Brother Cadfael has awful dreams, full of demons. He tells them to the Elder Brother in the mornings while they weed the garden and the Elder Brother chews on his pipe stem and nods slowly. The last demon looked human, pale and pasty and middle-aged with a mustache. He told Brother Cadfael of the future, of things made out of stone and oil, of coils of fire, of televisions. “You don’t have to worry,” said the demon. “I won’t be undersold.”
He wakes up sweating and sick to his stomach. Why these are so horrible he doesn’t know. The Elder Brother doesn’t offer any advice or guidance, which is why Brother Cadfael likes talking to him. He just nods slowly and chews on his pipe stem and sometimes asks, “What then?”
When there were murders in the convent the dreams stopped, for a while. Brother Cadfael sleeps the sleep of the just again, while the other brothers lie shaking awake. In his sleep there is only the slow rolling of the river. “Murder will out,” he tells the Elder Brother, and it does. Brother Cadfael’s mind closes on the killer like the door of a penitent’s cell. Afterwards, though, the demons come back.
“How mild,” says one, its voice melodious, its skin white as white, “how mild can a cigarette be?”