A single orb is big enough to fill a person's cupped hands. The texture is smooth and jagged. Its color washed while rich. Contrast is not enough to describe its nature. Its appearance is an impossibility. The ancient stone relics have an immaculate surface and perfect shape that look like they could have been moulded by a factory. The orbs are an artificial paradox captured within stone.
An uncovered orb flares a constant blue fiery light. To stand next to one is like being in a mad whirlpool of impressions. The 'storm' it forms can be a terrifying ordeal for a novice to experience.
If someone is uninitiated in using the orbs or inexperienced in the mystic arts, the Orb itself will either on the rare occasion evaporate away to nothing, or more likely, shatter. The shards or pieces of a broken orb will behave very strangely. They change color, shape and texture, but ever so slightly. Orb shards bleed madness and can be used as instruments of torture in and of themselves.
The shattering of an orb can be very dangerous and cause irreparable damage. Not only can shards reveal the future, but disrupt the welder's own spirit, splitting it as well. This can bring about multiple personality disorders, though the user is usually likely to go completely mad from the revelations they show first.
Orbs shards can join and reform back into one complete orb, but rebuilding one is almost impossible. Daniel is the only known person ever to accomplish this, and he did it twice. The first time he assembled it was in London. Woken from an exhausting nightmare caused by The Shadow, he knew exactly where all the pieces were supposed to go. It can only be speculated why the Guardian would want to teach its "branded" young man how to repair the mystic relic.
The second time he repeated this feat was in Castle Brennenburg, Daniel subconsciously remembered how to put it together, even with his memory wiped. The nightmare must have profoundly changed the man in such a way that even the amnesia mixture could not purge the memory. Both times he used tar as an adhesive to hold the six ever-changing shards together. The pieces would then merge into one complete orb and the tar after serving its purpose is pushed out by the joining parts fusing back together.
History and LoreEdit
Not very much is known about the Orbs, and for the first two-thirds of the game, they are quite enigmatic artifacts. Most information regarding their creation and purpose, if any, was lost to antiquity. The total number of orbs in existence altogether cannot be accounted for.
The otherworldly relics have a strong connection to the mystery religion of Mithraism. Located in a cavern temple called a Mithraeum representing the Universe, Orbs were the center-piece of this place of worship, allowing its followers a sense of connection with creation.
Despite most knowledge of them being forgotten over time and passing into obscurity, they have left a prevalent trace across many cultures. The mythic orbs may have inspired the Globus Cruciger, first used by Byzantine emperors and a symbol of authority used throughout the Middle Ages. In ancient times the orbs were held by priests as a symbol of the sun and its power.
It is as inexplicable as the Heliodromus (a symbol associated with the deity Sol in Mithraic mysteries) described it in the Hortus Conclusus. Though the unearthly artifacts are to be found in hidden underground Mithraic temples, the tomb of Tin Hinan in Algeria was far older than this. The age of the orbs cannot be determined.
The Dark DescentEdit
From a diary entry found in the Archives, we are told that Daniel came across one while digging as an archaeologist in Algeria. He broke it accidentally, and as he returned to London, peculiar and uncanny incidents began to occur in his wake. The expedition he had been part of disappeared shortly after his departure, the sole survivor being too insane to provide credible testimony to what had happened.
Shortly thereafter, many people which had come into contact with Daniel died gruesome and peculiar deaths, and Daniel became increasingly convinced that he was to blame. He went through the address book of Herbert, his colleague at the Algerian digsite, and sent letters to everyone in it, pleading for help. Most replies were useless, however, one of the receivers, Alexander of Brennenburg, laconically replied that he could help Daniel if he came to Brennenburg Castle in Prussia.
Alexander told Daniel, according to journal pages found in-game, that the orb was a dangerous artifact. It cannot be established if Baron's account was entirely trustworthy, since he wanted Daniel's Orb to wield its power, not save him. He went on to say it casts a long "Shadow" which could kill its wielder if he couldn't control it. Not to mention this Guardian of the Orb will trail behind the wielder, killing anyone he came into contact with. Throwing away the orb would not help, as Daniel would still be a part of the path to the orb and eventually be horribly killed (this was later demonstrated to be a lie, as when Agrippa threw away the first orb he ever discovered the Shadow left him alone).
His only salvation apparently lay in torturing human beings and extracting a mysterious substance, "Vitae", to perform warding rituals. Through other notes found in-game, it's revealed that Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, the well-known occultist, came across one of the orbs in the early 16th century and sought to study it. Agrippa also appears to have aided Alexander in preparing an explosive mixture for him, which is put to use in the Storage.
When the player encounters Agrippa, it is revealed that the Orbs were originally an integral part of Mithraism, an ancient religion long-forgotten. Alexander, who apparently is an otherworldly creature (as revealed by the 'Memory Capsules' throughout the game), seeks to harness the Orb's power to return home and reunite with his love. It is also revealed that Agrippa's Orb, the one mentioned in the note, was broken by Alexander, who therefore invited Daniel to his castle in order to take his Orb instead. Agrippa's Orb lies in pieces, scattered throughout the Choir and the Transept. Daniel must find them all, and may choose to assemble the ingredients for a potion Agrippa needs to be freed from the dead body which cages his spirit.
