Shapeshifters (Drakine Feramuta; Scientific names Fera Mutat Speciem, Fera Mutat Fantastica, and Fera Mutat Candor) are a race of intelligent beings with the inherent ability to change their entire biological structure at will, to accurately mimic other organisms'. Although capable of quickly developing sapience with a certain amount of exposure to other intelligent species, they are nonetheless classified as Monsters in many categorization systems due to their anomalous nature. They are originally native to Euthora, though later spreading and separately evolving in Syelsumoia and Phantasia. A group of Shapeshifters may be referred to as a pack, but generally depends on what forms the Shapeshifters are in at the time.
- 1 Appearance
- 2 Physiology
- 3 Abilities
- 4 Behavior
- 5 Evolution
- 6 Lore
- 7 Trivia
Shapeshifters have no set appearance. There is no genetically-identical or otherwise "original" form that can be universally attributed to a Shapeshifter--identification is solely based on accounts of their natural abilities, as even their Base Forms (or the replicated organism they are born as) can greatly differ depending on parent species. Predominant colors (e.g. eyes, hair, scales, fur, etc) are consistent between all forms, even if the coloration is impossible in nature: for example, a Shapeshifter with black hair in human form would have black feathers, scales, or fur in any other form. It is common for Shapeshifters to have bright, luminous eyes in every form, if applicable.
- Primary Color: The Primary Color of a Shapeshifter is the color it generally appears to be- such as a wolf's fur, a human's hair, or a bird's feathers. This color is usually genetic and almost always matches the natural color of the Shapeshifter's Base Form.
- Secondary Color: The Secondary Color is the normal color of any markings in the Shapeshifter's forms and does not usually appear until puberty. This commonly occurs in dragon, Lupynn, or other monster forms first, slowly spreading to the other forms as the Shapeshifter grows older. Until this time, Shapeshifters only display their Primary Color, making most forms appear monochrome, with humans being a rare exception due to hair and skin combination. This color is often genetic, though can appear random.
- Tertiary Color: The Tertiary Color only appears in forms under the influence of a Feral State. It usually overwrites the complimentary nature of the Secondary Color, though the degree of randomness in a Shapeshifter's genetic code makes it possible for mutations in which it instead blends alongside the Secondary Color, creating interesting and distinctive combinations. The Tertiary Color is uniquely bioluminescent due to the pigment reacting strongly to Mana, a quality that extends throughout all of the Shapeshifter's forms. In addition to this, it often becomes less like the markings of the Secondary Color and more like technicolor veins running at the surface of the form's skin. Tertiary Color is widely accepted to be genetically random.
A Shapeshifter's physiology is well-known due to the amount of study given to the species, and is largely unique among Euthoran animals and monsters alike.
In a confrontation between two rival Shapeshifters, unless both combatants are over their mid 20's and within a few years of each other, the older Shapeshifter will almost always win. This is a result primarily of experience and capability toward controlling instinct and form changes, as well as experience with fighting in general. However, it is also a result of Shapeshifters being considered "sexually mature" around this age threshold, considerably later than humans. Shapeshifters age more slowly than humans throughout their lives; their natural lifespan is approximately 120 Euthoran years. This may be extended by up to 30 years if the individual has a form that lives longer, but the genetic instability caused by constant shifting eventually will take its toll.
Shapeshifters are known to be able to mate with any species that they can turn into, and a female animal with a male Shapeshifter partner may produce offspring of her own species, in addition to the possibility of a Shapeshifter. Only if the mother is a Shapeshifter will the mating be guaranteed to produce a Shapeshifter. In addition, a Shapeshifter may, on rare occasion, produce offspring of one of its forms regardless of partner or gender. This has been known to repopulate entire species on the verge of extinction over the course of a few generations, lending to the theory that the species is meant to balance and preserve the ecosystem in which they live.
