"The Little Sisters of Eluria" is a 66-page novella originally written for and published in the 1998 anthology Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, and later included in King's own 2002 collection Everything's Eventual. The story is part of King's Dark Tower cycle, and is the only tale outside of the seven novels that he has written about Roland Deschain.
The story concerns the beginning of Roland's pursuit of the man in black. As he crosses the Mohaine Desert, he finds the abandoned town of Eluria where he is attacked by slow-mutants. He wakes in a make-shift hospital being tended to by the "Little Sisters" who use tiny bug-like "doctors" to heal him, but Roland slowly begins to understand that his nurses are not what they seem, nor as benevolent as they might appear.
The tale features Roland of Gilead, whose quest for the Dark Tower is in its infancy; its events precede those of the body of the Dark Tower cycle, but occur after Roland's experiences in Mejis as chronicled in The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. At the time of telling he is accompanied by a horse and is already following Walter o'Dim, the Man in Black. He plans to eventually buy another horse, or perhaps a mule; which ties in with the events at the beginning of The Gunslinger.
Roland and his horse arrive at a deserted village, Eluria, where he encounters a feral dog bearing a cross-shaped spot in its fur attempting to eat a dead body. Roland scares it off, and while looking over the corpse, finds a rectangle-shaped medallion. Roland takes it, and is immediately attacked and rendered unconscious by a group of Slow mutants, but later awakens in a hospital marquee run by a strange group of nuns. Calling themselves The Little Sisters, they use tiny bug-like creatures they call "doctors" to heal his severe injuries. At first, they seem benign, but Roland slowly discovers that they are actually vampires, who bring stray survivors back to their "hospital" only to feed on them once they've recovered.
The medallion Roland took from the dead body in the village proves to be a sort of holy protection from them. He notices another "patient" next to him who bears a matching medallion, and Roland comes to learn that the dead man that he removed his medallion from is the brother of his fellow patient. Roland's wounds are eventually healed, but he is powerless to escape from his malevolent benefactors, who keep him weakened with potions. One of the Sisters, Sister Jenna, reveals to Roland that she had involuntarily joined the others, and longs to leave them. She sneaks a dose of a powerful herb to Roland, which counteracts the weakening potions, and he slowly regains his strength until they are ready to escape. The Sisters bring one of the mutants to the hospital to remove the medallions from Roland and the patient next to him, since the Sisters are unable to touch the medallions themselves.
The mutant realizes that the Sisters will most likely kill him after he has removed the medallions, so he removes the medallion from the patient next to Roland and slashes his neck open. The sight of gushing blood incites a feeding frenzy in the Sisters, allowing the mutant to escape, and for Roland to retain his medallion. The next night, Roland and Sister Jenna initiate their escape, but the other Sisters try to intercede. Sister Jenna reveals an ability to command the "doctors", who provide a diversion. Their leader, Great Sister Mary, soon catches up with them, but is attacked and killed by the same cross-bearing dog Roland first encountered. Roland and Sister Jenna declare love for each other, but alas, Jenna disintegrates into what may have been her natural state, the tiny doctors, while Roland is asleep.
Roland allows himself a moment of sorrow – before his quest for Walter (and ultimately the Tower) continues, once again "quite alone"
|The Dark Tower series|
|Novels||I (a-b-c-d-e; f) • II • III • IV • IVS • V • VI • VII|
|Short stories||"Low Men in Yellow Coats" • "The Little Sisters of Eluria"|
|Related works||`Salem's Lot • The Stand • The Eyes of the Dragon • Insomnia|
|Comics||#1-7 • #8-12 • #13-18 • #19 • #20-25 • #26-30|
#31-35 • #36-37 • #38-42 • #43-47 • #48-52
#53-57 • #58-59 • #60 • #61-65 • #66-70
|Characters||Roland Deschain • Jake Chambers • Eddie Dean|
Susannah Holmes • Donald Callahan • Walter o'Dim