Sometime in the far distant past, before we began recording our thoughts, their lived a civilization that far outstripped our own in terms of technology and the understanding of this universe. We find remnants of this civilization in vast uninhabited areas that the mother forest is slowly retaking. We know little of them… even our ancestors don’t have any recollection of who or what they were, though the ancients recalled a time of fear and terror as another race tried to wipe our kind from the world. Equally, there is no memory that can be found or recalled of what happened to this ancient race, be it that they left or some great calamity befell them, either.
We do know that Father Earth and Mother Forest both were sick for a great many spans, indeed, all of the creatures that populate this place recall a period of near extinction from famine and upheaval of the very earth itself very long ago. Those that did survive that period faced a time of cold and dark that seemed to last an eternity to them. Then, the first dawn came. Mother Forest began recovering all that she had lost, while Father Earth settled and relaxed returning to his slumber.
This is the story handed down, amongst others, to every generation. The Elders, the Alphas and even the Mystics and Shamans make it known that remembering the past is important, for forgetting where we came from will lead to all of us being forgotten, as the ancient unknown race was. Each pack, tribe and race strive to ensure that they will not be forgotten.
The memories of the Eldest ones, the longest lived of each race, tell of a time so long ago as to be myth, of when all the races mingled and fought amongst one another vying for the ideal places to mate, live and hunt while at the same time learning and teaching themselves how to do these things better than the other races. Then came the first meeting of the races. We of the Lunines of the forest met with the Felnines of the mountains, the Equis of the plains, the winged Bivians of the Islands, the Lizakes of the Dessert and the Fimanders of the vast water at the Tathem Mound. It was agreed that from that point on, rather than waging war on one another, they would instead, bring their grievances to this arena and an answer would be hashed out amongst the chosen leaders.
At first, these leaders were the strongest of their race, as ‘hashing’ things out usually involved a bloody contest of will and strength against one another to ‘resolve’ the said issue. But, eventually things changed to the way they are now, where the Oldest, wisest of each came to hold the seat of the Eldest Council. They do not leave the Mound, indeed, being as old and frail as they were now, they cannot leave the sanctuary that it had become. News of amendments and declarations are carried from their arena to the far corners of each race by way of an established system of runners. This does not mean they have any hold over the individual packs, far from it. The decisions they make are general guidelines for each race as a whole, but the tribal elders and the pack Alphas have the final say on how those guidelines are used, if at all. Keeping the peace is up to each leader, and even the Eldest know that the decisions they make may not work in every situation, but there are very few that outright ignore the wisdom imparted.
But, for those that choose not only to ignore the words of the Eldest entirely, those who seek to create chaos and discord amongst their kind or attack another, pack, tribe or race unprovoked will garner the attention of their Race’s Red Hoods. This elite group combines the skills of the best hunters with the wisdom of the Eldest Council, giving them the freedom of being able to hunt down and pass judgment upon individuals or even an entire pack if necessary. Mostly, though, they are called upon as mediators of the Eldest. They are considered the militant order of the Eldest by some, but are generally considered as necessary by most to ensure continuing unity amongst all. Their ranks include several of the most elite hunters and fighters of each kind, usually divided by race, though there have been rare times when it was necessary for one or more of the Red Hood of a neighboring race to mediate tribal disputes. But, of all the law enforcement groups, the Red Hoods are the only ones given express permission to end the life of another, be it an individual or a pack, on the spot, if that extreme is ever deemed necessary. For this reason the Red Hoods are subjected to a rigorous mental and physical evaluation designed to find one’s breaking point. Few have been turned away from their ranks, and, of those that are, still fewer are rejected from any other service that they are more suited for. Those fewest that are deemed unfit for any kind of service to the Elders are kept under very watchful eyes, as they are very dangerous creatures indeed.
Now the races live in somewhat harmony. Each lives in an area that plays to their strengths, taking care to mark their borders so that the others do not pass, abiding by the mandate of the Eldest. The Lunines have established themselves in semi nomadic tribes in the woods and a small part of the plains and tundra, moving with the ebb and flow of the herds they hunt for sustenance. Galku Represents them on the Council of the Eldest, and has for hundreds of Moons now, and has led the Lunines to a prosperous life, despite those that disagree with his methods. The small amount of unrest among the tribes and packs is minimal, but there is always a watchful eye on it, lest it reach a boiling point. An uneasy trade system has developed between them and the Equis of the plains and the Felnines of the mountains, each of which border the territory the Lunines maintain. The Eldest have begun making pacts in order to explore and document the finds in the Metal Forests that are found here and there have caused a little more tension with those that have not found one in their own borders, who want an equal share in those finds and a black market for non-sanctioned exploration and its goods has developed.
You were born into the race of Lunines: Creatures of the wooded lands that cover most of the known world. The surviving mix of the loyal and steadfast canine friend of the humans and the wild and untamed race of the wolves. They excel at hunting and tracking. Though extremely loyal, there are those that feel they do not belong in a pack. While considered somewhat outcast, Loners are not completely ostracized from the pack or tribe that they are born into. Help may be begrudgingly given, but it will be given if aid is required. What’s more, Loners have the freedom to roam across pack and tribe borders, often carrying messages and even trade items, making them invaluable in the service of inter-pack and tribal harmony.
