There are three elements in Beyonder mysticism: the material, the energic, the ephemeral. Tangible things, like water, gases, and metals, are material. Heat, light, and cold are energies. (Yes, cold and darkness are active energies.) Beyonders know of, and believe in, an immortal soul, something that continues to exist after the body has died. Both the soul and magic are ephemeral phenomenon, they transcend the mortal world.
Magic can manifest as curses, supernatural forces that causes harm to someone. There are curses of ill luck (a hex or juju), curses of death, or the morphic curses, that turn people into monsters. The most frightening curses are the anthrophagic: curses which turn people into cannibals.
Such monsters are known as eaters, because they consume their victims. There are many different strains of eaters, but all strains are linked to one of the mystical elements.
Ghouls eat the flesh of their victims, different strains preferring different organs (livers, lungs, hearts) or substances (bile, spinal fluid, blood). Some consume any flesh they can. All are oriented towards the material.
Vampires eat the energy of their victims (the electrochemical energies known as “life”), different strains draining this in different ways. Some drain through simple touch, others through consuming the flesh or fluids of their victims (their attacks appearing, at first glance, to be the work of a ghoul), others through… intimate contact. (These last are known as inccubi or succubi.) Vampires are linked to the energic world.
Revenants drain ephemera (often through consuming the flesh or fluids of their victims). The soul is of the ephemeral world, and some revenants feed off it. These revenants consume and destroy the soul, leaving the victim a mindless, but still living, husk. Other strains eat the magic of their victims — after being attacked, the person is absolutely normal, save that they cannot use their magical talents any more. (These last are known as mage-killers.)
Anthrophagic curses are contagious: after some period of time, their victims arise as new eaters. Some spawn eaters of their strain, some eaters of different strains. Some can chose when to spawn, or choose what strain they produce. (For example, some vampires can create ghoul servitors.) But all eaters pass along a curse to those they kill. (Some don’t even have to kill: a bite or touch is sufficient to spread the curse.)
Eaters are mystical beings, and very often they are only vulnerable to specific substances or weapons. Some can only be harmed by magic, others only by the faith of a true priest. Some can only be hurt by water, salt, or wood grown in soil from the land of their nativity. Knowing which variety of eater you face is essential.
When well-fed, eaters are frighteningly intelligent and cunning. Deprived of that which they consume, their intelligence devolves but their strength and resilience grows. Starving eaters (called “ferals”) are utterly mindless — ravening animals that consume without thought.
Eaters are widely feared, and for good reason. They are malevolent, voracious, and spread their curse to those they attack. Shortly after Emergence, a Eater plague spread along the East Coast, destroying several enclaves and settlements. (Among them, Boston and Chicago.) Soon after, the first bloodgangs appeared: nomadic bands of eaters who hunt in packs.
Eaters are one of the prime menaces in 2039. The BP and Texas Rangers both train in identifying and eliminating eater strains.
Hunters, Guns who specialize in tracking and killing eaters, are among the most highly trained and deadly mercenaries in the Outlaw. (And, often, the most fanatical. Hunting has a low life expectancy, and people who survive for a long time, and continue in the face of the horrors they suffer and see, are driven by something.) Guns can expect that many of their most lucrative, and dangerous, contracts will involve eaters, one way or the other.
[Note: I still need to post the other half of Utah’s writeup. Tomorrow, hopefully.]