“I have said that she had no face; but that meant she had a thousand faces”
Changelings, sometimes called Shapeshifters or simply shifters, are a race of supernatural creatures who can take the form of any human. Changelings are distant cousins to Dopplegangers, but possess a more limited ability set, though they have a moral compass. While they have many of the same violent impulses as their doppleganger cousins, these are tempered with humanity, making them a truly unique, if enigmatic, species.
Changelings evolved from the union of humans and doppelgangers centuries ago and over time, they became a distinct species. While old stories speak of shapeshifters assuming the form of loved ones, it is unknown how many were Changelings and how many were Doppelgangers.
There is no way to know when the first Changeling was born, but it is agreed upon that the first recorded Changeling was discovered in 1679, in a rural village in the Netherlands. The encounter, written in the journals of Father Sigmund Vogel (a German member of the Order of St. George) describes a shapeshifter who, when forced to assume its natural form through use of goldthread, possessed odd features for a Doppelganger, including human hair and other unique features. The specimen was killed by Father Vogel, but it aroused his curiosity and he believed that Dopplegangers who accepted Christ might gain human features, which is, of course, ridiculous. While this was the first recorded encounter with a Changeling, it is by no means considered the first Changeling; it was simply the first time a humans noticed them.
After that, Changelings were thought to be dopplegangers by inexperienced hunters and it wasn't until 1854 that Changelings were identified as a relative to Dopplegangers, but different enough for the distinction. For many years, they were forced to live similar lives to their darker, more monstrous relatives but the major distinction was the more human range of emotions and thought processes that Changelings possessed.
Changelings, today, are regarded as a humanoid species, or Shadow species, that has at least some relation to humans while also being regarded as separate (much like lycanthropes). While Changelings are considered highly dangerous, they are regarded with more sympathy by hunters and many are spared for an attempt at reform.
Physical & Psychological Traits Edit
In their natural form, a Changeling stands just over five feet tall with pale grey or white skin and thin, straw-like, white hair. They have small, pointed ears and disproportionately long limbs compared to those of humans, giving them a gaunt appearance. Their facial features are more defined than those of a doppleganger, but less finished than a human; the hint of a nose, lips and blank white or black eyes. Females are a bit more wiry than males and possess small breasts while males tend to have longer arms, smaller eyes, a slightly broader build and retractable reproductive organs.
Since they can assume a basic human form with little effort, few Changelings are willingly encountered in this form. Changelings often take human forms for fun or convenience.
All Changelings possess an odd hallmark that they have inherited from their doppleganger ancestry: a strange retinal flare that appears whenever filmed or photographed. Changelings are unable to control this reaction.
Social Groups Edit
Psychologically, most Changelings tend to fall into one of two groups:
- Becomers: The most humanlike in their attitudes, Becomes want to be a part of their community and repress their shapeshifting abilities, instead choosing to adopt a single form and become that person. They use their abilities to fit in with a community and identify closely with the people that they portray. They rarely travel, unless out of necessity. Others call them "actors" or "pretenders" and many Passers (see below) view them with contempt.
- Passers: These changelings believe their powers are a gift and use them often. Their way is deceit and self-gain. While certainly the most common sort of changeling, they are feared by their Becomer kin.
Changelings do possess a "natural" gender, which is reflected in their basic form, albeit only slightly. However, their powers make this distinction more or less negligible.
When it comes to breeding, it should be noted that almost all Changelings are, by their very nature, bisexual and relatively non-binary; gender is a fluid concept for them. While nearly every Changeling identifies as one gender or another, it is not always the gender of their "natural" forms. Some identify as entirely genderless, their condition having caused them to discard the notion of gender entirely. Others identify as both genders, with a separate identity or form for each. Others still have different ideas regarding their own sexual identity. None of them are wrong.
Changelings are a very licentious race and have no issues sleeping with all manner of mortal and immortal creatures, regardless of gender. However, strangely, Changelings can only produce offspring with humans. The result of these couplings are always Changelings themselves.
Changelings can survive in any environment that a human can and are generally found wherever humans are. That being said, Changelings most often tend to settle in places with a high population density (such as New York City, London or Tokyo) and are most comfortable in humid, temperate areas.
A changeling eats the same food as humans, but possess a stronger fortitude and are able to eat rotten food or raw meat (though most prefer not to). In their natural form their sense of taste is highly dulled and in some cases, nonexistent. Most changelings enjoy citrus fruits, especially grapefruit, and other acidic foods, with a tendency to avoid starchy foods.
Many Changelings enjoy black coffee and caffeine affects them much more potently than humans, providing a euphoric sense of joy, much like some illegal drugs. Changelings on a "caffeine high" tend to act like a human drunk on alcohol.
An odd phenomenon in Changelings is their propensity toward whatever food the human they are imitating prefers. Even if the human loves a food the changeling cannot stand under normal circumstances, they will prefer it over their favorite fruits while in that form.
General Abilities Edit
Changelings are a supernatural "Shadow" species, and as such, possess a number of supernatural ablities.
- Enhanced Agility: Changelings have a skeletal and muscular structure that differs slightly from humans; their ability to change shape makes their physical forms much more flexible and fluid than a human being. This makes a Changeling extremely dexterous, quick and agile.
- Mental Defenses: Changelings do not possess the telepathic abilities of a true Doppelganger, but they do have very strong minds that are difficult for a psychic to "break into". They are also immune to any sort of magical or psychic attempts at sedation.
- Regeneration: As they change their forms easily, a Changeling can heal most non-fatal wounds much faster than a human. They can even replace body parts, such as ears, fingers or large patches of skin.
- Shapeshifting: While more limited than a doppleganger's, a Changeling's shape changing abilities are nothing to be scoffed at. They can take on the appearance of any human creature they have seen. Their clothing and possessions do not change with them and their physical attributes remain more or less the same. In order to take on an appearance, a Changeling must possess something of the target's: a meaningful item, article clothing, lock of their hair, etcetera. Changing shape is a painful experience that takes about one minute to complete, and the skin of their old form is shed and left behind. They can remain in this form for an indeterminate amount of time. Killing a Changeling causes it to resume its natural form after one minute.
- Dogs: Like certain supernatural phenomena, certain animals such as dogs can sense Changelings regardless of the form they take.
- Hunter's Knives: This set of magical knives, forged by Jim Bowie himself, are capable of killing next to any supernatural creature. Changelings are no exception.
- Iridium: This substance is extremely rare and very expensive, but an iridium is absolutely fatal to a Changeling. Injuries from an iridium weapon cause the Changeling to revert to their natural form and any wounds sustained from these weapons can only be healed through magic. Iridium to the heart will kill a Changeling.
- Lightning: Changelings have a strange weakness that Dopplegangers do not--electricity. Any shock damage dealt to a Changeling can be lethal.
- Retinal Flares: As with Dopplegangers, Changelings can be identified by a retinal flare that shows when they are filmed or when light hits their eyes just right.
- Silver: As with almost all shapeshifters, Changelings are vulnerable to silver. Wounds made with silver weapons do not benefit from regeneration and silver to the heart will kill the Changeling instantly.