As if everything else that has happened so far to Ambrose had not been enough of a strain on his touchy psyche what happened next proved to be Ambrose's turning point. When he first arrived in this strange world, he was attacked by a strange wolf-creature.... however, after everything that happened afterwards, and all that he had seen, he had put it to the back of his mind. About a month later he realized just what the repercussions were. Ambrose had been infected with lycanthropy - and is was utter wreck. He had yet to actually remember anything he'd done - but he'd seen the results, and the testimonies of his companions... as well as the beginnings of the side-effects. After the first night of the full moon he woke up in his room, covered in sand (they were in a very dry, sandy area) and his clothing ripped to shreds. They heard soon after that a rancher nearby had had eight of his cows slaughtered... and the bloody paw prints led back to where they were staying... where they discovered their horses in a likewise manner. The second night there was no doubt - he was practicing swordplay outside near the rest of the group, trying to burn off some of his stress and anxieties (as well as what happened the night before happened while he was asleep...) They saw him transform into a snarling wolf creature before their eyes - and he was only able to be led into the brig on their ship thanks to Angelina's druidic abilities. He has no recollection of any of this, even though he was somewhat aware during the transformation those memories did not stay with him. The third night he was locked in the brig before moonrise. He was a total wreck - scared and terrified - this was the final straw; his final lifeboat was that nothing strange was happening to -him-... now he was the worst of them all (in his opinion) combined with the fact that he was losing control of his actions, of his demeanor, and some of the rest of his companions even doubted his mental soundness even when he was himself. For better or for worse, they were able to find an individual with some knowledge on the subject of lycanthropy relatively quickly. But the things she told him were things that he did not want to hear: That there was no real cure being they did not know who the original original werewolf was (and since they had killed the one who infected him, they had no way to find out where the chain began), and that this would continue - that he would shape shift and lose control and his humanity every full moon, and worse - that extreme... or repressed emotions could bring it on at any time. She said that the only way to deal with it would be to start to accept it, and to deal with his emotions and feelings - that bottling up his emotions would only make the wolf stronger. Any bottled emotions towards an individual - positive or negative - would endanger that person. Furthermore, he was already noticing side-effects, and hating them; feeling less the man, less in control. His eyebrows began to grow together... and regrew every morning if plucked (which he does - every morning) and his hair is much harder to maintain. Furthermore, and the worst, is his appetite; he wakes up every morning starving and it will not abate unless he consumes incredible amounts of meat.... and even more is required if the meat is not raw... He is disgusted at the thought, terrified with the concept, but can't help himself, sobbing as he wolfs (no pun intended) it down. He would soon struggle to find a middle ground between repression (which will bring out the beast) and extreme, spontaneous reactions to what he wants to do to sate it (he wants to be a good man, and knows the implausibility of doing whatever whim crosses ones' mind... He will needed to find constructive ways to release his tension - that release his emotions without changing him from who he is/wants to be.
Ambrose was desperate to alleviate his condition, but given the "advice" that he had heard from the few people that knew of the affliction that he was under, he had little hope of curing himself, being that he knew thatin order to do so, he had to kill the original lycanthrope from his chain of infection, and the one that bit him had been killed before Ambrose knew the nature of the disease that it had passed on to him, and so he despaired that he would never be able to find the original.
Then... something unexpected happened. When returning to the original country they arrived in, they met with a man they had worked with earlier, a detective, who gave Ambrose a bit of information regarding the country of origin of the werewolf who had bitten him, and rumors that said country was thick with werewolves. Ambrose seized the opportunity, intending to head straight to this country, and locate and kill the original werewolf with the knowledge that he had of the one who bit him (a name now as well.)
