The taint is a physical corruption spread by the darkspawn that ultimately makes the victim hear the call of the Old Gods. It can be transmitted through contact with darkspawn blood and fluids, or through objects imbued with the taint, such as eluvians. The contact does not automatically make one sick, but there is a great chance of it.
Taint also manifests as spidery tendrils of black rot, along with a dry shiny film covering underground passages used by darkspawn. As the corruption progresses, it gathers into black sacs the size of a man lining the floor or hanging from the ceiling.
Races of Thedas had no knowledge of the taint prior to -395 Ancient when the Golden City blackened and first darkspawn appeared underground. The Chantry teaches that the magisters who entered the city "brought sin to heaven" and were "corrupted by their crime".
A Nevarran cult known as "The Empty Ones" believed the Blight to have originated from a place called the Void ("a place of nothing"), and that it is by the Maker's will for all of his creation to return to it.Ancient elven sources mention "plague" that ate Andruil's lands after she entered the Void.
The infected Edit
The taint spread by the darkspawn corrupts the living. Many who have contracted the Blight sickness die within hours. Others wither away slowly from a "wasting illness". In its more contagious form the disease is often referred to as "a plague". It is spread by Blight-touched rats far beyond the areas directly affected by the Blight and can be sporadically seen centuries after it. An entire species of animals can die out from the plague.
The infected are often segregated and/or locked up. In some areas doors of their homes are marked with a yellow circle. Many are killed as a precaution or an act of mercy, or abandoned to their fate.
The taint that emanates from the body of an Archdemon is specially strong compared with that of other darkspawn, and many would-be slayers have died on the spot simply attempting to penetrate the foul malaise that surround such creatures.
The tainted Edit
- Main article: Darkspawn
The darkspawn horde is connected through the taint, functioning as a hive-mind. While high ranking darkspawn like emissaries or alphas have a limited influence upon small groups, and the Architect and the Mother also command larger groups, only an Archdemon can command the entire horde.
- Main article: Ghoul
Some people and animals exposed to the taint are transformed into ghouls, who pay for a prolonged existence with their sanity. The longer an infected creature lives, the more it will manifest aggressive or even rabid behaviour, hair loss and numerous deformities, protrusions, boils and sores. Once the taint progresses enough, the darkspawn recognize ghouls as their own kind, and ghouls can sense darkspawn and hear the call of an Archdemon. Even "ghouled" victims will ultimately be killed by the disease, leaving whole areas completely lifeless.
When the taint comes into contact with the local flora it usually poisons and kills the plants and trees making the area infertile for many years. However deep mushrooms often grow close to darkspawn bodies and tend to carry the taint even though they can't transmit it, while the nearly extinct felicidus aria is the only plant growing on the blighted Silent Plains.
Blight magic Edit
The taint carries magical power that allows darkspawn emissaries to cast spells.
Some areas below the darkspawn-infested Deep Roads are surprisingly free of the taint.
Managing the taint Edit
Some people may harbor natural resistance to the taint.
Dalish Keepers can combine herbal tinctures and a magic ritual to slow down the taint in recently infected victims, but only for a time. Grey Wardens are also aware of the existence of such herbs, and have helped to disseminate this knowledge across Thedas.
The Joining ritual dramatically slows the taint in Grey Wardens, but eventually the major effects of corruption set in. When a Grey Warden begins to hear the call of the Old Gods, they set off into the Deep Roads to fight to the death before they turn into ghouls themselves.
- David Gaider stated that Anders being merged with Justice may have one of the two effects: "One is that the spirit within Anders can affect the level of his corruption, so it may delay or remove the necessity for his Calling altogether. Either that or at some point the corruption within Anders is going to corrupt the spirit." He refused to tell which one the writers prefer.