If the Darkness had an influence only over the human heart, a Noble’s mission would be - well, not easy, but certainly far less dangerous. The Hopeful may be the representatives of the Light on Earth, but the Darkness has servants of its own, humans and beasts corrupted into dreadful monsters; and patches of land rotted out from below when human sins let the Darkness infect them. There are even people who worship the Darkness - who make sacrifices to it in hopes of gaining power, or who preach life-denying creeds to the gullible to spur them to self-destruction.
Taint and the Dark WorldEdit
The Darkness comes to every place where one person makes another suffer, and where people sink into despair. At sites of enormous cruelty - where depraved scientists performed dreadful experiments on human subjects; where kidnapped girls were sold into sexual slavery; where hardened killers waited to ambush their victims - the call of pain and fear brings it in crashing like a wave of foul water. Lesser evils, if constantly repeated - offices whose managers wield their authority to reduce everyone to quivering bootlickers; streets haunted by muggers who strip passersby of valuables; houses of drunkards and addicts who think of nothing past the next fix; quiet suburbs full of backbiters, talebearers and petty rivalries - let it drift in and build up slowly, like thickening smog.
Quickly or slowly, once the Darkness has its grip on an area, it pulls the virtue out of it. It’s just so much easier to slip into habits of cruelty when hope seems far away, when the light in the air is flat and dirty, when everyone seems so coldly indifferent. The Darkness ensures that those who walk where it has touched are blighted and overshadowed; it sows temptations in their path, and tightens its hold if they yield. And as its corruption grows, a Dark World, a ruined mockery of the Earth frozen under a flickering ember where the Sun ought to shine, grows a little warmer as the Darkness brings it the stolen virtue, and the monsters stir and hunger.
Monsters of the DarkEdit
When a place sinks within the Darkness, people soon come to avoid it, if they can. Even if the foul acts that summoned it have for the moment ceased, the presence of the Dark World’s Taint unsettles the soul. But it isn’t always possible to stay away from a Tainted area. Those who go there, particularly those who remain there, may well grow accustomed to it - especially if they harbor a wish to do themselves the things that brought the Darkness there. These are the Darkened: they have caught a spiritual sickness, the Darkness grows within their hearts.
The infection of the Darkness can be cured, but if it isn't the patient will surely die, either in the body or in the soul. A dying body will rise again to serve the Darkness as a bestial monster: one of the Darkspawn. For the Darkspawn the Earth we know is a hunting ground, but the only true home is the Dark World; billions of them rest there, frozen until stolen life and joy drips onto them from the world above. A dying soul turns what’s left into a moral monster, a Mnemosyne: a being still human in appearance, but lacking a conscience, who possesses a keen but mad intelligence and takes joy in inflicting pain.
But the worst monsters that walk the Earth in the Darkness’ service are the Cataphractoi, and they rise not from cruelty, but self-destruction. When a man or woman can no longer bear the weight of living, when they slit open their veins or take poison or jump from a great height, their despair may let the Darkness claim what’s left of them and raise a Cataphract, a captain in its armies. These dreadful beings are the chief enemies of the Hopeful, for they have not only power in themselves that rivals a Noble’s, but an influence over lesser monsters as well.
Rarest and most potent of all are the Dethroned, former Nobility who despaired of their calling, abandoned the Light and fled to the Dark World’s shelter. Fortunately, none of them can break their self-imposed exile; the Dethroned are bound within the Dark World, and can go only where the Darkness has spread its Taint. But they are idols for every Dark creature that cross their path, and where they go Tainted places boil with their corrupted worshipers.
Assaults from creatures of Darkness tend to be blatant - any Noble will know what to do when a Darkspawn stalks the streets. More insidious opponents are the cults who bow down to the Darkness and entice people to enter Tainted areas or participate in depraved rites, with destructive doctrines or offers of occult power. Mnemosyne are often expert at founding or spreading these anti-human religions, and at supplying innocuous disguises for them: self-esteem counselors, purveyors of "exotic pleasures", even activists for odd causes, might all be fronts for a Dark cult. And some people don’t need a Mnemosyne to find ways to call the Darkness and offer it their service. There are hints of a power of corruption in books on the occult, and in this age many of those books have been electronically scanned and posted on the Internet where any fool can study them.