From Ex illis wiki
One of history’s outstanding events is, without a doubt, the apparition of the Flael, which changed the face of the world for good. This fog has disastrous consequences and affects the life of all men and women, nobles or commoners, peasants or knights. Despite the sturdy city walls and the comforting safety of houses, there is no escaping it. No one knows when and where it will strike. Everyone is vulnerable in the face of this phenomenon which reaches enormous proportions. All people constantly live in the fear of being attacked by this powerful and incomprehensible force that chooses its victims randomly.
Flael: meaning of the name
The peculiar name of this unusual fog has been attributed a while after it first appeared. One of the first hypotheses circulating among the populations affected from the very beginning is that this fog is a tool of the divine wrath and therefore, by definition, a scourge. The Flael first appeared in the south of France, and in the XIII century, the French spelling of the word “fléau” (scourge) was “flael”. The scribes started using a capital letter to specify they spoke about the fog affecting Europe and the rest of the world.
The Flael first appears in Lengadòc in 1246. For several years, it affects mainly Lengadòc, Aquitània, Catalunya (Catalonia), Navarre and Aragón. The rumours are thus more tremendous in these regions. The territory hit the most by the persecutions following the first apparitions of the Flael is Lengadòc. Its lands are plundered and ravaged by the neighbouring populations responding to the pope’s condemnation in 1249.
Then, the Flael reached Italia around 1253-54. The first angels appeared next, somewhat reassuring the terrified people. They are quickly integrated by the Catholic Church and considered as saviours sent by God and not as creatures born of the Flael. They take part in the general Inquisition, organised by the pope Alexander IV and Louis IX of France, and they leave to chase after fleaudians (the creatures deriving from the Flael).
In France, the spread of the Flael greatly worries the king who publishes several strict and unpopular edicts hoping to improve his subjects’ customs. Indeed, Louis IX (future Saint Louis) believes that if the people show more virtue, God’s punishment will inevitably soften. However, time and time again, year after year, nothing seems capable of stopping the fog growing north, gaining territory and finally covering the whole of France in the spring of 1256.
At this moment, the Flael also reaches the eastern border of the Holy Empire as well as a great part of western Spain. Sicilia, in the south of Italia, cannot escape the phenomenon either, although the people there receive the news well in comparison to other territories, thanks to the emperor Friedrich II, a monarch opened to novelties and discoveries.
England is affected in 1256 and then, shortly after, the spread reaches Cymru, whose population witnesses King Arthur’s resurrection right after the Flael’s first wave withdraws. Scotland, located even more in the north, is affected a few years later by the mysterious fog.
The strength of the Flael is never the same from one place to another. Thus, when it reaches apogee in Lengadòc around 1275, it also appears in China for the first time. Likewise, in 1309, the Flael has not covered Lengadòc’s sky for several years while it is still occasionally rife in Lancaster, north of England, as well as in Scotland, and it reaches its peak in Mongolia.
In the very beginning, in Lengadòc, the Flael is an ordinary mist and it does not affect the people who witness it for the first time. All people go about their daily business without being bothered by the presence of this meteorological phenomenon which, all in all, is quite frequent. Then, the second week, the mist thickens more and more until it turns into an impenetrable fog. Then, an insidious fear arises in people’s mind. At night, by the fireside, legends from the past resurface and it is with terrified hearts that people go to sleep every night.
The Flael is a bluish fog, odourless and impenetrable. At the height of the phenomenon, the fog absorbs all ray of sunlight, creating an effect of constant darkness. The living beings then find themselves in a never-ending night which, for many, seems to be eternal. Every time it appears, the Flael lingers for one or two weeks. Sometimes, it floats briefly while others, it remains for a long time. The exact duration changes most of the time, varying from two days to a whole month. Then, it disappears all of a sudden, without a warning. Many chroniclers from this era report that when everyone awakes one morning, the sun is shining again and the Flael left, for now, no visible traces of its apparition. Sometimes, it withdraws during the afternoon, once again, suddenly, like a curtain lifting before a play.
