Three Cancerous Curses

Hemanthron

A creation of ferronics, itself an offshoot of the art of bloodworks. The cursed is clad in iron, which is beaten into their skin. This process can be as violent as it sounds, or so gentle that it never wakes the ill that sometimes accept it as a curative. The cheap metal is appended in sheets of pig iron, and is frequently left to rust. When the work is done, a ferronicist performs his rites over the course of a month.

The being that emerges will be more metal than man, cured of the weakness of the flesh. Their skin will become like iron, which will soon turn red, if it hasn’t already.

The Smiling Maiden by Gilles Ketting

A hemanthron exists only to fight. They will seek out wars and battles, trekking across mountains, prairies, forests, and seas in search of conflict. Kings in need of mighty warriors will happily take them on, and they will go to those that bring them the best fights. In times of peace, they are discharged and exiled, or funneled into gladiatorial combat. This is because their mere presence turns others to strife and violence. Around them, heads become hotter, and the cooling effects of rationality are noticeably reduced. Once the battle is joined, the taste of iron lounges heavy on your tongue. In the tangle of combat, cowardice is worse than death, and to see an enemy’s blood on your sword becomes the sweetest pleasure.

The effect extends beyond men, however. Where they concentrate, nature itself becomes violent. Stag gouge each other with antlers, while wolves tear them apart, leaving the meat on their bones for vulture. The wind howls at the forests, blowing down lone trees, and carrying away buildings. The sea slams the shores with fury, and sailors are confined to starting fights in the waterside pubs for want of navigable seas. Once there was king, more wealthy than foolish, who commissioned an entire army of hemanthra, ten thousand strong. However, his kingdom was at peace, and so to hold them, he hollowed out a mountain, placed them in stone alcoves, and pumped up water to fill the entire vacuity. This, he assured all, would prevent their escape till such a time as the need was great. The mountain and its surrounding areas have been uninhabitable since, for the calamitous, near daily earthquakes that assail the region. The very earth there claws at the vault like a sore on its face, to release the pus and blood held within.

Hemanthrons on the battlefield are a terror. They whirl around with little regard for their safety, bleeding from a thousand wounds, rust red painted sanguine, hacking down foes in rows before them. This is where they get their name – they can bleed as much as ten men, and remain standing. In fact, they tend to bleed constantly, unless they are conscientious about binding the gaps in their iron skin.

Corrupted Footmen by Lazare Viennot

They also never stop growing, with some centuries-old specimens reaching the height of a dozen men. Their external growth is matched by internal mutation; autopsies of those felled (no mean feat, by the way) revealed extra hearts and lungs. If a new hemanthron is a terror, an elder is wonder, warping the entire field of battle with swing of their great weapons.

Let it never be said that they are mindless killers, outside their legendary war rages. Their proclivity to violence is not an instinct such as breathing; it’s more akin to a bird’s need to migrate. In the course of their long, sleepless lives, they often come to know a great deal about generalship, geography, history, and sometimes other subjects such as astronomy, poetry, or physics. Many of the most effective warrior-kings were tutored by them.

They tend to be dour, contemplative lots, despising the violence they can’t help but bring into the world. In a time not so distant, the seekers of violence became instigators (for kings war more easily when there are willing warriors about), and plunged much of the world into interminable conflict. Knowledge of this history marks the current crop of hemanthra with a deep shame and self-disgust. They see constant combat as a form of suicide, to bring themselves to peace at last. This has the benefit of not forcing them to change their behavior, which the nature of their curse precludes.

Some manage to eschew fatal combat, and instead seek to train a warrior capable of killing them. This is better than the alternative, but not by much. The training regimen is itself usually fatal for all but the fittest, or, as some posit, most insane humans. Then, the trainee must successfully kill their master, who is constitutionally incapable of surrender or holding back, if death is on the line. Fear any warrior who completes this training.

Hyperanims

A spiritual disease, the wild, transforming outflow of the soul. Many have long thought them to be the psychical counterpart to the changelings. The hyperanims mind extends to those around them, taking over and driving the victim’s personalities and consciousness before them.

The first symptoms for the cursed is olfactory. They will smell things with no apparent source. This is them taking over the perceptions of others. Soon hearing follows, then touch, and taste. Finally comes sight – frequently, they will first see themselves through someone else’s (an afflicted’) eyes. Then, long and vivid daydreams follow – in truth, they again are experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes, though at a distance. Most distressingly, the cursed can sometimes see out of their own body and others at the same time. At this last sense, the curse has progressed beyond the point of control or cure. The afflicted are no longer conscious for their lapses in sensitude, control of their bodies falling to the cursed, and the true destruction of their psyche is well underway. Frequently, the cursed has gone quite mad at this stage, tormented always by visions and sensations that have little warning and no apparent source.

