• 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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6. Ethology and Adulthood, by Blackthorn

Ethology and Adulthood

By Blackthorn


"Iy fi rien tya fi horza? 'Yuut soh fera cha, fror cha glista latya qua nyali quiva cereta, iy latra nyeli soh'uut. Iy quan cha rotat, flova ichnesa sho-la latya quar nyeli soh'uut eska bera. Vida es a sik-la, nei vanna, iy fror krahtt nyu quiva rowanset, fosi simtei ichnesa nyu ganna."

Eksen: Pg. 322. Oxalis Grova, be Urtica na Onnotdalasa.


Life Cycle

During the Dark War, a Vorku's life cycle consisted of only two phases: the vessel and the final adult form. We quickly learned the consequences of this first rapid formation. Smaller Vorku took to their forms more readily but peaked sooner, unable to reach their full potential. Larger Vorku had greater potential, but lacked the strength to properly inhabit their bodies with a small crystal. This led to weaknesses and deficiencies we had not accounted for. As a result, not all Vorku were strong enough to survive the final battle, suffering from incomplete bonds that allowed a specter to devour the energy within their crystal.

For the second and third Vorku generations, study of these maladies led to several improvements in golem design, the most impactful of which was the implementation of an interim puppy phase. With a smaller "practice" body, the Vorku can experiment with less biomass, learning to move efficiently and to grow throughout the wood with relative ease. Even wild Vorku, whose designs are often a simple collection of logs, have incorporated our pup phase into their life cycle.

With this phase, their maturity may be reached without incident. To support the new youth, their pack will capture wisps and restrain them, helping their weak young to feed more directly upon wisps they cannot yet catch. As the pup feeds, they gain better control over their cohesion, their speed, and their precision. This puppy phase may last anywhere between a month or a year, depending on availability of their food and the familiarity of their lineage with the wood of their creation.

Packs that are in connection with a preternatural Vorku will socialize their young with deer quite regularly. As such, deer fawns are commonly encouraged to keep a bowl of fresh fruit by their bedside, always ready to feed a visiting wild Vorku puppy who may approach deer settlements for scraps. Mashing freshly picked fruit in their jaws will release hints of forest energy, which will be captured by their crystal soul and stored. The loose pulp will be carried in their jaws, attracting bacteria and molds in time which then further sustain the Vorku as they metabolize the food, releasing minute traces of energy.

For sanitary reasons, a deer or pony parent may elect to clean this excess out once a week. This preference for cleanliness will often persist with the Vorku after they have left the care of their parent, and they will use flowing rivers or streams to clean their jaws. Wild Vorku however will retain this excess rotten pulp for longer periods in order to capitalize on additional metabolizing energy, for their forms typically do not hold charge as strongly as their preternatural cousins do.

As discussed before, a pup's biomass must be fully incorporated into that of its adult form, for its soul is inexorably bound to their body. As such, every adult Vorku made by hoof contains the pieces of their younger form. A parent must thus carefully consider the size and shape of the final form long before they've begun to fabricate the pup golem, for its intended dimensions must be precise and must match the proportional, mathematical limits cast by the size and weight of the initial Vorku seed.

The design of the Vorku adult's golem is open to parental interpretation and creative liberties. This is where a creator's artistic creativity will shine through. When the adult body is complete, the puppy golem will allow itself to fall apart, and the parent will insert each piece where they belong, and each are neatly encased into their adult golem with natural glue before they take root. To complete the seal, the parent simply slots the puppy skull within the adult one.

Wild Vorku do not bother with such complexities. Their bodies are made of twigs and a roughly cobbled skull, and so they will simply collect twigs as they travel, appending them to their body for storage until the first birth day of the young Vorku. Often, the pack will assist with the body, but the skull is always completed by the parent themselves.

Once the adult golem is completed and the puppy's skull and body are inserted within, the form is final. The Vorku will fuse the pieces together permanently, after which no alterations or corrections may be made. Each piece of wood is given immense strength by the enchantments provided to them, and the Vorku's soul will fully control its new vessel. Any attempt to cut into the wood will dispel the enchantments that control their integrity, causing a severe and immediate pain reflex in the Vorku.

