THE SARVONIAN MERFOLK

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - MODE OF LIVING - CLOTHING - DIET
WEAPONS - OCCUPATIONS  - FESTIVALS - HISTORY - LANGUAGE - MUSICAL THEME

Merfolk are sentient creatures, although not high in intelligence. They are humanoid above the waist, merging into a strong fish-tail below. Their hair comes in a wide range of naturally occurring oceanic colours; black, dark green through pale green, turquoise, blue, lavender, white, and silver. Merfolk are said to come in male (mermen) female (mermaids) and neuter genders (mer) although only the females appear in public; that is, above water in view of other races. Thus most legends and sailors’ tales speak only of mermaids. The "Legend of Echra" tells of one possible origin of the merfolk; a human female who was cast down into the sea for daring to love the Sun.

Their spoken name for themself is Baovveche; their spoken language, Mermish, is simplistic, heavily aspirated and used only above water. It is technically a pidgin - a combination of two languages, mostly coastal human dialects mixed with Mersong. Below the water they communicate in a series of whistles, fluting sounds, sub- and super-sonic pulses which humans cannot hear. Elves, however, have managed to hear and even translate a few words of Mersong. It is thought that whales, dolpholk, and other large fish may also hear and comprehend this language.

Appearance. A few dead mermaids have been found washed up or caught in sailors’ nets, and one or two have been dissected by daring mages in an attempt to learn still more about the fascinating world in which they live. We have been able to obtain the sketchbook and the hand-written notes of one of these mages, who has not been identified. However, his observations are acute and penetrating, revealing a close study of the habits of live merfolk as well as a knowledge of their interior design. Merfolk physiology is revealed in his sketches:

"Their upper bodies appear like those of an elven maiden, or a slim human, small-breasted and finely-featured. All the skin above the waist is a pale greenish or bluish color. Their bodily fluids are also a soft turquoise shade. Around the hairline I discovered a large number of small oil-secreting glands, whose function seems to be to protect the skin from its constant immersion in water. As sailors tell me that they often see the mermaids grooming their hair with their fingers and then running their hands over their bodies as they perch on the rocks, I believe this guess to be the most accurate. Long fins stretch along the backs of their arms and a fine webbing is present between each of the slim, taloned fingers.

From the hips down merfolk are scaled like one of the larger fish, or a small dragon; rounded, overlapping plates of a pearlescent substance sunk into the oily integument below. Around the waist a sort of strong bone girdle appears, its function seeming to be a sort of external pelvis which supports the heavy muscles of the piscine tail. The girdle is linked directly to the backbone, which has rounded vertebrae like those of a large fish and extends all the way from the base of the neck down to the fin division.

View picture in full size Image description. Mermaid dissection, excerpt. Click picture for full details. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Their interiors are most intriguing. Given their apparent division into human and fish, they not surprisingly mix elements of both. Merfolk appear to have a single large lung, taking up a great deal of space in the chest region. Their hearts are smaller than human size, and other internal organs essential to humans also seem not to be present. The digestive passage runs from their mouths (which have lips and a tongue like ours, but small, sharp rows of pointed teeth, and an odd sieve-like structure in the throat) down into a simple gut and from thence to an evacuatory cloaca located between the tail fins. Their entire system seems directed towards a primarily marine diet, as I found partially-digested seaweeds of various sorts, small clams and oysters with shell fragments yet adhering, and some well-shredded fishes in their stomachs.

Reproductive processes are as yet unclear to me, as I have only been able to obtain two female specimens. My seafaring sources say that there are males as well, which they call mermen, and a neuter gender, most strange! How they have determined this I am unsure, and they are reluctant to say more on the matter. However, the females have an aperture located just below the pelvic girdle, inconspicuously covered by two sliding scales, which attaches to an abdominal cavity I believe to correspond to the womb. How merchildren are conceived and born I know not, but possibly they come from one watery environment to another with less crying than our human children do...

