Ronin Of Dreams
Name: What’s in a Name? “Grinner” will do. Or “Devil”.
Race: Jackal Therianthrope - a Devil of the Sands
H/W/L: 4.5 hands / 2 stone / 8.5 hands
Age: What a Curious Construct of Man
Seeing is Believing: The Jackal is a Jackal. Thin, wiry, and gaunt, though its pelt remains luxurious indeed. Glossy charcoal black stemming from its crown down the length of his back to the base of its tail, the rest tawny with the occasional tuft of chocolate brown save the smallest patch of white from its throat just to the start of its ribs. Paired shapes can almost be picked out in the fur along its back, a shade more black than grey, but ever so difficult on its frame. Yet it’s the amber eyes that are most troubling. They shine and glisten with uncanny intelligence, and to stare within is to see what Truth in Madness lies…
I knew a Truth. Perhaps.
In fact, we Jackal knew many Truths. Truths of the World and of Time and of our Place in things. It set us apart from our cousins - the other Devils - and let us laugh in their faces time and again; even after their physical prowess beat us into submission.
Did you know, we bore the Sun across the Sky at the Dawn of Time once. It is why our fur is scorched so dark. It is why our brethren Devils never dared hunt us to the last.
Or was it my return? Time is such a fickle concept. There is Today. And there is Tomorrow, where there may be no food. Whereas Yesterday was all about Lessons learned and Truths gained. Why does it really matter how many Yesterdays there are or how many Tomorrows will come? There is just Today.
I remember... there was once a Willow Dryad. An oasis. Entrapment. Forgetfulness. A Time of Peace and inaction, of only a series of Todays. But a Time that did end; with the scent of steel, and blood, and sand.
I remember a Time...after? A Time of Remembrance. Of sweet meat and fresh, hot blood. Of Vengeance and Hunting. Of feasting on Hearts and Skins.
I remember… We remember…? No, we do not remember how long this Glory did last, this Time of full bellied largesse. We do remember the Voices, though. How that number grew within.
Then. What then? Then the times of Hunger. We remember Truths once precious became Lies. Of husks withered and Skins sacrificed. Starvation. Dehydration. The death of Devils far and wide. But this Jackal survives.
Did I carry the Sun? Did we kill the Devils, all? Are we Hungry or Sated?
I am most Comfortable now. Whatever this Today is, amidst these Crimson Sands. They smell... familiar. Curiously familiar, as recognizable as the den where I was whelped. They stir... recollections. What were we here... a fever dream? Were there scarabs…?
I Remember these Things…
Though I remember them... poorly. A secret of steel, of glistening curves. The cutting edge with a musical name. Laughing as they drew blood, bright, red, and hotly fresh. A taste of copper before a relished meal. Bleached white hilts hewn from femurs. My femurs. My bone. My Harpes in my hands. My paws? No... hands. That’s right, I had Hands once. I had Skins.
I Remember… a Devil’s Due
Normal Jackals do not have hands. Nor do the Lion, the Hyena, the Crocodile or any number of Avian. But Devils learned a powerful Truth. We are Therianthrope. We Dance from Skin to Skin as is our Desire. But... I... we... our Skins are Precious and Few now. Expired, consumed so as not to starve. Forgotten as Dead. I cannot be Wasteful. I must be... myself? No, a Jackal does not fight, and should that become must, I need an answer.
There is one. We Devils needed an Answer once, against the encroachment of Man upon our lands. An answer to keep from being hunted - not for food, a Hunt we understood, but for sport. An answer to a heresy. I Remember how we became the Devil. How did it go…
An Effort of Will. A Desire to Change. To Walk upon Two Legs. An Insatiable Hunger. And Pain... great Pain in the Act. It brought along Injury Remembered, and shaped by Age Realized. The key was to Forget the Pain of Injury, and it would not be there. And I do not Like to Remember the concept of Age.
I can forget the latter. We laugh at it. Mock it. Deride it. But are we...am I still capable of the Former? The gnaw of hunger is ever persistent. How do we forget that? Have we ever forgotten that? We must have, or I would have Starved Yesterday. Would Starve Today.
