The Vystrian Wolf
One of the most populous species in all the Realms, the Vystrian wolf is a powerful breed of sapient wolves that may be found in nearly every Realm, far from their origins in Vystriana. Vystrian wolves may be found in any shape, size, or color; they are extremely varied in both appearances and abilities. The majority live in structured packs led by an alpha, alphess, or a mated alpha pair, and are granted soulbound familiars in their early adolescence.
Name:: Vystrian wolf
Average Lifespan:: 300 years
Average Height:: 3 feet at the shoulder
Average Weight:: 150 pounds.
Location Found:: Originates from Felnova; found abroad.
*all statistics based on averages; extremes in any direction, or found in odd locations, are always allowed.
Familiars At the end of puphood and the earliest years of adolescence, a Vystrian wolf will be granted a familiar by their god, Cirrus; they live for as long as the wolf lives, and guides them to the afterlife once the wolf dies. These familiars take the form of small animals, none larger than their wolf companion, from any non-sapient animal species*. Unlike the traditional animals they resemble, familiars may come in any color with any patterning, and are fully sapient, able to speak and interact much like their wolven companions.
* BTACD fauna species are acceptable, as well!
Familiars always share a unique connection with the wolf they are given to. When a young wolf is due to receive their familiar, Cirrus will travel to the pack spiritlands and find either an individual who knew the young wolf, or is related to them; should the spirit be agreeable, they will offer a portion of their spiritual essence to the god, who takes it and crafts it into a small animal. Then, he and the animal will appear in the young wolf's dreams - and when the wolf awakens, the familiar in physical form will manifest before them.
The form the animal takes is often influenced by what the young wolf believes, and what Cirrus views as helpful to the individual through their life. The wolf who provided the spiritual essence holds no sway over what form the animal may take when crafted into being by Cirrus. These familiars also do not hold any memories of the wolf their essence came from, until such time as they return to the Soulplane and pack spiritlands.
Familiars do not have any magical abilities save for that which their species is naturally gifted with. They share a peculiar place in pack culture, as well - a wolf with a prey animal as their familiar will never hunt or eat the meat of their animal, even if others around them do. Harming another wolf's familiar is one of the greatest of pack crimes, and the offending wolf may be exiled permanently - or, should the offending wolf kill the other's companion, their own bonded will be killed in retribution.
Bloodwolves, direwolves, and amarok wolves are also given familiars; alphyns are not.
Death of a Familiar Familiars do not have a natural lifespan: they will live as long as their bonded wolf does, unless killed by outside means. If a familiar should be killed, their spiritual essence will return to the soul it came from, and will leave the wolf alone. That wolf may never recover from their bonded's loss - and when they, too, die, they will be unable to find the pack spiritlands to rejoin their ancestors. These spirit wolves will wander the Soulplane until their souls degrade eventually into a Famine, and may appear afterwards in the worlds of the living to terrorize those still alive.
Very rarely, Cirrus will grant a noble wolf another familiar, should the god feel they are worthy. However, this is rarely the same - most often, the essence taken is different, as is the animal form.
Death and the Soulplane When Vystrian wolves - and the majority of their subspecies - die, they are guided by their familiars to a hidden place in the Soulplane called the pack spiritlands. Once the familiar has released their physical form, they will become more and more insubstantial until they resemble a small, glowing orb not so different from a faded soul. As the familiar guides its companion, it will begin to recall memories and experiences from the wolf spirit it came from, and - following that connection - is able to reach the spiritlands with ease. Once there, the familiar will join with the spirit that created it, and the soul-packs will welcome the new spirit into their ranks.
Worship and Deities Many centuries have passed since the day that Time brought the souls of the eucyon to the plains of Vystriana, crafting the wolves that all know today; and much has changed since. Very few still worship Time as their lead deity, and instead have turned to the one the great leader of gods gave divinity and reign over their species: a wolven god simply known as Cirrus.
However, Cirrus was not the only god of wolves, and some dark of heart still worship his deposed brother, R'rkain. These wolves are shunned by traditional packs, and those that follow R'rkain are apt to fall into packs apart from any others, and interbreed with bloodwolves, hellwolves, and other such races often.
Because of Cirrus' and R'rkain's legendary familiars, soulbonded animals that take the form of birds are considered lucky, even divine, among Vystrian wolves. Such familiars are often seen as a mark of greatness and destiny, but may also be targets of jealousy from those with 'lesser' animals.
