A lore dump from my NaNoWriMo2018 novel
Almost two thousand years ago, the first case of the plague was brought into the clinic of a small farming village. What had stared out as light flue-like symptoms soon escalated into a sort of psychosis and violent outbursts. Days later the eyes of the patient had taken on an otherworldly glow. The same sort of blueish glow was also observed where the veins were close to the skin: on the backside of the hands, wists, elbows, inside of the knees and on the neck.
Twenty four hours after the glow appeared, the patient’s skin started to darken to a ghastly gray color. A sort of viscous excretion was being produced by every pore. This excretion proofed to be toxic. All of the nurses that had come in contact with the substance fell ill and started showing the same symptoms as the patient. Only the onset of symptoms appeared on a much accelerated rate. The skin where the nurse came in contact with the patient started to change in color almost immediately, slowly spreading over the whole body. The eerie glow of the veins appeared as soon as the skin had changed color. The eyes got their glow the moment full body conversion was complete, on average six hours later.
Once a person had changed, they were extremely violent and acted without regard for personal safety. Lack of reactions to ranged attack suggested the infected felt no pain. They would not listen to reason.
They would not listen to pleads, either.
The village had been ill prepared for this sort of infection. It took less than a day for the whole medical staff to be infected by the disease. Two days after that, the rest of the town was infected.
The infected moved in a group. They could travel long distances without need for food or water or rest. The reached the nearest town a couple of hours after sunrise. By sunset every person in the second village had been exposed to the disease. The plague had officially begun.
When the swarm of infected reached its first major city, they numbered in the hundreds. The city guard, used to dealing with the occasional bandits, were in way over their heads. By the time they managed to close the city gates several of the infected had already made their way inside. With the gates closed and locked, the people of the city were trapped.
Still, a few brave souls were able to escape the city and get away. Word of the plague spread through the land. The wizards of the Arcane University in the capital scrambled to find ways to cure the plague. Or at the very least stem the rate of infection. It proved to be near impossible to do. The infected, once completely turned, were dangerous to contain for testing. Their violent nature made capture a hopeless operation. The few times it was successfully accomplished, it was not the original target that got seized, but one unfortunate member of the hunting party who got himself infected and restrained before the change set in.
The few captured specimen reacted badly to any sort of magic cast on them. If anything, their behavior became more aggressive when a magic caster was in their vicinity. In some cases they even broke through the iron chains that were meant to hold them. An infected magic caster was so much worse. They appeared to be stronger, smarter and harder to kill off than a regular plague victim. Orders went out for wizards, sorcerers and mages to stop experimenting directly on the infected. By that time it was too late for a number of them.
Panic had the land in its grip. People started fleeing densely populated areas. The wizards once tasked with finding a cure for the disease now turned to simply trying to protect the still unaffected civilians. Magic barrier domes got cast up, sometimes encompassing whole villages. These domes kept the people safe, but also acted like beacons to the infected swarms, trapping the people inside with no means to escape.
Magic barriers of that size took an extraordinary amount of concentration, even with multiple casters putting in the effort. Eventually their concentration would falter. With even the briefest breach of the dome, infected would pour inside and attack anyone unfortunate enough to have sought shelter inside it.
People soon recognized the barrier domes for the death traps they were, but by then dozens of the domes had already fallen to the swarms. By observation it became obvious fallen magic casters acted like leaders of sorts. Under their command, the infected had started to adopt basic tactics like flanking. Magic casters were to avoid getting infected at all cost, but even suicide was no solution. The plague was able to reanimate any dead body. Several groups resorted to dismembering and decapitating the corpses of magic casters in an effort to prevent them from becoming swarm leaders. Whispers told of mobs not always waiting for the magic casters to die. It was during this time that the Arcane University’s most powerful mages created the magic transference stones.
A casters body, drained of its soul and magical essence, was useless to the infected. They ignored the remains all together, not even bothering to resurrect it into a regular infected in most cases. As an unintended bonus, a magic caster remained conscious inside of the stones. They also retained their ability to perform magic, if severely limited in range. But in the stone the casters no longer had the limitations of the body to deal with. They needed no sleep. They needed no sustenance. Soon the magic transference stones got affectionately dubbed Guarding Stone.
What was left of the people in the land retreated across the mountains where they build a new city surrounded not by the traditional city walls, but by a circumference of Guarding Stones. The collective souls of the casters were able to create a huge magical barrier around the city. Their concentration never faltered. Each Guarding stone was responsible for their own little part of the barrier and was able to take it down briefly to allow passage through without affecting the integrity of the other parts of the barrier. Inside the city the people were finally safe. People called it Last Stand.