|Official Name||Dire Wolf|
|Common Nicknames||Doom Hound, Slutt-av-liv|
|Habitat||The North Belt|
The Dire Wolf is one of the largest animals in The North Belt, standing proudly at the top of the northern food chain. Cautious and clever, these solitary hunters have gained a fearsome reputation. Many Velheim tales exist of the creature and its reputation, but the Dire Wolves were noted even back in the era of the Drovv, one of the oldest people to inhabit the northern reaches of Aloria. The Dire Wolf’s days may be numbered, however, as increasing Ailor and Urlan populations, the scourge of Bone Horrors, and geopolitical shifts have put this alpha-predator on the top of many kill lists for hunters serving organized bodies across The North Belt.
Dire Wolves were first encountered by the Drovv millennia before the other Races, though others suggest Dire Wolves didn’t emerge until much later, with supposed Drovv sightings claimed to be exaggerated and mistaken Wolf encounters. If the Drovv encounters with the Dire Wolves are true, however, then these animals were once far different than they are today. They traveled in packs of their own kind and avoided contact with the Drovv, hunting Thylan and Jaded Roos along with other local wildlife across the plains, forests and mountains of the north. This vast spread eventually saw them encountered by the Altalar, Dwarves and ultimately Proto-Velheim Ailor, but in this later period, an unknown shift had occurred. Altalar records speak of Dire Wolves being the leaders of Wolf packs, with few to any other members of their species nearby. It is also clear that the Dire Wolf dropped in numbers sometime between 2000 and 500 BC, but it is unclear as to why. But if any event would aid such a predator, it would be the Fifth Void Invasion and the Cataclysm.
Dire Wolves closest to Drowda were mutated into true monsters, some supposedly even becoming wolf-men and capable of speech, but many would soon die as the world was torn apart. Those that survived became the Drowdan variant of the species, warped beyond belief, and became part of the hostile ecosystem on Drowda. However, for the other members of the species, it appeared the destruction wrought on the world was their time to shine. Velheim told tales of aggressive Wolf attacks, led by behemoths of the species, with trios or quartets of Dire Wolves now leading lesser packs to dominate the fragmented food chains of Ellador, Jorrhildr and Cain. The Velheim came to label this pack leadership as the Hounds of War, and as the Vampire Wars broke out on Ellador, their attacks were viewed as signs of Vampires hiding within a community. However, as time went on, these beliefs faded and Velheim grew to hate the Dire Wolf, not as a symbol of power, but as a symbol of evil. Hunts to track down and eliminate packs led by Dire Wolves, in addition to solitary members of the species dramatically increased by 200 AC, and now, many believe the canines are on the fringe of extinction. But, tales still emerge from across the Velheim world of Dire Wolf sightings, and the wilds of The North Belt are sure to hide such predators from even the most confident and skilled hunters the sentient Races have to offer.
Dire Wolves stand at a formidable four to five feet tall, with a length of between six and seven feet, and weighs between 200 and 300 pounds. Their form is similar to that of a Wolf, with a long muzzle, a pair of large green eyes, and triangular ears pointing forward at the top of their head. Their mouth is large, with infamously large and sharp teeth, supposedly even having two sets of front canines rather than one, with the first set prominent enough to be constantly appearing out of the Dire Wolf’s mouth pointing toward the ground. The animal’s bite is also notably stronger than that of other creatures. However, the differences from normal Wolves begin at the body, with a thick neck to connect it to the head. Dire Wolves have a larger front-half to their body, with obvious muscular front legs and a clear two-layer growth of hair in two different shades, before their form tapers out into a less intensive lower body which is still big-boned and well built for incredible sprints. The front legs are also larger than the rear legs, with slightly larger paws to support the individual, in addition to larger claws. Their bodies end in a short tail only around half a foot in length. They sport a dense layer of fur, with a double layer on the shoulders and around the animal’s upper body. This fur is often with a dominant color of dark grey or brown with the lesser color being black or white, but paler greys, white, and albinism is not unheard of within the species.
Dire Wolf pelts have shown a regional variance since the years following the Cataclysm. Those in the coldest, most hostile lands of Ellador and Jorrhildr are known for white or pale grey pelts, while those in less-hostile areas of those continents, or on Cain, have the other fur tones. Females are sometimes smaller than males, but this sexual dimorphism has become much less pronounced over time.
- Drowdan Dire Wolf: The one notable variety of the Dire Wolf is the creature known as the Drowdan Dire Wolf, residing on Drowda. They are solitary animals, with pure black coats and their secondary colors being dark purples or greens, alongside red eyes. They are also known for their greater sizes, capable of reaching Eronidas heights, with Void Mutations also adding horns and other aspects to their form. They are the rarest variety of Dire Wolf, and one Drowda Fauna the Sihndar have most aggressively hunted over the decades.
Life Span and Development
Dire Wolves are capable of giving birth to a single litter every year, but this is a rare occurrence. A Dire Wolf litter will be born as two pairs, though the weakest of any given litter is typically outcast and left to die after the family moves on. Dire Wolf pups are nearly indistinguishable from those of a normal Wolf, though a fine eye would notice their bones developing to be far thicker than an average Wolf pup. The Dire Wolf growth will accelerate enormously around three months, and reach its full, physical maturity in just one year. Dire Wolves live far longer than average Wolves, reaching ages of up to 100 years and rumored to reach even more.
The Dire Wolf’s mentality is broad and has clearly evolved with time, though there are some general characteristics one can associate with modern examples of the creature. They are dignified and silent, their early stages of aggression not easily distinguished from a merely curious creature. They will stand or sit and watch a target or object or attention with an intense gaze before eventually engaging in the hunt, or socializing with the being. This most usually applies to their own species, even within family units of Dire Wolves who keep close before separating at adulthood. Some do keep close together, but this distant, uncaring mannerism remains as they rule over one or more normal Wolf packs. But when a Dire Wolf is on the hunt or the attack, those in their path should pray their gods are with them for survival. Capable of sudden bursts of speed able to outpace galloping horses, and with a physicality enough to bash through wooden and even some types of stone barricades, Dire Wolves will lead a charge of carnage should they desire it. However, when engaging in attacks on sentient Races, they often keep back, allowing the pack around them to attack first, either as some sort of test of the defenses or because it will join later anyway, certain of victory. Dire Wolves are well known for their intelligence, outsmarting many hunting traps and being able to see threats not immediately obvious. There are even rumors that they are able to know when they are facing a Sorcerer or Mage and back off as a result.
Territory and Groupings
Dire Wolves are often solitary creatures, either upon leaving their mother’s side as adults, being outcast as the weakest family pack member as a pup, or having lost their Wolf pack through some means, with no intent to get it back. Only family packs, which last for around one year, represent a high concentration of Dire Wolves, and this usually then falls apart. In some rare cases, a mother or father accepts the presence of siblings or children around it, though sometimes also a group of the same gender, forming a Dire Wolf hierarchy in command of a lesser Wolf pack. These Dire Packs are rare in current times but still occur, most commonly in Jorrhildr and the northern reaches of Ellador.
- Dire Wolf pelts are highly sought after due to their quality and rarity. Most of the Dire Wolf pelts on the market are not even of the Dire Wolf, counterfeit by talented dyers capable of crafting the distinctive two-toned fur of the Dire Wolf.
- An outcast Dire Wolf, known as Etøye, who harassed a trio of settlements along the western coastline of Tryllejag Realm, was only killed in 303 AC after over 110 years of attacks that took three whole farms’ worth of livestock, along with twenty-three lives, five of them being children and youths.
- Some arcane scholars believe that the Dire Wolf was involved in the creation of the Usaar Cahal.