endless weeping of families as the Angel of Death wandered invisibly and drained their souls from their bodies when their time came.

These lamentations, however, fell upon deaf ears, as the archbishop was indifferent to them and their petty loss. Instead, he had his mind on something much more beneficial to himself, earning money.

Although his village was suffering from a severe famine, he had stored tons of grain in private barns and storage houses. Since he was the only one in the town with such a huge amount of food, he monopolized it and decided to put his products up for sale at extremely high prices.

Starving and furious, the peasantry decided to rebel against their cruel and wicked leader. The archbishop was indeed greedy and evil, but he was also cunning. He devised a malevolent plot to lure the peasants to an old barn, where he had promised to supply them with a modest amount of grain to feed themselves and their families, and that he was not truly serving the Almighty by doing such things.

The peasantry, fooled by the wicked bishop’s promise, began to praise him and thank him. They thought for sure he was finally going to nourish them and look over his people like a good ruler would. They eagerly ventured off to find the barn in which he said he would meet them.

The bishop, however, had much more sinister plans. When he arrived with a large throng of his troops, he saw that there were thousands upon thousands of famished peasants waiting for him. This fit perfectly into his plan. Immediately, he ordered his soldiers to seal the door of the barn and then to light torches and burn it down.

With this wicked act of deception and cruelty, the entire barn was set in flames and the unfortunate peasants screamed in horror and agony as the flames consumed their flesh. They beheld siblings, friends, and spouses decay into charred, wretched piles of ash.

The flames engulfed the interior so badly that at one point, the burning folk couldn’t even see one another. Some cried out to Christ to save them from this dreadful fate, while others merely sat there in a slightly-maddened state as they allowed the unforgiving fires to consume them. It was as if, in that fiendish trick, they were being devoured by the fires of Hell itself.

As the archbishop watched the barn perish within the flames, he laughed to himself. He had thought himself doing good since the peasants, like filthy mice, ate all the grains and left little to nothing.

He felt he was fulfilling his duty as the ruler of the town to remove these infernal wastes of space from his land. He heard the cries and screams of horror, rage, and pleads for mercy coming out from the barn, and as he heard them, he turned to his guards and he mockingly declared, “Listen to those pitiful mice squeak!”

The troops, who themselves were sadistic and took pleasure in carrying out the orders of their cruel commanding officer, laughed merrily at the misfortune of the peasants.

When the screams finally settled, the bishop and his soldiers returned to his castle, where he enjoyed a succulent banquet and retired to his bedroom feeling as innocent as ever despite his murderous deed only hours before.

His sleep, however, was not as pleasant as his meal.

The ruler dreamed himself standing in front of a burned down, rotting barn in the forest. It appeared to be nighttime, but there was no moon or any stars visible, and it would have been pitch black if he hadn't had a light source coming from in front and within the barn. As he stared at it, he felt a pang of horror seize his heart.

Inside of the destroyed barn were numerous ghostly fires floating about, resting on top of sticks. As he studied it more closely, he could see shadowy, grotesque figures inside of it, holding the man-made torches and seemingly examining him back. The figures had glowing, threatening, bloody eyes that shook the soul of the bishop. The more he gazed at them, the more he felt a sense of horrid loathing of them and they made him feel dizzy with fear.

Then, they began to approach him with their free arms outstretched in front of them, groaning in a vengeful way. When they stepped out of the barn, their tomb, he saw their hideously scarred faces, jaws half-hanging off of the face, mouths that exposed more than just the gums, but the bones as well, and patches of the skull burned through and shone at the cheeks and foreheads.

The archbishop shot up in bed, his screams echoing throughout the castle. He woke up, shivering violently and he wrapped his arms around himself, to calm himself as sweat poured down his face.

This horrific nightmare, however, was only a precursor to the true Hellish experience he would soon encounter.

As he sat there, panting and finally calming down after that putrid dream, he suddenly saw his black cat eying the outside intently. The cat was not observing something casually, as cats sometimes do when something catches their interest, with their tails swaying back and forth.

The cat had spotted something that clearly made it nervous, as it appeared to be frozen in mid-walk with everything on it completely still, and no amount of noise could draw its attention away from the window.

Although he had been scared out of his mind moments before, the sleepiness then returned to him once more. He felt the adrenaline rush of fear beginning to wane, and he laid back down on his pillow with his eyes still fixated at the cat on the window sill. Just before his eyelids clamped over his eyes, he saw the cat then slowly turn its head in his direction and saw its eyes looking into his.

It felt as if he had been asleep once more when he was awakened by another loud, piercing scream. Only this time, it didn’t come from him. He opened his eyes and sat up in bed. He spotted his cat beside his head, screaming in fear.

This time, there was something horrific and disgusting that sounded outside of his window. He immediately sprang out of bed and lunged toward the window to see where that terrible noise was coming from. The moment he saw what was happening, he suddenly screamed out again in sickening dread.

It was as if some sort of gruesome black sea of death were racing into his town and traveling through the streets and climbing over houses, buildings, and any other sort of obstacle in front of it. It was headed straight for his castle!

As he saw the putrid dark waves coming near him, he could see it moving in as if it were alive. The closer it came, the more he could hear hideous, loud squeaking, then he caught a very foul-smelling odor emitting from it.

