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Humans' Guide to Shifters

Shifters Unbound by Jennifer Ashley

Shifters: Shape shifters of all species, mostly predatory: Most commonly Feline and Lupine. The Fae bred Shifters millennia ago from the best of each species to be hunters and fighters for the Fae. Shifters rebelled during the human Middle Ages, fought the Shifter/Fae war, and thereafter lived independently of the Fae.

Fae: Sometime called the Sidhe or Fair Folk, they retreated to the Faerie Realm after the Shifter/Fae war, which may be entered through stone circles after certain rituals are performed, or through thin points on the ley lines that radiate through the world. Fae fight with bronze swords and bows, they abhor iron.

Collars: Developed by a half-Fae, Collars are both magical and technological. Tied to the adrenal system, they send shocks and pain through the Shifter’s body if he starts to get violent.

Mates: Pairings recognized by the pride or clan leader in two rituals, one under full sun, one under the full moon. Shifters are not allowed to be legally married under human law, but the sun and moon rituals are recognized by Shifter law as a marriage.

Mate Challenge: When two or more males wish to claim the same female, they issue the Challenge. Before the Collar, the fight was to the death; with the Collar the loser is allowed to live. Because of the pain issued by the Collars and the higher number of surviving females, Challenges have become rare.

Pride: Mates and cubs plus closely tied family members living with them (e.g., parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, first cousins). (Lupines=Packs)

Clan: A collection of prides or packs that are related, though the relationships may be very distant (e.g., cousins to the 12th degree). The clan leader supersedes the pride or pack leader, although no clan leader can interfere with issues between mates or parents and cubs. Females and cubs are protected from the clan or pride leader by the male mate.

Shiftertowns: Enclaves in inner-cities or remote rural areas cordoned off by humans where Shifters must live. Shifters are not allowed to live outside Shiftertowns.

Shiftertown Leader: A new position created for Shifters by humans. The Shiftertown Leader is chosen from the clan leaders in that Shiftertown, and has final authority over the entire Shiftertown–over all species. He can supersede clan- and pride leader decisions when necessary. The Shiftertown leader can be the liaison between Shifters and humans, or he may assign a liaison (usually a member of his immediate family). The position of Shiftertown leader passes to the next closest male relative on the Shiftertown leader’s death (although the humans can take away this authority at any time and give it to another clan leader). The Shiftertown leader usually has a second (and often a third), to take care of detailed Shiftertown business (working one-on-one with anyone who has a problem). The second is usually an oldest son or the clan leader’s brother. A third can be another brother, younger son, nephew, etc. (These seconds and thirds also serve as the clan second and third).

Sword of the Guardian: A mystical sword made of magically hardened silver and bronze forged by a Shifter and spelled by a Fae. The sword turns a dead Shifter’s body to dust and releases the soul (see “Shifter Made” in The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance, Running Press, Feb., 2010).

The Guardian: The member of the clan chosen to use the Sword of the Guardian to dispatch a dead Shifter’s soul into the afterlife (the Summerland). Guardian’s original task was to ensure that the souls of deceased Shifters were kept out of Fae hands, to prevent the Fae from enslaving them . Before the Collar, each clan had its own Guardian (and own sword); at present, each Shiftertown has a Guardian that is responsible for everyone in that Shiftertown (across all clans and prides). Guardians are chosen by ritual upon the death of the previous Guardian. Families put forth potential candidates, and the next Guardian is chosen by the Goddess, channeled through the sword. The new Guardian’s first task is to release the soul of the previous Guardian. (Despite the ritual, the position of Guardian often remains in the same family down the years.)

Mating and Sex

Shifters like to mate in their animal form, but they can mate with humans in human form. They can also mate between species (felines with lupines, etc.)  Pureblood shifters are born in their animal form, then learn to shift to human form at about three years old. Shifters from two different animal forms are born in whatever the animal form dominant gene form happens to be.

Shifters born to human/Shifter pairings are born human, then learn to shift to the animal form at about three years old.

Shifters take a long time to mature. A Shifter at twenty is still considered a cub, though in his human form he’s an adult. When the Shifter is about twenty-two, he starts finding his place in the hierarchy of the clan. Most hierarchies follow family lines, but there may be variation (e.g., a grandson growing more dominant than the grandfather).

Most pureblood Shifters find that they are more fecund when they mate in animal form. (They don’t do this when they mate with  humans.)

Most Shifters aren’t interested in sex with humans at all, because Shifter to Shifter mating is much more powerful and exciting. They don’t find humans as attractive, either. But it’s been known.

Shifter Religion

Shifter religion is Earth-Goddess related (derived from Celtic; similar to Wicca). The Earth Goddess and Father God can take the form of animals. Shifters take comfort with them by meditation and prayer.

Shifters have no organized religion (no churches), but pray on their own or with families. They like rural areas and the wilderness, liking to be in touch with the earth; in cities, they’ll make do with gardens or yards. They believe in the Summerland, and that their dead body must be impaled by a Guardian’s sword in order to reach it.

Some rituals are: burning pictures of the dead to help release their souls; mate-bonds blessed first under the light of the sun then under the full moon; a circle “dance” when all the Shifters get together (at the equinoxes and solstices) and move in slow dance step in concentric circles. This honors the Earth Goddess and Father God and thanks them for another season.