Even before the first shot of the Great Centuries War rang out, a different kind of warfare had been ravaging the Earth. It was has if humanity had made a Faustian pact to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life. It was a war of humanity waged not against unseen enemies but against the very cradle of creation: The Earth. A cataclysm of humanity's own hubris, it was christened with a name as foreboding as the darkness it spewed forth: The Blackening.
This epoch was defined not by the glitz of human ingenuity, but by an insatiable, omnipresent conflagration, a hellfire stoked by mankind's voracious appetite for expansion and an unyielding pursuit of "progress". This was the progress that, in its myopic quest for profits, only served to feed the flames, accelerating the devastation rather than curbing it. Every corner of the world became a crematorium, an unforgiving funeral pyre for nature's finest marvels. Flames of epic proportions danced across the planet, leaping with unfathomable hunger from tree to tree, consuming the once verdant forests in their fiery maws, reducing the vibrant flora to grim monoliths of charred remains. Charred corpses of once sprawling oaks, brisling pines and magnificent redwoods now stood as nothing more than gravestones in a vast no man's land.
The jungles, those lush arteries of life, fell silent under the flames' ruthless march. Once teeming with an orchestra of life's finest melodies, their symphony was silenced, their vibrancy replaced by the grotesque pallor of ash and death. What was green had turned to grey. What was beautiful became ugly. What was pure became tainted. It was a sight that would break the most hardened of hearts, a grim monument to mankind's blind and unyielding ambition. The ambition of growth, at any cost.
Amidst the inferno, the creatures that had once roamed free and proud were stripped of their glory. The earth, once a viridian sea of flora and fauna, succame to the relentless flames. Scorched plains echoed the silent cries of creatures long lost. The noble elephants, lords of the savanna, disappeared into the smoke. The majestic polar bears, masters of the Arctic wilderness, dissolved into the white oblivion. Tigers and lions, stripped of their dominions, faded into the shadows, their roars becoming mere echoes in the winds of time. One by one the creatures that had once shared this Earth with humanity vanished from the wild, an unlucky few doomed to rot in ever shrinking cages and exhibits, bearing no fruit to spite their cruel masters. The oceans, much like the rain, acidified. Once gorgeous coral kaleidoscopes became grey masses of bleached death. Shores became awash with putrid pods of porpoises, collapsed colonies of sea lions and rotten schools of festering fish. In this crucible of the damned, Mother Earth's magnificent children where reaped like the wheat the farmlands once bore.
A twisted parody of the Noah's Arc unfolded, a reverse exodus not of salvation but of decimation. The exuberant symphony of life was replaced with a dirge of desolation. Rich farmlands wilted and shriveled, morphing into barren wastes. The circle of life was severed, an uncaring erasure that left a void in the tapestry of existence. What was once painter's pallet, ripe with the colors of life was now a discarded tableau of decimation, where fertile farmland was suffocated beneath the encroaching sands of desolation. The days had been cut short, choked by the smog and smoke of The Blackening's endless inferno. What trees remained could not have been saved.
As if in response to the ceaseless flames, the Earth retaliated with torrents of water. They had made war upon the lamb, and yet the lamb had conquered them. Oceans, enraged and swollen from the planet's fever, lunged at the land. Cities that the war had spared were swallowed by the encroaching waves. Coastal metropolises, once the beating hearts of human civilization, were consumed by the unending tides, their grandeur drowned beneath the watery abyss. The tide came unending, obliterating human civilization under the merciless rhythm of the waves. The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah was as great as their sin was grave. Once sprawling mega-centers became places of myth and history, a new era of Atlantis'.
In the shadow of this ecological apocalypse, the smoke stacks of industry stood tall and unflinching. Pillars of death, they spewed forth their lethal offerings into the skies, belching smoke and filth into the heavens, blotting out the sun and casting a perennial dusk upon the land. Their dark plumes added to the war clouds brooding on the horizon, a haunting reminder of humanity's unwavering march towards its own demise.
This poignant epoch of rampant destruction and harsh survival evoked a sentiment akin to a resigned mother's heart-wrenching acceptance of her fate. As the embers of The Blackening painted the skies with a terrible beauty and ceaseless violence scarred the earth, an eerie proclamation seemed to permeate the charred air. It was as if Mother Earth, in all her ancient wisdom and enduring patience, had given her last, weary sigh. She looked upon her most rebellious child, humanity, still clawing, fighting, surviving against the most formidable odds. Despite the ruination they had wrought upon themselves and their home, they persisted, their spirit unbowed. And in that moment of grim acknowledgement, it was as though she whispered into the storm, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.” Her voice echoed amidst the destruction, a lament of a parent who, despite witnessing their child's countless transgressions, found solace in their mere existence. This heartbreaking decree echoed through every charred tree, every cracked and barren stretch of land, every gust of smoke-choked wind that whipped across the fire-ravaged terrain. It was a solemn declaration of acceptance, a maternal relinquishing of life itself, borne out of the observation that her children, humanity, had yet survived.
