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Souls are the sum of an individual. Their memories, personality, and everything that makes them "them". Souls also contain essence, which keeps the body alive and allows it to function. Essence, or the life force of an individual, decreases as one gets older, and is completely depleted upon death, where the soul makes its way to the afterlife. Elizabeth Báthory, the blood countess, is a rich noble woman who wants to stay young and beautiful. To do this she has decided to steal the souls of those less deserving of their lives. She has discovered a spell that allows her to take the life force of others and add it to her own. Through this act, she can extend her years indefinitely by adding their years to her own, keeping her young and beautiful.

She begins kidnapping and sacrificing young people, stealing their mana and consuming their life energy. Runes are carved into the victims body, preventing their soul from escaping after death. The individual is then devoured alive. Through this act, the soul is completely consumed and the essence is absorbed.This has allowed her to live for hundreds of years. However, there is a problem. Her body had become more and more deformed as the years pass. In her mind, she is still the beautiful woman she has always been. In reality she has physically aged into a hag, and her body has mutated into a horrific looking monster WITH MANY MUTATIONS. She has been unable to see this due to her madness.

Why would this be the case?

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    $\begingroup$ Any other ideas than 'DNA changed' ? $\endgroup$ – user55267 Nov 1 '18 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Nitpicker here, but the title and the actual question are somewhat different and can leave to different answers: there's an important difference between 'aging' and 'mutating'; which one do you actually expect? $\endgroup$ – Josh Part Nov 1 '18 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @josh part she gets older and has deformities, so both. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Nov 1 '18 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ If one has schizophrenia does one's soul also have schizophrenia? $\endgroup$ – Mark Rogers Nov 2 '18 at 0:59

17 Answers 17

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Hundreds of years of uncontrolled cancer

Souls extend your life by giving you additional life force, but they do not revert the progress of your body. In this context consuming additional souls simply prevents you from dying, but it does not prevent your body from continuing to accumulate the problems associated age.

Cancer in particular is a problem that becomes more prevalent with age and can fit the bill for deforming the countess. If she is hundreds of years old, and she is deformed from age then this is one possible reason. Maybe as she aged she was struck with various kinds of cancer (uncontrolled cancer can cause bulges and large growths). Since cancer is technically part of you (it is your own cells) maybe soul infusions did not remove this.

Her body can now be deformed by uncontrolled cancer that has gone on for far longer than it would in a normal person. This is because normally when cancer reaches a certain point a person dies, but the blood countess has continued to consume souls preventing her own death. Hence she is a mess of bulges and deformations. This seems like one way it could have happened.

enter image description here

https://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/File:Adipose_Avatar.jpg
https://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License_1.3

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    $\begingroup$ Can you source the picture? $\endgroup$ – Theraot Nov 1 '18 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ Got it from here. dandwiki.com/wiki/File:Adipose_Avatar.jpg $\endgroup$ – Tyler S. Loeper Nov 1 '18 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerS.Loeper Please include that information, permanently, in the answer, alongside the third-party material, along with any text mandated by the third-party material's republication licence. $\endgroup$ – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 1 '18 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ Look up "tree cancer". The tree doesn't die because it has no blood through which the cancer could spread throughout the body. Your blood countess does have said blood. Cancer + metastasis = Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Nov 3 '18 at 10:51
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By consuming the soul of somebody who has lived 16 years, she is also adding those 16 years to her body, as the soul has memory of the elapsed time.

Eat a couple of teen agers and you have already very likely doubled the toll on your body, going from an adult woman to an aged one.

Eat a couple of 1 month old, and you add only a couple months. But over the centuries also few months add up to years.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this - you get their potential years, but their lived years too. Very soon you get to the point where your body is old enough to begin breaking down. OP is talking about after some time has passed (few hundred years) but this would allow the timeline to be accelerated too if needed. $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk Nov 1 '18 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ So basically, you're advocating for effectively spawn-camping birth wards to gain more life with no consequences right? $\endgroup$ – Trotski94 Nov 1 '18 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesTrotter Veal, now available in human-soul varieties! $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Nov 1 '18 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ If you think about it, she could have her own babies and sacrifice them. Disturbing.... $\endgroup$ – Trevor D Nov 2 '18 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @jpmc26 that's a gamebreaking loophole abuse scenario. One embryo every nine months = infinite youth. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Nov 3 '18 at 16:37
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The evil of her actions has physically marked her

In older literature (The Picture of Dorian Gray, for example), the actions of a person, whether those actions are good or evil, selfish or giving, accumulate physically over the course of a long life.

