Length (nose to tail): 7-8'
Weight: 400-650 lbs
Physical Description: Lupos are six-legged wolves that hold their upper torso upright, much like the centaurs of Greek mythology. They have a thick, medium-short, shaggy pelt that has several layers to it, including a long, coarse layer of hairs on the top. Their heads and faces are entirely wolfish with strong jaws and triangular, erect ears. Their neckruff thickens and lengthens to a short (5-6") mane that goes from between their ears, past their upper shoulders, and thins to a single line of longer fur as it ends between their medial shoulders. Their upper torsos, while not quite as deep as their lower torsos in the chest, are still wide and thick with the pecs not clearly defined, unlike human chests. Their shoulders are broad, with the same range of motion in the arms as a human, and their arms are just barely shorter than their medial and hind legs. Their hands are four-fingered - three fingers and one thumb - with strong digits, wide palms, and small, unretractable, but sharp and slightly curved claws tipping each finger and thumb. There are callused pads on the fingertips and palms and heels of the hands. The lower torso of a Lupos is very strong, almost stocky, with a deep and wide chest. (Even smaller or more slender Lupos have a very sturdy torso.) The medial legs are extremely muscular, as most of the upper torso's weight rests directly on them, and are also cat-like in their range of motion, capable of swiping and batting and 'holding' things between the two medial paws. Said medial paws have four long digits with semi-sharp claws - Lupos who rarely run or fight find themselves with long, quite sharp claws. The hind legs are similarly quite muscular, being the powerhouse that drives a Lupos in a gallop, and the hindpaws are wide, heavy, and dull-clawed. The spine curves out into a wolfish tail, about three feet in length. Internally, Lupos have two hearts - a small one in the upper torso and a larger one in the lower torso. A Lupos can live for a short time with a wound to their upper heart, but if their lower heart stops, they die. Lupos do not have many organs in their upper torso - the main lungs and most of the intestines are in the lower torso - but there is a second stomach in the upper torso that pre-digests food before sending it to the main stomach. and there is one lung near the upper heart as well. The womb is in the lower torso, as well.
Coloration: Lupos have a range of coloration similar to Panthera. Their fur comes in black, white, off-whites (ivory, pearl, eggshell-white), greys (from silver to light to bluegrey to dark), and browns (gold to tawny to dark to red-brown to yellow-brown to greybrown). Black and white Lupos are not uncommon, but more common by far are grey Lupos, with brown coming in second. Lupos do not have markings such as stripes, spots, or patches; rather, they are usually shaded to be darker on the heads and blacks, lighter on the undersides, and with various patterns of lighter-darker shading on the faces. Some few grey Lupos are not shaded, and most black and white Lupos are not shaded. A brown Lupos usually has darker brown or black shading, while grey Lupos have darker grey or black shading. Their eyes are usually gold, though green and blue are not uncommon, and dark brown and orange-brown have been seen. Their claws, as well as pawpads and noses, are always black or very dark grey.
Clothing & Adornments: Lupos have no need for clothing, having a dense pelt and thick skin; the male genitals aren't easily visible, tucked between the hind legs and beneath the tail, and females have small, unobtrusive breasts on their upper torso when not nursing. Lupos very rarely wear cloth, instead using it for bandages, blankets, and infants. Most Lupos wear no clothing other than their leather armor, though some mail and plate armor is worn over simple cloth or light leather, so that the metal doesn't pinch skin or fur. Their armor, when worn, is very effective and covers everything but their faces, tails, palms, and paws. The Lupos who stay in the center of the territory will sometimes wear carry-cloths, large blankets with various pouches that can be slung over the Lupos's lower back. Adornments are rare, even for the chieftain and betas of various clans, but can include painted leather bands around the arms, sometimes decorated with feathers (often Avan feathers) or tails. Feathers are occasionally made into headdresses for the chieftains of warring clans, or woven into the manes of braves. For the most part, though, Lupos don't wear clothing or any sort of jewelry.
