The Shifters were granted the rare power to change physical form by the goddess Ayzy, the goddess of spring and new life. They were scattered across all the lands, but came together when prejudice forced them out of their various homes. Many people feared the Shifters’ abilities to become something completely inhuman. This led to the murder of anyone possessing such powers. The Shifters fled persecution and eventually formed a society of their own in the deep forests of Algoma.
When they were discovered in 321, the Algoman king Kegan was sympathetic, despite his people’s objections. He allowed the Shifters to keep their land, without requiring any taxes. The Shifters were also allowed to keep their own laws, not required to follow Algoman law unless outside their territory.
The Shifters’ lands were rich in cocoa and spices, allowing them to create a strong trading partnership with Algoma. The successful trading agreements led to a decrease in the general prejudice against the Shifters, but did not completely destroy it. Many people still fear the Shifters’ ability to alter their bodies into those of animals, but the culture as a whole has more respect than in previous generations, at least in Algoma.
The ability to change physical form does not appear in any other culture outside of the Shifter territory in Algoma. Some Shifters may choose to leave their land and may have families elsewhere, but it is very rare that one would wish to do this. More often, Shifters travel for trade and bring partners into the Shifter society, rather than leaving it themselves.
The Shifter culture is built on respect and the idea of community. Communal farms are the source of both food and income for all. The society has a leader, usually someone whose animal form is that of a magical creature, as they are the rarest and strongest.
At the age of eighteen, young Shifters are encouraged to begin looking for a romantic partner. There are no rules requiring Shifters to be married or even to form lasting relationships of any kind, but the expectations of many in the society is that the younger generation will continue to expand the community by having children.
It is also required for all able-bodied community members to become a part of the military. The Shifters have their own army that exists to protect the community from intruders who may wish them either physical, emotional, or economic harm. In times of war, the Shifter army may voluntarily or at the request of the Algoman court, assist the Algoman army in protecting their lands. There is no formal agreement, only the understanding that losing Algoma may mean the loss of their own lands to an invader’s control.
Those who are excused from military service include: women who are pregnant or have young children, the elderly, those with animal forms that would not be able to fight well, those with any sort of disability, those specialized in healing, and those who are traders or apprenticed to be traders – though military training is recommended in case of trouble while traveling.
Most Shifters can change into common animals, while some can transform into a magical creature. It is incredibly rare to have the ability to become a magical creature, and those who can are often selected to be the community’s leader at some point in their lives.
Each Shifter can only transform into one animal. There has never been a documented case of a single individual having more than one animal form.
Shifters are named partially after their animal form. Each has a unique first name, followed by a second name that is that of his or her animal form. For example, NAME ANIMAL.
Treatment of Women
The Shifters view women as being as capable as men in nearly any communal position. There are no serious prejudices against women in the Shifter society. Only women who are with child or who have small children are expected to remain focused on the care of the home and child. Once the children are somewhat independent, the woman may return to whatever position she held before, if she wishes.
Though the community ideally wishes to grow and expand, if any Shifter chooses not to marry or have children, he or she is not pressured by the society as a whole. Individual parents may decide to pressure their children, but the community allows all its members to live however they wish to, as long as no harm comes to the community.
This also applies to same-sex relationships. Some amount of prejudice may exist in parts of the community, but as a whole, the society doesn’t mind. It is especially unimportant if either or both Shifters involved contribute to the community through military service or trading.
Crime is taken very seriously in the Shifter culture. Murder results in a penalty of death, while theft results in fines and exile if the crime is repeated. Rape results in the castration of the offender. In the case of a woman committing the crime, the punishment is exile from the community.