[Magical disease from a cursed land] Echo Fever and the Returners

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Creation's cultures have plentiful, varied rites to honor the dead. This is in no small part born of necessity, for the currents of Lethe don't always sweep every soul back into the wheel of reincarnation.

And there are rare few deaths that demand proper rites and appeasement as unjust, violent and cruel deaths.

It is known that Shadowlands appear in places of great massacres, but that is not the only peril of wanton carnage. Smaller scale violence, prolonged over the years but insufficient to tear the land asunder, sometimes bridges the mournful dead with the unknowing living.


First stage (minor)

The disease is slow to infect, and easy to resist. The rare few infected slowly start to lose sleep, tossing about restlessly over dreams they can't ever remember.
As it progresses the dreams become more intense, and the infected starts to find herself rudely awakened by her own impetuous leap, grasping tightly a knife, needle, haircomb or whatever best passes for a weapon where she sleeps.

Second stage (major)
As Echo Fever advances to its second stage, the restless sleep ends. The infected rests easily again, although she can't quite explain why she often wakes up fully dressed. 
She does not ponder much on it, and does not react well to the topic being brought up. Walking about while sleeping? nonsense.

It is at this stage that people already prone to violence or hasty action and people considerably stronger than their neighbors finally catch and murder their first victim. Most wake up the next day with blood on their hands...and some don't find anything strange in that. At least they had pleasant dreams last night.

Last stage (defining)
As Echo Fever dominates the person, her personality changes while awake. She often says things she couldn't have known, instinctively keeps her weapons sharp and becomes prone to violent reactions to the slightest misgivings.

At this stage every single infected is trying their best to kill people while asleep, and even while awake if they are provoked, contested or just tired from a long day. 

If Echo Fever progresses further, the infected is lost forever, her personality is completely subsumed by the memories that haunt her dreams without her awareness.

Disease mechanics
Virulence 1, Morbidity 3, interval 2 weeks.
Echo Fever may be resisted with Integrity instead of Resistance.

Vector: Places of death. These can be shadowlands, but any place with a "bad aura" will do, such as a battlefield-turned-grave or a constabulary office under an ill omen after years of bloody history. Anything that might bring the place close to the taint of death may carry Echo Fever.
Merely being present in these places is enough, but the afflicted are not contagious.

Minor: The infected doesn't always regain willpower from sleep. Every night the player chooses to forfeit the wp or suffer a -2 penalty to one roll the next day. 
Characters with low temporary willpower may find themselves sleepwalking to fetch suitable weapons.

Major: The penalty now increases to -3, and applies to two rolls the next day. Characters with low temporary willpower, in their sleep, start to scope out suitable victims for their crimes. If they succeed they sleep well that night, suffering no penalties.

Defining: The penalty now increases to -4, and applies to three rolls the next day. Characters with low temporary willpower, in their sleep, will act out their crimes, attacking people in the night and always performing vicious violence upon them. If they succeed they sleep well that night, suffering no penalties.

Past defining, instead of dying, the character loses all remnants of its previous personality and exist solely to act out these crimes.
(Reminder: Exalts do not die from most diseases, and this is no exception)

Echo Fever's Crimes

The violence carried out by the infected is deliberate, and often carefully planned. It is never random if they have choice over the matter: They act out very specific crimes that occurred in the past.

A village that went through a cruel wyld hunt will start to find people beaten out of their houses and put to hang in the central square.
A town that was attacked by a demonic cult will find people ritually killed on altars reminiscent, if not precise, of those cultist's botched summoning.
A city terrorized by a serial killer will start to find people with the same profile as the previous victims killed in the same fashion as before.
A town raided by conquerors from distant lands will find people lined up before the wall and cut down, with mocking graffiti painted before them in a foreign language.


A ghost that lingers for too long in such tainted places, especially those of victims of these atrocities, are subject to become Returners. 
These apparitions lose themselves in the suffering of the land, and as they lash out against these villains they start to seek to reproduce their crimes instead of stopping them.

Returners often wander away from this place, seeking to spread their madness to those around them, but they always return to their "homes" at Dawn.
The worse these places' history is, the more ghosts risk becoming Returners.

Obscurity: a scholar with a background in ghosts, places of death, curses, bloody history  and the like may identify a Returner for what it is with a difficulty 4 Lore roll, including its prodigious capacity to infect people around it when it is cut down. Occult can be used to identify its powers and nature as they are used or directly presented to the character as well.

Essence 3 (60 motes), Willpower 5
Health Track: 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 -3 I

Resolve 4
Guile 1
Appearance 3 (Horrendous)


Reproduce the Form in which they died (Defining principle)

--Other intimacies specific to their deaths and past lives--

General Actions
Senses 5
Stalk and persecute people, plan crimes 6
Reenact the way in which they died 7
Possession 7

Combat traits
Join Battle 6
Movement 5

Ghostblade (10 dice, damage 12/2, Close range. Lethal, Balanced)

Evasion 2
Parry 4
Soak 8 Hardness 0

Merits and special abilities

Spiteful Revenant
Returners despise the way they were killed, and rarely understand they are the perpetrators this time. Every attempt to stop it from committing atrocities or to degrade their Principle count as Overturning Influence (+3 Resolve).
Returners may possess anyone with a Possession roll against their Resolve. If they are infected with Echo Fever, it counts as an intimacy of same intensity to downgrade their Resolve.
Possession can be expelled by any ghost exorcism. Attacks that hit immaterial targets harm it alongside the possessed for free.


Principle of Motion (10m 1wp, Reflexive, Instant, Essence 2)
The Returner may flurry two actions without any restriction nor penalty.

Anguished Remembrance (5m, Reflexive, Instant, Essence 3)
Usable once per scene on any mortal, and once whenever the Returner suffers a Decisive Attack.
The Returner rolls Possession against the Resolve of a mortal of its choice (in the first form) or against the Resolve of all mortals out to Short Range (when suffering a decisive attack).
Targets whose resolve is beaten by this roll are subjected to Echo Fever, with +2 Virulence (usually 3).

Musings on Echo Fever and Returners
The ghost itself and the disease are not particularly dangerous to most player characters, but an outbreak of Echo Fever is a grim reminder of the worst humanity has offered to Creation. Due to the slow progression of the disease and the strange nature of its symptoms it's a good source of mystery to build a puzzle, and thoughtlessly hacking down the ghost may bring the players a lot of trouble if they do not help the witnesses to find treatment. 

Be it from a defeated foe or from their own deeds in the past, players will be (un)pleasantly surprised when the gossip gains momentum.

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