"a horde of wargs" might cause some to run for their
homes and pile everything they can in front of the door in some places. However,
on the Steppe of Kruswik and surrounding areas itís a common phrase. One might
hear a farmer's wife saying to her husband, "sounds like the Rattes takin' there
hounds out ta hunt" and her husband reply calmly "or we gotta horde of
wargs out back". There wouldn't be any shouting and
running into homes, but just a solemn nod and a couple extra checks on their
The Rast Wargs are part of their life in these areas. They live on the land as much of the people and from time to time take what they need to survive. For the most part, those that have lived their lives in warg territory leave them alone and the Rast treats the humans around them as if they aren't worth of their time. True, the beasts are hunted, though mostly by those that do not live in the area. Other than that, there is somewhat of a bond between the people whose ancestors had lived among the wargs in times long past and the Rast Warg, that was once considered a domestic breed.
The name, "Rast Warg", was given to these beasts in honour of Rastaar 'Rast' Lawett, the Kyranian who was the first to be able to tame one of the wargs and ironically, was killed by one of the beasts as well. Over the years the names have taken on other meanings and the beasts have become referred to as different things. Those out on the Kruswik Steppe just refer to them as wargs as they are the only beasts of that nature that most have ever seen. When talking to some, they seem to be in general agreement that honouring the fool that got himself killed by one of the beasts seems pointless as well. In some areas they are called Rust Wargs, referring more to their colour and the line of hounds they are believed to have sired in their past. The least common team, the "Domestic Red Warg", is mostly used to refer to the past beasts and only used by scholars.
Due the fact that its height at the shoulder falls almost exactly between the
tallest and shortest types, the Rast is considered to be the "average
warg". The smallest warg to be
found on Caelereth in times past and
present seems to be the Eanian, or White Warg, which stands around 1.3
peds at the shoulder. On the
other end of the scale, the Hellhound, also known as the Red Warg, like the Rast
(which leads to the term Domestic in front of Red Warg for this species), or the
Fire Warg, stood around 1.9 peds
at the shoulder, though lucky for the inhabitants of every continent these
hellish beasts vanished before the end of the
War of the Chosen and are pretty
much only found in our myths and legends.
That said, the majority of these beasts stand between 1.4 and 1.5 peds at the shoulders. From the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail they can reach three peds, with two to three fores of that being the tail. That, combined with a weight of nearly ten pygges, mostly from bones and muscle, put these beasts high on the average person's "avoid list".
Unlike some of the beasts related to them and those not related but with a similar appearance, the Rast is known for its wide-set shoulders. Ironically, the large, powerful ribcage is, itself, wrapped in a protective band of muscle made of layers, with the ones closer to the bones looser and weaker than the outer layers so that their rib cage isn't broken.
The build up of muscle has two other obvious uses. The first is the extra weight and force to the front of the warg's body. It allows the Rast to bring larger prey to the ground quicker to that it can go in for a killing or disabling wound rather than chasing it until one outsmarts the other or tires. However, the extra bulk prevents them from being as agile and swift as some of its cousins, particularly the Bion Warg, or Rock Jumper, of the Ehebion Peninsula in Nybelmar, who spends their lives tormenting and running from their Murmillion hunters and their Kaal bloodhounds. Because of this, they must rely mainly on the element of surprise, their endurance, and traps set by the pack using a lure or enforcing presence on the beast's tail.
The second is obviously the extra tough and strong muscles in the shoulders that allow it to propel its heavy body forward with the easy of the previously mentioned, Bion Warg, which is slightly smaller and slimmer. The thick bands of muscle around the Rast's chest also extends to the shoulder, allowing them to balance out the extra weight of the muscle in the front and thicker bones in its hindquarters without putting too much strain on the muscles. Though, while they are built to suit their weight and size, they still rely more on their endurance as they lack the speed to keep up with their prey.
Covering all this is a thick coat of fur which ranges between a dark reddish-brown and a coppery rust-red that is similar to the colourings of both the Rusik horses and rusthounds of the Kruswik, the latter believed to be a descendant of the Rast Warg. The coat is thick, though the bristly hairs are a nailsbreadth or two long, and a similar distance outward, making this already bulky animal seem even larger.
