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The Tragedy of Generations A medieval Tale of Revenge and Surrender
I woke up next to my beautiful wife Juliana. She was pregnant and our child was due soon. As I was thinking of my wonderful life with Juliana, she to awoke and greeted me with her melodic voice and sweet smile. I kissed her on the cheek and I got up. I got dressed, but Juliana just stayed in her nightgown and sat up in bed. I said good bye once more and headed out to find a vocation by which to support my family. The King somehow heard of my seeking and he appointed me the town’s herald. I was so happy. It took him almost until nightfall to explain my duties and responsibilities, which would include announcing the King’s words to the public, and keeping the townspeople updated with news and decisions the King had made. I would also read tales from the King’s library and sing for the people who gather in the town square.
When I came back to the house two of our neighbors were there, one of whom was holding a baby.
“ It’s a boy,” she said.
The other quickly added, “Juliana wanted to name him Cedric.”
“What do you mean ‘wanted’? Did she make it?”
“No,” sniffled the lady, still cradling my Cedric. The way she said this was as if I had stirred the pain resting inside of her.
I grabbed the baby from the lady’s arms and ran into our room. I sat down next to Juliana on the bed and gently laid Cedric onto her unmoving corpse. “Cedric and I will make you proud.” Then I hoped to the deepest core of my heart that I could keep my promise. I whispered my final good-bye and I took her to Shambles's Abbey where she could be buried in her hometown. I had an elaborate funeral and wished nothing had ever happened to my love.
Ten years later. . .
Today I woke up at the bitter hour of three to fulfill my duties as herald. I rushed to see the King because, indeed, I was late. As I ran to the the King’s castle I whipped out my notepaper and quill to give to the scribe so he could write down my assignments for the morning. This left my bag swinging from my shoulder, threatening to fly right off, but in the hurry to get to the king on time I forgot to alarm my son to get ready for his schooling session. “ Oh no!” I shouted hastily, “Now we are both going to be late!”
I hurried back home to wake my son, but when I got there he was nowhere to be found so I assumed that he had awakened, gotten himself ready and went to his schooling session all on his own. I was proud at the thought of my son being so independent. I hurried back to the castle to get orders from the king, deeply hoping he would not be angry at my absence.
Once I got there I was informed by a palace guard that the king did not need me that day.
“This is because the King just discovered he had developed some sort of illness. King Fitzgerald needs time to be treated by a doctor. As a result of this, the King’s barons were ordered to take control of the land. The Queen divided up the land between the the three barons and they were to serve the king by temporarily ruling their part of Varrok. However, if something happens to go wrong and the baron cannot fix it, they will then call upon you to help them. King Fitzgerald is counting on you to do the most important task of performing this job for him.”
As soon as the guard had finished telling me about this, I automatically had a sinking feeling. So many things could go wrong and if they do, it is my job to fix them.
Since the guard had been talking on and on about the situation, my work day was over and it was time to pick up my son Cedric from his schooling session. But when I arrived, Cedric was not waiting as usual. I waited hours on end for Cedric. I searched high and low for him inside the schooling house and I could not find him anywhere. “This day is a never ending nightmare!” I shouted up into the sky. No one answered. I went home assuming again that Cedric already went home and was asleep for at least an hour.
When I got home I soon discovered that Cedric was not in our house. He was nowhere, no- where to be seen, nowhere to be found and certainly nowhere to be heard from. I ran out of my house, knocked on every door, and asked every person in the city if they had seen Cedric. Every person I asked said they had not seen him. Just as my hope was fading on ever seeing Cedric again, I realized that I had skipped a house on my long journey through Varrok. I swiftly ran back to the house I thought I had forgotten. It was three doors down from my house. The residents were a little old lady and her husband and they both claimed they saw Cedric. First, the little old lady said that a robber had taken Cedric but, she did not know were he had been taken to. The old man yelled over her, “No, no, no! The robber got Cedric, but Cedric fought the robber off and ran past the town square and into the woods.”
At this point I ran past the town square and to the fringe of the woods. This is where I stumbled across an envelope. It clearly stated my name, BLYTHE BALDING, in all capital letters. I started to get excited when I saw this because whenever my son tries to write, he finds it easier and faster to write in all capital letters. I stumbled to my feet to get the envelope, then quickly opened it. It said:
Good-bye, father. Someone tried to come after me. I got away ,but I have decided to leave Varrok so this cannot happen again . Be careful and thank you for everything.
At this, I searched through the woods for hours but found nothing. At about midnight I went back to my house to catch a few hours of sleep before my duties as herald would resume.
March 3, 1100 A.D.
