Avalon 9.0 Pestilence, part 3 of 6

Lincoln relayed information from the database while the others ate their supper.  The inn stayed quiet and empty.  The one older man by the fireplace sat alone and seemed to want to ignore everyone.  He might have listened.  If the staff did not have other things to do, they might have eavesdropped to relieve their boredom.  But no one else was around to overhear, and Lincoln figured he would not be talking about anything that would alter the course of history.

“Prudenza was born in 1312, in Genoa.  She was a Doria, a prominent Genoese family, though her branch of the family was not so prominent.  Her father and uncle had a couple of ships and traded between Genoa, Sicily, Constantinople, and Caffa in the Crimea on the Black Sea.  Prudenza was the eldest of four siblings.  Prudenza, Bartolino the only boy, Nina, and Tedesca.

Prudenza was forced to marry at age seventeen, in about 1330, and the database says she was happy for about a year and had a son, Iacobo.  Her husband was Anthonio D’Amalfi from another not so prominent-prominent Genoese family.  Anthonio was a mercenary captain of a company of crossbow men.  When Iacobo turned three months old, Anthonio raised a hand to Prudenza, and she walked out on him and moved home.  It doesn’t explain…

In 1331, Anthonio took his company and sailed off to fight for the Byzantines.  He came home again in 1335 and it says he raped his wife.  He promptly left town and headed north to fight for the French, who had some money at the time.  Pay from the Byzantines was an on again-off again thing.  Prudenza had a girl, Sancta, and always said it was not her daughter’s fault that the girl’s father was such a horrible man.

In 1339, her brother Bartolino succumbed to the temptation and ran off to fight with Anthonio.  They fought for the French who lost the battle of Sluys.  The company of crossbowmen survived, but they needed to recruit men to fill the decimated company.  Around that same time, Prudenza’s mother died, and her father lost his ship in a skirmish with the Venetians off the coast of Messina.  The man ended up crippled, but he had lived a high lifestyle, living and raising his children above his means, so he was in debt and saved no money to help in his infirmity, much less money for a new ship.  They had to sell the house and move to the slums.  Prudenza’s uncle helped where he could, but it was not much.

Finally, it broke Prudenza’s heart when her son, Iacobo, ran off to fight for his father.  He was just fifteen and no doubt imagined he was relieving some of the burden of staying home.  He had offers on several mercantile ships and a chance to learn the business, but he was not interested in that.  He thought war and adventure, but preferably on land.

1346, the battle of Crecy.  The French lost that one, too.  Bartolino and Iacobo survived, but Anthonio died.  It says Prudenza got the letter from her brother the same day her uncle’s ship arrived in port.  It says her uncle picked up the pestilence in Caffa, spread it to Constantinople and Sicily and brought it home.  He, and most of his crew, were deathly ill by the time they arrived.  Prudenza promptly lost her sister, Nina Bonoconte, Nina’s young son, and her father.”

“What do you mean pestilence?” Nanette asked.

“Plague—bubonic plague,” Tony, Katie, and Lincoln all answered together.

“But what happened to Prudenza?” Sukki asked, not fully understanding what the plague might be, though they had mention of it in previous time zones, so she had the general idea.

“Prudenza packed up her things, her daughter Sancta, her sister Tedesca and her brother-in-law Carlo Bonoconte and headed for Paris to escape the city—to get while the getting was good.  I checked around.  This is late October 1347.  Prudenza is thirty-five and traveling in this direction.  But she does not get over the alps before the weather.  She stops at a way station, and then moves to an out-of-the-way Alpine village where she has to wait until spring.”

“Good luck,” Lockhart said.

Katie looked at him.  “The plague will be dogging her heels, though it probably will not move fast until the warm spring weather.”

Tony nodded.  “It may get down into Italy, but it will probably move slowly over the alps.”

“Great,” Lincoln said, showing Tony the proper way to do sarcasm.  “And we are heading right into the middle of it.”

Everyone quieted.  a young nobleman came into the inn. Two soldiers placed themselves on either side of the door as the young man walked to the table.  He grabbed a chair and placed it at the end of the table, and said, “Mind if I join you?”


Prudenza sat on a rock and tried not to start crying again.  Her twelve-year-old daughter Sancta stayed with Tedesca and her Aunt Bellaflore.  The dogs started barking.  Sancta was wary of barking dogs, but Prudenza looked.  The dogs did not seem unfriendly to her.  This was a way station on the trade route over the alps that led into France.  Surely the dogs were used to strangers.