He was already acting more brash, quick to anger, and less in charge of his facade/emotions than before, the infection. Additionally, a new group member, Jerrard, has less than subtly been challenging his leadership of the party, as well as teasing from within from Jean - which is maddening him, Ambrose feeling more territorial and angering him as his "alpha" position is being challenged- the beast twisting him and loosening his grip on himself. Additionally, after realizing his mistakes and trying to deny/repress all of it, stressing him out horribly, he nearly shifted out of stress in the middle of the night - sinking the full severity of the situation home with him -seeing the beginnings of a physical transformation for the first time that he was able to keep the memory, starting with his hands. Also, while he was able to resist the change, it left him with a new permanent feature of longer, thicker and pointed claw-like nails...
Unfortunately... not long after entering the borders to this country, Ambrose began to feel restless from inside the carriage, feeling a -need- to be outside. He stopped the carriage, but when he got out to stretch, he immediately felt his form shifting involuntarily to that of a full wolf, and an overpowering call out to the woods. Unthinking, and uncontrollably, he sprinted off away from the group, following the call. When he finally came to his senses, he was in the middle of the woods, in wolf form (for the first time being aware of himself in another form) and completely lost and terrified... his senses stronger than they had even been developing, in the form of an animal, and lost.... still feeling a pull, though less strong, from a direction off in the woods. He dithered for a while, fretting and terrified, mostly in denial of what was happening to him, and no idea which direction he came from. Finally, he gave up and followed the calling, nervous, and wary.
It led him to a group of men in a clearing containing a group of standing stones. He hung around the edge of the woods, nervous to approach, until they called out to him, beckoning him out. Slowly, anxiously he did, and found himself resuming human form as he did.
He was soon make aware of the fact that this individual, who introduced himself as Nathan Timothy ((our campaign flipped Nathan and Alfred's names for those familiar with Ravenloft), was not only the proud "lord of the realm," but also the one responsible for his affliction, the original source. Ambrose immediately sprung to attack... but ended up having bitten off far more than he could chew. He couldn't even draw his weapon - the man keeping him at bay, playing with him, getting his weapon from him, toying with him. Ambrose grew incredibly frustrated, subconsciously changing forms to hybrid, and redoubling his attack, wanting nothing more than to see him dead, balling up all of his frustrations and problems and centering them on THIS man. Timothy still toyed with him, but intentionally let him do better against him in this form. Ambrose fought as hard as he could, resorting to tooth and claw, until he could fight no more and was beaten senseless.
When Ambrose woke, he was still in hybrid form, tied securely to the stones, and surrounded by Timothy and a slew of other werewolves in hybrid form. Timothy then began to psychologically and physically torture Ambrose, trying to break him, trying to convince him that the only way to have control was to become the wolf, that he was one of them, a werewolf, stronger than a human and thus the predator. That in his realm, humans lived in small, scattered settlements and the werewolves hunted them to keep their population low, scared, and that they would not turn on the werewolves. That people were weak, and would hunt werewolves because they were different. He also hit close to home (reading Ambrose's mind) and played off Ambrose's feelings of inadequacy to his father (Timothy called Ambrose his grandson, and his one and only Heir - tempting him with acceptance) - as well as his desire to prove himself. However, Ambrose held VERY strong against this, arguing and argued back - countering that Timothy was trying to call giving up gaining control (Timothy said the only way to gain control was to listen to his "natural" urges.) Ambrose refused to give up, horrified at the idea of hunting humans for food, Ambrose wanting to protect the weak, not hunt them, and brought up situations to Timothy of if there was something larger and stronger than him, would he not be scared for his life - if only THE strongest survived, than very few would remain - and the fact that he was obviously stronger than his followers and did not kill them. He claimed compassion and identification with people -refused to separate himself from "human"... though in the conversation did begin to bring up the "we" in reference to the lycanthropes. Timothy countered that werewolves were hunted/feared - Ambrose countered that that's because they HUNTED humans... Timothy argued that they would do so even if they did not because people hated/feared things that were different. They brought forth a man, handed him a silver sword, and forced Ambrose to change to hybrid form. The man was already virtually delirious, psychological and physically traumatized already by Timothy and his pack, and didn't listen to Ambrose, gashing him, but Timothy stopped him before he could kill him. Ambrose held VERY strong on the arguments... but what he found Very hard to resist was the other form of torture Timothy used... mainly, not feeding him for several days... The hunger was maddening, and the fact that he wanted meat... The first time they woke him up after he had been out for nearly two days he was starving, and didn't think when he bit into the piece of meat they threw him... until he saw the hand. He dropped it, horrified, and the hunger worsened. What made it worse was that they were eating it all around him, human flesh, filling the air with the scent... drove him crazy, and worse the fact that it smelled -good- to him, knowing what it was.
