As in the past, werewolves remain among the most powerful types of Shifter-kin, though they now bear a unique and horrifying curse ("lycanthropy"), which is spread by bite. They cannot control their transformation, shifting to a man-wolf form at the whim of the moon or at times of extreme emotion.
Werewolves are among the most powerful and feared monsters in all the mortal realm. Not much is known of them, so much of the information included here could also be taken as speculation, as the levels of their power and the unpredictability and degree of their transformations have yet to be fully understood.
- 1 Names and Terms
- 2 Curse
- 3 Infection/Reproduction
- 4 Behavior
- 5 Appearance
- 6 Powers
- 7 Weaknesses
Names and Terms
Werewolves are called many names across the mortal realm. Terms for a werewolf include, but are by no means limited to: werewolf, wolf-man, lykanthropos (or lycanthropos, plural lykanthropoi; this is an Old Achaean form), garwal or garwalf, varulfr (or simply varulf), vǎrkolak, and garou. Although some may have previously been used to refer to a variety of shapeshifters, some terms now refer only to werewolves today, such as versipellis (High Imperial), hamrammr (Nordling), and eigi einhamir (Nordling).
When the Shifters fell, werewolves - formerly the lords of their domain - were given a unique curse among all others. Instead of merely being stuck in a beast-man form, they lost control of their transformation by having their man and wolf spirits split asunder, with each one vying for control.
Shifting and the Moon
The greatest god of the ancient wolf shifters was a lunar deity, and thus the gods apparently saw fit to enslave werewolves to the influence of the moon, though some stories claim other reasons as the cause. Whatever the reason, if the moon is weak or hidden, werewolves may be able - in some cases - to control the beast within, but if the moonlight touches them, their urge to transform increases. On nights of the full moon, the transformation is impossible to resist, even if the moon is not visible. Some very unstable werewolves will even give into the beast even during the day, usually in times of extreme emotional stress, such as rage. All werewolf transformations are extremely painful, and so much as witnessing - or even just hearing - a werewolf undergo the transformation from man to beast traumatizes most people for life.
When a werewolf returns to his or her human (or elf or dwarf, as the case may be) form, the individual has little or no memory of what he or she did while in werewolf form. Werewolves remember nothing of the transformation itself, making it a new experience every time it occurs, and they have no recollection of the terrible pain and trauma. It is not unusual for a werewolf to spend his or her entire life unaware that they are cursed; in fact, this may be the most common state in which werewolves live. Some individuals might recall very vague visions and sensations from when they were transformed, but these are strange and difficult to understand, and they fade quickly after they awaken, as if it was all a dream.
A deceased werewolf will transform back to his natural (human, elf, or dwarf) form come daybreak and remain that way as long as the body exists. Any dismembered body parts also shift back to human shape. For instance, fur skinned from a werewolf becomes mere flesh, and a werewolf body part taken for a trophy will transform into a human part by sunrise the next day. It is, in a sense, true that the only real cure for lycanthropy is death.
Permanent or Extended Transformations
There have been numerous tales of werewolf transformations lasting years at a time (usually 7-10 years, especially in association with certain Arcadian rituals) or being permanent, in which an individual will turn into some kind of wolf-man or - much more commonly, for these kinds of tales - a large wolf, and never change back. Some even claim this is how vargs came to be. However, most of these tales are very old. Whether this is true of any werewolf or their kin is unknown.
A werewolf's curse is spread by bite. Any human, elf, or dwarf bitten by a werewolf who manages to live through the attack will become a werewolf on the next night of the full moon, unless some action is taken to cure them (other races, such as the Chaos races and all types of beastfolk, are immune to the curse). After an infected individual transforms for the first time, they can no longer be cured of lycanthropy. The exact conditions of when a werewolf's bite can infect an individual remains unknown, but the risk of contracting the curse may be increased or decreased depending on the phases of the moon. More often than not, a bitten individual does not survive to discover whether they acquired lycanthropy.
It is claimed that some werewolves may pass on their curse by delivering a bite - with this conscious and intended purpose, and no other - to another individual even in their human form, thus making them at least capable of choosing those they infect, not unlike vampires. However, any proof of these claims remains shaky at best.
If a werewolf has a child with another infected individual, that child will be a born werewolf and will begin transforming upon reaching puberty. All born werewolves have heightened senses even while in human form, as well as improved strength and speed beyond that of an ordinary human, as do bitten werewolves. Legend claims born werewolves to be more powerful in human form than are bitten ones, but this has yet to be "proven," and thus remains nothing more than hearsay among groups like the Venatori.
Rumors claim that half-werewolves exist, but any truth behind this - as well as any properties of half-werewolves themselves, including whether or not they ever transform - is a mystery.
Another way in which a person can become a werewolf is through berserkergang. The warriors who bond their soul to that of a wolf can become werewolves if they give in to their berserk rage too often and lose themselves to their animal spirit.
Rituals, Potions, and More
According to rumors and many ancient legends, there are truly many ways in which one can become a werewolf. These include, but are not limited to, performing or undergoing certain rituals, drinking a specially prepared potion, or donning certain cursed artifacts. But, like so many aspects of lycanthropy in general, no one knows whether these are true.
Werewolves are beings of a split personality: man and beast. These two personalities are separate entities sharing the same (transforming) body, and may even hate each other, depending on various factors. One personality has no control over the other.