Merfolk’s voices are high and clear, with a musical piping tone to them. I have heard their songs and speech with my own ears, and it is strangely charming, like a small child’s voice mixed with a flute-player’s tune. Sailors who offer them gifts or treat their whale-friends with respect are often able to gain simple information such as the location of fish in the area or whether a storm is coming. They enjoy bright, shining objects, especially red or golden in hue. Perhaps it reminds them of the Sun which the legend tells us the first mermaid loved? However, they lose interest very quickly and, in fact, are most fickle, changing their minds and attitudes as quickly as a cloud passes over the sun. They do not appear to lie deliberately, but it does not do to take a mermaid’s word too seriously nonetheless, or so say the fishermen of the coast!
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-- "Mermaids. A myth being dissected", Essay by the Water Mage Ge Wonderwed of Carmalad. Return to the top

Territory. The Merfolk are located along most coastal shores of Santharia, but are most commonly found in the strait between the R'unorian Isles and the mainland. They prefer resting and preening in the shallower warm waters but often venture out into the deeps to hunt and play. Return to the top

Mode of Living
. Merfolk have no special occupations or abilities, preferring to spend most of their time swimming, hunting, eating, preening, mating, and playing with whales. They sleep floating with their nostrils above water in large pods, often in a sheltered bay or in the lee of large rocks. Merfolk have a gill system similar to that of an ordinary fish - slits in the neck region of the mer are lined with a rich greenish membrane which filters the oxygen content of the water directly into the copper-based blood system of the merperson. The nostrils connect to the gill system through tubes in the neck area of the mer, this system allowing them to sleep in a stationary position while still allowing airflow through the gills. Some mer ‘tether’ themselves with strands of kelp so that they do not drift away from the pod.

Merbabies are not given any special care or attention once weaned, and are apparently able to swim from birth. Many are lost or eaten, but as merfolk are quite prolific and have short memories, this does not distress them unduly.

A Mermaid

View picture in full size Image Description. A typical Mermaid as known from many legends. Picture by Enayla.

Merfolk also appear to have no organization or structure of government. Mostly likely there is a dominant female in the group who makes decisions about where to sleep or hunt next; however, this is an uninformed guess. All sexes hunt, play, and mate when they feel like it, although they usually sleep in large pods together during the heat of the day. They seem to have no real concept of time - present, past, and future are only nebulously defined in their small watery universe, although they can understand the idea of ‘two sleeps past’ and ‘next sleep’ and use it when informing sailors about oncoming weather fronts, or problems they have had.

They produce nothing of use to other races. Some sailors have been able to trade trinkets (particularly red, orange, or yellow sparkling items, which seem to remind them of fire or the Sun) for information of a basic sort - oncoming weather or locations of large fish shoals.

Merfolk have no natural resources which they use or develop. Merfolk protect the whales in their area but seem to have no concept of ‘personal property’, other than the food they are individually able to catch. Their short attention span may have something to do with this. An object may seem very desirable to them for a day or so, but then they will become absorbed in something else and ‘forget’ that it is in their possession. Rather like squirrels (or ‘treetails’, as the peasants say), merfolk will hide and then rediscover their ‘treasures’ in a perpetual cycle of excitement and disinterest.

For details about underwater resources, see the entry on the Avennorians or the Resources Map.
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Clothing
. Merfolk are a simple and not overly intelligent race. They do not wear clothing but sometimes ornament themselves with oily pigments that are water-resistant, with braided seaweeds, and with various bright corals, shells, or naturally-pierced stones. Any extra material on a mer body is of course hydrodynamically inefficient, and generally avoided except when the merperson is above water, preening (see notes above) or trying to attract attention in group mating rituals.
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Diet. As the merfolk are widespread around southern Sarvonia, a main part of their diet is made up of the barsa fish. However, they are not choosy; they eat the bonehead and evoor in large quantities, as well as all the trysters and other molluscs they can get. Seaweed appears to be their main 'vegetable', and they browse on it freely as they swim, sometimes wrapping a strand around an arm or neck for later on.

