With it, he goes on all fours
"The skinwalker is an evil witch. Empowered by the murder of a loved one, he dons the pelt of animals to take their form. But they are hollow, strange. They can neither walk nor fly straight and their cries are not of this world."
- excerpt from records of a forgotten hunter
Skinwalkers differ from most shifters in that they are human; men and women able to ritually shed their flesh in order to take animal form - albeit at grave cost. Unlike werewolves, they do not typically lose control of themselves and engage in murderous rampages; but like any human being, they are capable of malicious acts of violence. Power and revenge are said to be their most common motivating factors, though the reality of this varies from one individual to the next.
A skinwalker cannot be born. They are created ritually, generally by choice of the individual. While there are exceptions to the rule, skinwalkers are generally malevolently created beings as an act of murder is required to complete the ceremony. For this price, they gain the ability to partially take the form of an animal by utilizing a pelt or feathers of that creature.
BECOMING A SKINWALKER
Generally, Skinwalkers seek others to groom into being. Prospects are lured a variety of ways, most commonly with promises of power or revenge, though it is not uncommon for deception to be involved. This is usually where the split between malevolent and benign skinwalkers is created.
While the precise details of the ceremony are a close kept secret, the skinwalker ritual requires an act of murder to be completed, and the majority of converts commit this act willingly by seeking out and capturing their own. However, many an unwary youth has been lured by deception. Under illusion, they believe themselves to be ritually sacrificing an animal; and it is only after the slaughter has been completed that the illusion is shattered.
Regardless of one's intentions in becoming a skinwalker, there are negative consequences. It is rumored that by completing the ritual, one is sacrificing a part of their soul to a malevolent spirit (often said to be a Wendigo or something of the like). After this spirit consumes this essence it leaves behind traces of itself - thus providing the skinwalker its powers.
Initially, skinwalkers can only transform into a single animal, and must have some piece of that animal – feather, hide, claws, teeth etc – in order to assume its form. With time and experience, they can learn to adapt new forms. Skinwalkers most commonly transform into creatures associated with death and bad omen.
In addition to being about to partially or fully transform into their chosen animal, skinwalkers are known to have other abilities.
skinwalkers have incredible speed and endurance, and are rumored to be able to travel up to 200 miles in a single night.
Skinwalkers have the ability to cause manipulated hallucinations in humans. This allows them to deceive individuals into believing they are seeing objects that are not there, and can be used to lure victims into traps.
As a sub-category of witch, skinwalkers are capable of limited magic utilizing ingredients typically obtained from bodies of the dead. Most commonly these include create small, needle-like darts from human bone; these are embedded in the flesh of a victim, and poison over time. Another common substance is corpse powder, which is used to cause hallucinations in small doses.
Skinwalkers also have the ability to manipulate their bodies in strange, unnatural ways.
These skinwalkers are those that participate in the ceremony with full knowledge and understanding. They select their own victims, and willingly shed blood for their own gain. Though any act of murder will suffice, the skinwalker’s power is directly related to the victim’s relation. Therefore, a skinwalker who murders a sibling or close family member will be more powerful than one which chooses to take the life of a stranger.
Skinwalkers falling under this category are usually those who have been deceived into the life. They are often lured in by the promise of gaining superhuman abilities. Under the guidance of the converting skinwalker, they engage in the ceremony believing they will be sacrificing an animal. This is not the case. Deceived by illusion, once the murder has been committed they are faced with reality. In these cases, the victim is determined by the original skinwalker; therefore they are just as apt to be a family member, friend, or complete stranger.