by Connie Willis
Discussed November 2006
James Dunworthy was concerned for Kivrin. Kivrin was to be dropped in the Middle Ages 1320. Kivrin had always wanted to go to the Middle Ages. She was an historian in 2051 in Oxford England. Dunworthy thought, the head of the drop for Kivrin into 1320, Gilchrist, was incompetent. Dunworthy thought that Gilchrist should have the tech Badri run parameter checks but Gilchrist said everything was covered. Everything would be fine. The tech Badri was the one who was actually running the drop of Kivrin into 1320. She was supposed to be there two and one-half weeks and then return from the same geographic location in which she was dropped.
Kivrin was very excited about her drop into the Middle Ages. She studied the languages, learned how to ride a horse, about medicine and herbs, how to prepare food, how to dress, mannerisms and religious practices. She felt very prepared. Dunworthy was not convinced that she was going to be safe. Dr. Mary Ahrens was Dunworthy’s associate and friend. Mary was a medical doctor and she was the one who was responsible for giving Kivrin her inoculations and enhancing her T cells and preparing her for a healthy stay in the bleak Middle Ages 1320. Mary was also very concerned with Kivrin’s drop. Mary though Kivrin was very young for such an endeavor.
Kivrin was dropped into the Middle Ages with a cart and boxes. Her story was that she had been set upon by thieves and they stole her horses and belongings and that her servants had run away.
Mary and Dunworthy went for a drink while they waited for the set which indicates that Kivrin had made it to 1320 alright.
Badri, the tech, came in the bar and retrieved Dunworthy and Mary. Badri ran back to the lab and immediately fell upon the console. He was taken ill with a severe headache, fever and disorientation.
Kivrin was supposed to be dropped onto a road of sorts. However she found herself in a wood. Kivrin had arrived a little off the road but close to a village.
Back at the lab Badri was very ill and they rushed him to the hospital. He was quarantined.
Kivrin was going to drag the wagon out to the road. But she was sick. She had a bad headache, nausea and was very dizzy. She slept. And she awoke with a man talking to her.
They had imposed a quarantine but they were released to go home as long as they lived within the quarantine area. Badri came to and told Dunworthy that there was something wrong with the drop. But he was too sick to explain exactly what went wrong.
The man put Kivrin on his horse and they rode. Soon she fell off the horse. Then she thought they were burning her as a witch. The next thing she knew she was receiving Last Rights from a priest in Latin. The lady put water on her burning skin but Kivrin couldn’t see anything but smoke.
Badri got worse with a higher temperature and then the temperature receded. Dunworthy stayed with him and was there when Badri became more lucid. Badri told Dunworthy that the “wrong” thing was with Badri not with the drop. Badri had an influenza Mary thought had its origin in South Carolina. Another lady was taken with the flu and admitted to the hospital. It had an incubation period of 3 to 48 hours. Kivrin could have been exposed.
Kivrin woke up and was beyond the delirium. She remembered the Last Rights, being burned as a witch and them cutting her hair. Now someone covered her with a soft blanket and Kivrin slept.
Kivrin realized she did not have the plague. She was being cared for by another older woman, the head of the house Lady Imeyne and a maid Maisry. But upon waking again Kivrin still could not understand the language. Her interpreter was not working.
Kivrin was lifted up and placed on a chamber pot and she had to be carried back to bed. She became very worried about the interpreter being broken. The interpreter worked with Latin. The interpreter would listen to the new language and would soon learn the new language.
Kivrin continued to feel better. The little girl Agnes told her that everyone would be gone from the Manor to bring in the Yule Log. Kivrin decided to dress and go talk to Gawyn, the man she was told who found her in the woods. He was not to be found. Everyone was gone. Kivrin decided to look for the drop by herself. She made it down the road a little ways but lost her strength and stopped at a house, a hut really but only a sickly boy was home. Kivrin asked him to go to the Manor for help. No one came. Kivrin was alone. She walked outside the hut and the people from the Manor found her. She walked back to the Manor. She thinks she had pneumonia with an increased temperature. They told her that Gawyn had returned to find her gone. He had brought Kivrin’s wagon and boxes back to the manor. Kivrin thinks she will never find the drop site. It had been five days and Kivrin was feeling better.
Colin, Mary’s great nephew, made it into Oxford in spite of the quarantine. Dunworthy stayed with Badri. Dunworthy had a blood test. Dunworthy was so tired he took Colin and went back to his rooms at the college. They were so tired even at 1:30 P.M. they didn’t have trouble going to sleep.
