|Please note: The following information is scarcely known. As such, you cannot assume to be aware of this information unless taught about it in-character.|
The lore in book format
Transcribed from Ancient Elven and the original Shapeshifting tome by Spirit Druid Saviticus
May Cerridwen bless he who is deemed worthy to read this tome.
Shapeshifting: The Tome
Shapeshifting is the ability of being able to physically transform into a beastial form. An ancient art only ever spread by whisper and rumor, it is not as nonexistent as portrayed by the races of Aegis. This secret and sacred power has been gifted only to the most pious and reverent Druids throughout history and is deciphered onto the pages of this single tome for only the choice few to ever lay eyes upon. The knowledge and ability of this gift has been kept only amongst these Druids, and this has been so since before the Druidic Order was formed.
The only known lore of this sacred art is in an ancient tome, which dates back to the early times of Aegis. The tome's pages are scribed in ancient Elven, however a translation to common tongue was added to the tome by the Spirit Druid in Anthos. In common, the tome reads as follows...
How Druids uncovered this ability is said to have involved Cerridwen herself gifting a single Druid with the ability to shift into an animal; she told him of the process that must be completed by the Druid to gain the Aspects’ blessing and to gain the ability to transform. Ever since the encounter, the gift was passed on only to the most pious and devout servants of Nature.
A Druid after attunement must prepare his body and mind to shapeshift. He must survive two daunting tasks and complete a ritual while being watched over by the Aspects themselves. The process is called the Trials of Spirit, as it is a spiritual journey.
The Trials of Spirit
Acceptance begins the trials as the first task, known as the Task of Acceptance. Cernunnos, Lord of the Hunt, guides the Druid in his journey to find his spirit animal and gain its trust. This animal can be found only by instinct, and may take extended periods of time for the Druid to come across. The Druid will be granted a vision by Cernunnos upon spotting his spirit animal for the first time, assuring him the beast is truly it. After experiencing the vision, the Druid must pray to Cernunnos, asking for watchfulness over himself and his spirit animal as he progresses through the Trials. The Druid then must come to fully understand his spirit animal by adapting to its natural ways of living. When the spirit animal finally accepts the Druid as one of its own, only then can the Druid progress onto the next task.
The second task, known as the Task of Strength, is guarded by Nemiisae, the Shadow of Death. The Task of Strength must begin once the Druid has been granted acceptance from his spirit animal. This task forces the Druid to challenge his spirit animal in a quarrel. The spirit animal will accept, feeling only the highest honor to be challenged by the Druid. If the Druid is victorious, he must skin the carcass for its pelts. Nemiisae will then bind the spirit animal’s soul to its pelts, rendering them feasible for the ritual. Finally, the Druid must perform a ceremonial burial for the animal’s remains in tribute to its valor and in honor of Nemiisae.
There is no third task. Instead, a ritual takes its place, known as the Ritual of Change. This ritual must take place inside a Grotto of Cerridwen - a secret shapeshifting cavern. The ritual requires the presence of the Druid seeking the ability to shapeshift along with a fellow shapeshifter. The ritual consists of the shapeshifter laying the pelt over the seeking Druid. Once this is done, the shapeshifter will read a passage of the shapeshifting tome verbally. The two will then bow their heads in prayer and wait. If the Druid is prepared, Cerridwen will bless him, and the Druid will begin to transform into his spirit animal. The pelt of the animal will be absorbed into the Druid's skin during the transformation process, and the essence of the spirit animal will combine with that of the Druid. The first transformation will last for one whole day. Once the time has passed, the Druid will shift back into humanoid form and the pelt will have completely dissolved into the Druid's skin, making him look as he did before the process of transformation.
After the Ritual of Change, the Trials of Spirit have been completed. The Druid has successfully been granted a beastial form by the blessing of the Aspects, and he may enter this form as he pleases. The Aspects will always keep a close eye on their blessed Druids, as they hold them most dear.
Permanent transformation - rumors say that some of the most honorable Druids may achieve this. This is a choice made by the shapeshifting Druid when he is ready to depart from his humanoid life and to officially leave his service to nature behind. Only the most powerful and most renowned Druids, only Druids that have shown extraordinary piety and devoutness are given this blessing. It is a simple ritual, requiring nothing but the shapeshifter in a Grotto of Cerridwen.
