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Author Topic: The Flood  (Read 1083 times)

Offline Alagoric

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The Flood
« on: October 20, 2005, 07:44:11 PM »
“The River Stir is forbidden to rise higher than the bottom of the Grossweg Bridge.”
Wurtbad law passed in wake of the Great Flood of 1512. No instances of enforcement recorded.



Well, not quite no instances…


—oOo—


The winter of 1511 held Stirland in a frigid grip that was as harsh as any that could be remembered, with ice and rime and hoar and drifts of snow as high as the eaves of the houses. Then, in the spring of 1512, the thaw finally came, marked by an endless and torrential downpour falling from cloud-dark skies. It was as though the heavens were trying to make the earth as one with the oceans.

The melted snows and the falling rain washed down the hills and valleys, turning brooks and streams into raging torrents and ultimately flowing into the mighty Stir, already swollen far beyond her capacity to carry away the masses of water. Inevitably the surging and muddy river burst her banks, leaving vast tracts of land submerged and inundating whole villages and towns.

The deluge spared nothing. The filthy waters carried along a jumble of splintered wood, straw, leaves, posts, and even whole trees. The shattered relics of humanity were there too; smashed boxes and crates, shoes, baskets, books and papers and rags, turned cups and bowls, and things less recognisable.

And among the wreckage were the bloated and decaying bodies of livestock and poultry and the swollen, ghastly corpses of the drowned. Other carcasses, bobbing and rolling obscenely, were carried along by the flow.

Days and then weeks passed without the weather giving respite, and gradually, inexorably, the great valley in which the city of Wurtbad sat became a lake. Parts of the land were covered to a depth measured in yards, so that only the uppermost branches of trees and the roofs of buildings projected above the waters. In other areas the tops of hills served as exposed refuges, like chains of islands in a vast inland sea.

It seemed like the whole of Stirland was sinking.


—oOo—


The little boat of the Stir River Patrol moved along Trommelstraße, its wake sending wavelets slapping against the walls of the sodden buildings. The oarsman pulled stolidly, propelling them forward, while his comrade, equipped with a long boathook, crouched in the prow, fending off any flotsam that threatened their progress. Two passengers sat miserably in the stern, peering grimly ahead as huge sploshes of rain kicked up a fine, soaking spray from the planks and the surface of the water.

“They say he’s lost it, you know,” ventured Herr Olboeter, Wurtbad’s town clerk, as he clutched his writing case and huddled into his threadbare cloak. “The pressure and all, I’d imagine.”

Constable Zoewere, the rain dripping from his russeted helmet onto the water-dark shoulders of his leather hauberk, glanced at his companion. “Who has?”

“Herr Baader.”

The constable raised his eyebrows. “The Magistrate?” He paused for a moment. “And who might they be?”

Herr Olboeter shrugged his shoulders and lapsed into silence.

The boat came to the junction of Versammlungstraße and Kurzestraße, the oarsman guiding the craft into the latter, around a jumbled mound of flotsam that had snagged on some unseen bar. On either side of the road were the shells of ruined shops, struck by twin calamities. Their lower floors were a yard deep in stagnant water, their upper stories were burned and blackened, having been looted and torched during the riots.

A plump raven with shiny black plumage perched atop the remains of a dog that dangled grotesquely out of a window, pecking at the strings of flesh within the eye socket. It cawed angrily as the boat passed, hopping into the air and taking flight. “At least something’s doing well out of this,” mumbled Constable Zoewere as he watched it flap lazily away.

The man with the boathook sniffed loudly and wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Almost there now,” he announced.

They exited Kurzestraße, coming out onto the Großweg. The gabled, half-timbered buildings, with wood-shingled roofs and shuttered windows, overhung the road to such a degree that their eaves almost touched, making the street a dark and gloomy canyon. Other small boats plied the waters that covered the cobbles, people leaned from the windows of the higher storeys, and a few braver souls were wading, almost chest-deep in the water.

The constable cleared his throat. “So why is Herr Baader’s … er, incapability … so important?”

Herr Olboeter looked up. “Because he’s in charge!”

“Don’t be ridiculous! He’s a judge! What about the mayor, or the councillors come to that? They’re running things, surely?”

“The mayor is more of a figurehead than anything. He has left most of his civic duties to his staff for years.” The clerk pushed back the hood of his cloak and used his sleeve to wipe the moisture from the stubbly grey hair that covered his pate. “Believe me, he won’t do anything except what he’s told.”