Movement & Battle: Lupos stand, walk, and run on their hindmost and middle legs, with their forelegs/arms well off the ground. Only if badly wounded or trying to move low to the ground do they drop down to creep along on all sixes. Lupos are very strong runners and can keep up a brisk gallop for hours on end, provided they aren't pulling anything or weighed down in plate armor. Most Lupos can reach 40 mph in a run across level terrain; they can normally sustain 30-35 mph easily. Some of the slimmer and smaller Lupos can be fairly agile, even to the point of climbing large trees with conveniently-placed boughs, but Lupos in general are not flexible or agile beasts. They rely on their strength, bulk, and unyielding endurance more than any sense of flexibility or agility. They are capable of leaping considerable distances with a running start, and they can rear up onto their hind legs briefly to get a good view of their surroundings or to bring their weight crashing down on an enemy. They are fond of heavy, long-reach weaponry like polearms, two-handed swords, maces, and axes; combining the weight of such a weapon with their own strength and force will shatter most shields and break bodies in half. When unarmed, Lupos will fight with clawed hands, paws, and teeth, springing forward to bowl their target over, pin it down with their medial paws, and then tear it apart with hands and jaws. When facing down an armed opponent, they will seek to knock the weapon away with lunges and swipes with both hands and medial paws, then attempt to crush the enemy long enough to get to its stomach or throat. Lupos are also capable of bucking to kick out with their hindmost paws, though less agile Lupos must have their hands on the ground to avoid their medial legs buckling under their own weight.
Social Groups: Lupos live in clans, pack-like social structures with a set territory, a chieftain, and one to three betas (seconds-in-command). Each clan establishes their own sets of rules and their own alliances, neutralities, and enmities with other Lupos clans; those clans heavily involved in the Elderwar rarely have any Lupos enemies, while the most northern clans who rarely battle Avans often have bloodfeuds or downright warfare amongst each other. The elders of all four paths of each clan chooses the chieftain, though the position is often hereditary (and therefore the chieftain's son or daughter is raised to be the next leader, well and fully prepared) with approval from the elders. If the elders disagree, the eldest of each path discusses the choice and reaches a peaceful decision - majority does rule. The chieftain then chooses his or her betas; the elders can veto a choice only if they have excellent reasons. The chieftain and betas organize and control intra-clan relations, as well as dealing with any major threats and/or battles with other clans or Avan armies. The elders, who are no longer productive in battle or the hunt, take care of the pups and tend to the well-being of the younger clansmen. Masters (those who have completed their training and are not yet elders) both help train youths in their paths and provide and care for the clan as best they can. In the warring clans, the emphasis is on safety, self-defense, weapon mastery, armor provision, and combat skills; in more peaceful clans, the emphasis is on tradeable goods, family, taking care of their territory, and good relations with other clans and/or Panthera Walkers and humans. Chieftains can be of any path, though most often they are shamans or braves, and they can be of either gender. Males are more common, since a chieftain can never be incapacitated - and therefore a female chieftain cannot risk getting pregnant by her mate and, therefore, usually doesn't have a mate. (However, in all but the most violent of clans, the family unit is of extreme importance, second only to the clan itself, and so chieftains are encouraged to have families to set an example. Because of this, most of the female chieftains are those of warring clans - such as Kieran Whitestar.)
Ethnicities: By and large, Lupos do not have ethnicities. Fur color, as much as it varies, is not associated with any particular bloodline or build. The only ethnic group that seems to exist is a hardy breed that lives in the northeast mountains; they are short and compact, very strong for their size and red-brown in color with black patches along their heads, manes, backs, and tails. These mountain Lupos are seen in only a few small clans and they rarely interact with others. Those who know they exist think them quiet and hard-eyed, but since the mountain wolves don't pick fights, no one seems to mind them.
Daily Life: Daily life in a Lupos clan is largely dependent on whether the clan is a warring one (be it against Avans or other Lupos) or a more peaceful one. For warring clans, life revolves around combat - the imminent possibility of an attack on the borders, a gathering raid force that will go out to fight, or the threat of an invasion so powerful that it reaches and destroys the heart of the territory. Life is terse and wary, and combat skills are heavily emphasized for everyone, regardless of path, gender, and age. However, warring clans tend to be fiercely loyal and strong in their relationships with each other, quick to defend their land and their clansmen, albeit hostile to strangers and wary of outsiders, even allies. Peaceful clans are more laid-back, more welcoming to wanderers, traders, and Lupos from other clans. They focus strongly on a satisfying family life and tending the natural balance around them, especially within their own territories, which they regulate with quiet devotion. They are often not as skilled in armorsmithing, weaponcrafting, and healing as warring clans, have less need for such skills.
Technology: The standard level of Lupos technology is low. Nearly all clans have skilled leatherworkers, tailors, and woodworkers; most also have weaponsmiths who forge durable, heavy blades. The larger or warring clans have armorsmiths capable of making fine chainmail and platemail, as well as potters and stoneworkers. Lupos territories are 80% wild land, patrolled at the borders by armed guards, whose strength and equipment is dependent on how dangerous the area is. In the heart of the territory is a collection of huts, made with wooden supports and stitched-leather walls in the fashion of tipis; there is a fire-pit in the center of each hut and often a stone or wooden rim around the base, so that running water does not muddy the inside. Some few clans - usually warring ones - have very skilled metalworkers, but most have just enough skill to make a solid blade that won't break or dull easily. Since Lupos prefer weapons with weight over weapons with finely-tuned balance, the average metal-worker is more than adequate.
