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Leonin

Perhaps the most dominant ethnicity of the tabaxi are the lion-like leonin. Known for their strong will as well as their extraordinary combat prowess, these catfolk reside in the grassy lowlands of the Great Plains. Once, the leonin lived as nomads on the frontier of the tabaxi lands, travelling great distances in order to find suitable places to set up their camp-like settlements, grouping together in small tribes known as prides. Today, they are stalwart protectors of the tabaxi lands, forming the backbone of their military forces as well as being the largest and second most populated of each of the individual republics.   While once overshadowed by the ferocious tigerians and cunning panterans, it was the leonin who were a leading force for unification of all the tabaxi clans. Their T’Sharah at the time, the legendary chieftain Ferros Greatmane, brokered a peace agreement between his clan and the two clans of the jungle, who up until that point were seemingly consumed by animosity towards one another, which in turn allowed for all of the tabaxi clans to collectively join the Moot, effectively leading to the creation of the Tabaxi Republics a few years later.

Naming Traditions

Feminine names

Female Names: Aletha, Atagone, Demne, Doxia, Ecate, Eriz, Gragonde, Iadma, Koila, Oramne, Seza, Ziore,...

Masculine names

Male Names: Apto, Athoz, Baragon, Bryguz, Eremoz, Gorioz, Grexes, Oriz, Pyxathor, Teoz, Xemnon, Xior,...

Family names

Leonin often identify with themselves by their pride, whose name usually comes from a shared ancestor's outstanding performance in a certain field. For example, if an ancestor of yours was a skilled hunter, your pride's name may be Swiftspear or Longclaw. If they were a renowned warrior, perhaps your name would be Strongarm or Sharpblade. If they were a courier of messages, the name of your pride could be Longstride, while a farmer of considerable repute may be of the Goldenfield pride.   While these conventions applied held true for the leonin, recent times saw an increase in relationships between individual tabaxi ethnicities, which has in turn allowed for the naming conventions of the other clans to permeate the leonin culture, therefore some pride's names may have been replaced by the customs of the other clans instead.

Culture

Culture and cultural heritage

Leonin culture finds its foundation in a shared sense of pride and achievement. While faced with adversity, leonin of the past banded together behind a common purpose and persevered against often overwhelming odds. As such, heroism, while not becoming a standard, is still an important metric of accomplishment among the leonin. To achieve greatness and have your name go down in history is the greatest honor any leonin can strive towards. This success can of course stem from combat, but it does not necessarily have to. A smith who creates a weapon of legendary repute will likely be held in high esteem not only by his colleagues, but by the leonin community at large. Derived from a strong bond of unity, any contribution towards the flourishing of the clan is viewed as invaluable and those who made these contributions are well respected by all.

Shared customary codes and values

Leonin society is based upon ideals of pride and strength. Reflecting their physical superiority to most other mortal races, the leonin usually solve conflicts through contests of strength or skill. Success can propel a member towards greater heights while the shame of a crushing defeat can lead some of the catfolk to take extreme measures as a consequence, sometimes even exiling themselves or ending their lives in order to prevent further damage to their pride's prestige. This fosters a atmosphere of constant challenge, where complacency is often the premonition of a dizzying fall from grace. As such, the leonin are rarely ones to shy away from a challenge, seeking to prove everyone around them who would perhaps turn tail in face of unfavorable odds as inferior to themselves.   Even though challenge between one another is common among the leonin, it is perhaps surprising how, when faced with a common threat, the leonin band together, forming stronger ties than most. The bond of camaraderie is viewed as sacred by the lionpeople, and those who fight fiercely to protect the homeland of the leonin are held with extremely high esteem.

Common Etiquette rules

While sharing a meal with comrades, leonin soldiers customarily tell tales of their ancestors great accomplishments, in order to inspire the troops and further their sense of duty and companionship.   Among the leonin, it is viewed as highly disrespectful to refuse a gift, as a gift personifies a good intention of the giver, and to turn it down is to discredit that intention as dubious.   It is seen as incredibly shameful to lie and deceive other leonin, with the only excuse being that the person who did it transgressed unknowingly. While it is not outright criminalized, the stigma associated with such lying can often become more cumbersome than actual criminal punishment in some other societies.

Common Dress code

Most leonin wear simple and practical clothing, which varies more in quality than it does in purpose, depending on the wearer's wealth. While some of the more rural leonin still wear tribal clothing made of pelts of animals they've hunted, often in honor towards their ancestors, city dwelling leonin have largely accustomed to clothing manufactured by professionals.