Dunworthy had contacted a number of people to tract Badri's trail for the last three days. Dunworthy was scheduled to recite at church for Christmas Eve. Colin was with him and was making excuses for his mom regarding the absence of his Christmas gifts. Church was packed with folding chairs set up in the back.
Kivrin had recovered and offered to watch the child Agnes. Kivrin took Rosemund the twelve-year-old daughter and Agnes the six-year-old daughter of Eliwys to meet Father Roche and go gather holly and ivy to decorate the Manor for Christmas. Once at the church Kivrin found his white donkey packed for the trip to the woods. There was no Father Roche but she did find the cutthroat who talked to her at her drop. The cutthroat was in the church and would not talk to Kivrin. She screamed and ran out of the church. Then Kivrin realized that the cutthroat was actually Father Roche. Kivrin and Agnes went back into the church and Father Roche was there. He told Kivrin that God had sent her here for some good purpose. Kivrin felt comforted. Father Roche got his donkey and they went into the woods to gather holly and ivy. Kivrin remembered Father Roche looking at her at the drop. But she had only been told that Gawyn had found her not Father Roche. As they traveled to the woods she hoped she would recognize the woods at the drop. Kivrin thought Father Roche knew where the drop was located. But she didn’t recognize any of the woods. Kivrin asked where they had found her and Father Roche showed her the place. Kivrin realized that Gawyn had brought her to this location and found he needed more help to get her to the Manor. That is where Father Roche found her and Gawyn. Kivrin walked out to the road and there she thought she found the drop site but she could not find her hidden casket.
Colin opened his Christmas gifts. Dunworthy had not gotten much sleep. Mary called with news that one of the students went to a dance with someone who had been in South Carolina. Colin told Mary about the Middle Ages book Dunworthy gave him for Christmas. Badri was improving but still had breathing problems.
Dunworthy arranged for a tech to analysis the fix so he would know exactly how much slippage there had been. When Dunworthy went to the lab he found it closed due to the quarantine. He found Gilchrist getting his inoculation shot. Gilchrist would not open the lab and they called for Mary. Mary told them that the flu did not have any deaths associated with it in South Carolina. Here however one lady died who had contact with Badri. Mary said that time travel may have introduced the disease.
The head of the Manor sent Gawyn for a new chaplain because she was unhappy with Father Roche. Eliwys, the daughter-in-law of the Lady of the Manor was in love with Gawyn. Kivrin could tell just by the way Eliwys acted. Gawyn returned and Kivrin had few opportunities to talk with him. She could not find out from him where the drop site was located.
Agnes’s knee had developed blood poisoning so Kivrin took her to Father Roche and asked for some old wine. She poured it on the knee and the red line soon disappeared.
They prepared for Christmas Eve. The Lady of the Manor Lady Imeyne told Kivrin she would have to leave with the chaplains who were guests of the Manor when they left. Kivrin would have to go with them to the nunnery. Lady Imeyne thought that Kivrin was a nun because she could read a brooch given to Rosemund by the man she was to marry. Women who could read in the middle ages were rare and associated with the church.
Christmas morning before service Agnes’s puppy hound Blacky had died and Agnes was very upset. Kivrin had great respect for Father Roche but Lady Imeyne greatly disliked Father Roche. Kivrin took Father Roche some candles and told Father Roche of Lady Imeyne’s plan to send Kivrin away. Father Roche told her she would not have to leave because God had sent her there to help them.
Dunworthy continued tracking the source of the disease and discovered that Badri had been alone with Montoya at the 1350 dig site just prior to his becoming ill. Gilchrist would not allow Dunworthy to use the computers in the lab to find the drop site.
Kivrin had only four days before the rendezvous. Lady Imeyne wanted to send Kivrin away but the men who were to take her said they would not be going to the nunnery. One of the men had become ill. Kivrin realized he had been sleeping in her bed. Maybe he had contracted her disease. He was a priest and he had purplish skin and a swollen tongue. He also had swollen purple nodules under his arms. Kivrin recognized it as the plague. But the plague hadn’t reached England until 1348 and she believed she was in the year 1320. She was shocked and panicked. “What is the year?” she demanded. “What is the year?” Father Roche responded, “One thousand three hundred and forty eight.”