“The councillors are fine men,” he added after a moments thought, “but they’re all merchants and traders. They’re very good at greasing the axles of commerce. You know, seeing that revenues increase and that taxes are disbursed, stuff like that, but when it comes to something like this” – he gestured at the submerged street – “they’re all awash, as it were.”

“And the Count?”

The clerk shot a glance at the oarsman, who sat stony-faced and focused on his work, then continued in a low voice. “Everybody knows that our noble Elector hasn’t been here since before the snows. I very much doubt he will return soon.”

“What about the army then?”

“This is a civil matter, in the hands of the council. Besides, the regiments have their hands full keeping order and preventing looting, as well you know.”

“But why Herr Baader? I don’t understand why he’s taken command.”

“The magistrate is a loud and opinionated man who is used to getting his own way. He believes that he can steer us through this crisis, and, to be fair, nobody else has any better suggestions. The people are desperate, so they are following him.”

They glided into the broad expanse of the Großplatz, lined with stately houses and dominated by the great bronze statue of the Grand Duke astride his charger. Herr Olboeter’s attention was drawn to the damp-looking cats that huddled on top of the plinth, mewing pathetically.

They turned to the right, towards the stairs that led up onto the Schlosshügel, though the fort that had given the low mound its name had long since gone. The bottom of the boat touched ground and the man in the prow snatched up a coiled rope, eased himself over the side, and dropped down into the water. He waded to the base of the steps and held the craft steady until the two passengers had gone ashore.

“Thankyou,” said the constable. “Wait here until we return, if you please.”

Herr Olboeter nodded his gratitude, and then the pair turned and followed the steps up onto the Bürgplatz. The waters hadn’t got this high yet, though the cobbles were slick and treacherous with rain.

The place was in a terrible commotion, with the elegant buildings that faced onto it occupied by mobs and the square itself filled with a squalid shanty-town housing a mass of displaced and scared humanity. Men and women shouted, hollow-eyed children stared or cried, babies screamed, and dogs yelped and howled. A haze of acrid woodsmoke hung in the air, its sharp smell overlying the putrid odour of sewerage and mould.

Herr Olboeter was shocked. “Oh my goodness,” he whispered, covering his mouth with his arm. “This is terrible. I had no idea.”

“We can only pray that they have a plan,” said the constable.

The Stadthaus, with its tall rectangular tower, was the largest building on the square. It was a plain and solid structure, the lower storey constructed of blocks of grey stone and the upper made of uncarved wood. Narrow windows overlooked the platz and broad steps led up to a pair of heavy doors that were guarded by a detachment of halberdiers. The pair of them made their way over, nodded to the sentries, and hurried inside.


—oOo—


The gloomy council room, full of the good citizens of Wurtbad, stank of sweat and mildew and mud. Herr Schmidt, the mayor, was seated at the high chair on the podium, with the councillors from each of the city’s districts on his left. Herr Baader, the Magistrate, was to his right, and standing behind him was Sergeant Moncke, the stolid Yeoman-at-Arms. At the sides of the podium were two halberdiers, drawn from the town’s standing regiment.

All of the officials were dressed in plain clothing, and all looked tired and grubby with the exception of Herr Baader. He was decked out in his full ceremonial finery – or, to be more precise, most of it. He was bare-legged, with filthy rags tied around his feet and only his shirt protecting his modesty.

“So glad you could join us,” said the mayor. “If you could take your places we can begin.”

The magistrate banged his gavel on the bench to bring the proceedings to order.

“Good bürghers and citizens,” he said, “we come together in this time of crisis to determine what more can be done. We have fought against nature itself, battling to build dams and clear ditches and dig culverts, but still the waters rise. We have prayed to Sigmar himself for relief, but none has come. We have done everything in our power, and now our only recourse is the law.”

“Er, how do you mean?” asked Herr Becker, the elder of the Councillors.

“As magistrate, I propose that from this time forward there be a law forbidding the River Stir to rise higher than the bottom of the Großweg Bridge.”

For a few moments there was a stunned hush, then the room erupted into a commotion of shouts and argument. The Magistrate banged his gavel on his bench and shouted for order until quiet returned.

Johann Hauer, the Warden of the Wall, stood up and frowned at the Magistrate. “Correct me if I’m wrong,” he said in a deliberate tone, “but did you just say that the river is forbidden to rise? Under penalty of what?”

“Arrest! And execution!”

There was a moment of silence.

The Warden blinked. “This is madness. Can you hear what you’re saying?”

“Guards, remove that man,” shouted Herr Baader. “Remove him. Take him away.”

