Word count: 5x100
Spoilers: 3.09 and 4.09 specifically, general through 4.09
Summary: "I know what it's like to lose someone." London, 1655.
Her cat went first.
Tansy, that clever silver tabby who would sit on the top shelf with the expensive ingredients and watch her working, tail twitching, head cocked to the side and his great green eyes glowing and curious.
He was a good cat, kept her warm in the early hours after Will had already gone to his forge. He kept her company and he kept her sane after the baby died, when she was sure she was going irredeemably mad.
And then the Lord Mayor decreed all cats and dogs in the City be destroyed, and Tansy went, too.
She was mostly a backstreet apothecary, the girl from the fens who came to the City knowing how to fix maladies with just a look. Tavern girls came to her to get rid of babies; old men came to her to relieve their gout.
Up the road a house had been shut, a red cross painted on the door and a stone-faced guard posted outside. At night you could hear people inside crying. She stopped going out much, and stopped opening her doors to strangers no matter how much they begged for a remedy to keep the plague at bay.
Will didn’t really understand what she did, just shook his head when he came home for lunch to find her with her face stuck in some book or pamphlet. He couldn’t read and didn’t much understand her need to, but by summer’s start he was begging her to read the Bills of Mortality to him like everyone else.
His mother came by frequently to check that she was surviving the baby’s death. “My first one died, too,” the woman said. She was fat as always but growing impossibly grimmer. “May the Lord have mercy upon us,” she said, crossing herself.
She got very tired of saying through the door, “I’m sorry, I cannot help you.”
But when Will got sick she got careless. An old woman with sharp eyes came to call, offered her a place in a group of other herbalists and apothecaries who got together to try to stave off the sickness.
“We can save your husband,” the woman promised. “Just need you to help us.”
So she did. She was desperate and scared. The baby was gone, and Tansy, and all she had was a pile of useful books and a husband whose skin was dotted black.
But Will didn’t get better. She tried as hard as she possibly could. She spoke the Latin and the rituals louder than anyone else. The other women’s husbands and parents and children were improving, but her Will just got worse and worse.
She watched him die and she didn’t get sick at all.
In the old woman’s house there was a fine, leather-bound book on a high, important shelf that said Maleficus down its spine. By the time she noticed it there, it was too late to run, to escape the circle.
“There’s always a price,” the old woman said.