In the royal year 451, also known as the year of Red Leaves, something strange occured. A star fell blazing from the heavens, and its passage scorched the leaves from the trees in County Ailbe, in the Midlands. Most merely uttered a word of prayer, asking a small charm of the falling star, others a warding gesture. The star cooled into a lump of a strange and porous material that had the multicolored hue of stained glass, yet the resilience and ring of iron. It was well agreed among the countyfolk that the object should be left alone until such a time as a wise man of the Imperial Wizardry could be sent to examine the object.
A storm came, and the rain was hard, and struck through with brilliant lightning, and there were strange colors in the clouds. By the coming of morning, the countyfolk were quite surprised that the star had been eroded away by the rain, its mass greatly reduced, and what remained was a sloppy alkaline mess. Several jars were gathered of the strange substance, and stoppered with wax. Little more was thought of the matter, for living close to the whimsical little fae of the Green March, and the Seelie keep of
Underfall Freehold, such odditities were little cause for alarm.
It is recorded that within the span of a week, some of the countyfolk became afflicted with a strange illness. The body could hold no food, not even the smallest morsel. Anything eaten was violently expelled by forceful contractions of the stomach. The bowels suffered a similar fate, expelling themselves completely in a fit of muscular spasms. Those who lived in the vicinity of the Clergh Lake were the first affected, but by the end of the month, the majority of the county was infected by the illness. Those first affected began to show signs of decay, their skin sloughing off, and numbness in the extremities. Their hunger gnawed continually at them, and eroded their sanity.
It was later discovered that the vital blood of the living could retard this decay, and large amounts of blood could reverse the decay, but only ‘clean’ blood. The poor folk of the county grew terribly gaunt, their ribs and hips protruding from their skin. Blood dried into a crust around their lips, and the gums blackened and drew back from their teeth, giving them a baleful countenance.
Visitors and travelers who passed into County Ailbe were set upon by the hungry inhabitants who retained some of their memories, but as they decayed, their minds became more bestial. Packs of former humans scourged the county, and soon expanded beyond the county borders. These stumbling sags of skin and bone killed a large number of people who lived in smaller isolated communities and freeholds, tearing them limb from limb and gorging on their blood. It wasnt until the spring of RY 452 that the matter gained serious attention.
A large pack, numbering some 19 individuals set upon a contingent of the Queen’s Royal Guard. The soldiers managed to fight their way to freedom, but many were wounded and quite a few were slain by the fast and animalistic countyfolk. By now, the countyfolk showed the signs of decay, as winter had reduced the amount of prey, and had retared the decay process via the cold. They were largely nude, the sight of their rotting or grossly distended genetalia disheartened and disturbed those who saw them. Their toes were missing, fingers askew from smashing prey, and their faces were the most cruel. The cheeks had torn, as they forced the largest pieces of flesh into their mouths, giving them the wide-jawed maw of a crocodile, extending the bite to well beyond the normal for a human. Their noses were misshapped, many were bitten off in scrabbles with other of the county-folk.
The Queen, horrified at the sight of a shambler, ordered the Royal Guard to take fire to the countyfolk. With sword and flame, the Queen’s Guard slaughtered the countyfolk in a thorough six month long campaign that didnt end until the last of the corpses was run aground and consigned to flames. By the end of the infestation, more than 2000 Midlanders had perished, not counting the 300 or so countyfolk.
Royal Viziers were unable to postulate a cause for the matter, but the fact that none of the countyfolk were alive led to the whisper of one, chilling word. Zombie.