When I arose this morning I rapidly got dressed and glanced at the note again. “My poor Cedric,” I whispered, deep in my breath. I moped to the door walked down the steps and resumed directly to the castle. This is where I met the informative guard from the previous day. As I approached him he started to yell in my direction, but once I finally got over to him he repeated what he tried to tell me before and started to calm himself down.
“ The king , the king, oh . . . he is very ill,” the guard went on . “ The doctor thinks that he has contracted the smallpox. There is no cure for this fatal disease. Tomorrow he will be treated with a medicinal concoction called dwale, however the medicine itself could kill him. ”
“ And the barons?” I asked curiously, craving more information.
“ The barons are permanent as of now until further notice, but there is more,” said the guard. “The whole perimeter of the city will be closed off until the king passes away, then his son Felix will rule and decide whatever he wishes.” The guard sighed, then started filling in the holes of his story. “The king only has a little while to live. The doctor says his smallpox are serious. He has approximately a week of life left.”
“ Now I will have lost my job and my son. What else can go wrong?” As I finished speaking rain poured down on my head. It pounded hard on the ground and everything around it. It rained and rained, gathering puddles at my feet. It rained almost as hard as I found myself crying.
“ You lost your son, Blythe?” questioned the guard, barely noticing the rain.
“Yes, have you seen him?”
“ No, not since about a week ago,” the guard said. Then he ran off into the woods still oblivious of the rain.
I was brave enough to follow from a couple of feet away. But after I got to the brim of the woods I spotted my son all tied up on the ground, leaning on a tree. He looked up and his eyes brightened. This must have caught the guard’s attention because he looked at me. Then he picked up a strange looking object from the ground and aimed it at me. I tried to run away, but by the time I turned myself around something hit me. It must have been that strange looking object because I fell to the ground, soon aching all over. I felt dizzy and I think the guard was dragging me. I could feel the scrape of the rocks against my skin. Afterwards I fell into a deep sleep.
Upon rising I was greeted by the faint smirk of the guard. He then chuckled deeply and walked around the low lit room. “So, you thought you could get away with what you did?”
Once I heard his deep raspy voice I learned that it wasn’t the guard that I thought was holding me hostage, but someone else. It could not possibly be the king because he had the smallpox. I then had an idea. Could it be the person that my wife had always talked about? The one who hated our family because Juliana refused to marry her own cousin? I quickly aborted the idea because the deep choppy voice I had previously heard could not belong to a woman.
“Sir,” I asked ,“What is your name?”
“ What is my name? What is my name, you dare ask me that?” The man was in disbelief . “Oh this will be all the more fun,” said the man, still laughing as his swaggered personality walked itself out the door.
I thought frantically about who the man was, why he was doing this to me and my family, and a possible way to get out of this soon to be death trap. Between the gap of thinking and just tinkering with my hands, I spotted a key on the ground. I pulled myself over to it, which was an almost impossible task considering my hands and feet were tied together. Once I finally got it I saw there was a paper under it. I read it and it said:
Use the key to untie yourself. It does not open the door you want it to ,but it will later .Put the key and note in your pocket. Refer to it later. I will let you out when I am supposed to bring your meal.
As I finished reading the note I looked up, and there was the guard in the doorway, after a series of clicks and clanks of the old door’s hinges I looked at him.
“ Are you. . . ?” I tried to asked but he just covered my mouth and said , “ Yes I am. If you ever bothered to learn my name we would not be in this situation.”
He continued. “ Listen carefully.” He spoke extremely softly . “I will walk out with a knife to your throat, but,” he got a little louder, “ I will not kill you. We will walk out, go to your son’s holding area and use the key to get him out. I will escort you both out of the castle.”
“Then what?” I asked and sincerely wondered.
“Then you and your son are on your own,” he seemed to have a vexatious tone “ And do not forget to watch out for Yrre. He resents you for being herald. That is his rightful position but the King never liked him and as a result he appointed you instead.”
Just as I thought everything was going smoothly, Yrre walked past and yelled at Ryce. It was felicitous that Ryce knew just how to handle the situation. He shoved the small of my back and spoke gravely into my ear, “I am taking him to be wedged. I hope you know what you have done!”
“ Oh, very good, very good. I am glad to see you doing your job. Continue on.”
We went to get Cedric and Ryce snuck him out as planned. I was so happy to see Cedric, but I knew now was not a time for talking. I signaled my son not to make a sound. He understood my message and looked straight ahead as we once again ran into Yrre.
“What are you doing with the boy? I thought we agreed he was mine.” Yrre looked at Cedric in a malignant way. I could figure by his clenched fist and wrathful body language he would have inflicted much pain on the both of us.