The process is known as the Ritual of Departure, named so as the Druid departs from his humanoid form and Druidic life forever. It is a choice for the Druids who no longer wish walk the land as men or women, but instead another form of nature. For the ritual, the must Druid bow his head once more in this sacred place. The Druid will pray to the Aspects, asking them to transform the Druid once again, but this time forever. If Cerridwen, Cernunnos and Nemiisae deem the Druid worthy of this new life, believe that this particular Druid has made a major positive impact in serving nature, and believe that the Druid has a keen enough relationship with nature, they will give the Druid a permanent transformation.
What if the Druid isn't transformed? Then it is a sign from the Aspects themselves. It can mean many things, and the Druid may never know the true meaning. However, the two most common meanings of a failed transformation are as follows: the Aspects do not believe the Druid is worthy of this honor, or the Druid is far too important to currently leave his service to nature.
The Grotto of Cerridwen
Each ritual, the Ritual of Change and Ritual of Departure, requires the Druid(s) to be in a Grotto of Cerridwen - a hidden Druidic cavern that must be chosen or created by existing shapeshifters. The process of creating a Grotto of Cerridwen is ceremonial and is known as Blessing. A group of shapeshifting Druids must enter the grotto and sit together in a circle. In their midst must be an offering to Cerridwen, be it a burning fire, a bouquet of flowers or something else, which they will chant a prayer around. The Druids must then shapeshift together to complete the ceremony. They will know if the ceremony is successful by instinct as the grotto will emit an ambience of sacredness and holiness upon a successful Blessing. Multiple Grottos may exist throughout the land.
The process of transforming from humanoid to animal is a complicated and inexplicable process. It will vary between each race, spirit animal, physical health and how experienced the Druid is. However, once the Druid has shapeshifted once, the process will be repeated each time he transforms. This means that the Druid will become more adept to shapeshifting and more resilient to the pain of the transformation over time.
The transformation will typically take between fifteen and twenty seconds to complete, with the exception of first-time shifters taking up to a minute. Master shapeshifters are known to be able to shift forms almost instantaneously. The process itself varies greatly, depending much on the spirit animal. Some will grow extra limbs or fur, others will unfurl sharp claws and a tail. The amount of pain delivered by transforming will vary, mostly depending on the scale of the transformation.
Shapeshifting: Natural Instinct
In some cases, Druids that have been blessed by the Aspects and have been able to shapeshift for years will often experience a trauma where they have developed characteristics of their spirit animal in their personality. Depending on how severe the trauma is, the Druid may sometimes believe he has shapeshifted while he is still humanoid. Other characteristics such as these listed could also be adopted from their spirit animal:
Rat - Become disinterested in others around them, find shiny objects distracting.
Mouse - Timid and shy, may be distracted by intriguing smells, and finds fear of larger creatures.
Dog - Overly playful, tends to become overly protective and loyal.
Wolf - Is rather curious and paranoid, find bones distracting for some odd reason.
Tiger - Territorial and aggressive. Tend to become overly protective of loved ones.
Leopard - Feels prideful and vanity, sometimes loses interest in their original purpose or goal while shifted.
Cheetah - Challenging and aggressive, weakness to the chase.
Gy'waka - Power struck, prideful, and often longing feeling to hunt or be in the jungle. May turn on friends.
Snake - Often paranoid and hateful, sometimes speak in a lisp which exaggerates the letter 's'.
Squirrel - Fearful at the sight of danger, often longing the feeling of freedom or to climb.
Toad - Tend to jump when trying to move swiftly, sometimes speak in a deeper voice.
Rabbit - Very aware which may cause fatigue, may chitter while eating or during long conversations.
Goat - Often grumpy and stubborn; persistent until goals are achieved.
Deer - May become timid and often precautious.
Any similar animals to those listed above would likely suffer from the same characteristics.
Shapeshifting: Extra Information
The Druid will remain shapeshifted for about one hour each transformation. After the Druid has shifted back to his humanoid form, he will feel extremely tired and fatigued. As time goes on with the gift, the Druid will become more experienced and adaptive to it. Master shifters have been able to stay shifted for even up to a day.
Shapeshifting grants the worthy Druid a second form. The Druid is able to enter this form at will, although will suffer from fatigue for staying shifted too long or shifting too frequently. There are no flying or aquatic spirit animals.
Druids are unable to perform any other form of Druid magic while shapeshifted.
The Druid's body will remain in shapeshifted form if he dies while shapeshifted.
The only distinction between a shapeshifted Druid and a regular animal is that the shifter's eyes in animal form will gleam an emerald green.