A Crown of Frost
The Taint and The Touched
“We rode on the winds of the rising storm, We ran to the sounds of the thunder. We danced among the lightning bolts, and tore the world asunder.”
It is said that when the gift of magic touches and taints a living being, the world trembles on its foundations to think of what might be wrought. And with good cause, as history is quick to teach.
The Touched are those who have been marked by the Old Gods with the Taint, an effect that allows them to pass freely into the Beyond and back. Their gift stems from their will and mind, allowing them to create or destroy with a thought in the world of men just as a dreamer might in their own dreams. But this gift is more of a curse than anything else. The Taint manifests itself when the mage is young, sometimes in childhood and sometimes in youth. They are most sensitive when they sleep, and many a dreaming young Touched has accidentally brought the monsters of their constant nightmares across into the world.
The Touched never live in the same world as those around them, often driven mad by the incessant whispering of voices in their ears and the horrors that live in the Beyond. Others simply cannot relate to the real world, as they find it and all its trappings to be mere shadows of the perfect forms they come to know. Food becomes ashes in their mouth, warmth fades and chills leave them unaffected. Basic things like the feel of soft cotton or the smell of a rose in summer no longer have the power to move them or even be noticed. Another’s touch quickly fails to stir any real feeling of connection. Sometimes, a mage might even accidentally pull an entire area of the real world into the Beyond or vice versa. Entire towns have been found eerily devoid of people as part of this phenomena.
Mages rarely live to any advanced age, with those who are not put to death by the Church as soon as they are found generally retreating into the City of Winter, never to be seen again. Others who have tried to make a life away from the demons generally die from their own hand.
The accidental discharges of magic and havoc wreaked by an unwary mage is nothing compared to one who has gone rogue and allowed a spirit, perhaps even one of the Fragments into their body. Sometimes, a mage might even accidentally pull an entire area of the real world into the Beyond or vice versa. Entire towns have been found eerily devoid of people as part of this phenomena. Entire continents have been reshaped and civilizations utterly destroyed by “ridden” mages, as what happened at the end of the Witch King’s reign proved.
Were it not for the demons, this would be the constant state of affairs. Those in powerful positions who know of the destructive potential of magic but misunderstand its nature often attempt to acquire mages to do their bidding. Demons do not take kindly to this and tend to intervene in a rather…inelegant fashion.