Chapter 10: The Game is About to Begin
My stay at Carter manor was brief this time. A day of rest, after the journey of reaching Carter manor, was all I allowed myself. I could not just sit around knowing that the people who had killed Andre were out there somewhere, and do nothing. Convincing Genevieve to let me leave for Beygul; the capital city, so soon was a tricky task at hand, but years of practice had gotten me skilled at it. With some effort Genevieve was convinced at letting me leave next day alone with just an armed driver, and in turn she coaxed her father to let me go without an entourage. The hours of daylight and darkness, till next dawn, went by too quickly; resting from the exertion of previous journey and preparing for the upcoming journey.
When the first light of dawn broke, I was already few miles onto the road to Beygul. Darkness was thinning and sunlight filtered through opaque forest canopy, faintly illuminating the path ahead. The beauty of the surroundings was beginning to show as the morning light reflected on them; birds chirped melodiously, wildlife slowly was coming to life, beginning to move around the woods. On any other day I would have been happily engrossed into sightseeing through the carriage window as scenery flew past, but not today. This day all I had on my mind were the plots for vengeance.
Four days of continuous travelling with only stops for the nights, and I finally made it to Beygul. Apart from increase in the depth of snow piled on the roads and the addition to the layers of clothing supported by the commoners, nothing much had changed. Streets were still abuzz with activity, even considerably early in the morning. Market place as always frenzied with commotion; people ran around in an ever present and undefined hurry; coins clinked in pouches; noises of customers bargaining with shopkeepers, shop owners trying to call customers to their shops, and friends chatting at tea stalls melded into a singular high pitched buzzing that noticeably hit every passerby.
Steering through the market and considerably busy streets of the city, Francis steered the carriage onto my father’s property, bringing it to a complete stop at the entrance to the small castle I had spent a better part of my childhood in.
My father Edmund Black, commonly known as master of the armed forces of The Estercrest Empire, was one of the very trusted men of the current king. He was no high born, or descended from no rich lineages playing at royal court since always; rather he was the first child of a peasant couple barely making ends meets through the hardships of life.
Around forty five years ago when the now king; Cedric, was merely a crown prince and deployed in the state of Antonia; as a lord, an epidemic hit the kingdom hard. For almost a year the Bubonic plague ruled the Estercrest lands. With the declaration of outbreak of the plague the royal lands especially the castles were sealed with the king and other noble men, women and families locked safely on the inside unavailable for the common masses in the time of dire need.
One after another families fell prey to the disease, people died after days and days of agony and suffering. Dead bodies and houses thought to be infected, with or without people inside were set on fire to stop the spread of disease, but to no considerable avail. The number of dead kept rising at a steady pace. Around one third of the population of the empire fell to death at the hands of the plague. Society subsequently became more violent as the mass mortality rate cheapened life, and thus increased warfare, crime, popular revolt, waves of flagellants, and persecution.
States and rulers, though out of sight still tried utmost to keep their people safe from being infected. No one was allowed to visit plague-infected areas, and if they did they were not allowed back into the gated areas of cities. No corpses were allowed to be buried within the cities and in the populated areas. People who were not infected by the plague gathered in groups and stayed away from the sick. They ate and drank limited food and water, and were not even allowed oral communication with the fear that it might cause the disease to spread.
A year of plague and The Estercrest Empire was devastated. Despite all the measures to prevent and fight the disease millions and millions of the people died. As the epidemic broke after giving people about a year of suffering, death, fear and sorrow, a famine hit the empire. For months people had to live with only the fear for their lives and nothing else on their mind. Most of the food in reserves had been used up throughout the year of the epidemic, the rest was burned in the many fires; set with the thought to eradicate the disease that went out of control.
With no food at hand, the epidemic out of the way, and no help from the nobles or the ruling families and the prince, revenge and rage took root into the minds of the people of Antonia, similar to the people in other states of Estercrest. People had already lost many loved ones and were losing more due to the famine. Hunger turned men into beasts, and the beasts wanted the head of prince Cedric.
The infectious disease had spread inland by the transferring of merchandise through Cedric’s efforts in acquiring luxurious of all goods of the time and exporting supplies to create wealth for the empire; which people believed only fattened the royal family’s pockets. To people, prince Cedric was the one responsible for all the devastation caused by the plague and famine.
Masses exploded with anger, and an uprising was started. Royal guards and emperor’s soldiers in the area were killed without a second thought. The plague affected dead bodies were dug out of the graves and catapulted over the castle walls to spread the pestilence. Rebels broke down the castle doors making their way inside with ferocity. Every man sighted who had even the slightest connection to the royal court was brutally murdered, noble women got rapped, and children snatched from their mothers. No one was showed even an ounce of mercy. Prince Cedric was fast asleep when six heavily armed rebel men broke into his room, which led to him being unarmed and completely surrounded by the people thirsty for his blood. His guards lay dead at the entrance to his chambers.
Edmund Black; my father, who originally was there at the castle to steal food for his starving younger brothers and mother, reached the private chambers of the prince just in time to fight, gallantly, against the six men and save the life of the crown prince, ending up gravely wounded himself. Not long after, troops from the capital city; sent in by the king arrived, and the rebellion was crushed. Prince Cedric personally saw to it that his savior got the finest medical attention possible. My father healed completely with time, and was awarded a large estate as well as a place among prince’s personal guards. Over time father served the prince with such loyalty that he was rewarded with a constant raise in power and status to the point he was at this day; master of the king’s army.
Like the city nothing much had changed at the castle; my home, too, which also happened to be a gift to my father by king Cedric. Other than the maids and servants the house was empty. Since my father was away leading the king’s army in a war to expand the borders of the already world’s largest empire; Estercrest, and my brothers accompanying him, my sisters and I were sent away for security purposes, in case the war was ever lost and the enemies of our father move to seek revenge and ransack his house. While I was sent to Carter manor, my sisters were sent to our cousin’s house outside the Estercrest territory. Father was not going to be happy in the least in case he found out I was back home in his absence, but I was not bothered by his wrath towards me more than by the fact that Andre’s murderers were still roaming freely, but, now that I was home facts were about to change.