Rakghouls are getting a lot of spotlight in The Old Republic. Not only do they dominate the landscape of Taris, but the recent update gives us a brand new rakghoul infested flashpoint to run through. Many people are calling rakghouls the zombies of TOR (though there have been actual zombies in the Star Wars universe, but that’s an article for another day) and it is easy to see why. They are bloodthirsty beasts who attack everything in sight, and their disease is spread through bites and scratches on their victims. But how did these creatures come to be, and why do they plague the planet Taris so? Today we will look at these things as we strive to understand more about these beasts.
Like so many of the foul beasts that inhabit the Star Wars universe, the origins of the rakghouls can be traced back to the Sith. In this case they were developed by a single Sith Lord by the name of Karness Muur. Karness Muur was one of the Dark Jedi who rebelled against the order during the Hundred Year Darkness, back before the Sith Order existed. He had a talent for developing twisted Dark Side beasts with Sith Alchemy, a talent he would harness when he developed the rakghouls. After the Dark Jedi were defeated in the war, he was among the survivors that eventually found their way to Korriban and founded the Sith Order. Like so many Sith over the years, Muur was obsessed with the idea of eternal life. To achieve this goal Muur developed a Sith artifact that would come to be known as the Muur Talisman. He poured his mind and spirit into the talisman, granting him spiritual immortality. When his body died the Talisman would seek out the strongest Force user nearby, allowing Murr to inhabit the individual’s body and use it as his own. But the Talisman had a second purpose; it allowed him to turn sentient life forms into mindless thralls that would be subservient to his will and serve as his army in his attempt to conquer the universe. He called these creatures rakghouls.
The talisman was not perfect however. It could not turn Force-Sensitives and some species of non-humans into rakghouls. To counter this, Muur developed the Rakghoul Plague, which allowed the rakghouls to infect anyone who was scratched or bitten. Once infected, the individual would turn into a rakghoul in a matter of hours, often turning on any former comrades or loved ones if they happened to be nearby. Following contact with a rakghoul, the progression of the infection was a rapid and painful experience. Incubation periods for the disease differed between species, but a period of six to forty-eight hours was typical. A victim’s body would become twisted, and the pigmentation of the skin became paled to a whitened, corpse-like state, and bleeding from the eyes, mouth, and skin were not uncommon. Not long after this point, the victim underwent a bodywide mutation transforming into a rakghoul similar to the creature that infected them, and making them capable of spreading the rakghoul plague to another.
After his death, Muur’s talisman passed from Force user to Force user until one of it’s many owners was crushed under a pile of rubble on the planet Taris. This is what led to the massive Rakghoul infestation on the planet, though at first the plague was limited to the undercity, home of the very poor and criminals of the planet. Due to it’s location, many individuals on Taris did not lift a finger to try and stop the spread of the rakghouls, allowing the beasts to gain a foothold in the undercity. Though the talisman was eventually removed from the planet, it was too late to stop the rakghoul infestation, and the rakghouls were on Taris for good unless they could be completely wiped out to the last beast. The Republic attempted to develop a cure to the plague, and it seemed like they would succeed until Darth Malak destroyed the planet-wide city during the Jedi Civil War.
Aside from the physical effects of the Rakghoul Plague, there were significant mental and psychological changes as well. Once transformed into a rakghoul, the original being’s intelligence was seemingly lost, and most thought so little of the mental capacity of the common rakghoul as to denote them as mindless. But in truth the plague only destroyed the personality of the infected, leaving behind the individual’s knowledge and skills they had accumulated in their former lives. Left on their own, rakghouls behaved as beasts, serving their base instincts and existing as slaves to their own hunger. Unfortunately for the transformed beings, though, their original personalities could not be restored once they became rakghouls, and these seemingly more intelligent creatures operated only on an imprint left behind of their former lives. During the Cold War there were even reports on Taris of rakghouls displaying Force abilities, though it is unclear as to whether these rakghouls were Force users before becoming rakghouls, or if the rakghouls were developing Force sensitivity on their own.
Rakghouls only truly reached their full potential, however, when under the power of the Muur Talisman. When a being possessed the Muur Talisman, they were able to enslave the rakghouls to their will, and command them as an army with the potential for nearly infinite expansion. Though deadly and dangerous on their own, when rakghouls directly served an individual who controlled the Muur Talisman they became a serious threat to even well-trained military forces. Under the talisman’s effects, rakghouls became more demure, and were able to call upon the knowledge and skills they had possessed in their former lives. Unfortunately, though, their former personalities could not be restored, as all that remained in the rakghouls was an imprint of who they had once been.
The rakghouls are creatures that will be a great threat even if even one survives. Unless they are dealt with quickly they will spread and spread until they are wiped out to the last creature. In fact, I find it hard to imagine what would be worse, being eaten alive by a rakghoul or being turned into a mindless, bloodthirsty beast. In either case it’s important to not underestimate the rakghouls. To you they may just be an ugly beast, but to them you are just a walking meal.
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