1883 was not a good year. It began with the Grand Cataclysm. This was the first of the Trinity of Sorrows, as the disasters have become known. Earthquakes and tremors occurred all across the globe. Mountains fell while others rose. Cities disappeared.
The eruption of Krakatoa occurred in the midst of this upheaval. What had certainly been a disaster became an apocalypse. No witnesses survived the initial eruption, but it was believed to have occurred on 16 June. On that day, there does not seem to be a place on Earth that did not hear the explosion. Tidal waves and massive ash clouds followed and did not end for three months. The skies became dark, the air choked with ash and cinder. By 20 December, when the eruptions had subsided, a mountain range – the Krakatoa Massif – 200 km in length and 25 km across linked Sumatra and Java. Its highest peak, Tharsis Mons, rose more than 10 km, making it the world’s highest peak – more than 1 km taller than Everest.
Smaller eruptions continue to occur every few months along the Krakatoa Massif.
The world had not yet suffered enough.
The first cases of the Ashen Death – the second in the world’s Triumvirate of Suffering – came in early 1884. Newspapers reported plagues in Canada, Russia, and Norway first, but it soon spread. The skin of the infected lost its colour, became ashen grey, and then – usually days later – died. For the first two months, no one reported a survivor. We learned that survivors might become a Ghoul or a Wraith in May. Had the infected died and returned as these monsters, or had they survived the plague only to be changed by it? None knew. After May 1884, the choice one had with an infected individual was to either ease the suffering and pray a cure would be delivered before the poor soul passed or changed, or – knowing none had found any way to cure the disease and those that survived became monsters – end the individual’s misery quickly and cleanly. The time which one had to make this choice, though, has gradually declined, and now death or change comes in mere minutes of the skin’s telltale change.
Those who became Wraiths were physically superhuman and seemed to hunger for Human flesh. They retain the ability of speech, and there are reports of them engaging in long conversations when captured, pleading with their captors and attempting to play on their humanity and compassion. Some travelers and sailors talk of Wraith colony and Wraith fleets. Luckily, while they may congregate into large groups, in total they are few in number.
Those who became Ghouls seem to lose all humanity. They became feral, living in packs that roamed the shattered world. Some say they have no need of sustenance or air, and reports exist of packs of Ghouls exiting the seas near Human settlements, attacking them without warning. While the Ghouls do not feast on Human flesh, they seem to abhor sentient life, and reportedly have some extra sensory ability to recognize and locate Humans, even when those people are camouflaged or in hiding. Ghouls are not insensate totally, and attacks on settlements can be driven off with a robust defence. Most settlements, even the largest cities, now boast walls, many of which include artillery bastions – not to defend against another nation but to ward off Ghoul attacks.
Ghouls also seem to hate Wraiths even more than Humans. In times when the three are in proximity, the Ghouls unerringly attack the Wraiths, and seem to lose any sense of self-preservation when attacking Wraiths.
The final disaster came in 1885 with the Deluge. Some people believe it was due to the heating of the Earth after the Krakatoa eruption. Some believe it was the release of what became known as Halcyon gas from vents in Greenland and Iceland. Some believe this was all part of the biblical apocalypse. Whatever the reason, the ice at the North and South Poles melted. It didn’t all disappear, but much of it did. Many of those cities that survived the Cataclysm disappeared beneath the rising waters. Almost all of the Kingdoms of the Netherlands and Belgium were lost. Though no comprehensive map is available, it is believed that all the waters on the Earth are now collected, that it is now one great body of water punctuated with slabs of land, some minute, others large enough to boast multiple cities and farms.
The Deluge led to the Revolutionary Year of 1887. Some nations contracted, some nations expanded. Systems, rulers, and constituents changed. No nation had yet warred on another, though in 1887 many rulers and governments turned what forces they had on their own citizens, and many of those forces proved loyal to the citizenry rather than the political establishment.
In this year of 1895, one is loath to say that Humanity has adapted to this new world. One cannot say that all has returned to normalcy. People, though, live their lives. Here on the Island of Yorkshire – a free realm though a non-voting member of the British Republics – we have space both for our citadel-city of York as well as the fortified towns of Stockton and Stamford. Our aerodrome includes both landing fields for the airship freighters coming from the Dominions of Paris and the Northern Hegemony as well as docks for both surface and submarine sea vessels.
We have survived. We have adjusted. We will live on. God willing, we shall soon see an end to the Wraiths and the Ghouls, though only He might know how that could be done.