|Common Nicknames||Wolfmen, Protector Beasts, Canine Horrors|
|Classification||Magus, Shapeshifted Ailor|
|Current Status||Presumed Extinct, Presumed a Myth|
Manebeasts, the werewolves of old Ceardian lore, are both feared and praised by followers of the old folk beliefs of Old Ceardia, and their stories are rooted in a time when all Ailor lived in stateless tribes and civilization was far away. Steeped in legend and myth, Manebeasts are exceptionally rare; when they are seen, they are often misidentified as Vampires. They are forced to exist in the shadow of society, unaware of their glorious past as ancient, revered creatures. Manebeasts are not really wild animals, but rather Soul Sharding creatures that are essentially humanoid, Ailor even, whose souls have been forever altered by an inherited blessing or curse (depending on the beholder). Born with an insatiable bloodlust and terrifying abilities, Manebeasts do not really have a place anymore in the modern world but, like a terrifying relic of a dead era, can still do a lot of damage to those who cross them.
Manebeasts have a history shrouded in mystery and legend, notably because they originate from the times of pre-Oldt Fayth Old Ceardia history, where Ailor were had no form of writing and could not record history. Manebeast existence is largely considered likely but completely unproven, as practically all supposed sightings of Manebeasts have never been scientifically verified. The few Manebeasts supposedly caught dead were, on further investigation, only Ailor corpses with no notable afflictions or odd features. If discovered, most Manebeasts are mistaken for Vampires, even at the sight of their unusual canines or eye colors, as this is the first logical conclusion upon having a suspicion about someone being out of the ordinary.
What little word of mouth history has survive states that Manebeasts were the enforcers or protectors of the Silverwolf Faith, a wolf-symbolizing faith that modern scholars know absolutely nothing about, besides the fact that wolves were a popular form of symbolism in it. The faith practically disappeared when Oldt Fayth became popular in Old Ceardia and the Petty Kingdoms started waging war on one another over control of the land. As the rugged Old Ceardian communities were being pushed further and further away by the march of modern civilization, all memory of the Manebeasts faded into children’s tales.
In modern times, The discovery of murals or archeological objects depicting Manebeasts near pockets of separate, non-communicating cultures has led scholars to conclude that they probably exist, but may have gone entirely extinct hundreds of years ago. Reported sightings continue in areas that are both remote and superstitious, leading scholars to believe people simply make up stories about these creatures to sound more interesting, or to lend credence to a primal story among a people whose dying traditions are gradually being consumed by the Imperialization of their culture.
Manebeasts appear as a human-lupine hybrid; they bear the lower body of a wolf, a wolf's head, and a furred, humanoid torso. The folklore surrounding them is almost fawning: according to the stories, which are widely rejected by scholars, Manebeasts are considerably larger than even the largest Orc, standing at least a foot beyond the Orcish racial maximum. They are a hulk of raw muscle, built for the hunt, and eviscerate their prey with long claws. Long pointy ears stand atop their head, their noses are dark and flared, and their muzzle is pulled into a near-perpetual snarl, exposing rows of sharp teeth with enough biting force to crush through bone. They have heavy furry brows and dark, almost black eyes lit only by bright silver irises. They can run equally as well on two legs as on four and have enough force in their digitigrade legs to scale short buildings with ease. Their tails are long; most notably, a mane runs from the top of their head, between their shoulders, and down their tail to the tip, with a pattern following the length. They are said to be capable of quickly regenerating wounds that are normally fatal for other warriors, are able to smell prey from miles away, and possess a bloodlust that even surpasses Vampires. All Manebeasts have a ravenblack fur color, though from Manebeast to Manebeast, an individually unique pattern of silver or white fur spreads across their mane, back, arms and chest. Another curious feature about where the name Manebeast is derived from is the fact that their mane is capable of rapidly shaking or vibrating like the tail of a rattlesnake when they growl.
