- Patients seem to have hallucinations of a woman covered in scabs and boils, with rats scurrying about all around her. These ravings subsided after an administration of henbane and poppy extract.
– Joachim von Gratz's notes, Vilmerius Hospital in Novigrad
- When plague ravages a region, a spirit will sometimes walk its lands, a ghost resembling an ill woman whose flesh rots off her bones and in whose wake crawls a cavalcade of rats. No one knows whether this spirit brings the pox with her or is merely drawn to it like a moth to a light. Yet it is certain that she delights in dealing pain and suffering, in hearing the howling and moaning of men.
- Many have called into question the very existence of plague maidens, or pestae, as they are sometimes called. Only two sightings of such a creature have ever been recorded, both during times of raging epidemic.
- As the name "plague maiden" suggests, these wraiths take the appearance of females, though exactly why that is remains a mystery. Some speculate they, like other such specters, arise from the powerful emotional charge associated with certain circumstances of death, such as death preceded by a long and particularly painful illness.
- Not much is known about how to fight a plague maiden, though one can assume they possess many traits in common with other phantoms and wraiths. They undoubtedly pose a great danger, though a witcher's immunities should at least prevent him from catching the contagious illnesses they carry.
Also known as a pesta, a plague maiden is one of the more insidious wraiths a witcher may come across. When provoked, a pesta calls forth clouds of plague-ridden insects that seek out their foes. The insect clouds can be destroyed with Igni or a slice of a silver sword. Aard can push the clouds back.
Plague maidens have fewer overt weaknesses compared to other wraiths, but are still vulnerable to Yrden. This can help keep the maiden still while you strike with a silver sword, but it also means you will be swarmed by the plague clouds.
Behind the scenes
The plague maiden, a spirit personifying disease and pestilence, also has roots in European folklore. In those legends she is most often depicted as a deathly pale woman dressed in a simple white peasant dress, who walks across plague-stricken towns and villages leaving dead, corpse-strewn streets in her wake. The name Pesta is from Norwegian folklore, where Pesta was a personification of the Black Death plague. She was commonly said to be a withered old woman carrying either a rake or a broom. If she used the rake, some in the household would survive. If she used the broom, there would be no mercy.
The concept drawing created for our game shows the plague maiden in her true, more horrific form. Her rotten, worm-ridden flesh is covered in a ragged shroud seemingly woven from miasma and foul vapors. Crawling out from under it are dozens of plague-bearing rats.