|Common Nicknames||Sky Terror, Arc Chasers|
Once treated as merely a footnote in the trailing end of children’s tales, the recent surge of Dwarven ingenuity has brought to light the fact that all stories contain a grain of truth. The Aethershark, a predator that once only was a scourge upon the great Aetherwhales of old, has begun to find itself in growing conflict with the ever-increasing Dwarven innovation of steam-powered Airships. While these creatures were thought to have died out around the same time as the Wyverns due to a sharp shift in their ecosystem, it seems they managed to still survive by shifting toward eating much smaller birds and other prey when their primary source of food, Aetherwhales, began to slowly die out. Yet, in 150 AC, the Aethersharks began to be seen in growing and growing numbers, the delicate biosphere of the skies above Ellador gradually began to return bit by bit. In many stories regarding the Aethersharks, a wide variety of claims tend to circulate regarding a supposed trail of lightning following these swift creatures in storms, generating the thought that whenever lightning traces itself from sky to sky, it is an omen of a pack of Aethersharks nearby. Whilst the Aethersharks have been thought to be more legend than anything else, their recent appearance in the past century and a half has led to the occasional sightings of packs of purple streaked creatures surrounding gargantuan Aetherwhales and, in the immediate recent years, the growing dangers of modern Airships running afoul a pack of Aethersharks, leading to a vicious, but potentially profitable outcome.
The past of the Aethershark is one mostly recorded in bits and pieces through a wide myriad of tales, stories, and epics passed through echoes and whispers amongst the tunnels of the Dwarven Holds. Legends of these grayish entities with streaks of purple running along their sides, darting between clouds, were often shared even after the time in which the Dwarves chose to resurface, yet very rarely were these stories believed as anything more than mere fiction; the first true report of these creatures was one of misidentification at the time. During the Third Dragon War, a group of Dwarves that were moving in a rather concerted effort to hunt down and eliminate the Wyverns of the Isldar stumbled across an odd creature trailing alone through the sky, its pectoral fins shredded and seemed to be steadily losing a significant amount of blood. The Dwarves managed to make short work of the isolated creature, and upon reaching its carcass found its body composition entirely different from what they had hunted before. Thinking little of it at the time beyond being a mutation of what was typically roaming their skies, the Dwarves stripped the creature apart in an endeavour to salvage what they could before mounting its husk amongst the many others they had gathered. Only in recent years, due to the sudden breakthrough in steam technology leading toward the increased production of modern Airships, has this creature been seen in a consistent enough manner to be considered its own species which has led Dwarven scholars to posthumously consider this individual report to be the first recorded official sighting of an Aethershark. These creatures, whilst deadly in the air, have yet to be seen as an active participant in any conflict in Ellador and have instead maintained being a free-roaming creature of the northern skies that plague and bewilder any wayward travelers.
The Aethershark at first glance seems to be nothing more than a peculiar looking shark that soars through the sky, its size only reaching around eight feet in length at most, and six feet on the smaller end. At most, a fully grown Aethershark tends to weigh around 175 pounds, to 300 pounds depending on its size and age. Their heads are pointy, with the snout flattened into a conical shape with four rows of smooth-edged but incredibly sharply pointed teeth. The eyes of the Aethershark tend to be located more sunken and back into the head, the tip of the snout extending far past in comparison. Along the area just behind the head of the Aethershark lies a series of gill-like flaps that are used to release and regulate air that passes inside it, which can be used in short bursts in emergencies to grant a swift increase in speed at the cost of fatigue for a considerable amount of time afterward. The body of the Aethershark tends to be much stouter and bulky, with two widely curved pectoral fins trailing off the front of the Sky terror with a rather elongated yet angular caudal fin trailing behind. The top of the Aethershark is marked by two dorsal fins located between the caudal and pectoral fins of the creature. The bodies of Aethersharks range in color from a light gray to a pearly white depending upon what time of year they are born. If they are born more toward the first and last three months of the year, they tend to hold a rather pearly white color whereas the months between usually leave a mottled gray across their skin. There have been no observable differences in the time of year in which they are born and any other physical traits. Across the length of each Aethershark is a unique angular pattern of pale purple that arcs from the corner of each side of the mouth, and through a variety of different patterns makes its way toward each pectoral and caudal fin. While these creatures are not immune to any form of electrical stimulation, it has been widely documented that they possess a small resistance to electrical current, with these unique purple patterns tending to arc more than the rest of their body if they are ever struck by such. It has been theorized that these portions of their body are partially more insulated than the rest, and tend to act as a lightning rod in some fashion to prevent any lasting damage to the rest of its existence.
