Well, that's not supposed to be there.In Araea, mutations are a fact of life - physical abnormalities that range from disfiguring to deadly. Mutations spring from a number of sources, from industrial pollution and twisted magic to Blight and Far Deep dangers, to unfortunate circumstance. There is any number of things that can turn people into new and bizarre shapes. Mutations are common enough that most know someone suffering from at least one. Humanity has learned to live with these deformities as just another aspect of a hard life.
Scholars divide mutations come in four grades, based on their severity: minor, deformity, aberrations, and abominations. Within these terms, there's a wide range of potential interpretations, and they change from place to place. While minor mutations are considered nothing remarkable, those suffering abominations might barely remain human.
Minor MutationsThough unseemly, painful, and inconvenient, minor mutations are never dangerous or even disfiguring. They are especially among the poor, where are often just seen as the mark of hard work in dangerous places. It is the most commonly encountered form of mutation, so much that some doctors make their living from removing these inconveniences.
DeformityDeformities differ from minor mutations primarily in their disfiguring nature. Although most deformities are not a threat to the mutated's health, they are usually ugly and extensive in scale compared to minor mutations. While many minor mutations can be concealed, it is not so easy with deformities. Some deformities can be a hindrance, though those blur the line between deformity and aberration. With medical science being what it is, telling exactly when a deformity is harmless or not is partially guesswork.
AberrationsMutations that are dangerous or debilitating beyond being only disfiguring are called aberrations. Limbs twisted to useless shapes or bodies bloated by cancerous tumors to the point of immobility are both possible aberrations. Few who suffer them can fully function, and even fewer live to see old age. At this point, many of the mutations are not only life-threatening but often strange.
AbominationsAbomination is a catch-all category for everything too strange for the other classifications; flesh turned to stone or bone, mushroom-like growths across the arms and back, sudden and inexplicable bioluminescence. No matter what shape the abomination, they set the mutant apart from the rest of humanity. Unlike the other categories of mutations, these never have mundane causes.
Mutant With familiarity comes a certain degree of understanding. The term "mutant" is sometimes used by medical experts to refer to particularly unfortunate individuals that have been warped far beyond the norm. Outside these scholarly circles, it isn't generally used. Mutations are something that is acquired, like a cold or a bad rash.
Mutations have many ways into the human body. These are the most common and well-understood by the people of Araea. Blight - the invisible venom of the Surface world is the cause for the plague of mutations among the Exiled. Explorers to the Surface know to limit their stay there and avoid the blight-tainted storms, least they suffer the same fate. Pollutants - too many workers find themselves handling dangerous industrial alchemical compounds, or wading hip-deep a mix of mushroom, fungi filled with hazardous toxins, often with minimal protection. Some mutations are so frequently associated with certain types of work that they are named by them, such as farmer's fungi-foot. Pollution is a convenient scapegoat for doctors if no other source seems apparent. Poison, either in the air, food, or work, is one of the most common culprits attributed to mutation. Birth - some mutations run deep in the blood of those who carry them, growing into new and terrible shapes with each generation. It is most notable among the Exiled, where entire tribes degenerate from their time beneath the sun. Mutations from other sources are sometimes passed from parents to child. Some become so entrenched that families trace their lineage through a shared mutation. Thaumaturgy - power has its price. Thaumaturgs possess the power to twist reality and are changed in turn. By channeling the power of spirits through their own flesh, thaumaturgs invite corruption. Thaumaturgical mutations are shaped by what sort of magic the thaumaturge wields, slowly growing worse as the thaumaturges use their power more and more. Thaumaturgy causes mutations that are, no matter their classification, strange and striking. Thaumaturgy... As a victim - some Thaumaturgs sculpt flesh like others sculpt clay. Some of these thaumaturgs go further and become Mutatiomancers, specializing in mutations. Such Thaumaturgs wrack their enemies with terrible, debilitating mutations or reshape their own bodies into more useful shapes. "Others" - Araea is a world of many mysteries. Everything from the reality-rending visits of the Q'x to strange primordial things in the Far Deep can cause the human body to change. There are mushrooms that seed flesh with spores to render it pliable, and beasts whose blood causes horrible change in those who drink it.
Not all fear mutation. Some seek it out, seeing the human form as weak and feeble. They believe that only by becoming something different, something more than human, can they hope to survive the hostile world. Most infamous among these are the Cult of Zhotori, whose quest for mutations has spawned some of the worse horrors ever seen in Dhanû.
A Medical View
The Atma on MutationsThe Atma believe that mutations are a manifestation of extreme internal imbalance, either as a sudden event or over a long time of exposure. The Atma Medikari try their best to assign mutations one or two traits that they embody; tumors being wet, an extra finger being warm, in the same way as they classify all disease. It doesn't always make sense, but that doesn't stop them from trying. The Medikari advises that the best way to prevent mutations is to avoid imbalance. As cures or antidotes, they recommend diet and careful environmental immersions - staying wet if their mutation is "dry". Read more about Atma - the Science of the Balanced Body
The Deva on MutationThe Deva theorizes that mutations are brought on when external elements infiltrate the body and grow inside of it. They are unnatural invasions of the human body, akin to parasites or infections - living things, not mere alterations. As living things, the Deva believe that mutations can be slain, either with surgery, venom, or more esoteric (and typically ineffective) methods. As the premier surgeons of Araea, they are willing to deal with mutations aggressively, believing them to have a cure just like any venom or illness. They have grown skilled at amputation and reconstructive surgery for minor or deforming mutations.
Read more about Deva - the Art of Healing
The Exiled No one is as plagued mutations as the Exiled. Forced to spend generations on the Surface, living in Blight and under malignant stars, the Exiled often showcase an impressive array of mutations. The longer an Exiled tribe has spent on the surface, the worse their mutations become. There are not many elders among the Exiled.
Medicine in Araea There are two dominant theories of medicine in Araea: the Atma and the Deva. The Atma believe that all illness comes from within, born of imbalance and can be cured by correcting that, while the Deva view the body as an intricate machine of flesh, blood, bile, and bone. With life or death on the line, the contest between the two schools is a festering wound that rarely benefits the patients.
Example Mutation: Minor Growing (or losing) a finger is a common example of a minor example. If the sufferer it lucky, it will be on her hand. Many chose to amputate the offending aberration, but those too poor to afford proper treatment risk infecting the wound and so many simply chose to live with it.
Example Mutation: Deformity Persistent and ugly skin-rashes and tumor-like growths can be an example of a deformity mutation. While not yet life-threatening, they set the mutated apart from others.
Cures and TreatmentsMinor mutations and sometimes deformities can be treated, but such treatment take the form of surgery that cuts away tainted flesh and hope it will regrow healthy. For aberration and abomination mutations, the best a mutated can hope for is the false hope of some snake oil. Theurgs, on the other hand, can offer things no surgeon can.
Example Mutation: Aberration The left eye can no longer see, as the tumors that cover the mutated's face have grown bulbous and swollen enough to cover it. They bleed often and reek of decay - the result of extended immersion in Blight.
Example Mutation: Abominable This patient returned from the Far Deep, gibbering of things too terrible to recount. His arms have grown hard chitinous scales, which he insists are growing to cover more of his skin. The nails have elongated and become hard claws.