Eating the flesh of animals makes a warrior strong and healthy. Eating the flesh of mortals makes a warrior strong and sick. If you eat something with a soul, you gain a portion of your prey's soul but lose a portion of your own. -Dabub, orc hunterWendigo transformation is a variant of cannibal sickness that afflicts orcs. Wendigo often band together in small clans hiding in plain sight among regular orc tribes or they travel in all-wendigo tribes. A great many wendigo are loners. The first transformation to occur is in the the senses. Orcs becoming wendgo gain improved hearing, improved night vision, and an improved sense of smell. Late in their transformation, wendigo can see perfectly in absolute darkness but have their vision somewhat impaired in bright light. Wendigo usually increase in strength and speed as their transformation progress. Most gain in stealth skills but this is more from practice than physical transformation. As orcs transform, they tend to have their arms and legs grow longer and lengthier and their overall appearance becomes more gaunt. They will usually grow white or grey fur and develop owl-like talons. Some develop needle like fangs. Some develop antlers or horns. Early stage wendigo do not have constant regeneration but they can heal wounds much faster for a short window immediately after eating mortal flesh. Full regeneration powers come later to wendigo which have full hearts of ice.
Hearts of Ice
A wendigo's strength is its heart of ice. A wendigo's weakness is its heart of ice. -Dabub, orc hunterEarly on, orcs lose their empathy for others. They also gradually lose their sense of humor and gradually lose any sense of joy in anything other than eating. Eventually they even lose their ability to enjoy food that is not mortal flesh. They can eat normal food to sustain themselves, they just won't enjoy it. At some point during their transformation, wendigo radiate cold. wendigo radiate cold. Wendigo with very advanced transformation can weaponize their aura of cold either enhancing their brawling attacks or even breathing ice on opponents. The icier a wendigo gets, the more resilient their bodies are against physical damage but this increases their vulnerability to fire. Very advanced wendigo are pained but not outright wounded by daylight and warmth. Wendigo never stay in areas of perpetually warm climates, naturally prefering to live in cold climates. Wendigo living in areas with pronounced seasons usually evolve the ability to hibernate during the warm periods of the year. At the final stage, a wendigo's heart literally turns into a chunk of ice and lose the ability to draw any metaphorical warmth from companionship and they become lone monsters, physically and mentally unrecognizable as the orcs they once were. Wendigo with ice hearts are near indestructible except to fire. If their bodies are slain, their icy heart will eventually regrow a new body. To orcs, this is common knowledge, so they always throw the hearts of any slain wendigo into a large bonfire. Very few humans and elves are aware of this, so many have unknowingly allowed defeated wendigo to live.
Transmission & Vectors
Wendigo are orcs who develop an addiction to mortal flesh. Like a human ogre, a orc wendigo can pass his curse onto his or her offspring. There are whole tribes of wendigo. Some male wendigo will seek to capture and enslave non-wendigo females as breeding stock. Others prefer to mate with female wendigo. The largest wendigo tribes do both. Second, third generation, and fourth generation wendigo develop their powers faster and stronger than first generation wendigo. A second generation wendigo might be able to impersonate a normal orc in poor lighting or by wearing extra thick clothing, but a third or fourth generation wendigo will never pass as a normal orc. Fourth generation wendigo are rare. Fifth generation wendigo are unheard of. A wendigo whose heart has fully transformed into ice has zero sex drive, so they cannot bear or sire children.
The best way to not get cannibal sickness is to not engage in cannibalism. The same goes for wendigo transformation. An orc that doesn't eat mortal flesh will never turn into a wendigo. The more mortal flesh a orc eats, the more likely his or her transformation is, especially if they are eating the flesh of other orcs.
Most Scarterran mortals teach their young that it is better to starve to death rather than to eat the flesh of mortals. Orcs teach their young that one must only engage in eating mortal flesh when facing starvation and immediately refrain from it when other food becomes available though orcs should die before eating the flesh of orcs. That is the official rule, but a lot of hungry orcs break the guidelines both eating mortal flesh when other food is available eating orc flesh when desperate. Orcs realize that cannibalism leads to wendigo transformation, but one cannibalistic indulgence is defintely not going to create a wendigo. Two or three probably won't create a wendigo. Orcs know there is a line somewhere but they don't know exactly where the line is and some live dangerously. Because cannibalism is slightly less taboo among orcs than it is among other mortal races, wendigo are proportionally more common that ogres and other cannibal mutants. Orcs are less likely to immediately kill or exile cannibals in their midst than humans are. Conversely, orcs tend to live in relatively small and tight-knit tribal units. It is difficult for a wendigo to hide his or her physical transformation. Once an orc begins manifesting visible wendigo traits, the tribe will assuredly be after them with spears and fire. Unless the wendigo usurp the tribal leaders first...
What about half-orcs?If orc cannibals become wendigo and human cannibals become ogres, what about half-orcs? Half-orc cannibals become utterly terrifying. In early stages, they resemble common wendigo but they never stop growing. The more mortal flesh they consume, the bigger they get. The bigger they get, the more insatiable they become, eventually making them a threat to ogres and wendigo. Because of this, even wendigo tribes that keep non-cannibal women slaves as breeding stock almost never take human women captive and ogre tribes likewise almost never take orc women captive. Fortunately half-orcs are sterile, otherwise giant wendigo might consume the entire frozen north.
Chronic, Acquired & Congenital