It must be Difficult, or why do We not Walk Thusly now? Or is it because of the Others nearby...did it unsettle them? Must have, or why would we choose such to War against Man? And that hunger...hard enough to feed on carrion and prey as a Jackal. No, we... I?...must not take that form lightly.
I Struggle to Remember... How That Felt…
Taller. Much taller, but how tall? Tall enough to Loom over the Manthings that wished to take our lands and our lives. Lanky and limber. So much growth into limbs to support walking upright, but not the bulk for great strengths. Strength was for Lion, bulk for Hyena. Fast and limber and long of reach to match our height, that was Jackal ways. And I still had My Tail, hadn’t I? Yes. Yes, and my ears! My ears were unfettered, still free to swivel and pinpoint Our Foe. Better to Hunt than be Hunted, and with teeth keen and sharp. Teeth to tear and rend, to pluck the choicest bits and tenderest organs when feasting on the slain, or to rip out throats should We come to grips too close for Harpe.
There was even Greater a Truth…
Swirling with Familiarity. One Thought touches upon the Next as I recall Tomorrow with the scent of Yesterday still fresh like rain. A Jackal Truth. It began with Stone and Sand... but Earth itself was a lie for there are no Gods. Traction? Gravity? Space and Time? All perspectives to be used. Abused. Redefined We Found the Greater Truth. We Stand as We Please. The most fragile leaf upon water will not so much as budge, nor make a ripple, should we leap off of it. A single mote of airborne sand is as solid as the walls of an obelisk. Lie though it may now be, anything of Earth or borne from Earth we Define. Even should we wish to walk along a limb upside down. All the better to laugh from.
Ahem. I author this press release to admit to one and all that I am not allowed to IC-ize this mechanics talk. No matter how hilarious or engaging I could make it. Not allowed. No matter how much egging on and sidebets were made to that end. Which means it is time for mechanics talk. I did honestly try to make the above bio a very close-to-accurate means of reflavoring and adjusting the original Willow Man bio from the 2017 ECs for theatrical flair. To do something slightly different without doing copypasta. And since I still dislike copypasta, I shall give these mechanics but I’ll NOT refer to that bio if I can help it.
Well, save for raw statistics for consistency.
For the type of shapeshifter that a Devil technically is, I suppose this is actually relevant, because they are by definition genderfluid in human forms. But the Jackal, the core being, is male. As I do not intend to ever take upon a Skin (see later), this is probably just a technicality at best.
Harpes - Weapons made from bone and blood - yes, you can literally harvest the iron from blood if you have enough of it, but no I’m not going to do the exact math - these swords are intrinsically linked to the Jackal. They are, quite literally, a part of him. As a Jackal they manifest as patterns in his fur. In any other state, they are curved blades that are held and used as swords are often designed to do. To combat a foe and, if necessary, kill said foe.
These are very much based on actual historical weapons, mind. The design, that is, not the blood-iron bit. That bit is all just creepy theatrics and literary license. While there are at least two different versions of harpe discussed by historians, to make things clear, the harpes referenced here are NOT the straight edge with sickle protrusion type. Rather they are the slight curve type with a hook end, not too terribly dissimilar to a khopesh.
If he transforms back to his jackal state and his swords are not on hand or within, say, three feet of his body…? No joy. So yes, they can be lost and that absence will be felt keenly.
There are two to talk about from the bio - transformation and the Greater Truth - and one technicality to address given mentioned concerns. We’ll start with the latter from the bio first.
I would like to hope that this was actually rather nicely explained within the somewhat IC stylized bio above, actually. This is a natural evolution of both Stance of Stone and Shifting Sands from the original Willow Man bio. I figure after such a long and indeterminate amount of time, he had to grow somehow, even as he went quite a bit mad along the way. Again. Mad again, that is. Anyway - he rather literally defines the concept of purchase, traction, and in a manner of speaking gravity. A moment, to quote the original Shifting Sands:
"Any mote of Earth can support him, and thusly he can push off of any measure large or small. His footing is always assured when against Earth, and it enables feats of mobility Mankind can barely imagine.”
