Vitae is a mystical substance that is secreted in the blood of mammals during times of great stress, such as torture. Alexander of Brennenburg used various methods of torture on prisoners in order to produce the vitae he needed to return home.
Vitae is of cosmic origin and causes the living host to burst with energy. The catalyst is produced somewhere in the brain. Although many of its properties are unknown, one of them is the ability to extend life, potentially for centuries, if consumed in large amounts. In order to procure such amounts, it must be acquired from humans. Alexander found out through torturing dogs that although animals also secrete Vitae, they do not produce it in large enough doses to be of any use (See Canis Lupus Familiaris Note).
Aside from extending life, vitae also has the power to prevent ongoing illnesses, no matter how severe, from progressing. It cannot cure them, however; the sufferer would have to consume vitae regularly for their whole life in order to stave off the illness.
Lastly, vitae also appears to be a potent energy source, as many devices in the Empire relied on vitae in order to function.
Obtaining Vitae is a methodical and painstaking task, as torture must be inflicted in the right fashion for maximum Vitae extraction. When pain or fear is instilled in a victim, the body fills the bloodstream with Vitae, and this can result in fits of violence and brute strength if the victim is not properly restrained and terrified. After the victim is completely broken, they will no longer produce enough Vitae, as their mind has already adjusted to the torture. Thus, an amnesia drink was used to make them forget about the torture, so more Vitae could be harvested.
Alexander made several attempts to create an artificial form of Vitae in the Laboratory. However, each one ended in failure. The otherworldly being was unable to grasp the mysterious inner workings of life and their relation to the mystic energy. His last experiment's chemical solution was rendered highly acidic and useless for the intended purposes as it ironically dissolved organic matter instead.
In time, the vitae extraction process was refined further: in addition to the cycle of torture and amnesia induction, the victim would also be shown his or her own best memories, which had been previously extracted, in order to generate hope before the torture began anew. This served the dual purpose of not only intensifying the fear and pain from the torture, thereby increasing vitae yield, but also preventing the victims from "burning out" too rapidly, making them last longer.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
After the events of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, 60 years later, Oswald Mandus discovers the effects of Vitae after witnessing a worker's severed head come to life after being drenched in the Brennenburg compound and starts using Vitae in his experiments. Calling it Brennenburg Infusion Vitae, he uses it in conjunction with another substance, the Orgone Monad Disperal fluid to create his Manpigs. It is unknown whether Mandus discovered Vitae on his own or simply continued and improved on the work of Alexander.
In Amnesia: Rebirth, vitae is produced and harvested in an incredible scale to maintain the lifeforce of the Empress in the otherworld. The Empress claims that vitae will keep Tasi's daughter alive despite her predetermined fate of an early death. Vitae also seems to power the city/shrine in which the Empress presides. Despite the seemingly incredible feats of technology that the Empress and her civilization created, the extreme requirement of suffering and anguish in humans to produce vitae remained the same.
- "Vitae" translates to "Life" in Latin.
- The Vitae from Amnesia: The Dark Descent shares a slight resemblance with Azoth from Haunting Ground. Both Vitae and Azoth are extracted from tortured humans, and occasionally animals, and can extend one's life for centuries. The tortured victims will most likely die from the extraction.
- Ethanol was commonly called aqua vitae ("water of life") by alchemists throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
- Many of the effects of vitae (such as increased strength in stressful situations) are similar to the effects caused by adrenaline.