In this world, there are those who use the knowledge that others have taken the time to uncover and inventions that others have created in order to make their lives and the lives of others better, and there are those who seek out that knowledge and do the inventing. Those who do the seeking and inventing are the researchers and innovators of the world—scientists, engineers, and archmages. But, one class of researchers has been basically extinct since the end of The War of Destruction. They were the ones who created all of the various shapeshifting techniques and the gatherers of all of the lore concerning the powers and properties of all races bearing natural shapeshifting ability—only a fraction of which has survived to the present day. These dedicated few were known as the therinai.
The Dawn of Shapeshifter Geekdom
When the first individuals of each race were first created by the gods and placed into the world, they all were granted a rough idea of what abilities they had and how to use them. However, Origia, Goddess of Creation, did not want them to automatically and instinctively know everything. Instead, she wanted to give them room to grow and explore not only the world, but also themselves…this is also why there are still so many mysteries about basic biology. Origia wanted the mortal races to live in a world full of mysteries that needed to be solved and to have the ability to pass on what they had learned to their children. She’s idealistic like that.
Of course, there were those individuals who didn’t care much for poking, prodding, and exploring what anything was from the very beginning. For some, just knowing that something is there and that it somehow works is more than enough…especially when they don’t see how any further poking, prodding, or exploring might be at all useful to them for everyday survival or entertainment. In those early years—as it is at present—those lacking the curiosity or creativity to see the benefit in poking, prodding, and exploring were, unfortunately, the majority in most races.
Because the people who saw the value in poking, prodding, and exploring were the minority, naturally the others in their tribes thought that they were weird—or, dare I say it, uncool—more often than not. However, whenever these folks’ poking, prodding, and exploration produced some piece of knowledge or an invention that somehow improved the lives of their fellows, it earned them great respect…especially if it was something that improved an aspect of life that people valued in the first place, like food, combat, entertainment, health, or social life. The guy who learned how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together was the hero of his tribe for sure. The one who learned how to make fire by blasting a pile of sticks with a spell, even more so.
It is in these early days of discovery that the pokers, prodders, and explorers of races such as the werewolves, the vampires, the merfolk, and the elementals began to look deeper into the nature of their abilities than just the dirt basics. In time, these intrepid early therinai began to discover more advanced shapeshifting techniques, as well as new intricacies of their physical and spiritual natures. In doing so, they helped to improve their peoples’ overall understanding of themselves and their powers. But, all of this progress was still slow going until the races began coming together and trading both goods and ideas.
When Nerds Unite
The different races of the Earth did not remain isolated from each other for very long. Seasonal migrations and youths anxious to see what lay on the other side of yonder hills eventually brought them into contact with their neighbors. Awkward first encounters and initial mistrust and/or attempted conquest slowly gave way to mutual respect, political alliances, and—most importantly—trade. It was not just goods and services that were exchanged between races and tribes, however. Ideas also changed hands in those days.
Really, it is inevitable that when two societies meet, eventually they begin to learn from and influence each other, and those early days of trade were a joyous time to be sure. Business people shared their business models with other business people, inventors shared their latest gadgets with other inventors, mages swapped spells with each other, craftspeople shared special techniques, scientists shared their mind-blowing discoveries, bards learned each other’s songs and stories…and the therinai, too, shared their knowledge with their colleagues. All throughout the world, those who once thought that they were the only ones who were passionate about things that most found too complex or obscure to bother with were now banding together with individuals of all different races who shared their obsessions.
It was in this atmosphere of kindred spirits coming together across racial lines that two great sister cities were raised: Avalonia, renowned far and wide as the Magic Capitol of the World, and Garurulfus, the ancient central hub of shapeshifting study and research. In Garurulfus, shapeshifting beings of all kinds gathered to learn from and about each other, develop new techniques, and improve upon existing ones. In learning how the powers of other shapeshifting beings worked, therinai of different races gained new insight into how their own abilities worked…or didn’t work.
A therinus of one race might, for example, learn of a meditation technique used by another and decide to try it out themselves. In the event that they found that this technique worked for them as well—maybe even better than techniques that their race had been using for generations—they would write of their discovery and it would become part of the lore of their own people. If they found that the technique did not work for them, it would be noted among the many differences between how the powers of the two races worked. In this way, many discoveries about the individual specialties and universal traits of different shapeshifting races were made.