When Ambrose refused to cave to the arguing, Timothy switched tactics - instead of trying to convince the human, logical side of him, he pushed from the other side - the side Ambrose was scared of and trying to repress - to overpower his logic with bestial need. After starving him for nearly four days, he woke up in a stone room, a pile of human flesh in front of him... and a she-werewolf in heat... He tried.. he really tried to resist, but virtually subconsciously, he dug into the pile of meat, trying to rationalize - that it was already dead, not looking, not wanting to see recognizable bits... Then the wolf tried to seduce him... and with Ambrose in hybrid form, the smells, the pheromones, and the actions, driving him crazy... she led him on, tempting him, and then when he was nearly caving, shifted forms to a wolf and ran off, into another previously hidden room. Ambrose followed, rationalizing that it might be an escape, not wanting to admit the smells and feelings he had affecting him. He there encountered her and timothy - Timothy taunting him, that how well will his pretty ideals hold up to this, and left, leaving her behind. She continued the same bait and run tricking all night, maddening Ambrose, sinking him into a bestial haze, the wolf in him brining forth a few memories of when he was out of control on the full moons, but either only the worst ones, or twisting the rest - like Jean shooting at him, Feng punching for his head, and twisting the expressions that Zita or Angelina had when they watched him, locked up in the brig - making them mirthful, taunting. Partially, even, rationalizing the things that Timothy had said.... remembering being stabbed by the man with the sword... sinking into a very bestial state.
When he was finally released from the rooms, Ambrose was hardly himself - between the actions of the she wolf, the disease itself in his system aiding the twisting, and Timothy's mental influences, for all intensive purposes they mental affects of lycanthropy were advanced in him to its most advanced state. Then, Timothy gave Ambrose an opportunity to tell the group, once and for all, that he was leaving - and warn them to leave as well if they did not want Timothy and his scores of lycanthrope minions to kill them. In this state, while he had a remnant "pack" view of the group, he no longer trusted them, viewing any previous show of kindness as just a way to manipulate him, remembering most clearly the worst - or false memories thereof. He located the group, and from the other side of a large silver-edged fence (the group had taken residence at a man's house who was a dedicated werewolf hunter) he gave his partings - very muzzy-minded and confused - that he did not deserve the group, and they did not deserve him. Warning them not to come after him or they would be killed, and that he himself could not leave, nor did he wish to. He did not listen to their protests, and ran off to rejoin Timothy.
