Several nights ago, Professor Lionheart fell into a morphine-induced coma, and his dream self was shattered.
Seemingly, average everyday dreamers who consumed some of the pieces had been temporarily gifted some of the abilities of the fabled nacht mahrt, notably invading the dreams of other sleepers sharing the realm of dreams.
As more and more people driven to the brink of madness or beyond by incessant visions of ebony horses, flaming steeds, fiery creatures, the endless sounds of clopping and neighing, as more and more patients filled the hospital and were induced back into fitful rest, they went in search of relief.
And they found the rest of the population of New Babbage.
Young, old, devout, agnostic, good, evil, cursed, blessed, enchanted, mundane, genius, idiot, prince, pauper, whether promised or blood oathed protections from the nacht mahrt or hand-selected as an enemy — any who dreamed without wards about them quickly fell prey to one of these gibbering madmen or madwomen crashing into their dream, a torrent of shadowy nightmares following them, as they smashed and devoured the dream bit by bit, leaving only a wave of whinnying, bucking conflagration to fill the void.
Mad images, a wash of nothing and everything, fears and joys sprayed into the unaware minds like shotgun pellets. Restful sleep became impossible almost everywhere in Babbage, except beneath wards or near the Old Quarter wall. The chant itching at the back of the mind… “horse… horse… horse”.
And still more mad ones rose from those ranks, infected by the nacht mahrt himself, missing but everpresent, and tore at the walls of sleep.