- "The Bloodmoon will rise again, and my hounds will walk the lands. Let this world enjoy its brief respite, for Hircine will hunt again!"— Hircine
The Great Hunt, also known as the Wild Hunt, the Ritual of the Innocent Quarry, and the Hunter's Game, is the name given to the spectacular hunts usually conducted by the Daedric Prince Hircine, who holds the title of Master of the Great Hunt. Within Hircine's realm of the Hunting Grounds, Great Hunts are a constant occurrence. Outside of his realm, Great Hunts are rare and are rumored to happen once per era. Great Hunts are called upon in Nirn for Hircine's own amusement, or to punish those that defy him. Typically, the hunted party, or "Hare" is chosen by Hircine himself, while the hunters compete to be granted a boon by the Daedric Prince. These events can be anywhere from apocalyptic in nature to a gathering within his Hunting Grounds. Though it can take place anywhere the Prince of the Hunt chooses, one can determine the next location by dissecting the stomach of a fresh wolf corpse. When the Great Hunt starts, Secunda turns red, becoming the Bloodmoon, and the hunt is believed to end when the Bloodmoon goes away. The Bloodmoon is said to symbolize the blood of the Hunter's Prey, and those wishing to join the Great Hunt craft rounded bone pendants that are stained with blood to symbolize it. 
The Great Hunt is also another name for Hircine's Hunting Grounds.
March of SacrificesEdit
Mortal inhabitants of Nirn were allowed to participate in a Great Hunt that was to be held within the March of Sacrifices region of the Hunting Grounds. During this time, the werewolf lord Vykosa was amassing the largest werewolf pack that Tamriel has ever seen. She plotted to use her Moon Hunter Pack to take over Nirn, exact revenge on Hircine who had cursed her, and take down anyone that stood in her way. Vykosa sent her lieutenant Balorgh along with a portion of her pack to infiltrate the hunting grounds, and to report back to her once they have found a way inside. With the Great Hunt looming in, a portal manifested on Nirn within the Greenshade region of Valenwood, serving as a invitation to the hunt. This was of a great convenience to the Moon Hunter Pack, who opted to participate to earn Hircine's boon for the pack's benefit.
Various hunters had come to compete to earn Hircine's boon, aside from Vykosa's pack, a rival Werebear group, Wyrd Sisters, and a tribe of Valenwood Bosmer attended. The rules were simple, hunters were to compete in retrieving the heart of Hircine's hare, and in this hunt, he decided that it would be a shapeshifter that took on the form of a formidable Indrik known as Tarcyr. [UOL 1] As this hunt took place in the Hunting Grounds, those who die during this hunt would be dammed to remain within it. A group of Undaunted assisted Hanu, a Dunmer of the Zainab tribe of Ashlanders, in completing the hunt in hopes gaining Hircine's boon, so that she could free the soul of her father, who was infected with lycanthropy shortly before his death. The Undaunted competed with other hunting parties, but were successful in completing Hircine's task of retrieving Tarcyr's heart. To steal the heart, the rival Moon Hunter Pack then swooped in and dispatched Hanu, thus forcing Hanu's spirit to remain within the realm. Hircine declined to grant his boon to the Pack as they did not slay the hare, but in the spirit of the hunt, Hircine offered them a chance of redemption if they were to instead bring the hearts of the Undaunted. The two groups clashed, and Balorgh revealed his Werewolf Behemoth form—an experimental form of lycanthropy that towers over regular werewolves. Despite this, Balorgh was defeated, and the Undaunted earned Hircine's boon. The departed Hanu was given the choice of freeing her father from the Hunting Grounds, or herself at the request of her father. It is unknown which of the two escaped.
The Ritual of the Innocent QuarryEdit
The Chimera of Desolation is the setting for the Ritual of the Innocent Quarry, a site where Mehrunes Dagon's forces held Great Hunts. It was an ancient Daedric rite that drew energy from the powerful magicka stream engulfing the plane. The creators and times of the rituals are lost to history, but when followed properly the rite brought great power and prestige to an individual dubbed the "Huntsman". The ritual pit this all-powerful Huntsman and their Greater and Lesser Dogs (all Daedra) against a mortal known as the Innocent Quarry, or simply, the Hare. In short, the Huntsman's aim was to corner and kill the Hare, while philosophically reflecting on the nature of their places in the Hunt. Many Daedra considered being the Huntsman a great honor.