Sergeant Moncke nodded at the two halberdiers and they approached the officer. One lowered his weapon and aimed the spike that topped it at the man’s chest, while the other took a hold on the Warden’s arm and ushered him towards the door. “Come along quietly now,” he said, “there’s a good gentleman.”

The Warden shook away the man’s hand. “You can’t do this!” he shouted. “It’s insane.”

Sergeant Moncke ambled down to the soldiers and levelled his halberd. He feinted a thrust at the Warden and the man flinched backwards. “Don’t make me do anything you might regret, Sir,” he growled, then raised the weapon again.

The Warden departed, escorted to the door by the soldiers. Once the sentries had returned to their places and the whispers of conversation had faded the Magistrate looked to the councillors. “Gentlemen?”

They glanced uncomfortably at one another. “Agreed,” they chorused.

The magistrate turned back to the room. “Those in favour make yourselves known,” he demanded in a stentorian tone. One by one they raised their hands, until every person in the room had their arm in the air.

“The motion is approved unanimously, it seems, and will be entered into the town statutes.”

The clerk could hardly believe his ears. His pen hovered above the vellum as he looked around at the gathered faces. “Is this legal?” he asked. “I mean, we haven’t followed anything like due process.”

The magistrate glared at him. “Write it down, Herr Olboeter,” he said loudly, “or I’ll have you stripped of your offices for neglect and contempt, so the Gods help me I will.” He motioned to Sergeant Moncke and the burly halberdier lowered his weapon.

The clerk began to write.

The magistrate watched for a few moments then nodded approvingly. “So it is done.”


—oOo—


The raven soared westward, leaving the city behind it and following the course of the broad valley in which the proud stadt sat. The sloped sides were clad in bracken and cloaked in mist, and the floor had become a shimmering lagoon.

In time the bird came to the head of the vale, a spot called the Ritters-tropfen. Here the Stir tumbled down a narrow gorge, carved through the hills over countless millennia, and spilled out onto the vast plains beyond. But here too was the point where all of the flotsam and wreckage collected by the river had collected, forming a huge natural barrier that held back the waters.

The raven’s beady eyes spied the distended carcass of a cow lying on the shore and it began to descend, losing height in a series of lazy circles. It landed, hopping forward and cawing defiantly to stake its claim. Once it was sure of its ownership it fluttered up onto the horned head and shook the last beads of rain from its feathers.

Distant movement caught the creature’s attention. The flow was carrying along a massive winter-bare oak, ripped bodily from the ground. The bird watched for a few moments, and when it was sure there was no threat it returned to its meal.

The oaks’ gradual passage brought it to the bottleneck and it collided with the mass of debris collected there, twisting and turning as it was buffeted by the undertow. Then, by fluke of the current and with painful slowness, the trunk lifted upright and toppled onto the top of the dam. As it fell other wreckage, snared by its roots and boughs, tore clear too.

Suddenly the water found a way through.

Another large tree trunk, previously wedged firmly in place, lifted and broke free, followed by a boulder the size of a horse. More and more of the debris ripped away as countless millions of gallons blasted and roared through the breach, tearing it wider and wider and cascading through in an avalanche of foamy white.


—oOo—


Constable Zoewere tapped at the door and was answered by a muffled “enter!” He let himself in and recoiled in surprise.

The magistrate was on the far side of the wood-panelled chamber. He clutched an ancient sabre, its slender blade pitted and worn, and was searching around behind a large chest. His posture placed the constable in some danger of becoming privy to parts of the man that only his creator and his physician should know of.

The constable coughed to get his attention.

Herr Baader span round and grinned broadly at his visitor. He offered a seat, which Zoewere declined, then straightened his robe and adjusted his cap, all the while waving the sword around with careless abandon.

“Your breeches, Sir.” said the constable delicately.

“What about them?”

“Why haven’t you got any on?”

Herr Baader frowned, as though he hadn’t understood the question. “Eh, what? Oh, yes. To stop the rats. From crawling inside, d’ye see? Biting and disease, biting and disease! You’d be well advised to do the same.”

“Er, quite.” The constable decided that perhaps it was wisest to humour the man.

The magistrate put the sword on the table and rubbed his hands together. “Well,” he asked, “how can I help you?”

“I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.”

“Just go and carry out your duty, man. Read the proclamation and arrest the offender if they fail to comply. Gods, I shouldn’t have to tell you how to do your job.”

“But it’s a river, Sir. It isn’t an offender. I can’t arrest it. From time to time it floods. That’s the way of things.”

