• Published 16th Sep 2018
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Timberwolves: Guardians of the Everfree - Keystone Gray



A research paper on the timberwolves, exploring their creation, purpose, and their connection to the Everfree Forest.

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5. Timberwolf Adolescence, by Apex

Timberwolf Adolescence

By Apex


Little Seeds

Titha shodei, titha shodei,
Retka 'tratahok,
Titha shodei, titha shodei,
'Tratat sim nyu kot.

Titha shodei, titha shodei,
Titha faun iy foll,
Titha vivei, plass quiva
Nyei vanna iy nyei toll.


In this chapter, we will explore the early stages and construction of a timberwolf puppy.

Population Control

The creation of a Vorku seed is accomplished through a careful mixture of certain chemical compounds that have long been made secret by the Dierkahl. Timberwolves, being sapient and learning creatures, took notice of this creation process in the infancy of their species, eventually learning to replicate it for themselves in the wild. In time, they were capable of creating and enchanting their own young through wholly natural means, carrying seeds with them as they traveled.

Based on historical and contemporary metrics collected by the Dierkahl, the timberwolf population appears to fluctuate between 7,000 and 9,000. Incidentally, this is the approximate range of the first Vorku army, and these numbers see further adjustment per the forest's active wisp-vorku ratio. Past droughts or fires that have caused significant damage have all been followed by a resurgence of Vorku seed births, and the population works collectively to equalize the balance of the ecosystem until it is fully restored. Likewise, timberwolves will stop breeding for a time if they are effectively culling the wisp population with their current numbers.

Upon discovering that the timberwolves were regulating their own population, King Alpine wisely saw fit to protect the knowledge of their creation. He rightly feared that the creation process might be misused by Sombra or beings like him, ones who did not hold the same respect for nature as the deer. As such, he ordered that all recipes pertaining to creation research be destroyed with prejudice, leaving the timberwolves as the sole proprietors of their own future.


Vessel Formation

Though we gender our timberwolves as a matter of cultural ritual, they are unisex in nature. Any can birth young.

To create a new Vorku seed, a timberwolf adult will devour various flora and liquids over the course of weeks, internally mixing the appropriate and precise formula that will crystallize into a new soul vessel. As the vessels are charged with energy, the bonding spells are each induced at various stages in the formation process, wherein the protective shell of the seed is grown around the crystal core. These new crystals are capable of recursive magic casting; they will "listen" for a spell cast by their creator, and that spell will be quickly learned by the seed and recasted. Once sufficiently charged, the offspring vessel can renew these enchantments independent of any parental assistance. Recasting is a reflex, often compared to breathing by the deer. Timberwolves "breathe" automatically and constantly so long as they have a constant flow of forest energy for strength.

At the stage of the seed's full formation, it may either remain with the pack, or may be donated to a deer village at the discretion of the creator. If the creator elects to become its parent as well, the seed is then carried with the adult timberwolf pack as it hunts. Whenever the pack feeds upon a wisp, that forest energy is equalized between its members, meaning the entire pack will often overcharge themselves to support the new youth. They will continue developing this seed for one full lunar cycle. Vorku seeds vary in size and mass, depending on the wood used to create its shell. As a general rule: larger, heavier crystal vessels require more energy to mature, but also hold greater potential for their ultimate size and lifespan in their final forms.

By the time the seed has been fully charged, the pack will have prepared a puppy golem to receive it.


New Wild Golems

In wild Vorku, the body is made of simple sticks, twigs, and small logs, all collected from the preferred territory of their pack and almost always of the same type of wood. Timberwolves prefer sturdier hardwoods if available and if suitable for their lineage, for the increased density stores more forest energy per square inch, increasing lifespan and energy capacity. Further, certain ancestral lines take more readily to certain types of wood, and this preference may affect their demeanor as an adult, with low wood density leading to energetic temperament and high density leading to lethargic disposition.