After a few more unpleasant events, Daniel uses the orb he assembles to breach the gates of the Inner Sanctum and enter the Orb Chamber. He may or may not choose to foil Alexander's ritual, and the game ends.
A Machine for PigsEdit
The Machine has one fractured, split-in-two orb integrated into its core. Curiously these two orb shards were not recovered from Mithraic temples but rather from an Aztec one in Mexico. The purpose of the Orb halves within the machine is not clear, but given their supernatural properties they could either serve as a power source or as a means of boosting The Machine's own power. Should one looks closely, one may noticed that the broken Orb shards had changed their shape and texture to resemble human hearts.
In one of the notes found in A Machine for Pigs, Mandus claimed that he can "smell the Orb" on a dead Gatherer body shipped across from Brennenburg to him.
List of OrbsEdit
Through notes picked up in-game, it is suspected that there may be at least nine orbs left in the world. According to Agrippa, Johann Weyer gathered a whole collection of orbs.
The Orb may give people who can control it power over the Shadow, though their experiences vary. Agrippa, Daniel, Weyer, and Mandus did not die after recovering their respective Orbs.
- Agrippa's Orb (Later recovered by Alexander and rebuilt by Daniel). Agrippa discovered his first orb in the Prussian forests, near Altstadt. Agrippa wanted the orb's power and was chased by its Guardian as soon as he left the hidden tomb. It only desisted until after he relinquished his first orb. The Shadow carried him miles away across the Alps to a grassy field outside Genoa. Alexander later recovered the Orb first found by Agrippa, and depended on it for his research to return "home". Fearful he'd run out of human prisoners thanks to Wilhelm's men's blunders, he proceeded with Final Ritual without proper foresight. He accidentally cracked the Orb and it fell into six parts. Alexander tried everything, but was unable to mend it. Later Daniel was able to recover each shard and rebuild it to penetrate the barrier around the Inner Sanctum. Though it worked, the Orb evaporated in the process.
- Daniel's Orb (Taken by Alexander). Daniel's orb was an oddity. It enchanted him multiple times to hold it. Alexander even had to stop him while he tried to tamper with it. When Daniel first touched it he was spirited away into alien memories of spiralling towers, endless deserts, and impossible geometry. However the young man was "uninitiated" in the mystic arts, and so touching his orb caused it to shatter. When trapped in the tomb his Orb kept him alive and prevented him from dying of asphyxiation. The shadow did not try to kill him either, instead it followed behind him ever since. Awakened by exhausting nightmares he managed to rebuild it. Daniel did not submit to its powers, but instead had a desire to find knowledge his own way. He then realised the Guardian of the Orb was killing everyone he had contact with. Fearing for his life also, he took it to the Prussian Baron who later stole it and its power from him, forcing it to yield its powers to him. After using Daniel to gather vitae the Baron then abandoned him to a furious and vengeful Shadow. Alexander now uses it in a ritual to return home. Whether Daniel disrupts the ritual or allows it to finish, his Orb will ultimately evaporate.
- Herbert's Orb (Reclaimed by the Shadow). Herbert discovered the second orb in the tomb of Tin Hinan. Like Agrippa however, he wanted to misuse its powers and was almost immediately hunted down by the supernatural Guardian. It chased him through the Algerian desert, consuming him and his men because, unlike Agrippa, he refused to give the orb back.
- Johann Weyer's collection of Orbs. Weyer was somehow able to harness the power of many orbs with no ill effect. He was able to make them yield its power to him without incurring the Shadow's wrath. How he did this is a mystery.
- Mandus' Orb (Fused into The Machine's core). Mandus recovered an orb from a ruined Aztec temple in Mexico. He was uninitiated and the orb fractured, and shattered into two. Consequently, this was so powerful it also split Mandus' own soul into two as well. The two orb halves bled so madness they revealed unto him all the horrors of the wars and genocides to come in the 20th Century. He went insane and murdered his own children rather than endure them living in such dark evil times. Mourning, he took the two orb shards back to England to use them to power The Machine and remake the world. It is unknown why the Shadow does not come after him. It's possible the Shadow can sense a desire to make things right, or do what it (the Shadow) sees as fit.
The Star SymbolEdit
The mysterious and powerful orbs seem to be associated with a star-shaped symbol. According to Remember - Amnesia The Dark Descent, the symbol (among others) was drawn by Johann Weyer on Herbert's map to the tomb of Tin Hinan. The symbol is also carved in soapstones, of which at least two exist: the first one was found by Sokal, one of the men escorting Johann Weyer to an Orb Chamber in Calais in the year 1558, which was handed down through the centuries to Ambroise, a French officer, who gave it to Herbert; the second one was in possession of Dr. Florbelle and the very same stone was used by his daughter, Justine, to kill him. A white star is also drawn on Dr. Florbelle's gravestone in the Crypt. The stone itself is at the base of his tombstone, and can be picked up.
Ambroise tells Herbert that the strange star-shaped stone "has fueled the men in his family with great spirit, but also madness" and "inspiration to the point of obsession". This reflects with the case of Justine, whose father, in possession of the stone, became obsessed studying her mental condition (or madness).
In conclusion, all the stones yielded to an Orb. However it's unclear whether the Florbelle family, possessing one of the stones, made contact with an Orb. In the end of Justine's experiment, one of the ominous blood writings says "What will that perfect sphere bring", suggesting that the young girl is aware of the Orbs' existence.