Think those fine wrinkles and leathery skin of someone who has smoked for a lifetime... Except this is resulting from the stains or purity of the soul of the person. A soul stained and defiled by the heinous act of destroying others to lengthen one's life would be a hideous soul. You've already established that soul-power can have the physical impact of lengthening a life. Why not extend that to having the inhabiting soul's nature having an accumulating physical impact on the flesh containing that life?

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In our actual world, something that seems minor, like having 3 chromosomes (trisomy) where you're supposed to have to have 2, can be devastating. Sometimes it does cause minor problems, like people with XXY instead of XY or XX.

Sometimes it causes moderate problems, like in having 3 copies of your 21st chromosome (aka Down Syndrome). In this case, brain function is altered and nearly everyone ends up with a mild to severe intellectual impairment. It also changes the facial shape, makes the person shorter than they would have been, and often affects the heart.

If the extra chromosome is on chromosome 18 or 13, the problems are extremely severe. A few children born with an extra 18 will live, but nearly all those born with an extra 13 will die in the first year, if they make it to birth in the first place. In addition to severe/profound intellectual disability, the extra chromosome often causes things like a cleft palate, cleft lip, extra fingers or toes, a nose in the wrong spot on the face, a heart condition, or under developed lungs. Among other things.

The effects of extra chromosomes elsewhere isn't really known because pretty much no embryo/fetus survives to birth. Though it's possible a few aren't in the literature because they don't cause problems so no one bothers to test for them (contrary to what you might think, trisomy is NOT picked up by consumer DNA testing commonly used for genealogical or health purposes).

Important note: some people with chromosomal differences are what you call mosaic. This means that the extra chromosome isn't in every cell, just in some. When you test chromosomes to look for trisomy, you run multiple tests so that you know if mosaicism is an issue, and so you don't miss a trisomy because you tested a regular set of cells.

Mosaicism generally causes the same problems as having the genetic difference in every cell, but it's more mild. It is also less likely to be fatal.

Absorbing a soul, by your description above, sounds like it might involve genetic transfer as well. I would think that, most of the time, it goes smoothly, but sometimes an extra chromosome will "catch" in a way that affects the host's body globally. Our bodies are really really good at fixing genetic information that goes bad (something that happens every day, in a small percentage of new cells). But sometimes we just can't fix it. That's what cancer often is; a genetic altering of our cells that our bodies can't fix.

So Elizabeth, over time, has had her genetics altered. This leads to her normal body repair mechanisms malfunctioning and rebuilding her body in ways it is not supposed to. It leads to cancerous tumors. And changes in how her brain, heart, and other organs work. All stuff that probably would kill anybody else. But she isn't able to die. She has all the soul infusions stopping that from happening. Short of cutting off her head, she's just going to continue to live, no matter how bad things get. No matter how different her body becomes.

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Souls have a shape?
Like a footprint they only fit perfectly in their own body.
By the many souls which she contains, she is having somewhat like more DNA in her which is now growing at some parts of her body.
It's like a shoe whats too small and now your foot deals with it.
Hope this simple solution helps and isn't against the rules of your fantastic world
:)

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You absorb the life force of a victim, not their physical cells. The absorbed mana gives your own cells a boost to allow them to divide for a longer time than naturally possible, but they are still the same old cells.

During a cells division, the chromosomes literally rip apart to give each half one complete set of chromosomes. During this process the chromosomes sometimes entangle or rip apart at the wrong place, resulting in mutations that are inherited by each following generation of cells. Environmental influences like UV light and free radicals add more damage to the DNA of the cells.

The longer you live due to this process, the more damaged your cells become. You need to absorb more mana just to keep your mutated cells alive, not to mention further prolonging your unatural life. This process will eventually escalate to the point where your DNA is damaged so much that you cannot absorb enough mana to stay alive. How you actually look like at this moment is another question alltogether...

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I will present some of the same ideas from a different perspective:

Let us assume that absorbing souls does not only prevent death, it prevents the effects of aging (by means not explained). However...

  1. She is not only absobing souls, she is also absorbing nutrients (vitamins, proteins, etc.) from other people. Futhermore, she is absorbing microbes.

    However, I am going with the absorbed proteins here. usually people have mutations that are not expressed, and there is deterioration that is usually not passed down to a new generation... but they can cause diseses if ingested. Take for example the Kuru disease which is caused by a misfolded, but perpetuated by cannibalism.

