Alexandre's Notes: The Night of Whispers
The Sacrésante is an ancient, mythical text that has been compiled by various authors and sources over the course of millennia. Its historical reliability is therefore...well, not entirely trustworthy to the academic eye, to put it lightly. Certainly some events are embellished, miscopied, or perhaps simply made up by holy men hoping to insert their names into the eternal fabric of religion. But despite this, the Ántouist holy book is as close as one can get to a complete record of Dántaine history. And of course, to the Dántaine people, its stories are indisputable fact. This all makes it very difficult to gain an accurate picture of the realm’s ancient history.
To complicate matters, the majority of Dántaine is illiterate, and the priests who read the Sacrésante to the public every week often choose to omit certain stories -- ones that are poorly-understood or that might detract from a commoner’s faith in Ántou. Today, I would like to tell you one of those lesser-known stories; one which is rarely, if ever, taught to the public but which is studied at great length within the monasteries of Dántaine and regarded by many monks as one of the most accurate and unexaggerated portions of scripture. I present to you: La Nuit des Chuchotements. The Night of Whispers.
It is a well known fact that many Ántouist monks spent time communing with Ántou, using mystic potions and special incense to allow their minds to wander into the heavens and create prophecy. It is a lesser known fact that a lifetime of such communing can lead to madness. It is what monks refer to as Sa Touche -- His Touch.
It takes many, many years to develop Sa Touche, and the sickness comes on slowly and subtly. By the time the first sign is visible -- extreme dilation of the pupils -- it is too late. Nowadays, monks exhibiting this symptom will be quarantined and often commit suicide before the disease progresses. But in the past, before the Night of Whispers, these monks were thought to be harmless and were given hospice care until the madness eventually consumed their minds.
Months after a monk has begun showing symptoms, the first signs of insanity become visible. Memory loss, muttering, and broken speech are common, though there are, in the early stages, brief moments of lucidity in the madness. As time goes on, these moments decrease in length and frequency. At a certain point -- the final stage of the sickness -- the monk ceases any activity altogether and remains perfectly still, with only his lips continuing to move silently and his teeth chattering, clicking like some rattlesnake or small rodent in the dark.
It is theorized that prolonged contact with the mind of Ántou causes the human mind to break, and that Sa Touche is the result of divine energy slowly eating away at the mortal brain. A broken mind, fortunately is not difficult to deal with; for thousands of years the Ántouist monks simply allowed those afflicted by Sa Touche to live on within the monasteries, eventually burying their starved and decomposed corpses when the constant sound of chattering teeth became too much to handle. For yes -- even in death, the sounds continue. Even in death, the corpses whisper.
This old strategy might have been successful if not for a single key detail. Sa Touche, as it turns out, is contagious.
Some tens of centuries ago, a monk suffering from the second stage of Sa Touche escaped from the monastery in Bastienne. Due to the nature of that island-city, it was not difficult for the monk to find his way through civilization, stopping to talk with various townsfolk as he made his way towards the water’s edge.
Three days later, the monk was nowhere to be found and the only sound that could be heard in Bastienne was the constant chattering of a thousand teeth.
A search party of monks from the monastery quickly sounded the alarm, sending ravens to the other Dántaine realms and rescuing the small uninfected population of the city. But despite their best efforts to keep the pandemic contained, Sa Touche continued to spread throughout the land. The best doctors in Dántaine -- all monks, of course -- placed their efforts into developing a cure for the madness but instead they, too, became infected. Within a week, trade routes had been shut down; city gates closed and locked. Communication was sparse. Information was scarce.
It was easy to track the monk, though. As he wandered through the countryside, he left a wide swath of insanity in his wake, one that wandered through the lavender fields of Martoise and then abruptly turned north, cutting through Anóuse and Parmieux like some sort of rift or chasm. The monk seemed to travel with superhuman speed, and in just a month eastern Dántaine had become a desolate, isolated wasteland; a hellscape hidden behind picturesque fields and underscored by the sounds of wind and chattering teeth.
The two remaining states were Mátergine and Mértere, both of which had closed their ports early enough to avoid widespread infection. After an emergency meeting, the Moine Principals of the two decided to reform the Confrérie de L'anneau, an order of warrior monks which had only been established once before during the era of Sant Laurent and then disbanded.
The Order, using martial arts and powerful magic that has since been lost to history, swept through Dántaine, burning infected villages and killing any living creature that showed signs of being exposed to Sa Touche. Over the course of three grueling and bloody months, the Order succeeded in liberating all of the region, having killed almost 40% of its population in the process. Most of the monks in the Order committed suicide shortly afterward.
Rebuilding was difficult, but eventually life went back to normal and the common folk forgot about the tragedy which had claimed the very souls of their friends and families. But the story of the plague was recorded in the Sacrésante as The Night of Whispers -- a tribute to the thousands of voices which cried out across the land even in death. The monks of Ántou began to quarantine their afflicted brethren, studying the madness as long as possible and then burning the whispering, mindless bodies.
The one monk -- the first whisperer, the patient zero, the harbinger of the plague -- was never found. Perhaps so much divine contact turned his body to ash, scattering him across the land. Perhaps he was unknowingly killed by the Order, buried and burned in a mass grave with a hundred others. But as for myself, I believe that the monk is still out there somewhere. His body has decayed, perhaps; laying decrepit in some ditch that has been filled by the centuries with mud and leaves and bones; but still possessed by the spirit of Ántou, a testament to the power and unknowable might of our God. Somewhere, if you searched deep within the hidden forests of Parmieux, you might stumble across his weathered and bleached bones. You might find his dark robes, stained and eaten away by the wild. You might feel his dark pull on your mind. And you would hear his teeth chattering.