Therianthropy is a group of blood-borne diseases exclusive to humans. The diseases can be treated and it is possible to suppress some of the more spectacular symptoms, but a cure is yet to be found. The most well known form of therianthropy is lycanthropy.
The most well known symptom of therianthropy is that the person afflicted by it is able to turn into an animal. This can be done at will but also involuntarily once a month; usually when the moon is full but in some cases also when it is new. The type of animal is determined by the version of the disease, but it’s always a carnivorous mammal. The type of animal a person transforms into is referred to as that person’s animal identity, or simply their animal.
Persons afflicted by lycanthropy, the most well known type of therianthropy turns into a large wolf when the moon is full. Another, less well-known but equally common version is ailuranthropy. This is in turn a sub-group of versions of the disease where the patient turns into a felid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felidae) every time the moon is new.
Apart from the above-mentioned transformation there are several other symptoms of the disease, both mental and physical. Some of which are barely noticeable while others are more obvious.
Pretty soon – within the first month - after a person becomes afflicted with therianthropy they will start to experience a type of dissociative personality disorder. The afflicted will notice how they have acquired an additional identity; that of the animal they’re transforming into. This new identity will attempt to take over control of the body of the theriantrope. At first the attempts will be weak and only when the animal identity feels threatened in some way. As time progresses the attempts will grow stronger, more ferocious and can occur unexpectedly at any time.
If the afflicted person isn’t strong willed enough their animal identity will eventually succeed in taking control of the body, suppressing the original identity. This is likely to end badly unless the takeover has been predicted and the appropriate preparations have been made.
Afflicted persons who manage to keep their animal identity under control will eventually also learn to benefit from it, allowing their animal identity to influence their actions and decisions at the right time.
The second mental symptom a person afflicted by theriantropy notices is that they are taking a liking to animals of the type their disease lets them transform into. The will start to enjoy the same types of food and environment as their animal and they will adopt the same sleeping pattern.
Theriantropes living in cities when they contract the disease will eventually move out of the city, usually just to suburban areas with nearby countryside but sometimes out into more rural areas or even unsettled territory.
Unfortunately, animals tend to shun persons afflicted by theriantropy, even those animals that correspond to the animal identity of the theriantrope. This means theriantropes aren’t able to keep pets, which in many cases give rise to feelings of sadness and loneliness. This is especially true for those whose animal identity is a pack animal.
This symptom manifests slowly and is often not noticed by the theriantrope until it is pointed out to them. The person afflicted will slowly but surely adjust their personality to that of their animal. If their animal is of an aggressive type the person will become equally aggressive.
If the animal is of a solitary kind the theriantrope will start to distance themselves from other people, including friends and family. The animal attitude is perhaps most notable in theriantropes whose animal identity is that of a pack animal. The person will start paying more attention to the social pecking order of those around them. They will start defending their position from those they consider below them and the will look for opportunities to overtake the ones above them.
This kind of behavior can be stressful for anyone; regardless of if they are afflicted by theriantropy or not. It adds further to the stress the afflicted person already is under due to their condition and it’s one of the reason pack theriantropes seek out others of their kind. Lycanthropes are especially well known for this, but it’s common among other theriantropes as well.
While the disease doesn’t directly cause depression it is often a result of the other symptoms. Depression in theriantropes can be treated with various kinds of therapy but not with antidepressants. The disease neutralizes the effects of almost all drugs given to the theriantrope.
Forced shape changingEdit
This is the most notable, most famous and defining symptom of the disease. This causes the theriantrope to transform, physically, into an animal once a month. This will happen whether they want to or not and there is no way to prevent it that isn’t both extremely painful and dangerous.
The involuntary monthly transformation is related to the phase of the moon. It most commonly occurs on the night of the full moon but for some types of the disease, most notably the ailuranthropy sub-group the transformation occurs on the night of the new moon.
There is no known version of the disease where the transformation occurs during the day. In areas where the sun doesn’t set, such as during summer in the far north the transformation takes place during the part of the day when the sun is at its lowest.
Voluntary shape changingEdit
Apart from the monthly forced transformation the theriantrope is also able to transform into their animal at will. At first they’re only able to do it when their animal identity manages to take over control for a moment and sets the change in motion. Once this has happened a few times the change will come more natural and the theriantrope will be able to change shape at will and while fully in control of themselves.
The theriantrope will notice that their body slowly becomes stronger and fitter. They become capable of physical feats most people can only dream of. They can lift heavier loads, run longer or jump higher than all but the best-trained athletes. Where their particular strength lies depends on their animal identity.
Theriantropes with a felid type animal often become faster and more agile while ursids (bears) becomes stronger.
The person afflicted will also notice that their senses are sharpened. In particular many teriantropes remark that their sense of smell was greatly improved after they contracted the disease. Many also report that they’ve had issues sleeping due to their ears being more sensitive to noises they previously wouldn’t have noticed.
Over time, as the theriantrope gets older, they will notice that their human body starts to change. At first the changes are subtle; the hair color or tone changes to better match that of their animal identity; the eyebrows get bushier and body hair grows longer and denser. Baldness ceases to be an issue and women may have to start shaving not to grow a beard.