    Perhaps people who lack knowledge of proteins think this is caused because she is absorbing the age of the people.

  2. The souls fight back. She has trapped the souls in the consumed body, and abosbed them. These souls are not going to the afterlife, but they try (or other angels/spirits try to free them, depending on how your metaphysics works)! After the body is consumed, the runes that make the seal for the soul are gone, and they will push their way out...

    Perhaps in the struggle, the souls cause damage to the body. Perhaps if the souls are gone, she loses the prevention of aging.

    Either way, people without the proper knowledge could think that simply many souls don't fit in a single body.

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Maybe age is more related to wisdom/stress than time, and consuming a soul adds not just the life force but also the all the wisdom and scars that soul had attained.

Your countess may not be able to directly recall this wisdom or stress from the consumed souls but it's still there added to her own life force. Even in the real world people with extremely stressful jobs seem more "worn down" then some one the same age but with a more care-free life style.

So in effect, while the biology keeps on going with renewed life force, the body is gaining the cumulative effect of many life times of wisdom hard earned, stress, and emotional scars.

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Such is the cost of using dark magic. Dark magic usually has a hidden cost. In this case there is a known cost, the life which she is taking. But, sneaky as dark magic always is, there is a hidden cost.

One would wonder if the original spell did in fact guarantee youth or did the reader see "prolonged life" and then assume youth as well. The caster incurs both a physical an psychological toll as part of the price of the spell. In this case, the delusion brought on by the psychosis fulfills what they inferred from the spell, apparent youth.

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She continues to "grow up" beyond the normal adult stage.

In the first few years of a normal human life the body is developing from baby into a toddler, then into a child, then into an adolescent and finally into adult, which happens in 20s. After that, human body no longer has enough life force to continue the development, so it just sustains itself and just becomes somewhat stronger, without significant qualitative changes. And after that, with even less life force, it starts to decay, which eventually results in natural death of no other kind of death happens before.

However, in her case, she has plenty of life force. In fact, too much for her own good. She continues to "grow up" into some sort of hyper-adult. This is a stage of development no normal human can achieve. Just because it is a next stage it doesn't mean it is better, especially regarding the aesthetics. Further she progresses in her development, more grotesque her body starts to look. She might become able to overpower a normal adult as easily as a normal adult can overpower a toddler, but she will become a monster no human should become.

She will remain young in terms of health, but she will eventually become unrecognizable as a human.

Now, if she was smart enough not to consume so much souls, she would get exactly what she wanted, but she was too greedy and now it is too late, since there is no known mechanism to reverse the grow up process.

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Resistance

What you are describing sounds like cannibalism, a magical precursor to voodoo in some respects. In 'The Serpent and the Rainbow', a modern practitioner that is also collecting souls keeps them trapped in bottles, instead of consuming them directly. Maybe the modern magician has innovated?

The soul is all the person is, and clearly immortal. In 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' breaking the bottles allowed the trapped souls to take as much revenge as disembodied spirits could. Maybe the more primitive method - keeping the soul attached to the magician's own body - allowed the unwilling victim a chance to sabotage their attacker by aging the body, deformation, bad luck, and maybe a host of other small retaliatory acts (the best a trapped spirit could do). Maybe, even, the insanity is part of the resistance - the souls hoping to drive the witch mad enough that SOMEONE will act.

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When someone absorbs a soul the energy is stored in their body immediately, but the soul energy takes time to merge with the soul energy of the host. During this time the stolen soul energy is not in tune enough with its new host to nurture the body as it is supposed to. Instead, the stolen soul provides its energy to whatever body part it resides in as it slowly circulates through the body. Because the new soul also displaces a certain volume of the body it serves to increase the density of the original soul energy as well. This means that immediately after consuming a soul the entire body will be filled with youthful vigor and will de-age visibly, but over time random parts of the body will grow at a slightly accelerated rate. If one or two souls are absorbed the slight growth will barely be noticeable, but the effect is accumulative so over a period of hundreds of years the body will have grossly mutated.

This effect also occurs in the brain but with the added complication that the stolen soul will attempt to bond with memories that are similar to the experiences from the person the soul was stolen from. Since the blood countess always chooses young victims her youthful memories are abnormally strengthened and she is beset with fleeting impressions of youthful beauty. Because of this, her mind is unable to cope with the real image of herself. Her mind replaces the incomprehensible monster she really is with the overpoweringly vivid image of how she was in her youth.

