On the Ills of Greed
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The following is a translated fragment from Musings on Sin and Other Ailments of the Soul, by Kiphian Nii, detailing the different ills and corruptions that afflict the souls of sinners.

Of all the cardinal sins of man and un-man,1 Greed may be the most damaging for the soul, for although Pride and Envy often lead to discord, and Wrath entails perils of its own, none of these vices are as subtle and easily underestimated as the monstrous craving, the unquenchable thirst for more.

Like a Virru leech,2 Greed slowly sets in on the hearts of man and un-man, a black blot small and unnoticed. Drop by drop, it feeds and grows bloated, poisoning the spirit, twisting the mind, and corroding even those ideals once held most sacred.

By the time Greed's full hideousness can be perceived with the naked eye, the sinner's soul is beyond salvation, and the mind too far gone to care about such baleful fate. Thus, the sinner effectively becomes a moral carcass, a flesh and blood marionette for the dark thing that has replaced heart and mind with its corruption, a husk inhabited only by the drive to possess more and more… forever.

Greed has had many names and faces through the worlds and the ages. Midas. Jushur. Mammon. Shylock. Rothschild. Dark. All have been terrible creatures, manifestations of Greed in its purest form, born to be the bane of entire worlds.

These, however, are merely the most renown of the Greed's avatars. There are others still, manifestations much subtler and more discreet, come into reality not as fully-formed beings, but as sicknesses, deliriums of the mind and heart that only truly become tangible when it is their time to feast. These ills pertain each to a different combination of Greed and another vice, a end and a mean to achieve it. The following are four brief descriptions of these monstrous ailments, along with illustrations detailing the grotesque appearances they take on once given substance.


Phosphorus


Phosphorus is the ill of those who satisfy their Greed through falsehoods. It afflicts mostly false prophets, politicians and conmen, and all those who lie and cheat to attain wealth and power. Its presence goes unnoticed for years, maybe even decades, until it grows strong enough to start stalking its prey.

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Deceitful Prince of False Light

Considered the lowliest of the ills here enlisted, the first manifestation of Phosphorus is its mimicking of the sinner's voice, letting out short bursts of falsehoods, often damaging to the sinner's reputation and personal relationships. As it remains unseen by all except for its sufferer, there is no way for others to acknowledge its existence, thus rendering the sinner as powerless as the boy who cried wolf.

The second symptom of Phosphorus is that the sinner will become unable to make truthful statements. Every output of information, spoken or otherwise, will be a falsehood or a half-truth. This will further harm the sinner's credibility and finances, and isolate them from everyone else, preparing them for the sickness' final stage.

The third and final symptom is characterized by the sinner losing their grasp on reality. The sinner will not be able to distinguish between truth and fiction, between dream and awakening. Days and nights will blend together, and hallucinations will dominate every waking moment. At last, the sinner will no longer be certain of their own existence, and Phosphorus, made corporeal by the delusions of its victims, will feast upon the heart, brain, hands and vocal cords of its victim, finally putting them out of their misery.


Petroleum


Petroleum is the ill of those who commit the blasphemous act of destroying the environment for the sake of profit. Its sufferers include poachers, loggers, land developers and energy tycoons. It is a sickness of filth and decay, of desolation and extinction, an appropiate ill for the people responsible for forests burning and oceans drowning in waste.

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Blackened Spawn of Filth and Rot

Unlike other ills, manifestations of Petroleum are tangible from the beginning, starting with the sufferer's pores exhuding a noxious, oily substance that stains everything it touches, starting with the sinner's clothes and personal belongings. Slowly, this emission of pure Greed begins oozing in increasingly larger quantities, trailing behind the afflicted person, tainting the very ground beneath their feet, sometimes even causing nearby flora to wither and die.

Eventually, the sinner exhudes so much noxious fluid that they become unable to properly function. Their body becomes grotesquely bloated, their pores incapable of properly expelling such great quantities of filth. They become bedridden, fused to their sheets, writhing in desperation until, after days of agony, the avatar of Petroleum bursts forth from their abdominal cavity and, like a monstrous parasite, sucks out what little life is left on its victim's wretched body before becoming one with its own filth.

