|Official Name||Anui Lion|
|Common Nicknames||Stone Lion, Guardian Cat|
|Habitat||Sihai communities and settlements|
Anui Lions are huge, proud and loyal feline mounts to the Sihai Race. They were once feared animals of the wild, but it is said one warrior tamed one Anui Lion, and the rest was history. While they were once used as weapons of war between the various Sihai states beyond their ancient homeland, the emergence of the Jade Wall has seen them instead mainly serve as beasts of transportation and travel. Anui Lions have also inspired much iconography and imagery in Sihai artwork, and are well known in wider Aloria because of this.
The Anui Lion was once a great predator and threat to the Sihai people, equal to the myriad of fantastical and hostile creatures which preyed on them for centuries. However, Sihai myth claims that a legendary hero now known as the Lion Warrior found an abandoned Anui Lion cub in a mountain cave. When he raised his spear to kill it, the form of a white Dragon flew overhead and gazed upon the scene for only a moment. The Warrior took this as a sign from his gods, and so adopted the animal as a pet rather than as a trophy. He stayed in the mountains for many months, until the Lion grew to its marvelous full size. It was larger than the average Anui Lion, and due to its closeness with the Warrior, it permitted itself to be ridden. Sen-Kura, as the Sihai had named him, remained the companion of the Lion Warrior for the whole of his life. From him came many cubs, in a large, gentle pride, and the Lion Warrior himself soon attracted students and those eager to learn. This marks the beginning of the species’ domestication, a process which eventually cleared the wild of all but semi-feral Anui. The truth of the story is unclear to most today, as Sihai records lack information on the animal’s path from feared beast to powerful companion. It is certain that at some point around 2000 BC, architecture and artwork of the Sihai transformed, depicting the formerly almost demonic Anui as creatures of bravery, power and loyalty.
With the settlement of the landmasses that would eventually evolve into the territory of Sihai kingdoms, the Anui Lion soon found its way into each state, living with warriors or those on the rugged frontier of the expanding settlements where they continued to prove their worth. However, eventually the species was turned on members of its own kind as many wars between the different Sihai states saw the Anui used extensively for transport and combat. While centuries of breeding had dulled their claws, and it took time to train them for the attack against other Sihai, the Anui Lion soon became a feline steed of renown alongside others from these conflicts, such as the scaled Khunma. Anui Lions continue to serve the Sihai into the modern day, though their role as beasts of battle have greatly faded. Centuries of warfare killed the largest and worst predators of the lands of the Sihai, while the new threat faced by the Sihai demands combat and warfare on colossal levels, with great works of engineering and not so much one on one battles. As such, while Anui Lions walk the Jade Wall, they exist to help transport warriors, messages and material more than they do to fight. Elsewhere, Anui Lions serve the same functions, and they likely will for many more years to come.
The Anui Lion and its cousin, the Poukuan, have a similar physical form and traits. Yet, while the Poukuan is generally diminutive and mysterious in its ways, the Anui is more forthward and well understood. Anui Lions can stand up to seven feet tall and nine feet long, with weights commonly clearing 1000 pounds. They have broad feline heads, with a pair of large, earthen-toned slitted eyes, two large rounded ears a black-whiskered snout, and a broad mouth with prominent teeth. The most notable feature of their heads are their manes; a dense, thick bundle of black, curled hair that exists on both sexes. This growth frames their face, while also growing onto the area below their jaw and along the top of their heads to form their eyebrows. The animal has a powerful though short, neck, linking the head to the well built body, featuring four large legs, and each with broad paws and five naturally dulled claws. Anui Lion bodies then end in a tail with equally curled hair as their manes. Anui Lions are covered in a coating of dark tan fur, but feature the prominent thick black mane and tail-hair mentioned earlier, alongside black patterning in the tan fur on their flanks.
Anui Lions lack the gender dimorphism one might conventionally find in other species of lion, as both males and females reach large sizes, and both feature manes. While some suggest females have “shorter” manes, others contend the growth factor in an Anui lion’s mane is not a result of gender, so this remains inconclusive. Minor variation does exist in the species with regard to their flank patterns. Generally a series of spots and lines, these markings are known to follow family bloodlines and kin. There is also the rare all-black Anui Lion which appears to be a mutation of the animal’s normal color scheme.
Life Span and Development
Anui Lions are born in litters of cubs numbering anywhere between one to four members, who emerge blind, with a thin layer of pale tan fur and no mane. Cared for by trained animal tenders, their mother and somewhat their father, Anui cubs mature at a slow pace, able to run around and follow adults at the age of six months, and being weaned of their mother’s milk at nine months. By the age of one, they have reached their longest stage, adolescence, when their coat of fur darkens, and over time, the mane comes in. This period can last between three to four years, and by the time of young adults they will roughly match their adult appearance. Over the next two years, during their maturation into full adulthood, the animal’s body mass, and physical state will grow to match that of other adults. They commonly eat almost double their normal food intake during some spans of this period, though Sihai caregivers are well stocked up for such events. Finally, by the age of seven, they are considered full adults. At a relatively early age, they would have been paired with a rider, usually in the adolescent stage, and gradually trained by them and others to follow commands, accept riding saddles and more. Anui Lions commonly have life spans of up to fifty years.
Anui Lions are no longer the predator species they were in millennia past, instead time and great effort having shifted them into animals loyal and devoted to those who raise them and who care for them. Anui Lions are sociable with other members of their species, with a lack of inter-pride conflict due to years and years of domestication. When young, Anui cubs are often highly playful and eagerly make use of a range of toys provided to them by their caretakers, the most favored being a ball with a bell structure inside.As they grow up, their playfulness slowly mellows out, and adults often socialize through grooming sessions. Irritated Anui will take swipes at one another, and full on conflicts are often something to be entirely avoided both by caretakers or other Anui. These parties will allow the two, often male, combatants to fight, until a break lets others tryget the situation under control. Anui Lions with their tender meanwhile, are generally docile and tamed to avoid actions which would harm them, like jumping up or leaning too much into them. When irritated, Anui Lions will not swipe or nip at an offending caretaker, they will instead roughly bump and growl at them. If particularly unhappy with their rider, they might try and buck them off, but for things to get to that point, many would state a rider is no longer worthy to ride an Anui Lion.
Territory and Groupings
Anui Lions once roamed the mountains of J in small prides of ten to twelve, their social structure seeing dominant males ruling over the rest of the group. This structure has only loosened with time, as while senior Anui do “lead” their now expanded prides of twenty to forty, they are not nearly as aggressive or commanding.
- Great statues of Anui Lions with smaller images of Poukuan often stand together in great sites of the Sihai Race, Anui iconography remaining incredibly common in their society.
- Sen-Kura lived a long life before being stealthily killed by a younger pride member, the hated Black Scar, known for such a deformity over his left eye. Black Scar was then killed by Sen-Kura’s son, the mount of the Lion Warrior’s son, restoring order to the pride.
- Some believe that Anui Lions were specifically empowered by Liu-Xing, while the Poukuan are the languishing, unblessed members of a new-extinct precursor species split by this divine act.