While they are bulkily built, it can never be mistaken for fat on a fit, wild warg as the thick chest angles up rather rapidly leading into a flat stomach. They are not underfed as most have little problem tracking down food unless it's a scarce season. Some guess that the near constant movement and activity leads to the near loss of the fat layer many predators build up in preparation for the cold seasons. The loss of the fat layers is compensated by the continued activity while some others sleep through the cold months. The lack of competition during those months makes it fairly easy for the Rast to keep up their regular eating habits year-round.
Second on the mind when thinking of this predator's features would be its array of weapons. Their back claws are sharp, but rarely used due to positioning, however their sharp fore claws are attached to massive paws, larger than that of the Voldon, which has very notable paws and height. That, coupled with powerful jaws and a mouth full of teeth mainly used for tearing flesh and breaking bones makes them very dangerous.
Though of their lesser qualities, the Rast's eyes are most interesting. Even more so than their massive paws. Their eyes are a rich, bright gold in colour when they are pups. Usually bright from the time they open their eyes until they are one year old. At that point, their eyes start to loose their luster and fade somewhat, turning the dull colour of old gold by the time they are five years of age. Those who have had the chance to look into their eyes and survive have only described them as ageless or timeless, and in the Journal of Garawn Drett, whenever the eyes are noted, similar things are said. He once made a point to say that their eyes seem to 'rust' with age, further leading to that second name.
Surrounding the ribcage, which is already a protective barrier, the Rast Warg
has a thick band of muscle covering most its upper body. The band of muscle is
made of many layers, with the ones nearest to the ribcage looser with other,
tighter bands surrounding it. The majority of the muscle surrounds its chest and
upper back, along with the back of the neck, providing a second layer of
protection for most of the beast's vital points.
Along with providing protection for the animal, the extra muscle provides with the strength it needs to propel its body off the ground. The already powerful body of the warg is enhanced by this extra strength that it gains from the dominant shoulder muscles that make it possible for the beast to leap into the air and use its weight to bring down prey with it, often crushing it beneath him. Some say, the Rast Warg was designed the way it is to be strong enough to bring down the famed horsemen.
Even though its body is heavier than that of most creatures its size, the Rast has amazing endurance, though it lacks somewhat in speed. Whilst they are not really long distance sprinters, their first burst of speed it usually all it takes to bring down an animal that was driven into their trap. However, their endurance was legendary among the Kyranians before the fall of the Rast Wargs, as time and time again they made it to endangered areas quicker than horse riders as they could keep a steady pace throughout the day, even with a rider.
The intelligence of these animals by passes that of other, common beasts. Just looking into their eyes is proof of that. However, bestial instincts are still the dominant driving force of these creatures which sets them apart from humans. Their intelligence is between both animals and humans. Rumors from the north and other areas say wargs have their own language. Though this has yet to be proven in any of the warg breeds many believe that like other animals, they can communicate with others of their kind, but the rumours go deeper than that.
Due to the fact that the Rast proved to be more intelligent than the average animal, they made great mounts for the time that they were used. Many riders that had been with their warg from a pup claimed that they understood each other completely and the warg would move from time to time without its rider's command and the riders began to have four basic things on their minds near the end: food, sleep, family, and duty. These things are nearly unexplainable, though many believe the answer was hidden and lies within the pages of the rider's journals. Most think that these strange occurrences were because of so much time spent with the beasts, while others suppose it is due to the dark magical background of the wargs.
Territory. For many centuries the Rast Warg has made its home in the ancient territory of the Kyranians. Now, after many years of being hunted, they are more widespread, possibly leading to the appearance of a low population. Last sightings report that their territory stretches from the western edge of the Steppe of Kruswik to the western edge of the High Fores, leaving that near the range of their original territory, keeping the majority of their population on the Steppe of Kruswik, Lower Fores, and even the Roan Forest and Shivering Wood, which have both housed a healthy number of these creatures since their appearance.
