The lion-shifters of sub-Saharan Africa were known by many names among the great number of human tribes. There were many languages, of a great variance in linguistic base, and most were familiar with the lions who became kings. But a few names were easier for the white settlers and conquerers to pronounce and were of more prominent cultures, so they became the main names known to the northern world. The Simba, the Mfalme, the Tau.
Legends tell of Saharan kings who could turn into lions when their tribes were endangered. The Mfalme were a race of kings, shapeshifters believed to have been descended from the gods. Their lines ran in nobility of various tribes, and they were strongly integrated with humans. Mfalme were so strongly integrated with humans that there were no wild clans at all. Despite the presence of an Asiatic subspecies of leo pantheris, there were no natural werelions found outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
A werelion is born, as are many other Shifters, but they are the product of a double-recessive gene. They must have both of the werelion genes before the traits will express and the person will be born a werelion. This means that if two Mfalme have children, they will be born a werelion, but any other combination has varying rates. Mfalme can safely parent Tau-Kin, and human children. Unlike werewolves the ability is entirely inherited, and therefor the Mfalme/Tau/Simba cannot infect a human.
Werelions are associated mildly with the sun, similarly as the werewolves to the lunar cycle, but their lives are not nearly so dictated by it. They grow weak during a solar eclipse, and solar flares can affect them. Strong solar flares can provide a peak in power, and when they are present during the birth of a child can have varying and interesting effects.
The werelions are an interesting singularity among their bretheren, in that they do not shift as often as their cousins. Their shifting was not triggered specifically by puberty or high stress situations, but by the need to protect their lands and tribe. Most Mfalme spent a lot of time as humans, but once they had experienced their first shift they could attain their beast form at-will. The leo form, an equivalent of Fire-blooded, was almost always triggered by extreme feelings of defense.
The Mfalme strike a fine line between the female-backboned prides of wild lions, and the primarily patriarchal sub-Saharan human cultures that they integrated with. The males ruled as kings, princes, and warriors, but the females demanded a level of egalitarian society that was very rarely seen. The queens and princesses took a more active role in the life of the pride, often with their own hunting parties, and being advisors and occasionally even military leaders in times of war. Mfalme born to those not of the royal houses would, if allowed, become prominent figures among their tribe, as strong warriors and hunters.
Mfalme can occasionally be found in the north as well, being descended from Tau-Kin that were taken as slaves by the Muslim traders. They are not unwelcome as long as they respect Islam, and converts are simply another member of society. Very rarely, one would be born in the Americas due to the slave trade. In the event that they ever did shift and realize their heritage, they lived solitary lives, not knowing of their lineage.
The werelions have heightened senses, with inhuman strength, but their speed is not that great, and unlike the Balam and the Rakshasa, their stealth is natural but weak. Their aging is not decelerated, but it can seem as such because they age more gracefully. They are naturally hardy, as all Shifters, and their immune system is strong and fights bacterial infection well, but is not great with viruses.
As an entire species, the werelions are affected by a determination to protect and defend their clans, and their land. They are creatures of protection of their own. To that end, as well as their group mentality, they possess a form of Telepathy that was called many things, but could best be translated into "Pride of the Mind" or "Pride of Dreams." Mfalme may communicate with other werelions that they have personally met and "touched minds" with. There is a distance limit to this connection, but it is far, reaching hundreds of miles.
With the changing nature of the world, the receding territory of their animal cousins, and the loss of culture that came with western civilization invading sub-Saharan Africa, fewer and fewer Mfalme found themselves realizing their true forms, until they were all but considered extinct. But it stands to reason that with the Tau-Kin still present, and the world changed due to Pandora's Plague, some might find themselves taking leo form once again.
DETAILED MFALME DESCRIPTION
The shapeshifting ability is a genetic mutation similar to the lycanthropy mutation, with some differences. The largest being that the gene cannot be passed through Infection, only through direct inheritence. The gene is recessive, and there is no issue with Tau-Kin or full Mfalme parents giving birth to any kind. Mfalme parents cannot create a human young, they must either produce another Mfalme, or a Tau-Kin. Young are born as human infants, with the gifted abilities of the genes remaining dormant until the lion comes upon a time of great need for their abilities in defense. This often occurs sometime after reaching puberty when they take their place as an adult in their human tribe, but can occur at any time past infancy.