After ascension, one will require one full lunar cycle to adapt to their new bodies.


Hunting

Wisps remain evasive survivalists despite their ghostly forms and lack of any obvious intellect. They are quick, some boasting speeds twice that of a deer at full speed. A pack of Vorku must therefore employ several basic tactical maneuvers to trap, corner, or outwit even the smallest of these beings. However, wisps are still subject to all of the awareness rules of living animals, and so sneaking up on them is entirely possible for a more cunning hunter.

A drained Vorku will lack the strength to persist in a full run, and may be more impulsive and desperate in their hunting techniques. This is why having a pack is especially important, for they can share energy or assist in a hunt.

There are several attack maneuvers, the first and most simple of which is a pincer. In this method, two or more Vorku will converge on a wisp from opposite sides to confuse them. Vorku may or may not use stealth in this attack, depending on terrain, time of day, number in a pack, or their eagerness to feed.

Another direct technique is known as howl cornering. If possible, a pack will scout a region for any natural boundaries they may use to corner the wisp, such as rivers, lakes, cliff faces, and boulders, thereby "cornering" their prey for a final attack. During execution, the pack will howl to route their prey toward these obstacles. They will then close the distance, alternating their howls to force the wisp to double back repeatedly until it reaches the obstacle.

A pack will become more selective of their meals when they have reached near to their full capacity. If they are near full, they will avoid expending the energy of another wisp. Instead, they will employ "recursive sustenance." In this, a Vorku may recursively "feed" on the fruit that has recently sprouted from a discharged wisp's energy. Once gorged, a Vorku's body will glow green, the magic unable to conceal itself within the body as it gathers. When in this state, the pack will distribute this excess by moving to a magically weaker part of the forest within their territory.


Guardianship and Patrols

After periods of feeding, Vorku will cease hunting and begin protection patrols in earnest.

All Vorku investigate for non-indigenous life in their patrols of the forest.

Environmental homeostasis is their goal. They are drawn to centers of distress or conflict in the forest, but will otherwise allow the natural order to take place. If a bird eats a mouse, this is accepted. If a hydra eats a bear, this is accepted. If a group of cragadiles challenges a hydra for territory, this is accepted.

Invasive species and wisps are the exception, and a pack will hunt for these within their region in the order of their size, from largest to smallest. A new, standard size wisp is not typically considered a serious threat to a region. However, an overgrown wisp presents an ecological threat if left unchecked. As they grow, they will absorb forest energy with exponentially increasing speed and with no regard for limitations. In their wake, a sapped forest will wither and die.

A Vorku pack on patrol will investigate oddities and strangeness that does not match with their collective memory of an area. They will often visit the ruins of old cities and structures for example, to ensure that the status quo has not been disturbed. Interlopers who have been found to have taken any artifacts from these regions will be pursued and issued a single opportunity to return what they have taken. Those who have committed vandalism against these ruins, however, are at risk of being attacked outright and without warning.

Of especial note are invasive creatures that are dangerous to the Evavrai ecosystem, and for this I provide an example. The basic Equestrian house sparrow is known as a nuisance animal in the Evavrai. These seed-eating birds have stronger beaks than insect-eaters, and will simply murder weaker birds to steal their housing. For a time, this led to an undue population decline and subsequent insect overpopulation, something the Vorku took strong issue with. After this vast imbalance, Vorku have since begun to kill invasive sparrows on sight, usually by leveling its paw like a cannon and launching a claw at them with its telekinesis.

Make no mistake: Our Guardians, for all their intelligence and respect for deerkind and the forest, are still dangerous creatures to all other beings. Outsiders to our ecosystem are at increased risk of threat or attack by Vorku, even if they have not committed an outward offense. Even if the techniques in this volume are followed to the letter, we make no assurance as to the safety of ponies, griffs, or other sapient creatures who tread our lands.

There is hope, however, that this can be changed for ponies with a cooperative effort.