The nature of Petroleum's emissions has been debated in many scientific and theological circles. Analysis indicate that it is very similar to the ichors that course through many of the creatures that serve the Robber Barons, which has led some scholars to theorize a connection. Nevertheless, since the Barons are driven not by Greed, but by a blind instinct to industrialize and manufacture, said theories rarely gain any traction.


Onosmodium


Onosmodium is the sickness that preys upon the souls of those who gain their riches from the toils of slavery. Although it might be tempting to assume that only slavers and slave owners are afflicted by this ill, Onosmodium has the curious characteristic of being dangerous to even those who do not directly profit from forced labor. Akin to a contagious disease, its effects spread quickly through the sinner's contacts and acquaintances, beginning with those people closest to the victim.

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Scarred Lament of Chain and Scourge

The first symptom of Onosmodium does not present itself in the sinner, but in their family or friends, those to whom they are most attached. These poor souls begin to exhibit a strange dependency towards the sinner. At first, it seems inconspicuous, merely manifesting as a difficulty in making some choices. However, this symptom quickly degenerates into an unnatural need for command, an inability to make even the smallest decisions without being ordered to. The victims soon lose all autonomy, requiring the sinner to dictate their every move.

As the sickness progresses, the sinner will lose control over their own actions, this symptom first manifesting as a debilitation of short-term memory and the inability to make important choices. The condition progresses, worsening into mental gaps and, eventually, blackouts. During these blackouts, the sinner's body operates autonomously, absent-mindedly, as the long, black tentacles of Onosmodium wrap around the the sufferer's mind and soul. Little by little, the mind becomes extinguished under the oppressive shadow of the illness, and the sinner becomes little more than an empty shell puppetted by Onosmodium, their body also giving in to corruption.

The sufferer's friends and family, similarly drained of thought and will, are turned into mere extensions of the sickness' designs, appendages to the monstrous tentacled entity that dwells within the former slaver's head. Eventually, after years of using its victims to feast and grow its reach, the sufferer's body becomes deteriorated beyond repair, and the avatar of slaver's Greed emerges from the victim's mouth, its hoarse, dreary voice commanding all to stop breathing. In truth, both the slaver and their acquaintances become slaves to Onosmodium, a baleful, ironic fate for those who, in their avarice, robbed others of their freedom.


Aconitum


Of all the ills here enlisted, Aconitum is the worst of all, and appropiately so: it is a sickness that afflicts only those who, in their unquenchable Greed, bathe themselves in the blood of strife and slaughter. Aconitum is, thus, the ill of conquerors and war profiteers, of arms dealers and mercenaries, of all and any who fill their pockets with blood money.

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Stalking Shade of Life Extinguished

Aconitum first presents itself as a series of visions and hallucinations that slowly eat at the sinner's psyche. The sufferer will hear voices, cries of agony and mournful lamentations. As the sickness progresses, visions of blood dripping from walls and emerging from under doors will become common, and nightmares involving conflict, genocide and war will overtake the sinner's slumber.

In similar fashion to Petroleum, the sinner's hands will begin exhuding a substance resembling blood, the amount and freshness of it directly proportional to how many lives have been claimed in the sufferer's pursuit of wealth. Inevitably, this substance stains whatever money or valuables the sinner possesses, and leads to Aconitum's next stage.

While the sinner grows restless, haunted by baleful visions of violence, those who have had direct contact with them, their money or their property, will start attempting to harm the victim, aiming to rob them of their possessions, regardless of value. At first, these actions be limited to threats and harassment, merely trying to bully the sinner into giving away their possessions.

However, after a few days, the violence degenerates into physical assault, attempts to damage or invade the victim's home or place of business, and even harming or kidnapping their loved ones. All these acts of violence are driven by a blind desire to acquire whatever wealth the sinner has accumulated, and resistance leads to nothing more but an increase in the intensity and cruelty of the acts performed against the sufferer and their property.

The final stage of Aconitum presents itself in a most gruesome way. After being ceaselessly assaulted, robbed and tormented, the sinner will be hunted down by a mob, beaten and torn apart by a multitude of people who wish to own not only the sinner's property, but their body, their blood, their very essence. From the sufferer's mutilated remains then arises the avatar of Aconitum who, with the clacking of its skeletal visage and the shrill murmur of its beak, leads the murderers into an orgiastic feast, consummating their Greed in the act of eating the mangled flesh, becoming one with the sinner who once too spilt blood for profit.

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