A Shapeshifter's incredibly high metabolism is both a blessing and a curse. On the upside, they are very high-energy and almost completely immune to toxins and illnesses unless the toxin is intentionally strengthened. Foreign chemicals, as well, will only have an effect for one to five minutes. The downside is that Shapeshifters use up energy very rapidly, and must eat their weight roughly every three and a half days. However, it is impossible to tell if a Shapeshifter is starving until about four hours before it would simply die. A special chemical known as Asyentine supplements the Shapeshifter's energy, providing them with the strength to hunt or get out of whatever situation keeps them from eating.
DNA Structure and Shifting Mechanics
A Shapeshifter's DNA structure is easily recognizable: three loosely connected strands forming a triple helix molecule. This structure is unique among Euthoran animals and is a specialized mutation developed to maximize genetic stability, due to the Shapeshifter's inherent ability to change form.
When stimulated by a chemical known as Asyentine, the DNA molecule momentarily "unravels" into a double helix and a loose strand. This loose strand then recodes itself and reattaches itself to the double helix, causing momentary instability as a second strand detaches, leaving the two connected strands incompatible while it recodes as well. When it reconnects, however, the third disconnects, leaving the Shapeshifter's form stable enough so that the third strand, when recoded and reattached, repairs any damage caused by the brief instability. This entire process takes a few seconds on average. Shapeshifters are able to control this process to an extent, choosing which form to take, which areas of their bodies are shifted, and how far they go into the chosen form.
Asyentine is an anomalous, Mana-based chemical naturally produced by the Shapeshifter. Asyentine's most defining properties are the latent magiological processes encoded in it, which are crucial to the mechanism of shapeshifting. As detailed above, Asyentine magically stimulates the Shapeshifter's DNA to achieve biological restructuring, providing the Shapeshifter the aetheric energy required to bypass conservation of mass and similar physical obstacles. Production of Asyentine is mechanically similar to that of Adrenaline, often operating in conjunction, and has been often mistaken to simply be a variant of it. In reality, however, Asyentine is entirely controlled by the Shapeshifter's mental state. Frequently, this is linked to the common "Fight or Flight" response, as well as strong emotional states such as stress, anger or fear. Sufficiently strong simuli in that regard will generate a large dose of Asyentine in a short span of time, resulting in "reflex shifts" and even instinctually-triggered Feral States. This is difficult to control without training.
A mortally wounded Shapeshifter will, if possible, revert to its Base form just before death.
A Shapeshifter has three types of forms.
- Base Form: This is the form the Shapeshifter was born in. It serves as a "default" form- if a Shapeshifter is in a primary or acquired form(below) and is knocked out, dies, or something similar, it automatically reverts to the base form.
- Primary Forms: These are the one or two forms the Shapeshifter was born with, though not in. These forms have the most influence on the Shapeshifter's personality and may later influence what acquired forms the Shapeshifter later gains.
- Acquired Forms: These are the forms the Shapeshifter gains as it lives its life, usually starting anywhere from fourteen to eighteen years of age. Potentially limitless, the Shapeshifter gains forms until it dies. Some of these may be difficult for the Shapeshifter to control. Acquired forms almost always follow a general theme, such as predatory animals or reptiles only. Monster forms and human forms tend to ignore this rule, but often conform to it when possible.
Some naturally powerful Shapeshifters or Shapeshifters under a lot of stress may gain more powerful versions of forms, often right around the time that they start acquiring forms. The Shapeshifter's eyes glow a different color (usually red or amber) in this form, and they are often decorated with intricate markings. Feral forms are often uncontrollable and will attack anything that approaches them. They run entirely on instinct, and will neither understand nor listen to reasoning until they have returned to their senses.
A Shapeshifter may learn to control its Feral Forms after discipline and training, but this takes at least several months to achieve.
Shapeshifters have the ability to fully heal their own minor to moderate wounds(and partially heal more severe wounds) when they shift, in addition to the following:
Senses and Reflexes
A Shapeshifter's senses are nearly unparalleled by any creature native to Euthora; the only exception is the distance vision of most Wyverns and some Firedrakes. They are hypersensitive to all general senses- pressure, pain, temperature- and special senses- sight, hearing, taste, smell, and balance- as well as having a sort of "sixth sense" for danger which merely comes from their heightened survival instincts and reflexes (detailed below). Low-light vision and hearing are especially acute, sight being perhaps 2 or 2.5x the strength of that form, and hearing often being able to detect 85,000 Hz in certain forms (provided said form can't normally hear frequencies so high). However, this also makes them especially vulnerable to attacks that assault the senses, though they have a high tolerance for pain.