Species info credited to Blazeh/Verridith, JPG, Nerroth, and Skyeh.
Appearance The Vystrian wolf is a lupine creature of varying size, build, and color, with nearly limitless range in individual appearance. Markings, colors, patterns, and features may be of any hue, configuration, and design; mutations are as widely found as any dragon's, and the features they may sport also are quite diverse - back spines, wings, extra tails, horns, feathered crests, scales among their fur - and much more. Many of these traits are some form of combination of the parents, inherited through blood or by magical influence across their lives. Some wolves may exhibit bioluminescence in any degree, and many have eyes that glow or change color.
Fur length generally relies on the area the wolf was born in, and the pack in which it holds its heritage to. Different packs may follow different evolutionary strains: for example, in the Vehn pack, wolves are generally larger with thick fur to protect from the cold wilderness they live in, and in the lesser-known Noss'a, most are born with some form of wings to fly with.
Those that live in packs located in other Realms may also exhibit features in greater number than where Vystrian wolves are more common. For example, wolves dwelling in Kurai (alongside or out of the way of local hellwolf packs) may adapt hellwolf-like traits, more demonic attributes, and defensive capabilities. A wolf living in Lizzarkyth may have a very short coat due to the tropical clime; where those who live in Noctis' sky-continents may be completely covered in feathers and sprout a variety of wing types. These wolves are quite adaptable, and often evolve quickly to live in the climes their packs settle in.
Culture Vystrian wolves are, for the most part, social creatures; the majority live in heavily structured packs strewn across many Realms, each with their individual names and rankings different per group. The culture of pack hierarchy is generally the same for most packs: the alphas, usually called different things depending on what pack they might be a part of, are the undisputed leaders. An alpha (male) or alphess (female) may lead singularly, or rule jointly with a mate, but no pack is without at least one for long. Next in line is the beta, ranked second in command; their name (and whether or not they have a mated counterpart) depends on the pack. Their duties tend to involve training young wolves and organizing hunts. In the absence of both alphas, the beta is entrusted with leading the pack.
In addition, all packs have a wolf known as the seer or shaman, though their exact title varies from pack to pack. This member is possessed of the ability to see into the future or past in visions, though the way these visions come differs from individual to individual. Wolven seers are also gifted with herblore and healing, and some may rarely have dreamwalking and spiritwalking abilities. They are valued for their wisdom and pass the stories and legacy of the pack down to the pups as part of their training. Other duties include advising the alphas, as well as assisting expectant mothers during births.
Most packs will have a group of wolves dedicated to the protection of their normal members; these guard wolves are often bigger and stronger than others, either physically or magically, and are trained from an early age to fight and defend. Sometimes, this guard doubles as the pack's hunters in those groups with smaller numbers, though in larger packs they are nearly always separate. Often, nursing mothers will hold a special place and rank in their packs; these wolves care for their own and each other's pups equally. Some she-wolves - especially if lame or otherwise unable to hunt or fight for themselves - choose to remain as broodmothers and remain in the nursery to care for new arrivals.
While all packs regard their familiars with honor, most have specific names for them. Current examples include the 'freya' of the Vehn pack; the 'drienar' of the Myr pack; and the 'ame' of the Noss'a. Harming another wolf's familiar is exceptionally taboo no matter the pack, and killing one outright often generates severe retribution. If a crime is great enough, a familiar may be exiled or imprisoned; very rarely, and generally only for the killing of another's soul-bonded, the familiar of the offending wolf may be executed.
Abilities Abilities a Vystrian wolf may be found with range widely across the board. While the greater majority of wolves are born with some affinity for elemental magic, others range from aura magic to uses of pure energy, mental manipulation, and other such non-elemental things. Few wolves are born without magic, and must make their way through their world with physical abilities alone. Compared to forestwolves, Vystrian wolves are also known to be bigger, faster, and stronger physically regardless of their magic of lack thereof, and may be commonly distinguished from the lesser fauna by this above all.
Vystrian wolves are dynamic and diverse no matter their gifted abilities. They are able to communicate with non-sapient, lupine (and some other canine) animals with ease, though true wildwhisper abilities are rare. They also have the ability to 'speak' with one another in the foreswolf tongue (with barks, growls, and howls) and often do so when around other species who they do not want following their conversation.
