|Chen Durelite Vessel in the form of a Jack O'Bear|
Jack O'Bears first appeared in the Great Darkness, when many chaotic horrors roamed the land. Unlike many of these horrors, no single source has ever been found for the Jack O'Bears. Instead, they seem to have just emerged fully formed from the primal wellspring. Despite this, many peoples have come up with their own explanations of how the Jack O'Bear came to be.
The troll lovers of the Kingdom of Ignorance say that when the dark god Tien came to attack them in the darkness, their masters slew and devoured each and every one of Tien's soldiers. Alone and without any protectors, Tien stumbled into a bear-den while attempting to hide from his pursuers. Surprising the bears as they hibernated, he cut off their heads and bound their souls to him, and then raised their bodies as horrific monsters. To replace their heads he had them place a pumpkin atop their neck, and carved a fearsome face into its surface. He then set them loose to plague the world, while he fled back into the wastes.
In the west, it is popularly said that Jack O'Bears are the spawn of a hellish plant, created by the Devil to feed his army. The Jack O'Bears were its seeds, sent out to gather refuse and waste to feed this monstrous thing. The leader of the Black Horse Troop, Sir Ethilrist, claims he met this beast in his travels, and cut his way out when it swallowed him whole. Certainly his description of this devouring monster as a giant pumpkin would suggest a connection, but despite common folklore, the Jack O'Bear an animal, not a plant or hybrid of the two.
Jack O'Bears (Joannursus paralysis) resemble the brown or grizzly bear of western Genertela, at least for the most part. The Jrusteli Naturalist Ocran Everseer believed they represented an offshoot of brown bears, although so far altered by the touch of Chaos that they can no longer breed with any other bear. Certainly they share much of their range with the brown bear, the majority of Jack O'Bears being found in a band from Fronela, through Ralios, to Maniria. Despite this, a subspecies (Joannursus paralysis ignoramus) has been found in the Kingdom of Ignorance, north of Kralorela. Whether these are native, or the result of some chaos cultists spreading them deliberately, is unknown.
The most striking characteristic of a Jack O'Bear is its head, which is completely hairless, lacks external ears or lips, and only has a thin pair of nostrils. Instead of fur, the head is covered with a layer of leathery skin, beneath which runs a network of blood vessels, which gives the head a blood red appearance in infant bears, before paling to a vibrant orange colour when the skin thickens at maturity.
With older Jack O'Bears, the skin has instead been likened to that of a pumpkin or other gourd, giving rise to legends that the beast is part plant.
Found only in the most isolated and desolate of places, Jack O'Bears are solitary beasts, who view even their own kind as enemies and rivals. Only the Jack O'Bears of the Kingdom of Ignorance have been known to ever socialize, congregating along the great coast of Koromondol in great numbers. Magical observation has shown the beasts swaying from side to side and making a great sussuration, which has been referred to as "singing." The purpose of this act is unknown, but knowing their chaotic nature, it can be assumed to be a grave danger to Glorantha.
Elsewhere, Jack O'Bears can occasionally be found in chaos nests, where Broo, Ogres, or other horrors feed them with parts of their victims. It is likely that the Jack O'Bear merely tolerates their presence because of this tribute, while the chaotics feel this is a small price to pay for the protection the Jack O'Bear provides, for while they may ignore their chaotic "guests", they will attack all others who intrude, acting as guardian and protector for the chaos nest.
Although possessing of a certain diabolical cunning, the Jack O'Bear is rarely intelligent enough to worship the Lords of Terror, and so only the most extraordinary individuals have learned magic. This can be seen as a blessing, for they already possess an insidious Chaotic power, to freeze and stupefy their victims, making them unable to resist the Jack O'Bear's attacks. Although commonly held to be the result of meeting the creature's gaze, the Jack O'Bear in fact needs only to think about a nearby person for them to fall victim to their insidious gift.