Pandemic, pandemonium or politics?

A medieval tale of events that took place in times gone by

Once upon a time, in Wiseland (think about it), a country not far from here, terrible disease-spreading invaders were threatening to enter the country.  It would take a huge concerted effort by the people to resist the invasion.  It was feared that, as people battled against the invading hordes, many might die.  It was known what had happened in other countries they had invaded; the number of people attacked by the invaders; the number of serious injuries; the number of deaths.  The people were fearful of what might happen to them when the invaders arrived.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth (for those with a full set of gnashers).

As they were wont to do at times of trouble, the people turned to their ruler, the great King Buffo the Bountiful, for reassurance.  “King Buffo will save us”, they said.  “King Buffo will know what to do”, they said.  “King Buffo will have a plan”, they said.  And indeed, King Buffo did have a plan.

“Do not worry, my children”, said the King, “for you know that no foreign force can be strong enough to defeat our wonderful Wiseland people, for we are the greatest people in the world.  When the invaders arrive, we need have no fear of them, because we will show them who’s boss.  Unlike other weaker countries who have succumbed to the invaders, this can never happen in Wiseland.  We need no assistance or advice from countries who have shown themselves incapable of withstanding an attack by puny invaders.  We will stand alone and show the world how it is done.  Veni. Vidi. Vici” (the King was keen on the classics, though, unfortunately, not very good at them).

The King’s words comforted many in Wiseland, though there were those who were not convinced.  They thought that the king’s plan effectively meant doing nothing: letting the invasion run its course: letting the invader attack individual villages with no plan to get the whole population to work together to resist the invasion.  The King appeared to expect that the people would eventually learn how to better resist the invaders and would then defeat them, but how many would die before that happened.

Many called the King’s plan herd immunity, but surely (they thought) that only worked on cattle.  They believed that the country was ill-prepared for the oncoming battles because it was known that the country’s stocks of personal protection armour (PPA), chain mail, helmets, gauntlets and other items, had been much reduced because the King had diverted much royal funding from the armourers to bail out the money lenders.  It was known that the King had borrowed a great deal of cash from the money lenders to fund the development of his pet project, the Buffobang, what would be the world’s biggest cannon, able to fire 36″ iron projectiles for up to 2000 yards.  With such a weapon, the King believed, he would become the greatest ruler in the world, a position he believed was always rightfully his.

The first skirmishes were relatively small affairs with only a few invaders and only small numbers of casualties, but, as the invaders became bolder, there were more and more attacks, spreading throughout the land, and the number of casualties started mounting up.  These were often non-combatants, because the invader did not respect the status of those it attacked.  Ironically, as the invasion progressed, it turned out that people in Croydon were not worth any more than people in Strathclyde after all.  As the casualties mounted, the people grew more concerned.  How many of them would survive?  How many would be left when that final victory was achieved?  Would there be a final victory at all?

As the attacks affected more and more of the land, the lack of PPA for the fighters on the front line was becoming a more obvious problem.  More and more of the fighters were asking why the King had failed to ensure there were adequate supplies of PPA.  Much of what did get delivered wasn’t fit for purpose.  In one example, supplies of what was supposed to be chain mail turned out to be second hand woollen tunics.

Trust in the King’s plan was ebbing away, not helped by his failure to answer the questions being asked, particularly questions about the absence of PPA.  He was also less seen on the battlefield, more often leaving his senior courtiers in charge while he attended feasts celebrating minor historical deities.  It was rumoured that these events involved more than just eating and drinking and that the King had already fathered a number of unacknowledged offspring.

Then came a serious blow for those who still trusted the King to deliver victory.  A single invader had somehow managed to sneak into the Royal palace at Westminster and had attacked the King, injuring him.  There has always been some dispute about the seriousness of the injury, but, in any event, he was taken to hospital.  Daily bulletins were issued telling of the treatment he was receiving, seemingly for serious injuries, but after only a few days, he was on the mend and was released from hospital.  His remaining supporters hailed this as a miracle, claiming that it proved the King was appointed by God, but others said it only showed how minor the injury must have been.  Serious injury or not, the King took himself off to his summer residence with his current favourite concubine for a spell of “recuperation”.

Despite the King’s absence and despite the obvious weaknesses in the King’s plan (or lack of plan), after about 6 weeks, the tide of battle began to turn.  The front line fighters started to understand the invaders tactics and they were gradually gaining the upper hand.  The invaders were being driven back and the number of Wiseland casualties was decreasing.  Only then did the King reappear, and in a speech tried to claim the victory had come as a result of his plan, but by then not many of the people believed him.  It looked like the beginning of the end for King Buffo.

Despite the odds being stacked against him, could the king survive or would abdication be the only option before he was torn to pieces by a mob of his former supporters?  Only time would tell.

Do you think he will survive?

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