Roles of Bear Shaman
Bear Shamans within Tribal society are both revered and outcasts. As both conquerors of The Wild as well as having been possessed by it, Bear Shamans represent two sides of a dangerous coin in the minds of the Tribefolk. They are both heroes for what they are capable of as well as feared for what has happened to them. As such, Bear Shamans within the Tribes command deep respect, but they are also rarely welcomed back into the fold of normal Tribe society once they have left.
Due to this, Bear Shamans are travelers. Able to navigate the Great Forest without fear, Bear Shamans travel from Tribe to Tribe but also between Wilder Packs, Ranger Outfits, and even some secret gathering places within the wood. Bear Shamans therefore make for excellent messengers, mediators between Tribes, and can also act to enforce Tribal laws in a similar manner to Rangers. When a Bear Shaman comes to a village, it is rarely without purpose. They typically arrive at the request of another Chieftain either to open communications, negotiate, or mediate an issue. Bear Shamans may often be summoned by a Chieftain as a village may be beset by some particularly nasty beast or even disease which the Chieftain wishes the Bear Shaman to abolish. Druids may often request the presence of a Bear Shaman if they are in particular need of help for dealing with a heavy presence of The Wild or simply as a magical peer with whom they can relate.
Unbeknownst to the Tribes, the Bear Shamans are also keepers of secret lore within the Great Forest. Being so magically attuned, it is never long before a new Bear Shaman wandering the Great Forest finally stumbles upon one of the Wells or other magical areas. When they arrive, they will find other, older Bear Shamans who apprentice them, teaching them what they know of Magic and helping them harness their new abilities. They also teach that the Wells and other areas of the forest are critical to the survival of the Tribes and that they are to be protected as well as kept secret for fear that they may somehow become poisoned or otherwise misused.
Bear Shamans as Messengers, Mediators, and Travelers
The most common way in which a person from a Tribe is introduced to a Bear Shaman is when that Shaman has reason to travel to their village. When a Bear Shaman arrives at a village, they are often noticed right away, and the Chieftain and Elders will greet the Shaman in person with some rites or ceremony involved. Certainly, the Druid of the village will detect the presence of the Bear Shaman's Magic and will know of them right away. In either case, it is not considered safe for a Bear Shaman to wander a village un-escorted as the Tribesfolk typically fear Bear Shamans as a being who has been possessed by The Wild. This fear will not result in hostility as no one in a Tribe is foolish enough to threaten a Bear Shaman. Stories of how Bear Shamans can transform into enormous beasts are quite common and told to children. Bear Shamans are, in effect, the living legends of the Tribe. However, their presence will always cause unease because the Tribesfolk fear what the Bear Shaman represents in terms of having been tainted by The Wild, and furthermore, the arrival of a Bear Shaman almost always heralds a dire message or grave news.
Since Bear Shamans are not typically welcome within a village, they often stay in quarters provided by the Chieftain or Druid. From there, the Bear Shaman will conduct his or her business. Most often, the business of a Bear Shaman within a village is to act as either a deliverer of message or as a negotiator or mediator. If a Tribe is having a conflict with another Tribe, they will often resort to summoning a Bear Shaman to act as a traveler between their villages and a mediator. This is common sense mostly because the Bear Shaman can safely travel the forest but also because the Bear Shaman already walks among the villages with a sense of awe and respect. Many disputes have been resolved and thereby outright hostilities avoided due to the mediation of a Bear Shaman.
Bear Shamans may also travel to a village if other business attracts them. Since Bear Shamans all carry a somewhat secret mission as protectors of the magic places of the forest, it can occur that a Bear Shaman may have purpose in a village due to that. Perhaps a particular Tribe that is close to a Well may be in danger of a recent outpouring of magic energy in the area. Perhaps someone from the Tribe has been spotted skulking into areas of the Great Forest where they do not belong. Perhaps a particularly ambitious Chieftain or Druid has been suspected of being mutated in some dangerous way by The Wild. All of these and more are reasons that a Bear Shaman may pay a visit to a Tribe, and depending on the nature of the visit, may even result in serious political turmoil for that Tribe especially if a person in question or even attacked by a Bear Shaman is an important figure.
