Chapter 4: Lycanthropes and Their Kin
Lycanthropes are the result of spiritual rituals and pacts made by the Lujien (wolfmen) and Gihjna (bearmen) with the ancient elven druid Wegadas. According to druidic folklore, Wegadas' ties to both Tunare and the spirit deities of the Unkempt, and his pact with the Lujien and Gihjna, made it possible for his children to survive the rites of transformation that changed them into the fathers of lycanthropy.
Lycanthropes are generally referred to as werewolves, werebears, were-rats, were-lions, etc. Such classifications depend on which strain of lycanthropy they possess.
Wegadas made his pact with the Lujien and Gihjna before the fall of Takish'Hiz when the humans were still little more than barbaric tribes. He agreed to sire and give his two unborn children to be raised by the Lycanthropes. The children underwent a ritual in the Valley of the Dawn, the most sacred of Lujien and Gihjna locations. In the Valley of the Dawn, the children's mortal spirits were taken from them.
They would become Levandius the Wolf Father, and Dorandas the Bear Father.
These were only two of Wegadas's children. He had fathered over a dozen children throughout the centuries. Unlike Levandius and Dorandas, most of his other children lived out their lives as Unkempt, content to be common tribesmen.
Wegadas' first born, Levandius, was to be handed over to the Lujien and was gifted by the spirit of Drinal the spirit deity of night, destruction, and death. He would serve as a link between the humans and demi-humans of the Unkempt Forest as well as the lujien. Levandius could change his shape at will from his half-elven birth form to that of a lujien.
For centuries Levandius had lived within the Unkempt Forest and fought fiercely against those who trespassed into the sacred woods, or threatened the tribesmen he was sworn to defend. As a result, his blood mixed occasionally with those he fought and the "curse" of lycanthropy spread. Although Levandius tried to hunt down and kill these offspring, some would escape and flee to other regions of Tunaria, where they would they would either be killed, or (for a lucky few) create packs of their own.
As the plainsmen of the great karana plains and coastal regions south of the Unkempt made social and technological advancements, excursions into the Unkempt woods became more frequent. For protection against these intruders, Levandius began bestowing his lycanthropic gift upon the most skilled and trusted of the human and half-elven Unkempt tribesmen. These werewolves, trained and ruled over by Levandius, became warriors known as the Night Reapers and adopted the standard of the silver crescent on a black circle, the sacred symbol of Drinal the Silver Reaper.
The barbarians of the north still fear the Unkempt woods, and believe their forefathers' tales of the wolfmen of the Unkempt. The humans of Qeynos and its outlying villages still tell similar folktales passed down from their less civilized ages, but many pass them off as legend and primitive superstitions.
The Night Reapers: In the Unkempt woods, Wegadas is passing away and his heirs are at war for leadership of the Unkempt. Levandius' original Night Reapers numbered around a dozen members each with several human and half-elven Unkempt followers. With the death of Wegadas looming, the Night Reapers are watching the borders of the Unkempt Woods closer than ever and are selectively increasing their numbers. The Night Reapers, like the Unkempt and the Lujien are fervent worshipers of Drinal the Silver Reaper. Viewing their lycanthropy as a great gift and honor, they seek and destroy independent werewolves deemed unworthy of their willing or unwilling gift.
Castle Lightwolf: Elsewhere in Tunaria, small independent packs of werewolves have been established. The most prominent and closest to the Unkempt Woods are the Lightwolf pack of Castle Lightwolf. For three generations, the lords of Castle Lightwolf have struggled to keep their lycanthropy a secret from all but their most trusted advisors and soldiers, while secretly governing their packs. The Lightwolf pack is one of the few independent packs that Levandius does not actively seek to destroy. In fact, due to the impending demise of Wegadas and invasions from human trespassers from the south and the barbarians from the north, Levandius uses Count Lightwolf and his pack to help defend the outskirts of the northern Unkempt Woods.
