Soul of Lords
The Dark Curse
Death by Degrees
Some say the world is dying. That fire and magic and the sun itself is warming less and less for every passing season. The White Covenant has officially deemed such talk heresy, but there is one sign, one ailment that haunts humanity, that they cannot deny: the Dark Curse.
The Curse is like a miasma that sickens the very soul of mankind. It darkens the minds of the living, driving people first to listlessness, then to despair, and finally to death. For many, it ends there, and they are entombed to await Gravelord Nito’s beckoning finger. For others, the final breath is never drawn, and they continue on their accursed path until violent madness seizes them and they join the ranks of the hollow Undead.
The earliest documents mentioning the Dark Curse are more than 400 years old, although scholars know the moniker to be older still, and legends abound of its macabre workings. The Church claims it is because Lord Gwyn is turning his face away from his people, citing sinful living and lack of faith as the cause. But no matter the church attendance, the number of Undead is rising year by year…
In effect, an undead person differs little from how he was in life in terms of prowess, skills and smarts; it is no monster of hideous strength and vitality that breaks through the walls of its tomb, nor is it a shambling, rotting husk of little power and less wits. Undeath is a process where a person grows increasingly hollow, until there is nothing left but madness and an unending hunger to slay the living. Some go years before they are recognised as Cursed, or until they finally break – often with tragic and horrifying results.
The end result of a fully hollowed undead can differ greatly from subject to subject. Some simply lose all sense of agency and will, doing little but sitting or repeating endless patterns of motion such as beating their heads against a wall. Some retain a semblance of low animal cunning, able to utilize skills learned in life. The worst grow twisted, differing little from their living selves except for their appetite for death.
The common denominator between all Undead is that, unless completely destroyed, they never truly die. They can be “killed”, in a sense, just like a living being, but sooner or later they will rise again. It can take hours to years, something which creates yet another difficulty in opposing their menace. Total destruction, such as by immolation, is the only sure-fire way to end the threat of an Undead, but the Curse yet remains in the ashes. Spreading them over a field would ensure nothing would ever grow there again. Putting an Undead-infested city to the torch, like what was done in Balder, would blight the surrounding countryside for centuries.
Due to this, such final solutions are unpopular among the Lesser Kingdoms. Many people believe that the undead person yet retains some life even when so utterly destroyed, their agony compounded and irreversible. Few wish such a fate upon their loved ones, and many yet hope for a discovery to break the curse. Due to this, many great asylums and tombs have been built, usually in very remote places, to house the hollow Undead until a cure has been found, or until Darkness claims the world.