They avoid the Yanthian Gulf, particularly around the area of Ciosa. Sailors claim this is because of the 'bloody tide' - the constant ebb of whale-slaughter from the Ciosan flensing docks. One might think this would attract an omnivore like the mer, but their close, half-understood relationship with the great whales seems to override mere instinct.

A delicacy however for the merfolk seems to be the small, about two handspans long fish called Danlansh (or "Little Arrow") which can be found solely between the high rocks protruding into the sea on both ends of the Yar'dangs. There the merfolk seems to gather at times, when the fish is supposed to lay its eggs into the turbulent, but shallow water between the rocks. This may be one of the rare occasions, where one of the mermaids can be seen sitting on a rock in the sun - covered by the spray of incoming waves...
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Sirene, the Mermaid

View picture in full size  Sirene, the Mermaid, destiny of Oceandir. Image drawn by Quellion.

Weapons. Merfolk have a hard time with the concept of tools or weapons. Their muscular tails can be used to fend off large attackers, and their sharp pointed teeth and even sharper talons are very effective fish-catchers. They do not build structures and have not been known to craft anything more complex than braided wreaths and bracelets. Occasionally a mermaid has been observed using two rocks to smash or pry apart particularly obstinate clams and other seafood, and according to legend, Baveras the Sea Mistress was able to command her merfolk servants to wield swords or daggers in defense. Return to the top

Occupations
. Merfolk have no special occupations or abilities, preferring to spend most of their time swimming, hunting, eating, preening, mating, and playing with whales. See Mode of Living.
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Holidays, Festivals and Observances. Merfolk have no sense of time, and thus no calendars or regular festivals. However, when they are in an amorous mood, all three genders signal this by decorating their bodies with oily pigment, hanging braided wreaths of seaweeds and oceanflowers around their necks and wrists, and preening above water (on isolated beaches, or low rocks that slope gradually out of the sea). Usually a number of merfolk (up to half the pod at one time) join this ritual and attempt to attract attention to themselves in a group ritual. Once a ‘trilet’ (a group of three merfolk, one male, one female, and one neuter) have come together, they leave the pod and slip back into the ocean to perform their joining in privacy. This ritual has been given the name “Trilonalassi” by the single human explorer who was fortunate enough to observe it on more than one occasion. No other regular rituals, festivals, or religious rites have been documented. Return to the top

History.
The history of the merfolk is unknown at this time. The various legends which include mermaids ("The Legend of Silffin" and "The Legend of Echra") should be regarded with caution as they are obviously human tales, based on religious history and lore but not original to the merfolk. Perhaps some elven scholar will eventually translate enough Mersong for them to be able to tell their own tales! Another famous myth is "The Mermaid's Trail", a sailor's story of Helcrani origin. It tells us of the captain Oceandir, who met a strange mermaid on his travels, who should become his challenge and destiny. Oceandir's adventures are well known among the Helcrani and the isle mentioned in his tale has a legendary place in the hearts of many sailors of the western seas. Return to the top

Language - Basic Mermish (Sailors' Cant). A few words collected from sailors, traders, and fishermen are provided here. Note that double letters are an attempt to indicate the sibilant aspiration with which a mermaid speaks. Note also the vowel shift in words that have been borrowed from human languages. An ‘a’ ending seems to indicate a masculine tense, ‘i’ feminine, and ‘o’ or ‘e’ neuter; this gender division reinforces the belief that merfolk come in various sexes. We can see that certain concepts have no place in original mer philosophy - things are neither good nor bad, they simply are - although merfolk do hold Baveras, Injèrá the Sun and the Moon in superstitious awe, they do not attempt to affect their deities’ behaviour through acts of worship. More details on the Mermish tongue can be found here. Return to the top


"Mermish Secrets", composed and performed by Ralrok
Format: MP3, Length: 7:19, Original Title: "Deep Grey Sea" from the album "The Iron Realm".

Click here to download the song, use right-click and "Save as..." (6.7 MB). Return to the top
   

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