The magistrate’s mood turned in an instant. “The damned river can do as it pleases out in the countryside,” he hissed, “but within the limits of this city there are rules, and I expect them to be obeyed. It is your job to see that they are. Do I make myself clear, Constable?”

“But Sir…”

Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Sir.” The Constable came to attention and clicked his heels, then turned and strode out of the room.

In the corridor he met Herr Olboeter. “You have the papers?” he asked.

The clerk nodded and the pair of them made their way back through the building to the Bürgplatz, walking in silence to the steps leading down to the Großplatz. The two river patrolmen were still there, huddled into their cloaks and playing at dice to pass the time.

They clambered into the boat and cast off, rowing the length of the Großweg until they neared the bridge. Both ends of it were underwater, but the centre of the span projected above the flow. Many of the structures built on it had collapsed, and all manner of wreckage was piled against one side.

“We need to get onto the bridge,” said the Constable to the oarsman. “Do you think you can get us there?”

The pull of the river was strong here and the fellow was having to work hard to maintain their position, but despite that he nodded. With some effort and a lot of skill he edged them forward, until his companion was able to secure a rope around an iron railing.

“About as close as I can mange, Sirs,” he panted. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to wade the rest of the way.”

They eased themselves over the gunwale and into the murky liquid, shocked by the cold and unsure of their footing. They cautiously made their way up on to the bridge, which trembled and shuddered below their feet, rocked to its very foundations by the force of the rushing water pressing up against it.

“This is insanity,” moaned the clerk as they hurried towards the centre.

“Far enough, I reckon,” said Constable Zoewere, unrolling the document and holding it out in front of him. “Lets just get it over and done with, shall we.”

“Be it known,” he bellowed to no-one in particular, “that from this Marktag, the seventeenth day of Pflugzeit, in the year of our Lord Sigmar fifteen hundred and twelve, and for all time henceforth, the River Stir is forbidden to rise higher than the bottom of the Großweg Bridge, as is lawfully recorded in the statutes and dictates of this the Imperial city of Wurtbad. Failure to comply with these commandments and regulations is punishable by confiscation of goods and property, imprisonment, and death. This is done by order of the mayor and members of the council.”

He lowered the document and Herr Olboeter handed him some nails and a hammer. The constable made his way over to a wall and secured the proclamation to a sturdy beam. The thick paper fluttered in the breeze.

They made their way back towards the waiting boat.

Herr Olboeter pulled back his hood and peered upward. “I don’t believe it!” he whispered. The rain had slowed to a slow drizzle. He pointed to a half-submerged wall. A dark tidemark just above the level of the flood showed that the waters, at last, were beginning to subside.

Above them a broad fan of crepuscular rays shone through the clouds.


—oOo—


Magistrate Baader retired a few weeks later on grounds of his health; he refused any clothing bar his chains of office, in the belief that rats would get within his garments and eat him alive. He remained housebound for the rest of his life and became something of a legend; after his passing the citizens erected a statue to his memory – fully clad, of course.

That was more than a thousand years ago, and in all that time the law never was repealed. The strange thing is, though, that over the course of that millennia there never was a deluge to match the Great Flood of 1512.

Men of learning might argue that the force of the river widened and deepened the Ritters-tropfen to the point where such flooding was never again likely, but those with more romantic souls like to believe that the mighty Stir has respect for the laws of the Empire.


—oOo—



Yeah yeah I know get on with Die Schlammländer … trouble is, I’ve been away from home recently and had no access to my notes. Sorry, but it is almost done.


Enjoy!


—oOo—

Offline Midaski

  • Sunny Sussex, England
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  • Posts: 11433
The Flood
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2005, 08:47:25 PM »
Hmm it's no fun if you steal my lines ............ :wink:

I suppose a mildly amusing [ :wink: ] interlude .........

 :tongue:
Quote from: Gneisenau
Quote
Metal to Finecast - It is mostly a swap of medium. 

You mean they will be using Ouija boards instead of Tarot cards for their business plans from now on?

Offline queek

  • The Old Ones
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The Flood
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2005, 02:07:23 PM »
o sure, blame the rats. . . .

excellent work, as always.   :happyjoy:

Offline Fafnir

  • Posts: 1767
The Flood
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2005, 12:14:41 PM »
Hehe, funny, quite funny.  :-D
EDIT: see Africa for more examples ...

Offline General Helstrom

  • The Old Ones
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The Flood
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2005, 12:57:04 PM »
How did I miss this? Hilarious :-D
I don't know what Caesar thought when he got to the Ides of March
Don't know what Houdini bought when he went to the store
But I sure do miss the eighties