Thursday, December 6, 2007

Godtouched Races: Harpies

Arguably the most primal and bestial of all the godtouched races, the wild harpy is a very dangerous foe. When the harpies were abandoned by their patron goddess at the end of the War of the Gods, they regressed to a barely tribal state and lost the finer arts of casting magic. The only magic that wild harpies can cast is elemancy, and even then, only about one in every 20 adult individuals can use it.

Harpies themselves range from 6 to 7 feet tall. They have very long legs and long arms, and a smaller torso and head whose proportions are more suited to a woman of 5 or 5'6" feet. Generations of breeding almost exclusively with humans have given their faces a decidedly human look, with the exception of slightly longer and sharper canine teeth. Their thighs are shorter than a human's, their shins longer, and their feet the feet of a bird, which gives them a digitigrade stance. Theirs arms are quite muscular, and their hands long, slim and dextrous. Harpies have a long and muscular sixth finger which grows directly out of their wrist. Their flight feathers are anchored to this finger, so it is quite thick and strong.

When it comes to feathers, a harpy's hair is actually a large grouping of plumage, and under the microscope one could see their tree-like structure. They have a set of seven feathers growing out of each human-like ear; three long feathers growing back and up, three shorter pointing back and down, and a seventh downy feather that points straight down.

Their arms and torso are mostly naked, save for the foldable flight feathers that grow out of the backs of their arms. They have a grouping of small scale-shaped feathers growing out of each hip and covering their upper thighs. They have softer downy feathers growing in a V-shape in their pelvic region, which runs between their legs and joins with their long tailfeathers, that are anchored at the bottom of the spine. Their lower shins are covered in downy feathers, making a smooth transition between skin, feather, and the scales of their feet. Harpy feathers are usually brown or gray.

Harpies have an average lifespan of 70 years, and harpies as old as 90 have been reported. Interestingly, their alluring and attractive appearance (at least in their face and upper body) does not deteriorate as they age, though their feathers begin to turn white, and their strength decreases as their body starts to shut down.

Wild harpies speak their own language, a cacophony of laughs, bird calls, screeches and warbles. It is difficult for other godtouched to understand this language, let alone speak it. Those who have spells that help break down language barriers, however, can sometimes communicate with and even barter with wild harpies. They are quite distractible and are very fond of shiny objects.

Fortunately, wild harpies can only be found in one place; the Arbol mountain ranges in the north of Zenninfal. These mountain ranges are similar to the alps or western rockies. The smaller mountains are quite wooded and wet, though the taller ones tend to be treeless, windy and bone dry. The harpies who live in these mountains are social creatures and often nest in great numbers, with a matriarch leader who is usually an elemancer.

Wild harpies hunt in groups of three, with one of them always being an adolescent being taught to hunt. There are two things they hunt for; food, and godtouched males. Harpies are exclusively female, and can only reproduce by mating with another godtouched. Sometimes, their unfortunate male victim winds up being both the father of the next generation -and- dinner. In recent times, humans have been a particular favorite pray. Through some coincidence, the mating of a harpy and a human has a very high chance of pregnancy.

Harpies carry for two months, then lay an egg which is closely guarded and cared for by the harpies too old to hunt successfully. If a harpy egg is "rescued" from their kin and raised to adulthood, the offspring has the potential to be just as civilized and skilled in the art of magic as her foster parents. Due to their kin's bestial nature however, harpies are not recognized as citizens in most Zenninfal kingdoms, especially Cerenbaun. Though slavery is illegal, people can still buy and sell harpy slaves. Live eggs are naturally worth quite a lot of money. Charity organizations and churches will often pay the highest for the eggs, seeking to save the future harpy women from sex slavery, or worse.

Civilized harpies have been known to travel as far away from Zenninfal as possible, in order to escape the horrible reputation of their feral kin. They have been spied as far south as the rensvaja kingdoms, and as far east as the easternmost Eastern Islands. Most harpies have difficulty adjusting in new lands, and often resort to piracy, thieving, and prostitution. This does not help their reputation in the lands far from Zenninfal, and wanderlust-afflicted harpies seeking a fresh start are often in for a rude awakening. Despite this, many are happy to just be considered an equal godtouched under the law, even with the unsavory stereotypes.

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