The Merle, like the Avari, are another race of Gaia that were incredibly enigmatic, their territories often beyond the reach of many of the other races as they were deep beneath the oceans and lakes of the world. While the Merle at one time could be found in nearly any waters across Gaia, after the Separation those who remained in Shafador were forced into a deep hibernation beneath the waves which caused the other races to lose all contact with them. However, due to the ancient and hostile waters of Lunaris the Merle rarely ever founded settlements here, for fear of the ancient beasts that roam its depths and so to this day no Merle societies remain in the world of Lunaris. It was Kharis where they made their homes, enjoying the soothing tropical waters that surrounded the continent and the great many lakes and rivers. Unfortunately for the Merle, they were no less affected by the sundering than any other race was in Kharis and have all but been wiped out by the turning of the water to blood.
Those that remain make their homes in the lakes and rivers of the floating islands of Kharis, their once might empire little more than a few scattered settlements and cities at the bottoms of these depths. The Merle appear as thin humanoids with elongated limbs that appear almost disproportionate to their body, their hands and feet are webbed to allow them easier maneuverability underwater. The lack any true facial features such as a nose, mouth, or ears, and only have narrow almond shaped eyes of pure black. Their bodies are covered in harden scale or chitinous armor plates that reflect light from the surface around them, making them difficult to see in the water much like a shark, one other thing to note is that while the Merle do have male and female genders, for most races it is difficult to tell the difference. Upon close observation, the females of the species have slightly more feminine features such as a larger chest area and narrower hips with smaller overall frame and narrower face, while the males are larger and broader with a more masculine and muscular form. The Merle feed through a unique method of absorbing the energy of their prey, sucking out its life force as sustenance and leaving behind a withered and dead husk.
The Merle do not display emotions like other creatures do, lacking facial features they simply cannot. Instead they use an intricate combination of body language and song. It is this form of expression that has led to many myths about sirens and merfolk luring sailors and fishermen to their deaths in the sea, when truthfully the Merle was merely trying to convey some form of emotion to the Human. Ironically, the more distressed a Merle is the more beautiful their music becomes and it was because of this many Humans would capture them and keep them in tanks to force them to sing their beautiful and ghostly songs. All Merle are capable of a small level of telepathy, using it to communicate with other creatures who cannot understand their song. This basic power allows them to effectively speak any language as the mind of the target automatically translates the intention of the Merles own thoughts into words they can understand.
The Merle live long natural lives, reaching old age when they are around 900 but typically not dying of old age for at least another 100 years. This makes many Merle patient beyond most other races, even the Sylvain and has led to many believing they may be the most wise race on the planet. The Merle are very social creatures as well, forming large communities that are capable of rivaling many major cities in Gaia, and their settlements are often vast and intricate, confusing to many surface dwellers who are able to visit them. Many believe that the Merle are purely aquatic simply because they never see them leave the water, this however is not the case. The Merle do not have lungs or gills, instead having a unique form of respiring oxygen by absorbing it through their skin. This allows a Merle to breath in and out of water, however only for a short time as the Merle requires moisture. If a Merle dries out they will effectively suffocate and die.
There are a few unique variations of the Merle as well that have shown up over recent decades. The most notable are the “Kappa” or River Merle, who resemble the standard Merle in most ways but have developed a harder exoskeleton that resembles a turtle shell. These Merle are slightly more dangerous than the normal Merle as they like to play tricks on the other races that visit their rivers and have on more than one occasion lead to their drowning, it is said though that they cherish fresh cucumbers and will do anything for the energy found in these vegetables. Another type that has appeared recently are known as the Sea Witches and are feared by all races, including the Merle themselves. Typically they appear as typical Merle in most ways, though they are notably only female and their forms are more voluptuous and appealing to surface races. Rather than legs like the other species, the Sea Witches have a mass of tentacles for their lower body that they use to propel themselves through the water like an octopus or squid. The most dreaded of these Merle calls herself the Queen of Dark Waters, Scylla. It is thought that the Sea Witches are created when a Merle is born with the Gift, though no Merle has ever been born with it in the past.
Amphibious: The Merle are capable of living on land or underwater without much problem, and can even breathe in both environments. However, a Merle is only capable of surviving on dry land for an extended period of time so long as they are able to maintain the moisture in their skin. If a Merle spends too long on land without water they will dry up and effectively suffocate.
Mind Voice: The Merle are capable of projecting their thoughts into the minds of those around them, able to target a single person or everyone within the immediate area. While their thoughts are communicated in their own strange form of song the intention of their thoughts are translated into a language the recipient can comprehend.
Alluring Song: The Merle are capable of producing a hypnotizing song when they are put under duress, allowing them to lull attackers into a trance so long as they continue to produce the song. This is a defense mechanism intended to allow the Merle to escape potential captures or predators of the deep sea.
Grasping Tentacles (Sea Witch): The Sea Witches have a mass of tentacles, between 8 and 16 instead of legs that they can use as natural weapons for grasping and dragging enemies to their murky deaths. Typically a Sea Witch has two primary tentacles, similar to that of a squid, which they can also use to bash and club enemies with or use to wield weapons with.
Hardened Shell (Kappa): While all Merle have hardened skin to protect them from the pressures of the deep sea, the Kappa have evolved to grow an actual shell around their body that protects them and can be used to camouflage them as a large rock in the riverbed. This shell grants the Merle a bonus of +10% to their Physical Resistance as if they were wearing armor.
Increased Swim Speed (Normal): Because of their flipper-like feet and sleek forms the Merle are adapted for great speeds when swimming in open waters. While underwater and with enough room to move freely, the Merle can move double the land speed of a human being, usually about 40-60 miles per hour. This makes the Merle like living torpedoes in the water and incredibly hard to keep up with, even when on a ship.
Zora Rune – Effect Rune
Similar to the Kierrn’s Inox Rune, the Zora Rune is capable of transforming the target into a sort of strange amalgam of its original race and a Merle. This Rune however is not considered a Buff but instead a Curse, as the Merle typically use it on those who have wronged them by transforming them into monsterous fishmen, called Sahuagin. Typically a Sahuagin can come in many shapes and forms, though normally they appear as an amphibious version of their former race, with fish-like scales, fins, and typically having an aqualung (a combination of gills and lungs) rather than the Merles unique skin filter. The Merle refer to this spells (Sinzorarahnug) as the Curse of Zora, and is thought to be named after the Merle’s first Empress in their ancestral homeland of Atlantis. Unlike most Curses, this spell has no duration and instead has a trigger set by the Merle who cast it that the target must fulfill before the Curse will end. Typically it is some form of geas or other type of atonement the person must undertake to show they have truly learned from the error of their ways, but it can be anything the Merle sees fit, even something considered impossible. Unfortunately for the target, this condition is hereditary and if somehow they have children the curse is passed on to the child who then must complete the criteria set by the Merle, however if either accomplishes this condition both will be cured.