Every perception that the cursed experiences is one the afflicted does not, and so their only notion is sudden loss of the non-sight senses, followed in the final stage by periods of lost consciousness. At this time, a feeling of being watched, paranoia, and dementia like symptoms likewise manifest. From the terminal stage of the disease, the curse will destroy anyone in close proximity within a month. Towards the end the afflicted and cursed both also begin to rot, even while alive.

Once the curse reaches this stage, those newly exposed begin to experience the worst symptoms after only days or hours. Execution or sequestration are the only options at this stage. The early buildup of the curse can be slowed by tinctures of Rowan, ground trilobite shells, zinc, and the ever efficacious lead. Cures are rumored but unverified, and drift well into the realm of quackery, suggesting such nonsense as fresh mountain air, quicksilver, and beating with oak sticks. Enchanters have invented several spells to shield those around the cursed, or otherwise constrain its course.

As mentioned, the terminal stage of the curse is usually fatal, but in some cases, the cursed survives the initial flood of insanity and gains some semblance of control over their curse. While those around them will still inevitably fade and rot, the cursed will no longer be forced to experience their senses unless they wish it. From this functional starting point, they can harness their curse in new and horrifying ways. Frequently they can sense humans over great distances, and can now complete the destruction and possession of another human in a mere day, if they are captured. Most horrible of all is their ability to use multiple bodies at once in furtherance of the murder they inevitably commit to secure a fresh supply of bodies. Some hyperanims are villains of legend, either pursuing their own orgiastic pleasures, funded by bandit-cults, or serving some darker purpose or master.

Frustrations by Marissa Rivera

It should be noted that owing to the decay sometimes seen in the bodies of hyperanim, many believe them a form of undead. This is untrue – their bodies are yet living and are simply abandoned when too far rotten to function. The typical ‘curatives’ prescribed by undead hunters are only effective if they have similar effects on living flesh.

Fleshseed

A curse derived from bloodworks, possibly with the influence of diablerie. Because it confers a form of immortality and produces many servants, some believe it may have been meant to enrich or empower the blood workers and diabolists of old, or more likely their favored and loyal servants.

Each time the cursed is killed or wounded seriously, their body instead splits into a new, living body and a dead one. After a few hours the dead body arises under the command (of a sort) of the living. The pain of death is still acutely felt, and obviously greatly distressing to the cursed.

Medieval Zombie by Ahmad Hilmi

As for the undead* servants, they follow most commands but do so recklessly, somewhat lazily, and with sullen resentment – as much as they can express in the broken sentences that escape their lips. This combined with their hulking, bloodied appearance makes even a few incredibly annoying and oft terrifying to the fleshseed. When not given a specific task, they content themselves to tail their creator, echoing phrases they say with almost a mocking tone, or otherwise mumbling things they once said in life, or asking, begging, or demanding their own life back. They will frequently also try to touch or run their fingers over their master. They can not by any means save deception be made to remain further than a few miles from their master, and if they can not see him, they can very easily be convinced to abandon their post to seek him out. They are incorrigible in this, killing any who stand in their way, and breaking down any barriers erected between them. I’m one famous case, a fleshseed fled his distress and inhabited a lightly garrisoned castle, whereupon his servants set on with great fury and disassembled the fortifications brick by brick to reach him.

It is well advised to destroy each of the clones after no more than a year. This is because they grow increasingly intelligent and assertive, and frequently more resentful as well. One particularly articulate specimen, awaiting execution for managing to kill his master, explained their anger as envy over the master continuing on in life while they are dead.

The corpses usually also have some oracular knowledge of their surroundings, earlier events in the fleshseed’s life, and most commonly the person or thing who killed (or rather, created) them. Some fleshseeds become quite accomplished sages, particularly in the subject of diseases. They even employ their own scribes, though it takes near on three quarters of a year for the clones to gain intelligence enough for such work.

They are frequently violent with other people, but can be put to useful purposes, and for this reason the fleshseeds are “well-treated” by some of the mercenary societies in which they emerge. To be sure, the manses and honors they gain are punctuated by violent death to generate more servants, and sometimes they awake in those manses to find the garderobe and solar afilled with their own disgruntled corpses in various states of mutilation and decay.

The only known ways to kill a fleshseed is poison or complete incineration, frequently in a large oven. As such, when their final end is met, it is near universally a deeply unpleasant experience, when accounting for the inevitable botched attempts.

*the servants are undead, but their decay is slowed and tends them towards mummification, probably to extend their ‘lifetime’ as useful labor.



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