A cool fog had settled over the ship.
The wax candle upon my desk shown dimly, burned down to a pitiful stub. Shadows flickered across the pages of the manuscript that I examined, moving with the regular lurch of the ship. My eyes darted to and fro as I contemplated the carefully drawn maps laid flat on the table in front of me.
I marveled over the intricate shorelines that swirled across the worn pages, no doubt painstakingly drawn by an immaculate artist. Many markings had been placed upon the heavily used maps, but I was unable to read them. Though I had mastered countless tongues throughout my years of travel, I was utterly illiterate; and would likely remain so for the rest of my life.
I cannot recall exactly why I had taken the trouble to bring out my maps. I had no current need of them, for our voyage was nearly complete. Perhaps I simply desired a distraction to ease my mind and calm my senses.
A brief flash of bright light illuminated my cramped quarters. The sun had, for a moment, cut through the early-morning fog that engulfed the sea. Through the small window in the side of my room I caught a glimpse of the grey, rocky, Sicilian shoreline.
My heart skipped a beat and I jolted upright. My time had come.
My hand moved to my chest and underneath my tunic, where it grasped a small metal pendant that hung about my neck. The thin string that held it was old and frayed. I pulled the pendant firmly away from myself, snapping the string in half. Holding it in front of the dying candle light, I examined it closely.
It was made of bronze and incredibly light. The inside was hollow, I knew as much, and the layer of metal felt so thin that I should be able to crush it with my bare hands.
A small smile crept onto my lips. I was, in that moment of time, the only human being who understood and appreciated the doom that would soon ravage this world.
My hand began to shake as an overwhelming mix of excitement and dread overtook me. I clutched the pendant tighter and stood up from my chair. Exiting my quarters, I took a breath of the salty sea air and shivered in the cold wind that blasted through my tunic. I turned around and looked upwards towards the wheel, locking eyes with my first mate who was carefully guiding our ship through the fog and into the harbor of Sicily. He gave me a slight nod, then turned his gaze back towards the open sea.
A feeling of guilt clouded my mind. My crew, my loyal and faithful crew, would undoubtably be the first to perish. They had wronged me in no way, yet my actions would soon sentence them to a terrible death. It was a most regrettable circumstance, but there was nothing that could be done to ease it. The matter was settled and my mind was made. I would not back away now.
I walked to the bow of the ship and peered out over the edge. Mist sprayed my body and drenched my clothes, chilling me to the bone. My grip on the pendant loosened. I held it in my palm and looked down at it once more.
Such a price I had paid for this small trinket, but it would soon prove its value. I was confident of that.
Every scrap of gold and silver, every small thing of worth I had ever owned, I had sacrificed for this pendant. In a distant land I had purchased this thing of evil. The old witch had cackled intensely as she forged it, chanting in ancient tongues and summoning devils of flame and shadow to complete her unholy ritual. If I had been unsure before, no doubt had remained in my mind after I witnessed the horrific, demonic spell that created this bronze pendant. Her price had been gladly paid.
Now, the moment of reckoning had arrived. For too long I had been shoved down and stamped into the dust by lords and nobles and kings. For too long I had been denied the success and riches that were rightfully mine. My desire for wealth and fame festered within me like an abscess that could never be filled. Day after day, year after year, my thirst for power and recognition remained unquenched.
On this day, it would all end. By my hand, chaos and destruction would spread throughout the land as I exacted revenge upon all those who had dared impede my path.
My hand slowly tilted until the pendant was barely hanging from the tips of my fingers. With one quick motion I moved my hand away and allowed the pendant to fall onto the wooden deck. It landed with a barely audible noise and rolled briefly before coming to a halt.
Without a second’s hesitation I raised my leg and brought my leather boot down upon the pendant with as much force as I could muster, crushing it into the wood below.
A shrill screech erupted as the terror that laid inside escaped its prison. Wisps of dark mist leaked from the crushed pendant. The mist did not move with the wind, but moved of its own accord, encircling the ship and seeking out the unfortunate souls that comprised my crew. A strand of blood-red mist rushed at me and entered my lungs, causing me to gasp as it overtook me. The demonic presence that I had unleashed spread throughout my entire being, infecting my body and blackening my soul. I heard the faint cries of my crew as they too were overtaken by the terrible spell I had released.
The seed of death had been planted within me, and I could feel it beginning to take root. A vile pestilence that would undoubtably claim the lives of both me and my crew, along with countless others.
It is the one thousandth, three hundred and forty-seventh year of our Lord. My judgement has been cast, and I have damned all men across the face of the earth. They shall taste my wrath and their happiness shall turn to ashes in their mouths. My name will soon be forgotten, but I shall leave a scar across human history that no other mortal could hope to match.
For I am the herald of doom, the spreader of the plague.
I am the bringer of the Black Death.
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people. The plague reached Sicily in October 1347, carried by twelve Genoese galleys.
Written by Cdaley