Before there were any sort of canine, like wolves or rathar, the purpose Death sought had no proper creature. He needed a sharp-witted creature with long fangs and skill in magic; thick fur, and long legs. The dark god drew up from a well of darkness a malleable shape, twisting captured lightning into a sharp and muscular form, giving strength to bones with shards of broken ice. Long fur, to protect against both cold and attack, was woven from the shadows itself, covering the beast head to toe. A long muzzle was filled with sharp pieces of ice and shaped into fangs and teeth, and a desire for flesh was set deep within its heart.
This creature, called the eucyon, led a massive pack of its own kind for hundreds of years before disappearing from history. Though the eucyon are no more as a race, the Ancient First still slumbers somewhere in the Realms.
Long after the eucyon began its terrible reign, packs of such creatures ran rampant across the Realms, killing and destroying everything they could. Eucyons were powerful canines; packs of them could take down dragons, and instilled within their hearts was a darkness forged by Death. But there were few that had left such darkness behind, and these few had caught the attention of Time, who had already worried overlong about the power and threat such eucyons presented.
Already, the Felnovian Five had discussed the problem of the eucyon over many, many centuries; across both the Realms of Millirand and that of Felnova. It was then that the leader of the Five suggested a great Change; to take the entirety of the eucyon race and forge them anew. Such a thing was not beyond their ability - it could be done, though it would take time.
Late one night, after the packs of eucyons had settled after their hunts and feeding, all fell into deep and unnatural slumber. One by one, the eucyons faded from the world - gone were they from the lands and wilds of the Realms, all save for the very First, who slumbered under watch from the Sage of the Eucyon. One by one lost their physical forms, and their glittering souls rose into the sky like thousands of floating, shimmering stars.
To Time they flew, thousands of souls, each with their own colors and light. The light grew to be so bright, a wash of countless rainbow souls, shimmering as he opened his claws to welcome them. Welcome, souls of the eucyon, though eucyon you are no more, he intoned, voice resonating loudly - though only the souls could hear him. No more will the darkness of Death taint your hearts, steeling you towards violence and terror. You will be free to choose the way your lives are led - but not as eucyons.
And thus did Time begin his work. He drew light from the moon and shadows from the night and fused them, molding them into a form that echoed that of the eucyon - but not quite as long, not as savage or sharp. He laced fire into their hearts and eyes, and crafted sharp teeth and claws from the earth. Finally, he wove grass from the ground into long, luxurious fur of every color, mixed in brilliant markings and more natural colors, each unique and beautiful. A spark of lightning he loosed among the new creatures, of divine, godly energy - it flew among the former eucyons, and each one it touched changed.
Some that the lightning flashed through grew wings, others horns, some scales or extra tails. More gained incredible magic, elemental and not; a few burned with their reiatsu, while some held manifestations of their element upon their bodies, in some unique fashion. Time smiles, and allowed them to awake; floating upon the air, their looked confused, but awed. You are free, my children, he said softly. I give you all the name of Wolf, and Wolves you shall be; return to the earth and live your lives in your packs. Live and hunt and care for your families; give honor to those you call prey, and give friendship to others far and wide. But most of all, he said, make your own choices, and let no-one and nothing force you to any one path. Go forth now, my children. You are free.
Classification: gryphonic wolf. Location: primarily Anquil.
Alphyns are much akin to wolves with gryphon attributes, descendants of those who have crossed into Anquil and mutated due to the area's frequent magestorms.
Beyond their lack of wings, one of the biggest physical features that sets them apart from wolves is that they are significantly more gryphon like, as a result of Vystrian wolf and Anquil gryphon crossbreeding. Where the draconic scales show up differs from alphyn to alphyn, though they commonly feature scales on their legs, talons, and underbelly. Their tails are also long and thin, tufted like a lion's, and may grow to lengths exceeding that of the alphyn's entire body.
While they are not capable of flight, they tend to be built more sturdily and have greater mobility on the ground, with powerful legs capable of sending them hurtling through the air at an opponent. Their features may also appear elongated compared to closely-related lupine kin; ears, tails, and muzzles in particular. Long ears are seen most commonly among alphyn packs, and those without them are considered an oddity among their race.
Alphynian pack hierarchy is based on a combination of strength and cunning in hunting and combat - to have these skills in abundance is to climb the ranks. They are known to knot their tails in accordance with their place in their pack - these knots are blatant demonstrations of their station within alphynian hierarchy. Most often, only alphas will wear their knots consistently, though others may knot their tails to their stations in battle, ceremony, or in important designations only. To put on more knots than one can demonstrate in terms of strength and cunning is basis for bringing great dishonor upon one's self.
