Unbound

They cannot die. They cannot live. For what mercy can one pray from a man who fears neither hell nor fate?
— Lord Gregory Rowlatt, England, 1674
 
It is one thing to outlive your fate. Those who have survived their fated death and continue to live in a limbo between the corporeal world and the ethereal one are known as delinquent, and they are greatly feared. The unbound are the ones who not only survived their death, but are removed entirely from the forces of nature.   They do not eat. They do not sleep. They do not age.   To be unbound is to be frozen in stasis. Your life cannot progress, but death will never claim you. Rumours persist that ancient unbound people still live on the outskirts of society, slipping through the ages with a change of name or location. They say there's a Roman general living in hiding in the Black Forest. They say an Egyptian pharaoh never died and now runs a coffee house in Constantinople. They say the ghostly girl sometimes seen in Château de Trécesson isn't a ghost at all, but a physical child who's persisted through the centuries. They say the prince of Wallachia hasn't aged in hundreds of years.

Causes

The exact reason people become unbound is a mystery to almost everyone. Some theories include:

  • They were cursed by a witch
  • They were so evil that hell itself wouldn't take them when they died, condemning them to remain in the world
  • They feared death so much that as they lay dying, they made a deal with the devil in exchange for eternal life (In the British Isles, this is told as making a deal with the Fair Folk)
  • They've died but remain among the living by drinking their blood
  • They were never human to begin with - they're actually demons/familiars/faeries/etc
 
The fact that most people will never see one in real life and only know of them through folklore just adds to the mystery. Those who have seen a loved one become unbound protest that becoming unbound is a curse that happens to normal, god-fearing people and they are to be pitied, but rumours about drinking blood spread better at pubs.

Symptoms

Recognizing an Unbound Soul
If one suspects that a man mayhaps be unbound, the following symptoms ought be tested.
  • Does he breathe, regularly, even when he is unaware he is observed? The unbound need not breathe.
  • Does he eat, drink, or make water? The unbound do not partake in our mortal functions.
  • Does he sleep, and is that sleep certainly not an act? The unbound do not tire.
  • Does he have his cat with him? The unbound have no soul guides (and mayhaps, no soul)
  • Does he have a thread? The unbound have outlived God's design and are not on the Tapestry.
  • Does he react when threatened with mortal harm? The unbound cannot be killed and fear no death.
    • Be warned! A cunning creature can mimic these human acts to fool the unwary. Do not rest in comfort even if he appears to sleep or eat.
      — The Ethereal Threat, by Matthew O'Shea, Ireland, 1676
Many people would be shocked to know they had met an unbound person without realizing it. Unbound people never walk with their soul guide, but in Catholic countries, this is common and would go unremarked.
Contrary to popular belief, unbound people do not appear like monsters and can pass as any other person in conversation. The only tell-tale signs when speaking to them is that they tend to seem very tired and weary. It would take prolonged observation to note that a newcomer in town never sleeps, eats, and only breathes when he remembers to.   Another way to check if someone is unbound is to see if they have a fate. A diviner can look into a person's fate and see if their thread on the Grand Tapestry has run out. However, this does not discriminate between unbound and the much-less-feared delinquent.
Delinquent or Unbound?
The two conditions have much in common. The most noticeable difference is that a delinquent person still ages and can be killed. Delinquent people still have all human functions like sleeping and eating, and are generally less feared by society. Additionally, unbound people may not have passed their designated death yet. Delinquent means you are overdue for death; Unbound means a supernatural process has occurred to cut you off from fate.
The other way to tell if someone is unbound, of course, is to kill them and see if it sticks. This is unfortunately what happened in the town of Schärbruck in 1639, when a rumour went around that an unbound person in town was responsible for a child's murder and the frenzy of accusations and testing for mortality left 43 people dead

Cultural Reception

Unbound are hated and feared by most people. At best, they are considered evil or dangerous, at worst, they are mindless monsters. It is very uncommon to actually meet one, of course, so this is based purely on folklore.

The Immortal Regiment

The most feared military unit in Europe is Wallachia's Immortal Regiment, made up entire of unbound soldiers. The regiment can only be defeated by incapacitating its members, and even then, they will be back up and fighting very quickly. The fear soldiers have toward the cursed regiment is enough to sometimes make opponents surrender without ever engaging in combat.   Where did Wallachia find so many unbound soldiers? The government is tight-lipped about where all their unbound men came from. It's assumed that they must be able to create them somehow.  

Slavery

Similar rumours abound at plantations and mines in the New World. It's said that much of their slave labour is unbound, toiling away day and night without need of sleep and with no risk of dying from the brutal conditions. Where the mine or plantation owners acquired so many unbound people, or how they managed to turn a regular slave into an unbound one, is a mystery.

Type
Supernatural
Origin
Magical
Cycle
Chronic, Acquired
Rarity
Extremely Rare

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