Merfolk

A mermaid or merman (pl. merfolk, or specifically mermaids and mermen) is a type of chimeric creature which dwells in bodies of saltwater.


Physiology

From the waist up, merfolk appear mostly human, though they do have many fish-like traits. They breathe through gills along their neck, there are webbing and smaller than average ears and noses. From the waist down, they have a supple, scaled tail not unlike that of a fish. Typically they have green, blue, gold, or silver eyes, though black eyes are not unheard of. Merfolk from different oceans have slightly different physical characteristics - their torsos typically resemble the local native human population, and their tails resemble the local fish (Caribbean merfolk, for instance, have darker torsos and more colorful tails than their Atlantic counterparts).

In the water, merfolk are creatures of incredible grace and speed. On land, however, they are fairly clumsy, which means that in general they avoid leaving the water, or going far from the water's edge. When merfolk surface, their gills flatten shut, and they switch to a system of lungs. Many merfolk find air breathing to be uncomfortable if they are not used to it.

Although merfolk are not immortal and will eventually die, they live for several centuries. In youth, they age quickly, attaining full growth at about half the rate of a human. After that point, however, they age very slowly. In general they do not get sick, though they are susceptible to poisons absorbed through the water. Toxins and poisons which can kill fish or coral are not always lethal to merfolk, but they do make them sicken.

For the most part, merfolk are omnivorous, with a diet primarily made up of seafood. Some merfolk do prey on humans, but others will rescue drowning sailors.


Magical Characteristics

Mermaids, in particular, are known for their beautiful singing voices - voices which can lure men (traditionally, though the voice will charm anyone attracted to women) to their deaths via shipwreck. Mermen also have magically potent voices, though their voices affect women primarily (again, the voice will charm anyone attracted to men). This enchantment will not work on anyone who is truly in love.

There are spells and charms which will allow merfolk to take human shape, but for the most part they are one-time transformations which are almost impossible to undo. Those charms which allow a mermaid or merman to take human shape temporarily only last for so long before they must be redone or renewed, meaning that the mermaid or merman in question cannot stray far from the water. Merfolk on land are vulnerable creatures, particularly in human shape, where their magic is muted (even their voices become simply beautiful, not magically attractive). Most merfolk find moving around on land awkward compared to their grace in the water.

Like many aquatic creatures, merfolk are incredibly attuned with the sea. They cannot drown, and they always know the pattern of the tides and storms.


Society and Habitat

Merfolk have entire kingdoms under the oceans of both Earth and the Otherworld. They have a complex feudal society, and in fact have been known to war on each other. For the most part, they care nothing for the affairs of those above the surface, though modern polluting practices have forced Earth's merfolk to take appropriate action to protect themselves.