Lone Wolves and Wolfweres: Perhaps due to the violent natures and tendencies of the werewolves, lupine lycanthropy has become amongst the most widespread strain of lycanthropy. Individuals infected with lupine lycanthropy typically do not survive for long unless they either learn to live in the wild, or learn how to hide their lycanthropy amongst common folk. Wolfweres, the most common of all lycanthropes, are incapable of controlling their violent tendencies and have no human form. They either resemble large wolves, or Lujien, and they rarely change from one to the other. When the moon of Drinal is full, the wolfweres all shift into their Lujien form and go on a bloodthirsty hunt from dusk until dawn. Wolfweres with violent tendencies and weak wills often shift into Lujien form involuntarily and hunt on these nights as well.
These lone wolves and wolfweres are responsible for most werewolf attacks and the resulting legends amongst the civilized races outside of the Unkempt Woods.
Wegadas' second born, Dorandas, was to be handed over to the Gihjna and was gifted by the spirit of Ehayae, Matron of the Dawn and spirit deity of birth, rebirth, and creation. He would serve as a link between the humans and demi-humans of the Unkempt Forest and the Gihjna. And he would be able to change his shape from his half-elven birth form to that of a Gihjna at will.
Like his father Wegadas' and brother Levandius, Dorandas was bound by his father's pact to the Lujien and Gihjna to remain in the Unkempt Woods as a servant of the Gihjna and a leader of the Unkempt tribesmen.
Dorandas learned from the Gihjna the sacred rites and rituals of Ehayae, the Matron of the Dawn, and passed them on to the shaman of the human Unkempt tribes who regard Dorandas as their most sacred and eldest shaman.
Over the years Dorandas has passed his gift of lycanthropy to the most respected and powerful human and half-elven shaman of the Unkempt tribes. These werebears, trained and lead by Dorandas, became known as the Wards of Dawn and adopted the standard of a golden half circle on black representing the rising and setting sun.
Although fierce when forced into battle, the werebears of the Wards of Dawn served the human Unkempt tribes primarily as spiritual guides and healers; thus, few werebears have ever existed beyond the boundaries of the Unkempt Woods.
The few werebears that resulted from barbarian or civilized human campaigns into the Unkempt woods often continued to live their lives more or less as they had before becoming lycanthropes. This group had much greater control over their lycanthropic abilities than the werewolves. Some werebears, especially those of barbarian origin, have even become heroic figures amongst their native cultures and may be responsible for the barbarian shamans' highly developed affinity with bears and their ability to assume the form of a bear.
The Wards of Dawn: The Wards of Dawn acknowledge the passing of Wegadas as the death of the current age and the dawn of a new one. While the Night Reapers continue to defend the Unkempt Woods from invaders, the Wards of Dawn struggle to maintain the ancient tribal rites and beliefs of the Gihjna and the human Unkempt tribes. The Wards of Dawn fear that Levandius and his Night Reapers will attempt to assume absolute control of the Unkempt when Wegadas' passes away and that the Night Reapers' violent nature are better suited to their current role than the role of leaders of the Unkempt. The Wards of Dawn guard the fading Wegadas intently and are struggling to delay the time of his passing.
The Werebear Witchking: The Witchking was once a tribesman of the Unkempt. He was infected with lycanthropy while tending to a wounded bear. Fearing he would be slain by The Wards of Dawn or The Night Reavers for being an unintended recipient of lycanthropy, the Witchking fled the tribe. He went to a remote region of the Unkempt Woods where he gathered other independent werecreatures and created a loyal following of lycanthropes. The Witchking has become intent on overthrowing Levandius and Dorandas and assuming control of the Unkempt once Wegadas has passed.
Lost Cubs and Bearweres: Although few werebears existed south of the Unkempt Woods, ursine lycanthropy was the second only to lupine lycanthropy amongst the barbarian tribes of the North. The great Anu warrior, Ungar Glacierfist was rumored to be a werebear. Myths of barbarian figures possessing the strength and wisdom of a bear are not uncommon amongst barbarian folk tales.
