"They say that long ago, before the time before the time before times long ago that the many eons departed ancestors of the eldest dragons could not hope to remember such a day, the Grey One was born into a decaying world. He wanted to bring peace to his dying land, rest to a broken world, hope to a people whose gods had forsaken them. But a deadly disease decimated the land - crops could not be harvested, families could not be raised. Cure was nonexistent, so he turned to a new art to try to save the crops: necromancy. Undead had no need of food, warmth, water, rest. But even the most powerful mortal necromancers cannot create and control enough undead to save a world. So he was required to teach the necromantic arts to his acolytes. With new hordes to save the dying world, he could go about the work of finding a cure for the affliction. But even as he searched, he felt the first pangs of death beginning to reach out towards him. But they would not let him leave. Their leader, their savior. Without him, they would regress. But intelligent unlife comes at a dreadful cost, and the end result is unstable, unreliable. So a deal was struck. The Grey One descended down into the pit, to make a deal with Orcus, the Demon Lord of Undeath. Blessed and cursed with immortality, the Grey One was able to return to find a cure. And he did. The land was saved. The crops regrew, what was lost regained some semblance of found. And yet that is not where the story ends. Even as his body decayed, his dominion over the land spread. The blackness of his magic grew to his mind, corrupting him. An empire was built on the backs of the dead, and those raised to new life. Cairoun. The Rotted Dominion. He was no longer the savior. He was the ruler, the dominator. Sovereign over an empire of boundless length, unspeakable wealth, inestimable power. But one man, one immortal, one god cannot maintain an empire for years infinite. The Rotted Empire lasted for untold generations, but eventually, it did fall. For in a single moment of clarity, a lone instant of sanity, the Grey One knew his sins, the atrocities he committed, and he locked himself away forever. He freed the world from himself. His tale is that of tragedy, and death. It is My tale. I hope that some day, in some reality, in some Life, you will read this. And when you do, be warned. For still I wait, in this tower, locked forever in this vault, waiting, hoping, pleading with any god that has not forsaken me to truly destroy me. Hoping that one day this gift, this curse, this spell, will lift, and my body can crumble to dust, my atoms to mingle with this blessed world." --The Diary
An Incurable AfflictionThe Mourning is a deadly disease, cureless, a plague that has ravaged the countryside for nigh on a decade. The first symptoms are a subtle irritation around the eyes - itchiness, slight pain, burning. These manifestations gradually worsen. The color drains from the iris, leaving it a lifeless grey. Soon, the tear ducts are infected, causing their contents to flow freely and unstoppably - and giving the disease its name. These symptoms last for varying amounts of time, depending on the infection's host. The weak and sick last for a few weeks at most. The strongest can fight for a few months, forced to watch their bodies atrophy, their eyes run dry. But after these "Days of Decay", the infected falls into a deep coma, lasting for six days. On the seventh, they die. No one knows what causes the Mourning. No one knows what its effects are, other than on the eyes. Those that are infected - as well as any who have been in association with them, for the disease is contagious - are cast out, sometimes immediately killed and cremated. Wandering bands of these outcasts, infected pariahs that have yet to succumb to the coma, wander the countryside, forced to fight alone. To die alone. Forced to watch as their companions fall, one by one. The few true physicians left say that the sickness first appeared during the reign of Yaeza The Tyrant. In reality, there is no evidence of how the infections starts. Most chalk it up to lack of hygiene: uncleanliness, vermin, improper (or nonexistant) sanitations. And certainly, the infection's tendency to be more common furthur away from the upper echelons of society support this theory. Or maybe any aristocrats that are infected are simply silenced. Others say that the disease is phytogenic - stemming from fungus. The Elves tell a different story.
Astaf's TeardropsThe Elves - at least, those that claim to have seen them - say that the Mourning is a punishment. Astaf's way to obliterate life, to start anew. The call it Kai Vhetin - The Clean Slate. They say Astaf is fed up with the quarrels of men, of the strife of the dwarves, the wars between the races. They say she is going to bring about apocalypse, but that on the backs of the dead new life will spring. They say it is the end of the Great Road. That their Journey is over.
An Exploitative MalpracticeNo one knows the cure to The Mourning, or if there is one. But that doesn't stop those who claim there is, and they do. When your loved one - your husband, your daughter, your best friend - is dying from an incurable disease, irrationality is rife. When a plague is ravaging your home town, desperation is rampant. And desperation - wrought from fear, worry, sometimes love - is the most easily manipulated of emotions. They call themselves apothecaries, and their kind are loosely organized into a conspiracy known as The Ablution Board. Really, they are nothing more than a cult. With unknown sponsorship, they come to settlements of any size - hamlets, villages, towns, cities - offering cures for the plague ... at a price. One sometimes far more nefarious than coin. They take the town's sick, care for them, say they will take them somewhere to be cured, or to die in peace. And they never come back.