Historical Sightings & Activities
Manebeasts have both been sighted solo and hunting in packs. Notably however, when a pack was sighted, one Manebeast was always considerably larger than the others, leading to the speculation that Manebeasts maintain an Alpha and Pack mentality where lesser pack Manebeasts exist but one Alpha always controls the group. Manebeasts have been observed showing behavior similar to wolves, using the same hunting techniques and skills, though often with a humanoid twist. Manebeasts have been sighted using tools and weapons; not only that, but they have also been sighted wearing clothes or using contraptions to move around. There was once even a sighting of a crew of Manebeasts sailing a longboat down a river in Old Ceardia some few hundred years ago. Generally, sightings in modern times have sharply decreased. Since the loss of Old Ceardia, and even some time before that, the introduction of the middle-period faiths such as Old Gods and Oldt Fayth pushed most of the Silverwolf Faith followers underground. The further introduction of more modern faiths like Unionism strongly suppressed some of the folklore of Old Ceardia, leading even to a short period of a culture where Manebeasts were hunted to prove one’s prowess in the hunt. Over the last fifty years or so, sightings of Manebeasts have dropped to less than a dozen, and even then, many of these sightings were false or actually just Silven in their Beastlord muter form. Real, authentic Manebeasts are rumored to roam in west Drixagh and the Gallovian Highlands in the Regalian Archipelago, but only in the most secluded areas left untouched by modern civilization.
Cultural Significance & Folklore
The cultural significance for Manebeasts is great among the daughter cultures of Old Ceardia, namely Highland Ceardian and Heartland Ceardian, and to some extent Velheim as well. Manebeasts aren’t much present in the folklore or tales of any other race or culture, but bear a significant traditional and contemporary relevance to the locals in both Gallovia, Dragenthal, and the western coast of Drixagh. These three different areas all have their own views and different interpretations of Manebeasts. Overall, at face value, any person who is of any Ceardian cultural descent knows Manebeasts from old lore. They know that Manebeasts are used in children’s tales to scare children into behaving, and they know Manebeasts are the first suspect cursed when a shepherd loses a sheep to wolves, even if actual wolves are the far more likely culprit (since Manebeasts do not eat their prey; they only drink their blood). Manebeast symbolism can sometimes be found in Highland Ceardian or Heartland Ceardian organizations or family sigils, as well as general decorations. A serving bowl of fruit from Gallovia might for example have carvings of Manebeasts attacking Grizzlebeasts, and small statuettes of Manebeasts are sometimes popular among Highland Ceardians who want to keep the old spirits of their heritage alive. These are the more basic cultural notions, but there are however also more in-depth cultural norms and folklore that one might glean by looking in depth into the subject beyond superficial midwife tales.
To the Highland Ceardians, the Manebeast is a form of a protector, but a very dangerous one. They have inherited their folklore from Old Ceardia, focusing strongly on the Silverwolf Faith element, for which the Manebeasts were the stewards of the Silverwolf Honor Code, a law of strength and truth enforced by the faith. Shepherds may curse the loss of a sheep, but see a dead sheep that has been bled out as an omen of protection and do not actually curse the beast that did it. Particularly in the highlands, some sightings occur every year, leading modern scholars to believe that Manebeasts may actually still be living in Gallovia, but exist in extremely secluded and hard to reach places among the inland lochs and crags which are mostly cut off from the rest of the world throughout the year (save for a few months during summer). Manebeasts are rumored to have played a role during the Skagger Wars to defend the Gallovian land masses against the Velheimers and their equally rarely seen Grizzlebeasts; bear-like men hybrids that came with the Skagger invasions. Wolf and Bear would make battle with one another while the mortal men fought around them, their presence either bolstering morale as allies or crushing it as foes. There is no actual historical evidence of this actually having taken place, as no Grizzlebeast or Manebeast was ever killed on the battlefield or paraded around like victims of war. Still, enough witness accounts exist to lend some credibility in Manebeasts at least having played some part, even if it was just using the Skagger invaders as easy prey to feed on. Highland Ceardians in particular may sometimes have a Manebeast statuette in their bedroom as a token of protection for their resting place. The popularity of wolf pelts is also attributed to the protective nature of Manebeasts; wearing one declares that the wearer is protected by the will of the Manebeasts.
