Romance of the Four Elements
The R’aff-a’a is a magical disease that every allegedly intelligent creature in this world gets at birth. There are no known immunities or exceptions. It is not currently known what causes it or how a person becomes infected with it, although there are many theories.
For a disease, though, it is fairly innocuous. There are two basic stages: acute, and dormant, or in remission. When the R’aff-a’a is dormant, the allegedly intelligent creature is not immediately effected in any obvious manner, either positive or negative. When the R’aff-a’a becomes acute, the person, his/her clothing, and any/all possessions carried immediately on his/her person become magically transformed. The result is always the same. The transformed individual becomes a solid ball of light, about 1 foot in diameter, and weighing about 1 pound.
As nearly as anyone can tell, the acute stage of the R’aff-a’a strikes most people randomly, and for random lengths of time. Some people go their entire lives and are never struck with an acute case. Some people have been hit once or twice for random lengths of time, and some people seem to get hit with it very often. For some unknown reason, the acute cases strike adventurers slightly more often than the general populace, but for no longer or shorter duration than anyone else.
Some acute cases have been clearly identified as having been triggered by magic users who botched a spell. This is the only documented and clearly proven cause of an acute case. Causes for the triggering of other acute cases have not been effectively documented or clearly proven. Some people believe that an acute case can be triggered by the whimsy of fate during moments of extreme energy exchange, but that’s nothing more than hearsay and conjecture.
Another curious thing about acute cases of R’aff-a’a is that a transformed individual in the ball-of-light form is completely safe from all harm and all forms of destruction, be they physical, magical or otherwise. This fact was discovered soon after a convicted murder who was sentenced to be hung was hit with an acute case about half an hour before his scheduled execution. The local government called out as many professional executioners from as far away as they could at the time, and none could destroy the ball of light by any means. Since they couldn’t destroy the ball of light, they opted for the next best thing; they encased the ball in concrete, set sail for a very deep part of the western sea, and dumped the whole thing overboard!
Finally, the name “R’aff-a’a” comes from a south-western Birloidi dialect. The word literally means “peace,” but given the inflections it is taken to colloquially mean something more along the lines of, “Chill out dork-wad!” How this came to be the name of the disease is as unknown as the nature of the disease itself, and is the subject of almost as much speculation and conjecture.