That night, they held a blood hunt. Intending on finalizing the control of Ambrose, and severing all connections he might have had to his previous life. They took several captured humans, gave them a 20 minute start, and then set out on the hunt. Ambrose was very far gone, and pursued after one of them, having in mind to impress this new father figure. However, when he caught up with the man, and sunk his teeth into his flesh, all that remained of his old self, while suppressed in his psyche, screamed out in protest at the wrongness of it, and in an epiphany, shattered the bestial haze that he was in. It all became incredibly clear - the fact that if he had not shaken the mental state then, that he probably never would have, the full reason WHY lycanthropes what was happening not just then but since he had been infected, how the disease of the beast was shaping him, subtly twisting him - how Timothy had not exactly been controlling him but had just furthered the process, that even before he came there, he had started snapping at people, acting more territorial and easier to upset. That, given time.... he would eventually sink back to the state he was just in... That he knew the only two options available to him... one being to kill Nathan - a fact that was complicated by undeniable truth that he was no match for Nathan, let alone his army of werewolves, and if he somehow amassed enough strength or numbers to do so, that it might be too late for his sanity by then, and even if it were not, that he was unhappily informed that even with Nathan dead, the ritual only worked about half the time. That left him with only one other option, an option that with this epiphany he realized that he had to do - he needed to twist the bestial side of him the same way it was twisting him. He remembered everything that had happened, that he had done while under its control, and the way he had thought. If, instead of suppressing it and making it slowly change him even while in his "right" mind, he were to, around people he trusted and in a controlled situation, let it take him over and then make it see things the way they really are - rebuild his trust in his companions, in humanity, and impose his morals on it - then he would be free of the twisting, and could be himself, that this is what was meant by people in that he had to accept the lycanthropy as himself and not as an "other" - that he had to bring it into himself. Doing this, he could never be "cured," but, at least mentally, he could be free and, most importantly, in control of himself. He looked down at the corpse that he had just made, and was overwhelmed with horror and grief. With a massive furred/clawed hand, he shut the mans eyes, and, hearing the howls on the wind, turned and ran, towards where he knew his companions were.
With a very emotional reuniting, most especially with Angelina - who had taken his parting hard, and had donned his tabard in his absence (to remember him, and with his smell on it made her feel like he was close), he apologized all over himself, still stuck in hybrid form under the full moon, and then comparted the immediate necessity to leave before they came after him. They piled into the carriage (after settling the agitated horses), and drove off with the wolves on their proverbial heels.
They barely made it out of the domain and into Richlemont - and only then with the assistance of a rather strange benefactor whom Gerard and Zita had met while Ambrose was away. They came to a city in Richlemont late that night, and stole into an abandoned house (which was eerily common in Richlemont) to recover for the night. Ambrose stayed with Angelina, taking comfort in her presence.
The next morning brought a very awkward surprise.... Ambrose had thought that he had not shifted back the night before because of the full moon.... however, when he awoke that morning to sun streaming in through the window on furry arms, he was understandably distressed. For a while he assumed that perhaps it was stress, but the truth of the matter was that Nathan had given him a bitter parting "Gift", locking him in the hybrid form. Ambrose shared with the party the very brief gist of what he had gone through, how he had seen things, and his realization, and asked them for their assistance soon in helping him overcome the beast, the new, frightening realization coming on him that he might need to do so before he would be able to shift back. He felt scared and awkward in this form, hardly wanting to look at himself, feeling very naked and monstrous, and still a very strong feeling of wrongness, and the lingering desire to be "normal". They agreed that they would help him.
They decided that the abandoned house in Richlemont did not seem secure enough - the whole place seeming shady, so they returned to Dementileu before initiating the procedure. He put himself behind bars, and right before he let that side of him loose, Zita slipped him a good deal of some Satyr Wine. So, by the time it had been in control for a bit, it was feeling quite good. It argued, snarled, demanded to be released, while the party spoke with him, soothed him, Caroline singing soothingly, Zita and Angelina reassuring it and saying that they wanted friendship and his trust. The wolf realizing he had been betrayed by Nathan - especially when he was locked in this form by him, and the lies he was told, in this point of seeking trust, and being very drunk, he was susceptible. Zita and Angelina got to the point where they could reach in and pet him, still talking soothingly despite his threats that he could tear their arms off if he wished. Eventually, even, they opened the cell, and let him out, still continuing to get him to relax, and most importantly, to trust them. It was a long night of working with him, reassuring him, and disarming his anger and the ferocity of the lycanthropy, dissipating the reason and motivation for the anger and savageness, giving him food and the things he wanted. They helped him reestablish partially the morals that Ambrose had set up... with the dissipating of the anger, the power and the influence of the wolf diminished. In the end, Ambrose's consciousness absorbed its, while in the drunken state to assist, and he fell asleep. Waking the next morning able to shift back, and himself once again, free from the lurking savageness below the surface and the danger of harming those he cared about. In the process, it also helped Ambrose loosen up a bit, being actually a bit more comfortable with himself, and forcing him to learn how to relax. While still proud and concerned with his appearance and how others think of him, he is more likely to crack a joke, to laugh and say something not -quite- appropriate. He is more in touch with the wolf inside of him, though stil not 100% comfortable with it.