In rare circumstances, Bear Shamans have also been known to interject themselves into the middle of a war between Tribes. When this has happened, it has always been because the war has gotten out of control and that innocent Tribes are being pulled into the violence. Bear Shamans of legend have even ended wars, leading small armies of Wilders into battle to crush a bitter feud between two Tribes and forcing them to come to terms.
Many times, Bear Shamans are also invited to a village, typically at the behest of a Druid. Sometimes, when The Wild grows very strong in an area, it may overwhelm the ability of a single Druid to handle. He may then send out a messenger to find a Bear Shaman to come to the village and assist. Bear Shamans may also follow their senses to a particular village, attracted by the presence of high amounts of magic energy, and they find themselves assisting the Tribe in terms of dissipating that energy. Seeing themselves as both protectors of the Great Forest and of the Tribes, Bear Shamans commonly lend their assistance in matters dealing with The Wild.
Another reason why a Bear Shaman may come to a village is in response to the nearby presence of a particularly dangerous creature that is in the vicinity of the village. Perhaps this is a mutated wild animal of sorts or perhaps it is a person, having fully succumbed to The Wild. In a role similar to Rangers, Bear Shamans will hunt these dangerous creatures down and free the area from them. This can occur at request, sometimes of a Chieftain or sometimes at the request of a Ranger Outfit that finds itself incapable of dealing with the monster. Shamans may also be tracking such monsters through the forest and bring themselves to a village as they track it. Capable of transforming into ferocious beasts, Shamans are not afraid to face down any creature of the forest.
Interactions with Wilders
Wilders, like Bear Shamans, were once ordinary Tribesfolk, but they have been possessed to some degree or another by The Wild. This possession warps their minds, turning them more feral but also something other human. As such, the Tribesfolk are generally not keen on interacting with Wilders. Should a Wilder Pack be nearby that is causing some concern for a village, a Bear Shaman may be called upon to resolve the situation. Often these are simple political matters. Perhaps a Wilder Pack is simply to close for a village to feel comfortable. Perhaps there is an issue with overlapping hunting grounds or access to streams. Since Bear Shamans understand at a much deeper level a Wilder, they can communicate with them in ways that a village cannot.
It is also not uncommon for a Bear Shaman to be accompanied by a Wilder Pack as she travels the Great Forest. On some rare occasions, often to the great unease of a Chieftain, a Bear Shaman may lead a Wilder Pack into a village as her entourage. Bear Shamans can lead Wilder Packs and put them to use, assuming a role that is akin to pack leader. She may use them to assist her in whatever her task may be, especially common when dealing with hostilities between Tribes or with particularly dangerous hunts.
Protectors of the Great Forest
Most Bear Shamans, after their ordeal with The Wild, are drawn in some way to the Wells or other places within the Great Forest that exude high amounts of Magic Energy. This is natural as all magic users can detect the presence of magic energy even across long distances. When they arrive, they often find other Bear Shamans, many of whom have taken it upon themselves to stay there and to find the newer Shamans. They do this in order to teach the Shamans what they know of Magic and to help them gain control of their powers. They further do this to ensure that all Bear Shamans have some understanding that although The Wild can be a terrible force, it is also what provides the bounty of the forest and of its people. Therefore, it is their duty to protect those places and ensure that the forest continues to thrive. Bear Shamans have thus had a sort of secret society built around these ideas for centuries.
When a particular Well or other source of Magic comes under threat, Bear Shamans will defend it viciously. These types of threats are extremely rare. They can take many shapes. Legends of particularly ambitious Chieftains, having somehow gained knowledge of a Well, especially in recent times, have surfaced whereupon an entire coterie of Bear Shamans have arrived to violently stop him from interacting with a Well. Stories have surfaced as well about power hungry Druids, also able to sense the presence of such great sources of magic energy, were trying to tap into those areas to further fuel their own powers. Legends exist where Bear Shamans have been forced to invade a village in high number to overthrow its leadership due to corruption around these secret areas.