However, small hordes or single wargs have been spotted as far north as the Aurora Plains, though for the most part they remain between the southern border of the Kruswik and the Vontron Forest, which is still further north than before the United Kingdom of Santharia formed. Some have even been seen in the mountains around Ximax, though not many venture too close to the city or too far into that area.
Their territory stretches though many terrains, claiming mountains, forests, and fields and plains as their own. This has led to pretty much unnoticeable differences such as thicker paw pads and thicker fur, altered to fit their wide ranges of territory. However, these minor things aren't defining enough to separate the Rast into mountain, forest, and plains varieties.
Habitat/Behaviour. Of all the wargs the Rast is believed to be the most Ďgentleí of them, though that word is used loosely. Those that have run across one of these beasts in the fields, mountains or other areas have found that unless they find themselves in danger they treat people like they are not even there, pretty much informing one of the dominant forces on the world.
One farmer who suffered one of the rare losses of cattle to a horde of these beasts found them in his fields, devouring the rest of his beasts. He said that the wargs just looked at him and continued their meal, with those that werenít eating watching the farmer for danger, much like a bored guardsman. When they had finished eating they turned their backs on the man and carried a few chunks of meat away.
All encounters recorded show that the wargs act like they believe that they are above everyone else, and it isn't worth the time and energy it might take to overpower them. Field researchers have found that they are able to follow somewhat closer to these beasts when observing them as long as they don't threaten a member of the horde. Should that happen, then the Rast Warg becomes as vicious as all others are reported to be and completes the image everyone seems to give to the beasts.
The same ideal seems to go for domestic beasts obviously as unlike some predators, they will usually attempt to avoid them. However if the horde fails in the hunt and cannot take down enough food they will go after domestic animals, but during most seasons the count of lost livestock is less in the domain of the wargs than in other areas where dangerous predators are prominent.
The Rast Warg is one of the few wargs that live in hordes, which are large clan-like groups in which most of the wargs are part of the 'extended family' in one way or another. A horde can refer to at least ten wargs and as many as twenty, though the average number of wargs in a horde seems to be between thirteen and sixteen.
Studies of these creatures show that the same vain and self-important attitude that is shown to humans is found within the structure of the horde, which resembles a small Lords settlement in some ways. However, the following system is set up from the human point of view. The behaviour within the pack, from superiors to lessers is much like that of nobility, so the horde structure is set up like so, listing tasks and jobs for each member of the pack as they are/were observed by past and present researchers.
The outline for the structure is loosely based on that of the wolves, researched by one Darrion "Wolftale" Jekkon, which leads to the belief that this system is more of an exaggerated interpretation, mingling the background of the researcher with the wargs wolf-like appearance, though that doesn't take away from the behaviour of the animals and designated tasks.
The leader of the horde is called the Lord, which usually stands out as being one the larger end of the height range (though Guards are sometimes bigger than the Lord) and the most aggressive male in the horde. They dominate the other members of the horde, oversee the work, though rarely help, and decide the fate of the young of the horde. Whilst they separate themselves from the horde and set themselves above the others, they still are responsible for the safety of the horde and will put their lives on the line for even the lowest horde member.
The mate of the Lord takes on the heavy burden of horde safety and works for the interest of the horde after being selected as the leader's partner. The burden of taking care of the horde weights heavily upon her as she is in charge of seeing that each member gets enough food when meat is brought back, each member is in position during the hunt, the work is equally distributed, and bearing young to keep the horde strong and their claim on their territory valid. Among the ranks she is only dominated by the Lord and is recognized by her aggression and the control she has over the other members of the horde.
The guards of the horde are made up of a pair of rather large males that enforce the will of the Lord and Lady of the horde. As pups the guards are raised beside the Lord and Lady, learning their place but growing up with them to form a bond of loyalty. The guards are usually the largest males in the horde with more brawn than brains. One or both usually travels with the Lord and/or Lady, though they are often put in charge of watching over the horde from time to time.
In charge of scouting out prey, herd beasts toward the waiting horde, and sometimes watching the horde boundaries to make sure other hordes are keeping their distance and outsiders, lone wargs (which are seen as a danger), keep out of their territory. Hunters are usually slender females that are swifter than the rest of the horde and can move across the land and do their job well. Each season one or both Hunter and Guard pairs mate to produce a litter of pups as well.
