Your heart pounds in your chest; as the sweat runs cold down your back. The light you see is too bright and too vivid. Smells you would never have noticed before are suddenly overpowering and the smallest sounds are deafening. There is fear, then disorientation…and agonizing pain, as your bones lengthen and your body contorts…then finally, the urge to hunt…and the all-consuming lust for blood. You run, close to the ground with the air burning your lungs. Your claws are razors, your teeth, daggers. Conscious thought fades…you are his now; his Hound. His commands burn within your mind as you howl your despair at the blood red moon. The Hunt of Hircine has begun, and you will kill tonight…
He is the father of lycanthropy, and the originator of the Great Hunt. He is the Father of Manbeasts, and the Huntsman of the Princes. All those who hunt pay tribute to him. He is the Daedric Prince Hircine.
The earliest reference of Hircine is a written encounter between him and the madgod Sheogorath, who summoned Hircine to the snowy peaks of Skyrim. As is his inclination, Sheogorath wished to amuse himself, and thus, challenged Hircine to a contest to determine who between them could create the deadliest creature in three years’ time. Hircine knew of Sheogorath’s love of mischief, but believed the madgod could surely be no match for him. Using his power over lycanthropy, Hircine created a particularly nasty daedroth. This beast was a nightmare creature of such savagery and dread its horror remains unrivalled even to this day.
Hircine strode confidently onto the battlefield with his handiwork as Sheogorath leaned against a stone, seemingly unconcerned. The madgod walked away to reveal his champion; a tiny colorful bird, scarcely the length of a finger. Unleashing his creation, Hircine was smug as the snarling monster obliterated the stone the bird had perched upon. Hircine’s beast roared in triumph, seemingly unaware that it had in fact missed its target.
It was then that the little bird landed upon the beast’s snout. The monster blinded itself trying to use its awful strength to smash Sheogorath’s champion even as the tiny creature chirped and flitted about, effortlessly avoiding the maddened brute.
In the end, Hircine’s creation literally tore itself apart trying to kill the little bird, who escaped unharmed. Thoroughly beaten, Hircine returned to his plane of Oblivion, the Hunting Grounds, where he burned his dead creature and pondered his loss. It is one of the few accounts in which Hircine has known the taste of defeat.
Another notable account of Hircine comes from the folklore of the Skaal of Solstheim, who speak of the terror and carnage of the Bloodmoon Prophecy and the Hunt of Hircine. The Daedric Princes have a bad habit of meddling in the affairs of mortals, and more times than not, someone gets hurt. Sometime ago, omens appeared that heralded the approach of the Huntsman God, beginning with the coming of werewolves who prowled Solstheim killing human and animal alike, which was followed by a blazing gout of flame that burned on frozen Lake Fjalding. The Hunt continued with the deaths of horkers who washed up on the shore, and culminated with the full moon turning red as blood. An entire tribe of Skaal was kidnapped and taken to Hircine’s realm to be hunted down by his werewolf Hounds. It was only by Hircine’s later defeat in single combat at the hands of a mere mortal that Hircine’s attempt to enter the mortal realm was defeated.
Despite the popular belief that the Daedric Princes are out to cause nothing but pain and misery in the mortal realm, Hircine does not seem revel in the destruction of mortals for its own sake. He operates by a very strict code of honor and ethics. As a Daedric Prince he is neither entirely evil nor good. He considers the taking of souls through lycanthropy a sacred gift, though the recipients of his “gift” might tend to disagree.
Like his kin, Hircine is known to bestow powerful artifacts to individuals willing to act as his mortal puppets. One of Hircine’s most well-known endowments has been the artifact known as the Cuirass of Savior’s Hide, though there are differing stories regarding its origin and properties. It is widely believed that there is a full set of Savior’s Hide Armor, but only the Cuirass has been seen since the middle of the Third Era. There are suggestions that the Cuirass, along with the rest of the armor was created by Malacath, but a more believable account is that the magic resistant Cuirass was crafted from the hide of Hircine, which he peeled from his body himself and bestowed upon the only mortal to ever survive all aspects of the Great Hunt and the Bloodmoon Prophecy. The Cuirass is also necessary to wield the Spear of Bitter Mercy, a particularly mysterious item which is currently on display at the Museum of Artifacts in Mournhold. Hircine has regained possession of the Cuirass on more than one occasion, using it to reward mortals who please him, as he did for the Champion of Cyrodiil who was tasked with bringing the Huntsman the horn of a Unicorn.
Another of Hircine’s artifacts that has seen more than its share of notoriety is an unassuming trinket called the Ring of Hircine. It is believed to have been kept by a Skaal leader Tharsten Heart-Fang for a great many years, allowing him to extend his vigor and vitality for far beyond his normal span, though scholars believe he may have lost the Ring for a time during the events known as the Warp in the West. After Heart-Fang was slain by the Nerevarine, the ring left Heart-Fang’s possession and found its new master with the Nerevarine, who then faced and defeated Hircine.
In the early part of the Fourth Era, near the town of Falkreath, a Nord werewolf named Sinding stole the Ring of Hircine in an attempt to control his transformations. Hircine was offended at the man’s insolence. To be a werewolf was to be Hircine’s chosen, and to deny that “gift”, was sacrilege. Hircine cursed the Ring, removing its protections against the inherent Bloodlust that was the cornerstone of lycanthropy and making Sinding’s transformations both more often and completely random. In addition, Hircine made it impossible for the man to remove the ring unless it was given to someone who would accept it voluntarily.
It was during this time Sinding met the Dragonborn, and pleaded with the Dovakiin to take the Ring and free it from its curse by hunting a magnificent white stag.
The thrill of the hunt honors Hircine, and it was Hircine himself who had demanded this from Sinding, and now Sinding was asking the Dragonborn perform it instead. The Dragonborn accepted, took the ring, which immediately bonded itself to the Dovakiin’s finger and hunted the animal down for the sake of the guilt ridden Sinding. Upon doing so, Hircine approached the Dragonborn through the spirit of the great white stag. Hircine was still wrathful and refused to forgive the tortured Nord. He demanded the Dragonborn hunt down Sinding and take his very hide for his betrayal of Hircine’s gift, but it is from there that accounts diverge, and we may never know what became of poor Sinding.
There has not been a Bloodmoon since the Third Era, and the Nords in Solstheim have not as of yet reported any of the frightening omens that foreshadow the imminent coming of Hircine and the savagery and bloodshed of his Great Hunt. Hircine’s artifacts continue to roam the globe, appearing at times to do so of their own will. The assortment of were-beasts who prowl the darkest recesses pf Tamriel continue to flourish and spread their own variety of terror in the name of Hircine, the Father of Manbeasts. Many denizens of Nirn consider Hircine’s influence on the world of Man and Mer as good and necessary. Some believe he safeguards the fragile balance of Nature; the delicate, ever shifting line separating the roles of predator…and prey.
Like all Daedra, Hircine is not bound by the fragile morals of Men. Their moral ambiguity has given more than one Daedric Prince the freedom to reshape Nirn in their own image. There are few so malevolent in their intent as the cruel and sinister Molag Bal who, with little motive other than spite, unleashed a curse upon the world so horrific he is considered the Father of Vampires and the Harvester of Souls.
But that- is a story for another day…