***Warning: This post may contain spoilers for episode 7 of Nostrum. If you have not read episode 7, proceed with caution. ***
Episode 7 was released last Tuesday. Seven. How has it gone by so quickly? There is only one episode left, and that episode is a *doozy*. And by doozy, I mean, twice the size of a normal episode. Writing serials is, as I’ve mentioned before, a crazy way to tell a story. It’s great in many ways, but it requires a lot of calculation and pre-planning. There are times when I say to myself, “I have to make sure to wrap that up in the future.” But sometimes there are too many of those, and they get pushed forward like toothpaste in the tube, a bulge of loose ends that sweeps along until I am left with only one episode in which to deal with them. And those loose ends need to be dealt with at their own pace and given freedom to sprawl and affect the rest of the story. If I were writing a standard novel, I could go back and tie up the ends a little earlier. But in serials, there is no back. There is only ever onward. So, in Nostrum’s case, I had to basically make a ninth episode and include it in the eighth. Which I don’t think anyone will be too upset about. And, just a side note, I loved episode 8. It’s one of my favorite episodes in the two books.
But this post is not about episode 8, it’s about episode 7, and an awful lot happened in episode 7. I’ll start with something fun first, then get into something a little more serious. And what’s more fun than boats sailing through a meadow? (And no, that’s not a metaphor, you perverts). (Although I suppose that *is* more fun). (Okay, so maybe it was a subliminal metaphor). (But watching actual sails in an actual meadow is pretty fun too). (Yeah, I’m getting old).
Edward was mystified by sails that seemed to cut through farmlands, and I was equally mystified when my fiancee, Annabelle, showed them to me. Yes, the phenomena is real. The flat landscape of Norfolk lets you see ship sails in the distance, even though there seems to be no water anywhere. The result? Have a look below:
Crazy, huh? Well, I thought so. And so did Edward. The ships are sailing through channels, like the one in the small image below, but from a distance it’s impossible to tell. They seem to be tunneling through the earth. Quite cool.
Saint Benet’s Abbey isn’t quite as cool. Not anymore. There isn’t much left of it. For some odd reason, a mill was built on top of the gatehouse ruins. I would probably rant about this bastardization of beautiful architecture, but the mill is probably the only reason any of the gatehouse remains at all. Have a look below to see what I mean.
Yeah, so when I said the mill was built over the gatehouse, it wasn’t another metaphor or anything. Tim Pestell, author of “St. Benet’s Abbey: A Guide and History,” states that the masonry footings of the gatehouse probably gave the mill a much more stable base and allowed the new structure to be built higher than most mills in the area. But it still looks really weird.
From what is left of the gatehouse, you get a real sense of the beauty that if once possessed. There are empty niches where statues once stood and worn carvings on all of the stone work. The image below left shows a lion at the top right corner of the gate.
As I mentioned, there’s not much left of the abbey itself. Just ruins and a cross where the high altar once stood (the cross was a gift from Queen Elizabeth II). Note the sail cutting through meadows in the background of the cross image below.
Okay, so on to the more serious part of this blog post. I want to talk a little about the leper plaguers in the abandoned city of Norwich.
When writing The Scourge books, I have always tried to be as accurate as possible, and to present the fictional additions in as realistic a way as I can. Suspension of disbelief and all that.
I have had countless conversations about the Red Plague of Edward’s England. In fact, I have developed an entire pseudo-science on the plague, mostly with the help of my circle of writer friends. One of my friends is a toxicologist. Another writes for the medical industry. The rest are clever chickens with great imaginations. One day I will record our conversations about zombies and release it as a podcast.
Through these clever friends (and a bit of research) I determined that the Red Plague travels through the body’s lymphatic system. In lepers that are susceptible to this sort of plague, this causes a big problem. Why? Because studies have shown that lepers have inflammatory cells traveling through their lymphatic systems. They’re called lymphocytes and histiocytes and when they encounter the viral cells of the Red Plague, they become active. And active inflammatory cells in the lymph nodes means severe swelling. The result? Conditions like proteus syndrome and neurofibromatosis, both of which can affect bone structure and create horrible tumors and swelling, and both of which are embodied in the term “elephantiasis.”
I looked at many sad, sad images of poor victims of these diseases while writing episode 7. I thought about posting a few here, but the fact is, what I write is fiction; the images I looked at were of real people. I don’t want to hold these people up for display on my blog, even though they are on the Internet. If you want to see the effects of the disease, they are a quick Google search away.
I will say that these poor people have deformities that shock us in modern times, so can you imagine what people of the 14th century would have thought? In the middle ages, religion was the overwhelming force in the world. Most thoughts were usually filtered through the lens of the Church. And if you saw these unfortunate people, you probably would not have pitied them. You would have feared them as demons.
I hope you enjoyed Episode 7, and have enjoyed Nostrum so far. It has been an absolute thrill to write it and to speak with so many wonderful readers. Please feel free to comment below, positive remarks and constructive criticism are always welcome!