What follows is the entry from volume five of The Keeper's Accounts documenting Anara Starsong's vision, in her own words.
Though accounts from the time of the Searing Plague are plentiful, the exact events are unclear. This terrible disease tore through Elyria for three, long years, bringing suffering and death to every corner of the world. What I can tell you - what I have seen - is that it was the region of Menas which was hit first. A fertile region, known as much for it’s family farms handed down for dozens of generations as its stately trees dripping with moss or highland passes accessible year round. The region was a jewel and therefore settled by several tribes who took advantage of its meandering rivers and mild winters to grow their crops.
The bards still pass tales of the whisper of the plague's approach. Several songs and tales are about the rumored start in a single farmstead, with the rare and expensive delivery from the high mountain passes. The song is often sung as a tale to children to warn against stepping above one's station.
Nestled in Menas's foothills, the sprawling Jaske plantation is where the plague's symptoms were first observed. Raellyn Jaske had been shunned by her jealous neighbors and was frequently the subject of local gossip after she had married into wealth. In an effort to improve her image, and as a show of love and good faith toward the people she was once close with, Raellyn invited everyone far and wide, common and noble, to her son's upcoming wedding. Intending to hand over the reins of the plantation to him after this soiree, she was determined to host the most extravagant celebration anyone had ever attended. She contracted a large order of a costly and rare indulgence - ice. The celebration was an affair to remember, with revelry and dancing through the night. The wedding was so lively that even the nobles heard stories about it. And, when the next morning, the guests complained of parched, sore throats and stinging eyes, and proclaimed themselves too tired to work, no one was surprised. But, in their haste to blame good times and strong liquor, they missed the signs that all recognize today as the start of the outbreak.
Faster than word of the Blood Mark Wedding spread, an outbreak devastated the Janoan settlement of Quone, just a day’s ride from Raellyn’s farmstead. Janoan hunters had been tracking increased predator movement in the mixed forests at the far reaches of their territory when they found the usually lively settlement of Quone a silent mass grave. The stench of the dead was pervasive, which is what attracted all manner of carrion-eaters, and the sound of the flies drowned out all other forest noises. Even the toughest Janoan hunters were horrified at the grisly scene found in Quone. The patterns of piled dead implied that they were dancing when they died, but the pain they must have felt from their peeling flesh made that seem impossible...unless they'd been delirious. The hunters immediately suspected the Dras and set out for nearby Olne. Under cover of dark, hunters crept into Olne and murdered the entire Dras settlement in their sleep as punishment for poisoning their kin. These grief-mad Janoan hunters were initially honored for their deeds with a carving on their trophy trees, despite protests and accusations of murder by the Dras. When it later became clear that the Searing Plague had been the true cause of Quone's demise, these carvings were later ceremoniously defaced in shame, but it took decades for inter-tribe relations to reach an uneasy peace again.
Death came for all, ignoring Mann-made borders. When it came for their fellows, it spurred the Dras into action. Seeking to aid those suffering in neighboring kingdoms, Drasean hospitaliers - driven by their faith - entered infected towns, relying on their natural immunity to disease as protection. The villagers were grateful for the care, many too feeble to join evacuation efforts or too young to know what to do after losing their families. The Dras brought elixirs, salves, bandages, and, most importantly, compassion. Their fortitude in the face of such despair was praised by survivors, and news of the Drasean immunity spread far and wide. Yet what seemed like immunity at first, later revealed itself to be a delayed reaction. Those hospitaliers, each and every one, did succumb to the plague in time, but they left hope in their wake.
While the plague spread across the lowlands, To'reshian courtier Winne Attema decided to hold a grand masquerade ball, inviting all the nobles from far and wide to her lakeside villa. It was a spectacle none would dare to miss! Anonymous behind their masks, the nobles reveled for two days and two nights among the estate's many halls and gardens and chambers until the celebration was cut short by a haunting scream. A servant had been found dead in the villa's main well, whose bulging eyes and flayed skin marked it as a victim of the Searing Plague. Though many among the noble class believed that their fine palaces and refined lifestyle insulated them from the outbreak ravaging the peasants and yokels, this soiree of extravagance and debauchery proved that none were safe...The guests could not leave fast enough, and they brought the plague with them back to their grand villas.
The bodies piled high on the pyres, as corpsetakers, guards, and soldiers struggled to keep the streets calm and free of infection. Meanwhile, huddled together in dark and smoky rooms, amid the gasps and cackles of the dying, scores of nurses, plague doctors, herbalists, and sages struggled to find a cure. The sages threw up their hands, wondering if their efforts were for naught. Standing before a group who were busy arguing how to force a raving populous to behave, a lone nurse asked a simple question:
"Could we not instruct the pure before they are infected? Before the delirium takes root in their minds?"
