Monday, July 1, 2013

A Deep and Abiding Hunger - The Vargr

The Vargr are the chosen of Baba Yaga–the Witch that created them. They are her shock troops, implacable warriors and brutal combatants with a nearly insatiable taste for the flesh of men. Once normal men and women, they now walk a ragged edge between beast and man. The Vargr are werewolves, a people cursed (or blessed depending on one's point of view) with the ability to become half human, half wolf… overcome with a ravenous, all-consuming hunger. Their beast forms give them increased size, strength, speed, and stamina. Becoming a werewolf sharpens their senses, allowing them to see, hear, and smell far beyond the limits of mortals. However, the transformation is more than skin deep—they become savage creatures operating on little more than instinct and low cunning.

Originally culled from the Outland nation of Seaharrow, the first Vargr to come over the mountain in the van of Baba Yaga's forces were a motley collection of races with little uniformity among them other than their Witchmark and their inherent savagery. After decades of living among the Steppefolk, the Vargr of today are a much more homogeneous group. Swarthy and dark eyed with inordinate amounts of dense body hair, the Vargr are typically short in stature with broad shoulders, long arms ending in large, powerful hands, and relatively short legs. Their features are a strange mix of the Steppengradans fierce solemnity and the feral beauty of the animals, which lurk just beneath their skin. Like all Accursed, the Vargr carry their Witchmark in a more or less conspicuous place on their person. The Vargr's Witchmark typically takes the form of a permanent livid bruise or a maroon or dark purple port-wine stain birthmark on their head or the backs of their hands. In some cases the Witchmark manifests in chalky, flaky blues and grays that resembles war paint. In either form, a Vargr's Witchmark is always permanently hairless and clearly visible..

In company, a Vargr's manners tend to be rustic and crude, his conversation low, and his hygiene of dubious quality. The voice of a Vargyr is often guttural. The speech of these lycanthropes tends to be muddled and much given to growls, mumbling, and other animal sounds. Those mortals who have had dealings with the Vargr describe them as filthy, uncouth, ignorant savages who care for little more than fighting and debauchery. While some of this judgement is warranted, it is also largely an unfair assessment of the Vargr. It is true that their bestial nature and their powerful curse does, in fact, make them unpleasant company to outsiders. However, despite stories to the contrary, they are neither ignorant nor stupid. In their human form the Vargr vary in intellect as much as the average Steppefolk. When they change and the beast takes control, however, their human intellect is completely subsumed by the instincts and cunning of the wolf. While they lose their ability to speak and reason like men, they become deadly hunters and dangerously cunning opponents, especially in the dark recesses of Steppengrad's forests. The Vargr are not individuals to be trifled with in either form, and many a foolish mortal has learned this valuable lesson at the cost of their looks, their limbs, or even their lives.

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