Vorku Grand is a living experiment. It is the hope of the Dierkahl that his unique upbringing will present pony intent to the forest once more, and that our Guardians will again remember ponykind and permit them to pass in peace as readily as they do for deer. It appears to be working. Grand has had many peaceable interactions with ponies under the careful guidance of Apex. Further, Grand's pack - including my own Kahruvel - have adopted his sentiment toward ponies through soulsharing, each becoming more sociable and comfortable in a pony's presence. With time, each cumulative experience will lend toward a new and open peace with our old national neighbors.


Graywood Vorku

Certain lineages of woods are less open to intent transfer than others. Some packs are made of woods that remain resistant (though not immune) to soulsharing, instead gleaning their energy mostly from the wisps and food that they eat. This means they are also resistant to territorial expansion, and thus these Vorku often focus their energies on one area. Because they do not share their territories readily, that are very slow to learn new habits from their more broadly socialized brethren.

These include species of graywoods, certain enchanted oaks, or even yew to a lesser extent - the last of which causes varying manic temperaments. The Lohvorku made of these woods are historically more dangerous to strangers, and have been known to attack non-deer travelers on sight without provocation or warning. Our previous Liege, Queen Cascara, has seen these risks, and has thus fully suspended the use of these woods in preternatural Vorku pending additional study by the Dierguard.

In certain regions, non-deer travelers may find themselves coming across Vorku that do not respond to a Cerfish Declaration of Peace. Of especial concern are those wayfaring in the northern region of the Evavrai. Take note of Vorku body language when issuing the Declaration of Peace: if their stance does not become less hostile (a narrowing of the shoulders, a straightening of the ears, a tilting of the head), retreat immediately. For unicorns especially, avoid magical discharge throughout a Vorku interaction at all costs, even simple telekinesis. Guardians are highly sensitive to local magical energies, and this may enrage them if you have not yet earned their trust.


All Captains of the Dierguard will raise at least one Vorku seed to adulthood. This is a rite of passage, for their development matches our training. Kahruvel's design was thus steeped in deep tradition, a reflection of our cultural heritage, of my own personal upbringing, and of the deep and storied history of Vorku kind. Kahruvel's golem was given the distinct flourish and curvature of our race's historical artistry; the light, fleet footed frame of the ancient and nimble Evavrai lupines; and the dense redwood matter that surrounds the city of my birth.

Kahruvel's upbringing included regular contact with deer young and old, and his adulthood was partially spent in the company of a pony. Because of this, he has been in unity with Grand, and has encountered many traveling ponies in his travels over the past decade. Without exception, each have received their approval and good welcome. Through Grand and Kahruvel both, the wild Vorku they have soulshared with also hold similar consideration toward pony outsiders.

This is in stark contrast to the demeanor of the Lohvorku, and I offer an anecdotal example of the risks inherent in these older lineages. The largest Lohvorku territories lie within the Northern Evavrai, where Sombra's horde first entered our sacred home. These packs are all born to the deer hailing from one of our larger historical cities, so known as Blue Forest. This, unfortunately, was the first major Dierkahl city to be razed. The anger of the few surviving deer was strong, for they had watched their kin be devoured by the Dark Army which bore the shadow shape of ponies. In the descendants of the first Lohvorku, this anger persists, and they are thus quite hostile to any outsiders.

Once during her training, Apex and I traveled to this region to experiment, hoping to socialize a recently adult Grand and Kahruvel with this tribe. As a deer, the first Lohvorku pack we encountered showed me due respect and I passed without challenge. However, when Apex issued her Declaration of Peace, they showed notable confusion. To them, this creature was not a deer, though she spoke and acted as though she was. Her passage was only tentatively permitted, though the pack followed from afar for the duration of the day, clearly suspicious.

We were challenged by this same pack the next morning, now several miles northward, and Apex again offered a Declaration of Peace. This time, her Declaration was ignored, the Lohvorku advancing rapidly. I interposed myself between them and informed the Vorku that ponies were again welcome in the Dierkahl. The Vorku relented, but continued to follow, their body language clearly showing more discomfort at her presence than before.

