Anguish is a conceptual bane that is constantly burdening a Sinners soul. Those who bear the Mark of the Beast know this sweet pain from the first time they awaken their EGO. Whenever a Sinner makes use of their conceptual powers, tapping into the power of their Daimon to alter the Meta Realm, the world reminds them of their inherited sin and their anguish grows. The more anguish a sinner burdens himself with, the heavier their sin weighs on them. When a soul accumulates too much anguish, this will be released in a phenomenon called the blow, or Schlag. Sinners are used to this limitation of their supernatural powers and usually learn to deal with the divine curse from a very young age. That doesn't make it any easier, though. Every Schlag damages the mind, body and soul of the affected by evoking their individual Stigma. The more burden you stowed away in your soul, the heftier the backlash. When more and more anguish is queued, the Schlag might be so excessive, that its release can cause damage to the surroundings as well.
Transmission & Vectors
Every sinner is born with a Daimon / EGO attached to their soul. A soul bound to a Daimon is cursed to accumulate anguish in the process of harnessing that supernatural power. Every sinner can and will accumulate anguish over time whenever they use their supernatural powers.
Using any kind of supernatural power to alter reality means reaching beyond the veil and drawing from the arcane power of your daimon. By tearing apart the veil and bringing change to the meta realm, the soul is automatically accumulating anguish. How much depends on the severity of the alteration that is caused; with subtle, weaker powers being less costly then earth-shattering demonstrations of raw power.
Accumulating anguish until a certain threshold is natural for any sinner, but at some point, the burden will wear them down. A sinner with high anguish levels is less likely to be able to resist temptation, especially of their inherited sin among other things. It's a feeling of existential dread and impending doom that looms over yourself and sometimes even radiated from the core of your being affecting others in the process. Your more civilized, rational ego is subdued by the daimonic EGO, slowly pushing you down the stairs of the Nine Circles again. At the bottom of each circle's hellish descent lies relief only when you repent and embrace the inevitable consequence of your actions; the schlag.
There is no treatment for anguish except accepting the Schlag. The Apex Nations have good training methods for their soldiers to subdue anguish as long as possible to not be swept off their feet by the repercussions the Schlag brings in an unforgiving moment. But they have to suffer for it all the same in the end. The Praharian magistrocracy has developed items of power, Schlag fetishes, which are artifacts that can help with holding back a Schlag as long as possible. But you will still acquire more anguish after you held back, so it's only a matter of time until you burst. Still, a Schlag fetish can save your life as any Schlag, no matter how small, will leave you in a disoriented state and might cause you to be easy prey for your opponents in battle or a political quarrel.
Courting the Red Angel is easy to learn, but hard to master. Fatalities happen, yet, most of them are circumstancial rather than direct result of the actual Schlag. Young sinners who are affected by the severity of a Schlag for the first time usually tend to become extra careful, thus limiting the amount of power they can accumulate to execute certain actions. They will, however, become more daring along the way when they become more confident, are challenged by their peers and elders and suffer the consequences of their hubris more faithfully. Sinners who grow up in a system where these elements and conditions are well known usually have mentors and all kinds of help to explain to them what is happening, but if you are on your own, then it's much more difficult to even understand what's going on and to figure out how to deal with it properly. If you accumulate too much anguish, the resulting stigma Schlag can kill you even under the best of circumstances, but it's actually very difficult to 'hold it in' and build up so much anguish until release. So the risk of dying young from accumulated anguish is rather slim because you have to learn how to swallow that bitter pill to avoid release long enough to get to that level. Older sinners however, are more likely to succumbing to their hubris and over-achieve, then fall very deep. Sometimes, they even chose to go out that way - with a monumental bang. The true mastery of course is to find that sweet spot between overburden and under-challenge; a feat that needs a lot of experience and training and a lot of failing in-between. Eventually they all come around, though, as it's in a sinner's nature to strive and also fall.
Over time, a sinner accumulates more power and becomes more used to building up anguish which is the currency to execute more powerful spells and exorcisms. While this is normal, and some sinners strive and live for over a century with this condition, it's also true and unavoidable that every Schlag damages mind, body and soul. Sometimes, this damage is permanent and while sinners usually have great regenerative powers and can recover from any illness much more easily than Lambs, they are naked and alone when facing the punishment for their sin. How exactly the sinner in question is affected long-term is dependent on the individual, but each execution of a powerful Schlag will very likely cause physical, mental or psychological trauma in one way or another. The damage done, depends on the Stigma of the person in question. There are five known Stigmata:
- The Passion
The sinner's curse cannot be cured. You are born with it and it will stick with you forever, every reincarnation, every hour of your existence. Its stages of suffering are threefold:
- Anguish Build-up
- The 9 Circles
- The Schlag
In all cultures dominated by sinners, the Red Angel and its disciples are very relevant and substantial. As this is a curse that periodically befalls all marked ones no matter of their birthright, age, wealth or pronouns, there's different ways to deal with it culturally, but no way to actually ignore it. How a culture deals with their stigma is always a very defining feature. In the Crimson Empire everyone is expected to deal with their stigma and face it, head on. Only who is strong enough to build up massive amounts of anguish and then survive the resulting repercussions, is ever gonna follow in Samael's footsteps. At the same time this cult of power and personal advancement is religion and the temples of the patron saints offer refuge and a quiet place for those who are facing a particularly strong Schlag. Young Romans will challenge each other to anguish-building duels in the street and the first one to falter and fall over has to buy the next round and endure added insult to injury - the equivalent to adolescent rivalry duels to find out who cannot hold their liquor. The Free City State of Praha proclaims openly that some citizens are more powerful than others. Their occult ways are century-old traditions build on top of a crumbling system of magocracy, so sinners are taking center stage. Very differently from Roman antics, though, the Praharian bourgeoisie doesn't like to make an example of themselves, so how anybody takes their proverbial 'liquor' is considered private matters - and not to be discussed. The violent effects of the Schlag are frowned upon, but as it can't be helped and 'everybody got it', it's more a case of playful social avoidance of the subject matter while at the same time displaying some empathetic affection for those going through the 9 Circles again. If 'Aunt Rose is paying a visit' that's nothing to write home about but not everyone can be a 'True sailor' if you get the gist. In the Allied Nations, the Status Quo rules above all and any mentioning of the Mark is forbidden in front of Lambs. The burden of proverbial shame brought upon sinners by their condition breeds secrecy and corruption; everyone is high on the sweet allure of rising to power in secrecy and behind iron curtains, paying lip-service to superficial ideals, opium for the masses and two-faced hypocrisy. Influential Masterminds hand-pick promising prodigals to mold them in their own image, dark rituals in the shadows forging secret societies and enabling a vulture culture of paranoid and very powerful fanatics. Weakness is frowned upon for very different reasons than in the Crimson Empire, and displaying any symptoms of the curse and its sufferings publicly is probably the highest social affront. For the military and public services, there are dedicated Schlag-Chambers; cold and dark sound proof metal places where you are supposed to go by yourself, tie yourself up and do whatever is necessary while suffering in silence until you pulled yourself together and can be a shining display of discipline and order again.