Thursday, December 20, 2007

Godtouched Races: Medusae

Singular medusa, plural medusae, the first race ever created by a god, and the first to ever use magic. The affect that medusae have had on the history of Aarn is undeniable. Their recent history is tragic however - with the death of Gretash, their progenitor god, they lost their focus and their vast civilization. They regressed to an almost tribal state, and their numbers have dwindled ever since. The last medusae known to be alive inhabit a chain of islands south of Rensvan, and are reclusive and hostile to all visitors, even of their own race.

Medusae are quite visually striking. It is impossible to mistake one for any other godtouched creature, or any other animal. Their anatomy is noteworthy - they have the ability to grow and re-absorb certain body parts, depending on what is needed at the time. While they have a humanoid form, and some consider them to be the very first creature to ever walk on two legs like a man, they can enter a half-cocoon for a period of two weeks. Upon emerging, their legs have been transformed into a snake's tail, and they resemble a naga or a merfolk. They also have the ability to grow huge wings with golden scales out of their back, and an individual medusa can shift between humanoid, nagaoid, or a combination of wings and either form.

Their skin is a sickly green, scaled and covered in warts and barnacles. Medusae are amphibious, and spend a good deal of time in the waters. They usually swim in their nagaoid form, using their tail to swim. Their faces also resemble those of a naga, but instead of hair, long prehensile and meaty tendrils grow from their heads. These tendrils can appear to be snakes from a distance, but legends of these tendrils actually having their own mouths and poisonous bites are not to be believed.

The medusa itself however does have a poisonous bite. This is a quite deadly poison, and is more of an acid than a venom. Upon contact with flesh or blood, it begins to calcify and harden the area around it. Within hours, an entire limb can become calcified, cutting off blood flow. Death from heart attacks due to blood clotting comes quickly for those affected, and immediate amputation of the affected area is the only known nonmagical treatment.

Of course, the medusa's most legendary power is its ability to turn those who meet its gaze into stone. A rare case of a natural magical godtouched ability that is not elemancy, this power is poorly understood by magical researchers. It appears to be a divine magic ability, but attempts to reproduce the spell have met with failure. It is thought that there is an essential part of the medusae's anatomy required for the spell to work. With the medusae's impending extinction and the lack of willing test subjects, it seems this will forever remain a magical mystery.

Medusae are hermaphroditic, and have breasts with which they feed their young. Unlike naga, they do not give live birth, and instead lay eggs. Despite their male reproductive tract, medusae self-identify as female, and hate male godtouched in particular. A medusae can fertilize itself, but usually chooses not to unless under dire stress. It considers the act of self-fertilization obscene.

Due to their current situation, medusae are typically solitary in this day and age. Those spied on with magic appear to have gone insane due to loneliness and are extremely hostile to any godtouched creature, even members of their own race. The only exception to this is when they mate, which is often violent despite mutual impregnation. They treat mating almost as a kind of contract, and there must be some sort of chemical signal they give off that allows them to calm themselves enough to allow copulation.

The eccentricities of individual medusae are hard to keep track of, but in general it can be assumed that eccentricities there will be. They still retain a shadow of their former intelligence and will sometimes set up sacrificial shrines to Gretash, or even build great libraries with nothing but "books" that are blank stone slabs. For generations upon generations, their solitude and loneliness has prevented mother from truly educating daughter. While young are cared for for some years, long enough for newborns to learn language and vague concepts of civilization in any event, daughters are quickly seen as competition once they approach adulthood and driven from their home. It is thought the trauma of this event leads to much of their insanity.

In theory, a medusa hatching could be raised by caring parents and be brought into some semblance of sanity and civilization. There have been attempts to do this by many people, such as adventurers, mad biomancers, caring members of the church, or those who wish to raise their own loyal army. These attempts invariably fail however, because medusae hatchings are dependent on their mothers' milk for survival, and no other nutrition has ever been found to be satisfactory. In theory, an incapacitated mother could generate and provide milk for a young one, but her influence over the child's thinking would be difficult to control, making the entire experiment suspect. This is pure theory however, because very few medusae will ever allow themselves to be captured, let alone allow their eggs to be stolen while they are still alive.

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