The elders of the horde hold a special place in the lives of every member. The young grow up under the strict, but gentle guidance of the horde elders. Those that have passed their pup years know the elders as parents or aunts and uncles that they have known all their lives. The position of Eldfather and Oldmother is usually filled by the former Lord and Lady, though in the case of the death of both, a former Guard and Hunter will take the place. While the ideal situation is to have both positions filled, with a male and female watching the young until the Lord places them under the holder of their future position, there are many times when just one of the others holds the position, and a Eldfather or Oldmother is missing for that generation.
The common wargs of the horde are referred to as Workers as they are the backbone of the horde. They work on securing their home, taking up tasks such as cleaning the area of stones and sticks, blocking off open areas to keep the horde safe, and taking up the slack of other members. While they donít seem solely important, the horde is nothing without them as they make up the greater majority and aid in many things, the most important being hunts.
This warg has the lowest position in the horde. They are often seen as disposable and are selected due to their usually small size (compared to the other wargs) and weaknesses, making them the least useful worker. Their job is pretty much to do whatever job is required of them and is too dangerous to risk the other horde members. They are sometimes used to herd more dangerous prey toward or away from the horde. They are also in charge of distracting a group of humans and draw them away from the hordes territory. Whilst humans are avoided unless they pose a threat, when there are pups among the horde, the whole group is aggressive, so the Mongrel lures humans away from the young. They tend to the needs of the horde and are often chosen as they output for anger from many.
These wargs are the young of the horde for the first three years of life. From the time they are born until they join the ranks at three years of age they are considered rascals, pups, warglets, and sometimes warglings. They spend most of their first year with the Eldfather and Oldmother, learning the ways of the horde as well as spending time with their mother and father, which are either the Lord and Lady or Guard and Hunter. Those that are the young of the Guard and Hunter also spend time with the leading male and female of the horde. At two years they are put under the tutelage of one of the members of the horde whose position they will learn, and eventually, take when the warg reaches between eighteen and twenty years of age, leaving plenty of years for them to aid in the raising of pups until their twenty-five year average lifespan comes to an end.
Outsiders (Outlanders, Intruders, Loners)
Wargs that are not part of a horde structure are considered lessers. There are many names for them as those wargs donít all fall under the same category, though the names stand. Outsiders, Intruders, Outlanders, and Loners are all the same amongst wargs. Originally the names had different meanings for different types, though they have all grouped together. An outsider is an outsider and a lone warg is still a lone warg no matter where it comes from. These wargs consist of those that leave their horde voluntarily as an elder Rascal or an adult who has lost their mate. Others are forced out of their horde due to their uselessness or exiled for certain reasons like attacking a superior. Loners are almost never accepted back into a horde, but those few that are, are still young and strong.
These animals are mainly meat eaters, though they might resort to eating various
plants and grasses, which is known to settle canines stomachs -
magical or not -, or during seasons where the
pack does not have a much luck hunting or the herds are still depleted from both
humans and beasts hunting them down. For the
most part, their diet consists of the beasts that roam the various types of land
throughout their territory.
Those that roam the Steppe of Kruswik often feast on the wild longhorn cattle, or kyrattin, as well as some other wild herd animals that live there. Big, dangerous horns adorn a good deal of their common prey, especially the kyrattin. This causes the Rast to hunt in horde, and the size of the beast, plus the size of their horns, makes this a dangerous adventure, although the size of the feast makes it worth it.
While not all that common, they have been seen picking odd domestic horses, cattle, and other farm animals that are raised in the area for a meal. Whilst the shir is a predator like itself, the Rast Warg still finds it to be a tasty little treat when it can get its paws on one. Some say this is just the nature of the warg, taking what it can because it is bigger and more dangerous than most creatures on the Steppe of Kruswik, but others, who believe the stories behind the wargs' superior intelligence, believe it is revenge for the few pups lost throughout the years to a hungry fox.