The pack will begin the process of whittling the wooden pieces by gnawing, clawing, and scraping them against rocks, putting them into proper shape. The upper skull often receives the most care, especially the concave slot meant for housing the Vorku seed. Wild timberwolves create this slot by applying constant circular pressure with stones, which will often take several days worth of careful, continuous labor. It is not uncommon to see a seed-bearing parent holding a small golem skull between their paws, nose down as they work through the day.

When the puppy golem's pieces have been completed, they are assembled closely together by the parent, thereby reducing the telekinetic strain of their first formation. The skull is turned upward and the seed is carefully inserted into its slot. This phase is most critical, because the slot must be precisely excavated to form a perfect seal; an imperfect seal will lead to golem rejection. If performed correctly, this act binds the shell to the skull permanently, making the skull as much a part of their soul as their crystal itself.

With the new charged wood mass of the skull, the new timberwolf will have new strength to reach beyond itself toward the larger wooden pieces. The telekinesis will spread to the neck and body, drawing them close. This formation process will take several minutes as the new puppy learns to hold itself together. Finally, the twigs that become its tail and ears will assemble, and selected leaves will take their place over the eyes to become brows.

After this, they take their first delicate steps in our world, weak and vulnerable in their youth, quick to topple and fall apart and regularly reform. From here, they must feed quickly to retain their integrity. The pack helps with this step, eagerly hunting down a wisp or fruits to give the puppy its first meal.


Motherhood

Grand's upbringing was incredible for me, for his tale demonstrates just how much individuality and childlike energy these creatures have when they are young. It is understood that they can perceive even before they are given their first body, and can readily identify their parent in this state. They are insatiable learners, and delight in affection, as their seed may glow a pleasant green as one soothes them with words, or coddles them close, or introduces them to a close friend. From the moment they are given out to the world, the Vorku is ever inquisitive.

Feeding Grand's vessel was draining for me too, for hunting the forest on his behalf required constant attention. Blackthorn aided me, though only in instruction and supply, for this was as much a sacred rite for an adoptive parent - for me - as one could be.

I was given arrowheads treated with a potion designed to stun a wisp on impact. When these arrows are pulled from the spectral bodies of a wisp, it is immediately dispersed, the blue magic exploding outward. During this, I needed to hold Grand's shell close so he could absorb as much of the wisp as possible before it escaped back into the trees.

Fortunately, this became easier with time. The more I charged Grand, the more he helped me charge him, and I discovered that a Vorku seed can use its own magic to snatch the wisp's essence right out of the air, pulling that blue energy in. His reach increased the more he fed. Near the end of the hunting cycle, I hardly took him out of his saddlebag; he'd sense the essence getting away and he'd draw it right into his pouch.

Hunting was never a passive experience even between feedings, for I remained vigilant for trees that might provide suitable wood for his puppy golem. The conditions placed upon me by Blackthorn were these:

First, the selected tree must be completely uninhabited by other sentient creatures as a living space. To the deer, sentience means amphibians, birds, mammals, lizards, and any other species of the animal kingdom larger than an inch. There was also a specific exception that I must not disturb any full colony or queen of insects if I could avoid this. Second, the wood I use must contain the escaped essence of a freshly hunted wisp, as this made it easier for Grand to bond with the wood I've chosen. Third, the wood I use must all be drawn from the same species of tree, for this lent to consistency in bodily integrity and proper dispersion of energy.

These restrictions narrowed my choices considerably, but carried with them the benefit of greatly increasing my awareness of the forest. I learned how to route wisps toward trees I wanted to use before shooting and dispersing them. I learned how to read the trees in a way only deer could, beginning to notice signs of life on every inch of bark, on every branch, and on every root... from the slightest scratch of a humble squirrel, to the vast tail scrapings of a hydra marking its territory.

Outside of my hunts, what little free time I had was spent crafting the puppy golem, learning Cerfish, and practicing its use with Blackthorn and Kahruvel. This knowledge would strengthen my bond with my Vorku, and so it was not merely encouraged, but required. By the end of the second week since adopting Grand, the ritual stuck; I was singing old nursery rhymes to him before bed only for the simple pleasure of watching him glow with delight.