It was then that the black waves then began to climb up the castle walls and he cried out. He then thought he heard these hideous noises coming from behind and above him, and the ruler glanced up to see the swarm of demonic water on the ceiling and pouring in from every hole or crack from the walls or floor.

It was then that he realized that this was not water, but instead, they were thousands upon thousands of ravenous rats. The rats were invading his home, filling every room and corner. The bishop heard the cat still wailing madly, and he saw that the hellish mice were leaping on it and the cat was defenseless against them.

The army of rodents that had come were not merely small, little mice. Instead, they were large, hairy, demon beasts with long fleshy pinkish-white tails and glowing red eyes, with rotted teeth protruding from their disgusting mouths.

The rats then completely swallowed the cat and its wailing ceased. At this, the archbishop cried out in terrible panic and immediately made for the exit, as the mice began to overtake the walls and all of the furniture in the room. He ran down the enormous staircase and shoved open the door, not even bothering to summon his servants or guards. He made his way onto the empty streets and for a moment, he glanced back at his dwelling.

Those vile creatures were spilling out from everywhere, rushing down the steps and climbing down the windows of the castle onto the floors and coming out of the door. This horrified the evil ruler and he continued to run as fast as he could. Those loathsome squeaks filled the air, growing more menacing as the chase continued. At one point, the archbishop blocked his ears as he ran because their screams became maddening.

At last, he reached the Rhine. He had never been so thankful to see its waters glimmering in the moonlight. For a moment, it appeared that luck was on his side. He spotted a small rowboat anchored near the riverbank, and he immediately hopped aboard. He cast off and stroked the oars powerfully, his old arms gaining strength from the horrible fear that embraced him.

He did his absolute best to avoid gazing at that living swamp of Hell, as he felt himself getting overtaken by absolute dread whenever he did. There was something hideously uncanny about those rats that were giving chase to him. Their eyes shined with a grotesque red color and their mouths salivated non-stop.

They had a revenant quality to them, and they were certainly out for blood. The question remained, why him? What did he do to bring about this nightmarish plague upon himself?

Whenever he felt himself growing tired, he would turn back, just for an instant, at those monstrous rats that were rigorously in pursuit of him. The horror would fill his soul once again and this would give him new strength to stay alive.

The religious figure finally reached the shore of his last sanctuary, the tower in which he used to make passing ships pay their respects. He shoved the door open and slammed it shut behind him, and he scrambled up the steps, panting and perspiring badly. The journey had taken a severe toll on his old body, and he began to climb the last steps to the roof exhaustively, on all fours.

Since he looked back very few times, he couldn’t tell how many rats were tailing him. He could see a small portion of them beginning to drown in the Rhine, but he could never properly see how many or how far behind they were.

As he got on the roof of his tower, he caught his breath and stood there with one hand on his chest. He coughed powerfully into his hand, and when he stared at his palm, he could see a blotch of blood on it. He felt himself going to die soon, as his lungs were beginning feel very heavy and he felt dizzy. As he stared at the bloodstain, he thought he could see an evil skull-like appearance to it. It was as if Death had marked him next.

He collapsed on his hands and knees, willing to accept his fate after this tormenting ordeal. But to his surprise and horror, he heard those maleficent squeaks coming down from below his tower and increasing at an alarming rate. With all the energy he had left in him, he crawled over to the parapet and peered down. He screamed out in absolute terror as he saw the demonic army of mice surrounding and crawling up his sanctuary.

He fell on his back and began crawling backwards, away from the edge and into the center of the rooftop. The bishop lied there, trembling with fear and whimpering as he heard the little devils approaching nearer.

Finally, the mice came over the parapet and onto the roof, beginning to mercilessly encircle him from the front, back and sides. In the delirium of fear, he began to plead to the rats to spare his life and have mercy on him, and that he was a Godly man.

But the rats merely took over the tower, and with a final burst of energy, he cried out for mercy one last time. The mice crawled all over his body, gnawing and tearing off bits of his clothes and his flesh.

It wasn’t long until the monsters all overrun him and continuously piled upon him and the roof, screeching repulsively, with hundreds of them either chewing on a strip of his clothing or his skin. The only thing to be heard other than the squeaking was the yells and screams of the archbishop as he was being devoured.

The next morning, a large number of the townsmen went to see their ruler, only to discover he wasn’t there and many servants and guards had no idea where he had gone. No one had heard the invasion of the mice or the cries of the bishop. As they went on a large manhunt for days, they finally found his wretched remains on the rooftop, his bones stripped of its flesh completely and with no sign of what did it.

However, the townsfolk discovered the claw and teeth marks of his holy garments to be those of rats. Thus, the locals and their descendants came to call this tower The Mouse Tower.

Many of the contemporary locals near Mouse Tower whisper nervously about it, and refrain from going near it due to the devilish activity that goes on near the area. Some say they can hear the screeches of rabid, vicious mice, although they can never be seen.

Others say one can hear the voice of an old man shrieking in horror and anguish mixed in the squeaks. Some accounts even claim to see an entire sea of mice surrounding and crawling up the tower, on full-moon nights, only to vanish moments later.

Some claim, however, that the hideous rats that devoured the cruel bishop were the vengeful ghosts of the unfortunate peasants who he had burned alive. Whatever might be the legend, The Mouse Tower leaves a terrible and haunting reminder of what happened to a wicked ruler hundreds of years ago...

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