The Ritual begins at the Chapel of the Innocent Quarry, a large green crystal edifice, and the only structure erected by the Daedra on the island. The Lesser Dogs assemble outside, while inside the Huntsmen, the Greater Dogs, and the Master of the Hunt perform rites to initiate and sanctify the Huntsmen, the Hunt itself, and the Innocent Quarry. Afterward, the Huntsmen emerges, displays the Spear of Bitter Mercy, and recites the Offices of the Hunt. The Offices explains the four stages of the Hunt: the Drag, the Chase, the Call, and the View to the Kill. In the Drag, the Lesser Dogs flushed the Hare out into the open. The Chase is conducted by the Greater Hounds, who pursued the Hare. They then cornered the Hare during the Call, and summoned the Huntsman for the kill. Finally in the View, a Huntsman killed the Hare with the ritual Spear of Bitter Mercy, then called upon the Master of the Hunt to view the kill by ringing the town bell of Trybador. After the Hunt was concluded, the Master of the Hunt then bestowed the Bounty upon the Huntsman Bold (the one who made the successful kill). The Huntsman Bold was then allowed to name the next Hare for the next Hunt (though was forbidden from participation in that Hunt).
The Huntsmen, Master, and Hounds are solemnly sworn to honor the Offices, or Law, of the Hunt. The Law strictly defined all details of the Hunt, such as how many Hounds of each sort could participate, how the Spear of Bitter Mercy could be wielded, and so on. Of particular importance, the Law stated that the Hare must have a genuine chance to escape, no matter how slim. This generally took the form of six keys, which if collected would allow the Hare to open a portal in the Temple of Daedric Rites and escape the Chimera of Desolation. The Daedra considered escape to be effectively impossible, but considered failure to provide the opportunity to be a "shameful and unforgivable betrayal of the Law of the Hunt".
Additionally, the Ritual of the Hunt granted the Huntsmen protection from all forms of attack, including virtually all weapons and magical effects. The only exception was a Huntsman's own Spear; a single touch of the Spear of Bitter Mercy meant instant and certain death, whether the victim was Hare or Huntsman. It was believed that only the most powerful Daedra were immune to the deadly effects of the Spear.
One of these ritual hunts occurred in 3E 398, when Mehrunes Dagon's forces attacked and seized control of the Battlespire with the blessing of Imperial Battlemage Jagar Tharn, who was impersonating Emperor Uriel Septim VII. With the portal back to Tamriel blocked, an apprentice trapped within the Battlespire made it to the Chimera and became the Hare in a Great Hunt instigated by Dagon's Herne minions. However, the apprentice was then aided by Chimere Graegyn, an inhabitant of the Chimera of Desolation and someone who had previously defied Dagon.
One of the Huntsmen was a Herne named Egahirn; it was his first Hunt, and he was given the honor of making the Kill. However, in order to assure his victory he kept one of the six gatekeys needed for the Hare to escape on his person. This was a direct violation of the Law of the Hunt, and it did not sit well with many of the other participants (as Egahirn was protected against all weapons and magics). It also presented an opportunity; when he tricked Mehrunes Dagon, Chimere wore the Armor of the Saviour's Hide, which protected the wearer from attacks by oathbreakers—which Egahirn was by his actions. The apprentice retrieved the Spear of Bitter Mercy, wore the Saviour's Hide, and was able to slay Egahirn and escape the realm.
The Hunter's GameEdit
The Great Hunt of the Skaal is referred to as the Hunter's Game. According to the Skaal, once per era Hircine brings his hunt to Nirn itself, and walks the land with his Hounds in search of prey. Fortunately, the arrival of Hircine on Solstheim can can be reliably predicted by their own Bloodmoon Prophecy. When it occurs on Solstheim, the Hunt is proceeded by four signs. The first is the coming of the "Hounds" when werewolves appear on the island. The second is the "Fire from the Eye of Glass", a pillar of fire that appears on the surface of the frozen Lake Fjalding. The third is the "Tide of Woe", a horker massacre, the bodies of which then wash up all along the island's northern coast. The final sign is the namesake of the prophecy: the "Bloodmoon", when Secunda turns crimson from the blood of the Hunter's Prey. After the four signs begins the Hunter's Game. After the hunt, Hircine returns to his realm for another era.