The room fell silent for a heartbeat but, before a second could drum its way into the silence, the arguing resumed as if nothing had been said at all.
"The problem with sages," the nurse mumbled, "is that they debate more than they do."
Unheeded, the nurse set out into the streets to find the library of medicine alone. From it, every book on disease was taken to the corpsetakers and the soldiers to give to any who would read them. For, the nurse reasoned, if even basic measures were taken, the plague would be beaten.
The Searing Plague spread with a violence akin to a wildfire in summer. The rumors of the first outbreaks inspired countless charlatans to set up shop as healers and medicine peddlers. Rumors of cures both outlandish and reasonable were peddled for obscene prices that terrified civilians were frantic to pay. Fear rode in the wake of every fallen town and every person who went missing. Bottles of rotten treacle, the powder of crushed emeralds, and tubs full of urine were hawked next to jars of leeches by confident salesmen who claimed to have cured dozens with their potions. Desperate to escape a gruesome death, those who couldn’t afford a blood-letting with leeches settled for slicing their own skin open with knives. In certain religious circles, they believed the sickness could only be cured by a good lashing. Untold thousands barricaded themselves in their homes only to fall sick as they received no care or attention. City bells would toll for fifteen minutes to warn those inside to evacuate before entire sectors would be put to the torch. Seeking safety, those who fled at the sound of the bells found only despair, as they were rounded up to rot together in jails.
Settlements drew in the plague like a moth to flame. Infected farmers, fearful travelers, and those aiding the sick came in droves for help and news and hope. Some mayors opened their gates to refugees and lined their city hall with beds. Others sealed their gates to outsiders and prepared to wait out the terrible disease. Citizens could only look on in horror as civic leaders tried to combat a plague they didn't understand, as most were unaware that the real foe was in their wells and on their shores; in their lakes and morning mists. By attempting to keep it contained, the Aristocracy merely concentrated its effects. As cites crumbled and order disappeared, panic rose, and the people cried out to be saved.
Fear and sorrow brought even warring kingdoms together to fight the pestilence in a show of unity that would, for a brief moment, unite the entire land in common purpose. People from all walks of life lent aid, shared wisdom, and, most importantly, offered hope to their fellows. The deeds of the brightest minds, greatest heroes, and noblest lords were eclipsed by the efforts of simple soldiers, herbalists, doctors and - yes - even undertakers. These front-line fighters collectively realized the common source that addressed the mystery: How did the plague spread despite our lords’ efforts? What allowed the plague free passage beyond quarantine walls? The answer was water. The plague lay waiting in the streams and wells of Elyria and had spread through waterways in journey from mountain to lake to sea. Those who eschewed raw water in favor of wine and spirits were spared from the plague. This revelation on the purity of spirits was spread by missionaries of the Virtori faith, who distributed casks of sacramental wine to those areas most affected. Though the battle was far from won, the moment the tides turned was the day Virtori charity brought wine to the masses.
As the summer cycle progressed with record highs, it became difficult to distinguish a case of heat stroke from the boiling blood of the plague. It was during this time that trembling sailors told of the arrival of the “Ghost Fleet” in the port settlement of Tunnack. Three ships, which had been the pride of the Countess Brint’s pleasure fleet, had been making a summer tour of the idyllic Gherard islands to escape both the heat and the smell of death in the city. When the ships ran aground at Tunnack, the beloved Countess, her guests, and the entire crew were found dead. The victims appeared to have boiled in their own skin, their lifeless bodies draped about the pleasure barge oozing with sickness even as they were picked apart by sea birds.The settlement was gripped by a fierce mourning, and the Countess’ son, Sevvo, declared war upon the people of Gherard in grief-stricken revenge. With merciless rage, Sevvo ordered all peoples of Gherard to death. While his soldiers massacred innocent commoners, Count Durche of Gherard dueled Sevvo and swore to his last words that he had caused no harm to the Countess Brint and her guests. By this time, Sevvo himself was delirious from the disease and struck Durche down. In the end, both settlements were wiped out – Tunnack from the plague and Gherard from the massacre.
In the blazing summer heat, the stink of the dead became an ever-present reminder of the disease’s presence. The Searing Plague scorched across Elyria. The fallen grew numerous and uncountable. Corpsetakers collected the dead more quickly than undertakers could dispose of them. Those who once believed they would be spared the affliction grew nervous; paranoia spread as quickly as the disease. Discord reigned. Widespread hoarding of supplies turned citizens against each other, while factions warred over how best to deal with the plague. Yet, as the summer peaked, Elyria found itself with a brief respite. Reason won through the chaos and strife, and those who researched the cure came to understand how the plague spread. With discipline, they found it could be stopped cold. Simple tinctures of vinegar and spirits - applied liberally to everything the afflicted touched - could keep an area clean of plague. Doctors and nurses could tend to their patients without becoming infected and, with this news, efforts redoubled. For a few weeks, at least, it was as if the plague could not spread while the search for a cure leapt forward.
