The Orphans of Proteus are a Legacy that deals heavily with shapeshifting. Most Orphans work to emulate a particular life form, such as a bear, cat, eagle, or even a tree. Some eccentrics choose to delve into the mysteries of mineral "life".
Some say the ones modern English knows as the Orphans of Proteus, not the Atlanteans, were the very first humans to Awaken, and some even go so far as to suggest that all other types of magic are derived from theirs. Whether that is true or not, many now consider them to be a dying breed. Marginalized by the encroachment of civilization, they are usually found only at the fringes of mage society. They engage in few formalities, and the kinship of spirit they share is something that is felt, unspoken, deep within their souls. Inheritors of the Proteus Legacy can be unnerving, not only to other mages, but to those who know nothing of magic. Social customs and mores -- at least, those of the modern civilized world -- mean little to them, and they may at times break laws, cross boundaries, or ignore table manners and dress codes without compunction. This is not to say that they are dumb brutes. Members may exhibit as much intelligence and compassion as any other sorcerer. They tend to be plainspoken, even rudely blunt, and act impulsively upon primal urges known only to them.
While they are often initiated into one order or another (although some are apostates), they tend to spurn the traditional politics and schemes of Awakened society, retreating to the wilderness as soon as they adopt this Legacy. Most Orphans tend to be either solitary hermits or isolated, clannish groups, so they have little in the way of overall social organization. Affinity groups may spontaneously form along the lines of preferred habitats, species, phylum, or kingdom. Regional groups tend to form around places like virgin wilderness, wildlife refuges, or well-conceived parks as protection, or as a response against urban expansion, dumping sites, and other ecological crime scenes. Communication is generally conducted through non-human media, with speech expressed in the languages of animals, and with "written" messages formed by anomalous plant growth or geological formations.