Born of a curse, from the hatred of all life that the first DeathKnight had for the world – while no one knows for sure exactly how it started, the first outbreak of the Black Plague of Thane occurred in the last years of the Catalysmic Wars, and afflicted both the Thanes and the Aeultian alliance without discrimination..
Most scholars agree that it was summoned from the realms of the Fallen by the power of the Brand of the Fallen while Shazn’Oegtol hid in a secret chamber deep beneath his besieged capital of Acradeggon. But however it came about, this terrible preternatural disease is the most feared in all of Eletreus – though thankfully the last outbreak in civilized lands was just over 600 years ago, but has been endemic in the Kingdom of Thane until the last 30 years..
The first outbreak was one of the worst, but thanks to the power of the Flame of the Host – which banishes it and cures those afflicted with but a touch of its holy blade – was limited.
But it was the second outbreak, some 200 years later in the year 210 of the Imperial Age, that caused the most carnage. For this second outbreak had a longer incubation period, and was brought back by Aeultian Legionaires who were scouring the broken Kingdom of Thane looking for the forth DeathKnight – the Assasin – who murdered the 3rd Paragon, Emperor Humfredus the Fair, and mysteriously was never seen again.
This second outbreak incubated for several months, and the only symptoms were tiredness, fitful dreams and night sweats – nothing that alarmed the returning soldiers who had spent several months searching in the ruined, nightmarish lands of the broken Kingdom.
But once the soldiers had returned to the cities and the towns, the deadly virus exploded, mutating yet again and spreading like wildfire all across Eletreus, directly or indirectly wiping out over 30% of the worlds population over a four year period..
Only the power of the Flame of the Host could cure it – no other method of healing could clear it, only slow it down long enough to seek out the Flame. And so the afflicted flocked in their thousands to the Empires Capital to seek out succor..
The third time it struck was again when the Imperial army entered the blighted lands of Thane, this time to engage the wicked Drake riding Black Queen of Thane. But this third strain was the weakest, and thankfully did not spread throughout the world like the second one did. But it was enough to keep anyone but the most foolhardy out of the Broken Kingdom for the next 600 years..
For its effects, are truly horrific..
TRUE HORROR: The effects of the Black Plague of Thane
While the incubation period and the severity have differed over the centuries, this hideous disease is spread by close proximity to a carrier, both in the air and from direct skin to skin contact.
STAGE ONE: Incubation
The first stage is the most insidious, and mostly asymptomatic – but a carrier of the disease is highly contagious – spending but a few minutes breathing the same air in close proximity or touching the skin of a carrier is enough to spread it to a new hapless victim. In the very first outbreak, stage one lasted but a day or two, however in the second outbreak, the preternatural virus stayed beneath the surface for several months before spontaneously, and all at the same time, rapidly developing to stage 2.
STAGE TWO: Pernicious Rot
The first serious symptom of the Plague is a persistent, hacking cough with a few droplets of blood, migraine headaches, blurred vision and ringing in the ears – usually developing overnight after an otherwise peaceful sleep.
Symptoms rapidly progress, with the cough and blood expulsion becoming almost continuous – sudden and violent convulsions, and the complete inability to sleep.
Skin takes on a tight, brittle consistency and mucous membranes begin to peel away. Eyes become extremely sensitive to light, and begin to lose the internal fluid, partially or fully deflating and often dropping out suddenly in the midst of a violent coughing fit, though curiously the afflicted is still able to see, but only in dim shades of sickly green..
The elderly or the very young rarely survive long into stage 2, with only those who were otherwise in good condition before they became diseased progressing to stage 3..
STAGE THREE: Living Death
Stage three of the disease is arguably the most terrible – the afflicted loses their eyes, nose, teeth and become ravenously hungry and thirsty, but unable to eat or drink. They can no longer speak or hear, but can still see dimly from behind empty eye sockets.
Most lose their minds at this point, and many begin to self mutilate or turn on anyone nearby with a homicidal rage, finding an inner reserve of strength that is terrible to behold – others simply wander about aimlessly or curl up into the fetal position and rock back and forth hopelessly. In isolated, rural areas where there is no hope of being cured by the Flame of the Host, authorities were often forced to hunt down and burn the afficted both to end their suffering and, hopefully, prevent further spread of the disease – or stop it from reaching stage 4.
STAGE FOUR: Green Hell
If somehow a victim has managed to progress to stage 4, and very few did – especially in the second and third outbreaks – all hope is lost. In the forth stage, they are enveloped by a sickly green glow that emanates from within and lose all sense of their former self.
Instead, they regain the ability to speak, but not in their original language but instead in the guttural, cruel tongue of the Thanes. In the forth and final stage, they become cunning and murderous, seeking out the unaffected to torture and kill them – and will obey the commands of those who have the authority of the Fallen ones. Those killed by them rise again almost instantaneously as another stage four afflicted sufferer – and in this way they can increase rapidly in number and are extremely contagious..
IS IT TRULY GONE?
It was prophesied that this evil curse would be lifted from the Kingdom of Thane after 1000 years – and in the year 995 I.A. scouts from Silverleaf dared to venture a little way into the broken Kingdom..
Encountering Orcs, who were carriers of the disease themselves but immune to it, some of the injured scouts were quarantined but showed no signs of the Plague..
In the next 5 years leading up to the millennial celebration of the foundation of the Aelutian Empire, a few brave settlers crossed the Dark river into the Broken Kingdom, lured by discoveries of gold, iron and other rich mineral deposits, and by the year 1001 the steady trickle had become a flood, for the prophesies foretold that the curse had run its course, and the fertile and rich lands of the Thanes were too much to resist for the bold and, perhaps, the foolhardy.
So far, in the 30 years since the settlers have been there – while their lives are far from easy, with increasingly aggressive attacks by Orcs, there has not been a single reported case of the Black Plague of Thane, and so the prophesies seem to have come true.
Perhaps the curse is indeed lifted, but it is so terrible a thing and so deeply ingrained into the fears and the nightmares of the people of Eletreus that all it would take is one reported case and no doubt the settlers would retreat – but the fear is, if this was to happen, they might bring it back with them..
Fear-mongers claim that the only thing that has changed is the incubation period – this time, stage one is more subtle and will last many years to infect as many as possible, making many people extremely wary if not downright afraid of the settlers, regardless of how much gold they may have found and how rich they may become.
Whether or not this is true, no-one yet knows. But they all prey that the curse is finally over, for if the worst fears of the suspicious were realized, who could say just how horrific a fourth outbreak of this hideous curse might actually turn out to be..