“ The prisoner said that the boy was his son, I assumed they were together. It could not hurt to do them both at the same time. They would have to watch each other’s pain”
“Very well, then. I shall leave you to it.”
Cedric looked at me with fear but it was certain now was not the time to comfort him. It would ruin the elaborate plan Ryce had laid perfectly. As soon as we got past Yrre I quickly whispered to him that everything was going to be all right. Ryce shoved us outside and said, “Leave, hide, do something. Yrre cannot find you again. If he does, not only will you be dead, but I will as well. Pack your things. I will arrange for the King or Felix to try and get rid of Yrre for good. If it is at my power I will come and find you. That is, if I am still alive. I will bring you and your son back here to continue your lives. Until then, this is good-bye.”
We packed our things and left through the woods with special permission to go outside the perimeter of the walls. Once we were outside Cedric and I slept on the cold hard ground. How did our lives become so complicated? Only a little while ago I could remember our normal life. This was far from normal, but we could make this life work to our benefit. We both fell asleep. The darkness inundated the land as if it were in search of someone. It swept over us but it luckily did not stop to check who we were. This was the only technique the darkness could use to hold our sins against us. However our sins were no longer valid for our escape had taken them over.
We slept on the ground and when I awoke I found that someone had started a fire for us. Yet no one was in my sight. In short order I woke up Cedric to see if by any means he had started the fire. But with our luck I doubted it.
“ Cedric, did you start a fire?” I stirred him, still tired.
“ No. What fire? I have no idea what you are talking about. Who are you anyway?” Cedric strung the questions together like socks on a clothes line.
“ What do you mean, who am I? I am your father, the person who raised you.”
“ You are not my father. You could not be. I just met you a minute ago,” the boy said with pure innocence.
“ Cedric, if you are hoaxing me I will be furious!”. Yet with his clueless attitude I assumed Cedric could remember nothing that had happened last night, or, for that matter, his whole life.
I felt like crying, but there was no time for that. I had to figure out what happened to Cedric. This could be the first day of the end of his life. “Come on boy, let’s start walking.” I only referred to him as “boy” because there would be no point in explaining to him why he needed to respond to his own name. This would waste our limited time, the time we needed to find another city and a doctor that could treat him.
Suddenly I heard a rustle in the bushes of the forest. I checked behind them and out of them ran a women. She had blond hair and hazel eyes. I tried to catch her in spite of her lightning fast legs. I yelled for Cedric to follow me and he eventually did. The women had a bottle in her hand which she suddenly dropped, but did not stop running to pick up. I walked over to the bottle and read it. It was labeled Hemlock Juice the bottle composed of old blown glass. It was almost empty and by comparing the smell of the bottle to the smell of Cedric's breath, I could tell he had drank it. I put the bottle in my pocket and burst into tears “My Cedric, my poor, poor Cedric!” I tried not to get hysterical for the sake of my little boy. Now I was sure this was the first day of the end of his life. I continued to try to find a city, but when we finally got there Cedric was already weaker than I expected. I asked the first person I saw if they could direct me to the doctor.
“Right over there,” the man said, pointing across the road.
I went in the direction the townsman had indicated and knocked at the door of a small cottage, calling out, “Doctor, can you help my son? I think someone has given him hemlock juice!”
“ Yes, I can see that,” the doctor replied.
When she turned around I was in awe. The doctor was the same blond haired, hazel eyed women from the behind the bushes. I was stunned. I could not believe it. The only thing I could say was, “Why did you do this?” in slow pronounced words.
“Do what?” said the woman, clearly appalled.
I looked at Cedric and all of his energy had been drained. His face was extremely pale, and his eyes were beginning to close. I don’t think I had ever seen someone so frail and weak. The life may as well have been drained out of his little soul.
The woman looked at Cedric. “ I saw you and the boy this morning while I was on my morning walk. The boy had been exposed to bacteria and was well into the stages of brain deterioration. I could tell the boy had caught the deadly bacteria was because his body was red and blotchy. I instantly knew the boy would not live much longer, so giving him the hemlock would speed up his death so that it would not be quite so very painful.” The woman said this as if she felt my pain. “I diluted it with wine so it would not instantly kill him. If you want, you may stay with him until. . . .”
“Thank you so much,” I sobbed. Then I took my son’s hand to watch his gradual death. With the hectic day we had, I almost forgot that today was his birthday. The same day he was born his mother died, and now he would die as well.
