Children of the Fatherland: These things happen

The Plague; alas, it has been hugely toned down for CK2. But in CK1 it’s the real thing.

What shall I say, what can be said? For those who’ve seen, no words are necessary; and for those who haven’t, none are enough. I was there, and my mind shies away from the real extent of the horror; I flinch from thinking about it, like sending your tongue into the gap where a tooth used to be. But what’s the use of this word, ‘horror’? Nothing. It has no meaning. These things happen, that’s all. Parents see their children rise smiling in the morning, start coughing at midday, and put them on their pyres in the evening. Is that horror? Maybe. For those who’ve seen it happen a hundred times, or more, there’s no horror; there can’t be. There are only events, to be described if that’s useful, or not to be spoken of. If I saw you getting ready to go out, I might tell you that it were raining, and you would put on your cloak. And if you wanted to know, I would tell you how many had died, in this village or that. Or in mine. Or in my house. What’s the use of being emotional about it? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bury the dead; these are the corporal acts of mercy. And there’ll still be need for that mercy, when you’re done shaking your angry fist at Heaven, when you’ve finished looking for words for the sheer despair of it all. I am a man of great mercy, but no grief; not anymore. I buried it somewhere. My grave-gift to some naked wretch, that I could give nothing else.

These things happen. They’ve happened before, they’ll happen again. You think we’re the first? There was plague in Justinian’s time, that they say killed half the men in Christendom. Who remembers that now? Only a few scholars. All that grief! Thousands, tens of thousands, crying and wailing their fury at the skies. Gone, forgotten. Who do you think will remember us, remember our grief? Nobody. The children don’t believe us. They can’t. What can we say that would make them believe? Nothing. Only the dry numbers, perhaps, as if that’s any use! One in three from this village, one in four from that; this one was spared, only one in ten died. Voices in the wind, ghosts, nothingness! They won’t grasp the heart of it. I don’t, and I was there. I can witness, but who shall be the judge? This thing happened. I must insist on that, or I’ll forget it myself. These things happen; real men, with voices and dreams and children, die coughing their lungs out. I saw a man once, who had buried two sons and his wife in the same day; when he was done, he dug his own grave, and sat down in it to die. Do you believe that? I don’t. Who would dig his own grave? But I saw it happen. I shoveled the mud over his head, when I got tired of waiting for him to die; and he didn’t move a finger. That was my work of mercy, that day: To bury the living with their dead. The gentle Christ won’t mind; he’s coming back to judge both kinds.

Or was it him who buried me? Maybe I’m only a ghost, that thinks it’s a man, and makes meaningless noises in the wind. But I had sons once. That happened, too. I saw them born. Do you believe that? I don’t. Who would have children who die? All men are initiates in the mysteries of death; and I am more, I am the Grand Master and High Priest of the mysteries.

Bring out your dead.


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