The Midnight Watch

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#1 2014-11-09 15:18:15

Registered: 2013-05-16
Posts: 143

[History] The Great Plague, and its Aftermath (i.e. the present day)

    The Plague began in the far north, in a small village on Arrow's Point, west of the dungeon Shame. Reports by the ruling Yewish indicate a strange explosion in the region, with the first reports of large-scale attack by zombies in the area immediately following. The Militia detachments sent to investigate were overwhelmed, and survivors trickled back to Stonekeep carrying stories of the horde, and infection.

    The Plague quickly spread to Yew proper, borne across the vast distance by those infected among the retreating Yewish Militia. Stonekeep was slow to ask for aid from her Royalist and Covian allies, being loathe to damage her political standing by admitting to a need for assistance from Cove. By the time the Yewish authorities formally asked for aid, the Plague was already well out of hand, having claimed a vast portion of Yew's population and turned them into shambling Plague Zombies.
    Cove's response was instrumental only in prolonging the inevitable. Ordered by the newly-elected Baron Mikael von Richter, the 1st Baron's Own Grenadier Regiment deployed alongside a battalion from the Army's Core Division to assist in what was initially billed as a mundane undead incursion. Unfortunately, because of the gulf of foes lying between the two nations, the Covian Army was forced to reach Yew by sea, and this delay proved disastrous.
    Upon landing on the beaches of Yew, the Covians were forced to fight their way through a veritable tide of undead to reach Stonekeep, which they found beset on all sides. The plague zombies had begun to mutate into hideous masses of rotting, bonded corpses, forming what the survivors termed 'Plague Beasts'. Though the allied forces were able to repulse the ongoing assault, it seemed certain that the attack would be renewed. More troublingly, the Plague Hordes seemed to be becoming more and more organized.
    This was the first sighting of the wraiths calling themselves the Heralds of the Legion, appearing as red-robed, flickering figures, speaking in hissing, cold voices. They seemed to direct and empower the otherwise mindless Hordes, granting them a deadliness too great for the diminished Yewish and Covian forces to overcome. The allies were beaten, the walls of Stonekeep breached, and the sacred Empath Abbey desecrated.
    Only a fraction of the Yewish population had survived to reach the relative safety of Stonekeep. Still fewer survived its fall; for, in their last valorous act, the remnants of the Yewish Militia fought a doomed last stand as rearguard to the retreating Covians, who succeeded in escaping back to the coast and evacuating with the small handful of civilians who could be saved.
    Yew was lost.

    As the survivors of the Baron's Own Grenadiers reached Cove with the Yewish survivors, so too did the realization of the depth of humanity's peril. Further decimated by the ruthless culling of any displaying symptoms of Plague, the survivors were eventually allowed to resettle in Cove, though the stigma of the perception that the Plague was a product of Yewish uncleanliness haunted them for the rest of their days.
    The matter of containment now came to the forefront for Cove. Finding the Knights Templar unwilling to cooperate with the harsh measures favored by the Baron and the survivors of the Yewish Expedition, the Covians took drastic action. West Altmere was swiftly reoccupied, the bridge over the Templewood River razed, and the population of Templewood relocated. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and every building was looted for any useful supplies, then burned to its foundations. A vast desolation was created several kilometers deep, extending from the river into Altmere, all in a vain effort to prevent the Horde's attention turning to Cove next.

    For a brief few seasons, the Plague seemed to have spent its fury in the eradication of Yew. Alas, none accounted for how the weakening of the realms of men had empowered their foes. Creatures that had long been contained by the might of the Great Powers now ran unchecked. Orcs bred in the mountains and hills uncontrolled, and invaded the countryside. Harpies and Gargoyles, Lizardmen and Trolls, Ogres and Ettins, and every manner of foul beast besides preyed on outlying villages as the governments of the Great Powers withdrew and consolidated their armies around more densely populated areas.
    Within a few short years, travel and trade became nigh impossible. Orcs waylaid caravans, wanderers ran afoul of hill trolls, and the armies' scouts found themselves unable to roam far afield without suffering grave casualties. Those humans made refugees by these attacks all too often resorted to brigandry to survive. All contact between the nations was lost, or became hopelessly unreliable. Mankind ceased to exist except in a few scattered pockets adrift in the unknown and surrounded by foes.

    For decades, the power of the Avatarian Church, both in Yew and Cove, had been waning. Because of the Church's uncompromising ruthlessness, the petty disputes of doctrine between branches, and the growing perception of the Church as corrupt and tyrannical, the Faithful had become few in number. In many cases the charges of corruption were well-founded, and so the bonds of trust between Church and flock weakened, then broke entirely. The perceived failure of the Avatar and his Church to defeat the Undead proved the fatal blow. While the Church retained considerable political power due to the support of the Baron of Cove, its moral authority faded into non-existence.
    So it was that, some thirty years after the Fall of Yew, the Order-Militant of the Covian Branch of the Church, the Templars of the Order of Saint Celestine, announced a new Crusade. They would cross the River and drive through the wasteland into Yew itself. There they would discover the source of the Plague and end it, or else recover the bodies and relics of the Saints, and thus regain the favor of the Avatar - and thus, deliverence from the ongoing apocalypse.
    Unsurprisingly, very few answered the call to arms. The nobility was unwilling to risk life and limb, the militaries were occupied with the basic defense of humanity's last bastions, and the commonfolk were too far estranged from the Church for the Templars to make any headway. But the Templars went anyway; for an oath, once sworn in the Avatar's name, is sacred and inviolable, and they would not be dissuaded.
    The Templars had barely made it across the River when the Plague Hordes swarmed against them in numbers never before seen nor imagined. Faith and steel and fire could only carry them so far in so hopeless a fight, and one by one they fell, the plates of their armor ripped away or crumpled to the point of uselessness by repeated blows. The Grandmaster of the Order fell, the arteries of his neck severed by a plague zombie's bite, as did every Preceptor, and all save one of the Order's Seneschals.
    The battered remnants of the Church beat their way back to the River. There, those who were wounded opted to make the ultimate sacrifice, remaining behind so that those few of their comrades who remained unscathed could escape, and so that the unholy infection would not be carried across the river.
    That day, the Church Templars functionally ceased to exist. Scarcely two dozen now remain in all the North, and many of those are now far advanced in age, or else inexperienced apprentices of men who were themselves inexperienced apprentices at the time of the Crusade. The Church has been broken, and their flock has been left to stray.

    For the Northern States, final destruction grows nearer each and every day. Though it has been some eighty years since the Arrow's Point Incident, the Plague Hordes have thusfar been unable to cross the Templewood River. However, what few messages have reached the North from Britannia tell troubling stories of the Fall of Skara Brae, of Trinsic turned into an abbatoir, and Britain encircled and teetering on the edge of destruction.
    Moreover, the Cities-First strategy has led to massive overcrowding, severe famine, and a widespread shortage of supplies of all kinds. This problem has been exacerbated by the resurgence of the Orcish tribes of the Avarician and Glenmore Mountains, who have invaded the Covianshire and Altmerian countrysides, isolating the cities of Cove, Altmere, and Vesper from one another.
    The third and final sign of the coming apocalypse has revealed itself in the form of renewed sightings of the red-robed Heralds, who have begun to appear before gatherings of survivors, prophesizing the arrival of a greater Horde even than that which destroyed the Templars. They preach the gospel of the Guardian, calling all who listen to surrender their flesh and accept the 'gift' of Undeath, or else be sacrificed upon bloody altars, or devoured by the Plague Hordes.
    Surely, these are the End Times.


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