During my hunts, I always carried an axe for felling trees and for rough shaping of the larger pieces. For additional shaping, I relied on a draw knife, several whittling knives, and various wood rasps, the same as if I were making a longbow.

With Blackthorn's assistance, I charted Grand's general design very carefully, for every minor tweak or change to his puppy body would have significant effect on his final adult form. I fondly remember Grand always being with me. Whenever I worked, I kept his seed shell nearby. This wasn't strictly a requirement, but I felt that Grand had a right to see how his first body was made.

Most tree woods will suffice, and so I chose redwood. This was not an idle choice, as it was the same wood Blackthorn had chosen for Kahruvel and was grown from the same region. This normally leads to stronger bonds between hoof-raised Vorku and increases the chances of them forming a pack together.

Of course, the primary formative requirement for a golem is that the general form or silhouette is of a quadruped, and that the head vaguely resembles an Everfree lupine. It astonished me to learn that the timberwolf would reject the body otherwise. Blackthorn explained that the preference of the original creators to honor the extinct species had been adopted by the timberwolves themselves, further underscoring just how sensitive these creatures are to the intentions and traditions of their parents.

At the time, I was still only just beginning to understand the deer culture, and I was extremely conscious that I was designing a vessel for a creature they revered. With this in mind, I made the safe and inoffensive decision to make Grand appear as similar to the old Everfree wolves as I could, using only the historical texts of the deer as reference. All the same, my own pony artistic influences shone through as I planned out the puppy form, leading to smooth, gradual curves and realist features as I mimicked the original silhouettes as much as possible.

I was instructed to be careful of complicated convex designs at the puppy phase. Using ornate or complicated puppy designs was not expressly forbidden, but it made the phase to adulthood more complicated later on. The puppy golem is a permanent vessel, to be encased and sealed perfectly within an adult golem; because their soul inhabits the full piece after soul binding, the whole of their puppy body's biomass must be preserved and transferred to the adult body without alteration.

When the main pieces were completed, I sanded the wood down until it was smooth. Then, I uniformly stained all of it with a darker reddish color, made from a mixture of blackberries and canina hips. Color staining is not common in timberwolf creation, but it is permitted, provided that only all natural ingredients are used. For additional propriety and reduced risk of malformation, the fruits used in staining were selected only from flora that were spawned by Grand's feedings.

What was forbidden, however, was applying any unnatural finishing treatments that chemically seal the wood. Blackthorn explained that golems always seal their outer layer themselves. To do this manually is dangerous, for it upsets the delicate chemical balance of the golem's natural magical designs, and may negatively affect the protecting enchantments that Grand would use to bind the wood to the soul crystal.


Grand

A month passed. Before I knew it, the day had come for Grand to receive his first body. His crystal's shell glowed heavily after a hunt, a bright glow that could not be stared at, and did not subside within the hour as it typically did after feedings.

This meant he was fully charged, his magic so strong that I could literally feel the waves coming off of him, the sensation sending chills down my spine. His crystal had grown beyond the means of its shell, and he was thus eager for a new home. I took him back to Briar and broke the good news to Blackthorn and Kahruvel, who eagerly joined me at the base of my treetop home.

From my workshop upstairs, I brought out Grand's young new golem down piece by piece, carefully arranging his body in the rough shape of what he would soon become. I had grown accustomed to speaking to Grand by then, and so I soothed him as he pulsed impatiently in my saddlebag. Soon, little love, I said to him in Cerfish, as I stepped down the stairs for a final time. "Temfai, titha vanna." And I knew he understood, for his light dimmed ever so slightly.

Such events are ceremonial, even in small villages like Briar. Word traveled quickly as we assembled the pieces of the puppy golem on the ground, and so the deer in the town convened, gathering around with their fawns. It is a most holy event, one that is always a spectacle, even in informal ascension rituals such as these. The families from town brought gifts: pears, zap-apples, oranges, and grapes, each hoping to hoof-feed Grand a portion of his first meal.

