Welcome back! We're on our second #grimexplained post, though it's the first we're making use of the tag. This time we'll be doing a deep dive on miasma.
First and foremost, we have to tackle miasma's foundations within the story. Both miasma and the Tainted are introduced in the very first book, The Spinner's Web. Often, readers are perplexed by these concepts because they aren't explicitly described or defined. This is because a majority of the characters don't know what miasma is or where it came from. Like you, the reader, they only understand that it is the source of the Plague and that it causes various side effects like hysteria, paranoia, and vertigo.
Those who are tainted are also referred to as being stained. This derives from the dark stain that appears on their body. As the taint gets worse, the stain continues to grow.
Miasma is said to have a red color similar to blood, and much like blood, the thicker it gets, the darker it appears. The stain itself is said to be miasma bleeding out from whomever is tainted.
How it Works:
The absolute nature of miasma is still a mystery. Readers have been exposed to Hero and Bedad, who suffer from different side effects of the Taint. Bedad suffers psychologically and Hero suffers from the way that those around him are effected.
**Spoiler Warning** Please note that anything below this point will contain spoilers for Books 1-3. The analysis is here to provide insights for readers.
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Miasma in Arc 1:
During Arc 1, we get 3 different views of miasma. In Fate's perspective, we see how Hero, who is often emotionally detached and cold, wears gloves to suppress the effects of the Plague. He stays indoors, away from the general public, for a majority of the story and is afraid to be close to other living beings.
Fate's immense anima allows her to stay close to him but there's a debate as to whether Abyssus's death is a result of miasma. This is because the concentration of miasma (negative energy) is said to bring about bad things in the world. In other words, Abyssus, who was around Hero, accumulated miasma and this brought about his death. This is also because Mortis is perceived to be shrouded in miasma, and the characters are unsure if this is related to Hero.
In Book 2, Bedad is suffering severely from paranoia and bouts of hysteria. He has vertigo on several occasions and is constantly doubtful of those around him, even his friends. The importance here is for readers to analyze his actions and his thoughts and to ask themselves moral questions with comparisons. Like the characters, readers do not know if Bedad's personality and decisions are driven by his ailment or if they are based on his quality of character. The discussion is vital to the ethical debates occurring throughout the Empire.
(The Rebellion, who argues that the Tainted should be treated and isolated instead of erased or persecuted vs the Council who feels that the Tainted should be eradicated for the greater good.)
Finally, in the third book, readers see Hero's version of the Taint and how he copes with it (or doesn't?) Even though he appears fairly composed in the first book, it is evident by the third that this issue of death completely envelops him. He can be driven to murder or to be violent, much like Bedad and he is often in a debate with the Taint itself.
This makes something quite clear.... the Taint might have a voice.
Miasma's Qualities (Simplfied):
Miasma is negative energy or, more specifically, spiritual blood that has the power to cause paranoia, hysteria, veritgo, and etc
Generally, it is a red shroud or appears in the form of a dark stain
The Taint appears to have a voice or ability to compel
Additional side effects may cause physical ailment or even death
What is miasma and where does it come from?
Currently, this is up for debate. The most popular belief is that the Stain is caused by a spiritual fracture. This is when the soul experiences something immensely traumatic and breaks, causing the leak of 'spiritual blood.'
When miasma touches other living things, it causes what is known as 'miasma poisoning' in which the afflicted will become nauseated, have intense vertigo, become spiritually deficient, and suffer from similar irrational thoughts as the person who is Tainted.
However, it is impossible for the person who is tainted to have miasma poisoning. They suffer from similar effects but the 'poisoning' is what they spread to others and it can be avoided if they are alone. Contrarily, the Taint itself cannot be avoided by the person who is Stained, only controlled.
Controlling and Suppressing the Taint:
There are a few possible ways to control or suppress the Taint and they are spread through Hero and Bedad's perspectives.
1) Brands and seals
Temporary or permanent brands and seals may be placed (Bedad's mask or Hero's accessories.) This can become problematic for the person who is Stained because even though it reduces the Taint's ability to spread, it also contains it within the person who is ailing. Usually, this will make them more sick over time.
Both Hero and Bedad utilize crystal to fend of miasma. Hero wears a crystal earring and rebuilds parts of the palace with crystal while Bedad tries exposing himself to it through the Ussan or with help of his friends. Crystal has the ability to hold anima, which slowly eats away at miasma. This is one of the few ethical ways to ease the affliction.
3) Satiating the Taint's Needs
Notoriously, the Ignis Royals committed horrific crimes while under the influence of miasma poisoning (the Verna Conflict and the Caeles Involvement.) This is the worst recorded case of the Plague in the history of Euphoria and a tell-tale sign of how easily it can spiral out of control.
The Taint demands acts of malice and, when it is satiated, the afflicted find themselves spiritually deficient. This void inside them is painful and often drives them to evil to liberate themselves.
The Taint is still being investigated within Grims' Truth. As readers, you can expect to learn much, much more about it during Arc 3: Behind the Veil. We're looking forward to seeing your theories and thoughts.