Kingdoms and Honor falls into that paradox of genres: Realistic Fantasy. And Wemics, legendary and magical in their impossibility, realized with detailed logic grounded in ecology and biology, embody that paradox.
Wemics are like centaurs, but half lion instead of half horse. Some artists have imagined them as furry all over, with lion-like heads, but in Kalerre, Wemics look just like humans from the waist up, except that their jaw structure is just slightly different (to account for larger canine teeth) and their eyes look like cat's eyes. Wemic males tend to grow short curly beards, while females have no facial hair. A few males have scant or no facial hair, and some males tend to shave their beards, as they prefer. Males have long mane-like hair that cascades down their backs; females have human-like hair that naturally grows only to shoulder-length. Wemics do not tend to be overweight, and their upper bodies are slightly more muscular in appearance than the average human. A Wemic's lower body is very lion-like in shape and color, but larger on average than most lions. Males have tufted tails, but without a lion's hidden barb.
Wemics retain some of the sexual dimorphism of lions, most notably with manes and tail-tufts. But in length and mass, Wemics in Kalerre tend to be more equal. Adults range from 550 pounds to 800 pounds in mass, six feet to seven and a half feet in height, and eight feet to ten feet in length (excluding tail).
Maturity and Aging
Wemics divide their pre-adult lives into three stages: Up to three years, they are called babies; three to six years, children; and from six to nine years, younglings. All three are known as cubs. Before are nine, cubs are free of all duty and obligation, although there are play traditions and teachers (usually older Wemics) who guide and structure their activities. From age 9 to 12, young Wemics, now sexually mature, take on responsibilites and work within the pride. From age 12 to 15, all Wemics serve in the army, and from age 15 on, those who leave the army wander and explore Kalerre. Some wander for many years, others settle without mating, some mate without settling, but most settle and mate. Wemics typically live into their mid-sixties; a few live into their mid-nineties.
All wemics have to eat -- they eat meat, and a lot of it. They usually have just one meal a day, about every other day, in general. But that meal is a big one -- a male adult Wemic might eat ten or twenty pounds at a sitting! For their size, wemics do not need much water -- about a quart a day will do in a pinch, and they can last a week with no water if they have enough to eat. Wemics have chewing teeth, unlike lions, and they prefer to cook their food. Their canine teeth are somewhat more pronounced than in humans.
Like lions, Wemics can sprint at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. But on long marches, they cover about the same amount of ground as a human; Wemics like to stop for breaks. With their powerful legs, Wemics can leap three times as well as a human -- up to 10 feet up and 30 to 50 or more feet across. Wemics can climb rocky terrain and big trees, but their mass can be a disadvantage.
Chimpanzees have muscle tissue that is up to eight times as dense as human muscle -- which gives chimps great strength for their size. Wemics have similarly dense muscles, and with their great size, they are quite strong. But, like chimpanzees, Wemics are so dense that they cannot swim -- they sink like lead in water.
Wemics have cat-like vision and the ability to see well when there is not much light. They have keener noses than humans, which helps in tracking prey. Wemics retain a cat-like preoccupation with cleanliness, and they use far more water for cleaning than for drinking, when it is available. Wemics have slightly better hearing than humans as well.
All Wemics have some rudimentary skill in wrestling and hunting, but they never use their claws (which are retractable) without deliberate intent. When Wemics do bare their claws, though, they are deadly in battle.