In the Lower Fores their food supply mostly consists of the capricus which, due to its odd nature and dangerous horns requires a horde effort. Stone bears are also a good source of food for these beasts, but teeth, paws, and size makes them dangerous and requires the horde as well. While most of their food sources require the horde to hunt it, there is also the surica that can be found in the mountains and provides a small snack for a scouting warg. There are also gryphs and eagles that make their homes in the Lower Fores. They are not easy prey, but they made a nice meal for a single warg that can catch one on the ground.
The two forests seem to be the best places for these creatures. Whilst most people stay out of the Shivering Woods, there are still plenty of deer, rodents, and small canine and feline predators there that the wargs can overpower. The Roan Forest, however, seems to be the best for them as there are plenty of deer and other small critters to be found. There are also dark rumours and myths that the leader of the single village that resides within the forest has a man that can speak to the wargs and traded their final link to humanity and their resources to the Rast Wargs for their protection. While some curious travelers and brave traders that visit the village have never witnessed anything out of the ordinary, the rumours still keep the paths through the woods free of people and allow the town to remain in almost undisturbed isolation.
Further north, around the Aurora Plains and the Aerelian Lakes a few hordes have been found. Like in other areas, they donít pick off domestic creatures unless they fail at tracking down enough wild prey to feed themselves and their horde. That is more common during the first season of young pup's lives. The elfcats, various deer, wild horses, and small rodents that live on the Aurora usually make up the meal of these hordes. Along with this, those living along the lakes have learned to catch fish to feed themselves.
Mating. To keep with the image of nobility of the upper ranks (envisioned by researcher) of the Rast Warg hierarchy the mating pairs of the horde are selected by the current Lord and Lady when they are pups. Every two to three years there are two or three pairs that mate and produce pups for the horde which boost the hordes numbers up to cover the losses in previous years.
The first main pair is the Lord and Lady and the second and third pairs are Hunter/Guard combinations. These pairs will keep their mate for life. Should their mate die they will reign until the next mating season, at which point one of the next pairs inline for the position will takeover. Often, the remaining warg will leave the horde, either becoming an Outsider among wargs for the rest of their lives or wandering off into the land to die. They sometimes just give up living or find death at the hands of humans, other wargs, or even sometimes prey, driven somewhat mad by their loss.
Every three years the first pair, usually the Lord and Lady, mates in late winter. The females go into heat for the first time of the year during Turning Star. For the first three days, most of the males become very foolish and it is not uncommon for small skirmishes to break out. During that time the Lord and Lady work to show their dominance over the other horde members. The guards and hunters are the first to be put down most of the time and while the head male and female go off on their own for a time, they continue to deal with the lesser members. The same happens during the second mating season during Awakening Earth when one or both of the Hunter/Guard pairs mate.
After the other horde members are somewhat subdued, the mating pair will go off on their own for a bit. During this one time, the female dominates the male and turns on him, being more aggressive. For a day the male hangs back, being uncharacteristically gentle before asserting his dominance once again, causing the female to submit by pinning her on her back. After that they mate more than once that day. The next two days are spent away, the male and female merely resting among the leaves.
After eighty days the female gives birth to between two and three pups normally, though sometimes there can be five in a litter, within a shallow den. The pups are born with their eyes open for but a few moments, the color of molten gold, looking blindly forward. After they close they remain so for three weeks, opening again at that point to reveal bright golden eyes. At five weeks their hearing kicks in and they start turning toward every little sound and begin to move around their den.
The pups are to remain within the den until they are two months old, at which point they are moved into the center of the clearing the horde occupies. They are allowed to romp around and torment the older members of the horde with their growing supply of energy and curiosity.
At a year of age they are removed from the watch of the horde elders and put under the careful tutelage of a certain member within the horde that they will succeed when the position opens up or the previous pair removes themselves from the position. At three years of age the Rascals become part of the horde, though those that do not take their future position are referred to as Workers even though they continue their Ďapprenticeshipí under their future rank holder.
