Unlike the wendigoes of Native American legend—who are men transformed into ravenous, man-eating beasts through the act of cannibalism—the windigoes of the Star-Runner Chronicles universe are not simply dangerous eating machines. Windigoes have the greatest physical strength out of all three shapeshifter races, along with the biggest appetites, but they are also the race that is the most in tune with the natural world and are able to learn how to look into and even influence other people’s dreams. Unfortunately, due to their passing similarities to werebeasts, windigoes have lived under the same uncomfortable veil of secrecy and paranoia since the end of The War of Destruction.
The Wildest Shifters
While the werebeasts’ default form is their human form and the vampires’ default form is (theoretically) their manbeast form, the windigoes’ default form is their beast form. Like werebeasts, windigoes come in different beast types. Those seven types are: wolf, bear, coyote, wolverine, cougar, jaguar, and raccoon. In animal form, a windigo is typically between two and two and a half times larger than an average animal of that species, and will often have an unusual fur color indicative of their natural hair color in human form. A windigo’s manbeast form is quite similar to that of a werebeast, except that their hair and fur are always the same color (unless they’ve dyed their hair), and their eyes always change to the animal’s default eye color.
Like a vampire, a windigo’s transformations are not dictated by the lunar cycle, but by their own will—and, occasionally, their feelings. Because they needn’t worry about the full moon, windigoes have an easier time blending in among humans…well, so long as they can hold their human forms. Unlike werebeasts and vampires, windigoes must learn not only how to change into their other forms, but also how to hold those forms for extended periods of time under various physical and emotional conditions. Depending on a windigo’s personality and endurance, perfecting these techniques can take anywhere from two years to nearly a decade.
But, to balance out their difficulties with shapeshifting, windigoes have other advantages. Unlike werebeasts, who must bond with their beast half through meditation, windigoes are simply part human and part animal on the inside without any sort of split between their human and animal sides. This makes it impossible for windigoes to go feral, as their human and beast sides are so inextricably merged together that most of the time they can’t really tell if an impulse is animal instinct or human thought anyway!
Windigoes are also capable of speaking to animals in the same family as their own beast type (direbears can speak with all ursines, direwolves and direcoyotes can speak to all canines, direcougars and direjaguars can speak with all felines, and so on). This once was an advantage to them in ancient times—and in modern times, still is in some remote places—because they could be counted on to reason with wild animals and talk them out of bothering with the local livestock, or mediate disputes between pets and their masters. In this way, their closeness to nature allowed them to keep the peace between the wild and civilized worlds, and many peoples went to great lengths to attract families and tribes of direbeasts to their villages, cities, and kingdoms.
In addition, windigoes are the most physically powerful of the shapeshifter races—being, on average, five to six times stronger than a human, as opposed to three to four times stronger for werebeasts and twice as strong for vampires—and have the largest appetites. In fact, some legends and rumors tell of windigoes eating things that are generally considered inedible, such as metal and wooden eating utensils, ceramic dishes, and even stone and rubber! How accurate these tales are is up in the air, but since it is well known that a direwolverine’s jaws can exert enough pressure crack a diamond in half (meaning, by extension, that their teeth are harder than diamond)…well, everyone at least believes it’s plausible.
Mostly, windigoes tend to settle in towns and villages that are surrounded by untamed wilderness or cities that at least have very large public parks with plenty of wooded areas. This is because they become edgy and depressed in overly cultivated and paved-over environments. They need to be able to go out into the wilderness—or, at least, a place which gives the illusion of wilderness—on a regular basis, or else they begin to feel like prisoners…even in their own homes. No one knows quite why this is, but some theorize that windigoes subconsciously need to feel connected to the untamed world and free to return at any time, and city streets and cultivated fields are far too altered from their natural state to facilitate those feelings. Others believe that it is an unconscious fear of domestication which causes the anxiety. Whatever the case, windigoes absolutely need to be close to nature to remain mentally and emotionally whole.
Becoming a Windigo
Like the other two shapeshifter races, windigoes are capable of transforming humans. In order to achieve this, a windigo must first wound the human (whether with their own teeth or claws or with a knife). Alternately, the human can already have been wounded by someone or something else…however, most windigoes will not use pre-existing wounds unless the human has volunteered to be changed or is critically injured. Once the human is wounded, the windigo slices off a small bit of their own flesh and places it inside of the wound. The bit of flesh instantly binds into the flesh of the human being transformed and begins sending out envoy cells—cells brimming with wild magic which infuse every human cell they come into contact with. This begins the painful metamorphosis from human to windigo.
