SummaryOne of the most commonly encountered aquatic peoples on Veltrona, the shermadi can be found almost anywhere in the seas and oceans across the world. While physiologically nearly identical, there is a massive cultural rift between the continental sea dwelling shermadi, and those in the oceans like the Shinespark Ocean, Vastia, Olaniad, and Shimmering Ocean. This article pertains largely toward the ocean dwelling shermadi. The sea-dwelling shermadi are also known as the larmedi. Life in the oceans at large is full of peril and the bizarre unknown. While the Relentless Herds and Packs are essentially non-existent underwater, no end of predators both great and small litter the life-rich oceans. The shermadi, for all their cleverness, only have so many resources available to deal with such problems. Chief among them are the ocean-borne leviathans, super predators of immense size, power, and sometimes magical might. Such beings are nearly goddess-like in their awesome presences, and just as destructive to everything around them. Indeed, as far back as any shermadi folklore, oral traditions, or storytails can tell, the shermadi have ever lived in fear of the leviathans. With no safe place to call for home, most lived as nomads. During such times, great huntresses would emerge and pit themselves against the leviathans–ones such as Aroakhan–who would turn the tables on their ancient foes. For them, they measured success in their tribe's survival, rather than overcoming the beasts directly. Something that began to change as both magic and technology improved. The advent of underwater technologies ushered in a new age of city-making that could suit their sensibilities. There's some debate how the shermadi came about these methods, as some scholars argue the ekurin as the most likely culprits. Others, gazing at the heavy magical utilization the shermadi rely upon, subscribe to it being an innovation more of their own making. Regardless of how, shermadi cities remained somewhat sparse and far apart. The first ones arose as fortresses along migration routes, something that would provide safe harbor against the vast dangers of oceans. Eventually, these fortresses grew from their semi-permanent garrisons into something more akin to cities with their own identities. From there, the many tribes and clans that came through would establish their own towns and outposts where they could. It came to be that the shermadi generally split between their city-dwelling kin, and the nomadic tribeswomen. The cities provided safe bastions, while the nomads essentially took on the role of merchants, transporters, and wilderness resource gatherers. Most nomads would moor themselves to cities in times of danger or ill-omens, then resume their journeys once more. In that sense, despite the incredible distances through the oceans, the shermadi have far reaching connections across Veltrona. A fact that brought them into contact with the land dwelling peoples of the world, too. Intrigued by these alien beings from beyond their waters, the shermadi were ever amiable with meeting other peoples. They oft proved a source of aide and safety in itself, something rare to find in the ocean's depths. In turn, the shermadi eagerly traded with the 'walkers', offering the rich bounties they acquired in exchange for the useful items the lands could provide. Coastal and island dwelling is, unlike for walkers, absolutely ideal for the shermadi, ekurin, and other aquatic peoples. The sunlight and rich waters, coupled with the security of veltron caves, coves, bays, and more made for ideal living. While the tempests raged overhead, casting waves about and decimating the landscape, those under the waters were relatively unaffected. So it is when land walkers came to the coastlines, shermadi usually lived nearby already. As it happened to be, it would often be shermadi veltron engineering efforts–with or without walkers helping–that saw entirely new, artificial bays created. Such highly defensible positions made them useful for myriad reasons, and also powerful springboards for future cities. Many shermadi city-states grew alongside their walker neighbors, becoming close allies if not united under the same banner. Despite the great differences of their worlds, trade and cultural exchange helped both sides to flourish. This tandem relationship between the ocean dwelling shermadi and the land walkers opened up all sorts of opportunities. Thanks to the shermadi's skill, ability, and knowledge of the oceans, fleets of ships could be guided with incredible safety. The increased trade and expedition success, in turn, meant prosperous wealth. For the shermadi, such fleets also proved as useful relay points in their own ocean-bound explorations and harvests. Walker and shermadi innovations sought to mixing the strengths of both their worlds, creating newer and unique magics and technologies. Indeed, for all the dangers of coastal and oceanic dwelling, these relationships are among the richest in the world.