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STD's - that is, Soul Transmitted Diseases.

A soul is part of a living being just as much as its body. The fact that the soul survives the "death" of the body and even goes all the way to incarnate in a new one doesn't change that.

Therefore, absorbing the souls of many different strangers is not much different from doing gangbangs without protection.

Real life STD's (the sexually transmitted ones) can make someone look monstrous too. I was going to post some pictures, but then I think they would be edited out for being too gross. If you wanna see some really horrible faces, try googling for syphilis gumma. In the most advanced stages people start looking like the undead. That's how I picture a soul stealer that gets deformed as they steal more and more souls.

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Well, aside from Tyler's awesome cancer answer (which is really the best so far IMO), I can only think of two factors:

The Highlander Factor

Upon killing a fellow immortal (by chopping it's head) the mighty Highlanders extends their own lifespan. When they do that, a part of the slain warrior is absorbed by the killer, to the point where he actually gets some physical traits of the deceased.

You could say that the monstrosity is the result of dozens and dozens of such traits collected over the years. Her body had to shift and adapt so much and in so many different ways (since she eats everything: old, young, tall, small, white, black, men, women... ) that you can't even tell if that... thing... is human anymore.

The Rejection Factor

For this I'll borrow my previous explanation of the accumulation of traits.

Suppose this magic has a very bad side effect called rejection. Think of it as the same rejection a guy feels when he goes through an organ transplant. Even though he avoided the worse by borrowing someone's kidney, he still has a lifetime of rejection-prevention pills ahead.

Upon eating someone's soul her body starts to experience rejection which, in turn, starts to manifest more and more agrresive with every new soul that's added to the pile (this is a good opening for Tyler's cancer hyphotesis).

The beauty of this is that this rejection (since based on a "magic dicease", of sorts) can also affect the witch's mind. The dreadful physical mutations are there and keep getting worse, and they're a fair explanation for the delusions. But suppose the very soul eaten starts to manifest through visions and voices that start to haunt the hag. That would be a great explanation for her insanity.

Think about it: Waking up to see yourself as a gorgeous queen in the mirror. A moment later, Tristana, the first local villager she ever ate appears at her side. She gently touches the hag's shoulder and says "When I look at your body it actually makes me happy you ate my soul". She's actually happy that the woman that killed her turned into a monster and gets satisfied by lying to her about her hideous appearance. And so do dozens of others.

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Stress.

https://www.google.nl/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201404/emotional-distress-can-speed-cellular-aging%3famp

Absorbing a soul could cause stress. It could be that you are literally consuming the stress in your victim and then living on that stressed out soul. And with that victim being carved with runes and then eaten alive the stress is going to be considerable.

As an alternative the soul you are trying to live on will try to fight your consciousness, although in veign. This causes stress to the consumer who might feel the stress of the dying soul and occasionally have stress as the consumer needs to fight the tattered remains of soul to stay in control of her body or risk losing (partial) control for short periods of time.

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During the ritual, when she absorbs the souls, she actively experiences their lives, all at once. She also gains the strength that their souls would contribute to keep a body going, but all of the lines visible on their faces at time of death also appear on hers. Stress lines around her mouth, crow's feet, frown lines, all of these she has to such a degree that no mortal could have experienced in one lifetime and survived. All of the scars, all of the wrinkles on hands and fingers. All of the stress acne breakouts, all of the stress rashes. Her own biology was not one that would have been fated to age gracefully, and the effect has been multiplied to the point where it no longer looks like aging, but like something else entirely, including novel effects such as the changing of the shape of the nose that do not become visible within a single human lifetime.

And of course, there's nothing saying that at the conclusion of the ritual, she remembers even a single moment of those experiences. That's an awful lot of information for a mortal mind to take in, after all, and hers may respond by simply rejecting it all. (Plot hook: Except this one time...)

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Perhaps it's not the consumption of souls transforming her, but the long term effects of using whatever magic she is using to consume the souls. In the Star Wars paradigm, using the dark side of the force on a regular basis ravages your body. In the Dresden Files Paradigm, magic is basically a process of taking the essence of who you are and using it for whatever purpose you choose; as such intention matters. So this witch, in her soul of souls, believes taht what she is doing is not only something that can happen, but SHOULD happen. And if that is nt a recipe for madness i dont know what is

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protected by James Nov 6 '18 at 19:40

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