Despite common belief, werewolves are not all inherently angry and violent creatures. Ultimately, werewolves vary in personality depending on the individual, just as humans do; some werewolves may be aggressive, while others behave more as ordinary wolves and prefer to be left alone. Whatever their personality, werewolves - whose terrifying cunning is never to be underestimated - are driven by their animal instincts. They are neither good nor evil, but unpredictable and extremely dangerous beasts. Also, it is noteworthy that werewolves will never eat another werewolf, no matter how hungry they may be. Like wolves, werewolves communicate with various sounds, the most famous of which is their howl. Unlike wolves, however, werewolves are capable of roaring; also, werewolves do not bark. Some werewolves live in packs, but lone werewolves are more common. Werewolves that manage to find one another while in werewolf form will often hunt together, rallying around the strongest werewolf in the group. But since their human and werewolf personalities are split, the humans generally have disagreements, and packs may disband after daybreak.
A man becoming a werewolf will have no bearing on the human's personality, besides how they react to the fact that they are a werewolf (if they ever learn). Just as a werewolf's human side is dormant and has no control over his actions in werewolf form, the werewolf's beast side has no control over the man's actions while in human form. In spite of some tales, a werewolf in human form is no angrier or more violent than anyone else, whether he was born or bitten: their temperament depends entirely on the person in question. However, an individual who is emotionally unstable will be more likely to give in to his transformations, regardless of the moon phase.
Werewolves are extremely mysterious creatures. No one knows exactly how their transformations work or what results in a more or less dramatic transformation, save for the fact that the most dramatic werewolf transformations will always occur on the full moon. Their transformations vary in degree: sometimes a werewolf will undergo an extensive transformation and become enormous beastmen with the head, legs, and tail of a wolf. However, they will also often shapeshift less dramatically, gaining only a few wolfish features, including bright (or sometimes entirely wolfish) eyes, fur, sharp teeth, pointed ears, and claws. Sometimes, transformations may be even less dramatic, resulting only in a select few animalistic features, and they may even recede fairly quickly.
Every lycanthrope’s werewolf form bears some resemblance to their human form, including relative height, facial features, and hair styles such as braids and beards that may still be visible in the werewolf's fur. The coloration of the werewolf's eyes remains the same, though they turn far brighter than in their human form. Some eyes, such as shades of brown, will turn golden, orange, or even red. Though some eye colors undergo stranger and more dramatic changes, this similarity is one of the most certain methods to determine a werewolf’s identity. Even in human form, a werewolf is said to have brighter eyes than a normal human.
Although many legends associate werewolves with humans, elves and dwarves are capable of contracting lycanthropy as well. However, despite what some may claim, elves and dwarves are all but impossible to distinguish from human werewolves while transformed. Generally speaking, human werewolves are often the largest, and dwarven werewolves are often the smallest, but all werewolves are far larger than Men. Even a dwarven werewolf will stand well over a mortal man and be far larger of build. In short, a werewolf's race cannot be determined by the appearance of their werewolf form. Likewise, elf and dwarf werewolves share all the same qualities of a human werewolf.
All werewolves share these various abilities; however, as with most creatures, the level of a werewolf's power varies from individual to individual.
All werewolves have strength, agility, and senses far superior to an ordinary man's. Even in human form, werewolves are physically "better" than humans in these respects.
Werewolves heal exceptionally fast in both forms, and they are legendary in their ability to shrug off most all wounds, though the latter applies doubly to their werewolf form. They can quickly recover from nearly all types of injuries, including those that would be fatal to an ordinary man, which has helped them earn their place among the most feared of all monsters. Some legends claim that the most powerful of werewolves can regenerate fingers or even limbs, though any truth behind this remains unknown. However, a wound inflicted by silver inhibits all of these healing abilities. The only way to be certain a werewolf will not recover from a mortal wound is to use a silver weapon (though some legends say that a werewolf can regenerate even from silver wounds, if proper, ancient rituals are applied), otherwise it is very likely they will "return to life." This has led some stories to speak of werewolves as if they are undead, but they have no relation whatsoever with such creatures.
A werewolf's lifespan is unknown. Some say that human werewolves die of old age, like ordinary Men. However, others claim that lycanthropy brings with it cursed immortality.
It is noteworthy that werewolves remain highly intelligent in their werewolf form. Some tales tell that werewolves can speak, but this seems to largely be hearsay - or, at least, if such a thing is possible, it is limited to a select few individuals who have achieved an almost unheard of amount of control over their lycanthropy.
Howls and Other
Werewolves have the ability to summon wolves to their aid with a howl, and it is said that the Six themselves can summon vargs and other werewolves in the same way. There are many other abilities that men have claimed werewolves possess in both or either form, but many of the specifics remain a mystery. Werewolves may have far more abilities than it seems, as most who encounter a werewolf do not live to tell the tale.
Like all descendants of the Shifters, werewolves are sensitive to silver. Anyone infected with lycanthropy or bearing lycanthropic blood will recoil from the touch of silver and become burned if it is pressed against their skin for too long. Wounds caused by silver take longer to heal, are far more painful, and are capable of being mortal wounds, whereas wounds inflicted with any other type of weaponry will very quickly regenerate.
Other than silver, werewolves bear no particular weaknesses. Rumors about werewolf sensitivity to plants like belladonna and wolfsbane are largely untrue, although it is claimed that plants may be used to mix potions that can help a werewolf control his lycanthropy for short periods of time. Whether or not these potions exist remains unknown, save by a select few very knowledgeable individuals.