As Apex and I discussed the prospect of leaving, the pack suddenly lunged, displaying severe aggression. I again stood before them in defiance. This time, they ignored my orders to stand down, circumnavigating me and charging her. To our relief, Grand himself stood in her defense, knocking her down and standing over her such that they could not reach her without first striking him. He issued a loud growl in counter. This, and this alone, stayed their assault. We left the region immediately with all haste, and they again followed, matching pace as we tirelessly returned to central Dierkahl.

We offer a general advisement that these northern lands are closed to the settlement or travels of ponies, donkeys, griffs, zebras, and others. Those who travel the Blue Territories do so at their own risk, and a grasp of Cerfish will not provide adequate protection from Lohvorku as it does in the rest of our land.

There exists one notable exception. Kehl Luna's Vorku Nyx'it, made of graywood, yet lives even today, specifically roaming in and around the territories of Two Sisters. Curiously, she has never expanded her region beyond this land. Due to the pony origin of this original Lohvorku and the comparative lack of hate or anger during her creation, Nyx'it appears to hold some latent respect of her creator's kind. Despite this, we discourage any prolonged stay in the Two Sisters region. This pack may be more tolerant than its northern cousins, but this does not make them as tolerant as our standard Vorku. If you must enter this region, we highly suggest learning the old language beforehoof.


End of Duty

In the Dierkahl, a Vorku's life span can be measured in lunar cycles. Just as the magic of the forest seems to be influenced by the soft light cast by the moon, so too are the wisps and the Vorku. As the moon waxes, strength floods the Evavrai; as it wanes, strength leaves.

Within the first two decades of Vorku genesis, Equestrian scientists discovered that all Vorku lose some maximum charge after each full moon. Their maximum capacity at birth is further influenced by the type of wood used in the creation of their vessels. In simplest terms, harder wood leads to a longer Vorku life span. If we know roughly when a Vorku was born, its approximate biomass, and the wood it was created with, it is possible to predict the exact lunar cycle of its passing. This allows us to chart the progress of each individual with exceptional accuracy.

All woods are technically acceptable regardless of lifespan, current safety suspensions of magic woods notwithstanding. Based on historical data, Vorku made of softer woods, such as pines, redwoods, or firs, will retire in approximately 43 to 50 years. Those of maple, oak, or hickory may last as long as 55 to 104. Those of yew are less predictable by weight alone, ranging anywhere between 40 to 157 years. The two species of naturally enchanted oaks in the Evavrai will last roughly 335 to 380 years. Finally, graywood Lohvorku may live anywhere between 720 and 815 years.

Always the exception, Nyx'it appears to have outlasted all of our predictions at a staggering 1023 years old at the time of this volume's publishing. We theorize that this may have to do with her unique connection to Kehl Luna: Her Majesty's own life energies persist within Nyx'it, the result of the minuscule amounts of life energy shared between a Vorku and their parent during upbringing.

As a Vorku nears its final waning cycle, it will weaken, becoming slow as its ability to control its golem will steadily fade. Upon their final day, the dying Vorku will seek a tree, often selecting one that matches the wood of its construction. There, they will lay. Their pack will lay with them, soulsharing side-by-side throughout the evening. As this process continues, each individual wooden piece of the dying Vorku will lose its charge until naught is left but the skull. Finally, as the skull surrenders its charge, so too does the crystal within. Their eyes flicker, fade, and finally dim. When the last of their light is at last given away to the forest, the others will awaken. Without pause, they carry on, one fewer in number.

In preparation of these events, scouts of the Dierguard will follow these packs, making camp together as the Vorku perform the final soulshare of their brethren. As the pack leaves, we collect the golem. Their natural end is never mourned by our kind, but celebrated, for a natural end is a completed cycle. As a Vorku reaches its end capacity, they return their energy to the land, forever commending their experiences to the eternal vel'ki. After, we forever honor their lives, escorting these holy golems to their final resting place in the Mausoleum of Guardians.

Author's Note:

[Marcin PrzybyƂowicz - Lady of the Lake]

Blackthorn likes his science. Luna will be discussing the Mausoleum next chapter with a good ol' story, and with that, we'll get to know King Alpine a little better. Stay tuned!

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