A year after the initial outbreak, the burning fever and dry mouth associated with the plague's onset invoked dread. A whispering voice and bulging eyes from the intense swelling signaled to all that death was already coiled around one's throat. Not wishing to take chances, the deep mountain Hrothi settlement of Pàdva shut themselves off from the outside world, emerging reluctantly a year later when supplies had run dangerously low. To the amazement of many, the peoples of Pàdva seem to have escaped the Plague during their self-imposed quarantine. Mistellings and misunderstandings twisted the story about Pàdva, causing superstitious folk to believe that collecting the bones of the Hrothi was proof against infection. To the delight of graverobbers, cutthroats, and many merchants, it was a believable tale which earned a considerable amount of coin among the right crowd. This destructive superstition was based on a half-truth and many succumbed to the plague despite their shrines of bones. You see, in Pàdva, the dead were handled with an intricate care necessary when living underground. Pragmatic traditions saw them boil their dead to dissolve the flesh and build the leftover bones into the walls; their ancestral kin erected as both foundation and temple. Tales of tunnels lined with bones gave fuel to the rumors which caused many a grave to be desecrated and felled countless more Hrothi than would have otherwise succumbed to plague.
By the end of the plague’s second year, reports of successful efforts to contain the outbreak abounded. It seemed as if good news was on the lips of every town’s crier. Yet, an air of resignation and despair remained. It was as if the news was simply too good to be true. Tired soldiers warily watched a despondent populace as, all the while, the rumble of carts taking corpses to be burned in great pyres filled the silence. The afflicted were still found everywhere and no one was prepared to believe that a good end to this pestilence was in sight. Instead, everyone waited for the other shoe to drop. The miracle they had waited for never came. This fatalism itself could yet doom them all. For, while an end was in sight, its story had yet to be written. The people could not afford to wait for a miracle to save them and had no choice but to manufacture one of their own. Plague Doctors, Herbalists, and even Foreign Agents set to their work in grim determination to command a future fit for survivors instead of for the fallen.
Deplorable and desperate acts became all too common. The lord of Farwoods Keep went quite mad at losing his wife to the Plague. Under the guise of protection, he dispatched an invitation to all his vassals and peasants to shelter out the pandemic in the safety of his keep. An hour after the last person arrived, the mad lord ordered the hall barred and the gates locked from the outside before setting fire to the keep. It is said that he danced in the courtyard while he and his people burned alive. While an unusual case of cruelty, reports of other "Searing Parties", as they came to be known, took the infected and healthy alike. The parties were lavish and full of music. Some of the revelers knew the secret purpose of these gatherings and wore their most resplendent finery and all of their jewels, dressed as they would for their own funerals. Many attendees did not know the deadly trap they were invited to, and learned the truth too late to save themselves. Tragically, those few that fled often spread the plague to their own innocent households.
Despite the pinnacles of horror seen across the land, people joined to find some solution to the seemingly endless plague. Under the direction of noble lords, hosts of wise sages delved into the deepest, oldest lore for clues and shared such findings freely to any who would join the fight. While the cost had been dear - too dear to ignore - the nearly three-year fight against the plague did more to advance medical understanding than any event that had preceded it. The disease spread in ways no one had before seen but, in uncovering its course, mannkind learned much. Many who had ensconced themselves in the towers of academia, and others who had once taken up the sword, now donned mask and robes and went among the people to offer aid and care, with tools forged in knowledge gained. Though standing at the precipice of a yawning abyss, brethren stood on all sides better armed than ever before.
It was the swan song of the Searing Plague. Now, in every household lain waste, a survivor almost always remained. As news of the latest discoveries spread, the people focused on preventing the appearance of plague over treating the infected. Most inventive of all in their defense against the plague was the Kypiq. Ever observant, a Kypiq undertaker name Jueal noticed that survivors of plague-ravaged families – the so called “Plagueborn” – seldom contracted the plague. Or so she thought: As she dug deeper Jueal discovered that each of the plagueborn had contracted the Searing Plague; they had simply recovered. She reasoned that the spirits of their families, as they passed on to the next form, somehow protected the plagueborn. Perhaps, she hoped, this protection could be shared. She set out to discover how and began a series of experiments that bore fruit when she shared the blood of a plagueborn child. At first, Jueal became ill and she feared the worse, waiting for the plague to take her. But, the disease never progressed beyond its first stage. Within a week Jueal recovered, and in doing so she had discovered the secret of inoculation, a practice we use even today.