Magic: Lupos magic is drawn largely from spirits, ancestors, and gods, though some draw magic from the elements as well. Lupos do not transfer one type of energy (be it elemental or health) from one thing to another; instead, they call upon their gods, the invisible spirits, and/or their own ancestors to imbue them with power. Healing is by the grace of Father Sun, a friendly spirit, or an ancestor who was a skilled healer generations ago. Shamanic magic, for all that it is usually elemental in manifestation, is given by spirits, ancestors, or the gods. A Lupos can only handle so much magical energy before becoming too tired and/or drained to continue receiving and passing energy, be it destructive or healing energy; they must ration their strength carefully, especially in battle, in order to avoid exhaustion too early. Lupos have absolute faith in their gods/ancestors/spirits and very rarely fail to be given magic to use to fight or heal. Very few Lupos are gifted with shapechanging magic - only certain rangers and shamans learn to switch skins, and Eclipse is sometimes discreetly accredited with the ability.
Religion: Lupos worship four gods - Father Sun, Mother Moon, Sister Earth, and Brother Sky. They once worshiped Cousin Eclipse (god of light and darkness), but they blame the beginning of the Elderwar on Eclipse, so He was cast out of their celestial family. Father is responsible for health, all life, heat, and fire; Mother is responsible for rest, dreams, water, ice, all life, and love; Sister is responsible for all the plants and rocks, soil, metal, and fertility; and Brother is responsible for weather, stars, wind, color, and scent. Healers pray to Father to help them heal; rangers pray to Sister to allow them to pass quietly; shamans pray to Mother and, to a lesser extent, all the gods for guidance, wisdom, and patience. The Lupos mythology and deities have bled over to the Panthera, and now many Walkers and Hunters worship the same gods. Ancestors are venerated and often drawn on for guidance and more personal help when it is considered too trivial to take to the gods; not everyone who dies is considered to rise to the importance and ghostly power of an actual ancestor. Only heroes, saints, saviours, and the best leaders make it into ancestorhood - most of whom were braves or shamans. Each clan keeps track of its ancestors, a pool of individuals normally no larger than 20; 30 for the largest clans. While the gods are universal between clans and parts of the world, ancestors are clan- and sometimes place-specific, and the ancestors of feudal clans are thought to fight each other even after death.
Reproduction & Parenting: Lupos do not typically mate early in adulthood, and they usually mate for life, unless one of the pair dies. Choosing a mate is a lengthy process, involving testing the compatability of the pair emotionally, intellectually, and physically. In warring clans, mates might be chosen more quickly or more haphazardly, especially if there is a risk of numbers dropping too severely to hold the territory against other Lupos or against Avan raids. Lupos bear one to two pups after a gestation of ten months, the latter half of which time the mother is completely unallowed to hunt, fight, or do more than craft, if she is able. Any significant wound or exertion risks the pups' health; a Lupos female's body will sacrifice the life/lives of the unborn young in order to save the mother's life so that she may live to breed again. If a mother is starving, her body will recycle the nutrients of the unborn young to sustain her. After 10 months, the pup is born at a decent size and fairly well-developed - its eyes open within a few hours. Pups are weaned within 18 months (within a year, if in a warring clan), adolescents at seven, and grown in ten years. Young adults in warring clans choose mates around 12-13 years of age, whereas other Lupos often wait until 14-16 years of age.
