The Tainted are people who have been corrupted by exposure to alkabellum radiation, usually through contact with unrefined dextrocite fuel. The changes that the victim suffers are considered permanent, with no recorded case of recovery from the taint. Many of the victims spend their lives as outcasts from society because of the stigma attached to becoming tainted.
Dextrocite ore is radioactive, making the unprotected miner susceptible to burns and sickness. But the ore becomes even more hazardous during the refinement process. Partially refined dextrocite produces dangerous amounts of alkabellum radiation which can cause horrifying side-effects in living creatures, as described below. Fully refined dextrocite fuel is much safer, although an engineer's biggest fear is that the fuel is "dirty" and has not been refined properly.
Other sources of alkabellum radiation include dextrocite shells, controversially used during the Slavic-Brittania War. Stories are told of scores of wounded soldiers becoming Tainted and the battlefield becoming panic-stricken and chaotic.
It is unlikely for the taint to spread directly from one person to another, but the chances are that the offspring of a Tainted woman would also be Tainted, should she be healthy enough to conceive in the first place.
There is a great variety in the corruptions caused by the taint, with the physical deformities ranging between slight and fatal.
The most common side effect is a cracking of the skin. These wounds can never heal and often leak fluids. Most Tainted suffer mental problems, with frequent reports of paranoia and unprovoked aggression.
Many victims of the taint suffer from altered senses or physical ability due to the random nature of the corruption. Tainted can develop permanent limps, or find themselves with sharpened hearing or reflexes.
Symptoms can also grow over time, and new corruptions appearing in later life.
Society generally fears and hates the tainted, and this forces them to stay hidden from sight. Tainted people often choose a new identity after their corruption, but just as many continue to use their original name. It is common for the tainted to either band together in underground communities or to drift from place to place in search of a home that accepts them.