In her time of dying, Mother Earth, despite her best attempts to alter the web woven by the oracles, had accepted her fate. She had accepted it with a grace and resignation that were both poignant and chilling. Her countless years of nurturing, of selfless giving, had come to this — a moribund planet bearing witness to the torturous spirit of her children. Despite the ruthless desolation they had wrought upon her, she took solace in the fact that they lived on, a testament to their resilience and her unyielding love. The survival of humanity, against all odds, appeared to grant a perverse comfort, as though our existence justified her desecrated corpse and smog choked demise.
Every lash of the acid rain, every gust of poisoned wind, every tremor that shook her scorched skin, seemed to reiterate her sorrowful acceptance of this grim fate. It was a mother’s sacrifice, the final act of a primordial caretaker who had nurtured countless generations. This was the her final epoch, her final gift to the universe — humanity and all of that it had wrought.
Even as the fires of the Blackening consumed her, as the blood of the her once bountiful cornucopia was spilled, she bore it all as a mother bears the sins of a begotten son. Her flesh burned and her blood boiled, her once resplendent beauty was reduced to blackened a skeleton, her gaian whispers silenced by the roaring blaze. Her ruined body stood, much like the charred forest gravestones, as a testament to the extraordinary power of life, the power of profound destruction.
However, within this sprawling, grim epic of devastation and despair, humanity's indefatigable spirit persisted, revealing itself in desperate clusters seeking solace amidst the apocalypse. The Blackening did not just incite fear; it spurred an unparalleled exodus, a wave of humanity sweeping across the blighted landscapes in a desperate bid for survival. Vast throngs of refugees, their meager possessions borne on weary shoulders, their faces etched with the scars of loss and displacement, migrated from the ruins of what they once called home. The palpable desperation was mirrored in the famished bodies of men, now mere skeletal echoes of their former selves, while unspeakable cruelties had pushed even the most stable minds to the precipice of the abyss. In attempting to encapsulate the horrors of these times, one would be better served observing a starving rat-pack, where in the struggle for survival, invariably, one grows grotesquely fat.
Unforgiving heatwaves followed these weary footsteps, an insidious shadow that decimated the ranks of these fleeing souls. These waves of scorching air, a brutal manifestation of Mother Earth's fever, claimed lives indiscriminately, sparing neither the young nor the old. Bodies collapsed under the brutal sun, left to be ravaged by its relentless assault, their hopes of refuge dissipating into the furnace-like gusts. Bereft of funerals, denied of sanctuaries, they were forgotten under the scorching glare. The air itself seared the skin of those trapped within its embrace, particularly those too impoverished to procure the increasingly expensive cooling mechanisms. The heat was omnipresent, merciless, and lethal, a brutal foe that offered no quarter. Yet, the poor, huddled masses of humanity trudged on, undeterred, their hope a flickering flame that refused to be extinguished.
Borders, once mere lines etched on maps, transformed into militarized walls, bulwarks against the incoming tide of desperation. Fortified fences and armed guards rose from the dust, a grim testament to humanity's propensity for exclusion even in the face of shared calamity. The huddled masses seeking refuge were met not with open arms but with the cold steel of barbed wire and machine gunfire. Brutal attacks were launched against these desperate souls, their dreams of safety shattered by the cruel bite of artillery and the bitter sting of prejudice. These clashes were a grotesque caricature of humanity's darkest hearts, human life sacrificed at the altar of territorial sovereignty, of greed, of a vain attempt to maintain the unholy pact that had been made.
As humanity splintered under the strain of displacement and denial, the fissures of conflict began to show, whispers of the impending storm that was to become the Great Centuries War. Amidst the tumult, seeds of dissent were sown, sprouting into poisonous blooms of animosity and strife. For, as the planet scorched and smog shrouded the skies, the human heart was not immune to the Blackening. It was in these fragmented shadows of what once was a shared world that the first sparks of the War ignited. The grim specter of conflict, as unforgiving as the Blackening itself, began to loom over humanity, promising to plunge an already ravaged world deeper into the abyss of destruction.