Brave: Warrior Lupos who engage in purely physical combat are called braves. Since most Lupos' skill lies in heavy weaponry, braves usually specialize in melee combat, rather than ranged archery. Braves, though they can be of any build and either gender, are trained to be physically enduring, swift in a run, and skilled at wielding their own weight against an enemy. Braves are not the hunters and providers of the clans - they are the guardians of the territory and the soldiers on the front lines of battle. Since they are trained solely to fight other intelligent people, rather than hunt animals, they are vastly more cunning and strategic than many give them credit for. Even smaller or slimmer Lupos who are braves have developed their physical condition to such a fine point that they are capable of amazing feats of strength, agility, and momentum. Braves are trained into one of three specializations, and though an individual might change specialization after time, it is rare and nearly impossible to combine two specs. The three styles of brave combat are guardian (commonly bearing a shield, but otherwise wielding a two-handed weapon and considerable armor, usually mail or plate), hunting (armored in leather for stealth and speed, usually dual-wielding two smaller blades), and feral (unarmored, or armored in leather, but unarmed and trained to fight with the body only). Guardian braves are the first line of defense in an attack, and they are often the first into battle when on offense. Normally the largest Lupos around, guardians are well-protected from physical attacks and usually have great strength and heavy weaponry with which to force their way through enemy ranks, disrupting phalanxes and stirring up chaos. Hunting braves are well-armored in tough leather as fully as guardians wear mail or plate, but the hunting braves are those who choose stealth over forwardness, circuitous routes over a charge to the front. They are the assassins of the mages, most specifically, for guardian braves cannot resist Avanic magic and the mages usually stand far to the rear of the battlefield to avoid melee combat. Lupos hunting braves are almost exclusively trained to kill a tall, thin Avan wearing a thick robe quickly, and since they are put into the center of hostile magical activity, hunting braves are trained to develop a very high resistence to magical attacks, at least for a short amount of time. (They'll either kill off the mages quickly or be forced to flee - Avanic magic is no less effective at close range.) Feral braves are considered the most primitive Lupos, but being a savage is not necessarily a "bad" thing to Lupos; so long as ferals are clear-headed when not in battle and they can exist peaceably within the clan, they are not devalued. They are the ones whose physical control over every inch of their bodies is honed to such an extent that they can use any pair of legs or arms to move; often, ferals can climb trees and scale cliffs with unnerving ease. Their claws are usually sharpened regularly, even the otherwise-dull claws of the hindmost paws. Some ferals wear fitted leather armor across their vitals and/or have metal "claws" curving over their own keratinous claws, but most fight unarmed and unarmored. Braves are the most numerous Lupos, probably comprising 40-50% of the clan's populace.
Shaman: The wise and the spiritual of the Lupos race are the shamans. Most often the leaders, ambassadors, and teachers, shamans play a vital role in Lupos society, keeping clan life from devolving to an entirely martial existence. All shamans are taught to pray to the gods, make offerings, and listen for guidance and wisdom from the gods' manifestations (various elements, light and darkness, and often weather conditions or patterns in the natural world around them). Shamans are also taught to speak to the ancestors, and often, an ancestor will choose a living shaman to personally help and strengthen, though this tutelage may end when the shaman becomes a master. Other than their communion duties and the teaching they do to pups and youths, shamans can choose three variances on their path, which are almost never mixed: shaman of the storm (attuned to water and earth - Mother and Sister - and capable of causing large-scale change and destruction), shaman of the spear (attuned to fire and ice - Father and Mother - and capable of dealing immense damage to individual targets, as well as often being adept with a staff for melee combat), and shaman of the spirits (attuned to light and shadow - formerly Eclipse's domain, but now considered Father's and Brother's - and capable of transforming others, cursing and weakening enemies, and strengthening allies). Shamans of the storm are often ambassadors and those who stay in the back of the battlefield, helping direct the attacks; their ability to create a vast swath of upturned earth and roiling water from a simple field or calm pond enables them to safely travel almost anywhere alone. So close to Mother and Sister, they are calm and empathic individuals, very oriented towards their clansmen and their territory - but the few who are war-like can become terrifying in their power. Shamans of the spear are the most combat-oriented shamans, often becoming very adept with a heavy staff and also undergoing some limited physical training, along with their spiritual and mental regime. Their magical prowess revolves around destruction - fire to burn and ice to cut flesh or halt/slow movement - and they are largely involved in battles, rather than the more sedate aspects of shamanism, such as teaching or diplomacy between clans. They draw heavily from Father and Mother to power their abilities and are extremely pious, as is befitting their mastery of such dangerous elements. Shamans of the spirits are the "wise ones" of the clan, as mastery of this path is extremely difficult and requires long years of supplication to the gods and, especially, all the ancestors of the clan. These shamans are most often the leaders of a clan, oftentimes even if the clan is a warring one, due to the intense bond they have with the gods and ancestors, who give the clan power and blessings in battle and daily life. Though primarily concerned with interactions between the spirits and the clan, shamans of the spirits are still capable of participating in battle, using the ancient skills of the spirits to curse and bless whom they choose. Curses can range from a sudden weakness or fatigue, to a poison in the blood, to an enemy who is briefly transformed into a defenseless creature; blessings range from a great strength or endurance, to a battle-lust that banishes pain, to a transformation (of the caster or an ally) into a spirit-creature that is both fast and intangible (incapable of doing harm or being harmed). Shamans of the spirits can also manifest ancestors or other spirits to defend them or fight in an especially precarious battle. Sometimes, shamans of the storm or spear will earn admittance to the elite ranks of the shamans of the spirits, at which point they cease being ambassadors, messengers, or participants in the thick of battles.
