In the fullness of the World, there are Beasts and there are Men, and the All-Father won mastery over all Beasts before the First Dawning, as is well known to all. But know this: the line between Man and Beast is not so clear as it would seem, and there are men who have learned to cross it at their choosing. Hear, then, the story of Finn ap Cummil, the first and greatest of the skin changers:
"Long ago, before the age of the High King and the wars with the Northmen, when the Clans ruled over all the hills of Alvaetia, a mighty warrior named Finn ap Cummil roamed the hills. Tall was he, as strong as a Giant and grim as the fury of a storm.
One winter, the frost came early and the Fey folk, the dreaded Ice Lords, came down from their palaces to plunder the newly cut harvest. Finn fell on the Elvish host in a fury, and slew dozens, but the shining darts of the Fey found their mark, and soon Finn lay feverish, tormented by the treacherous Elvish poison. The wise women of his village could not cure him, and Finn wandered back into his beloved hills to die.
As he neared death, a massive shadow blotted out the sun, and Finn found himself face to face with G'Harron, King of all Bears. "Little man, long have I watched you," said the beast, "your Spirit is strong, and wise. You are truly a noble hunter of the wilds."
"Alas, my strength and wisdom are undone." Finn gasped. "The Elf venom devours my spirit."
The bear was silent a long while, then spoke again. "Know this - poison of the Deathless Ones is brewed to kill men, and men alone. But here is a secret: there is, within every Man, a Beast. The All-Father Himself knows it not, but it lies within the hearts of all your kind. Hear the Call within your heart, and find the Bear that waits, asleep, in the cavern of your soul. His strength will save you."
Finn lay still, and put all thoughts of death and home from his mind. And as he lay, he looked about himself and unlearned the name of everything he looked upon. Finn saw the woods not with the eyes of a man, but with the eyes of a Beast. Time stopped, past and future both draining into Now. And Finn screamed as his sinews buckled, as the thick pelt sprouted from his skin, and his very bones twisted themselves into the image of the bear lord before him. Finn became a Bear, and roared in exultation at the moon.
It was many years before any man set eyes on Finn ap Cummil again. Long did he wander in the wilds, on two legs and on four, and all the twisted creatures of Darkness learned to fear the great black bear who hunted at G'Harron's side. More shapes did Finn learn, but always did he return to the Bear, whose call was mightiest in him. In time, Finn took a wife and sired many sons, all of whom can trade their shape for a bear's by moonlight. Now, there are many who have found the Bear within them, and they come from all lands.
But heed the words of G'Harron: All men may, if their will is strong enough, walk in a Beast's shape, for in their hearts there sleeps a Spirit of the Wild. Come then, if you have the strength. Come see what manner of Beast waits within yours.