Moreover, these apparitions do not follow a constant cycle, but it is rather similar to sporadic pulsations. It is therefore impossible for anyone to foresee its coming and to prepare for it. Its manifestations do not obey the laws of physics either. Thus, no natural or meteorological characteristic may bring about the arrival of this fog, or its departure for that matter. Moreover, neither the wind nor the rain can manage to disperse it as they usually do with ordinary mists.
Apparitions of the Flael
The first direct consequences of the Flael –i.e. unexplained phenomena happening indisputably during the apparitions– are some people’s mysterious disappearance. Many chroniclers from this era report that some people woke up in the morning only to find out the person sleeping next to them had disappeared. In the very beginning, the people find these gossips hard to believe since they resemble nothing more than stories made up to scare children or entertaining legends, nothing resembling reality. Everyone laughs when some people are naïve or crazy enough to get scared by these rumours. Then, as time passes by, more and more credible people, better placed in society, start corroborating these stories. Moreover, disappearances start happening more frequently during the day, in the middle of a group of 5-6 people who can all report they saw the same thing. Thus, Peire Cardenal, an Occitan troubadour, writes: “One evening, while we were keeping the boredom brought by the Flael at bay in front of a fire, Uc de la Fouille vanished in the air, the way a fairy would have escaped from her enemies. I was speechless”.
Then, other rumours spread gradually in towns and cities in the south of France. Everywhere, people whisper stories about travellers who were attacked by extraordinary creatures which do not resemble any of those they are used to see in the woods in this region. The rumours are confirmed little by little while the bodies accumulate on the roadsides, on the edge of forests, outside the walls of cities and of the stockades of towns. It is therefore advised not to travel alone. One story in particular quickly goes around Lengadòc. Troubadours tell that the lord of Béziers went bore hunting, but instead of finding the prey he was looking for, he killed a demon with beautiful horns resembling that of reindeers. People travel to admire this exceptional trophy. In the castle, servants hung the beast’s head over the entrance door. Particular shooting expeditions are then starting to be organised. Stags, bores and other ordinary games do not have the place of honour anymore. Henceforth, the nobles and their attendants attack preys that are much fiercer and hard to find: fleaudians, these creatures born of the Flael, who recently started populating the forests.
Finally, a few inhabitants notice changes in their own body. Some find small horns on their forehead while others grow or shrink all of a sudden. For some others, it is pointed ears, an animal nose, a snake tongue, fur in weird places or other unusual physical aspects for humans. Many attempt to hide these unfortunate transformations with roomy clothes or hoods. However, for a few people on whom the transformations are to apparent, they become synonym of death. They must therefore flee their city or village, often at dawn to avoid being seen by anyone. For this reason, the workforce decreases considerably everywhere in the various kingdoms while the woods gradually fill up with creatures of all types.
But then, citizens start noticing changes happening to their neighbours and panic sweeps through the affected villages. The doors are closed and anyone showing special traits is expulsed or, in some places, burnt. Then, after each appearance of the Flael, the job has to be done all over again.
If the first apparitions of the Flael do not result in significant consequences on the daily life in Lengadòc in 1246, the following ones, and the peculiar transformations they create, prompt a wave of fear among the affected populations. During the following years, villages fortify and lords force all peasants capable of working to build wooden stockades to protect their village from all dangerous creatures now haunting the forests. A sort of xenophobia settles in towns. Citizens throw out all strangers and all people who suffered transformations even though they were bakers, shoemakers, blacksmiths or even in charge of the militia. Moreover, some people flee the most affected places, thus creating ghost towns in which travellers and strangers do not dare to enter.
