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Onceborn is the name given to Malfeans who were once human. They are also called Oncelived, Plotters and Cabalists.
Unlike their cousins the Neverborn, the Onceborn were once ordinary people in the Skinlands. Many of them lived miserable lives and were quick to fall to Oblivion when they came to the Shadowlands. They took years, even centuries, to rise through the Spectral ranks. Prior to being Onceborn, most of them were Nephwracks, toughened and tempered through years of exposure to Oblivion. There is no real line per se of when a Nephwrack becomes a Malfean, except by perhaps how much destruction they are capable of causing.
Onceborn differ from the Neverborn in several ways. First, they are "awake"; that is, they are active and interfere more in the events of the dead, depending less on lackeys as the Neverborn do. Second, they are considerably less powerful than their cousins. However, they are still thousands of times more powerful than the most powerful wraith. Third, Onceborn are overall less intelligent than the Neverborn. As they grow in size and form, their minds spend less time formulating ideas and more on consumption and survival.
Most named Malfeans are Onceborn, and have come to represent specific aspects of the dark side of the human psyche.
- Ends of Empire