Modern cryptozoologists now understand that loup-garoux (singular: loup-garou) are humans who have undergone a closely guarded ritual that bestows shape-changing abilities on its subject. It appears that the ability was discovered by accidental experimentation, or perhaps as a magical gift from an extra-planar creature, and is not the result of an infection, curse, or bite. Because loup-garoux had certain advantages, including superior hunting ability, greater body mass, and better control over their body temperature, this unique state was quite desirable, and the secret of the initiation ritual became jealously guarded.
The first known humans with this ability were known as "Animosh-inini" or “Dog-man” in Algonquin, and tended to be revered for their incredible powers. With the arrival of European colonists came the re-appellation to the French term “loup-garou,” along with a frenzy of fear and persecution, forcing many of them to hide their abilities. European colonists were familiar only with werewolves, or lycans, which they thought of as ferocious and murderous wolf-creatures that had terrorized their cities and countryside, and murdered (and eaten) innocent humans. This became particularly pronounced after the trial of Peter Stumpp in 1589, though the persecution of loup-garoux in North America reached its height around the same time as the Salem Witch Trials.
Loup-garoux are humans that have the ability to change their shape into that of a bipedal, wolf-like creature; gaining the strength, speed, agility, fierceness, superior hearing, and scent-tracking of their lupine brethren. The notable differences between a werewolf and a loup-garou is the origin of the shapeshifting ability, the extent to which it can be controlled, and the esteem granted to (or denied from) the individual. Candidates to become a loup-garou are carefully selected by lodges for membership, the main criteria ostensibly being heroic action and deeds; but the reality is that lodge membership is often nepotistic, and invitations to join a Lodge without a familial connection are quite rare. Loup-garoux are considered part of the Magimundi, since the manifestation is similar to the way magical abilities appear, and because most—though not all—loup-garoux also possess other magical talents.
In stark contrast to loup-garoux, werewolves are afflicted by the wolf-powers, which are thrust upon them through a curse, bite, scratch, or, some believe, as the result of a pact with a devil or demon. Generally, werewolves are at the mercy of the moon or other elements that make shapeshifting into their wolf form nearly impossible to resist. Werewolves also have a tendency to walk on all fours while loup-garoux always walk upright, even in wolf form.
While loup-garoux are, for all intents and purposes, humans with remarkable abilities, they are included in this volume to inform citizens of their bestial manifestations. Loup-garoux retain the ability to reason and reflect while in wolf-form, and in many instances, to speak (hence the Latin name Lupus loquax), although the anatomy of a wolf’s mouth prevents speech intelligible to the average human or mage.
A full-grown loup-garou can stand as tall as 9 feet. Their bodies tend to be completely fur-covered in wolf-form, and the fur color is similar to the hair color of their human counterpart. Humans who dye their hair affect the color of their wolf fur as well. Loup-garou faces are distinctly wolf-like, though they retain some human characteristics, particularly around the eyes. Loup-garou front paws retain some of the prehensile ability of human hands, though not with the same level of dexterity.
Nemort creatures fear a loup-garou and will scramble to distance themselves. Nemorts can sense or somehow magically divine that a particular human is a loup-garou or lycan, and they fear the former far more than the latter.
A loup-garou can change shape at will, and is known to shift into wolf form in response to threats. Physically more powerful than any human, a loup-garou is a formidable opponent who has the instinctual ability to coordinate attacks with with other loup-garoux. This uncanny ability, believed to be a sort of telepathy unique to loup-garoux, is the subject of much speculation among the Magimundi, although ethical concerns constrain what research may be done.
Since the ritual of initiation into a lodge is made no earlier than when the candidate reaches adulthood, there is no term for a juvenile loup-garou; it is considered derogatory to use the term “pup.” Some people call a group of loup-garoux a “pack”, but this term has begun to fall into disfavor, and may be considered derogatory as well. The general loup-garou community has suggested using the term “lodge” as a collective noun.
Loup-garoux can live anywhere in North America, but are clustered particularly in Destiny Province and Mishipeshu north of the Great Lakes. A smaller, but growing, contingent can be found in Solaris. When in wolf-form, loup-garoux seem to prefer wooded areas, where they can satisfy their urge to hunt
When in human form, a loup-garou is physically indistinguishable from another human. However, one loup-garou can detect another loup-garou by a particular scent issuing from the area of the neck. As mentioned above, nemort creatures can also sense the presence of a loup-garou. When in wolf form, a loup-garou retains injuries or distinguishing characteristics of the human. For example, a loup-garou missing a hand in human form would shift to a wolf missing a paw. If a loup-garou dies in its wolf-form, the body remains a wolf. If it dies in its human form, the body remains a human.
Loup-garoux have a powerful urge to hunt, and many believe this drives them to change shape. They prefer to hunt large mammals such as deer, antelope, elk, and moose, though they will fell smaller prey such as foxes and hares. Loup-garoux eat mainly meat, though they also eat raw and unprocessed natural foods, such as seeds, nuts, berries, and some types of bark.
Cryptozoologists have been studying loup-garoux for centuries attempting to figure out the secrets of their ability to coordinate attacks without using speech, believing it it be a kind of telepathy. Many loup-garoux also are immune to known forms of mind magic, or they possess the ability to shield their minds from attempts to enter it. This makes them very difficult to prosecute by Magimundi Marshals and also makes them valuable as assassins or agents. In the 1950s, some young adult loup-garoux were “selected for a special program” in a Magimundi medical complex where they underwent a series of tests to understand their telepathy and shape-shifting trait. The program was shut down after 10 years of research, after protests from activists. A loup-garou tail supposedly taken from its body in wolf-form circulated among the Magimundi artifact underground in the 19th century, and was said to be a talisman of great and unknown power. It has not been seen in more than 100 years, and is generally considered lost or destroyed. Counterfeit loup-garou tails poached from North American wolves are often sold to gullible magi hoping to increase their power.
Note: Loup-garoux are human beings with the trained ability to shapeshift. Harvesting a loup-garou for parts carries with it the same penalties as harvesting a human for parts.
Loup-garoux in their wolf-form have skin that is nigh-impervious to mundane blades and bullets, and they appear to be immune to all forms of incendiary magic. Loup-garoux are stronger, faster, possess more stamina, and have better tracking senses than ordinary humans. A physical altercation with one is ill-advised. Because loup-garoux retain their ability to reason and, to some extent, to speak while in wolf-form, bargaining with a hostile loup-garou is considered the best course of action. Another defense is the Cacaphonio spell, which conjures a series of loud and confusing noises that disrupt the loup-garou’s keen hearing and provides an opportunity for escape.