There isn’t too much functional difference from the above, but the Greater Truth is about defining the Place of Oneself relative to the Earth. So while he can still push off a speck of freshly-thrown airborne sand as safely and effectively as if it were a boulder - well, now he can define himself as standing upright while the rest of the world happens to be upside down. When, obviously, the fact is that He is upside down by standing on a tree limb.
Also as a reminder, it’s all about the Earth. Water? Sinks like a jackal. Ice? Slip and slide time. Light projection? Right on through! But a leaf on a pond? Jump off of without even making a ripple in the water.
...it’s a little thing, but it’s a wonderfully fun psychological tool.
It’s tough to remain succinct without falling into the trap of re-referencing the old bit on this, but here’s a go anyway though I may keep some of the more wonderful phrasing bits.
The Transformations of a Devil of the Sands is...not simple. It strains the very fabric of their being, but is as much a mental effort as a physical expression of changing form. They are as old as they believe themselves to be, leading to a state of semi-functional immortality - as long as they don’t think themselves as old, frail, or elderly then they do not become those things. Which, in the brain-addled madness of the former Willow Man, has become rather functionally true instead of theoretically so. He is as he once was, a being who is Ageless.
He is not, however, immortal in other senses. The Jackal doth bleed, and pain is a construct of the mind that he can no longer shake as well as he should have. Transitioning from form to form once carried with it healing of all wounds - for the pain of injury was once replaced by the pain of the transformation itself. Consider this both a ramification of how warped this particular therianthrope’s mind has become, to have lost a core function, as well as an act of willful balance.
The Jackal also has precious few Skins left. So he will not be shifting into a Human Guise - this is intentional from an OOC standpoint. I, for one, would like to keep very clean differences between the Jackal and Lovelace. For another, I don’t really need it - I relish the challenge of being the animal mind far more than I do portraying a deceitful disguise of manflesh. Been there, done that, so let’s get the “new” (and proper!) perspective shall we?
But that does mean you’ll need the warform aspects nonetheless, because while I don’t plan on the Jackal being at the forefront of any combat whatsoever, the plot may yet demand it. The description in the bio is accurate, but I suppose lacks concrete enough statistics. Namely, the war form is no stronger than your average Fit Man. Perhaps on the faster end of the spectrum when it comes to reflexes and raw speed, but still well within the bounds of the Human Norm. Its senses are altered - I feel that those are covered sufficiently enough. Height and reach are the only outright “strengths” of the war form given the comparison to the Human Norm.
As for the appearance thereof, my words are still as true now as they were then: “As a Jackalwere, the Willow Man becomes a much, much taller individual. Just a hair over seven feet tall when standing straight, he cuts an imposingly dominant figure. Sleek and imposing, with long fur primarily of tawny brown broken up with occasional tufts of chocolate. There is a small patch of white fur at the Jackalwere’s neck extending down to the bottom of his ribs, and a crest of charcoal fur runs from the crown of his triangular head down along his back to his tail. His snout is rather narrow - at least when one compares to a mental picture of a werewolf as their therianthrope reference - and his teeth a very sharp set indeed. As if that wasn’t unsettling enough, his eyes change to an amber which shines easily in the light, making a jackal grin a very...unnerving thing to face.”
This...is something that I think in retrospect wound up on the cutting room floor so much back in his original portrayal as to be a personal meme. However! The Jackal is not incapable of speech. It’s just incredibly...unnerving. When a Devil takes a Skin, they also take that Skin’s Voice, which is referenced in the above bio somewhat. It allows them to mimic the person when they inhabit that Skin...somewhat. Poorly, truth be told, which plays into the whole Devil moniker that Mankind gave them. But when they aren’t being a Skinwalker, things get far more bizarre. They can speak, but it is with every Voice at once...and with this particular Jackal always with the hint of laughter. The words are clearly spoken, despite the massive harmonic dissonance of a legion of voices. Young and old. Men and women. Even other Devils have their Voices consumed and added to the choir. Think Princess Mononoke with a sense of horror factor turned past eleven.
Then remember that this Jackal has been alive and fed often. For a very. Very. Long. Time.