How does one become interested in studying
the disease lycanthropy? I have interviewed a number of my
peers, and discovered that to a man, they have all entered
the field after a horrifying encounter with a lycanthrope
of some variety. I am no exception.
In Skyrim, it is an old tradition to rub canis
root on the trees surrounding your house as a ward against
werebears. When I was young and stupid (as opposed, I guess,
to being old and stupid as I am now), I always had hoped to
meet a werebear to see if they were as impressive as legend
suggested. I would follow strange tracks in the woods until
they disappeared, with no fear or even thought about what
I would do after I had found my quarry. By Thorig's beard,
I was lucky that my investigations were fruitless.
When I did finally see a lycanthrope, it was
not a werebear. It was a werewolf, the "common"
lycanthope, which can be found in every part of Tamriel. My
father was a priest and during the coldest part of the winter,
he allowed the beggars and riffraff of Falcrenth to stay in
the relative warmth of the cellar of his temple. We would
even supply warm barley stew. My sisters and brothers and
I actually enjoyed this bit of philanthropy, for in the cellars
during the winter, it seemed there was a constant party. There
were always travellers with interesting stories and eccentricities,
and the atmosphere in the cellars was always light and friendly.
Until that night.
By an established tradition, the beggars who
were sick or wanted rest more than food and companionship
would go to the cots at the farthest, darkest end of the cellar
when they could be assured at least relative quiet. We were
enjoying a song, and my sister Gethessa was dancing to the
amusement of all. The song ended, but a chorus continued from
the darkness at the far end of the cellar. As drunk and incomprehensible
as most of the carolers were, it took a minute for us to realize
that the sound we were hearing was not singing, but screaming.
No one was too concerned, for some of the
older tramps often suffered from vivid nightmares. Nevertheless,
one of father's priests went to silence the screamer and the
moment he disappeared into the murk, we heard another sound.
The snarl of a wolf. Then we heard the priest screaming as
the original scream died off.
"Werewolf!" cried the old bard who
had been leading the song. The cellar exploded into chaos.
I was pushed out the cellar door into the
snow with the first wave of panic, but I could see that some
of the more brave (or more drunk) hobos were rushing into
the darkness to do battle with the lycanthrope. They were
all, of course, almost instantly killed.
My father, upon hearing of his unwelcome visitor,
sealed off the cellar after the last survivor of the carnage
had left. A seasoned battlemage from the Falcrenth Mages Guild,
who owed father a favor, went into the cellar and slew the
"Not too tough," he said as he emerged,
carrying the carcass with him. "Winter must have been
tough on him too." Despite his bold words, the blood
on his face and chest did not only come from his foe.
Werewolves do not revert to their human forms
upon death, despite what legends will tell you. I had the
opportunity to look at the monster's steaming body out in
the snow before it was carried away to be burned. The teeth,
clotted with the flesh of the beggars, were horrifying, but
the claws shocked me even more. I have since seen live lycanthropes
battle golems, atronachs, and other beings not harmed by mundane
weapons, and concluded that they act as naturally enchanted
Because the werewolf is the most ubiquitous
of lycanthropes, the term lycanthropy has been used since
ancient days to describe the disease that transforms men into
half-beast, although lycanthrope only strictly should refer
to men who change into werewolves. But that is semantics.
There are certainly differences between the seven documented
forms of lycanthropy in Tamriel, but more similarities.
In Black Marsh and southern Morrowind, werecrocodiles
stalk the swamps. Black Marsh also shares with the Imperial
Province and the wetter parts of Elsweyr the vile presence
of werelions. Valenwood's werevultures are not found in any
other province. The wereboar has found both the climates of
High Rock and Hammerfell amenable. As I mentioned before,
the werebear is the most common lycanthrope in Skyrim, and
is also found in the northern parts of High Rock, the Imperial
Province, and Morrowind. The werewolf can be found in every
province. The seventh lycanthrope, which I have never seen
but my trusted peers have assured me exists, is a wereshark
that roams the oceans around Tamriel.
I have spent my life categorizing and observing
lycanthropes, but I sometimes feel that I am still a child
trapped in a cellar in my attempts to understand them. I know,
for example, that lycanthropy can be cured shortly after infection,
but after that time, the victim is doomed. No one of my acquaintance
has cured themselves after undergoing the first transformation.
On the other hand, I have a colleague investigating a coven
of witches in the Glenpoint foothills of High Rock who are
rumored to have a cure. I remain dubious.
Perhaps it is because they are doomed that
makes lycanthropes so aggressive. I have removed the contents
of a werewolf's stomach and found more remnants of roots and
berries than animal flesh. My conclusion is that they do not
need to attack and devour humans to survive. Yet, for some
reason they do. Does lycanthropy drive them mad, or do lycanthropes
feel the need to spread the disease as a form of procreation?
I do not know. I am not certain that any of us who are not
lycanthropes ourselves will ever know. And then, of course,
it's too late.
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