(Warning: contains talk about suicide)
During the last years of the Long War, the world started changing. Most people didn’t notice it at first but if you asked the old ladies sitting on their porches, they would tell you that the days seemed shorter, the nights colder and the shadows longer. Woodsmen and farmers would also tell of animals behaving increasingly strangely.
People would talk about how they rarely had regular dreams anymore, instead, their nights were filled with horrible nightmares. Even children would sneak into the beds of their parents every night, and for once, the grown-ups knew exactly how they felt. Farmers struggled to get anything to grow, and some of the things that did, tasted horribly, as if they had sprouted from the soul already rotted.
There was a shadow creeping over the land, but the people were so busy with their fighting that anyone barely noticed. The despair that seemed to flourish was just thought to be an effect of the war going on, it affected everyone after all. But when the creeping darkness took on a more visceral physical form, people did notice.
It began when more and more people spoke of seeing and hearing things that weren’t there, their heads being full of despicable thoughts they never thought their mind was even capable of producing. And it was spreading, from city to city and town to town, more and more people were being afflicted.
And then came the suicides, in never before seen numbers and of increasingly horrible character. A whole entire village suddenly hung themselves in one night, people threw themselves from bridges and castle walls and some took a pistol to the head, to get rid of the evil thoughts in their heads.
Then came the violence. Horrific attacks and murders of a seemingly random nature erupted, armies were called back home to try and bring back order and the war was soon all but forgotten.
Lastly, came the corruption of the flesh, children born horribly and unnaturally disfigured in ever increasing numbers, and even grown men and women would turn into indescribably deformed creatures.
The loss of life was immense, far more than any war could have ever achieved. Towns and even cities were sealed off and quarantined and the few people that remained barricaded themselves in towns. But even those that didn’t lose their lives, lost loved ones and they themselves were anything but unharmed; the events leaving mental scars that could never be healed.
And so the people settled in, trying to adjust to their new reality, a reality where monsters existed outside of stories and fairytales, a reality where humanity was on the cusp of extinction and only the most desperate would dare to travel outside of the walled settlements to scavenge the abandoned villages.
The time of The Long Madness had begun.