A long time ago, there was a village within a bountiful forest whose name was lost through the passing of time. The village contained some thousand peoples to it who took to hunting and gathering from the woods that enveloped them. It was a beautiful village in prime territory, as it was surrounded by several other villages and was easily able to trade with all of its neighbors. However, the peace of the village was tenuous, as their surrounding neighbors eventually began to covet the large lands that this village contained. In total, there were three villages that surrounded this land, each with their own unique territory. But of all the lands, the most prosperous by far was the central village.
One was a village alongside the mountains bordering the west. This village was too far out from the forests to have enough supplies to sustain them, and the mountains provided only metals and stone. Thus they took to plundering the village within the woods for food and supplies. Sometimes they traded their precious metals and gems for food and wood, but other times they took what they could by force. The people were fierce and tough due to their work within the mineshafts in the mountains.
To the east there laid a village alongside a cliff overlooking the seas. The fishing was poor, and they were unable to provide much to sustain themselves. They took to trading as well when they could, trading fish and coral. However, they became pirates out of necessity, robbing the passing ships of their supplies when they could. These people were toughened from their harsh lives at the sea, fishing and plundering other vessels to survive.
Finally to the south there was a village in the middle of a great plain. The land was too poor for growing crops and there were few animals to be hunted. The villagers traded for whatever food they could obtain from travelers and merchants, but survived mainly by stealing what they could from unsuspecting travelers. They would trade what they stole for food from the forest village, but also took to robbing from the central village.
The outside villages were not particularly fond of the bountiful supply of food and resources the forested village had while they had to struggle to maintain a decent lifestyle. They would often raid and steal what they could when trading was not an option or provided too little for their needs and wants, which created a large amount of animosity between the villages. This hostility often led to disputes and the occasional skirmishes around the borders of the forest. There were murmurs of greater battles, but no wars ever broke out, that is, until a dark traveler appeared one day.
One day, a mysterious traveler garbed in a black cloak approached the villagers of the central land. He kept himself concealed by his garments, and spoke of a great war that was to come. He offered a way to defend their land from the outsiders, a way to make them an unrivaled power of the land. However, most of the people rebuked his claims of war, saying that the other lands would not risk being cut off from their supplies. They boasted of their military prowess, rejecting any help he could offer as being unnecessary. They had held onto this land for generations, and would not give it up so easily. The traveler, seeing that he wasn't wanted, left shortly after arriving. But he left behind a cryptic message that he would soon return, and if they wish, his offer of power was still open to them if they wished to accept it.
Shortly after the man left, small battles broke out around the village. They were nothing big, but they did shake up the security of the central village. After the mysterious traveler appearing, and the increase in nearby battles, the village increased their security around the borders. For a time, there was a tenuous peace, but several days after increasing their security, they stopped receiving reports from their border patrols. Upon investigation, they found each unit had been wiped out. In fear, they further increased their security, and cut off all trade with the outside villages. Unfortunately, this cut off of supplies hurt the outside villages, and they began to raise armies to take the resources they desperately needed by force.
The days passed on, and more and more conflicts occurred around the village. Many men died, and the central village became increasingly fearful for their safety. Fighting one village was one thing, fighting three at once was suicide, and the villagers realized this. They pressed their chiefs to send messengers of peace, to try to salvage their relationships with the outside villages as best they could. The chiefs relented, realizing the futility of the current war, and the limit of their village's strength. They sent out messengers with offerings of peace to the other villages, only to have their beaten and lifeless bodies appear at the borders. In a great fury, the chiefs said declared the outside villages to be forever cut off. No more would they work for peace, the outside villagers would suffer (for hurting messengers of peace was a great crime). But they were weakening and losing men at a rapid pace.
The battles continued, neither side giving way, but it was apparent that the central village was losing the will and manpower to fight. The mountain villagers were too well armed with their armor and weapons of stone and metals. The sea-farers would fight using cannons stripped from their ships, and other weapons they had not seen before, most likely from lands far away. The people of the plains would often ride in on horse-back, but were the easiest of the outside lands to fight. When all hope seemed gone, and the central village feared certain death, the mysterious traveler appeared once more.
No one is quite exactly how it all occurred, all that is known is that they made a pact with this mysterious traveler. The mysterious traveler did not provide weapons, armor, militia, or rations. He provided magic, dark and powerful magic. He said he would give the villagers the powers of the animals, and they accepted. What they did not expect, was to be turned into animals themselves. The chiefs were furious that this man had effectively eliminated a good portion of their army, and threatened to kill the man. But the traveler calmly replied that now they could kill their adversaries without being detected. The plains were known to have lions, so why not send those who had turned into lions to go out and kill the villagers of the plains. They could enter the outside villages as animals, go undetected, and eliminate their foes. Or, they could hide in the forest, and kill the opposing armies as they approached. With a combination of human and animal forces, they could fight in two different ways. And if they wanted to be human, they could return to their old forms. And so they tried this strategy, and began sending out their, now animal, troops to kill their foes at their homes. For a time, it worked. They were able to sneak in, as wolves, dogs, foxes, lions, and so on. They would be ignored as mere beasts, but managed to wipe out camps of warriors in their sleep, or on patrol. And the warriors were none the wiser.
More villagers came to the man to be changed into animals to help kill off their foes, and the central village quickly began overpowering their foes. The outside villages began to suspect something was awry, and their suspicions were confirmed when they were attacked by both man and beast together. They feared that somehow the central village knew how to communicate with animals, or could at least control or tame them. But by the time they found out, it was too late. The central village quickly overtook their foes, and one by one they surrendered and became under the control of the central village.
After the war, the beast-men wanted to return to their human forms, and asked the traveler to make them human again. He told them they must pass on their power to another to be human again. The warriors were outraged, they wanted to be human, not to make someone else animals. They couldn't turn their wives and children into beasts. The traveler told them to pass it onto their now subservient neighbors, after all, how better to control them than to make them mere animals. So they passed on their forms and for a few days, things were fine. But shortly afterwards they returned to being animals, and in a great fury, went to beat the traveler into getting them human again. When they sought out the traveler, they found him sitting on their chief's chair, with the chief's dead body at his feet. As the warriors approached to kill him, he held out his hand and they immediately stopped dead in their tracks. He took off his cloak, revealing a giant minotaur-like figure with a scepter in his hands. He laughed and told them that now they were his servants. As he raised his scepter in the air, it gave off a glow, and all the beasts before him lowered themselves in submission to his power, as the scepter gave him control of all animals, and the once human warriors were now part beast. With a large army spread out before him, Athio laughed and laughed. The Ancient Beast Curse was set, and a great many wars began…