*In troubled times there always seem to be self-made prophets and fools preaching on every street corner; and there always seem to be crowds gathering to cheer or to boo them off, some listening reverently and a few only hearing what they wish to.
On more than one occasion as of late a man takes such stands; garbed in hues of silver streaked with gold the Iron Heart Chapter colours of the Sons of Camulus with an unkempt mane of white hair in sharp contrast with his tanned skin and piercing blue eyes that he keeps on his audience at all times.
He says many things; sometimes, this is what they sound like. His voice is clear and carries well, spoken with dignity and well stressed words, the mark of a seasoned, practiced orator.*
Listen! All who have ears. Listen!
I will address you, but I will not call you friends. You are not my friends; I am not yours. I will not lie to you, you who dare hear me out. Many others will name you so, for words are cheap when they are scattered to the winds, but I will not.
Listen then! For caring is a harrowing of the soul. So many walk under the sun broken men, husks of women, shells of children. Dead-eyed, slow-tongued, thin-limbed and frail, above all things. So many who need help and call out in desperation for saviors and heroes and hope. And there are many, like this idiot who's standing here talking to you who'll get on a box and promise you that all will be well, in Mitra's name or another's.
I will do no such thing. All is not going to be well. There is no hero coming to save you, because most of you are beyond saving. And it is not because there is no mercy in my soul nor lack of caring for those who tread lightly and gaze downwardly, good people of this land. No. It breaks my heart to see this suffering, for surely no living thing can be tortured by another as a man in the hands of another; but as much as I care and as great a pity it is for a life to go to waste, I will not be another liar.
Let me tell you a story, people. It is not an unusual tale, you've heard it or one just like it before. Some days ago, on my way back to Old Tarantia I happened to notice a column of thick black smoke rising from a farm somewhat off the steep path I was walking at the time. Curious I approached, expecting mischief but I found somewhat its opposite; it appeared that a band of bandits had raided a poor man's home, but instead an axe wielding man had helped them out. The brigands were dead, their still warm corpses sprawled across the farmer's property, and the farmer's family were busy thanking their champion for his good deed. Tears were streaking down their cheeks, and the man glowed in the morning sun like a beacon of justice. Aye, I see it in your eyes now; you like this, don't you? Yes, yes.
No. I will not stand before you today and tell you that it is a showing kindness to a weak man to save him one day and condemn him to a lifetime of abuse. I refuse to coddle and whisper untruths just because they are convenient, just because you long for them; just because I would like to live in a world walked by heroes. There are two kinds of people. Just two! There are the predators and the strong, the ones who will do what must be done in their hour of need, and there are the victims; they who will buckle, they who will bend knee and offer their throat to the wolves at the gates, at the doorstep, inside their homes. There are no other kinds of people, good folks! Don't let yourselves be misled by fraudulent and false hopes.
Is it really such a mercy to save this farmer one day only to have his house revisited by hard faced men the day after, when the axeman has left for other pastures? Is it really such a good deed to have his daughters raped, his woman killed, his house burned down next week, or next month, while he cannot work the field for constant fear of death?
Or is it really such a grand thing to offer coin to a poor man who will eat through it eventually and succumb to the elements during the next hard weather? Do you truly save a child by offering them a meal only so they will starve a different day, or grow up to sell her thin framed flesh or get himself killed as a throwaway swordhand to some nobleman's forgettable cause? Are these the mercies you expect from your saviors? Are these the products of good deeds as they are called?
I will stand before you today and tell you this. I will tell you that Mitra helps those who will in turn be able to help themselves. That yes, sometimes death is a preferred fate to a lifetime of suffering and fear, living under the threat of knife or empty belly instead of a quick end of one's days. And that if there is someone to help, then we must all all! choose to assist those who have the potential for survival rather than the ones who are never going to be anything else but fertile ground for victimhood and gradual decay.
It is not because I do not care that I speak these hard truths before you today. It is because I do care. Had we been subjects of different circumstances then practicalities could have given the way to ideals but now, here, in this world, in these lands such dreams are barren and forbidding, they are as yellow fat cheese in a trap laid for mice.
I stand before you today to give you this one fact. That hope is false, and it puts her followers on a fertile ground where only despair and madness grow, where blood is spilled in the pursuit and lifetimes are wasted chasing her. She is false. Grasp not at straws but take your destinies into your own hands, and become strong. Teach yourselves hardness and stand tall, facing what ails you.
I will tell you this last thing. That should you do this, should you plant your feet and growl back at fate, she will smile upon you.
Thank you for listening. If you should feel the need to talk to me, look for Synir Areje. Let your name be heard, and I will find you. But I will not save you.
*The man steps down, wraps himself in a long, thick gray and weathered cloak and begins to walk away. The reactions to such speeches vary. But he never puts out a cup to gather contributions as most priests are prone to do.*