I whispered “Happy birthday” to my son as his pulse stopped. I cried and cried after my son’s death. I called the doctor in and she pronounced him dead. I sat for long hours with my son. Once I finally got it through my head that he was dead, the doctor and I buried him. I went out into the woods and found a huge piece of walnut. I borrowed a knife from the doctor and carved a gravestone for my son. The gravestone had a cross on it and under that it said:
In memory of the most deserving son a man can ask for. And whom shall be in my heart forever .
-- Cedric Balding, 1090-1100
I was mooring over the pain I felt for my son. It was over, but now my heart was broken. My wife died ten years ago today, and now ten years later my son died as well. Then I sat at his grave stone and dissolved in tears. The sun went down and I slept next to my son.
When I woke up I was once again on the ground sleeping next to my son. I looked up at the beautiful gravestone I had carved last night. It was so amazing I did not even know how I did it because that was the first time I had ever picked up a knife in my entire life. When the doctor came to work she greeted me with pleasant smile.
“ Were you here all night?” she asked.
“ Yes, I slept here all night. Right here with my son,” I said.
“ Where are you from?” the lady asked, desperate to make conversation.
“ I am from Varrok. What about you?” I asked.
“I grew up right here.”
“ I forgot to ask. . .where is ‘right here’?”
“ Oh, I am so sorry. This is Shambel’s Abbey,” said the doctor.
“ Shambel’s Abby” I repeated . “ I have not heard that name in ten years. This is where my wife grew up,” I said, excited to hear the name again.
“ What is her name? Maybe I know her.” The doctor appeard excited as well.
“ Her name was Juliana Norbury,” I said, as the doctor’s eyes lit up with delight.
“ Juliana was my best friend as a child.” The doctor was obviously very enthused.
“ Wait. Are you Linette Eads?”
“ Yes, I am. Juliana and I were great friends.” Linette was astonished at her findings. “How is Juliana?” Linette asked.
“ I am sorry, Linette. She died ten years ago when Cedric was born.” I felt sad for the both of us, remembering the bittersweet day.
She began to cry at the thought of her best friend gone forever. But she promptly pulled herself together to ask me a question.
“ Blythe, did she ever tell you why she moved away from here?” she said between sniffles.
“No. Was there something she didn’t tell me about herself ?”
She motioned for me to come inside. In almost no time at all I caught on and sat down inside her beautiful house. She told me to sit down while she got something from the other room. Almost as soon as she left, she brought me a stunning box embroidered with beads. Linette laid it gently in my open hands and I slowly closed them a moment after.
“This was Juliana's,” she said and sat down next to me as tears raced down her cheeks.
“ When Juliana was born there was a huge dispute between her parents. Her father Perry wanted to promise her hand in marriage to Atol, Juliana’s fourth cousin. But her mother Tayte, who had a very pure heart, wanted Juliana to find love on her own, so that she could live a happy life. When she was five, despite her mother’s wishes, her father had Atol sign a marriage contract. When Juliana was seven her mother found out about the contract. She threatened to leave her father. He said that he terminated the contract when Juliana was twelve. He rreallydidn’t, and her mother went insane and sent out another threat to her husband that if he didn’t immediately terminate the contract she would kill Juliana and then herself. Her father finally terminated the contract.
“There was a problem. Atol still wanted Juliana. So one night while she was sleeping he tried to kidnap her. When his operation failed, Juliana was frightened. She came by my house, gave me this box and said that she was running away. Juliana explained what happened and decided she would run away to live in Varrok. She made me promise that I would never tell anyone where she went unless it was someone who rreallymattered. Like you, I suppose. When she left, her mother, being the fragile women she was, killed herself. Juliana never got in contact with her parents again so she never knew her mother committed suicide out of grief.
“Juliana said she would write me, but I only got three letters from her. Those are in the box. I thought you would like to have them. The box was extremely important to Juliana, so be certain you never lose it. I hope I can trust you with her prized possession.” Linette gave me information my wife never did, as if it was her duty to do so.
I thanked Linette for the story and hurried out as if I had somewhere to go. I actually went back to the graveyard. I saw what I did not realize before, in the round about fashioned way I curved in and out through the scattered gravestones, roughly one hundred yards away from each other, were Juliana, to the far left of the graveyard, Tayte, a couple rows in front of Juliana, Perry, right next to Tayte, and finally my dear son Cedric, in the row across from Juliana. As I passed pointing out all of my family I thought: my whole family, gone like the wind.
“How could I let this happen?” I whispered under my breath. As lonely as ever I sat between the gravestones of my family.
On top of the box was the notes Juliana wrote to Linette. The first one read:
I am having a wonderful time so far! The first person I met was the official herald. I think he likes me very much. We had supper together and he is very friendly. I think you would like him very much. If you ever get a chance to meet him please tell him for me. I do not believe I have the strength to tell that story again.