While true royal-blood Mfalme tend to be a bit xenophobic and prefer "their own kind," because of the recessive nature of the genes, it has been possible for Tau-Kin to spread across many ethnicities, especially those that have had deep contact with Africa.
Once they have realized their first Shift to leo, Mfalme may shift between human and beast forms at will, day or night. They find it easier to shift during the day, when the sun's light is stronger, and while it is possible for the shift to take only minutes, it was often a ritualized occurance within the tribe, taking easily up to an hour when preparing for battle or a great hunt.
Clothing remains untouched throughout the change, necessitating a style that can be easily dealt with and will not be damaged by the transformation. Wounds and scars do not change from form to form, and jewelry is often designed keeping the measurements of the larger animal forms in mind.
Leo transformation can also be realized with little difficulty, and usually is the shift that was ritually attended. However, in times of great stress, it is the body's natural reaction to danger and is an explosive shift.
Mfalme are capable of achieving three different stages of transformation, all of them voluntary to some extent. A human form, whose only indications of their genetics is a very full head of fast-growing and thick hair, and their abilities. The beast form is that of a larger-than-average African lion, and usually follows the colour patterns of such. Beast forms can range from light buff to yellowish, reddish, or dark ochraceous brown. The male's mane varies from blonde to black, generally becoming darker as he grows older. Leucism can be found, and in certain individuals with low testosterone, mane growth can be practically non-existant.
The third form is an anthropomorphic form, mixing the elements of both the human and the lion. Whites ended up calling in leo, and this hybrid form is very powerful, similar to the werewolf Fire-Blooded state, although it is easier to reach and generally the Mfalme retains much more control. This was often the chosen battle-form of a Mfalme warrior. Leo form is slightly smaller than the Rakshasa demon form, but larger than the Balam and most werewolves, with both genders exhibiting differences that express distinct sexual dimorphism in the species. Males are taller, bulkier, and keep their distinctive manes. Females are smaller, faster, and more agile, with no mane to weigh them down.
All shifters have inhumanly strengthened senses, with the strength of the various senses themselves varying between the species. The Mfalme have above average senses of hearing, and their eyesight is relatively decent. Their noses are stronger than a human's, but not as much as a wolf's.
The Mfalme are strong, stronger than werewolves, but not as strong as the Rakshasa and the Balam. Their human forms tend to be large and muscular, with full heads of fast-growing hair, no matter what ethnicity they are. They are capable of short bursts of enhanced speed, up to 50mph, but only at short distances, approximately 30 meters or less. They are not particularly known as stamina creatures.
They have natural stealth, but it is not supernaturally enhanced. The Mfalme, unlike other shapeshifting races, do not have decelerated aging, but their age cycle is more graceful than that of humans. Once they reach peak physical maturity they can stay at this preferred stage for a longer time compared to humans. It is not uncommon for a sixty-year old Mfalme to act as though they were 35.
The Mfalme have a unique ability, a racial-wide form of Telepathy that allows them to form mental links with other individuals that they have met and touched minds with. Various cultures had different terms for this network, but most translations have to do with terms of the mind, spirit, or dreams. It has been called the Pride of Dreams, the Spirit Pride, the Pride of the Mind, Spirit-Touching, and many other terms.
The Pride of the Mind allows Mfalme to mentally communicate with other werelions that they have entered into a mental link with, over distances of up to hundreds of miles. They must both be physically present, and touching, in order to touch minds. It is a willing relationship, able to be entered into only if both parties agree. The use of the Pride of the Mind is generally considered a formal or intimate act, and is generally not used during daily life. The Mfalme prefer physically talking to each other when in each others presence.
