The 27th Day of Ripening Season, 342 years After Mourning
We are starving. The storerooms are empty, the grain all but vanished. The larders are filled with dust, while the abandoned gardens wither under a sticky heat. It is not as if there is a shortage of food. Wheat stretches toward the sky, not yet waving under heavy heads, but the barley, ready for harvest, lies forgotten and in the forest, the berries have colored waiting for hands that will never come. Outside the city gates, cows and goats roam untethered. And in the fields . . . in the fields a banquet of greens ripens for midnight crows, while the farmhands quiver with disease on the stone floors of a temple far away from their beloved soil.
It is only a matter of time before the market ceases completely. It’s been a week since I’ve seen a handful of eggs. Thick boards seal the butchers from prying visitors–as if the stench was not enough to keep anyone from approaching. Perhaps knowing there is no escape from death, a few fishmongers have stayed in the city. Wohlrin and I crawled out of bed before the cocks crowed and when the first market bell rang, we were waiting for the merchants. For our efforts, and four gold coins, we walked away with a basket of foul-smelling silver trout. I can only hope the fish, though bordering on rotten, are free from disease.
The Sisters took Brother Linde’s soul three nights ago. As the last cook, that leaves two servants, both apprentices, to prepare food for the clergy and the victims. Neither boy complained when I assigned Wohlrin to them. During the introductions, they informed me we have enough to bake bread for one more day. And the soup the lads made, more fish water than anything else, should also last another day.
Therein lies our greatest challenge. I cannot heal the wounds and stop the crawl of death. I cannot give hope to the dying, when I have little to spare for the living. Oh Sisters, the cold hands of despair have wrapped their bony fingers around my heart as I realize I cannot even feed the living or the dying. We have fish and bread for one day, and one day only.
Sister Imorgan reminds anyone who will listen to her that we are wasting our provisions and sustenance on the dead. Each time we spoon spoiled fish soup into the mouths of those already destined to die, we rob life from the living. The other priests, tired of praying for hopeless causes, agree with her. I fear they will soon refuse to feed the very people we have sworn to the Seven Sisters to serve.
For two nights I have tossed and turned, weighing the paths before me. Sister Imorgan may be right, but to deny food to the dying would condemn my soul to the eternal pit. The decision wasn’t difficult. If we are to survive, everyone needs food. I have assigned the kitchen lads the task of resurrecting and tending the temple gardens. As for me, I will take Noreen and Barly with me to hunt for meat. I harbor no illusions. I do not imagine I can fell a boar, not even if I were a young lad again would I entertain such foolhardy thoughts, but I have faith the Sisters will lead us and provide a way. We will fill the larders, and above all, we will not give up on the living, or the dying.
Which reminds me, we lost eleven today: six women, three men and two children. Their names have been recorded in the ledger.