[Translator’s Note: The first part of this book was damaged beyond the recovery of anything that made sense. All that was left was individual words and fragments of words. Fortunately, most of the section on the Berserk-Gift, short as it was, remained largely intact. It made for fascinating reading.]
Even as recently as forty years ago, it was believed that the Berserk-Gift was a unique talent derived from the gods, and that it was entirely homogeneous. Hersmann’s1 great study, delving as it did into the particulars of all the known gifts, revealed both of these assumptions to be false. Her study showed that the Berserk-Gift is of the same type as both the Mage-Gift, which allows the mage to summon magic, or the Shifter-Gift2, which allows the shifter to change their form, and can, with proper training and the correct trigger, be turned to either of those ends. (See the sections on Mage Gifts and Shifter Gifts for a more in-depth discussion on the nature of those particular Gifts.3) The Berserk-Gift is unique from Divine Frenzy (see ‘On the Nature and Origin of the Gods’4 for more on this), though the two were, and, all too frequently still are, mistaken for each other, a fact which led to the misapprehensions surrounding the Berserk-Gift. The simplest way to differentiate the two, and the proof used by Hersmann, is that in a case of true Divine Frenzy the possessed loses all control over their own actions, and all awareness, not only of their own actions, but also the actions of those about them, whereas someone manifesting the Berserk-Gift retains both awareness and memory of the events, though there remains a separation between that awareness and the physical consequences of the actions.
The Berserk-Gift, in its simplest form, allows the practitioner to separate their consciousness from their physical experience, allowing them to perform feats of strength and endurance beyond that normally possible and regardless of physical limitations. From this description, it should be obvious to all to see the connections to both Shifters and Mages who also are able to harness energy and use it to supersede normal physical limitations. As with Shifters, the Berserk usually takes the energy used in the manifestation of their gift from their own life-force5, unlike Shifters, however, not all of them are bound by such limits. Some of them can, with training, learn to use energies from outside themselves, just as Mages do, though they continue to use personal energies to harness and direct that energy taken from without. The main difference between these two types of Berserk lies not in what they are able to do so much as in how long they are able to do it. A berserk with the ability to harness outside energies will, naturally, outlast a berserk dependant entirely upon their personal stamina, they will also recover more quickly, being able to renew their spent energy from sources other than rest and sustenance, though the application of these will greatly speed the process.
These two forms are not the only differentiators in the Berserk-Gift. The methodology used in its application is as varied as that for any other Gift, and each methodology has its own benefits and limitations, and each places the practitioner in a niche that is closer or farther away from each of the other main Gifts, though all lie to a greater or lesser degree within the influence of the Shifter Gift. This is most evident in the Berserk traditions of the Nythmen who, to greater or lesser extent, adopt animalistic traits during the manifestation of their Gift. The neophyte attempts to invoke the consciousness of their clan’s totem animal; a bear, a wolf, a stag, a boar, an eagle, or one of the great cats; when evoking the Gift. They believe that by invoking their totem animal and allowing it to possess them, they will gain its strength, bravery, fierceness, fleetness, cunning, and so on. The adeptus, of course, is able to go much farther, and can even effect various levels of physical transformation. There is great risk in any of these methods, as a person possessed by an animal consciousness might find themselves unable to regain their humanity once the fight is over. This is believed to have been the fate of Nebkud Nessar6, king of the Asshurites, who, having invoked the spirit of the Lion in order to defeat the Menurians, spent the next twenty years living as a beast in the forests of Asshur before he was able to regain his human consciousness.
The purest form of the Berserk-Gift is believed to be possessed by the Oelas7, though this belief depends entirely upon literary speculation rather than evidence of any kind. In some of the writings that survive from the time of their ascendance, are mentions of a Rage that could be evoked with effects that sound remarkably like those of the Berserk-Gift. All Oelas were, supposedly, endowed with this ability and had conscious control over it which would explain some of the feats they are supposed to have been able to accomplish. No Oelas has ever confirmed this connection, however, and…
[Here the fragment ended.]
1 Hersmann was, apparently, a researcher connected with the School of Occult Studies at the Collegia Universitas of Lugensia a generation or two before Dorthund himself. It is possible that much of Dorthund’s own work is, like Aristotle’s work with Hyspatia, merely the expansion of his predecessor’s findings. Unfortunately, none of Hersmann’s own work was amongst the documents given to me, so the extent to which Dorthund’s work is original must remain unknown.
2 Dorthund appears to be referencing an entirely separate, and quite major form of magic that revolves around the ability to shape-shift, a form that goes far beyond anything known in our world.
3 Unfortunately, I have not yet found these sections. It may be that they were never given to me, or that they are in such a fragmented state that not even the titles have been preserved.
4 This is one of the few books for which I have what appears to be an almost complete text. The theory it puts forward is extremely disturbing, even for someone like myself for whom religion is merely a socio-cultural curiosity. I have been assured that anyone with even the mildest of religious inclinations will find it highly objectionable, not to say offensive.
5 The original uses the word ‘Y’grénê’, a term that Dorthund defines in his book, On the Source of Magical Power. The word is, as far as I can determine, unique to Dorthund’s text, and so I have, everywhere it made sense to do so, translated it into more conventional English.
6 This sounds remarkably like the biblical Nebuchadnezzar of Chaldea and raises questions about the connections between Dorthund’s world and our own.
7 The Oelas, according to what scraps of information I have been able to glean from Dorthund’s occasional mention of them, were an almost legendary ancient and powerful race, similar to our own Atlanteans, whom the people of Dorthund’s time and world looked upon as the heroic arbiters of some sort of Golden Age, some few of whom had survived the fall of their age into the one in which Dorthund wrote.