Usages. In years past the Rast Wargs were used by the Kyranian Pathfinders as mounts for scouts and hunters. For a time there was a whole branch of the Pathfinders dedicated to the use of wargs, but once the time of the wargs ended the unit disappeared. Many believe thanks go to Garawn Drett, the leader of the only Kyranian Army Wargriders, for the inability to restore the Wargriders due to the belief that he collected the journals of all the Wargriders and hid them away in a secret library. Because of this, today's Pathfinders are unable to bring back the final unit, though for many years, scholars among their ranks have tried to find hints of Drett's Hidden Library in their texts so that they might restore the unit.
Aside from riding, these animal's pelts have been known to be used for clothing as well as rugs and covers for furniture in the homes of the upper class, who are amongst the few who can afford to buy the pelts or of those who hunt the beasts themselves. The little bit of meat on the beast is prized as well due to the rich taste and rarity. Much of the nobility in the area would pay a small fortune to get their hands on enough to feed to a small host of their friends to show off their position and ability to purchase rare meat. One large beast provides very little meat, just a little less than found on a small deer, though it will sell for a good amount. The bones as well can be used to make tools. A local hunter would be able to feed himself for a month to a month and a half depending on the size of the beast by selling the bones and meat while keeping a warg steak and the pelt for himself.
Voice. Unlike the wolves that they are sometimes confused with, the Rast Warg doesn't howl. Instead they produce a baying sound which sounds exactly like that of the rusthound on the hunt to those who don't know the beasts well. Those that have hunted with the hounds and hear the baying of the Rast Warg can tell the difference immediately. It isnít something easily described, but rather something noticed by those that spend time around the hounds that are believed to have Rast blood in their veins and the similar noise does nothing to aid in disproving this.
However, while the Rusthound may bay at other times to send signals to their owners and handlers, the Rast only bays when it is on the hunt or teaching its pups. While on the hunt the Rast will bay at different levels and lengths to keep the horde in order. The lead warg will warn the others of obstacles and difficulties, or if the animals they are hunting are getting into too tight of a group. The warg that hangs back will let out a unique bay to alert the others of danger. While those on the side let out another version of the sound to let the others know when to close in on the beast, back up, or herd it in a different direction.
When the new pups reach half a year of age, the four highest ranked groups (Lord, Lady, Guards, and Hunters) will teach the pups how to hunt, how to work as a horde, how to bay, and which sounds mean what. Throughout the late summer and early fall, the lands where wargs reside hear the baying at all hours of the day, rather than just on the hunt.
Myth/Lore. All wargs are believed to be the magical creation of dark mages during the War of the Chosen. There are many stories told about these creatures in general, the most common ranging from their inability to be killed by human hands to having their own language. Some of these things have been disproved, but the whispers and stories still spread, while others remain a mystery to those that spend time among these creatures. One of the stories special to the Rast and the folk that live in the Roan Forest is that of their odd connection.
Many believe that those within the Roan have made a demonic deal with the wargs, exchanging their dark knowledge, immunity to poisons and weapons, and language for shelter, life-force, and food.
Few people travel through the woods, but some do. Those that do claim that they see nothing wrong, though some, mostly tale-tellers, speak of shadows in the night, people with beast-like traits, and rusthounds that roam the streets that donít look normal, but more feral with golden eyes.
Many take those tales for what they are, just tales, whilst others believe the myths, shunning the forest as a place of darkness and scorning the people that would live in such a manner. However, while the villagers donít appreciate such a reputation, it keeps them isolated, which pleases them.
Researchers. Giliric Tawan was a youth born to a family that owned a tavern east of Caelum. From a young age wargs had been part of his life. The lone beast that had lived in the area would come and take the scraps of the night's meal that Giliric usually left out for him. At around fourteen years of age he was sent off to one of his father's distant relatives to work on their Rusthound Farm. He worked as a dog-boy for the Kyrorrick's farm, which was placed on the edge of the Roan Forest. He spent his free time in the forest where he got to watch the wargs and was able to get fairly close to them.
Throughout the years he took many notes during the time with the wargs, though he'd had more than one journal damaged and destroyed by the wargs when he chanced too close and was attacked. A good deal of information was recorded in the journals, mostly directed at those that live in the forest. The information was given to the writers of the Compendium in exchange for funding to travel and research the Rast Wargs in their other territories as well as other wargs to the north.