Art & Architecture

The leonin are not ones to put great emphasis upon art, seeing it as an inferior form of expressing themselves in comparison to achievements and actions. The one caveat to this is art made in honor of acts of heroism and honor, such as monuments and statues, as well as tapestries and plaques, made to commemorate a great feat or a glorious battle. Music is also a significant part of leonin culture, especially the bardic profession, whose practitioners compose extraordinary tales of the deeds of leonin heroes in order to spread the glory of their achievements and honor their legacy.   In terms of buildings, the leonin tend to form settlements of simple clay or wooden houses, usually herding homes of the members of the same pride together in the same district, with the center of the district being the housing of the eldest members of the pride. In larger towns and cities, clay and wood is replaced by stone, giving rise to more sophisticated constructions, but their arrangement remains more or less the same.

Common Customs, traditions and rituals

Upon the week of the spring and fall equinox, as well as the summer and winter solstice, it is customary to hold pride gatherings. These serve as a medium to furthering bonds between prides, arranging deals for goods and seeking suitable partners for young leonin. During these gatherings, members of each pride return from far and wide so that they can compare heroic accomplishments with their brethren. Several of the rituals which are a part of leonin tradition take place here.   Many young leonin set to travel out into the world in order to lead a life in the image of their ancestors, seeking an opportunity to prove themselves and attain invaluable experience. Taking with them only items to sate basic necessities and a weapon, these travelling leonin are known to make for excellent warriors and steadfast companions.

Birth & Baptismal Rites

It is customary for a pride's elder to be present during the birth of new cubs, for having the approval of a respected elder in regards to the name chosen by the parents is believed to bring good fortune upon the family. The lack of this approval is conversely seen as a bad omen, so much so that sometimes, the mother and father wait for an elder's blessing before naming their newborn.

Coming of Age Rites

Ritual of the Hunt

While slowly disappearing from cities and large towns, the Ritual of the Hunt is a custom still well-rooted in the rural parts of the leonin people. During it, a cub between the age of 14-16 sets out on a trophy hunt into the wilderness. Sometimes the young leonin can be gone for weeks, for it is seen as shameful if they were to return empty-handed. However, returning with a great trophy (e.g. a bears' pelt) bestows significant status benefits upon the hunter and improves their prospects for mates. Regardless of how successful the hunt itself is, the leonin who leaves a cub returns an adult, a true member of the community from there onward.

Funerary and Memorial customs

Funeral traditions of the leonin tie strongly to the pride which they come from, varying depending on long-lasting traditions unique to each pride. Seeing a pridemate succumb to the cold embrace of death often weighs heavily upon the hearts of their kin, however it is seen as disrespectful to be overcome with grief upon the passing of a pridemate, for the leonin believe the passed should be celebrated for their achievements during the time of their passing, while grieving excessively reeks of self-pity. When a death in the pride happens, it will usually call a mourning gathering which culminates in a march to the final resting place of the deceased. Usually, this will be a burial mound owned by the pride or some other such site, where they will say their final farewell to all of their members who have passed on.

Common Taboos

It is seen as incredibly shameful to attempt to take credit for someone else's successes, and it is seen as an inexcusable offense. It is not uncommon for a conflict over a feat between two leonin to be solved by violence. Alternatively, proving that your accomplishment was falsely claimed by someone else before the pride's gathering is grounds for exile for the accused.   Another similarly positioned transgression is to spite one's ancestors and question the legitimacy of their legacy. While the punishment is less steep, mostly resulting in a public apology and monetary compensation, leonin have killed one another over a dispute of this kind.

Common Myths and Legends

Tall tales of heroics and overcoming overwhelming odds are found at each corner of leonin cultural heritage, the greatest of which are passed from generation to generation, with each re-telling of the story often adding new elements that stray further from the truth. Regardless of the hyperbole, it is these stories and legends which fuel the desire to reach such heights in the hearts of young cubs and stoke the flames of ambition and pride, burning within the hearts of almost all leonin.   One such tale speaks of the legendary chieftain Ferros of the Greatmane, who, during his Trial of the Hunt, tracked a griffon far into the Ebony Mountains. Overcoming a bone-chilling snowstorm and going without supplies and shelter for over three weeks, he had finally managed to corner the beast within its lair, only to find his javelin broken by the creature's vicious beak. At wits end, he spotted the hilt of a weapon, wedged carefully between the eggs of the mother griffon. As he leapt to reach it, he felt a powerful wave of heat overcome him, as if he had opened the door to the largest forge his eyes had ever seen. He realized that it was the blade which emanated this warmth, presumably placed there by the griffon in order to sustain the necessary temperature for the successful incubation of her eggs. Pulling the weapon from its resting place, he wielded it against the beast and cleanly sliced its stomach before seeing it plummet into the chasm below. While unable to recover a trophy from the beast, Ferros returned to his clan with the legendary sword Embercleave strapped to his back and a hoard of griffon eggs, kept safe in his backpack. Later, he would give out each hatchling to the chieftains of the other clans as a sign of his goodwill. At least, that is how the story goes...   Another such legendary tale is that of the Orphon Runner, a story of a military courier who was tasked with informing the T'Sharah of the defeat of his armies at the hands of a rival clan, whose army was quickly approaching the capital. The Runner would go on to traverse a distance of over 350 kilometres in ten days, reaching his people and warning them of the approaching horde far enough in advance, so that the T'Sharah could consolidate his forces and deal with the threat adequately, which he did. The Runner himself, however, did not live to see this victory, as he had collapsed and later passed on due to exhaustion combined with malnutrition. The tale of the Runner often serves as a tool to explain the sense of duty shared among all leonin, showing the cubs of all prides how strength can be drawn from the desire to protect their own kin.

