The Great Mortality may started in Asia but now the dread plague had reached Europe. It swept unopposed through many European towns and cities carried by rats and fleas. The many places Doctor Frederich Laech had passed on his travels continued to pile and burn bodies wherever they could. The massive smoke heavy pyres also deterred another kind of nasty threat. For Doctor Laech and his trusted assistant Cecilia business during this awful period was booming. People now more than ever needed the services of a capable Doctor. Together the two wayward travellers trudged through a thick mud past begging crowds and Town Criers chanting ‘bring out your dead’ whilst they rang a small metal bell loud enough that it may as well wake the dead. They soon came upon the house of interest. If you could call it that. A dilapidated broken down. Its foundation had sunk into the earth making it looked slanted and off balance.
Laech knocked three times before someone finally answered. The diligent peasant wife had opened the door partway revealing a bowl of stew under her arm.
“You the doctor I asked for?”
“Yes. Please, may I come in?”
“Of course! You’re our only hope. My husband, Walter. He’s in bed. Been there for three days. I keep feeding him but he’s not getting any better. I’m not sure what to do, Doctor.”
“I will see to him, Cecilia -” Laech motioning to his assistant. “Look after her will you and make sure she’s well. If she shows any signs of the infection, you know what to do.”
Cecilia nodded and took the anxious woman by the arm leading her to one side. Laech made his way toward the door that led to the bedroom. The stench of decay and rot ticked his nose hairs. He gently opened the door and entered the room. The door swung shut behind him. He took a position beside the bed. The man’s pale face stood out against the black veins that ran up and down his neck. The man looked at him for a few seconds pleading with his eyes.
“I am Doctor Laech, what ails you?” He asked.
The man pointed to his chest.
“As I suspected. May I remove your shirt?”
Doctor Laech removed a short scalpel from his belt and cut down the shirt exposing the man’s chest. At its centre was the brown blotch.
“May I ask, did you consume any unusual fruit or vegetables in the last few days?”
The man shook his head.
“Then what have you eaten?”
“Stew. It’s all we can eat.”
“I can’t remove what’s inside you,” Laech said. “It’s too far gone But I can stop it from taking your mind.”
He removed a bottle labelled ‘healing oil’ from his satchel and rubbed balm onto his hands before pressing them down onto the man’s brown spot.
Mortalis. Wake up. I beseech that you do not consume this man’s mind, if you wish to continue existing.
Nothing. Either the creature inside him lacked intelligence, or it was deliberately playing at being ignorant.
Doctor Laech took in a dozen deep breaths and pressed down harder this time. His own veins glowed a vibrant red as his psionic power surged into the room. You will obey.
The spot writhed under his pressure as red tendrils rose from Laech and wrapped around the man’s body piercing the skin. The man winced and squirmed as many inflammations that had ravaged his body healed in a instant. The cuts and bruises now sealed like they had never existed. If you refuse this peace offer. I will cure this man of your corruption. You will die. You need him.
Doctor Laech soon came to rest looking down at part of his arm and more impossible cuts appeared on his skin. He turned away. “How do you feel now?”
“What are you?” the man wheezed.
“A Doctor…” Laech said as he began preparing one of his concoctions.
“You’re a -“
Doctor Laech raised a single hand in the air.”If you so much as squeal. I will crush your organs. You are still in my snare. But I can feel the pulse of your heart, even now. I can kill either you or the creature inside you but the shock of it would leave you addled. You’d be a mere passenger in your own body. My goal here is coexistence for you both.”
“What are you doing now?”
Laech faced the man, wooden bowl in hand. “This should make you feel better.”
Laech left the room not too long after. The peasant wife approached him with Cecilia not far behind.
“Will he live?”
“Yes, but there is something inside him. You know what it is?” Laech asked.
“Aye, Doctor. I was afraid to accept the truth. He’s a goner, right? Will he become a ghoul?”
“As long as you care for him and keep a close watch on his daily activities,” Laech said removing a scrap of paper from his pocket. “He should be fine. Also, this recipe should satisfy it. Raw meat stew only. Make sure it’s bloody. It doesn’t matter who or what. It’s not fussy. If you want him to stay that way. Do not let it starve.”
The woman nodded and Doctor Laech moved past with Cecilia quick to join his side.
“Thank you, Doctor. We won’t forget this.”
“Don’t thank me. This is what I do. I make people better. Come, my dear Cecilia. There are more people that need our services.”
She gave an eager nod and together they left the house returning to the chaos that welcomed them with open arms. Doctor Laech met Cecilia’s troubled stare.
“Don’t fret, my dear. It is not the end of all things. At least not yet. That won’t happen for least another few hundred years.”
I hope so, came her soft gentle voice in his mind. I don’t want to live in a dead world.
Neither do I my dear, neither do I.