Freedom's Thorns

Those poor souls who hide their abilities from Medimia's strict reign and those idiots who think they can escape their pale existence in the Amethystine Regiment meet the same fate. Hunted, they flee in hopes of finding freedom - but they soon find freedom has its thorns.
  The Medimian Empire is famous (and infamous) for a number of factors - their exports of iron, their strict control of the citizenry, their military... and perhaps most importantly in this case, their treatment of magic. Particularly, arcane mages. The talent of arcane magic is checked for through mandatory tests in Medimia's education system, regardless of class. When found, would-be mages are removed from their families to be sent to the Amethystine Regiment to be trained as loyal soldiers - or to be killed. There is no in-between.   Sometimes, mages try to escape their fate. They hide their talents, or try to flee from the Regiment.   Most regret it when they learn about Freedom's Thorns. Hulking beasts with a taste for the arcane, sent to hunt down would-be escapees and traitors - formerly known as magestalkers, the Empire has rebranded (and indeed, retrained) this apex predator beast for their own purposes.

Basic Information

Anatomy

How do you even begin describing something like that? Imagine a horse that hunts like a wolf, swollen with muscle, its tail sharp and deadly - its ribcage torn open, dripping with poison, ready to lock you away.   Curled horns in burnished black, teeth sharpened into knives, fur thick and dark... they're killing machines. That's all they are.
  Having once had a common ancestor with the everyday wolf, each Thorn retains that muscular quadrupedal structure. At some point, they appear to have been crossed with an extraplanar creature - likely a devil, demon, or aberrant natural species - due to their jutting horns and natural magical abilities, which cannot be explained through only species native to the mortal plane.   Two long fangs jut out of their sharpened maws, providing their main method of attack, but many are trained to attack using their full range of abilities. A thick and fully prehensile tail coated in a potent paralytic hangs down at their behind, serving as a means for paralysing prey.   Most notably, every Thorn's anatomy features a specially-designed reverse-ribcage that forms merged with the skeletal structure of their own. Instead of serving to protect the Thorn's internal organs, this secondary cage can open and close on command, and is used for storing prey for later consumption. On the inside of the cage, a thick layer of bone separates this cavity from their organs which is then covered again by a sturdy layer of leather-like flesh. To prevent prey from damaging them through this barrier, the pain receptors in this area are minimal and few vital organs are kept in close range.   Some Thorns have the innate ability to provide magical fire or other spells to victims held in this internal cage; others are augmented by Medimian scientists to be able to sustain their prey for extended periods of time. It is this feature that makes the Thorns so valuable to the Empire.

Growth Rate & Stages

When a Thorn is born, it is weak and missing many of its features. The horns are only vestigial at first, taking time to mature into their full shape - some owners like to shape them at this time. Their classic cage is only present in a minor and unusable form, and their fangs have yet to come in. Their limbs remain weak and spindly.   They grow quickly, however, reaching an adolescent stage within six months. After a full year, they are considered adults, with all of their classic features on display. At the seven year mark, they are reportedly at their strongest; should they survive, they generally begin to deteriorate around fifteen years of age. Most do not live past this point.

Ecology and Habitats

Thorns - and other progenitor forms of them, such as the lifebane huntress - are found largely in forested areas with plentiful access to obstacles and prey. They excel at domination in these areas, but are not exclusive to them: some make their homes in low mountainous areas, others have adapted to swamps, and rumours abound of a species of Thorn that lives quite happily in hot desert terrain.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Freedom's Thorns are carnivorous creatures that prefer the taste of arcane-tinted meat, but can otherwise exist on a diet similar to most carnivorous creatures. They prefer prey that put up a fight, and store unconscious or partially consumed prey in the cavernous lairs they like to dig out. They often carry live prey in their chest cavities whilst on longer expeditions - just in case they need a snack.

Additional Information

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Naturally occurring in prey-heavy woodlands and low mountainous terrain.

Average Intelligence

Surprisingly intelligent, and often awakened by druidic magic to increase capacity.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

The unnatural sense each Thorn has for magic is what makes them so desired in the Medimian military. Thorns seem to be able to utilise a preternatural scent ability akin to the Detect Magic spell, except largely limited to spellcasters and creatures that use arcane magic. Existing studies of this ability have likened it to a paladin's innate abilities to sense evil; whatever its cause, the Thorns enjoy chasing after their arcane prey.   In addition to this, little stops a Thorn from sensing presences that humans struggle to. They have a highly advanced sense of smell and hearing, granting them blindsense and tremorsense in the area around them. However, this comes at the cost of their eyesight: they do not possess any special vision, being forced to rely on their other senses when in darkness unless one of their masters grants them better sight through magic.   Casting an arcane spell on the Thorns is difficult, as they naturally resist it, but doing so causes their magic-sensing ability to falter and drives the creatures into a blind rage.

Scientific Name
Venator servum
Lifespan
16 years
Conservation Status
Endangered in the natural world; populous in captivity.
Average Height
2.2 metres - 3.8 metres
Average Weight
1800kg+
Average Length
2.7 metres
Average Physique
Incredibly muscular, particularly in the legs and maw.
Geographic Distribution

Comments

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9 Jul, 2020 21:09

Oh my goodness, the Thorns are terrifying! I would not like my chances against these creatures. This article has great detail and makes them seem so realistic.

Cait x
11 Jul, 2020 06:38

Wow, these are absolutely frightening sounding! That intro quote under anatomy is killer, and it really sets my imagination off in the right direction while reading this.

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