While the full moons still force him to change shape, it will not change his mental state any longer.
He has now recently found out the specifics behind his lycanthropy, and just WHY he was able to overcome it to begin with, and the answer to why he still is forced to shift on full moons even though he otherwise has control. He had the unique experience of encountering Nathan Timothy's father, Alfred, who was not at all approving of his son's management of his domain, and while not a generally nice individual, at least one who was better at keeping a front and relationships with humans. Alfred had been watching him (as he keeps an eye on his son's plans) and said that he knew that Nathan would fail in his attempt to control Ambrose, as his will was too strong to be dominated by him - and revealed that the only reason why Ambrose really was able to control the wolf inside of him, was because it had always been there - before the infection. Apparently, Ambrose's family line has the potential for lycanthropy in it, but the world in which he was from did not, well, have much (if any) magic (at least now ;) ) and thus it never expressed itself. When Ambrose was bitten it activated his potential, and at the same time in a way made him both a natural AND an infected lycanthrope. At first he had no control, as he did not know himself, did not accept it, and as a side-effect of the infection. However, the potential to master it was there, with his acceptance of the condition. And that is what he did. However, he still does carry the infection, and with it the transformation triggers - like any infected werewolf, he can try to resist it, but the moon always will call on his change. But his nature at least allows him to remain himself mentally during these escapades. He is a rather unique situation in that regards (as well as his morals as compared to other lycanthropes - keeping his good morals and standards.)
Further Developments alongside the storyplot
((Mental state right after Strahd's castle)): Two months (and two full moons) after learning to control himself, he is still very touchy about the subject, and by no means proud of what he is - even though he has control - though he has secretly began to appreciate some of the perks - he's realized that he is more resilient, and in the shifted forms feels much stronger and faster, can jump incredible lengths... On the nights of the full moon if he is in a city he generally himself up in a secluded room and waits it out - something that brings back the old familiar feelings of bottling down emotions - he is very restless and full of energy and desires on the full moon - while not necessarily murderous anymore - he wants to run free, howl at the moon, and hunt - though once again, he is ashamed of these desires and scared of peoples' reactions (from what little he's seen) - as he wants to be a good man in others' eyes. However, this time the feelings most definitely come from his own very strong desires. He does not want to be an animal, and yet the urges are still there - as the wolf is now a part of him. These urges are also stronger than most of the emotions and thoughts he bottled up before - the full moon drawing forth a need in him, and those nights, pent up in a room are torturous and leave him feeling very repressed and frustrated for days. He has admittedly loosened up a good deal - especially feeling more comfortable with his developing relationship with Angelina - and has gone as far to make a commitment to her - promising to wed her.
((Mental state after getting out of the Shadow Rift)) Ambrose at this point has very much come to terms with WHAT he is, between his "spirit journeys" that have helped him deal with his hunger, and forcibly deal with literally facing himself, and the fact that, to him, he had spent nearly 3 months in hybrid form. The idea to Ambrose that magic might actually be in his world when they return is secretly a relief to him. His opinion has changed drastically from something to be ashamed of to something that really defines him - he's proud of what he is and his lupine nature, it sets him apart and makes him a stronger person. He accepts its influence on his personality and his mannerisms. Even if the lycanthropy was in his blood, the fact that he overcame its twisting influences where a man of lesser will would have failed makes him proud.
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