Amongst the remnants of Platon’s vision of an enlightened, elevated society – free of the constraints of rudderless worship and unchained militaristic aggression – one city state stands out for its inherent ruthlessness in both war and faith. Lycaon, home to warriors of immense skill and renown, is a city that has strayed away from the light of the Scholae and Platon’s original design. Instead, it’s citizens focus on perfecting their battle-prowess and ability to persevere against all odds – doing so under the multifaceted tutelage of their patron god, Aecos.
Aecos is the wolf god of survival – claiming Lycaon as his realm and its citizens as his litter. Originally caged by the city state’s now defunct Scholae, Aecos was able to partially escape when the prayers of his followers reached their pinnacle, drawing power from their faith and gnawing on the chains that contained him. With a portion of his power freed, the wolf god disposed of his former captors and established the city as his domain – cementing a state of divine governance. Only partially unfettered, Aecos now seeks to fully escape the constraints devised for him by the slain Lycaon Scholae – aiming to one day release the full breadth of his power onto the world.
The wolf god values and blesses those with the will and skill to survive above all else – welcoming all that can endure and persevere when faced with intense hardship. He is known to have three aspects – assuming the form of each one in a calculated fashion: the Guardian, the Scavenger, and the Hunter. The ever-shifting faces of Aecos often make him an unpredictable deity; the faithful of Lycaon know that the whims of their god are beyond mortal understanding, and they view such fluctuations as divine wisdom.
When assuming the role of the guardian, Aecos becomes characteristically esoteric, guiding his worshipers to focus on their own city’s affairs. During the guardian state, Lycaon resents most interactions with foreign powers, directing their resources to the development of their own city and related infrastructures. Buildings are erected, crops are harvested, and life prospers in relative harmony – for the standards of war-hardened Lycaon at least – and the wolf god seeks to protect and develop his realm with near parental devotion.
While assuming the role of the Scavenger, Aecos reaches a state of targeted absence – roaming beyond his realm more freely. When not absent – as the wolf god tends to disappear, satisfying his own hidden desires, during this phase – Aecos commands his followers to take all they can in the name of survival. As a result, the warriors of Lycaon venture beyond the borders of their city in larger numbers than usual – scavenging, pillaging, raiding, and auctioning their military services to those with the wealth to afford them. When the Scavenger shows his face, Lycaon is expected to provide for itself beyond already claimed resources, for survival requires to take what’s needed through any means necessary.
The aspects of the Guardian and the Scavenger are the two facades Aecos adopts most often, sometimes alternating in swift succession. The third and final aspect is the rarest, showing its fangs upon a sole occasion – war. When the Hunter emerges, the warriors of Lycaon march as a unified spearhead – conducting wars with scalpel-like precision. Unlike the Scavenger – who casts a wide net and takes whatever he can, from whomever shows weakness – the Hunter focuses on a single target, using warfare as a tool to achieve goals that would benefit his realm. The armies of Lycaon are molded into a highly effective force when engaging in large-scale conflicts, using varied and devastating combat doctrines to break and defeat their enemies. Such tactics revolve around psychological, maneuver, and guerrilla warfare – chipping away at hostile defenses before delivering the final blow.
It is theorized by some scholars – outside of Lycaon’s theocratic vigil – that Aecos’ aspects are but a manifestation of the prayers of his faithful. During certain periods and events, the favor of the masses is known to shift from one godly façade to another – often resulting in a corresponding change from the wolf god soon after. Additionally, there are some within Lycaon’s society that choose to constantly venerate a single aspect of their deity – stemming off their personal preferences and desires. Whether the whims and prayers of mortals truly effect the wolf god’s transformation remains unconfirmed, nonetheless.
All citizens of Lycaon are highly trained warriors – putting to shame numerous professional soldiers from other cultures. To become a citizen and be inducted into the city state’s societal structure, one must go through the Trial of Aecos. This sacred test of tenacity and perseverance is open to all who inhabit the lands of Lycaon – the Lycopaethion, meaning the Valley of the Wolf. While all are welcome to take part in the test – including Bred, not just humans – it is usually preferred by the youthful, as one must endure extended physical and psychological hardships to succeed.
Those members of Lycaon that choose not to partake in this critical test of tenacity are required to provide sound reasoning, which is subsequently judged by the priesthood of Aecos. If the argument for abstention is found to be valid, the individual is exempted from the trial process. Circumstantial citizenship is granted – with such individuals being allocated to perform tasks that best serve their city-state, while losing the right to participate in Lycaon’s war councils. Those with lacking reasons for nonparticipation are banished to the northern portion of the Lycopaethion – simply known as the Lycan Wilds – and are declared as recreants.