Reflexes, on the other hand, are nearly precognitive. This gives them their aforementioned "sixth sense"; a Shapeshifter will dodge an attack without thinking, and have been known to suddenly leap away without knowing why, only to turn and see a potentially lethal blow sail harmlessly past. This also makes them have a very high combat potential, especially when given bladed weaponry, where the holder's speed, agility, and reflex will aid in close-quarters-combat.
While all Shapeshifters have the capacity for sapience, it is only through contact with inherently sapient species (such as humans and dragons) that it is developed. Otherwise, Shapeshifters are still highly intelligent predators whose capacity for sapience is put to use to outsmart prey and develop problem-solving abilities. Though predatory by nature, their exact diet varies between individuals (primarily depending on the base form). A deer-hunting Shapeshifter will not necessarily eat fish, and some rare individuals may prefer a grazing lifestyle as a prey animal.
Shapeshifters are solitary for the most part, and highly territorial among their own species. Should two shapeshifters meet in the wild, they would inevitably battle for dominance unless one were to back down. The fight ends one of three ways: one combatant backing down, dying, or reverting to another form (a built-in defense mechanism and a show of weakness).
Otherwise, Shapeshifters are in general aloof, antisocial, and defensive, especially around humans. Their intelligence often makes humans forget that the Shapeshifter is still a wild animal, hence the application of the Latin word "Fera", typically only given to mammalian species found purely in the wild, such as the Euthoran wolf (Fera Lupus) and the Lupynn (Fera Tempest). This is characterized by a heightened hostility when endangered, their habits of hunting for food rather than accepting human-made food, and their preference of the wild over civilization.
Shapeshifters tend to be claustrophobic, due to their wild and free way of life. Shapeshifters who have been confined in too small a space for too long have been known to be more reclusive than is natural, sometimes suffering from anxiety when in a building or anywhere they can't see the sky. They may become manic or even feral. Shapeshifters are very in-tune with nature and are said to be one of nature's balancers.
Shapeshifters may be found absolutely anywhere that can sustain life. However, they seem to prefer areas away from human civilization, especially mountains and forests. Shapeshifters in the wild will not knowingly share territory, and mated pairs rarely, if ever, stay together after a day or so.
Fera Mutat Speciem
Fera Mutat Fantastica
Fera Mutat Fantastica, or the Phantasian Shapeshifter, is a being from the planet Phantasia that is nearly identical to F. M. Speciem by genetic, behavioral, and aesthetic standards. The core difference, beyond the difference in planets, is that F. M. Fantastica has evolved so as to be able to shift into creatures which F. M. Speciem would be unable to even if exposed, namely non-animal monsters native to Phantasia itself. It is currently unknown whether the two species are related, though it is highly likely. The common theory is that one or more individuals belonging to the species F. M. Speciem shifted into the Voidwalker and came across Phantasia, remaining there rather than returning, and bred themselves into the ecosystem, similar to invasive species.
Fera Mutat Candor
While Shapeshifters inhabiting the country of Durasken follow the above behaviors, they were treated as second-class citizens under the humans. Durasken features a large concentration of shapeshifters in wilderness areas, which following the Shapeshifter Revolt is essentially the entire country. Both before and after the revolt, Durasken-born Shapeshifters share a cultural hatred of humans and have no qualms about attacking and killing them for food or out of spite. In addition, Chii-Ranu are considered the natural- or unnatural- enemy of the Shapeshifter due to humans mixing the two up and killing shapeshifters believed to be Chii-Ranu. Even if two wild shapeshifters were to meet, they will always attack a human or Chii-Ranu before even considering turning on each other. This is the only case where a Shapeshifter will invariably kill out of spite rather than hunger or self-defense.