This dreaded plague sprang into existence during the Great War and wiped out more than three million people before quarantine procedures and magic were able to contain it. Although historians are not sure, it is very likely that this terrible affliction was another example of biological weaponry created through dark magic for use during the war.
Only very strong magic is able to cure this disease and then usually only by one who has faced it and been infected personally. Fortunately, for those who do not have access to such magic, a non-magical cure was eventually found. The tara root, if properly purified and administered repeatedly will cure the Stiffening, but this herbal remedy is difficult to obtain and expensive.
Since it's first appearance, there have been several outbreaks of the Stiffening. The most significant outbreak was in eastern Ithria beginning in 2124 CY. It began in Ormek and swept north through the Rukemian Empire. It killed over 3 million people before it was finally overcome in 2128 CY.
This progressive disease causes the drying and hardening of the flesh. It is lethal, but progresses slowly. It is highly infectious, but only with direct physical contact.
The disease starts at the extremities (fingers, toes, genitals, ears) and spreads toward the center of the body. Skin dries and cracks. Slight loss of tactile sensation. Stage one may last for several days. Direct physical contact with the infected portions of the skin will transmit the disease.
The drying, hardening and cracking of skin becomes much more pronounced. The victim's sense of touch is severely limited in stage two. Once all skin has been infected, the disease progresses to deeper epidermal layers and causes the skin to thicken greatly. All fat in the body begins to dry out and shrink causing the victim to appear gaunt. This stage may last from one to four weeks. During this time, the skin continues to thicken and grow less elastic and more leather like. In fact, bladed weapons will have difficult cutting the skin of a person in stage two. Victim is highly resistant to pain and extremely contagious during this stage.
The disease moves on to affect deep muscle tissue and tendons. The victim has difficulty walking and speaking due to the stiffening and drying of muscle tissue. All sensation of touch is gone. In this stage, the flesh is very difficult to cut and bladed weapons will not draw blood.
The victim can no longer walk or speak and has difficulty crawling. Death often occurs in this stage due to starvation (i.e. victim is unable to obtain food) or events indirectly related to impaired condition (i.e. attacked and unable to defend). Stage four lasts about two days assuming the victim survives.
All internal organs begin to dry out, shrivel and harden. The eyes and internal ear canals dry out and the victim becomes blind and deaf. Also, the victim can no longer consume or digest food. Stage 5 usually lasts only a single day and ends in death when the lungs and heart dry out and cease to function.
This website was last updated March 31, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.