One such Bloodmoon came to fruition in the year 3E 427. Hircine summoned the island's Four champions to take part in the hunt as Hares: Karstaag the Frost Giant; Captain Falx Carius of Fort Frostmoth; and Tharsten Heart-Fang, leader of the Skaal and wielder of Hircine's Ring. It is unknown if the Nerevarine took part in the Hunt as a Hound or as a human/mer. The interior of Mortrag Glacier was used as a hunting ground, and within its interior lay a maze filled with Hircine's hounds, which had to be navigated to reach the Hunter. The Nerevarine made it through, but in order to escape the Hunt, they were required to fight an aspect of Hircine (Strength, Speed, or Guile). The Nerevarine succeeded in defeating the Hunter, causing the glacier to collapse and ending the Hunt of Hircine.
By 4E 201, the Skaal's Hunter's Game was seemingly a thing of the past. The werewolves of Solstheim had been reduced to only a few members of the Frostmoon Pack. Their alpha, Majni, still held the remaining blessed rings from their past hunts. The island also saw a rise in the number of werebears, who were laying claim to werewolf territories.
Spirit of the HuntEdit
A murder occurred in Skyrim in 4E 201, the victim being a young girl from Falkreath. The Last Dragonborn visited the imprisoned culprit, Sinding, who revealed he was a werewolf. Sinding had taken the Ring of Hircine to help control his condition—this evidently upset the Prince, who cursed the ring to cause the wearer to transform at random. The girl was merely an innocent bystander.
Sinding had come to Falkreath to hunt the majestic White Stag, as Hircine would commune with anyone who slayed it, and wished to beg the Prince's forgiveness. The Dragonborn offered to take the ring to Hircine in Sinding's place, and the werewolf gratefully accepted before escaping his cell. The Dragonborn tracked down and slew the White Stag, and an Aspect of Hircine appeared. The Huntsman agreed to "consider" lifting the ring's curse, but initiated a Great Hunt within Skyrim as he demanded an offering—Sinding's hide. The werewolf was holed up within Bloated Man's Grotto where the Bloodmoon had appeared, and by the time the Dragonborn arrived, one group of hunters had already been slain. Sinding made one last plea, asking the Dragonborn to defy Hircine and fight alongside him. It is unknown if the Dragonborn joined the Hunt and lost the ring, saved Sinding from the hunters and had Hircine remove the curse, or betrayed Sinding by eliminating the hunters before turning on him and claiming both artifacts.
- The Bosmeri Wild Hunt, while sharing an alternate name of the Great Hunt, is unrelated to Hircine's Hunt and should not be confused for it.
- Since Skyrim, non-Bosmeri Wild Hunts have been referred to as the Great Hunt. In ESO, books previously mentioning non-Bosmeri Wild Hunts have changed their wording to mention Great Hunts instead, likely to differentiate the two.
- Tal Marog Ker's Researches — Tal Marog Ker
- The Posting of the Hunt
- Korst Wind-Eye's dialogue in Bloodmoon
- Hunting Grounds Body Tattoo description in ESO
- The Huntsman Prince — Hanu of the Zainab Tribe
- Hanu's dialogue in ESO: Wolfhunter
- Events of Hircine's Hunt in Bloodmoon
- Hircine Loading Screen description in Skyrim
- Meet the Character - Hanu on the official ESO website
- Bloodmoon Pendant on the official UESP ESO item database
- Thoreki's dialogue during the quest Hircine's Gift
- Rolea's Journal — Rolea
- The Hungry Cat's Curse — Vykosa the Ascendant
- Letter to Mylenne — Vykosa
- Letter to Balorgh — Vykosa
- Balorgh's Plan — Ronela
- Log No. 321: Unexpected Results — Archivist Ernarde of the Moon Hunter Pack
- Letter to Fire Daedra
- The Posting of the Hunt text being used in Hircine's Haunt description in ESO
- Paxti Bittor's dialogue in Battlespire
- Events of Level 5 in Battlespire
- Letter from Balaherne — Balaherne
- Old Man Chimere's dialogue in Battlespire
- Majni's dialogue in Dragonborn
- Hjordis's dialogue in Dragonborn
- Events of Ill Met By Moonlight in Skyrim
- Rissing's dialogue stating the events of the Ill Met By Moonlight is a Great Hunt in Skyrim
- Aura Whisper third word wall in Skyrim
Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.