“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a prequel to the first volume of the Dark Tower saga.
It was originally published in 1998 in a collection called Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy. In 2002, it was collected and included in King’s Everything’s Eventual.
Roland’s beloved city of Gilead has fallen to the Good Man’s forces, and the Gunslingers have been slaughtered at the Battle of Jericho Hill. Roland is now a lone wanderer, searching for the trail of the elusive sorcerer known as the Man in Black. On a hot day during the season of Full Earth, Roland enters a deserted town in the Desatoya Mountains.
The town is called Eluria, and it is empty except for a lame dog, a drowned boy, and the eerie sound of tinkling silver bells. There is also a church with a cross sign on it and Roland muses about religion.
As far as Roland was concerned, God o’ the Cross was just another religion which taught that love and murder were inextricably bound together—that in the end, God always drank blood.
The boy, James, is wearing a gold necklace which reads James, loved of family loved of God. Roland takes this necklace in the case he finds any survivors.
As Roland searches for the town’s missing inhabitants, he is attacked by the slow mutants known as the Green Folk.
Came out of the mines, most likely, Roland thought. There are radium mines somewhere about. That would account for the skin. I wonder that the sun doesn’t kill them.
The entire tribe of slow mutants soon gathers around Roland and begins to beat him until he passes out.
Rhea of the CöosOur unconscious hero is rescued by an itinerant band of female healers who call themselves the Little Sisters of Eluria. He is recovering in a white tent, suspended above the bed, with two other men, a young boy Roland mistakens for James and an old man. Roland finds himself wearing the necklace he took from the boy and a white gown.
Hush, pretty man, God’s love be upon ye. Yet it’s sore hurt ye are. Be still. Heal.
But Roland’s rescuers are not what they seem, and our gunslinger must fight their narcotic potions to stay awake, and alive.
Each of the sisters looks like Rhea of the Cöos (From Treachery) in their true form which Roland just barely sees as an illusion. The false form of the sisters might be beautiful if Roland couldn’t see their true form occasionally appear.
Giggles, soft as wind.
Roland opened his eyes the tiniest crack and looked up at the ancient faces laughing down at him in the light of their candles—glittering eyes, yellow cheeks, hanging teeth that jutted over lower lips. Sister Michela and Sister Louise appeared to have grown goatees, but of course that wasn’t the darkness of hair but of the bearded man’s blood.
There is only one sister, Jenna, who is kind enough to tell him about his surroundings and also put the necklace around his neck to protect him. Roland soon finds black bugs called doctors which are crawling over him in order to make him heal.
As he is waiting for his strength to return, Roland suspects that his saviors are not human (Jenna included). They are vampires who feed on the humans they saved and first goes the old man, then the boy and when Roland’s time was due, he manages to escape with Jenna’s help.
Jenna sends the doctors after her own sisters as she and Roland escape. Sister Mary stops the two as they attempt to escape but is soon killed by the dog from the village (the one that was chewing on what remained of the boy).
The dog took no notice of them as Roland pulled Jenna past. It had torn Sister Mary’s head mostly off.
As soon as Roland and Jenna escape, they fall asleep, only to awake in the morning with Jenna gone and Roland all alone. From Jenna only her clothes remain and inside her clothes, tiny little Doctors.
Jenna was gone. Her boots lay empty beside his purse. A little distance from them, her jeans lay as flat as discarded snakeskins. Above them was her shirt. It was, Roland observed with wonder, still tucked into the pants. Beyond them was her empty wimple, with its fringe of bells lying on the powdery ground. He thought for a moment that they were ringing, mistaking the sound he heard at first.
He believed he understood. Some of this understanding came from his memory of how Sister Mary’s flesh had felt under his hands … how it had felt various, not one thing but many. Part of it was what she had said: I have supped with them. Such as them might never die … but they might change.
After a moment of sorrow, Roland continues his quest to find Walter.