"Warrior Spirit" by Shane Gorski
This article is part of 3 Generations After The End, a post-apocalyptic setting suitable for any role-playing system.
When predators rise in the food chain and eventually hit the top, it is seldom that they remain in that place unchallenged. Given enough time, other predators will realize their potential and evolve into a threat to the complacent. The wizards of the World Reborn quickly asserted themselves as the dominant species across the devastated lands, but in many places across the lands there was no room for shared power; wizard fell upon wizard in desperate struggles to be the strongest among them. It is often when these wizards hunt alone that they fall victim to another predator, one that hunts them specifically.
Little is publically known about the Wolves of Thanatos, other than they seem to specifically target wizards throughout the wastelands. The few facts people have scraped together range from amazing to horrifying. Wizards have suddenly vanished in the night, even from their own lairs. The vast majority is never seen again, and looters who descend on the riches of the missing wizards say that, despite clear signs of a struggle having occurred, their libraries and artifacts are frequently intact. Their numbers aren’t known, nor has a base of operation been identified. The greatest question, though, is how they’re able to take down such immensely powerful beings where many have failed.
On only a few recorded occasions has a wizard returned from going missing, and in every case they’re found crucified to the gates of a city, butchered like a swine and with a look of unending terror on their faces. The reports from autopsies that are performed on the remains become locked away by the Techno-Priests and those who ask questions are either rebuked or jailed. Information among the common folk is little more than scary stories and rumors.
Those in the inner circles of the Techno-Priests, though, know much more about the Wolves than they’re letting on. The bulk of what is known has been chronicled by a Jocelyn Albrecht, a young Techno-Priest in training at the Grey City in The Valley. Thanks to her efforts, we now know that the Wolves of Thanatos are a band of fierce hunters who prey specifically on wizards. She also learned that they seem to have no political aspirations outside their own internal dealings, and their entire society is centered on the hunt itself. But, most significantly, she was the first to discover one of the secret hunting techniques of the Wolves: the ability to dampen magic.
The actual method they use to produce the mysterious liquid is guarded even fiercer than the knowledge of its existence, but the effects are now known through observation. The effects when introduced environmentally are profound: low concentrations of the liquid in the area and soil causes magic in the area to become significantly dampened. Successfully cast spells are weaker, and some fizzle before they can even manifest. Stronger concentrations intensified the effects. Robbed of their potent offensive and defensive abilities, wizards fall as if they were mere lambs.
Most intriguing was when the Wolves seemed to begin experimenting in the Assassin’s arts. In one situation observed by a spy planted in a wizard’s home, the wizard was drinking from a cup of tea when he suddenly choked and fell to the floor, shaking before going unconscious. The wizard recovered several minutes later… and his connection to the ley lines had been completely severed. He could no longer summon a light, let alone summon a creature or a lightning bolt. The spy recovered some of the tea, which tested positive for the dampening poison. We don’t know if the effect was permanent, though; the Wolves raided the lair hours later and the spy barely escaped with his life.
Combining the effects of their dampening poisons and brutal combat techniques with tactics that border on terrorism, the Wolves of Thanatos ride a thin line between being praised as saviors of the populace from the wizards and deeply feared for their horrific and extreme methods. Many wonder what will happen if all of a region’s wizards are slain, driven into hiding or move on to less hostile lands. Will the Wolves move on, or will they remain and look for new prey? Without knowing who they are or what their true purpose is, speculation runs rampant.
Tune in for the follow-up article later this month, as we dive deeper into the Wolves and learn about them from the inside.