Content WarningThere is mention of drownings and the act of a highly intelligent species eating other highly intelligent species.
Anatomy & Morphology
General descriptionMerfolk have two general forms - one as a fish-person and one as a biped. The fish-person form typically has a long tail and no legs, or appears like the "legs" of other aquatic creatures. The form will often have webbing between their fingers and some have fin-like connective flesh connecting the elbow to the lower ribs of teh torso. Some older Merfolk will collect barnacles or have a feeder fish attach itself to them and a stronger fish-like appearance. The older Merfolk also tend to have deeper depressions in their backs, suggesting a similarity to Wood Maidens where older Maidens become more tree-like, or have hollows in their backs that grow with strong uses of magic.
Merfolk tend to have people-like faces but with strong fish features or other features that send chills to the person looking at them for being so close but very much not like a person.
"She was gorgeous, even with those spiney fin-ears and the frill going from the middle of her face down her spine, but when I looked at her near-perfect face, I saw why she gave that sense of danger and beauty. Her slight smile was too wide, and when she laughed at my face, there was nothing but fangs for teeth.
Young Merfolk are typically raised by their parents or in a social group with peers where they master swimming in schools before learning to hunt and survive with fewer people around.
Some Merfolk describe their childhoods as if they were the fish they appear partially as, suggesting they begin life as a fish before some process where they stop being that kind of fish.
The only Merfolk who have been seen and interacted with are adults, leading sailors to believe the sailor-Mer interactions are part of a Coming Of Age ceremony for young adult Mer.
While Merfolk are typically secretive about their children, the few hybrids born of them or born of a mortal appear to be born in the manner of the non-Merfolk species.
The children of Mer and a mortal are generally considered to be of the mortal's species and share more features with the mortal parent. However, traits will be passed from the Mer parent to the child - gills, nictating membranes, markings, and a magic-like propensity towards navigation on ocean waters or fishing. Further generations inherit fewer and weaker traits as the bloodline carries on.Diet
Many Mer can eat an omnivorous diet, but tend stronger towards herbavorous or carnivorous, leading to tales of a hunting school of Merfolk targeting a lonely fisher to drown and feast themselves upon. When asked about those tales, most Merfolk treat the concept of eating a person with disgust - the rest are generally Mer who live in the North Sea's deeper waters, who say eating people is only done when the person has commited a heinous offence against a community of Merfolk.
Local tales also describe the tradition to avoid inviting a Merfolk to stay, and they can and will eat all of a ship's catch.
- Misdirection - Usually done as a prank or a form of self-defense, Merfolk may use their magics to throw a ship or fisher off their course or interfere with a craft's ability to move. Most uses have been temporary, and one sailor has described the sudden removal of a strong breeze as the very reason the ship survived waters infested by pirates.
- Shapeshifting - Merfolk can take on a bipedal form, though the form will generally retain their aquatic traits. However, the shifting is only effective near salt water, and stays in effect for as long as the Merfolk is able to soak themselves into a salt water bath once every two days.
- Soul Drowning - A rarely used offensive ability. In time of extreme anger, a Merfolk can use magic where the hollows of their back will sink within the torso, creating a hollow void. Shadows will expand from the void in the back and grab at any the Merfolk is targeting before dragging the person into the waters. In less time than it takes to drown under similar situations, the body will float up, and like the Wood Maidens who trap souls, the former occupant of the body can see themselves collapse. This ability also allows for a Merfolk to track down a target and prevent their escape. Extensive use of the ability will result in the Merfolk hollowing out until they are more like a long-rotted fish. According to the MErfolk, those who fall too far into hollowing will fall apart instead of becoming a fish again.
- Drowned Skeletons - A common tavern horror tale describes an ability where Merfolk who has drowned a soul can reanimate the body for as long as the Merfolk lives. According to the stories, the long dead sailors haunt the places their ships had sank and seek to drag others down into the waters with the hopes of returning to live once more.
Most tales describe Merfolk as walking the line between ocean horrors and a sailor's best friend. Some from more land-locked regions may attempt to start a hunting expedition into Merfolk territories, only to be met with warnings and a sudden lack of available hands or crafts.
It's simple. We leave them be, and they generally leave us to our business. If they show up, treat them good and nice, and then you let them go. Do not invite them to stay - they will eat every fish you caught, and do not force them to stay because they might just eat you.
Merfolk describe other merfolk as being social creatures who prefer to live in large territories. When a large gathering occurs, however, the waters clear of fish.
Must be a family gathering underwater - the fish are all gone and hiding from the Mers, so we won't catch anything here. Sail on.
History of the Species
Merfolk do not record their history outside of singing ballads describing the deeds of their lineage. Wars and dramatic peace treaties are carried out without a single written word or symbol.
Mortals write down stories in their place, and in turn sing songs warning against angering those who live in the ocean waters. Several Merfolk will join in singing the songs, ballads, and shanties, and it has been suggested they are kindest to ships who provide musical entertainment.
Music is key to Merfolk society - while direct goods trade are accepted, a song from a mortal to a Merfolk is considered highly valuable. The often a song is sung well, and the greater the value the song will be given.
Most mortal partners of a Merfolk have local fame for their singing skills, suggesting singing is also how Merfolk find partners or mates among their own kind.
It is believed the act of eating a person is a grave taboo, however, it can be broken in the North Sea if the person commit a heinous crime against a community of Merfolk - such as intentionally hunting their fish-formed elders, or hunting down Merfolk.
As a result, the Order of Speared Light have seen the highest number of reports describing Merfolk attacking mortals and eating mortals who sail under the Order's flag or wearing their armor.