February 26, 2014 by David.Groveman
In this sample we are introduced to ‘The Doctor’ who is only one of the many villainous creatures roaming the pages of this book. Here we find him visiting a new ‘Patient’, Lord Jean d’Auber of Chalucet, and administering his favorite ‘Cure’.
The castle was cold. A fire burned in the brazier, furs were heaped on the bed and a plump peasant girl warmed the sheets and yet, the castle was cold. Jean d’Auber cursed his fragile form, he cursed his condition and he cursed his God in heaven. He was lord of Chalucet, wealthy and comfortable but he cursed his lot in life. He sat up in the bed pulling a bear skin around his boney shoulders.
The peasant girl reached for him but he slapped her disdainfully away. “You will be out of the castle by sunrise and I will not see you again.” The girl held in a sob, he could tell. She knew too well that she would be beaten should she cry in front of him. She was to be pliant and willing and not show needs or concerns of her own. She was likely carrying his bastard and she feared that her peasant family would not take her back with the spawn of sin inside her. In Jean’s mind, that was her problem, though it would still be dealt with.
Jean rose from the bed and winced as his bare feet met the cold flagstone floor. With the bear skin wrapped tightly about him, he walked brusquely into the hall. It was a great effort to move so confidently, as his legs had become gouty, though he was still a young man. He would sit by the great hearth in his hall and warm himself. He would also speak with the Captain of his guard. He would order him to kill the peasant bitch on her way to town. A bastard could be a problem as Jean tried to find himself a suitable marriage and he would not leave a loose end. His captain was reliable and would see to that. Reaching the hall with the great fire burning he left his vicious orders with his captain and settled in his chair.
His captain, a man named Charles, seemed happy to oblige in the order. He also seemed to expect it. Jean liked the man against better judgment; it was always good to have a man who anticipated his needs. No doubt the captain would bring a fresh crop of young maidens for his lord to choose from in the morning. It was good to have your needs anticipated it was better to have a servant who shared your desires and penchant for lustful cruelty. Jean was significantly lucky to have Charles in this way but, none of the less, he cursed the world.
God cursed the wicked, his mother had told him, but the church blessed the wealthy. The abbot assured him he was blessed, but his body insisted otherwise. His legs hurt, his back was stiff and his vision failed him. God was a vile fuck as far as Jean was concerned and he could kiss his pimpled ass for all the holy help he’d given him.
Jean was about to order his steward to fetch some wine when a knock came at the door. It was the middle of the night and the noise startled Jean who suddenly feared that God had been listening to his angry thoughts. He looked across his hall and his watery eyes made the large black door look like the angry maw of a beast. He steadied himself and cursed his frailty once more as he calmed his frayed nerves. “See who it is and send them away,” He demanded of the steward, who rushed to the door.
The Steward shut the door behind himself and there was a long pause as the docile old fool toddled with the impudent guest. He could not hear the conversation in the entryway but the muffled prattle was infuriating. Jean waited for the steward to meekly return so he could abuse him for his slowness. Jean might even have the man beaten, that would make him feel better, it always had.
Just then, the door swung open sharply and a tall dark figure stood silhouetted in the fire light. He had a deformed hawk-like beak for a face and a billowing cloud of blackness for a body. Jean nearly fell from his chair as he clawed back in fear. God had sent his angel of death to punish him for his sinful ways. A nail on his left hand cracked painfully as Jean realized he had scratched the arms of his chair in fright.
The pain and fear turned quickly to anger as his steward bumbled in past the dark figure who stood motionless in the doorway. Jean realized that his distorted vision had made a spectre out of some fool traveler that his blighted steward had invited inside. The thought curdled inside him, ‘The fool had let the stranger in? What insolence was this?’
“Your lordship…” The steward began before Jean smacked him hard across the face with his bleeding hand.
“You insolent whelp!” Jean allowed his fear and pain fuel his anger, “What kind of servant are you that you allow someone entry at this hour?”
“I am sorry, your lordship. Only…”
“Only your addled brain cannot handle the simple tasks given to you?” Jean could have his man (was his name Alan?) tortured in the dungeons. He would see to it as soon as he had the guards throw this visitor out into the night.
“Yes, and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I only…”
Jean punched his Steward in the nose and would do so again, were his hand not caught mid-flight in a vicegrip. The figure in the door had approached silently and loomed above Jean in a frightful way. Jean’s vision might be distorted at a distance but in close quarters it was fine. He was a man, no angel of death. He wore a long black robe like a monk and covered his face with a beaked leather mask, like Jean had seen in Venice as a boy. Yet even seeing this man was not some supernatural judgment from the almighty couldn’t quell the fear in Jean d’Auber’s heart.
“I am here at the request of your humble steward.” The black cloaked figure spoke in an accented French tongue, Occitan if Jean guessed correctly. “They call me Il Dotore and I am told that your lordship is unwell.” His voice was calm and gentle, like that of a father consoling a crying boy but his grip was strong and un-flinching.