Classification: aquatic wolf. Location: abroad; in oceans, rivers, and lakes or along the shores of each.
Amarok wolves, or amaroks as they are commonly called, are a subspecies of Vystrian wolf adapted to live beneath the water. All amaroks sport both air-breathing lungs and fully functional gills, as well as the ability to seal off the backs of their throats and take in water to breathe far beneath the waves. Any fur they may have is course and not often long, with a warm undercoat and waterproof uppercoat, though some of this may be either partially or completely covered in plates or scales.
Aside from the traits listed above, amarok wolves may be of any color, with any markings, and any configuration of assorted mutations. Many sport frills, scales, and more fishlike tails, but these are not required. Eye color may be anything, and multiple eyes are common.
Amaroks dwell in underwater packs called 'pods' numbering anywhere from three to twenty individuals, led by a single alpha and alphess pair. It is said that the first amarok wolves were those packs that dwelt upon the shore and fished for food, up until they joined with the waves themselves - having a unique love for the water. They are often easygoing and accepting of those around them, and often gather and trade rare things beneath the water with species locked on land. Some may choose to forge a life with a land pack, for a variety of reasons - and while they are biologically capable, any that leaves the water will see it in a wistful, longing light if unable to return for long periods of time.
All amarok wolves have some affinity for water elemental magic, as well as an uncanny ability to navigate and find their way. Most amaroks cannot control the elements of fire and lightning, though other magic - elemental and not - come freely to them on an individual basis.
Classification: demonic, hyena-like wolf. Location: originated in Evylon, but may be found abroad.
Bloodwolves are beasts from Evylon's untamable wilds said to have its origins in Anquil, one who only recently ventured abroad. They are large, some growing to heights rivaling even that of the great dire, with short, tufted ears and a ridge of spikes that varies by individual running the length of their back. With thick, muscular necks and chests, the bloodwolf more resembles a hyena than a wolf; they have massive jaws and long jagged fangs protruding from their lips. The use of their last defining feature is a favorite; to rip and shred with their long, hooked claws, or the sickle-sabres that curve upwards and over their paws in place of a regular wolf's dewclaw.
Exceptionally intelligent, the bloodwolves range in small packs consisting of ten to twenty members. One alpha, generally the strongest male, leads them. Forever-mates are unheard of in a bloodwolf clan, and in many situations, the alpha male will have a harem of females that he actively breeds; other males may be used as guards and fighters. Much like lions, the females do most of the hunting, and the males get first rights to every kill. Powers and abilities vary with each individual, as do colors and markings, though all are gifted with unnaturally powerful strength.
As bloodwolves were once Vystrian wolves, changed by Anquil's dark influence, some are rarely found granted to bloodwolf individuals. These are quite rare, and never granted by Cirrus, bloodwolf familiars are obtained when a blood-alpha grows their power to exponential levels. A soul they once knew may be linked to them once they reach this point, often referred to as the point of no return, and will manifest as a creature best fitting to the bloodwolf's personality. Rarely will these familiars appear as normal animals - more often, they take on the appearance of malformed beasts or monsters, sometimes small dragons, hellcats, snakekind, or death-phoenixes.
Classification: intelligent canines that resemble domestic dogs. Location: abroad.
Also called 'cainos hounds' or 'cainos dogs', these creatures were once a large pack of Vystrian wolves who lived in Jes're'en thousands of years ago. Perhaps due to their close relations with other races and the magical wars waged there, the pack split apart early on into various smaller groups and spread across the continent over the next few hundred years. They began to physically change, each one differently; the direct cause of this is not fully understood, though it is thought to have been a mixture of evolution and magical experimentation upon the individuals present. Now, the various types of cainos are as varied as canidae or domestic dog species and can be found anywhere in any Realm.
Cainos dogs have the varied appearances, mutations, and size ranges of their parent species but appear more like domestic canines than their lupine brethren. Anything from large dogs such as true hounds, shepherds, and mastiffs to small dogs much like terriers and bichons is possible, and mixed-breed cainos are not uncommon. Smaller dogs are uncommon outside of places where larger, protective species are, while larger variants can be found ranging anywhere they may comfortably live. Cainos dogs also have as varied abilities as their parent species, though they are known to lack physical strength, speed, or great elemental affinity depending on their size and strength (as many smaller breeds cannot hope to match the robust strength of a true wolf).