The Lycopaethion is comprised of two distinct regions – Karpos in the south and the Lycan Wilds in the north – cleanly segmenting Lycaon’s valley home. While the southern expanse of the great valley, Karpos, is filled with fertile farmland and is the spearhead of Lycaon’s modest agricultural endeavors, the northern wildlands stand in stark opposition to their domesticated counterpart. The Lycan Wilds contain gnarled patches of thorny, fruitless vegetation; jagged, root-like rock formations, which make the terrain famously difficult to traverse; and a plethora of hostile wildlife, including roaming wolf-packs. It is to the north that those that have fallen from Aecos’ favor are exiled, forming ramshackle communities and shantytowns throughout the hostile lands they are forced to inhabit. Many of these exiled communities are built upon the ruins of towns and temple-complexes from the Lycopaethion’s past – once venerating deities other than Aecos, such structural remains serve as a grim reminder of those that overburdened the wolf god’s patience. Consisting of criminals, traitors, heretics, and other such unwanted individuals, Lycaon’s exiles harbor a deep-seeded hatred for all that are associated with Aecos – especially individuals that seek divine favor by participating in the sacred trials.
All aspirants, before their test commences, are stripped bare and subsequently given a simple wool tunic and a set of basic tools – including a small knife and a modest length of rope. Only then are the contenders released into the Lycan Wilds, being given a singular goal: survive an entire week within the wildlands. Thus, for an entire week, aspirants must sustain themselves on very little – relying on scant edible vegetation and limited quarry to satiate their hunger. Hunting in these lands is a difficult task in its own right, for there is an overabundance of predators – with limited prey to go around in comparison. It is often the case that aspirants will find themselves to be hunted – in an unfortunate reversal of roles – pursued by snapping jaws and eager howls. Often enough, the pursuers will not be of a bestial nature – with other humans being all too willing to prey on the roaming trial hopefuls.
The banished denizens of the wilds will show feverish hostility towards the trial-takers – seeking to harm them at every opportunity as a heretical jab to the god that forsook them. Those permanently banished to the Lycan Wilds are infected with the Wolfpox: a debilitating disease that sprouts foul, pus-filled pustules across the bodies of the contaminated. Such a sickness cannot be contracted through conventional means, being reserved only for those that have attracted the wolf god’s wrath – or so it is said by Aecos’ followers. Those afflicted by the mystical ailment will not outright perish from it; instead, they will gradually go insane by the burning pain and unimaginable discomfort that sprouts from within their festering bodies. Such culminating agony bestows the branded exiles with unholy strength – their lunacy driving them to a killing frenzy when faced with those not burdened by the wolf god’s curse.
Legends exist, tales told during moonlit nights, of aspirants that are driven mad by hunger and resort to feasting on the flesh of humans and Bred alike. These creatures – called lycanthropes within the local folklore – mutate to resemble a hybrid of man and wolf, ever-hungering for the flesh of their former peers. Most within the city states dismiss such accounts as superstitious drivel – gory tales meant to entrain and spook the uneducated. Others claim that the wolfish horrors are in fact real – though such statements have never been backed through first-hand sightings. Yet, within the recesses of city state scholarly discourse, an odd theory lingers: could these lycanthropes be the lost fourth race of Bred that were gifted by the Spires?
If an aspirant manages to complete the Trial of Aecos, that individual is gifted with a modest parcel of farmable land, a complete panoply, and a set of weapons. The life of a fully-fledged citizen is shaped by the whims of the wolf god – oath bound to march to war, when called to do so, and tending to his land when not required to don the mantle of the warrior.
When it comes to the earthly stewardship of Aecos’ realm, two mortals have been chosen to rule on his behalf – acting under his divine tutelage. These are Deimos, the king of Lycaon, and Niki, the warrior queen of the city-state. Deimos is a shrewd demagogue and spymaster, controlling and supervising Lycaon’s affairs from the shadows. The wolf king is rarely seen outside the walls of his palace – built upon the ruins of the city’s former Scholae and housing Aecos’ partially ruptured prison – operating instead through his extensive network of agents and infiltrators.
Niki, in stark contrast, is rarely seen within the city’s boundaries, leading Lycaon’s armies on the battlefield instead. The warrior queen, affectionally called the “Huntress” by her followers, is a peerless warrior and tactician. Her lithe yet densely muscled figure is a well-oiled machine, battling with poise and precision. The queen’s mind is equally masterful – handling battlefield preparations, strategies, and war-time diplomacy with the skill of a seasoned artisan. Yet, talented tacticians are not in short supply within the city states: what sets Niki apart is her ability to combine the roles of the diplomat and the general, seeking to disarm an enemy through negotiations before resorting to bloodshed. When not leading her armies at the forefront of a military campaign, the warrior queen prefers to supervise the many fortified camps that dot the borders of Lycaon – only returning to Lycaon to convene with her mate and co-ruler. The king and queen of the wolf god’s chosen city have produced two offspring – a son and a daughter – yet neither is guaranteed to inherit their parents’ throne. Aecos’ himself chooses who rules under his grace, electing a new ruler whenever he deems necessary.
Aecos’ favored city state seeks only to survive – persevering in a hostile world through steel, tenacity, and faith. Vigilant over his realm, the wolf god seeks to fully sever his leash – wishing to unearth the full extent of his power that the Scholae withheld from him.