Saturday, July 27, 2019

#123: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and My Transformation Into a Monster

If you've ever had a conversation with me regarding The Elder Scrolls series, you'll know that my favorite game in it is Oblivion. I think it has some of the best quest design in modern RPGs, and still plays well today, even if its visuals are dated. Since I had some spare time over the summer, I decided it would be a good idea to download the PC copy I purchased years ago and replay the game. Unlike my previous runs, which have always been on PS3 since that's all I had at the time, I went in with the benefits of mods.
Among the various mods I downloaded was the Curse of Hircine mod, which appealed to me for two reasons. For one, it offered a brand new way to play the game, under a set of conditions I am not used to. And on top of that, I am furry trash who relishes in the idea of transforming into a big, strong werewolf. However, not even I would have been able to predict the end result from installing one, single mod. What follows is a chronicle of my journey into the darkness, embracing the animal my character had become.

As you might expect, one does not simply install a werewolf mod without wanting to play as the mythical monster themselves. I am no exception to this rule, and I molded my Khajit character accordingly. He trained in various physical disciplines, including unarmed combat, archery, stealth, athletics and acrobatics. A natural-born hunter, Rabrandt “the Wildborn”, as he was known, spent the majority of his time in the countryside exploring ruins and old fortresses in order to further hone his already deadly abilities. Eventually, he knew he would encounter someone who would be able to help him achieve his ultimate goal: To become a werewolf, an apex predator. A long time admirer of these creatures, the Wildborn began to desire that same power. And for the trial ahead, his body and mind had to be ready.
Before long, his quarry was found. A raving mad, nearly-naked lunatic rampaging in the forests, southwest of the Imperial City. Any other adventurer would have given such a man a wide berth, but not Rabrandt. These same signs were indicative of the very same disease the hunter sought. Sanies Lupinus, otherwise known as Lycanthropy, was within his grasp. Fists at the ready, he charged ahead. The fight was a tough one, but not because his opponent had the upper hand. Since the disease can only be passed on while the infected is alive, Rabrandt had to prolong the fight until he could feel the illness take hold within his system. Only when it was clear that his goal had been achieved, the 'illness' passed on to its new 'victim', did he finish the job with a iron-fisted blow to the skull.

At this point, all that was left was to give Sanies Lupinus time to fully take hold, passed the point where it could be cured, and wait until the light of the next full moon illuminated the night sky. Finally, after what seemed like eons, it had happened. Collapsing onto the ground, howling in masochistic pleasure, the Wildborn's feline qualities began to change... replaced with more primal, lupine features. No one could say his original form was weak, with all the care he took to shape it. However, the former body of a warrior was replaced by that of a titan. Limbs expanded, packed with muscle stronger than steel. Claws and fangs sharpened to razor sharp points. Senses honed such that no living being could escape their notice. Footpads padded to be so quiet that one wouldn't sense their sound until it was far too late.
Given the title of this report, this is likely where you think the story ends. Rabrandt became a monster and used his newfound power to inflict unholy terror upon the citizens of Cyrodil. If that is the case, you were mistaken. The former feline knew that he would have to contend with a craving for human flesh every time his bestial nature was unleashed. For that reason, until he could develop a strong enough will to subsist off cattle, he vowed to only use this might on the deserving. He was a hunter, not a murderer. And even in the context of man, there were creatures most foul, whom no one would miss. Prowling the countryside, bandits and highwaymen ran rampant. They would serve as the necessary sacrifices to keep his cravings in check while maintaining his own humanity.

