The Apothecary

“What is this foolishness?” Michael asked.

Startled, the doctor turned from the open door to find a very tall, thin man standing uncomfortably close behind him. He had a thick beard, graying around the mouth. Tucked under his left arm was a small wooden box that smelled strongly of roses and in his hand was a long knotty walking stick.

“Please, sir,” the doctor said, catching his breath beneath a handkerchief, “unless you’re a physician... are you a physician?”

With a single deft flip of his wrist, Michael flipped his staff across his chest and landed it squarely atop the doctors’ head. The blow wasn’t hard but it scared the man so that a long feminine squeak broke from his vocal chords. He spun his feet in the dirt as he maneuvered to run.

“Be gone, you imbecile!” Michael thundered in a gravelly voice and assisted the doctor in his escape by giving him a sharp kick on the bottom.

Michael watched him scamper down the deserted street and then turned back to the open door of the house. Hanging from the knob was a little scrap of wood, “La Charbon” written on it. Along the far wall, behind a thin draping curtain, he could see the silhouette of a woman lying on the edge of a bed. She appeared to be sewing.

“Madame,” Michael said softly into the doorway, “may I enter? I might be of assistance to you.”

The figure behind the sheet stopped her sewing and raised her head.

“You can call for the albares...” she said in a pained whispered voice. “...and let me finish my shroud.”

It was August 4th, 1546 and Michel de Nostradamus had just arrived in Salon-de-Provence with his box full of herbs, prepared to cleanse the town of the Black Death.

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