Your life thus far has consisted of the general teachings and training given all pups in all packs. Up until this point in time you have been more or less forced to work as a member of a cohesive miniature pack with the other pups born the same season, which also included taking care of younger pups born while you were getting to the age of no longer being considered a pup. You have dabbled in every part of the pack, from hunting and gathering, medicine and mysticism, and even being shown the weight on the shoulders of the pack leader. Up until now things have been generalized, allowing you to feel your own way through the pack’s community to allow you to find the niche you most resonate with.
But, today’s the day, the Coming of Age Ceremony. The first Full moon after the cold has passed and the herds have returned from their hibernations and winter homes. Tonight will be the first time you join your pack in welcoming spring with the sound of your voices. The ceremonial glen has been cleared, thanks partly due to your efforts along with those of your yearling group, and the fire crackles even now, casting its dancing light through the trees surrounding the gathering place. The cool crisp air danced with a veritable cornucopia of flavors from the food offered by the hunters and gatherers, to the delicate scents of the varied flora of the forest. Mingled among these is the scents of the pack itself, every member a clear and distinct trail that filled the glade as the pack gathered.
Of course, you’re not among the throng of the pack there. No, you and your brothers and sisters were taken aside at the beginning of the day and given special treatment. It started with your first hunt as a group alone, save for the same guardians that trail any hunting group. The prey you caught was specifically for you alone, so it was also allowed that you caught specifically what you wanted to eat, though it was mandatory that all helped each other to ensure no kin went hungry. That was the way, the essence of the pack. Yes, there were the Omegas, those nearly outcast because they would not properly join with the pack, the lone wolves, and lastly the old and infirm that had not yet been called to take the last walk. You had been hunting for them all this time. It took only one unsatisfactory hunt to show you the cost of not trying your best for the pack, and that long hungry night had stayed with you all this time. There hadn’t been one since, either, even if several of your group had been hurt or sick; that just meant you had to work harder.
Now you sat in your own private room of the preparation hut. One of the Chosen had spent the day with you after the hunt, helping you bathe and groom yourself until your coat fairly gleamed from the attention. Of course, that kind of personal attention hadn’t really been given except for the dalliances that had been allowed to flourish among your fellow yearlings, but any hope of taking care of any such thoughts had been dashed well before now, knowing full well that until the end of the ceremony there would be no intimacy with any fellow pack mate. But, after the ceremony, well, that’s usually when bonds were sown. Right now the Chosen was accentuating your markings, the only other way to distinguish yourself from the rest of your pack other than your scent. True, one’s fur may resemble another’s closely, even the so called mirrored, those born looking identical to one another from birth, had small telling differences, and it was these differences the dyes were exaggerating, ensuring no pack member would mistake you for any other member of your pack.
Your ears are piqued when you hear the thunderous resounding of the ceremonial drums, quickly bringing a hush to the entire gathering. The sun had long set and the full moon was just starting to peak over the forest, shining its brilliant white light across the tree tops. The Chosen that had been your shadow the entire day smiled knowingly at seeing your eager expression, placing a reassuring hand on your thigh to settle you. “Soon, young one. Relax for now,” was all that was spoken to you, but it was enough. That was what a Chosen meant, being the one that helped the Spiritual Leader of the pack attend to the soul of each individual member. And they were right, tonight you were going to shed all of your former self and emerge the next morning as a true and proper member of the pack. While all were eager to do so for their own reasons, there was no need to rush things or belittle the ceremony.
The Coming of Age Ceremony was a time for the yearlings to savor both worlds, that of being a yearling pup and that of being a pack member. This one night represented so much to yourself and each of your brothers and sisters that you grew up with. While this represented the last night that you would be a cohesive group, the bonds with your fellow yearlings would be stronger than most any that would be forged in the future, save for the ones formed with your parents and actual littermates. This was something that would be celebrated and cherished by the entire pack this night, recognizing the spirit borne of your bonds through your growing up.
The Chosen finished with the markings, having found and accentuated every scar you’ve garnered to this point, each a story indelibly marked on your hide. There would be an accounting of the major ones, something that was never rehearsed lest it sound like boasting. While this was not exactly frowned upon, boasting was not allowed on this night as there was no need to compare yourself to any other, not tonight. Now they handed you your belt, something you had made by hand after your first hunt. On it hung your satchel and the sheath that, until tonight, had held the simple dagger that you carried with you since… well, since you could remember. Sure, you knew how to wield every weapon in the arsenal, from the bow and arrow to the long spear, but all you had been allowed to carry on your person since time immemorial, was that simple dagger. But, tonight the dagger would be sacrificed to the Huntress, the goddess of the hunt and battle, the one that oversaw you every time you left the dens to hunt or defend your pack, and then you would be presented with a finely crafted dagger and one other weapon befitting the path you choose to follow in the pack life from here on out.