Few things in history have united the Children of Mann as completely as a common foe, even if that foe is a faceless death. The Searing Plague burned a path of ruin for three, harrowing years; death and sorrow forever branded into the history books. Yet it was the cooperation across all tribes, all borders, all religions, that saved Mannkind from extinction and left its mark on survivors. New medical practices and city planning, as well as technologies to clean and purify the water, sprouted up in the wake of the plague the way a forest comes alive in the wake of a devastating fire. When all the ash has blown away, the forest is still standing and new life emerges. As survivors, we've inherited a strong resistance to this awful disease, passing to our children a hearty and robust constitution in the face of this illness. Today, societies the world over can still see the effects of the Searing Plague in art, crafts, and architecture, as well as songs and stories passed down through the centuries. These timeworn verses have become especially beloved; not as a reminder of the sickness which almost wiped out the Tribes of Mann, but as tales of hope and our ability to defeat overwhelming odds when banded together. It will not be the last time we will need to do so.
Cure 5%: With a 5% gain on the cure bar, a lore event is triggered and a neighboring kingdom marshals their efforts to cure the plague. The Dras bring hope... and a 5% increase to the cure bar!
Outbreak 25%: With a gain of 25% on the Outbreak bar, a lore event triggered. Nobility, attempting to ignore the plague, doomed themselves to succumb to it. Nobility, in addition to those without a package, now generate plague each wave.
Cure 15%: A portion of the infected have died off and no longer spread plague! Also, information is often the most critical weapon in an outbreak, and the Searing Plague is no different; all pledged players who have performed at least 30 actions during the event will receive the in-game item Treating Disease and Balancing Humors, a book of basic medical knowledge. Additionally, the knowledge spread by this act reduces the plague bar by 3%!
Outbreak 50%: A lore event is triggered! The aristocracy struggles to contain the outbreak of the Searing Plague but, despite their best efforts, the infection spreads! The aristocracy, alongside nobles and those without a package, will generate plague each wave, starting with the next update! As the outbreak reaches previously unheard of levels, panic and uncertainty grip the populace: At the next update, all player roles will be reset and players who have earned roles must select them anew!
Cure 25%: As the race for the cure reaches the 25% mark, Vintner's Kits and Missionary supplies now provide game effects! Vintner's Kits will grant those who possess at least one with extra Purity Seals and reduces the Outbreak Bar at the daily 9am PDT reset while owning at least one set of Missionary Supplies will reduce the Outbreak Bar and increase the Cure Bar during the same daily 9am PDT reset. Finally, the Outbreak Bar is reduced by 5%!
Cure 37.5%: Congratulations on meeting Caspian's challenge while accomplishing the 37.5% milestone along the race for the cure! The Generate Purity action will generate 2 purity instead of 1! As a result of this milestone, all players who qualify for a tier 2 pure role by the end of the event will receive a vial of disinfecting tincture. This tincture of vinegar and alcohol can be used to disinfect items (remove infectious agent properties from items) in game and this reward includes the recipe to make more. Additionally, the Outbreak Bar is reduced by 5%!
Cure 50%: As a result of achieving the 50% milestone reward, every player that has qualified for a tier 2 pure role by the end of the event will receive a plague mask in game to commemorate the effort to stem the outbreak. This plague mask offers some protection from foul miasma and grants some protection against airborne diseases. Additionally, the Cure Bar is increased by 2%, and the Outbreak Bar is reduced bar 3%!
Cure 62.5%: The 62.5% milestone on the cure bar brings together knowledge from the fight against the plague to offer new tools to physicians and doctors as they treat the injured and afflicted. As a result of this milestone, all players who qualify for a tier 2 pure role by the end of the event will receive a Healer's Kit containing 5 linen bandages, 2 disinfectant vials, 1 utility knife, and a small jar of leeches in a belt pack. Additionally, the outbreak bar is reduced by another 5%!
Cure 75%: As a result of achieving the 75% cure bar milestone, a new technology enters the world of Elyria! Players have unlocked the Inoculation technology: Pharmacologists can create an inoculation with the help of an infected character. When administered, the inoculation has a large chance of granting resistance or outright immunity for the disease in question, but also carries a small risk of infecting the recipient with the disease, instead. Additionally, the Outbreak Bar is reduced by another 5%.
Cure Victory!: Congratulations on successfully containing this outbreak of the Searing Plague! Thanks to your efforts the plague will fade - mostly - into memory; its mark felt more in the stories and advances that it created than in the terrible cost of the plague itself. As a reward for your accomplishment, all pure players who have qualified for a tier 2 role in the event will receive the title "Plagueborn" that can be applied to one of your characters. This character will gain a resistance to the Searing Plague and that trait can be inherited by your character's descendants!
Next week we'll look back at the Searing Plague event in a conclusion blog. Expect many interesting looks into the event, stats included!