Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Has the #14thcentury #BlackDeath returned?

With the recent release of my latest novel, Blood Rose Angel, I was quite shocked to learn that a teenage girl in Oregon has been infected by bubonic plague from a flea bite during a hunting trip.

Bubonic plague is thought to be the cause of the 14th century "Black Death" that killed an estimated 50 million people. Most of us think of it as a disease of the past, but although rare, it is apparently still very much present, particularly in wildlife.

A plague extract from Blood Rose Angel...

... Morgane and I set off along the woodland road, the grass in the fields so parched there was barely anything for the beasts to graze on, and those that hadn’t perished from the pestilence were little more than skin and bone. The farmers must be counting down the days till they could drive their stock to the hay meadows.
But as we rode past the crop fields, there wasn’t a single farmer or labourer in sight. How sad not to see the usual rows of men and women moving their scythes across the golden grain-field strips. How unsettling not to hear their banter and shouts. How terrible to see the plentiful harvest lying wasted.
‘Why aren’t they harvesting the winter corn?’ Morgane asked.
All I could do was shake my head as we rode on through that dank, airless heat, the silence broken by the caw of a crow, the bark of a dog, the lonely bray of a donkey. In one pasture, all the cows and sheep lay dead. I gasped at the shock and the stench; at the dark cloud of vultures gorging––uncurbed and fearless––on the corpses. Both of us gagged as we skirted the maggot-riddled body of an ox.
‘Oh, Maman it’s awful.’
‘Yes, poppet, all too awful.’
Beyond the corpse, we came across a group of farmers drinking ale in the shade of an oak tree. ‘Why aren’t you harvesting your grain?’ I asked, halting Merlinette.
‘What’s the point?’ one said. ‘We could all be dead tomorrow … or today. Or in an hour.’
‘But we’ll never survive this winter, with no harvest.’
‘We might all be dead by this winter,’ he said, ‘so why waste time and energy on the harvest?’

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