I withdrew Grand's seed from my saddlebag, carrying it to the skull. No words were spoken then, not that there was anything I could say that would have matched the gravity of this moment. The demeanor of the deer told me that this was a most sacred, solemn affair. I held my breath, swallowed, and turned the skull upside down. For one final time, I nervously straightened out the pieces I had slaved over for a month.

I worried that the body wouldn't take, that the shell might reject it. Moments passed like this as I looked down. There was so much weight on my shoulders in that moment, so much pressure to succeed. I must have been trembling, for Blackthorn placed a hoof on my shoulder, reassuring me with whispered words I will never forget.

"Fear is good. It means you care."

Swallowing my apprehension, I placed Grand's shell into the slot in the skull, hoping the dimensions were perfect. I stepped back beside Blackthorn and Kahruvel.

We waited.

Then, light.

Without warning, everything and everyone around us glowed a vibrant, shimmering emerald color, and we looked on only as much as we could. Grand dimmed just as quickly, and I blinked at his shell. Every wooden piece of the golem pulsed now too, then glowed again, rattling in place in the dirt. Silence again. Darkness. Stillness, as Grand's glow ceased. Then, the jaw near the skull glowed by itself. It twitched several times as Grand tested his telekinetic power, then the jaw slid along the ground, rolling and bouncing off the dirt, wheeling into the air. Airborne, it landed squarely on the skull, snapping into place with a wooden clack.

His skull righted itself, and his eyes cast green. Just like that, Grand was born.

The body was too heavy for Grand to pull over, and so he propelled his head across the dirt instead until it was in position at the torso. Next came the legs. One by one, each individual piece of one leg came alive and slid to his core, beginning with his left side. Each clacked as they met his body. With the new leverage of his limbs, he rolled his torso onto its back next, making room for the right side. The twigs I had arranged for his tail snapped right up and immediately collected themselves behind him one after the other, like a flock of birds landing in a tree. He received his eyebrows and ears from the ground.

Throughout it all, his eyes glowed like green fire, his gaze never leaving mine as his body formed. I was in awe, a joyous smile upon my face as I looked upon him with pride.

I could see Grand stand up shakily, trying to hold his balance. His pieces wobbled, but steadied one by one as he sensed himself and flooded the pieces with his soul. When complete, he stood firm and tall, facing me, standing half my height and size, each limb connection swirling with energy that licked off of him in beautiful tapering spires of yellow-green.

Then, without warning... he dove at me.

Grand had been a seed for only a month, born to an older pack and donated to the Dierkahl at their leave. Under the protective watch of the venerated Dierguard, he was given to me. In my care, he was fed and tended to. He watched me as I hunted for him, as I learned to care for him, and as I crafted the body that would house his soul. Knowing nothing, I took great pains to learn and do all I could to bring him into being. I would tell him my trials, would tell him he was my child, and would tell him that when he was grown, he would be as great as his name implied. As but a simple seed, he could do nothing but watch me support him throughout.

This was the first time he could express gratitude.

He collided at my midsection as I reared in sudden fright. He took me backwards, and I clung to him, hugging him in confusion as he clambered all over me with excitement. Blackthorn and the other deer laughed and cheered with elation. I held Grand in my hooves, and he barked over and over, his nose bumping against mine, sensing me out as he met his mother, telling me in his own way that he loved me for all I had done for him. His twiggy tail brushed every which way, paws battering at me awkwardly even as he still learned how to move his new body.

The trial and sacrifice, the fear of failure, the doubts and worries, it all melted away from me in a most wonderful instant... replaced only with a boundless, eternal love. I told him, "autre!" Sing! He howled, and at last I joined with the crowd as they cheered for Grand. We, the town of Briar, celebrated through the evening, and through Grand, I had become family.

Author's Note:

[Marcin PrzybyƂowicz - The Fields of Ard Skellig]

My favorite chapter.