Heartland Ceardians observe a similar reverence, but less one out of protective nature more out of dark omens. To Heartland Ceardians (who never had any claim to the Skagger Wars) the Manebeasts only came to consume their livestock and steal away their children in the night to feast on. It is believed by modern scholars that Heartland Ceardian views of Manebeasts were once very much the same as Highland Ceardians, but that their views were warped because of the presence of Vampires (who were frequently misidentified as being Manebeasts in humanoid form and killed after they murdered numerous towns inhabitants in their thirst for blood). To Heartland Ceardians, the head of a wolf may be taxidermied onto a shield and strung over the doorway of a home so as to ward off Manebeasts, or pelts of wolves may be put at the door opening of a home, as superstition suggests Manebeasts cannot cross a doorway with a wolf pelt on it. There have been almost no sightings of Manebeasts in Dragenthal in modern times; the last one was recorded in 179 AC, and the Manebeast was subsequently killed by Darkwald Knights.
Stories of Manebeasts in Drixagh are similar to the stories of Grizzlebeasts in Gallovia, one of hate and disgust. It is said that wolf hunting in Drixagh is particularly popular because of the supposed role Manebeasts had in the Skagger Wars, in which they aided the defence of Gallovia and helped repel the Skagger hordes. Grizzlebeasts are seen as the natural enemy of Manebeasts, and as such, frequently showcase scenes of Grizzlebeasts killing or defeating Manebeasts in combat. Manebeasts, because of their more secluded and secretive nature, are seen as weaker forms of the superior Grizzlebeast, at least subjectively in the perspective of the Velheimers. Few people in Drixagh have anything good to say about Manebeasts, though some Gallovian imports may exist in those who do respect the role they played in defeating their kind during the Skagger Wars.
Overall, there are plenty more folklore tales to be found on a local level. Each crag in Gallovia has its own personal Manebeast story, either a vendetta or a tale of glory. The vast majority of these are completely fictitious, as Manebeasts have never truly been proven to still exist by any credible sources in the Highlands. In fact, modern scholars believe it is more likely that if Manebeasts were still alive, that they would live in the Dragenthal Drachenwald, or in the Hinterlands Bos de Brisse, where the much thicker pine forests would hide their presence at night, as opposed to the white snow in Gallovia’s Pachs, where a black furred Manebeast would stick out considerably. Generally speaking, the Crags and the Highland population have more tales of horror and vendetta than the coastlines. In the Highlands, the murder of a sheep or a few sheeps could often mean the difference of life and death for many Highland families, so Manebeasts are generally more seen as a curse in the more desolate areas far away from the prosperous coast. Particularly in Kinwrey, Manebeasts are frequently seen on gargoyles for major buildings, but smaller statuettes also exist across the city in so called Machvaals, small little shrines built in small alleys between buildings with miniature Manebeast statuettes in them. These warn every person lingering in alleys that the Manebeasts are always watching and looking for the next foul person to murder and drain the blood of, as it is through ingesting blood that the Manebeasts are said to purify their life and restore the balance between good and evil.
- It is believed that Manebeasts have a weakness for pure alcohols like Vocadine. The exact explanation isn’t known, but folklore has it that Manebeasts can be defeated by sprinkling pure alcohol on them.
- While it is said that most Manebeasts only drink the blood of animals, there are many tales that most Highland Ceardians will not say, because they expose the awkward truth: there are just as many stories of Manebeasts eating people as there are stories of them gloriously protecting against the Skaggers.
- The stories in folklore offer no explanation as to where lesser Manebeasts come from. There is a clear distinction between regular Manebeasts and then more humanoid-sized Manebeasts, but nobody, not even the storytellers, have an explanation for the supposed existence of lesser Manebeasts.