The Sickest Time – Chapter Three
If anything good was to be said about Governor Bouchepourri of Villearrièr, it would be that he was well-known. So well-loved he was that many came to the doors of the castle to call out to him in hopes he would offer a solution to the spreading illness. As more and more people got sick, he decided and decreed, with utmost certainty, that nobody would be able to leave their homes and keep the sickness within the confines of their own walls. To the old tallow-faced governor, living in the castle at the edge of town, it was perfect.
“But what of food? Water?” His trusted aides asked.
“Do they not have vast pantries and livestock and barrels of their own? As we do here?”
“Fine, I suppose we can have shops still open. The merchants would throw a fit if they couldn’t work eighteen hours a day, anyways. But make sure we are still taking the proper tariffs from them.”
“Of course. But what of the people’s business amongst each other? Or of receiving of complaints and praises from them when they cannot come to the castle here?”
“Complaints? What sort of things might they complain about?” Bouchepourri huffed from his wide seat in the empty hall. “If they desire to wish us well… once more, have them write their messages to us.”
“Monsieur Governor, it seems that many do not know even how to read or write, sir.”
“That is their fault for being lazy, then,” the powerful and humble man leaned on his knees. “Fine, then we may send a scribe or two about to listen to and write down their messages.”
And so did the scribes zoom about Villearrièr, collecting all sorts of messages to trade with other townsfolk, the merchants and finally bring those left unanswered tiredly back to the castle.
“Tell me, what are the people saying?” Bouchepourri sat up, intent to hear the words taken down.
“Ahem,” the scribe began with the first. “Governor, I find it regrettable that the bakery near my home has stopped making and selling gluten-free loaves, citing that the clay and chalk used to make them has been made contraband as it is from the east. Please allow at least some of these ingredients, properly sourced, of course, be able to return to our local bakers. That is all.”
“I see. And what pray tell is gluten?”
“I have no idea, Monsieur Governor.”
“Indeed,” the scribe said, shuffling the papers. “Governor Bouchepourri… I am contacting you about your carriage insurance… perhaps we forgo this one. Hum… Good Governor, I can no longer stomach the confinement with my wife after all this time. Our marriage has been quite pleasant, as long as I was able to be at the forge for most hours of the day. But with my business being shut down, I have had to listen to her desires and stories that are better met by the ears of other housewives. I believe my only way out is to have it appear as if I had died in an accident while out of the house. I ask of you to arrange this for me, and in exchange, I will work inside the castle, free of charge until my body can no longer.”
The governor stood and paced, taking in the request. “I believe I understand the trouble of this man. Make it so.”
“I shall find the right folk to undertake it. Care to hear the final message?”
“Fine,” Bouchepourri sighed, sliding back to his seat.
“Let’s see… Monsieur Governor, the number of rats that roam the street and invade our homes has become unbearable. Any food we bring inside is gnawed at by them, and when they become bored of that, they strike at us with their sharp teeth when we are not looking. I am sure I saw one rat with the same particular boils that the sick carry. Our neighbor has even succumbed to the sickness, and not soon after being bitten. I am afraid there may be some sort of connection.”
The Governor held his chin in his hands, waiting for the message to reach its end. “Rats?” He wrinkled his nose.
“So it says here, Governor.”
Bouchepourri glanced about, along the edges and into the deep corners of the stone chamber. “I see no rats here.”
“Not a one, sir.”
“And on the streets?”
“Some, sir, but no different from any other time.”
“These people know nothing. That is the last one? You may be excused.”