CRACH FFINNANT – LONDON 1376

Ch 18 Vol I

I walked through street after similar street with the same ramshackle houses and foul gutters, producing an intolerable stench.  As sure as a ‘dragon is a dragon’, I was convinced I had been walking round in ever-decreasing circles. Suddenly, through the stench lingering within my very sensitive nostrils, I smelt something familiar. I raised my head as high as it would go (which meant standing on the tips of my toes), flared my nostrils and sniffed deeply. I recognised a warm aroma, that of freshly baked bread. Remembering strongman’s words and in particular those about street names, I pondered. Perhaps I had found Bakers Street?

I followed my nose down the muddy track and round a corner where I came across an old woman plucking a chicken. She discarded the deceased fowl’s feathers, the wind catching each as if a little flurry of snow, depositing them in the gutter, onto passing folks’ clothes, mine included. I picked off the offending feathers, letting them float to the ground from between my fingers.

There was probably around twenty shops and stalls lining both sides of the street, all selling bread. For the first time since I had entered London, there was a sweet aroma to enjoy. Tables full of similar shaped, freshly baked loaves greeted my eyes.

One thing that did strike me as being different here in London was that not one person had yet shied away from my dwarfness, nor indeed had anyone hurled any abuse. Maybe they didn’t see me. Or, if they did, perhaps they had no care, only being concerned with their own existence, as pitiful as many seemed to be.  At the show last night, I had seen many people in finery but everyone I had seen today only bore the attire of nothing more than was needed to live from day-to-day.

  Suddenly, a commotion at the end of the street brought me back from my dancing thoughts with a flash. Several soldiers on horseback galloped through the street. Old men, children and women, seeking their daily bread, scattered in fear, screaming for mercy. I stood back taking refuge behind a cart which stood above my head. Feeling secure in the fact I could not be seen, my eyes took in the action as it was unfurling.   

 Folk ran for cover to avoid heavy hooves stamping through the mud. An old lady in ragged clothes once made for a much bigger person, her back bent so much she appeared to be half of her actual height, staggered blindly into the path of the galloping horsemen. Bandy misshapen legs had neither the strength nor fortitude to speed her passage from the path of the oncoming riders. A sturdy mare caught the old lady fully on its powerful broad chest, knocking her sideways into the path of another horse and rider. From a dying mouth, she screamed a final insult at life. It was a pitiful sound. Flinging her through the air as if she was a rag doll, the horses galloped on, encouraged by their riders. The old lady crumpled to the ground, her face scarred with fear, surprised eyes fixed in a horrific death stare. The troupe of soldiers careened past my hiding place, turned the corner at the end of the track and vanished down another street. Not one rider turned their head nor saw the old lady sprawled across the street, her lifeless body seemingly invisible and unimportant to each of them.

  Several folk appeared from their temporary havens of safety and saw the old lady lying dead in the gutter. A few walked over to her, staring at the lifeless body. A very thin man bent down on one knee, seeking signs of life but none were present. He turned his head, exclaiming to the onlookers.

  “Old hag is gone to a better place!”

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