Nightmare

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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
This page is marked as grimdark, and is of the darker aspects of the MUSH. You are warned.
Nightmare

Area

Black Abyss

Scarcity

Very Rare

Nature

Spiritual

Archetype

Otherworldly parasite.

Identifying Features

Depends on the Nightmare.

Playable?

Generally no.

The term "Nightmare" is a colloquial term for a kind of non-physical parasite from a pocket dimension connecting with that of the MUSH. There is no correct name for them, and different races call them different things. These parasites, which have no physical manifestation of their own, hail from a "location" known as the Black Abyss.

There are a very finite number of Nightmares (10), and as they cannot reproduce, tend not to engage in risky endeavors, instead favoring planning, subversion, and ambushes, exposing themselves to as little danger as possible.

Without fail, a True Nightmare, will seek to cause suffering, and eventually death.

Hosts

Being opportunistic, a Nightmare favors a host which is simultaneously vulnerable to their influence, yet strong enough magically and physically to warrant the effort of subversion and possession. This usually places an average pony beneath their interest, as their primary goal is to inspire as much suffering and death as possible without being in danger themselves. Instead, they tend to favor Alicorns for their hosts, due to the immense power a mature Alicorn is able to wield, and the inherit longevity ensures that their host will not die of old age before their usefulness is worn out.

Aside from pony races, Nightmares have, occasionally, taken host of Dragons, Zebra, Gryphons, etc. however doing so is considered more effort than it's worth except as a stepping stone to a preferred host, though any vulnerable being in a place of sufficient power may draw their attention.

It is the Nightmare's discretion what their host is permitted to see around them, if anything. A host strong enough to resist complete possession is generally subject to 'blackouts' whereas a broken host will be allowed to see everything the nightmare is doing with their body.

Possession

Possession is one of the signature traits of a Nightmare, and tends to come in various stages, and flavors. However, the taint of having one of these creatures inside of a body for too long is obvious, and in some cases, irreversable. Though, the exact characteristics varies from Nightmare to Nightmare.

Ghosting

When selecting a host, a Nightmare will follow a prospective target for a significant period, learning about them, their capabilities, weaknesses, and characteristics. They will often touch sleeping minds to watch dreams and get a feel for how best to take down the defenses of their host, or even if they are worth the effort at all. This stage is one of the few where the Nightmare itself can be deterred, excised, or destroyed, without harming the host. Detecting the creature, however, is nearly impossible, and such brief contact does not cause symptoms of taint to arise.

Shadowing

Once a host is confirmed and the Nightmare has learned all it can from observation, it will begin infiltrating the prospective host, slowly taking residence within their body. It is preferred to do this during sleep, but with sufficient care and skill, it may be done while awake. Usually over several days. This is the last chance to excise an unwilling Nightmare from its host (using conventional means) without causing damage to that host. A waking host will experience no outward effects during this process, but a sleeping host will suffer bad dreams they are unable to wake from.

After a Nightmare is sufficiently entrenched in their host, they will begin observing memories, thoughts, and on occasion, influence them subtly through suggestion. Thisi s when signs of taint run the risk of appearing, depending on how much the Nightmare interacts with its host.

Whispering

Once a Nightmare understands its host and their weaknesses, it will begin breaking down the mental defenses of that host through nightmares, suggestions, and emotional tampering. The Host will sometimes experience these as thoughts with a different 'texture', a little voice in the back of their head, or otherwise noticeably alien. The Nightmare will anticipate this recognition either at first or over time, and uses this to their advantage by convincing them it's their own insanity, and telling others would make them hated, put away, or otherwise plays to the hosts insecurities and fears. If that step is unsuccessful, a Nightmare may break posession at this point of their own volition, or begin #Brute Forcing. Taint begins to show inevitably at this stage, though nearly all Nightmares have an academic knowledge of how to prevent others from noticing these effects. If a Nightmare is excized at this stage, it will take a chunk of its host with it, causing severe neuroses which may or may not be temporary, insanity, or death.

Brute Forcing

Should Whispering fail and the host becomes aware of the Nightmare, or is starting to seek help, the Nightmare may begin direct attacks against the hosts psyche and mind, forcing them against certain actions, or into others. This usually causes irreversible damage to the mind of the host if allowed to continue, but it is also very visible to those around the host. Talking to ones self, hallucinations, night terrors resulting in screaming are all common. This process also drastically increases the rate at which taint is made visible. For these reasons, it is not often employed. Removing the Nightmare at this stage is usually done by killing the host, and should it be excized without harming the host somehow, it is likely the mental damage will leave them unable to function.

