People tell me there are gods that rule our fates. They say there is a plan, a reason for everything that happens to us. They say the gods care about us, look after us and make sure our lives have purpose.
I have to wonder about that.
I am old now, but even when I was young, I saw things that made me doubt that those who claim to be wiser than the rest of us know much at all. In particular, their claims about the gods and their reasons for wanting us to worship them.
Yes, I was young once. It grows harder to believe as they years pile on me and weigh me down. Each spring I surprise myself by having lived through the winter. The cold gnaws into the bones like a starving wolf.
Yes, the gods. Do not look at me like that. I have not forgotten.
Although, these days I find I forget so much.
It seems there is something that stops us forgetting the worst we have seen, while trivial day-to-day matters slip from the mind like water from a leaking bucket.
If there are gods – see, I have not forgotten – then we are the punchline to some great cosmic joke of theirs. We are little more than a play put before them. Our small lives are there for them to laugh at our misfortunes, to pour scorn on our pomposity and to pity our foolish schemes.
I had a wife once… younger than you are now. I was young then too. We were in love, which was rare enough back in those days. Back then, marriages were even more of an arrangement between families to preserve property and lands than they are now.
Back then, we were both contracted into marriages.
But not to each other.
First, the war came… the Long War. You’ve heard me tell too many stories from it. The war against the invaders from the North with their swords, horses, bows and shields. It was a long war and many died.
In the end, we won a victory… of sorts.
After that, came the great plague when even more died than in the Long War.
I found Shania almost dead in a deserted castle up near the Grey River. I was tired of riding alone through empty lands with nothing but the bones of the dead to converse with. She was the only living human I found in thirty days of riding.
No thanks to me – maybe the gods did it – she got better.
She left those death lands with me and came back here. We became husband and wife on that ride, even though there was no Holy Man alive to marry us legally.
Then she grew heavy with child. But the disease must have done something to her, broken something inside.
Neither she nor the child lived.
I buried them both out there, down by the river. She liked it there. Sometimes when I look out of this window, I imagine her sitting there in her favourite place on the riverbank watching the waters glide by.
Well… that’s it. You ask why I have no time for the gods, then that is why.
They took my Shania and my unnamed child. They left me here alone. Each day since, I’ve begged them to take me too, but the gods do not listen.
So I’ve stopped listening for them.