A/N - As this is Twilight fanfic, the characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. The universe belongs to history, the story belongs to me. This work of fiction will contain dark themes including death, and lots of it. There will also be blood, pus, spit, violence, and eventually, lots of sex. I have tried to be historically accurate in my depiction of this time in human history, roughly mid 1348 and on.
The Black Death was one of the worst natural disasters in history. In 1347 A.D., a great plague swept over Europe, ravaged cities causing widespread hysteria and death. One third of the population of Europe died. "The impact upon the future of England was greater than upon any other European country."
Frederick F. Cartwright, DISEASE AND HISTORY, Dorset Press, New York, 1991, p. 42.
The buildings crowded the townsfolk in the narrow passageway as they made their way home for the evening. Torches provided minimal lighting as the ominous sounds of the curfew bells tolled. Trying to ready himself for whatever might wait behind the door of his abode, he took a deep breath. Charlie instantly regretted it, the warm stench of human sweat, animals and waste greeted his nose. As he reached to push the door open, he said a quick, silent prayer that Isabella had been able to cool Renee; that it was not what they all feared.
For months they had heard of a sickness; whispers of its arrival traveled by word of mouth through parishes and markets. For weeks, Charlie had hidden the truth from his beloved family. The impact the sickness already had on their home town of London was extreme. Charlie was lucky to still have some employment as a carpenter working for Eleazar.
They said it started simply enough, a typical sickness: fever, chills, nothing out of the ordinary. Much how Renee had felt last night and this morning, and something that would usually pass in a day or two. Except within a day or two of getting this sickness, you would have swollen pustules, and within another three you would be dead, having passed the illness to the people who had nursed you. Not knowing what to expect, Charlie gave a light shove to the door and it opened.
He saw her immediately. Reclined on pillows situated on the bed, Renee was being tended to by Isabella. Their daughter lovingly gazed at Renee as she lay a wet rag on her forehead. When they heard Charlie enter, they both looked up at him, tired smiles on their faces.
"Father, she seems to have a little more energy tonight."
Charlie lay his coat on the chair. "Isabella, that is very good news. What of her fever?"
She shrugged. "She is as hot as she was this morning, but no worse."
Renee spoke. "We will just have to wait and see, Charlie."
Charlie walked over and kissed his wife on the forehead. "I love you."
Three months later.
Charlie walked down the narrow street, pulling the cart behind him. At every block he'd stop the cart and wait, his thoughts on the short time from when Renee was so sick until now. He could smell, even taste, the thick, putrid, sweet odor of pestilence. He watched as sooty clouds rose above the city where, like him, others had given up on burial and turned to burning. The cries and moans of the sick and the grieving wafted into the air and hung, like specters unwilling to commit to the afterlife. He had to think of the good times, because if he could really process what was going on around him he would lose his mind. In fact, who could say he had not.
After Renee fell ill things began to progress quickly. As more people died, from the seamen and merchants to the clergy and common folk, the cemeteries filled.
After the cemeteries filled, the pits did.
Work was hard to come by, any man with a job considered himself lucky, this included Charlie.
Since Eleazar had died, leaving Charlie unemployed, he'd had to beg for any work he could find. He had worked in a few locations, having to start again every time an employer fell ill. Money was tight and they were running out of food. It seemed that everything in London was running out, including the people.
Charlie's mind snapped back to reality when the first woman appeared before him, having placed her son on the cart. "I thank you, Sir." She placed a coin in his hand and walked away. The second woman came, and placing her daughter on the cart, she whimpered. She walked over to Charlie, her eyes welling over with tears. "I have nothing Charlie, but thank you. I can give you this, for your Isabella." She placed a comb in his hand, it was silver, shaped like a butterfly. The woman gave him a watery smile and walked into her home.
Charlie brought the cart back to the meadow. He would come and deal with them tomorrow before making the rounds. Then he wouldn't have the nightmares of the burning neighbors, or at least they wouldn't be as vivid. He walked down the pinched passageway, his footsteps echoing in the silent evening. He was no longer crowded as before, but one of only a few. He arrived at his door, and as he pushed it open, saw his Isabella.
She smiled up at him, and then over at her Mother. She looked back at him, "Greetings, Father. Are you ready to eat?"
Charlie looked into the vessel, eyeing the pottage. "Is that meat I smell?"
Isabella smiled broadly. "Jacob brought some by. He finished some work for a woman across town, and she paid him with this. I'm grateful he would think to share with us."
Charlie winked at Bella. "I do think Jacob would do anything for you, my Isabella."
He turned to Renee, who was sitting by the fire mending clothing. "My love, join us for supper?" Renee smiled and stood. The three clasped their hands in prayer. "Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life. Amen."
Isabella parceled out the pottage, a small piece of meat in each bowl. After a short time spent chatting about their days by the fire, the family retired to their beds.
Charlie tossed and turned, wondering how much longer they could hold on. Food was in short supply. He knew that Isabella and Renee were scavenging for greens outside of the city walls. It had become dangerous for anyone, much less a fragile woman and lass. People were desperate to feed their families, hooligans were banding together to scavenge what they could from the dead who were left behind. Many were dying without so much as a fever, left for dead, presumably at the hands of these men.
Charlie wished he had resources like the Stanleys. They had been able to send their girl, Jessica, off to family in the countryside, a remote village as yet untouched by this terrible blight. Yes, Mr. Stanley had to send most of his valuables alongside her in payment, but to save the life of your beloved child? It would have been worth any sacrifice he could make.
As the week passed, Charlie's routine did not change. One evening he came home to find Isabella sobbing. "What is the matter girl?"
Bella looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. "Mother, she isn't well." She rose to be enveloped in her Father's strong arms. "She won't let me see to her, won't let me near her!"
Charlie braced Isabella with his hands on her arms. "You listen child! You will do as your mother has instructed. I have seen it myself! Once one is taken it's only a matter of time."
Isabella dropped to her knees, holding onto Charlie's leg. "Please Father! You cannot make me sit back and do nothing while she suffers, it is too cruel!" Charlie had turned away from Renee and Isabella trying to decide what to say, when came a solid knock upon the door.
Charlie opened the door, motioning for Isabella to move away. Standing in the doorway was a gentleman. He was tall, covered head to toe in a black woolen cloak. He spoke, his voice commanding, smooth and clear. "Mr. Swan. My name is Edward Cullen. It would behoove you to allow me entrance, I have a proposition for you." Charlie's eyes shifted to Isabella, not visible to the man as of yet. "I assure you, I won't hurt your daughter." The visitor was allowed through the entry way. "Yet," the stranger hummed, inaudible to Charlie.
A/N I need to say thanks. To Jules and CK, who supported my foray into writing in the beginning and inspired the first words of fiction I wrote, I freaking love you so much. To aciepey, friend, plotter extraordinaire and beta, azrealsangel, friend, who betas with a different, darker perspective and lambcullen; friend, unknowing mentor and accidental beta, thanks so much. My Oz, Andrew, you worked me past the biggest obstacle in this story and more, much gratitude. Edward's smirk and half of his grin definitely belong to you. Mark, the Boy to my Fall Out, the arse to my ass, you know, I hope, how grateful I am, for so much. To echoesoftwilight, who provided the musical inspiration for this from day one, Edward wouldn't have the certain "something" he needed without your DJ skillz, grazie. To the WCers who have taught me so much, you rock.
To you readers who opened this up and decided to read, thank you for taking the time to look at my work. I plan to update weekly.