Potions and spells can also be used to initiate the metamorphosis. These spells and potions cause certain cells in the individual’s own body (usually immune cells) to transform into envoy cells and begin to infuse the other cells in the body. A metamorphosis caused in this way is no less painful than a “natural” transformation…and, sometimes, is even more painful.
The metamorphosis generally takes twelve to eighteen hours to complete. When it is finished, the new windigo is in their beast form and is generally very hungry and very grumpy. After eating their fill, though, the grumpiness usually subsides and they can begin getting a feel for their new body.
Of course, there are also plenty of born windigoes in the world as well. When a windigo has children with another windigo, their children are always windigoes as well. When a windigo has children with a member of any other race, however, there is a fifty-fifty chance for each child to be either a windigo or that other race. Windigoes are always born in their beast form, so it’s usually not too difficult to tell which parent’s race the child inherited, and the little ones begin figuring out how to shapeshift at one to two years of age.
Windigoes are generally very adept with heart and spirit magic, regardless of their individual elemental alignment. As a result of this, they are endowed with a magical gift that they share with only a few fae races (such as the incubi/succubae) and Rem, God of Dreams, himself: the ability to observe and influence other people’s dreams. However, the ability—referred to as “dreamwalking”—is rather difficult to learn and master.
The first step to mastering dreamwalking is for a windigo to master the art of influencing and manipulating their own dreams at will. Of course, this in return requires the individual to learn how to instantly recognize the difference between dreaming and wakefulness—which, in itself, can be difficult at times. With intense enough training, however, mastery of one’s own dreams can be achieved in as little as a year and a half.
After learning to control one’s own dreams, the next step is learning to dream at will. This can take another six months to a year to master before one is ready to actually seek out and connect to the dreams of others and, eventually, give them specific dreams or insert oneself into the target’s dreams. Mastering the final phases usually takes another two years.
In all, it takes, on average, five years to master dreamwalking. Highly skilled and talented dreamwalkers can enter another person’s dreams at any time, from anywhere, and even access multiple people’s dreams at once. Fables tell of dreamwalkers who have stolen state secrets, injured others, made love to them, and even conceived children in their dreams. Some of the more evil persuasion have even been known to actually kill people! Most, however, use this ability to spy on other people’s deepest, darkest fears and desires, play pranks, help people get over deep traumas, or just generally mess with people’s heads.
Windigoes and the IWHA
The IWHA (International Werewolf Hunters Association) has been working hard to—and succeeding at—painting windigoes as the werewolves’ villainous partners in crime. Werewolf hunters sent on jobs to slay werewolves only to find their targets are windigoes are fully allowed to finish the job and collect the bounty anyway. As far as the IWHA is concerned, windigoes are just as bad as werewolves and are in just as much need of eradication.
As a result of these years of persecution, some windigoes have come to resent werewolves—and werebeasts in general—and/or the IWHA. Most, however, don’t waste time on resentment and focus on either just living their lives as best they can or finding sly and clever ways to undermine the IWHA. There are several windigoes (from average Joes/Janes to cops to sky pirates) who are involved with a group called The Restorationists, a multi-racial underground organization whose main goal is to thwart the efforts of the IWHA and restore peace between the races who have been slandered since the end of The War of Destruction and the rest of the world. There is no official word on whether or not windigoes have actually infiltrated the IWHA, but the organization’s licensing practices make it highly unlikely that anyone of any unapproved race has managed to get in…
Well, that does it for this week. Since we’ve mentioned The Restorationists here, join us next week for a breakdown of the various important factions (rumored and known) battling over the fate of the world even after The War of Destruction’s end. Until then, check out The Star-Runner Chronicles books on Amazon.com (Print and Kindle ebook versions available). If you’re so inclined, you can also check out my Twitter page at @DanielleVFreman, and poke about my Pinterest page to learn about me at a glance. And, as always, if you like my blog or my books, go ahead and tell all of your friends about them! Already read one or both Star-Runner Chronicles titles? Do drop a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Even a review that’s just your star rating and/or a simple statement of whether you liked what you read or not is fully appreciated! ^_^