Continuing with the English Dragons, today we are taking a trip up into Durham, and the Lambton Estate.

One Sunday morning, the young heir to Lambton Castle, Sir John Lambton, was feeling rebellious. Instead of going to church that morning, he instead decided to spend his time fishing in the river Ware, close to the estate. An old man who spots him walking down to the river tells him that no good ever comes of missing church, but the young lad ignores him, and sets up his hook and line by the river.

He spends the morning fishing, but does not catch anything until the bells toll for the end of Sunday service, at which point he gets a bite on his line. Hauling it in he discovers that he has not caught a fish, but a repulsive eel like creature, about a foot long in length. Disgusted at his catch, he throws the creature down the nearest well, and then forgets about it.

As all young people do, he grows up, and in time joins the Crusade in the Holy Land as a fighter. But whilst the young John Lambton also grows up, the snake-like creature that he threw down the well also grows, bigger and bigger, until it is an enormous monster. It’s very presence poisons the water in the well, and went it was bigger enough it slithered out of the well, and started to eat the livestock and suckle the mile from all the cows.

Screen-Shot-2013-05-19-at-7.54.51-PMThe villagers noticed their livestock going missing, and the dried cows, and when they went to find the cause, they found this monstrous Worm, which had coiled around a nearby hill, so long it could reach around several times. They tried again and again to injure and kill the beast, but it had remarkable regeneration, and even when they chopped bits of it’s body off, they would rejoin, and the worm would always emerge victorious and hungry. Even knights fared no better against the beast, and rarely came back at all from their encounters. It’s favourite method of fighting was to either use it’s horrendous teeth to chomp through people, or to wrap it’s tail around a huge tree, uprooting it and then swinging it around like a club.

Eventually, the worm made it’s way to the Lambton estate, and the aged Lord there, father of Sir John Lambton, managed to sedate the creature with a trough full of cow’s milk. To pacify the beast, it quickly became a daily offering, where they would give up the milk of nine cows, which filled the trough, and the beast would sleep quietly for the rest of the day.

After seven years of fighting, Sir John Lambton returns home to find his father’s estates almost destitue because of the worm. He realises that it is the same beast that he threw into the well as a child, all those years ago, and feels horrified, and guilty. Realising that he has to make this right, he seeks the advice of a wise women, Elspat of the Glen, who lived near Durham.

The witch tell him that the beast can be slain, but there is a price for the information – he has to kill the first living creature that he meets after the battle, or a curse would fall upon the Lambton line and nine generations of the family would never die in their beds.

John agrees to the price, and the Elspat tell him that he must weld spikes to his armour to prevent the worm from constricting him. He must also fight the worm in the middle of the River Ware, where the current was strongest, so that the segments of the worm body would be washed away before they had a chance to rejoin with the main body.

Going back that even, John makes the preparations, welding spearheads to his armour, and arranges with his servants that he will blow his hunting horn three times when the beast is dead, and upon that signal a hunting dog is to be released from the pens, so that it could be the first living thing he met with, and by killing the dog he would fulfil the price.

220px-Lambton_WormThe nest day, John, in his spikey armour, descends into the river, and then rouses the worm from it’s slumber. enraged by the lack of milk that it had come to expect, it attacks John, trying to constict him, but the spikes on his armour cut the worm, and John cuts away further, and the chunks of the worm that he cuts away are washed away by the water, carried off so far that they cannot reattached themselves. The plan works, and the beast is eventually slain.

John waded out of the river, and on the bank blew his horn three times. Unfortunately, John’s father was so overjoyed to here the hunting horn, the signal that the beast is dead and his son is alive, that he runs out before the servants can release the dog, and runs down to the river bank to congratulate his son. Sir John could not bring himself to kill his father, and seeing the hound come running up behind his father, kills the hound anyway.

But the price was not paid, and the curse falls upon the family. For nine generations the family never died in their beds.

John Lambton never told anyone of the curse until he was on his deathbed. In pain, he told his servants, who then lifted him up from his bed, and it was only then that he could die. But that was just the beginning

Sir John’s own son Robert drowned in the river near the chapel. Other descendants were strangled, stabbed, throttled and skewered, or died in foreign countries far from home. It was only when the ninth Lord died, crossing a bridge over the River Wear, in sight of where John had cuaght the Worm, that the curse ran it’s course and was finished.

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