Symbiosis

Sometimes, a host has a goal they are willing to accept power from anything to achieve, or a desire so great that they can be blinded to what they're actually doing. In this case, a partial possession begins called Symbiosis. The Nightmare shares control with the host, receiving cooperation, and in return sharing knowledge, which is usually quite extensive, as 'all' Nightmares are incredibly old. During this process, a Nightmare will actually continue attempting to subdue the psyche of the host, but much less actively. Generally, this arrangement lasts only as long as the host is willing to actively obey the Nightmare, and the Nightmare will almost always closely monitor the thoughts and emotions of their host for any sign of betrayal. In fact, they expect it. Excision at this stage is stage has nearly as high a mortality rate as full possession.

Partial Posession

Be it through a complete destruction of the host psyche through Brute Forcing, the complete subjugation through Smbiosis, or simply sufficiently advanced Whispering, the hosts defenses become too weak to refute the Nightmare control of the body all the time, but remain able to push it back. This stage is known as a partial possession and often causes 'blackouts' in the hosts memory. By now, the taint is visible in nearly all aspects, save for the eyes and voice. During a partial posession, these two traits will tend to 'flash' between the Nightmare's distinctive eyes (usually, but not always catlike) and voice, and that of the hosts own.

The Nightmare at this point is able to divert a sufficient amount of the hosts magic to disguise the taint. Excision at this point has various effects, depending on the method the Nightmare uses to arrive at this stage. At best, the host is left alive, weakened, and partially insane, but able to recover. At worst, it is fatal.

Full Possession

Once a host has been completely broken to the Nightmares will, the host will be trapped within their own mind at all times, unable to act or think beyond what the Nightmare allows. In fact, some forego trapping the host mind, and instead destroy it, forcing the soul out of the body and thus killing the host, while retaining the body. This is not as common as one might think as it is the hosts whole spirit and soul that produce their magic, meaning that the shreds left behind would offer less power than subjugation instead. During this stage, a Nightmare has full command of the hosts memories, magics, and power, knowing every spell and capable of knowing everything about the host it choses to.

This is usually when the Nightmare will dispose of the illusions or other means of masquerading as its host and begin carrying out whatever goal it had set for itself. This will sometimes be as simple as attempting to kill as many living things as possible, to a mockery of their hosts desire or own goals, in order to cause more pain to that host, who will usually be aware, if helpless, at this point.

In order to reach this stage, a host has to be ocmpletely broken, giving in, or otherwise unable of resisting. Upon reaching it, their thoughts can be directed (though not completely controlled) by the Nightmare at will, and it is no longer possible in any way for the host to save themselves. Excision through conventional means is no longer possible at all, invariably resulting in death either by the Nightmare killing the host as it leaves, or through the collateral damage such magic would have on the host body and mind. There are only two methods for saving a host nonlethally at this point.

Taint

While the effects of a Nightmare's taint are dependant largely on the Nightmare in question, some common signs are as follows.

  • Eyes not belonging to host.
  • Size changes.
  • Voice alteration.
  • Changes in coloration, especially to black or dark colors.



Structure

The basic anatomical structure of a Nightmare is relatively simple.

First is the "Spirit" layer. The 'physical' body of the Nightmare. This houses the magic a Nightmare has access to, and actuall yshares many qualities with a physical beings own spirit. In a Nightmare this protects their souls much as a body does.
Next is the "Soul" layer. Unlike mortal creatures which think with their minds based on information sent to and from the soul, a Nightmares thoughts, emotions (such as they are), and very essence are housed in their souls. This means that there is no misunderstood True Nightmare just needing love. It is doing exactly what it wants to, exactly what it feels it should do, and exactly what it means to do.
Finally is the outermost layer, similar to a 'skin' which the Nightmare can channel magic through. What's significant is that this layer can take on the properties of other magics, allowing it to pass conventional shields, blend in as a chameleon would, and otherwuse prevent detection by potential hosts or threats, including predators.

Capabilities

An individual Nightmare's capabilities vary greatly, but some traits are shared by all Nightmares.