Bearweres, like wolfweres, can only assume their natural bear form or the form of a Gihjna. Like the wolfweres, they possess only animal intelligence. Bearweres are often created by werebears as guardian companions, but are watched closely so as not to spread the lycanthropy to families of wild bears. Still, sightings of bearweres occur as far away as the Commonlands and the mountains of Odus. Bearweres aren't easily recognizable from normal bears aside from the fact that they tend to assume their Gihjna form at dusk and dawn, and can be seen standing or walking upright.
Another of Wegadas' sons, Corindas, lived his childhood years as a half-elf child in the care of the Unkempt Druids. Wegadas had already fulfilled his pact with the Lujien and Gihjna, thus Corindas did not undergo the spiritual transformation at the Valley of the Dawn like his older siblings. Since Corindas was not bound by the pact that restricted his parents and two eldest siblings from leaving the Unkempt Forest, he was able to travel south to the Plains of Karana during his adolescence. He worked there with the local human druids in Surefall Glade and the villages surrounding the still young city of Qeynos.
During the course of his work with the early farmers in the Plains of Karana, Corindas first encountered the lionmen (called "Kejrahn" in their own tongue). Having been raised amongst the Lujien and Gihjna, Corindas did not share the fears and prejudices that most human settlers of the Karanas held towards the lionmen who were responsible for the deaths of many human hunters.
These hunters had preyed upon the lions of the Karana Plains since before the rise of the human cities and modern agriculture.
Seeking to end the bloodshed between the Kejrahn and the human settlers of the plains, Corindas sought and obtained acceptance amongst the lionmen, and shared with their leader the tale of his family and their relationship with the spirits and the Lujien and Gihjna.
For several years Corindas lived amongst the Kejrahn and fought by their side against the poachers and hunters that preyed on the lions of the plains. He also fought against the Kejrahn's mortal enemies, the gnolls. In a battle with the Sabretooth gnoll clan, Corindas was mortally wounded and taken to the Kejrahn's most skilled shaman. At the Kejrahns' most sacred shrine, the great savage spirit, Sateb Mahlni, visited Corindas and healed his wounds. Because of his family's pact with Sateb Mahlni's fellow spirit deities, Drinal and Ehayae, Corindas was not only allowed to live, but he was gifted with a power not-unlike those of his eldest siblings.
Corindas became the great werelion savior of the Kejrahn, the best hope for peace between the humans and the Kejrahn of the Karana Plains. Other werelions came into existence over time. Most served Corindas and the Kejrahn. Others escaped into the wild to find their own place in the world. Corindas and his loyal werelions became known as The Sun Manes. Tales of the were-lions were told of them both by fearful humans and by the reverent Kejrahn.
Unfortunately, Corindas would ultimately fail to save the Kejrahn from extinction. The noble lion lycanthropes would be the first to die out.
The Sun Manes: Corindas and his handful of Sun Manes live amongst what remains of the dwindling Kejrahn catmen. Many of the Kejrahn have already fled their ancestral Tunarian homeland for the lands of their cousins, The Kerran, on Odus. Corindas has received word of the events occurring in the Unkempt Woods and is saddened by his father's untimely passing, yet has no interest in involving himself in the politics of the Unkempt or attempting to claim his rights as an heir of Wegadas. Corindas has found his own place and calling in the vast Plains of Karana. With his Sun Manes, Corindas has his own struggle to be fought against the encroaching poachers and agriculturists, and expanding human cities that are disrupting the Unkempt's natural cycle of life.
The Stray and The Lionweres: Few werelions exist outside of the Plains of Karana; and most never encounter another species of lycanthrope. Werelions have been known, in fact, hunt down and kill any werewolves, wolfweres, bearweres, or ratweres encountered in the Plains of Karana. Werebears are virtually unheard of, and the wererats residing in Qeynos rarely venture into the plains and tend to stick to the human roads.