A type of jointed humanoid species, shermadi have humanoid upper bodies, and lower bodies resembling that of fish. They have a head, two arms, two hands with five fingers, a thick torso, wide hips, and a lower body that becomes fish-like, ending with usually a pronounced tail flipper or fin. Shermadi physiology is incredible diverse, with a truly unfathomable range of skin colors, scale colors/shapes/orientations, camouflage patterns, the growth of fins upon their bodies, and so on. There have been some arguments by scholars the species should be reclassified more individually as a result, but it's something shermadi themselves ever resent being brought up. This definition will take a look at a more common type of shermadi to encounter, but it should not be indicative of being 'the only' kind. A shermadi head has two slightly large eyes, a nose, prominently flexible lips, and finned, webbed ears beside their heads. Their 'hair' is more a kind of thin, flexible growth of skin and cartilage, and acts like a massive heat radiator. Its exact appearance varies, and shermadi hair styles are equal parts shaping and ritualistic cutting, making care for their hair a very involved affair. While most shermadi do not have a beard equivalent, some types do. Their noses can also vary between 'prominently defined' to 'flattened and recessive'. The upper body of a shermadi is very human-like in physique, and their skin is divided into two sections: a sort of natural grown, scale-like 'blouse' that begins below the genitals and then goes up and over the shoulders, and then the actual scales that cover the rest of the torso. For example, like dragonkind and other scale-bearing species, the outer-facing portion of a shermadi arm is covered in protective scales. The interior-facing portion is more skin-like. This means the topside of the hand is hardy and covered with scales, while the palm is softer and more supple. The scale blouse upon the torso serves two purposes: it covers the vulnerable skin of the center chest, belly, and pelvic region, while also being a kind of 'social organ'. In its first role, the scale blouse scrunches up and shuts tight against itself like a clam shell. Not only does this protect the vulnerable skin, it also helps with hydrodynamics under water. In its second purpose, shermadi can manipulate the blouse to make playful waves, sudden and minute motions, and other things used for social cues. The exact appearance of the scale blouse varies significantly depending on the type of shermadi: some are more wavy and paper like, others more jagged and jawed with teeth, etc. Incidentally, the 'scale blouse' earned its moniker from early walkers who first met the shermadi. The name caught on as the shermadi word for that part of their body had no easy direct translation. Later efforts to change its name–as it rather doesn't look like a 'blouse' technically–were disparaged as a pedantic argument. Like other jointed humanoids, the genitals and buttocks is found at the humanoid pelvic region which acts as the joint between the upper and lower halves of the body. The lower body of the shermadi is a homogeneous mass of muscle and scale, defined by its shapely roundness and prominent, powerful tail. Various types of fins may grow from it depending on the type of shermadi–typically no more than 0-5 additional fins, which act as either sharp weapons, armor, and/or hydrodynamic assistance. The most prominent of these fins, if present, grows along the spine of the shermadi from the base of the neck down to the lower body. In terms of colorations, the shermadi have such variety in their species that they're contenders against the lauraume for 'most colorful'. There is a consistent rule of three separations within the shermadi: the scales, skin, and hair are all usually different colors to some extent, giving them great visual complexity. Whether this is complimentary, opposing, or some other form of color arrangement depends entirely on the type of shermadi spoken of. Those who dwell in coral reef forests usually blend in quite well with the vivid, bright colors of such a region. Those in the open oceans may prefer more streamlined, metallic colors or those that are not as light reflective. They're sexually dimorphic as a species, with the females being larger, having enlarged breasts, and sharper scales or fins that appear aggressive or dangerous. Males are normally sleeker or more streamlined, and have smaller fins. Some types of shermadi also have more distinct and different types of hair, but it's hard to tell if this is sexual dimorphism or a more specific quirk. Shermadi eyes are highly reflective and possess a crystal or glass-like clarity to them. Like their overall appearances, their eye colors can be quite vivid and vibrant, standing out from their surrounding environment. Their sclera is typically black or a dark gray, but white sclera is not uncommon. The distinction tends to be those in colder waters or darker depths have darker sclera, compared to those in the light-rich surface waters.
Aquatic Senses – Shermadi have sophisticated senses adapted toward navigating their aquatic, three-dimensional environment. This includes feats like sonar-like reception, ocean current intuition, and spatial awareness. Flexible Breathing – This species can breathe in both air and/or water. Water-Aspected – Shermadi are fundamentally aspected toward water mana. Audiophilia – Shermadi are particularly sensitive toward sounds, both as a form of detection and as a social device among themselves.