“Do you have names?” the woman asked, holding back what was likely her own young daughter.

“Prudenza D’Amalfi de Genoa.  My daughter Sancta.  My sister Tedesca and my Aunt Bellaflore.  The old man is Benedictus de Auria.  The middle-aged fellow is Luciano Calvo.  And the young man…”

The so-called young man, who was near thirty, stepped up and interrupted with a flourishing bow.  “Carlo Francischo de Bonoconte.  Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“We don’t have room for all of you,” the woman said, flatly.  She looked at the sky.  The sun would soon set.  “We have two others already, but the next village is a day away.  I suppose the men can stay in the barn, but they will still have to pay.”

A man came around the corner of the big house and stopped to eye the motley group.  “You are a strange collection,” he said.  “We don’t often get unescorted women here.  You have no soldiers, no hired men?”

Prudenza shook her head.  “My father died.  A terrible sickness has come upon the city, and we thought to escape the city while we are well and able.  My brother Bartolino and my eldest, my son Iacobo are among the soldiers fighting for the French.  I am going to fetch them and bring them home.  I am sure the sickness will be over by the time we return.”  She sighed and the woman paused in her rough attitude to show some sympathy.

“My father died last winter,” she said.  “I am Francesa.  My baby is Divitia.” she pointed to the girl beside her.  “My husband is Augustinus.”  She pointed at the man.  “No telling where my son is.”  Francesa smiled, though it did not look entirely like a natural occurrence.  “You might as well come inside.  There may be a delay in fixing supper with so many more mouths to feed.”

“I am sure whatever you fix will be fine,” Prudenza said.  “Bellaflore and Tedesca can help.”

“Prudenza,” Tedesca complained about being volunteered.

“And yourself?” Francesa asked.

“No,” Tedesca responded.  “She is not the best cook.”

Francesa nodded and walked Tedesca through the house.  The kitchen fires were out back.  Bellaflore followed.  Prudenza paused to look at the men while Augustinus moved to intercept them and spoke.

“Let me take you to the barn.  It is where the men often stay, and where the soldiers and hired men always stay.  It is not as bad as you may be thinking.”

Old man Benedictus took the ox and wagon, and the men followed.

Prudenza stopped and turned in the doorway.  She watched the two girls.  Divitia went straight to Sancta, and the dogs followed, tails wagging and tongues lolling.  Sancta stood her ground but did not look entirely comfortable.

“Hi.  I’m Divitia.  I’m thirteen.”

“Sancta.”  Sancta gave her name but neglected to say she was only twelve.

“This is Filipo and Giletta.  They are very nice.  They won’t hurt you.  They like people.  They hate rats.  They are ratters. Father says they are pinschers, but Mama calls them ratters.  They keep the rats away from the house and Mama says that lets her clean the house for the travelers to stay.  Mama says it is a good thing they have short hair.  They don’t shed so much.  I like your hair.  You can show me how you put it up like that.  Your mother is very pretty.  I wish I was pretty.  Your mother has big breasts.  Giletta got breasts when she had her puppies.  We got three puppies.  Come and see them.”  She turned to lead the way.

Sancta said nothing that whole time.  She stiffened a little when the dogs sniffed her, but she followed Divitia on the chance that she might make a friend.

Prudenza turned her eyes inside the house.  She saw an old woman and a girl by the fireplace.  The old woman looked like a Gypsy crone.   She had a stick in her hand that she waved at the fire.  The young one, maybe fifteen, sat at the old woman’s feet like an apprentice of sorts.  She wore fancy rings and something like an amulet that hung from a gold chain around her neck.  Witches, Prudenza thought before she scolded herself.  She must not judge based on appearance.  They were probably a grandmother and her granddaughter trying to get warm in the October chill.

“Hello,” Prudenza said in her friendliest voice.  “I’m Prudenza.”

The two stared at Prudenza for a minute.  Prudenza waited and felt the need to scratch the back of her head.  The old woman frowned and spoke.  “Babara.  My young one is Malore.”  She had nothing more to say as she and Malore turned in unison to stare once again at the flames.



Everything seems calm and quiet, but strange things are swirling around the travelers and around Prudenza and her family. Until Monday, Happy Reading.


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