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Fighting the sickness PDF Print
Sunday, 30 November 2014
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Fighting the sickness
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 Winner of the 3rd place in the 2014 Literature Competition

Two burly men pulled a ramshackle farm cart over the muddy soil, its wheels creaking every few seconds. A moldering pile of corpses strained against the confines of the cart, nearly teetering onto the ground. An older man wearing the tattered vestments of a cleric of Morr was striking a slightly bent fire poker against an upended cooking pot. ‘Bring out your dead!', he said after every clang of his improvised bell. 

Every so often the cart stopped so that another unmoving passenger could be dragged aboard. Every last one of the deceased, whether they were high-born or low-born, saint or sinner, would be dumped into a massive hole in the ground which only the most charitable nun could call a grave. But what was perhaps the most depressing aspect of this grim picture was how mundane the priest's cries sounded; as if asking hardworking peasants and affluent noblemen to haul the corpses of their friends and family into the streets and onto a farm cart to be dumped in a mass grave was routine. But the old man couldn't be faulted for that, for in the village of Givry bringing out your dead had indeed become routine.

Only three weeks ago Givry had been the very model of a Brionnian settlement: white houses with not a spot of dirt on them, lawns with meticulously trimmed hedges and colourful flowers, and with clean streets leading to the village square, with in the middle the piercing tower wherefrom Galadum's family had ruled for three generations. Of course there were no peasants actually living within the village; they would have sullied it with their mere presence. Instead the low-born lived in a nameless shantytown nearby, which was hidden from view by a slim strip of wide oaks so that none had to gaze upon the squalid shacks. This left Givry to the nobility and the merchants, artisans, servants and other peasants who knew how to keep the mud out of their hair. Unfortunately this meant that very few houses were inhabited, but what was important was that the village looked like a slice of heaven.


That had all been before the Blazing Pox, which had struck down more than four-fifths of the population. As was to be expected it struck first in the shantytown, but sadly it had not stopped there. Now Galadum had been left as the sole survivor of his family line, as well as one of the few nobles remaining in Givry. The auburn-haired youngster had been trust into the role of lordship before he could even begin his errantry tour. In the family chapel he had vowed that as soon as the current crisis was over he would hunt down the insidious architects of this plague. Not only as retribution for the dead of Givry, but because he couldn't consider how a nobleman could rule justly without experiencing the perils of errantry. This quest would prove him as worthy of his title and his father's name, if the Lady was willing.


There were however two things he needed to do before he could begin his quest. First he needed to appoint a competent steward to rule in his absence, for it could take months or even years before he found the culprits. Right now the most suitable candidate for that position was standing beside Galadum, looking alongside him at the improvised hearse. Together they were patiently awaiting the second person who would be indispensable for the continued safety of his fiefdom.


The soon-to-be steward Odo was quite fit by low-born standards, with a bit of meat on his bones and capable of standing up straight when the situation required it. But to his dismay the Creeping Crippler, another of the many plague's that afflicted the fair dukedom of Brionne, had taken his right arm a few years ago. To his family he had become more of a hindrance than a help, and so Odo had decided to leave the farm and make his fortune in Givry. The bitterness in his voice told Galadum that the decision had been made for him, but it mattered little. The former farmhand had a good instinct for organization, and one way or another always got the job done. Not everyone was happy with how the ‘Lame Goat' ordered them around, especially the elderly chamberlain Eustace. While he had a strange taste in moustaches, Eustace had served the counts of Givry faithfully for over two generations. He was dead now, his face nearly scratched to the bone in his desire to stop the painful itch of the Blazing Pox. Odo had taken his place by Galadum's side, who in turn had made it perfectly clear that the commands of this particular lame goat were to be obeyed as if they were his own, in those exact words. In these times, results mattered more than some ruffled feathers.


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 January 2015 )
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