And for a long time, that is how Rabrandt continued his existence. He continued to develop his skills, to become the perfect representation of the ultimate hunter that now lurked within his body and soul. But beyond that, he developed ways to coexist with society, even if they would deem him a monster if they discovered his true nature. This fragile balance between part of, yet fundamentally separated from, society is what eventually drew him towards the Thieves' Guild. Those same talents that made him an effective predator also proved useful in a life spent stealing from the rich and powerful. Furthermore, the Guild's policy against murder would serve as an effective check against his own burgeoning bloodlust.
With his combined earnings from dungeoneering and burglary, Rabrandt began to make additional preparations for his monthly excursions, when the moon brought out his true self. In order to provide safe places to rest, recuperate, and transform away from prying eyes, bought property in nearly every major city in Cyrodil. Wherever innocent people lived, there was a place that he could call home. This too continued for quite some time and life continued as normal for the Wildborn, as he climbed the ranks of the Guild he began to think of as a second family.
Once a month, during the 3 nights of the full moon, the feline-turned-canine warrior used his superhuman strength and regenerative abilities to purge the roads of threats to wayward travelers, feeding his inner beast by devouring them, leaving naught but bone. He had been called on to deal with problems up to and including the deplorable Skooma trade, even if his clients weren’t aware of what were hiring in order to keep their towns and loved ones safe.

And yet, all things must eventually come to an end. In this case, one lapse in judgement altered Rabrandt's fate irrevocably. While on Thieves' Guild business, the rogue-warrior found himself wandering the streets of Anvil late at night. Tired from a day of sneaking into Castle Anvil, he checked in at a local hotel to spend the night. As he shut his door and prepared for bed, he felt the call. For once, the transformation would take him by surprise, and he didn't have time to vacate the area before it happened. By fortune's good grace, nobody witnessed the light of the full moon draw the beast within to the surface, but that was only the first of many obstacles.
It was clear that if Rabrandt wanted to keep the townsfolk unharmed, he would need to make a break for the city gate, which was easier said-than-done. Getting out of the hotel wasn't a challenge. It's guests were too scared to do anything but run. However, when the guards in the street saw a monster on the loose, they moved into action. Rabrandt knew that even if he left now, they would merely give chase until they found and killed their lycanthrope. The one blessing he had was that he was still anonymous, even under the circumstances. If he couldn't shake them until morning, he would be discovered. Given how tenacious watchmen tended to be, there was only one option…. They needed to die.
This didn't mean the fight was an easy one, as city guardsmen are highly trained and equipped with silver weaponry. Still, despite an aggravating healing factor due to his legendary weakness, Rabrandt was able to win the battle and escape... or so he thought. During his retreat, while formulating plans to indulge in his bestial hunger, he failed to notice another wave of town watchman had begun to tail him. Though the beast had traveled far, and fast, away from Anvil, they had managed to keep up with him. Again, with his options depleted, the lycanthrope resolved to bare his fangs. This time, free of the confines of the city, they didn't stand a chance. As the final blow had been struck, a couple of wayward werewolf hunters stumbled onto the grizzly scene. Valiantly though the struggled, they too could not hope to win against a monster or such strength and skill.
Alone, left to observe his grizzly handiwork, Rabrandt's instincts were beginning to take hold. So many corpses... freshly killed meat... and there was only one thing to do. That craving had to be sated.
Ten people were murdered that night. When the wolf assumed his feline guise once more, there was something different about him. Despite what had happened, there was no room in his heart for remorse or guilt. In fact, he marveled at how easy it had all been. A lesser man would have been tempted to blame “the beast”, but he was no fool. Bloodlust and the transformation notwithstanding, he was perfectly aware of what he was doing. That realization was, in his mind, liberating. He still made sure to maintain a veneer of humanity while around civilization, pretending to be an upstanding member of society. And yet, the reluctance to take life was gone. When the moon shone brightly in the sky, and his full strength was unleashed, it didn't matter where he changed, so long as no witnesses remained alive. Bandit camps, city streets, countryside inns, were all nothing more than farms, their populations reduced to cattle in his mind.
And one night, awakened from his slumber, Rabrandt would be visited by a robed man, a representative of a dark organization. Unlike the Thieves’ Guild, who would absolutely turn on him if they learned of his true nature, this group promised to accept him, embrace him and the talents he had worked so hard to cultivate. His new life had begun, and a new reign of terror with it...

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