The Druj miasma, or shroud of dread, was first encountered by Imperial troops crossing into Reikos during the Winter 378YE counter offensive against the orcs. Described as an almost physical pall of dread and despair, it infested the air, the water, and the soil. It was described by those exposed to it in fanciful terms; “clawing at the spirit”, “slowly grinding away every positive emotion”, and “threatening to undermine every virtuous thought”.
At night, the effects of the miasma intensified. It seemed to take advantage of the long hours of darkness to play upon the natural fears, doubts, and uncertainties that come naturally to mortal minds. Some exposed to the miasma describe hallucinations, especially of deceased loved ones. There is no suggestion, however, that this effect is actually producing images of the dead – several soldiers reported catching sight of loved ones they knew were alive and safe at home, but seemingly murdered and weeping.
The shroud of dread significantly impacted Imperial efforts to liberate Reikos, slowing the advance of armies, and making it harder for them to claim territory from the orcs. It was one of several factors (including the Reikos flux) that contributed to the drawn out campaign to free the Highborn from the Druj.
Study of the Miasma
The Druj Miasma is not fully understood by Imperial scholars.
it does not appear to have been created with conventional ritual magic. Rather, it bears more similarity to a massive consecration associated with the malign spiritual presence of fear or dread. Yet the existence of a magical method to deal with the aura (coupled with orc inability to use liao ceremonies) points to it being more than a purely spiritual effect.
Of particularl interest is the fact that the miasma appears to have had little or no effect of the Druj orcs themselves. Whether this was due to some property of the miasma, or because the Druj are "desensitized" to the fearsome effects of the shroud of dread, is not clear.
While the aura spread across the whole of Reikos, it was "anchored" by misshaped stone monoliths dubbed "miasma pillars". Each region of Reikos contained several such pillars, and the pillars appeared to reinforce or supplement one another when they were in close proximity. Removing the potence of a single pillar proved ineffective if there are other pillars nearby – all nearby pillars needed to be deactivated simultaneously. If a single pillar was deactivated, there was little noticeable effect on the local miasma. Once once all the pillars in a location were deactivated, however, the miasma quickly faded from the region where they were placed. This presented a significant challenge for both the ritualists, and the soldiers protecting them.
While the miasma is unpleasant in the wider territory, the miasma pillars themselves are surrounded by the aura of dread in its most primal form. Even approaching a miasma pillar will prove extremely difficult without significant precautions such as ceremonial anointing; the use of a ritual protection such as Crystal Clarity of the Rational Soul; or the use of magic items such as a Circlet of Falling Snow.
Destroying the Aura
In early 380YE, a combination of captains fighting to protect the legacy of Highguard, survivors motivated by the power of Courage, and the rampant power of the eternal Llofir, most of the Druj miasma pillars were located and destroyed. A handful still exist however, but their influence is extremely limited - no more than a mile at most around an active pillar.
There is significant speculation that the aura was useful to the Druj for more than simply slowing the advance of the Imperial forces. It also contributed to the atmosphere of terror and despair the orcs created among their human prisoners - making it harder for their slaves to rebel against their authority.
While the miasma in Reikos has been broken, there is no guarantee the Empire will not encounter it again if they move against The Mallum, the Druj homelands. There is some concern that the aura encountered in Reikos was relatively weak, only recently established, and that much more powerful auras may be encountered during any attempt to conquer the Druj.
The Miasma in Play
The primary effect of the miasma is that it weakens anyone exposed to it who does not have the ability to overcome it. The easiest method to overcome the miasma is to receive an anointing, but particularly heroic individuals, or those in possession of certain enchantments or magic items may also be able to counteract the effect. In particular, those of the changeling lineage are able to fight the effects of the miasma, but at the expense of becoming extremely angry - which can cause problems all its own.
In addition to the use of ritual magic, a miasma pillar can also be destroyed with the consecration skill. If several pillars are in close proximity, however, each must be destroyed at the same time - within few minutes - or else they simply reinforce each other.
While the miasma no longer covers Reikos, it may still be encountered there during quests or skirmishes. A player event could be set in an area where there is an active miasma pillar, for example.
The forests of Utterlund and Misericorde gained the poisonous quality shortly before the Summer solstice 380YE as a result of Druj activity. Each campaign army that moved through, or fought in, one of these regions would have suffered 250 casualties during that season of campaigning. The effect was removed in 382YE, but it is possible that it may be encountered in the Mallum or created in other parts of the Empire.