RELATIONSHIPS AND TEMPERAMENT
The Mfalme are social creatures, feeling the need to form prides as much as werewolves feel the need to form packs, but with less organization. There will be a leading male (or a pair), often a King of some kind, and his direct male descendants will be his princes and generals if they are capable. Females bond together, and form strong alliances with each other in order to participate in daily life. Mature females often will participate in leading hunts or being tacticians in times of war, and younger females form their own hunting parties, preferring to work with their Mfalme and Tau-Kin sisters.
Males tend to have a harem of wives/queens if they are powerful enough to keep and provide for them, but it is not entirely uncommon for a lesser male to take a single wife. The kings were more commonly seen as the leaders of Mfalme dynasties, with lesser singular individuals outside of the royal lines marrying humans or Tau-Kin.
Mfalme relationships can last years, even a lifetime, but the queens may band together and banish their king if they feel he is no longer fit to be their tribe's leader.
As said, the Mfalme are social creatures, and they are happiest in groups. They are creatures of duality, spending much of their time (if possible) lounging around and conserving their energy, but they are bright and energetic when they choose to be, quick to laugh or battle. Many of them respect physical strength and friendly (and not so friendly) tussles are not uncommon. The Pride of the Mind allows them exceptional communication in times when it may be normally difficult, such as hunting and battle, and this has helped them grow to power.
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AMONG HUMANS
Unlike other species, the Mfalme were highly integrated into human culture. So much so, that prides did not actually exist in "the wild." With selective breeding, over the decades, most Mfalme royalty managed to set up dynasties that ensured the continued production of their own powerful Mfalme and Tau-kin children. In essense, they were the strongest prides with the best offspring.
Mfalme born not into the royal family often had the strength to choose their own life, becoming warriors or leaving the tribe and becoming explorers and traders.
There is a noted population of Tau-Kin in Northern Africa and the Middle East, with Mfalme occasionally popping up having been descended from slaves that were brought across the Sahara. The Mfalme were surprisingly welcomed into Northern Africa, as long as they respected or belonged to Islam. Muslims viewed them as a form of djinn or beast creature, and made sure to be careful if the individual was a follower of Islam. It was not uncommon for some of the more northern African tribes that traded with Muslims to lose some of their Mfalme women as converts.
Because of slave trades on different continents, there have been very rare occasions of singular Mfalme born in other continents, particularly the Americas. These individuals, if they even were able to shift for the first time and discover their true nature, were unable to learn about the culture and history of their heritage, and often lived solitary lives unless they came into contact (or, commonly, conflict) with other shifter species.
Historically, there have been notable interactions with the white colonists, such as the case of the Tsavo Maneaters at the end of the nineteenth century. Mfalme who felt that their lands were endangered and took matters into their own hands. Many were disposed of.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER SHIFTERS AND SPECIES
Due to their isolated location and historical position, Mfalme had little contact with most other shifters. Wolves do not exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and it took time for Lycanthropy to make its way to their lands. Both are often surprised to meet each other, and there may be attempts to threaten each other, or prove that one or the other is a greater being. There have been no group contacts, however, between a pack of werewolves and a pride of Mfalme, in human history.
The species that the Mfalme have the most contact with is the Rakshasa, with the barest interaction between the Islamic Mfalme and Tau-Kin and the western Indian tigers. They are cordial with each other, although there can be some subtle one-upmanship between individuals due to the power-hungry nature of the Mfalme.
As to non-shifting creatures, the Mfalme co-exist relatively peacefully with the beasts of their lands. They keep a territory safe from other lions for the purposes of safety of village and children, but otherwise do not have issues like other shifters do. The shape-changing nature of the Mfalme can either damage their relationship with certain animals, or provide them better access. Herbivores and prey animals tend to be nervous around the Mfalme in their human form, making them unsuitable for work as herders in cultures that raise ungulates, but they are more likely to be able to get to wild creatures who did not trust the scent of humans.
The Mfalme have few specific weaknesses as a species, but they are not as powerful as other shifters. They do not have any particular form of Regeneration, merely being "hardy" and resilient, with a strong immune system against bacteria. Their strength is in their numbers and their coordination, and they have not needed to develop other abilities because their position as the peak predators and shifters was unchallenged in Africa.