You realize the tempo of the drums has changed, and a smile comes to the Chosen’s muzzle, standing and stepping to the side, bowing and gesturing that now was the time for you to step out into the world filled with everyone’s anticipation. As rehearsed, you and your fellow yearlings quickly settled into the familiar formation of the hunt, but this time this grouping was being used for a whole new reason. Exerting all of your strength, you leap forward on cue with the rest of your mates, careful to maintain your exact distance from the others, you lope at speed out of the Preparation Hut into the crisp air of the night, the formation breaking only to bound past the trunk of one of the larger trees, but always reforming on the other side. This was definitely not the way of the hunt, but this wasn’t a hunt either, this time, this night, it was about working together one last time while being independent.
Bursting into the clearing, you and your mates surprise everyone by coming in from a different direction, even the guards are unprepared for this tactic, as they had been prepared to ambush all of you to prevent you from reaching the center. Carefully, but forcefully, you take down the closest guard to you, kneeling on them even as you help a yearling sister to do a high vault, her using your back and a carefully applied amount of boost from your legs to garner her the distance she needed to tackle another guard on the path. By the time the Guardians had regrouped to do anything about this surprise, all of your group were in the center of the glade, a demarcation of stones and colored earth etching out the exact center of the glade. The thumping of the drums had stopped when you and your yearling mates had first entered the glade, and now struck up a thunderous tempo that signaled the end of the trial, which was answered by the equally as exuberant voices of the rest of the pack, cheering you on for having made such a masterful entrance.
The drums settled once more as the Pack Leader, the Eldest, strode onto the circle with you and your siblings. He didn’t say anything, nor did he have to you, the proud smile upon his muzzle and the beaming happiness in his gaze all the praise needed to make you feel accomplished. Passing through her small group, he was followed by the Mystic, the Spiritual Leader and mate to the head of the pack, her pride in the recent showing of cunning and strength also clearly evident. But carefully made their way to the Overlook. Once that name had been applied to the original Ledge believed to have been the place where the first Alpha pair had stood to overlook the entirety of their domain. But, now, with your nomadic life style, the Overlook was merely a set of stones chosen to be the center of the gathering place for this particular area for your pack. The Pack Leader of all the Lunines occupied that lofty point, but he could no longer survey his vast domain from that point, so widespread was the lands occupied by your kind.
You did not turn to watch their ascent, did not need to. Indeed, as did the rest of the pack, you have taken a knee in respect for their presence. A soft cough that somehow carried all the way to the farthest pack member signaled the end of this show of fealty, allowing you to stand proud once more.
“On this, the night of the First Full Moon of the Renewal, we take the time to welcome this group of intelligent and resourceful Yearlings to adulthood.” The resounding cheer from your fellow pack mates fills you with happiness and not just a little pride. To have proven your cunning in front of all was one thing, but to have your yearling mates and yourself complimented by the Pack Leader himself for all to hear was no small token of praise. The swelling in your chest was probably obvious to all that cared to look, glad to see your parents beaming with an equal pride to those around them was also uplifting to your spirit. “As our pack grows with every passing Season of Cold, we thank the great Mother Spirit of the Forest and Father Spirit of the Earth for looking benignly upon our pack and it’s continued growth. Though we have lost many young and old to the ravages of the unknown over the last year, seeing so many of this group still here and able to help contribute to the Pack gladdens my sorrowful heart.” With the mention of lost ones, a soft whimpering or whine here and there from those that had lost child, sibling, or elder to this or that unforeseen incident from the last year could be heard, even from the Alpha Mother, the loss of their last litter to a plague that claimed the majority of the lives lost. There was a moment of silence before the Alpha Father stamped the foot of his staff onto the bare rock of the overlook, ending the period of mourning. “Now is not the time for mourning a lost one, for tonight is the time to celebrate!” he yelled, wiping the last traces of sorrow from the air. “To celebrate the coming of age of these fine yearlings, who have proven their worth for any way of life that they choose to follow.”
At this spoken signal, the Masters of each profession stepped forward to the edge of the circle, while the other that had been standing there at the edge also stepped away. Just as Important as being recognized as an adult was choosing your way of life. Dabbling in each area of pack life allowed you to understand just what would be asked of you if you did take this on. It wasn’t necessarily showing you what the hardest thing about the job, or the easiest part, but a typical daily run down of what that job averaged out to be. Except for hunting, that was not a profession that you could choose to pursue or choose not to. Every member of the pack considered healthy enough to hunt did so, at least once per day. The meat caught was the actual monetary unit traded for whatever was needed. How well you were taken care of at the end of your seasons was partially determined by how well you hunted. There were many things that could outweigh that, but most of those were extremes that very few ever attained. Though you could claim a mate and even conceive a litter, your ability to provide for all of those mouths for their first cycle of seasons was the real proof of parenthood. Of course, most females would not even consider taking a mate that was not at least a passible hunter, but there were exceptions even in this.