Healer: Though they are not numerous, Lupos healers are just as vital to the health and success of a clan as braves and shamans. All healers are well-versed in herbology and the basics of physical "first aid" (use of salves, bandages, and splints), and each healer chooses one of three types of healing magic to use and hone. These three types are sun (the most powerful, yet defenseless, type of healer), moon (able to heal, but also slow or increase natural regeneration and resistences), and shadow (able to heal poorly, but primarily one who disables enemy's healing abilities and damages their spirit). Sun healers are the most common healers by far, being the most "useful" type and also the ones whose healing magic is the most potent, even to the grizzled braves who develop resistances to it. Devoted to Father, they are capable of bringing Lupos back from the brink of death, and even magically mending a corpse's wounds, but, if attacked, they are hard-pressed to muster any kind of offensive counterattack - more often, they do some slight damage to their attacker by calling on Father's holy light, then simply keep themselves well-healed until another Lupos can eliminate the threat. Moon healers are not very prevalent but not rare, either - there's normally one or two in a clan of reasonable size - and, although they can heal well, they are not so powerful as a sun healer. Moon healers supplement their skills with the ability to speed up or slow down the body's natural regeneration; the best can nearly stop an enemy's ability to regenerate or clot blood, as well as enhance a brave's own natural healing to such an extent that she rarely, if ever, needs other healing. Moon healers can only focus on one ally and/or one enemy at a time, however, especially if the change in regeneration rate is extreme; all the same, moon healers can keep someone alive until a sun healer can reach them. Shadow healers are considered questionable and are rather rare, with only the largest warring clans having one, or perhaps two. They are very poor healers, not devoting themselves to Father or Mother from which to draw healing ability, but they are excellent in combat. Though they are only capable of treating small wounds easily and making a slight difference in larger wounds, shadow healers excel at completely halting the regeneration, resistance, and immunity of one or a few enemies, leaving them completely defenseless against magical attack and very weak against physical duress. Shadow healers are also capable of slowing or stunning one enemy, as well as attacking its soul directly and doing considerable damage, which manifests in the body over time. Shadow healers are considered the children of Eclipse and often called Eclipsians; their intents and purity of heart are constantly under question by other clans and even their own clansmen. Though sun healers are able to become moon healers and vice versa, shadow healers do not normally become light healers, nor do light healers typically devolve into shadow healers.
Ranger: Heavily in the minority, those Lupos who are less clan-oriented, skilled at archery more than melee combat, and capable of proving themselves as worthy companions to a wild animal are called rangers. Rangers are not common in either warring or peaceful clans, being less useful and less admirable than powerful braves, wise shamans, and gracious healers. However, the path of the ranger has not died out in any clan except the very smallest, as it is typically the rangers who provide the clan with most of their food, including fish, poultry, and edible fruits and roots. All rangers are trained to move lightly in the wilderness, avoid other people, mask their scent and tracks, and to track all sorts of animals very well with all their senses. Clad in fitted leather armor and usually armed with only a long knife, a longbow, and a quiver of stone-tipped arrows, rangers blend in with the natural world as well as any wild animal. Nearly all rangers can earn an animal companion, once they prove themselves to the animal in question. Rangers have three different branches of their path; most choose only one path, though some will select a secondary path to round out their skills. The three paths are armed (skilled with a bow, but also able to learn melee weapons like spears or swords to supplement their skills), natural (unarmed and hunting only with natural teeth and claws, often without armor as well), and animal (heavily relying on and bonding with an animal companion). Armed rangers are the most common, as it is the easiest and also most practical path - they're trained in archery, swordsmanship, and polearms. They can choose to take an animal companion, if they can earn one, but they are meant to be self-sufficient in the hunt. Natural rangers are considered less efficient than armed rangers, but, in fact, they bring in just as much food as the other kinds of rangers. Forsaking weapons and sometimes even abandoning leather armor, natural rangers train nearly as intensely as feral braves to hone their physical abilities - the main difference between the two is that rangers are hunters who pursue animals, whereas braves are soldiers meant to fight other Lupos or Avans. Some view natural rangers as savage or bloodlusty, but this is rarely the case. Animal rangers focus very strongly on the wild animals around them; they are gifted in tracking the finest game, and they also find it almost easy to earn an animal companion. They bond very tightly with their companion and may stay away from the heart of the territory, so that they do not have to leave their animal to venture amidst their own clansmen. Animal rangers who reach mastery may even gain the ability to shapeshift into the same species as their animal companion; those who go to this extreme are often considered "loners," tolerated and condoned by their clan, but they make excellent scouts, especially for warring clans.