“I… m-my steward should not be,” Jean paused to steady himself and wished he had a glass of wine to warm his insides. Within the moment’s pause he leveled his prodigious anger at the stranger. Who was this man who visited at a late hour wearing the costume of a fool? “I am Jean d’Auber and I do not accept visitors to my home at this hour and I am quite well…”
The visitor squeezed Jean’s wrist and Jean feared that the pressure must surely soon break his bones. “You have gout my lord. That I can see that from your posture and I would guess from the pigment of your skin that you’re suffering from a lack of iron in your diet. I would wager that your urine burns, your vision is blurry, particularly at distances and that you are always cold.” Jean’s lip trembled hearing this from Il Dotore. His steward knew of the gout but the other ailments were thought secret to all but himself. There was a pregnant pause, “I can help you my lord.”
There followed a silence that dragged on. Jean stared into the emotionless leather mask of the visitor in a mix of wonder and horror as his steward quietly tried to tend to his own bleeding face. “Leave us! You are not to speak of this meeting to anyone, or I will have you beheaded.” Jean ordered his servant away. Perhaps this stark intruder was a blessing from God rather than a curse from the devil, but he would be damned if he would allow the world to know the extremity of his weakness. He might need to have Alan’s tongue removed and he’d surely have Charles kill Il Dotore before the man could leave the castle.
Once the servant had left the room Il Dotore released Jean’s wrist. Jean clutched at it, immediately regretting showing that he’d been hurt by this stranger. The doctor betrayed no notice. His eyes, covered by glass goggles, shone an opalescent black like those of a bird. He merely pulled a small black bag from the folds of his robe and extracted a small bottle.
“I loathe physic,” Jean complained with the petulance of a child, “It tastes of lichen and dung. Doctors are all the same, you putrify tripe and serve it as a remedy.”
The doctor tilted his expressionless mask, “This is cordial. A liquor made from Spanish oranges and honey. It will warm you while I work.” Jean took the bottle and sniffed skeptically but found the heady smell of fortified alcohol and swallowed it quickly. Instantly he could feel a warmth spreading through his limbs, the other cures be damned this man could sell him a case of this cordial and be gone.
Jean wanted to tell him so but could only manage a meek, “Barrrmm faahh…” His lips had gone numb, and following his lips, his tongue, arms and legs. Jean pissed himself and would grimace, as it burned to do so, if he could have moved his mouth. Il Dotore lifted the lord as if he were a babe and laid him on one of the tables in the hall, dropping the bear skin to the floor.
The doctor worked quickly, cutting away Jean’s wet sleeping robe so the lord lay bare on his feasting table. “I must explain that most of your maladies can be blamed on your cook.” The mysterious figure fished a wicked looking blade from his bag.
Lord Jean d’Auber could only look on in horror as his thigh was opened from groin to knee with a swift surgical cut. Il Dotore narrating in his fatherly tone, “The pain from your gout is caused by crystalline deposits in your muscles. He massaged the exposed bleeding flesh which was thankfully numb. This could be prevented with a change to your diet, but I hardly think that’s a pressing concern for you at the moment.” The doctor grabbed a pair of cups from his bag as well as another small bottle. “This is healthy human blood, taken from the captain of your guard shortly after he raped and murdered a peasant girl outside the castle.” The doctor poured the viscous red liquid into the first cup and swirled it slowly for effect. “Your own blood,” An incision made at Jean’s wrist filling the second cup, “is thin and watery.” Again demonstrating for Jean’s horrified edification.
The doctor didn’t pause in the narration of his work, “The painful urination,” Jean nearly fainted, fearing to even look down, knowing that his penis was now being split by the precise hand of this mad doctor, “Is a simple matter of kidney stones. Which I have excised,” The doctor held the small stone for his patient to see. Jean felt very sure that death must come upon him soon as the feeling, horrible and painful began to return to his limbs.
“STOP! Please…” Jean managed through gurgling choking gasps.
“But I haven’t gotten to the root of these maladies. A malignant tumor, here.” The doctor pointed to the center of jean’s chest and pulled out a heftier weighted blade with an edge of serrated teeth like a saw’s blade.
The cries from the great hall would curdle the blood of all the servants who were unlucky enough to hear them. When the steward returned to the hall, he found Il Dotore in spare robes (having thrown the bloody ones on the fire) with only his former lord’s mangled corpse and the blood spattered mask as reminders of the carnage.
“Your lord has been cured,” Il Dotore announced with calmness that chilled the Steward’s blood, “Though he shall never recover.”
“Y-your p-payment…” The old man handed over a sizable bag of coin to the doctor who hefted it for weight.
The doctor handed back an equally sizable object, “And yours,” the heart of Lord Jean d’Auber.
“The peasants and servants thank you… signore. I wish you good travels.” The steward hoped, prayed, this dark creature would leave quickly.
“But my work is not done.” The steward felt as if he’s swallowed his own heart as the doctor grabbed his throat in his powerful hands. “There is so much sickness in this castle that needs to be cured…”
The cries of their dying lord would have no doubt haunted the dreams of his former servants for the rest of their lives, had their lives not been cut so mercifully short.