The Five Directions Bears
Five Directions Bears, or "Hundred-Form Bears," are one of the stranger examples of the fauna wandering Creation. Savants believe that these creatures arose from the Wyld, or perhaps from some First Age experiment, for they are surely not a natural development -- but unlike most Wyld-spawned horrors, the Five Directions Bears seem to be quite hardy in Creation and roam the world freely.
Indeed, roaming the world is their primary way of life. The Five Directions Bears are highly migratory, and unlike the solitary habits of most bears, they tend to roam in packs ranging from five to three dozen adults, plus young. These wandering packs of bears migrate with the seasons, always in a "clockwise" order -- from North to East to South to West, and finally back to North again. (The name "Five Directions Bears" is a slight misnomer; while migrations to the Blessed Isle are not unknown, most packs of bears prefer to travel entirely around it, as if orbiting the great Imperial Mountain.)
As the bears move through Creation, their very shape ripples and changes as the bears seem to shape themselves better for their surroundings. In the North, the Five Directions Bears are huge and stocky, with thick bluish-white fur, and can be easily mistaken for polar bears; as they move to the East, the bears become sleeker and softer-footed, fur turning to a greenish-brown mottled with tan to simulate sun shining through leaves. The bears in the South are often a reddish sandy color, with sleek thin fur built to withstand the heat. In the West, the bears take perhaps their strangest form, becoming smooth-skinned and sleek as their broad paws become flippers to propel them through the water.
Within the relatively-civilized parts of Creation, the bears' changes are relatively explicable and benign, but stranger things have been reported by those who have seen the bears travel closer to the elemental poles. Reports from the Deep East describe the sight of an entire pack of Five Directions Bears, green as the leaves, brachiating as one through the highest canopy -- and yet stranger reports speak of the bears of the Deep North, huge and yet strangely graceful, riding wind currents with great gliding wings. The bears of the Deepest West are said to be refined versions of their more-shallow-living cousins, smooth and ruthless predators of the deepest ocean... and towards the Deep South, the bears are said to take on the tones of iron-black sand, a fact that gives some savants pause.
It is not certain why precisely the Five Directions Bears migrate, but they seem to be compelled to do so; there have been no reports of a pack of bears staying in one area for more than a season, and all attempts to restrain the bears have met with disastrous ends. Otherwise, if allowed to traverse their mysterious path, the Five Directions Bears are generally peaceful towards humans and will pass through villages and settlements without incident. In temperament, they seem mostly like ordinary bears except for their peaceful acceptance of humans and their strange wanderings. Some savants have wondered if, by some accident of the Wyld or some magical engineering, they might be conscious of themselves and their plights, and there are several reports (apocryphal or not) of the bears reacting in a near-human manner to challenges, but the bears do not attempt to communicate with mortals, and their intelligence is difficult to gauge.
In terms of game statistics, Five Directions Bears have varying Attributes depending on their location. They have fifteen "discretionary points" for their Physical Attributes; these should be divided between their Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina as is appropriate for their form. All Five Directions Bears have Willpower 5 and are assumed to be devoted to their migrations, reacting violently towards humans only if detained. Their Abilities are also dependent on their location, but in general they have Abilities appropriate to their environment and to bears in general. Their Intelligence is uncertain and should be decided by the Storyteller as appropriate to the Five Directions Bears' place in the plot.
Very cool. I now have a mental image of the bears as being one of the sort of mechanisms the 'kill all civilized people' Lunars have in mind to keep Creation from boiling away into the Wyld when they carry out their kunitori. - JohnBiles
Glad you liked them! And yeah, I could see that logic -- although whether it's even remotely true or not depends on a lot of factors I'm choosing not to define here. I sort of like these guys as a real unknown element; maybe they're the key to Creation's salvation or destruction, but maybe they're just one of Gaia's weird side projects. It never hurts to add a little extra weirdness. -- AntiVehicleRocket