For many theriantropes this is the worst it gets. Not because the changes stop, but because theriantropes on average don’t live much longer than ten to fifteen years with the disease.
Much later, after the person afflicted has been a theriantrope for twenty years or more, greater physical changes start to appear. The eyes and the ears of the person start taking on the appearance of their animal and they achieve an altogether more feral outlook.
Eventually, even later, facial features start changing; the nose and mouth start taking on the shape of a snout and fangs appear; body hair becomes more like a fur and starts to cover more of the body.
The changes keep happening, nails grow into claws and the tail develops fully. There are also changes to the internal organs of the theriantrope but these are less well documented and the extents of these changes are not known. The theory is that the theriantrope will eventually be completely transformed into their animal identity, both physically and mentally, but so far no case of this actually happening has been reliably documented.
A person afflicted by theriantropy will enjoy improved immunity to normal diseases and their body will heal at a very high rate if injured. The theriantrope is unaffected by nearly all drugs unless consumed in very high doses and even then the effects pass quickly.
A few exceptions to this are known, all of which are found in plants or mushrooms naturally occurring in the wild. These substances are generally classified as narcotics and non-medicinal use of them is illegal in most civilized countries. Still, drug use among theriantropes is common and it is the most common cause of violence between theriantropes and non-afflicted individuals.
All theriantropes are extremely sensitive to silver. Skin contact with pure silver will result in first-degree burns within seconds and in third degree burns in less than a minute.
Theriantrope blood will explode violently when in contact with silver and the wounds caused by such explosion will heal at a significantly slower rate than normal – even for a non-theriantrope human.
Silver coated bullets and knives are commonly used by those who hunt theriantropes, whether for sport or out of necessity.
Persons registered as theriantropes are offered treatment for the disease for free or at a subsidized price. A few private practitioners offer treatment of anonymous theriantropes, but at full cost. It should be noted that those who have carried the disease long enough for it to show will eventually register their affliction as it will be impossible to hide without seeking complete isolation.
Most treatment is psychological in nature. Treating the physical symptoms is futile as the improved resilience of the theriantrope makes them virtually immune to medical treatment. Support groups where theriantropes meet with each other are common as are private meetings with psychologists.
Attempts have been made to prevent the monthly shape change but none have succeeded satisfyingly.
There are records of experiments where theriantrope patients were coated with paint containing different levels of silver nitrate. With too high levels the patients died from the burns caused when applying the paint. With too low levels the change still occurred but caused the patient considerable amounts of pain, causing permanent mental damage to the patient’s animal identity.
With just the right level of silver nitrate in the paint the transformation was actually prevented. However, the paint caused the patient damage sever enough that it was not healed before the next transformation was due and the patient did not survive the treatment a second time.
It is not known whether or not the patients took part in the experiment willingly or not.
Theriantropes in modern societyEdit
Theriantropes have always been uncommon, but in this day and age even more so. Knowledge about the disease, treatment and care for the afflicted and general public awareness have all contributed to limit the spread. It is estimated that the disease afflicts one in twenty thousand humans.
Most civilized countries keep track of their theriantrope citizen and offer them support and therapy if they request it. Theriantropes are encouraged to register their affliction but it is not required. However, unregistered theriantropes are not eligible for the same types of benefits as those who register.
Some nations are known to have attempted to purge the disease from their lands by killing off all afflicted citizen. Such purges have been condemned by all major human rights organizations but theriantropes are still concerned it might happen again.
Theriantropy is well known enough that people will recognize it when they see it, especially if at an advanced stage of the disease. It is uncommon enough that people are likely to stop and stare should they come across a theriantrope in the street. Due to this most theriantropes eventually start to avoid leaving their homes or relocate to somewhere small enough that they think people will get used to them.
Most theriantropes prefer jobs where they can be outdoors; alone or with others of their kind. Mentally stable and experienced theriantropes are valued by military organizations and as bodyguards. Another common occupation is as messengers or mail carriers, though with train and airship service becoming more and more common this is starting to be something of a niche job.
With modern day tourism many new opportunities of employment have opened up for theriantropes. Many find themselves work as tour guides for wilderness tours; guiding hapless city-folk through wild lands, keeping them safe from harm and regaling them with semi-authentic stories around the campfire.
Some theriantropes have also managed to make a name for themselves as prizefighters. There is an international circuit where theriantropes fight to cheering crowds until only one is left standing. With the advanced regenerative abilities of theriantropes, they are able to sustain gruesome wounds and still be able to fight again another day.
Due to it’s violent nature this type of fighting is prohibited in several countries, but the money is good enough that moving abroad to fight is a viable option, especially if no other occupation seems likely. Despite the actual circuit being prohibited, recordings of fights are usually allowed, though with strict restrictions not to sell or show to minors.
It is exceedingly rare that theriantropes have children. Theriantrope females can become pregnant, but the monthly change from human into animal kills the embryo, causing miscarriage.
If an afflicted male fathers a child on a non-afflicted mother and she does not contract the disease it is possible the child may be theriantrope from birth. However, as the disease is blood-borne this is extremely unlikely to happen. Historical records mention it having happened in the past, but in all but a few cases the authenticity or the reliability of the records is in question.