This will get interesting.
Many years ago, there was a village neatly hidden away in a thick wood. The people had lived there for centuries, learned to farm the land and take what they needed from the surrounding wilderness. Generation after generation, they lived peacefully away from the rest of the world. A wealthy man was traveling through the forest one cold winter evening, and came upon the quaint town. He settled for what he thought was going to be only one night; but he felt so at home that he stayed for many years. The people liked him. He was not starving or sick like most of their visitors. He was healthy and had good money to buy things with.
His wealth bought more than just supplies; it bought him friends and popularity. It wasn't a year after he first arrived that he was elected mayor of the village. The people were very happy with their new official. He had grand plans for their small town- to expand and become great. Arrogance and greed took over the hearts of the people as their want for more grew into a need. But despite the mayor's wealth and status, he could not keep the village. For the first few years of his office, the village sustained itself; but it wasn't long before his neglect left the people with little food, clothing, and shelter.
He had spent none of his money on provisions for his once loyal citizens and his once thriving village was beginning to fall apart. The homes were nothing more than skeleton houses, the food was rotten and scarce, and the blankets and clothing was tattered and thin. Nature started to reclaim the land in the form of rats.
They came from everywhere and soon overpopulated the small town. The rich mayor watched from his well-kept estate as his people starved and his streets became riddled with disease and vermin. Now older, and wiser, he was ready to try again- to regain the trust of his people and the way of living which they once new. The first thing to do was get rid of the rodents. He sent word to everyone he knew might be fit for the job, but they all refused. No one knew how to take on such a hoard of rats.
One fortunate evening, a villager brought a wandering man into the town. "He claims he can cleanse the streets." The man told the mayor. The mayor was skeptical, but desperate. After a long conversation with the traveler, an agreement was made. The man could indeed take care of the rat
s, but for a price.
"Name your price and I will pay." The mayor replied.
A large amount of gold was contracted, and the next morning the traveler went into the rodent-filled streets. He pulled a simple wooden pipe from person and began to play. The sweet melody flooded the homes and alleyways of the village. Every rat in the town joined in a large pack behind the man. Playing his song, he led them out of the village and back into the woods. With his music he spoke to them, telling them not to return. The rats agreed and left.
When the man returned, he was greeted with cheers and hugs. He immediately went to the mayor's house to collect his payment, but when he arrived the mayor was less than happy.
"That's too high a price for as easy a job." He argued, disregarding his contract. The traveler and the mayor argued for a long while until finally, the traveler gave up. "If you will not pay the agreed amount in gold, you will pay a much higher price in years to come." With that he collected his pipe and his hunting hat and left the town.
Despite his faults, the mayor fulfilled his ambition and the town returned to its former state. Sickness had left and the people were once again happy and healthy. Many years passed and the people lived with full bellies, warm clothing, and sufficient residencies.
One day, the villager returned, pipe in hand. He had not forgotten his promise to the mayor. He lifted the instrument to his lips and his beautiful song once again resonated through the streets of the small village, yet it was somehow different- it was calmer and sweeter than the one he had played for the rats. The sound entranced the village children and they soon came running up to him. This was the price he had referred to- the most precious of sacrifices. His song continued as he walked through the village streets, and more children followed until their number doubled that of the rats he had led out so many years ago.
He led the children from the village and into the woods where they were never seen again. Some say he turned them into rats and one or two visits the village every few years to remind the mayor of the deal he didn't uphold. Other say the song kept the children young forever, and the musical traveler holds them somewhere hidden, waiting for his payment.