Listen to me, my children, and do not ask questions. I am a weaver of tales, a yarn weaver, as the locals call me. You must know that the darkness has not passed even as Samhain fades from our memories. A growing blackness fills men's hearts, an evil for riches. The shine of gold is twisting their minds and, with that, their souls as well. So, stay vigilant, look into their eyes, but avoid their stare. If you see an emptiness, seek your homes quickly. Bar the doors for the reckoning is at hand. A time of dragons, rats, and the walking dead.
Torba, the village fool, slunk in the alleys and crouched in the shadows. No one took him seriously. They threw him burnt bread, rotten potatoes, or a stone, if cruel. Torba played along by grunting his thanks or howling in pain.
Torba was no fool, however. Each day, he would hide beneath the garbage and watch and wait for his time to come. As the villagers went about their affairs, this fool recorded, analyzed, and scrutinized their every move.
Torba knew that the townsfolk cared only for the weight of gold in their pockets. Their hearts had grown cold. Where there once was love now grew contempt, distrust, and envy.
The “fool” watched the foolish and made his plans. The Festival of the Obelisk drew near. This was the time when the villagers vied for the honor of patron bestowed by the high priest. Each villager tried to outshine others through gifts of fine wines, meats, or rare spices imported from far-off lands in the hope of being honored as the worthy soul. Being the patron was all anyone could think about. They were determined not let another get in their way.
Count Townsend built a magnificent bell tower in the center of the town. Its bells rang on the hour, filling the air with the most beautiful chimes. Some proclaimed the angels themselves rang the bells.
The Duke's family gilded the town square’s cherry trees and had porcelain blossoms affixed to the branches.
Not to be outdone, James Stranton, Esquire, arranged to have a thousand white doves stuffed and placed on the cathedral ledges. Each bird held a rare gemstone in one foot and a silver olive branch in the other.
Torba planned to take advantage of the festival and prepared to act on the night before the celebrations. As the sun sank below the horizon, the village fool put his plans in motion; the morning would see a world changed forever.
Quickly, grates were opened to the sewer releasing its hungry inhabitants into the city's street. For weeks now, Torba had placed small food parcels throughout the square to entice the vermin to feed.
Then, it was on to the rooftops to open the cages holding a collection of assorted winged beasts. They swarmed about the city center seeking out the scattered crusts and seeds strategically placed by Torba.
Then, the fool slipped back into the shadows just as the sun broke the horizon. He waited and watched as the townsmen arrived in their carriages with footmen ushering them to places of privilege.
As the bells sounded the hour, the golden doors of the Obelisk opened and out stepped the high priest followed by his entourage carrying the offering boxes that would hold the tribute. He slowly paraded around the square and stopped before each seated guest, placing their offering into the crates.
Young and old, rich and poor, added to the collection. Some for fear of being looked down upon and others who believed themselves worthy of the calling of a patron.
When all had been collected, the high priest led the group up a short flight of steps to the monument's base.
Stacking the collection beneath the Obelisk's watchful eye, the priest turned and recited a prayer to the heavens asking for another year of wealth and prosperity.
Torba saw the first one, a merchant from the north end of town, scratch his head as the vermin found their victim. Soon dozens more followed. No one moved from their places for fear they would not be there when they were called to be honored.
The fool's lips began to curl, contorting his face into an ugly grimace. Now it was the priest's turn to scratch. Soon the rest of his followers joined in.
Sensing it was time to complete the ritual, the priest turned toward the crowd and named that year's patron.
No one was surprised when the Duke arose and walked to receive the amulet which would proclaim to all that he was the patron. After a brief acceptance speech, he invited them all to his home for a lavish feast.
It was then that a little girl screamed at the sight of several dead birds beneath their chairs. Moments later, a woman gasped after discovering dead and convulsing rats near the walkway.
The mayor quickly ushered everyone out of the center and down the avenue to the Duke's home.
Torba rocked back and forth as he saw everyone scratching their hair. "Soon, you will know the pain of rejection and the feeling of hopelessness as the darkness spreads across your bodies," said the fool.
The following day workers found Torba's poisoned parcels surrounded by dead rats. It was not until the plague had ravaged the village that anyone realized the fleas had abandoned the dead birds and rats to seek a living host.
In the months to come, the town emptied of life. It was then that the village fool came out from his hiding place and walked the streets as the man he always believed he was. Now HE was the ruler of this village and would enjoy it all alone for no one dare enter for fear of the black death.
"I shall move into the mayor's house, a fitting place for the new ruler," said Torba. He chuckled to himself then said, "Should I have red or white wine tonight? Maybe both."