While cainos dogs and Vystrian wolves are related, they may not get along; most wolves see cainos as a blight upon their species and refuse to interact with them on a pack basis, and most are not allowed anywhere near wolf territory. However, they are much more amicable to other races, and many find themselves living outside of packs and in among humans, dragons, and a myriad of other species.
Classification: type of Vystrian wolf. Location: various regions.
The direwolf is a larger, more heavily muscled type of Vystrian wolf; they have bigger jaws, longer legs and can reach up to the size of an average horse. Most dires have primarily dark coloration with various accent colors that can range to any hue. These accent colors play the part of markings playing across the dark base; generally speaking, they can be anything ranging from white to red to gold to black and anything in-between. Rarely, a direwolf with a 'grey' gene will be born: black at birth, they grow to a lighter color with age, reaching their true coloration around the age of ten. Wings are another rarity, a mutation not often seen.
Abilities and powers generally focus around dark energy; the dark element, necromancy, acidic arts, black aura, etc. Other elements are less common, but also found, much like the Vystrian wolf. When pressed to the utter limit, they are able to go into a demon-like Tri'akun they use only as a last resort; though gifted with speed, power and ability in this rage, they are unable to control their actions and may do more harm than good. So much power is poured into their bodies that though they may kill their opponent, the sheer force often rips apart their own body, eighty percent of the time resulting in death to themselves.
Classification: intelligent canines that resemble wild dogs. Location: abroad.
Lycaeon - sometimes known as lycaeon hounds - are Vystrian wolves who have evolved over the years to adapt to a variety of different environments and circumstances. Like the cainos, this is believed to partially be because of magical experimentation as well as evolution, but unlike their sister-subspecies the exact location where this began cannot be determined. Many are much more closely related to Vystrian wolves than the cainos dogs themselves.
As their evolutionary paths have differed greatly, lycaeon breeds can be split into four distinct regional families with two breeds per family. Any that doesn't fit within one of these is either considered a mutt, or an outlier, and is only referred to as a lycaeon. Otherwise, there is little deviation from these.
The most varied family has no true name, and is often referred to as simply 'lycae lycaeons' by scholars. It consists of two related, but distinct, breeds in the broadest family; the vulpes, which includes a vast array of fox and foxlike variations, and the jackal. Lycaeon foxes have large ears, tapered muzzles, and large bushy tails, often also sporting shorter legs and slit-pupiled eyes. Jackals are similar, but larger and lankier, with long legs and shorter tails. Both are gifted with the ability to survive long periods of time without food or water, enhanced hearing and sight, and survival tactics that allow them to live in extreme heat and cold. They can have any magical affinity, and are found in every clime.
Second is the cuonae family that came about through evolution in forests, wetlands, and mountainous foothills; this family includes the dhole, and the thylacine. Lycaeon dholes have broad, flat faces and medium builds, slightly rounded ears, and bushy tails. Thylacines, however, are much different, though related - they are slender and short legged, with skinny, whiplike tails, small ears, and pouches on their bellies to hold young in the case of females. Most, if not all, cuonae lycaeons are gifted with the ability to hold their breath for long periods of time, and have aptitude for water and air magics over all.
The third family is known as the savanae; grassland, plains,and savanna dwellers that fall into two categories, the painted wild dog and dingo. Lycaeon wild dogs are tall, with large round ears, long legs, and fluffy tails; their coloration is often very bold, with bright patterns and saturated fur colors. Dingos in this family are similar to painted dogs and their parent species, the wolves, with a few key differences: their coats are much shorter, their ears are smaller and sharply pointed, and they have longer and more slender muzzles. These two breeds are gifted with a venomous bite or toxic saliva, and often have fire and water as elemental affinities.
The last family are the desert latran; this includes the breeds coyote and hyena. Lycaeon coyotes are similar to dingos and foxes, but larger with tall pointed ears, narrow muzzles, and thick coats of fur. Hyenas, however, are much larger and thicker set, often sport manelike bristles of fur down their necks and backs, have large (often round) ears, and massive crushing jaws. It's thought that, though lycaeon hyenas originally sprang from the original latran ancestor, magical interference gave them their immense differences. Many are able to go without food or water for days or weeks on end, and most have some affinity for either fire or ice magic (but never both at once).