The Flael also creates a significant increase in pillages. Thieves and unscrupulous lords take advantage of the panic ruling over Christendom to attack small, remote villages or abandoned castles and steal everything left behind by the owners. The roads are not safe anymore for travellers. Soon, only contingents protected by numerous armed warriors travel the roads linking towns. Commercial trade falls steeply, Christendom is paralysed. The price of food reaches unequalled highs. A few towns withdraw into themselves and do not open their doors, not even for peasants cultivating the fields close by and who come to sell their harvests. More and more, famines decimate the populations. Some try to flee this misery, but for many, the fear of the outside world is stronger than all, and behind the locked doors of their cottages, they endure hunger and cold.
As for the Church, it gains in power while the number of believers who recite all daylight offices increases exponentially, particularly in France where Louis IX puts into practise a policy of piety. In some places, unscrupulous clergymen take advantage of the situation and collect money from both the poor and the rich in order to refill the coffers of their church. All these events contribute to the golden age of the Inquisition which stretches from around 1255 to 1290. Wherever the representatives of God go, they are welcomed with deference and respect, which provokes a phenomenon of massive denunciations. No one is safe from people’s cupidity. Everywhere, neighbours accuse one another, families divide and quarrel, and children are responsible for the death of their father or mother. Stakes are more and more frequent… so are runaways.
Christendom finds itself in the middle of a serious crisis which leads to the death of many innocent people.
Several theories about the Flael see the light between 1246 and 1309. In fact, this phenomenon takes its name from the very first theory to be heard about it. Indeed, a few clergymen in Lengadòc, among them the archbishop of Tolosa, Raimond de Fauga, claim that this peculiar fog is the tool chosen by God to punish mankind for its sins. They believe that the increasing number of heretics has been deceiving God for a while now and, in His great power, He shows it by overwhelming mankind with a scourge having unprecedented consequences.
Then, with the arrival of angels, these saviours, new theories are formulated. Several theologians support the theory of the Apocalypse: the Flael is the omen announcing the end of the world. Among them are Albertus Magnus, a German friar, and San Bonaventura, an Italian archbishop who support their thesis by quoting the Bible which says that angels will come down to the Earth to take pious souls back with them to paradise, but demons and other creatures from hell will also join them and claim the souls of sinners. Azrael’s apparition in 1262 reinforces this thesis as she is the angel of death who must remain in the terrestrial world until all have passed away.
However, from 1280 onwards, some theologians and freethinkers oppose the Apocalypse hypothesis after studying the Bible in all its details. Among them are Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon. Indeed, some elements seem to have been left aside to explain the phenomenon and avoid interrogations. Notably, Thomas Aquinas puts forward the fact that, according to the biblical writings, everyone, and particularly the poor and the rejected, should have the chance to resurrect, but all of this does not seem to be the case, which brings doubt to the mind of many.
Other theories related to God and the Church are also put forward. For example, a few more or less influent priests, such as Guillaume de Saint-Amour, pretend that God is putting humanity through another Genesis, testing, once again, with a poisoned apple, this faith made up of magical and supernatural knowledge which allow some people to dominate by power.
Another hypothesis is the one deriving from the story of Job. According to a few rumours, the demon would have concocted a special test to prove mankind’s dishonesty to God. In the book of Job, the Devil subjects him to the worst atrocities to shake his faith which had been unwavering until then. This way, in all kingdoms, people were hit by these cruel tests invented by the Devil.
Finally, one of the more extravagant accusations is the one against the Cathars of Montségur. A few soldiers attending the execution of Catharist heretics would have heard Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix quarrel with another Cathar about a curse, right before being burnt at the stake. Thus, a few people, notably Guillaume de Nogaret, pretend that the Flael would be the result of a ritual carried out by the Cathars before being burnt at the stake in Montségur and which would have damned the whole of Christendom. However the defenders of the Catholic higher clergy claim that God could not have allowed such a thing and that the defenders of this theory are just as heretical as those who were burnt. This is why, for several years, before Roma’s fall, this hypothesis has been whispered behind thick walls and closed doors. However, now that the papal power is not as strong and the Church lost in credibility, the thesis spreads incredibly fast.