January 1349, Rome:
Beth walked into the room and looked at the form of the malnourished child covered by the sheet.
"He's been like that for days," said the boy's mother who was standing behind her. "I don't know what to do. I've tried everything."
Beth walked over to the bed and pulled the sheet back. she rolled the boy over on to his back. Beth held a cloth over her mouth as she inspected him. His chest was covered in darkly colored boils that were oozing puss, and he was also bleeding from a few of them. His ribs were protruding unnaturally from a lack of food, and blood stained his lips and chin. Beth propped him up and bandaged the open wounds as best she could to prevent further infection, and gave the boy some water.
"Keep giving him water and feed him only bread until he can keep it down," she told his mother. "There's not much else that I can do for him."
Beth walked out of the tiny dwelling and into the filthy streets. Everywhere they walked, the peasants covered their faces with rags and averted their eyes from one another. A man pushed a cart piled high with rotting bodies down the street, heading towards the Coliseum which had been turned into a mass grave. A fitting use for a building that had once been used to so trivially play with death.
It had been two years since the Black Plague had first arrived in Europe. No one thought much of it at first. They simply blamed it on the abnormally cold weather. By the time that they realized it was something much more fearsome, it was far too late to do anything about it. The already filthy cities were ripe with the stench of death, and the pestilence was unavoidable.
Across the street, a man with a long white beard sat in the mud, holding a sign made from an old piece of wood. Beth walked a bit closer to see that it read, "End is here." She walked across the street and stood looking down at the man.
"Why must you scare them, Edward?" she asked him, "Don't they suffer enough?"
"The fear is their own doing," he mumbled. "As for the suffering, it will be painless. Getting there is another matter entirely."
"So this isn't it then?" she asked.
"Course not," he said, "I'd've told you."
"No you wouldn't have. You like surprises too much."
"No, I won't tell you. Now stop asking."
"Let's take a walk, Edward," she said, and helped him to his feet.
"Why are you helping them?" he asked as they weaved amongst the gloomy peasants trodding on the muddy stone roads. "Why must you interfere?"
"More than anyone, you know that everything has its time. I simply wish to keep things in order."
They turned the corner and could see the towering spires of a cathedral in the distance. They were dark against the lifeless gray sky. The hope they once inspired a thing of distant memory.
"They locked up the Vatican you know. Have to tell on him to Him. Pope fears he'll catch a bug. I told you, the fear is of their own making."
"Of course they're afraid. Everyone around them is dying horribly. How do you expect them to act?" Beth asked.
"Not fearing it. They should live. They'll be there when they get there. No need worrying about something that's going to happen. Or it mightn't."
"I suppose you're right," she replied.
They walked in silence as they followed on of the death carts up a hill. The Coliseum was now in sight. They wandered outside the powerful arches. Edward stopped and looked up at the sky above the arena. Hundreds of crows and vultures circled and swooped down into the pit. He kept staring at them, watching as the spiralled in their morbid black dance. Beth stood and watched his eyes. They could hear a woman wailing nearby, no doubt from the loss of another to the plague. Another man was groaning as he walked by, trying to hide the burden of his affliction.
"I don't want it to hurt for them," End finally said to Beginning. "They deserve better. After all, they are the heroes of this story."