When I finished reading the note it rreallytouched my heart. But something I could not quite put my finger on was why Juliana would spell her own name wrong and say I was a herald if she never knew. She died before I could tell her. I walked over to her gravestone and asked, as if someone would answer. I sat down and heard the crumpling of paper. It was three sheets of paper covered in dust. I brushed the dirt off the papers and unfolded them to see the real letters Juliana wrote. I decided to open the box before I went to ask Linette about the letter.
I opened the box and a puff of black dust floated out of it. I saw Linette peer out of her window and laugh at me as if I had fallen into a trap. I tried to waft the dust away, but by the time I got around to it I started coughing and I felt like I couldn't breathe. I fell into a deep unconsciousness and I could feel myself slip into a sleep from which I feared I might not wake up. The last thing that I thought was Linette was a murderer and my entire family was dead because of her. A doctor-- who would think? Someone walking by saw me and called Linette over to treat me. He meant well, but nothing was going to help me now.
That evening, I regained a portion of my consciousnesses and felt the black dust settle further in my lungs. I was laying on the ground. I tried to lift my head but my body could not bear the weight of it. The only thing my weak corpse could handle was a small movement of my hand, but not even enough to fully make a fist. In the time I had become almost paralyzed on the ground I thought about Linette and my dead family. I started to cry but I knew that if I upset myself any more than I already had, my lungs would burst. It would do me no good and I would die just like the rest of my family.
I was now desperate to save whatever life I had left. So I took the deepest breath I could handle then let it out with a whimper. This calmed me somewhat, but it only made me feel worse inside. To my surprise someone came to my aid. Sadly, what I thought was an aid was rreallyLinette.
“What do you want?” I asked, wasting more of my energy than I should have.
Before the sinister woman could respond an innocent boy came over to see what was going on.
“ What happened to him?” asked the little boy, his huge eyes starring at me .
“ It’s nothing for you to worry about, Honey,” the murderer told who I believed was her son.
“ What is your name?” I asked the little boy, almost in a whisper.
The boy hesitated to answer. “ My name is Yrre.”
Named by a murderer after a murderer, I thought. But I couldn't scare the boy nor kill my only chance of Linette trying to help me.
“Yrre. What a nice name you have.” I tried hard not to upset either of them.
I closed my eyes and pretended to die. The little boy couldn’t see me breathe and my plan worked perfectly.
“ Save him mommy, save him!” the boy yelled.
He ran closer to me, folding his hands, kneeling beside me. He then pleaded, “Please don’t die! Please don’t die!” over and over again.
In the midst of pretending to die, I actually was dying deep inside. I was doing such a good job Linette and her son left me to what they thought was my death. What I learned after a few hours was that I had weakened tremendously, but then I had miraculously gained nearly all my strength.
I was so exited I could lift my head and wiggle my fingers. In the act of my excitement I overexerted myself and fell asleep. My dream was about me floating next to my family in the clouds. It lasted so long I began to believe it was actually real. The clouds and the sky were beginning to become more and more vivid by the second. It was as if my death was approaching before my very eyes. In my extremely vivid dream I fell to my back, still floating in mid-air. I felt myself being carried up, then put down less gently than I expected. I heard a loud thump then a sound similar to rain. At this point the dream was so peculiar I woke myself up. I was in a dark room lying down just like in the dream. When I tried to get up I hit my head on something.
I was trapped! I thought for a little while but it didn’t take me long to put my only clues together.
Fell to back, carried, put down, thump, and rain.
I was in a casket. Trapped alive in a coffin. I could barely see anything though on my chest was a small piece of paper. It said Blythe on the front, but once I looked on the back I realized it was from Linette. The dark coffin did not allow me to see much, so it took a little while to finally make out the note. My eyes fully adjusted to the minimal lighting that came from the unevenly-spaced boards of my casket. The note read:
It was me. I never knew Juliana. Cedric never had a bacteria. I’m not a doctor. My name is not Linette Eads. Juliana’s mother did not kill herself. Juliana did not die in child birth. And lastly, I hate your family. That’s why I killed you all. You should be running out of air soon.
I wish you a horrible death.
You will never know my name.
At this I started screaming and kicking at the coffin, scratching relentlessly but there was nothing to grab onto. I kept this up as long as I could and then someone heard me. I could hear the scrape of the shovel on the coffin. I was choking over the next breath to take. There was little air to breathe. As I felt the person lift the casket above the ground my heart thumped faster and faster until I couldn’t bear the pain of it. I had had enough.
So I just let go.
I let go of every aspect of my miserable life and left it behind me.