Civilization and Culture
Born from eras of hardship and struggle, shermadi place great emphasis on the relationships they weave with others. So long as there are those who sing in the depths, home is never truly that far away. For the shermadi, this sense of kinship is almost transcendental–even the most reclusive of tribes will still, to some extent, bear amiable hospitality for visitors. From an outside perspective, many shermadi relationships function on an axis of quid-pro-quo, cultural honors, and mutual benefits. Because these things can easily extend outside of the tribe's cultural ecosystem, it engenders a lot of connections with almost anyone the shermadi run across. It's hard to understate the importance of maintaining a good social reputation, and the ability to fulfill one's obligations. Able-bodied folk who prove unreliable–or a drain on resources–rapidly start to face social ostracization. In this sense, the foundations of shermadi relationships is found in degrees of usefulness toward one purpose or another. Hunting companions, coworkers in menial labor, artisans who provide experiences, social confidants who provide amusement or care, and so on. While this sounds very transactional at the surface, it is an ecosystem born of survival and trying to make sure 'all corners are covered'. The less stressed shermadi are with such concerns, the more their playful and fun-seeking natures can be expressed. Romantic relationships to the shermadi become a mixture of lifelong companionship, and purpose-oriented structuring. Not only do they want partner(s) they are virtually always attached with in some form, it also aligns with their life's trajectory. In other words, huntresses would typically romance or marry with other huntresses, weavers intermingle with other weavers, etc. Over time, these once somewhat insular methods of marriage branched out. Huntresses would marry with butchers or craftswomen, offloading their catches to their spouse(s) who would then make something useful out of them. The essence of the arrangement is that shermadi want a meaningful part in their spouse(s) life, and how things are done. 'Family business' is more the norm than it is not, hence a lot of shermadi businesses are just as much complex family structure systems. This makes the likes of divorce or a spouse's unexpected death extraordinarily devastating, as it quite literally rips apart a shermadi's lifestyle in the process.
Culture and Cultural Heritage
Family and tribe, survival and prosperity, song and food are the cornerstones of nearly all shermadi cultures across Veltrona. Their hearts are that of peaceful, fun-indulging people who are ever at odds with the harsh oceans around them. The shermadi, thusly, work very hard, and so end up partying harder when they can afford to. Orators, playwrights, dance performers, musicians, and more make the largest chunks of their social circles. Everyone, though, has a skill of some kind in hunting, fighting, or killing wildlife. Concurrent with that, however, is the shermadi penchant for song. While human-like conversation is entirely possible for them, it is a sort of 'indoor' voice. Those out in the waters have to speak in more specific frequencies in order for their voices to carry across any distance. These 'high' and 'low' song tones can go into ranges that most other species cannot actually hear–either at all, or very poorly. Those who can, though, will long hear the shermadi before they ever actually see any of them. Family traditions are incredibly prevalent throughout their tribes, often intermixing into any concept of legality or governmental structure. Nepotism is not a curse word so much as an expectation–virtually all businesses are ran on blood ties of some kind. While this has begun to loosen up since the advent of their city-fortresses, the fungibility of such norms remains debatable. Honor itself can be a powerful form of social clout, if not currency, depending on one's achievements. Spirituality is the conceptual backbone of the shermadi understanding of life and purpose. Life and death go hand in hand, and spirits of all sorts–people or otherwise–interweave between the known and unknown. The importance of goddesses and ancestors varies amongst the tribes, but they all have the mind to pay respects. For many, faith is an oft personal thing, shaped by their lives as much as their communities. It is how these different, and sometimes disparate, threads come together that a weave of shermadi spiritualism takes shape. The experience-required aspect of that, however, makes it both mercurial and impenetrable to many outside of it. The openness of the shermadi themselves means that they're rather willing to absorb different ideologies into this same weave. Ironically, as the words of their faith spreads, it changes as it passes from mouth-to-mouth. This has endlessly led to all sorts of divergent branches, ostensibly the same thing in name, but radically different in actuality.