Dunworthy was working to find the source. Gilchrist was not going to open the net unless the source of the influenza was identified. The only other way the net could be opened was to wait for two weeks after the national inoculation. That should be the end of January. Colin brought a note saying Badri was calling for Dunworthy. Mary called for Dunworthy. Dunworthy found Montoya coming in by ambulance. She had been at the dig for three days. This morning she was very sick. Last night she had a bad headache. Montoya told Mary no one was with her. She had been by herself. Montoya moved a skeleton in the Knight’s tomb dated 1318. Mary said that viruses were very strong. The dig was the site of the virus. Kivrin was at the site four days before the drop. She had the virus when she went through.
Badri told Dunworthy that Kivrin was in 1348. There had been a problem. Badri said the whole time he was setting the net he had a severe headache. Badri called up the coordinates and verified she was in 1348. The plague killed 50 million people, half of Europe. Badri wanted to pull her out at the rendezvous but he was sick with fever and a terrible headache.
Kivrin took care of everyone. She lanced the purple boils under the arms of the priest and bathed the sick with cold compresses. Father Roche helped her. Rosemund was the next person to be taken with the plague. Then the people in town were catching the plague. Agnes might have it as well. Kivrin worked day and night with little sleep. She heard the bells one day and Father Roche told her it was a religious holiday. He said it had been four days since everyone had fallen ill. Kivrin realized she had missed the drop. She still did not know the location of the drop anyway. Lady Imeyne accused Kivrin of coming to poison all of her son’s family. Father Roche, angry, told Lady Imeyne that Kivrin was sent from God to help. Rosemund is so sick she can’t swallow. Agnes had a high fever. Over fifty percent of the village has the plague. Kivrin prayed that Eliwys and Father Roche would not get sick.
Dunworthy had been taken with the flu. He had a headache and a fever. Dunworthy asked what day it was. She said it was the tenth of January. He couldn’t remember the days but he knew he had missed the rendezvous with Kivrin.
Colin visited Dunworthy and Montoya also visited. Montoya told Dunworthy that Gilchrist had died three days ago. Dunworthy inquired as to what else Colin was instructed not to tell him. Who else had died? Colin said, “Great Aunt Mary.” Montoya told Dunworthy that Kivrin had told her if she died on the drop she would have them bury her in the church graveyard at Montoya’s dig site. Montoya was looking for Kivrin’s bones to find the recorder.
Lady Imeyne is unconscious. The maid had run away. Agnes is worse. The bells rang constantly signaling the deaths. The bells stopped because they were scaring people. Father Roche explained that it was very important that the bells were rung for people so they would find their way to heaven.
Mary had gotten sick as soon as Dunworthy became ill and Mary’s heart had just stopped.
Agnes died January second.
Dunworthy found out that Badri had a backup and he decided he would go get Kivrin.
Eliwys died. Rosemund was getting better. Kivrin thought she could take them to northern Scotland. The steward’s son was worse and she didn’t think they would be able to leave.
The steward’s son died and Father Roche had Kivrin go with him. Once at the grave yard Kivrin saw that the steward was in one of the graves and had tried to bury himself. He was frozen. Father Roche and Kivrin buried him.
Kivrin prepared to leave with Rosemund and Father Roche and his donkey.
Rosemund died. Kivrin prepared to take Father Roche and herself to Scotland.
She had food for one week. Father Roche took ill. Kivrin nursed him for
many hours. Father Roche told Kivrin he had seen her arrive from heaven.
He told Kivrin he had been the one who found her not Gawyn. He told her
where the drop site was. It was where they had collected the holly and
ivy. She gave him the Last Rights and rang the bell for him nine times.
He had saved her life and she loved him. She loved Rosemund and Agnes
too. She had lost them all. Father Roche had passed in the morning. That
evening Dunworthy and Colin arrived to take her back home. Dunworthy was
ill and Kivrin had broken ribs where Father Roche had kicked her in his
delirium. They made it to the drop site with Colin’s help. Kivrin
took Dunworthy’s hand and told him, “I knew you would come
by Brenda Krekeler
Doomsday Book is a bizarre combination of future time travel mixed with life in the Middle Ages. It is a saga of love set in the mist of a difficult time to live. The title of the book is foreboding. You just know things can't get any worse. The main character Kivrin is a young graduate student who travels back to the year 1320 to a small village near Oxford England. The experiences that Kivrin has are described so intimately you feel as if you were there. Her actions are heroic. Her growth as a human starts slow but her strength of character is actuated by her circumstance. She and the people she has come to love are brave, stoic and so real. You will know life in the Middle Ages once you have read this book. You will have been there.