“When I came into the town, the gates remained up. Not a single person came and greeted me. Suppose I should have considered, at that time, turning around. Now, of course, I wish I had.
Climbed over the walls, I did. In that low part near the bridge. You know the place, don’t you? Took me almost all the morning to pull myself over.
Gods watch me. Swear I didn’t think the whole town was blown through. I promise I didn’t.
I saw a cart of people outside of a gearsmiths’. Stacked half-a-dozen high. And I swear you could fit them all right into a crack in the wall. Small as they were.
That’s when I ran. Ran right back over that wall I come through. You know the one, the low part, near the bridge.
I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
Conversation with Eisner (deceased), courier, from the collection of notes of Jastern (deceased), Priest of Ilmater. Taken near North Fork, on the outset of The Time of Silence.
The Grey Withers. Soulwasting. Gateplague. Ek'grat. Magesickness. Loviatar's Opus.
No matter the name, it is spoken in fear and hate across the Sisters of Tempest. The disease which has felled a hundred kingdoms, a thousand cities, and at times, saved us all.
Let us begin by addressing the bergouin-in-the-attic. This disease is not, at this time, believed to be transmitted in the natural sense. It is entirely magical in nature and, therefore, does not carry itself through the air or water or even touch (should you be foolish enough to stay too long around where it is active). No, it is instead drawn from one carrier to another by a confoundingly unknown method of quickening. Which is, of course to say, dear reader - YOU are already a carrier of the Withers.
Alas, my humble folk, do not fret! We are all currently the pack mule of this disease!
"But dearest and most intelligent Professor Pebblesquabble," I hear you shout at me from the mundane, disease-ridden privies upon which you read this pamphlet, "I am too young/happy/beautiful/rich to die from such a horrid confoundingly unknown method of quickening!"
Oh don't worry, my simple friends. The disease is present in all of us who's ancestors traveled the Gates, but it remains almost entirely dormant. For most of us that is. That is not to say that the disease is not still deadly. It, much like a thief in the night, coming without warning. It is still not known what can bring the disease out of it's slumber, though we educated few have spent lifetimes attempting to discover this.
Likewise, it is not know what can cause an outbreak of the Withers. Some communities have reported an old man at the end of his life suddenly consumed by the plague in his twilight years. Other cases have appeared in a young maid at the beginning adulthood. Some of these case spiral out and consume the nearby land, infecting and killing without mercy. Other infections find themselves contained to a single person for that poor fool’s entire life, and though they claim to recover, the scars and infirmities follow them to their otherwise completely normal death.
And please, do not be fooled by other, less virulent sickness. The signs of Withers are quite obvious. For ease of memory I have constructed this mnemonic for you, esteemed reader:
To expand: The loss of color in skin that is gradually replaced by a dull grey is the first sign. This is accompanied by a fever and shortness of breath, and occurs in the first few days. This quickly accelerates into the crippling and shriveling of limbs and core, which in itself is welcomed hand-in-hand by the devastating breaking of magic in the host’s body. This continues for, in the wide number of cases, no more than a week's time before the body of the unfortunate abruptly passes.
Now, as I am sure you can now understand, this is a serious, life-and-city-threatening issue, of which the importance is not lost on your esteemed and most intelligent Professor.
"But why, magnanimous and eloquent Professor Pebblesquabble?" The guard outside my cell moans through his ever-hanging jaw. "Why tell me, a simple fool, this bounty of knowledge?"
Ah, to the crux of this letter. There were rumors of Your Esteemed and Circumspect Author emerging from a local business of exotic favors looking quite pallid and generally unwell. Now, why some dunce in the constabulary decided to see this as Withers and have such an honored and gracious man as myself thrown into quarantine for such an obvious oversight of medical lore, I can only imagine, but I reckon it has to do with the presence of a thoughtfully and well-denied gambling debt that.....
<The rest of the pamphlet is too waterlogged to read>