As the centuries passed, the discoveries of the therinai were shared with the larger population of shapeshifting beings and many became common knowledge among them. However, the therinai continued to delve deeper into the mysteries of their powers and nature. Some of them focused solely on the development and refinement of shapeshifting technique. These therinai, known as metamorphists, developed hundreds of different styles and schools of shapeshifting. Some of these were the shapeshifting equivalent of yoga, meant for the perfection of mind, body, and spirit. Others were developed by combining martial arts—such as kung-fu, karate, and tae kwan do—with advanced shapeshifting technique for use in combat.
Then there were the spiritists, therinai whose main focus was gaining a deeper understanding of the spiritual and magical aspects of their powers. The spiritists spent much of their time investigating race-specific magics and meditating for hours at a time. Werewolf therinai of the spiritist discipline are said to have even made detailed maps of their souls’ wildernesses for further study and analysis. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the great discoveries made by both the metamorphists and spiritists were lost as a result of the most cataclysmic war in the history of the world.
Back to Square One
The fall of Garurulfus and the other two great shapeshifting meccas, Marbuel and Alstaff, during The War of Destruction was a tragedy akin to the loss of the great library of Alexandria. As the Alliance of Humanity’s forces overwhelmed the cities’ defenses, citizens fled by the thousands in order to escape being slaughtered or imprisoned (which, given the fact that some factions of The Alliance of Humanity were using evil magics which required blood sacrifices of intelligent beings to work, was sort of the same thing). The cities themselves were sacked and burned during the war, but the greatest blow to the therinai came after the war had come to a close.
The years after The War of Destruction were marked by an ominous collection of simultaneous background events known collectively as The Great Purge. The Great Purge was basically The Red Scare, The Salem Witch Trials, and The Inquisition all rolled into one big, bloody ball of wrongful persecution. In those days, any remaining books or scrolls of lore compiled by the therinai were gathered up and burned in great bonfires and the therinai themelves were branded heretics and “enemies of the public peace.” Therinai were systematically ferreted out, arrested, and executed in droves—along with their families, lovers, friends, pets, and anyone found to be harboring them or their writings.
The Great Purge became so extreme that, at one point, IWHA (International Werewolf Hunters’ Association) black ops agents were sent in to “inspect”—more like raid, really—the central library of Avalonia for “heretical works.” This invasive act pissed off Avalonia’s leaders so badly (especially after all of the damage that The Alliance of Humanity’s forces had done to their politically neutral city during the war) that they threatened to bring down the entire devastating magical might of the city’s elite Magic Knights on the IWHA and all governments supporting them if they didn’t stay the F-bomb out of their business. No, seriously, the official document did, indeed, contain an instance of the F-bomb. Like I said, they were pissed about their library. Needless to say, the IWHA and its partners have left Avalonia and its associated suburbs alone ever since—even the government of the nation in which the city technically resides.
Unfortunately, it seems that The Great Purge successfully eradicated the therinai themselves and much of their hard-won research. The impact of The Purge’s brutal “seek and destroy” policy was so great that most considering becoming therinai were quickly dissuaded, choosing the lives of their loved ones over their own personal desire for knowledge. The disappearance of the therinai, along with the spread of the IWHA’s twisted brand of werewolf lore, also led to a decline in the number of werewolves capable of forging a proper relationship between their human and wolf halves and a disastrous and tragic rise in the number of ferals (see Lycanthropy Part 2: The Wolf Half and the Soul’s Wilderness to learn more).
All that now remains of the legacy of the therinai are a few individuals and small (mostly secret) schools dedicated to keeping what little of the true lore of their race that could be preserved alive. The City of Garurulfus is now a mysterious ruin which has been swallowed up by Darkrest Forest. Because none who have attempted to enter past the city’s third gate have returned to tell of it, the ruin is believed to be cursed and airships are forbidden from flying over it…or even Darkrest Forest, for that matter. Of course, there are a few sky pirates who claim to have flown over the ruins and seen a crumbling and abandoned, but still strangely intact, city below—contrary to the official historical reports, which state that all within the city’s gates was burned to the ground and all that remained afterward was scorched rubble. Then again, sky pirates are known to exaggerate their exploits…
And so ends our piece on the therinai. Join us next week for a brief history of pulp mags—or, comic books as we call them in our world. Until then, you can check out The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner and Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire on Amazon.com and all international iterations thereof (print and Kindle ebook editions available) and Createspace.com. Also, you can find me on Twitter at @DanielleVFreman, and learn about me at a glance on my Pintrest page. Oh, and if you enjoy my books or my blog (or both) don’t be stingy, share the awesome with your friends!