The Sun Manes refer to the few werelions that exist outside of their pride as "The Stray". The majority of The Stray were once hunters or poachers that survived a battle with a lionwere and, as a result, contracted feline lycanthropy. Like the Sun Manes, The Stray prefer to hunt during the daylight hours when their keen eyesight can see for miles across the plains. However, the werelions' night vision is keener than even the lupine lycanthropes, and they have no problems hunting under the cover of night when need be.
There are rumors of an Erudite pride of strays on Odus, their matriarch having originally been from Highbourne and infected at an early age by an encounter with a lionwere.
Lionweres are both respected and feared by the Kejrahn. Attempts to tame the lionweres have been unsuccessful; thus, they are usually killed as painlessly as possible by the Kejrahn or The Sun Manes when discovered.
Reports of lionweres have come from as far as the Commonlands of eastern Tunaria and the grasslands of Odus.
Another of Wegadas' sons, Yindrius, was abducted shortly after his birth; not an easy task for the abductors considering how closely guarded the children of Wegadas were by the Lujien and Gihjna.
However, the abductors were the Ratonga, masters of stealth and deception. A Ratonga spy living beneath Qeynos had learned of Corindas years before Yindrius birth and had agents watching the Unkempt Druids for an opportunity to steal one of Wegadas' offspring and learn of the spirit deities and rituals called upon for the offsprings' spiritual and physical tranformation into a werecreature.
The Ratonga succeeded. Their most powerful magic-wielders called upon their deity Caertex and convinced him to bestow upon Yindrius powers similar to his brothers. He was given the ability to change into the form of the ratman; and was charged with creating a network of wererats that would infest the surface cities, provide information to the Ratonga, and manipulate the surface civilizations to their favor.
Unfortunately the Ratonga vanished into the Underfoot from which they came not long after Yindrius established his network of spies dubbed the Topi di Ombra. The wererats became servants of Yindrius and forgot about their former masters.
Yindrius lost all recollection or knowledge of his family or the affairs of the other lycanthropes.
Topi di Ombra: The Topi di Ombra have evolved into a powerful family of wererats led by Yindrius. Their members are located primarily in Qeynos, Neriak, Freeport, and several outlying villages. The Topi Di Ombra also have a minor presence amongst the dwarves and gnomes in Moradhim and Klik'Anon. The Topi di Ombra survives and prospers through smuggling, stealing, racketeering, extortion, assassination, and other such illicit activities. New Topi di Ombra can only be "made" with the permission of a gang boss, which is typically the most powerful wererat in the city working directly under Yindrius himself.
The Orphans and The Ratweres: Even though rodent lycanthropy has existed for a much shorter period of time than lupine lycanthropy it has become the most widespread of all the lycanthropic strains. The vast majority of the rodent lycanthropes are ratweres, which wind up greatly outnumbering any other species of feral lycanthrope. The Topi di Ombra typically destroys ratweres whenever they are discovered; for they're responsible for the majority of the independent wererats.
When orphan wererats are found by the Topi di Ombra, they are offered a chance to join the family. If they refuse, they are executed. This practice of killing orphan wererats leads to rivalries between the Topi di Ombra and families of orphan wererats. There are rumors of one such orphan family of dwarven and gnomish wererats operating out of the northeastern mountains of Tunaria between Moradhim and Klik'Anon. Other rumors have reached the Topi di Ombra about a family of teir'dal wererats operating out of the Desert of Ro.
The Feral Lycanthropes
Feral Lycanthropes are animals that have been infected with lycanthropy. Feral Lycanthropes can assume their natural animal form and their bestial humanoid were-form. Feral lycanthropes retain their animal intelligence and instincts, thus are responsible for much of the fear and horror stories about lycanthropes with an uncontrollable thirst for blood and violence.
Feral lycanthropes are generally hunted and destroyed by the humanoid lycanthropes but it is not unheard of for a humanoid lycanthrope to intentionally create feral lycanthropes as guardians or servants.
Feral lycanthropes are generally referred to as wolfweres, bearweres, lionweres, ratweres, etc, based on which species of lycanthrope they are descended from.