Shadow Sickness

The Black Death

The dungeon was dry as death and Runeig found it hard even to breathe. She had regretted her participation in this expedition several times over since they passed through the gateway into the Shadow Realm, but never had she regretted anything more than she did now.

The dungeon was just a single corridor, lined with iron bars with doors leading into six cells. There were bodies in them. Three, maybe four or five in each cell. Some frozen in some twisted, horrific shape as if they'd died convulsing. Each body was pale as death itself and their faces contorted in grimaces of fear and torment. From their eyes, mouths and noses were thick, black lines, as if black tears had flowed down their faces. Runeig gasped and gagged, struggling to prevent herself from vomiting.

"By the goddess!" she exclaimed, incapable of holding back her horror. "What has happened to these poor souls?"

Dr Ergyn, the expedition leader, gave her a cold stare.

"This is what happens to anyone who stays here for too long. That itch you feel in the back of the throat? That feeling of sand in your lungs as you breathe? That's only the beginning." he said with a small chuckle that turned into a cough. He adjusted the stained mask that protected his mouth.

Suddenly there was movement in the corner of Runeig's eye. A scream rang out, hoarse and terrible, lacking any resemblance of a Kykr voice. A vindral woman threw herself at the bars and from her lips came a plea:

"Lu' ghus dah ghoj'tah!"

The vindral was beset by a terrible hacking croup before falling to the ground and exhaling that characteristical breath of one who has taken their last gasp of air.

"Let me die with honor." Dr Ergyn commented.

"Excuse me?" Runeig was still in shock. She had backed into the bars on the opposite side of the corridor, and her hand was covering her mouth in shock.

"That's what she said. It was Qaj. These people must have come from Morvátu. He was utterly unmoved by the scene before them.

— A Kfandrian expedition into the Shadow Realm encounter the corrupted.

Transmission & Vectors

Shadow sickness is, as far as can be examined, not contagious and is more of a toxic reaction to the hostile nature of the Shadow Realm. Once removed from the atmosphere of the realm, most afflicted will recover, unless exposed for too long.


The sickness affects anyone entering the shadow realm directly and breathing the air in it. Over time the sickness will grow stronger and stronger until the afflicted begins feeling the symptoms of it. If continually exposed to it, the afflicted will die. There are no known survivors of prolonged exposure to the shadow realm.


It would appear that within moments of exposure, the subject is affected by labored breath and a watering of the eyes. Within hours, a black, tar- or syrup-like substance is produced from the mucus membranes of the subject and usually accompanied by heavier labored breathing as well as coughing, where this black substance is expelled as both droplets and globs. Within about a day of exposure, the subject is too weak to move and will spend its final moments vomiting black goo as well as expelling said goo from the nose and eyes. The subject eventually expires due to suffocation.

— Doctor Ergyn, Kfandrian scholar

Symptoms vary greatly with individuals and length of exposure, but common symptoms are

  • Labored breathing
  • Black, viscous liquid being coughed up
  • Watering eyes
  • With time, tears will blacken and thicken
  • Very progressed cases exude a black, thick liquid from the eyes, nose and the mucus membranes of the throat.

Over time, the symptoms will grow more severe and eventually the person will hardly be able to breathe, instead coughing up blood mixed with this black, viscous liquid. Someone who has died of shadow sickness will display pale, almost white skin and dried up, dark liquid run from the eyes and nose. Most of the time, this black substance will be found around the mouth as well, due to coughing and vomiting. Eventually everyone will die from suffocation, being drowned in blackened blood, vomit and that black substance.


There are no known treatments to severe shadow sickness, albeit the symptoms can be entirely reversed by simply taking the afflicted out of the shadow realm.

There is also a plant found in the Shadow Realm, called an Echin, that can be mixed into a potion (Echinsalve) that is said to have an effect on shadow sickness.


Prolonged exposure to shadow is always fatal. No one is known to have ever survived it. However, if the exposure is brief and limited to only a few hours, most people will recover without ill effects.

In addition if inoculated with Echinsalve prior to exposure, the subject stands a much better chance of survival.


None, normally. There are cases where people have been subjected to horrifying and dark nightmares after recovery, but those cases are rare.

Affected Groups

As far as is known, Shadow Sickness affects anyone and anything from Dunia if exposed to the shadow realm. Some individuals seem to have higher resistance to it than others, but if left in the Shade for too long everyone will inevitably succumb to it.


Shadow Sickness cannot be prevented by a creature from the natural realm in any other way than carrying a light crystal artifact, that seems to repel the shadow realm's damaging atmosphere or whatever is causing the sickness.

Consuming a potion known as Echinsalve can and will prevent the onset of shadow sickness for several hours.

In emergencies one can also take refuge near naturally growing Echins, as the plant appears to repel the toxic atmosphere in a small radius around it.

Affected Species

Game related



Incubation: 1 hour
Potency: 1 per hour of exposure
Decay: 3 days (must not be exposed to additional Shade)
Scratch: Laboured breathing, slight dizziness.
Light Injury: Breathing is difficult. Spots of black liquid is coughed up. Dizziness is enough to disrupt complex tasks.
Serious Injury: Breathing is raspy and comes in short, sharp breaths. A serious cough takes hold. Black liquid forms on any mucus membrane, giving a black, viscous leakage from the eyes, nose and mouth. Vertigo causes nausea and dizziness. Shadow becomes 1 step worse (-1). If you do not possess the trait, add it to your character.
Fatal injury: The state of the character rapidly degenerates as the toxic effects of Shade take hold. Within an hour, the coughing is so extreme that it completely incapacitates the subject. The goo that is coughed up mixes with blood within four hours. The character dies of suffocation from the black goo within 6 to 10 hours.

Shade causes Shade Corruption which can cause Shadow Sickness with increased exposure. The atmosphere of the Shadow Realm is thick with Shade and cause 1 exposure per hour. Using shadow magic will also cause Shade corruption to increase.

Related Reading

Species | Feb 26, 2020

An unremarkable yellow plant that grows near bodies of water in the Shadow Realm.

Item | Jan 14, 2021

The processed sap of the echinplant, this potion grants resistance to the harmful effects of Shade.


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25 Mar, 2020 15:56

I knew it. I KNEW I was sick....   No, I haven't found any black liquid or goo yet, but I did cough hard enough to crack my own ribs!   Have to make sure I tell my doctor that they should check for Shadow Sickness!!!   Brilliant article and lovely formatting, bro. Love it.

Your New Author Friend =)
My World
25 Mar, 2020 16:03

Thank you! Yeah, I'd recommend not spending too long a time in the Shadow Realm. Thankfully, it's bloody difficult to get there. :)

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
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