Chapter Three

Peter's chest heaved as he scrambled back into a standing position. Mud and dirt clung to his pants, his hands were stained with brown coloured streaks from the dirt which he'd placed them in to aid in standing. The man who he had slammed into pushed his blond bangs from his eyes, he had a weather beaten face and two kind gray-blue eyes. "Peter my boy, if you continually run into people like that you'll be boxed in your ears and rightfully so!" Joseph reached down and gripped the boy's hand in a firm shake, he chuckled his deep rich laugh caused passerby's to smile and laugh themselves. Peter didn't let go of Joseph's hand as he dug his heels into the mud attempting to drag the much larger, and heavier fellow behind him.

"We have to go!" The nine year old braced himself, his small form quivered as he struggled to guide the other who looked down at him with a confused expression.

"Let me get my bag, Peter." Joseph waited for the boy to let go of his hand, the child's skin was clammy. His face was pale, and his expression was pained. He guessed he wasn't like that just from the run. "Hurry!" The child whined softly, he didn't want Father Isvolden to get ill. Not like that man.

Joseph took off through the streets, the boy running at his heels, he used his hands to gently move market-goers aside. The smells that wafted through the street were sweet and sour, pleasant and unpleasant at the same time. The vibrant colours of rare fruits, exquisite cloths, and beautifully stitched tapestries that hung from vendors' stalls made it the whole marker place seem a surreal experience. Particularly to those who, like Peter, had grown up in a gray monastery setting this was a rather overwhelming and awe filled experience. He had no time to gawk at the merchandise, no time to enjoy being in the market place. Peter's sore legs continued to carry him, he had the whole run back to Father Isvolden to make.

Joseph slowed when he reached the dark brown door that was attached to a crudely built cottage. It gray stone, and wood patterns wrapped around to the back. A chimney sat askew on the thatch roof that had begun to sag. Above the door was a rough wooden sign that said something along the lines of 'Apothecary' but who would've known, very little people in the village had the ability to read and/or write. Foliage that lined the walkway towards the house were a dying patch of wilted blues, reds, pinks, and purples. Peter frowned, why such a good doctor as Joseph live in such a rat hole was beyond him.

The door screamed loudly on its hinges as Joseph threw it open bursting into the warm homely kitchen. His wife, Elena, sat tending to their two year old son Albert. Albert had his fist in his mouth and struggled to keep it in as Elena gripped his wrist and pulled it back out. Despite her tired and worn appearance, Elena's eyes still retained the youthful look she had when she and Joseph first met. She had practically jumped from her seat to her feet, skillfully keeping a tight grip on the boy in her arms, and shot Peter and Joseph a look of confusion. "What is the meaning of this, Joseph?" Elena bustled over to the crib and gently lay Albert down who promptly started to fuss.

"I'm sorry, dear. There's an emergency up by the Church, I probably won't be home for dinner so please do not wait on me." Joseph gripped her by the arms very gently and took a second to kiss her softly on her somewhat dry, rough, lips. "More water, Love." He smirked as she swatted him upside the head lightly and kissed his forehead. "Just go do your job," Elena folded her thing arms across her chest as she stood against the wall by the crib, she reached in and gently rubbed the child's back. He let out a sigh of complete and utter content.

"Please, Joseph, we have to hurry!" Peter stood moving his feet around, casting wary glances at the door and then back at Joseph. Joseph came out of the bedroom wearing a long, beak shaped mask that was attached to a leather hood that covered his whole head and had two goggles to see out of. He had pulled on thick black leather gloves, and shrouded himself in a black woolen robe that went to his feet. Peter was taken back by the doctor's new look, "What're you wearing?" Peter blinked several times before he finally stopped and stared.

"It's a new scientific way of keeping oneself safe whilst they work on others." Joseph replied his voice held a note of uncertainty as he started for the door, "And we won't be walking, have you ever ridden a horse?" The doctor turned his hawk like gaze towards the boy who shook his head no vigorously. "Then you'll just ride behind me, and hold on tight."

Tethered to a post outside stood a chestnut coloured, percheron mare. She tossed her head gently and let out a soft whinny, her nostrils flared as she stamped her hooves. She recognized the scent of the men approaching her, but by God he didn't look like he usually did.

"There there, Winfry." The horse turned her head towards his voice and promptly shoved her large nose into his gloved hand, satisfied he wasn't out to peck her eyes out or some equally horrible attack, she allowed him to slid a bit into her mouth and proceed to tack her up. Peter stood by impatiently, he stared at the horse and frowned. The animal was huge, much larger than the small boy ever that he would become. Its breath came like steam from its two nostrils, the steam then dissipated into the cool autumn air. A leaf rolled by its feet, the wind carrying it along the walk ways like it had somewhere important to go.

"Alright, I'm going to give you a leg up alright? When you fall into the saddle just sit there and I'll jump up behind you. Understand?" Joseph gripped the boy's shoulder when he didn't walk over fast enough for his liking, Peter started to shake his head in a monotonous fashion which made it look like if he could shake it enough his head may just fall off.

"But I..." Peter paused as he found himself launched through the air and landed sitting on the horse's back, each leg on a different side. He winced slightly, the sudden movement had caused his nether regions to ache with pain. "Thanks, Joseph." Peter said somewhat sarcastically as Joseph chuckled at him.

"Now now, Child." Joseph smirked trying to keep things light hearted, he could tell that worry was eating away at the boy sitting on his horse. He mounted up in front of Peter who held on tightly, arms around Joseph's waist, only after he had untied the horse from the hitching post. Clicking his tongue and squeezing the horse's sides with his legs just the right way, caused the large animal to take a hoping start out onto the busy road. Trotting along the road could either be very dangerous, or very pleasant. The clip clop of the hooves was rather soothing to Peter, he had started to get used to the almost smooth ride that the horse had been giving them. Peter's mind started to wander, right now he was a Knight. Dressed in brilliantly shining armor, his lance held tightly in his gloved hand. His coal black stead pranced around the battle field with him on his back, the animal's black tail fluttered in the breeze like a banner heralding the doom that would befall those who dare raised a sword against him.

The shadows of the trees along the road passed over the two riders and horse, the shadows that blocked the sunlight from view jolted our young hero from his daydream forcing him back into the harshness of reality. "Where are they, Peter?" Joseph hadn't seen hide nor tail of the old Father. "Just up the road a ways, Joseph." Peter's grip tightened on Joseph the more he worried and the more he worried the more his stomach twisted into tight knots and made him feel rather ill.

"Father?!" The shout rang through the barren road, birds fluttered from their perches like an invisible gunshot had been fired directly at them. Laying in the road were now two men: Father Isvolden, and the man from earlier.

"Mother of God..." Joseph stopped the horse and crossed himself several times over. Nothing felt like it could ward off the evil that had sprang from this end of Ely. "Mary Mother of God..." Joseph repeated, he hadn't seen anything quite like this. Both men had their skin just clinging to their bones. A wind brushed past their bodies picking up leaves and hurling at them. A leaf struck the Father's face causing a small piece of skin to fall off. The stench that rose from the rotting bodies was sickening. Peter leaned over the side of the horse and fell off, his gaze was a mix of grief and illness. "Father...?" He asked repeatedly, as if he was unable to accept that which he saw.