Historical figures

Any list mentioning historically significant leonin will likely include the name Ferros of the Greatmane, known as the Great T'Sharah, who seized power from the Grey Council's advisors and played a significant role in the creation of the the Republics. In his life, he was known as a decisive and strong leader, both on and off the battlefield. It is said that with his sword, the Embercleave, he was able to cut down three opponents in one swing. He would go to battle unarmored, which allowed him to quickly dart between enemies, leaving broken bones and severed limbs in his wake. He was also, quite controversially, one of the only monogamous T'Sharahs, his wife and childhood friend Ahra playing a significant part in his rise to power. It is said that while Ferros traveled far and wide in order to fight for his clan, it was Ahra who maintained peace in his realm and allowed for structural growth, significant enough to support her mates military undertakings.   Another legendary leonin, Ziore of the Wildfang, became renowned far and wide after successfully challenging the T'Sharah and her pride-brother, Orex of the Wildfang, to a duel for the chieftain position. While her rule was cut short by a disease which caused her to resign from her post, her tale often inspires young female leonin to aspire to greatness, instead of settling for the position of a housewife.   Lastly, the founder of the Eternals and a heated rival to the legendary panteran Salaxsh, Aegyp the Alabaster Lion. A mythical figure, raised alongside his adopted brother-turned rival by a nameless hermit monk, he and Salaxsh would go on to create powerful orders of warriors of special training within their respective clans, teaching them the art of using energy drawn from the soul as a tool in order to perform incredible feats.

Ideals

Beauty Ideals

Leonin society is built upon a firm foundation of pride and strength, both of which are reflected in the beauty standard set by it. A desirable male is one powerful enough to protect their children and pride, often wearing a majestic mane and carrying scars of past battles as if they were badges of honor. A female mate, on the other hand, is usually chosen based upon how well she can provide for the family, with physical attributes being second to her skills within a household.

Gender Ideals

It is said that much like their animal predecessors, the leonin females are actually responsible for the large majority of their people's successes, as they spend their lives ensuring that the leonin society runs smoothly while their male counterparts waste time with pointless contests of grandeur. It is in times of war and strife, however, when leonin males mobilize themselves, transforming from sedentary good-for-nothings into fierce protectors of their lands. Some however point out that even this development stems from the desire of leonin males to not become overshadowed by their contemporaries.

Courtship Ideals

A leonin female, upon reaching adulthood, will often be offered among her sisters to members of the other prides at a pride gathering. If none find her desirable, she will remain within her pride until the next gathering, where the process will repeat itself. If a single suitor is found, it is customary for the female to accept them as their mate and join their pride, however she has the option to reject her counterpart without needing to give the reasoning behind it. However, this suitor's offer will take precedence, should he attempt for the female during the next pride gathering. If more than one suitor is found, customarily they will perform a contest of strength (can be anything from an arm-wrestling match to a duel) until a victor is found. In this case, the female has no option but to accept the winning suitor and join his pride, with the caveat that she may withdraw herself and return to her pride if her partner proves to be exceptionally unreliable or feeble.

Relationship Ideals

The leonin, once again sharing their tradition with their animal counterparts, form families in polygamous arrangements. A successful and powerful male is often discerned by having at least two female mates, on rare occasions this number can go up as high as five or six females at once. While a monogamous relationship is much more rare, it does happen that a leonin male forms an unusually strong bond with a female, resembling that of a human or, in some cases, even elven marriage.

Prides

A customary arrangement of leonin society, prides constitute of several dozen or even a few hundred leonin, who are bound together by circumstances surrounding their birth. Members of these prides treat each other as if they were related by blood, banding together in times of need against perpetrators or even other prides. While prides exist mostly as a relic of the past nomadic tribes of the leonin, many still hold the tradition in high esteem, inferring a certain degree of prestige from whenever a member of their pride achieves success.
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