Overall, the primary differences between Aethersharks tend to be found around which mountains they are born near. The higher the peak at which an Aethershark is born tends to lead toward the Aethershark having a more smooth purple pattern as opposed to the more jagged and angular patterns found in those born closer toward the ground. The females on average tend to be slightly larger, but not by any significant amount to warrant an observable difference.
Life Span and Development
Female Aethersharks tend to produce around two to three offspring per year through a gestation period of around six to ten months, with each successive term producing around two Aethersharks. The Aethersharks are born around two feet in length, before beginning to grow by around another foot toward the end of the first year; these creatures continue to grow at this steady rate until they have reached sexual maturity, which ranges anywhere from four to seven years. Aethersharks have been known to have a lifespan of around ten to fifteen years at most.
Aethersharks are overtly hostile animals that have yet to be domesticated by any groups whatsoever. There have been multiple attempts by different groups to attempt any form of domestication or taming, yet none have been successful. These creatures often find themselves hostile toward both Wyverns and Aetherwhales, as the Wyverns are their primary predator due to the Wyvern’s ability to outmaneuver the Aethersharks and pick apart their packs, and the Aetherwhales as their primary prey, where packs of Aethersharks will swarm and take down an Aetherwhale from the sky, leading it to crash into a mountain in which they can scavenge from its carcass for a rather lengthy period. In its recent resurgence, flocks of high flying avian creatures have been known to be swarmed upon and devoured by Aethersharks, and in the past few years, there have been multiple outbreaks of conflict between modern Airships straying slightly off course into the local hunting grounds of the Aethershark, leading to perilous battles between the Dwarves and these aerial predators.
Territory and Groupings
Aethersharks tend to act in packs of around eight to twelve, with no central hierarchy or signified leader. These packs are made more out of necessity when seeking out larger prey such as an Aetherwhale, or the occasional mistaken Dwarven Airship, and the packs tend to have a territory that is bound not by the geographical area below them, but instead by the height at which they find themselves. There have been frequent reports of packs that share certain unique purple patterns being seen on one side of Ellador on one day, yet these same patterns being discovered by others hundreds of leagues away in the following days. Whilst Aethersharks have been known to break into conflict with other Aethersharks over what people can only assume to be a territorial dispute, it seems to only ever be in regards to the average height at which they are hunting rather than any other factor. Multiple packs who operate at the same height are often seen passing each other peacefully, yet whenever another pack attempts to travel up or down, they are usually met with a vicious frenzy from their kind.
- In recent years some Dwarven artisans have taken to covering the sides of their vessels in streaks and patterns of purple in an attempt to mimic the Aethersharks. Despite their change in appearance, it has yet to save any ship that has made the mistake of passing too near the path of a roaming pack of Aethersharks.
- Aethersharks have begun becoming an actively sought out creature for its flesh, many Dwarven traders advertising its ability to catch lightning, though this is never anything more than a scam.
- When Aethersharks move to take down an Aetherwhale, it is one of the few times that packs of Aethersharks from different heights tend to cooperate. The Aetherwhale is usually hunted and guided toward the side of a nearby mountain, and for this brief period there is usually no signs of infighting or frenzy that is started from the appearance of differently stratified Aethersharks feasting on the same catch