Strengths

  • Posession: All Nightmares are highly skilled in taking over an unwilling host, and judging which hosts are wort hthe effort of enslaving, and which are not.
  • Stealth: The outermost layer of a Nightmare's body allows it to hide from magical detection, and their lack of physical form means they are invisible to physical creatures. This is actually necessary for survival in the Black Abyss.
  • Experience: All Nightmares are (roughly) the same age, however some more experienced than others in the world outside their 'home'. Varrying from several hundred to several thousand years behind them, even with relatively little magic to work with they are dangerous.
  • Magic: As above, Nightmares are one of the few spiritual entities outside of the Black Abyss able to harness magic of their own. The actual amount they are capable of using without a host is, thankfully, limited.

Weaknesses

  • No Anchor: A banishment spell aimed directly at (and for) a Nightmare without a host works incredibly well, as they have no means of anchoring themselves to a location. A temporary solution, but it can take years for them to find their way back, depending on the power of the spell.
  • No Reproduction: Nightmares are not born. They are made, and the conditions necessary for their creation no longer exist within or outside of the Black Abyss. Therefor, Nightmares are finite, and over time their numbers have dwindled to 10.
  • Names: Nightmares are an immortal race, and do not change lightly. This means that their Name may be used against them, and is one of the two means of exercising them without harming their host. A pinned Nightmare is a dead Nightmare. While not magically weak exactly, once incapacitated (as by their Name) they have very little defense against being destroyed.
  • Finality: A Nightmare does not have an afterlife, and does not return to the Black Abyss. When one is killed, it is destroyed.
  • Disharmony: A Nightmare is an incredibly unbalanced creature, there is no harmony, not even the harmony of chaos. It exists of hate, darkness, and sorrow. The Elements of Harmony are anathema to a True Nightmare, and will destroy it, rather than banish it. (Please note this only applies only if the Elements are capable of being fully utilized Otherwise, the Nightmare will survive the encounter, likely by sacrificing the hosts life to escape, such as by converting all magic in the host body, including life force, to shield and flee.)

False Nightmares

A False Nightmare is one of two things.

Most likely, it is a creature imitating a True Nightmare much as a coral snake is imitated by a milk snake. In this case, it tends to ghost and shadow like a Nightmare, but rather than take control, it merely feeds on its host, or utilizes similar means of hiding itself.

Far more rarely is an ex-Nightmare. While 'all' Nightmares are creatures of hatred and darkness, they aren't incapable of change, but the circumstances behind said change (known as a Decision) are unique to each Nightmare, and are only half the requirement. In order to truly become something other than a creature of hatred, they must accept part of something elses soul into themselves, thereby changing what they are. A True Nightmare would never do so, and instead the criteria must be met to open them to the possibility.

True Nightmares

A True Nightmare is from the Black Abyss, and has not made a Decision, which subtilly alters a Nightmare's nature. These creatures do not significantly change, nor grow, nor create. They are the product of hatred, warped wrongness the likes of which Equestria will never see, and more suffering than they could ever cause other living things.

Their primary motivator is their own hellish existence, seeking to punish anything with a better life than they, and gaining malicious satisfaction out of doing so, and is a characteristic of all True Nightmares.

In regards to their home, the Black Abyss, they are the highest tier of 'prey' creatures, being the most powerful, but they themselves are not predators. Due to their rareness, very little will actually hunt one for the purpose of killing it, as natural selection has ensured that only those most fit to survive (or wise enough to flee) were not consumed. Rather, they are ignored provided they do not disturb one of their predators.


List of Nightmares

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This page is currently unfinished, and is missing important information.

Listed below will be the 10 Nightmares which have survived to the modern era. Those recently defeated will have a strike through their name. A few facts will be listed about each.
Please note that the listed name is only an alias, and true names will not be listed.

Nightmare Moon

Favored means of subjugation: Emotional exploitation, particularly jealousy.

Status: Defeated following a Decision by the Elements of Harmony. Became False Nightmare two years after.

Signs of Taint: Glowing teal dragon-eyes, black coloration of fur and flesh, growth in stature, growth of pointed incisors, triangular, nearly draconic wings if host has wings.

Nightmare Dream

Favored means of subjugation: Whispering during sleep, resulting in terrible nightmares. The memories of which are usually supressed.

Status: Defeated by use of Name, and (mostly) destroyed. The remaining shreds had very little of the original nature and memories left, allowing for a Decision. False Nightmare. (Note The resulting creature has less than ten mortal years of existence memory, power, and spirit-wise. It is a foal, and currently incapable of possession or other Nightmare abilities.

Signs of Taint: Fiery red eyes cat-eyes, black coloration of fur, black-ash grey coloration of flesh. Growth in stature, growth of pointed incisors. Bat-wings if the host had wings.

More to come