Plague of Men
Not all plagues are contagious
Every morning they materialize outside our gate. More newborn males. No parents to claim them. And we haven't the slightest clue how to proceed.
Patryc Stypich, Torholmaan cognoscenti, 1919 AoE
he Plague of Men is a general term refering to the fact that 70% of all human newborns on Excilior are male. The term is something of a misnomer because, according to most prevailing theories, this "plague" is not technically a plague at all. Rather, it is a simple reality of casterway life. Throughout the entirety of the planet's recorded history, the male-to-female birth ratio has been incredibly consistent. No human efforts of any kind have done anything to budge the stubborn gender ratio.
Although this ratio has not kept casterway civilization from growing, and even expanding, it's had a massive effect on the customs and social mores of nearly every society and nation. This fundamental imbalance has, in some cases, driven massive agency for a nation's women. But in some sad historical cases, that same imbalance has fostered horrific conditions for women. There are many factors that impact this treatment, but one of the most important has been the strength of the connection between that nation and the historical precedents set by Cervia Polonosa. Those societies hewing closer to her early examples typically foster an environment of extensive female empowerment. And some of those which have discarded her original precedents have created social systems that are truly draconian with regard to women's rights.
Transmission & Vectors
or those who have pursued the epidemiological model to explain the Plague (and there have been many), they have inevitably spent copious time and effort investigating numerous, potential transmission vectors. Where this approach always breaks down is in the absolute ubiquity of the Plague. If this is a true Plague - a transmittable condition that depends on some kind of medium to leap from host-to-host - then it stands to reason that someone, in the entirety of world history, must have managed to avoid that vector. Even if it's nothing more than blind luck, out of a population of millions, someone will have managed to avoid transmission. But that has never been proven to have happened with the Plague.
Most advocates of this theory focus on select women who, allegedly, don't have the disease. And thus, without the burden of the Plague, those women are free to produce an inordinate number of female children. Unfortunately, if you can't test for the "disease", then it's nearly pointless to simply observe the gender of a woman's children and then use that as a basis to declare her as being affected-or-not by the Plague. And that approach glosses over the whole question of, "What if this so-called disease isn't carried by women at all - but by men?" In other words, if a woman has had six children, and they're all girls, is that because the woman is free of the Plague? Is it because the father(s) of those children are free of the Plague? Is it because they're all free of it? Teasing out the truth is quite challenging. This is not to say that a transmission vector is completely out of the question. If the Plague is caused by, say, a microscopic bacterium that is ubiquitous throughout the entire planet's fresh-and-salt water supplies, then it would, theoretically, be possible for every single inhabitant of the planet to be infected - almost since birth. But given that casterway technology is far too inferior to detect - or even to conceive of - such a pathogen, it is, for the moment, an ideological dead-end.
he cause for this condition has always been, and is still to this day, utterly unknown. At different points in history, exhaustive efforts have been dedicated to curing this "plague". And all of those efforts have yielded absolutely nothing. Prevailing theories for the Plague's cause include:
Excilior's particular flavor of humanity simply carries a genetic marker that ensures a male birthrate of 70%. If this theory is correct, it still doesn't answer whether this genetic mutation was inherited from the Absents, whether it was caused by something on the planet, or whether it was simply a random roll of the dice. If it is a mutation, and that mutation was inherited from the Absents, some have theorized that this is the underlying reason for excilation - that men with a predilection to produce an inordinate number of male offspring are being discarded on Excilior so that they won't spread their aberrant gene throughout the parent civilization.
The possibility exists that something on Excilior actually creates this condition. A chemical. A food source. An abundance of cosmic rays. Something. Although this theory hasn't been debunked, the cognoscenti consider it impractical. Because if an outcome is based on a particular atmospheric condition, it's inevitable that, over the course of thousands of years, someone somewhere will have managed to avoid that exact condition. And as of yet, no one has been confirmed as having truly avoided the effects of the Plague.
Although this explanation obviously falls short of scientific rigor, there is a significant portion of the population that has resigned themselves to the conclusion that "the gods" - whomever they may be - have cursed the casterways with this gendered imbalance.
This is a variation on the genetic theory taken a step further. This idea holds that casterways started creating male offspring at such a prodigious rate precisely because it has inferred some kind of evolutionary advantage. Under this proposal, there is no "cure" because it is an adaptation that became ingrained in everyone because it actually makes them more likely to survive as a species. The problem is that no one has yet presented a compelling explanation for exactly what that advantage might be.
- The Absents
Since the Absents seem to fulfill a divine, nearly god-like role of banishing people to Excilior, some believe that kind of world-tinkering doesn't stop only with the seeding of humans on the planet. The suggestion has been made that, maybe, those same Absents, who have shaped this world through their actions, but have, at the same time, been utterly disconnected from it, may in fact be directly tinkering with the biology of those who they send down to the surface. They could have predetermined casterway gender rates to correct some kind of problem that was previously observed. Or they could have altered the gender rates as some kind of grand experiment. It's a line of thought that plays into a broader "petri dish" narrative that some embrace with regard to casterways and Absents.
very child born on the planet has a 70% likelihood of being male. Although isolated couples/mothers/neighborhoods have, at times, reported much lower rates of male births, when placed in a broader context, that rate always averages back out to 70%. Even when attempting to selectively pair children born only from women who experienced high rates of female births, the resulting offspring still produce male children at a 70% clip.
Every attempt at "treatment" has, every single time, failed to yield even the slightest of results. By this point, it is assumed that there is no potential remedy.
All known humans on the planet.
There are no known means of prevention.
The idea that anyone should ever be called upon to "prove" the existence of God is laughable. The Plague of Men shows us, every day, and in the womb of every hopeful mother, that God is absolutely real. And our God is an angry, spiteful soul intent on punishing us for all our myriad transgressions.
Amaresh Taye, Llanpiq priestess, 2303 AoR
ervia Polonosa is the only person believed to have been unaffected. This has not been, nor can it ever be, proven through any empirical means. It's inferred, because she mothered eight children - and every one of them were female. There's never been another recorded instance of a woman giving birth to eight-or-more children and all of them being female.
Every casterway society throughout recorded history has "suffered" the same male-to-female birth ratio. On a micro level, there have been extensive examples of women giving birth to three, four, or even five female babies. Because even if the coin is weighted to fall on heads 70% of the time, there will still be occasional instances of women who seem to have broken the spell. But when they are are placed in the broader societal context, the male-to-female ratio always holds firm at 70%. Even Cervia's own daughters could not escape the Plague. Although Cervia produced nothing but girls, all of her daughters produced male children at a rate consistent with the overriding 70% condition.
Selective breeding policies were attempted many centuries ago. Cognoscenti identified those women who had managed to birth four-or-five female children, and in their experimental programs, they ensured that women born of such a mother only mated with men who were also born of similar mothers. Alas, they found that the male-to-female ratio resulting from these special, curated pairings still produced an aggregate male-to-female birth ratio of 70%. Statistically, this virtually proved that those women who had managed to birth an inordinate number of female children had done it purely out of chance.
The Plague was once considered a grave societal problem that simply must be solved. This is understandable, given the fragile state of their civilization thousands of years ago. For Auld Cervia, and subsequently, for ensuing waves of colonists that spread across Excilior, the Plague represented a tangible obstacle to long-term viability. But now that the human footprint has been firmly established across the planet, most casterways are more likely to shrug it off than to stress about its effects. No one would deny that the Plague has been a critical factor that has shaped a great many aspects of society for thousands of years. But at this point, it's essentially accepted as an immutable fact of life.