|Common Nicknames||Wind Fish, Sky Whale|
In an age long past, amongst the lofty heights of Ellador, the majestic Aetherwhales once played. Beasts of incredible size that drifted on the breeze as if they were as light as a feather, the Aetherwhales were a rare sight among the clouds, drifting in and out of cloud banks as they ate entire clouds of birds at a time. The Aetherwhale is a gargantuan mammal the size of an inn that resembles a fish, with three pairs of fins along their stomach that they use to navigate the sky and a great tailfin to propel them forward. Aetherwhales also are known for their sad ‘whale song’, a melancholic tune that they use to communicate that once was heard echoing from the lofty heights they built their pods around. Their most remarkable characteristic, however, is their ability to float, which comes from unique organs inside the Aetherwhale which house thousands upon thousands of microscopic bacteria that convert normal air into special lighter-than-air gases. These organs are able to be vented through the skin of the Aetherwhale, granting it the ability to rise and descend through the air with moderate ease. Once a common sight over the mountains of Ellador, the Aetherwhales have become increasingly more rare to stumble upon in the past century. This has baffled ecologists who have found no reason for the sudden disappearance; with the only real theories involve a dwindling food supply and migration to other places beyond the sea. Despite this, the floating creatures have certainly left their mark on the world, as the early designs for airships were said to be inspired by seeing Aetherwhales lofting among the frosty peaks of their home.
The earliest reports of Aetherwhales come from the early part of the second century AC, and are accredited to a group of Dwarven explorers who were investigating the strange tones that rang through a small valley where they had settled down. Early assumptions had placed it as some left over monster from the Cataclysm, so the dwarves armed themselves with weapons and set out. They climbed up the mountains for several days, bantering with each other of the great victory they were to enjoy, until on the third day at dawn they witnessed a spectacle that they claimed in their journals as being completely beyond words. What greeted them that dawn was a pod of Aetherwhales, gliding gleefully through the early morning mists between the mountains, their songs calling out to each other as they chased flocks of birds across the yellow skies. The dwarves were completely lost at the sight, unaware of such a creature could exist. Several sketches of the creatures were recorded, and the group descended the mountain once again, content in their discovery. They would later share their designs with others, who spread the word of great beasts that floated on the air as if it were nothing. Several other explorers went out over the next few decades with mixed reports of success. Some managed to bring down a partial pod, bringing the slowly deflating remains to their cities to examine. Others simply wished to record their beauty, for they had never before seen such graceful creatures. As time went on, sightings became less and less frequent, ultimately delivering the Aetherwhale into legend. However, it is said that on a cloudy morning, in a certain valley, one can still hear their long, sad song, calling out to remind the world that they still exist.
Aetherwhales are a universal pale grey, roughly the color of a rain cloud on a spring afternoon. The skin itself is slightly mottled, with no two Aetherwhales sharing the exact same patterns. Along the underside of the Aetherwhale rest three pairs of fins, which the creature uses to navigate itself through the air. The front four fins do more navigation while the back two provide additional power to propulsion; which also is benefited by a large tail fin. Infact, from tip to tail, the average Aetherwhale is roughly 80 feet in length. The mouth of an Aetherwhale is quite large, while the top of the head features a bone growth plate that provides a bit of protection for the whale. Along the back of the whale are several blowholes, which are connected to the various buoyancy organs that line the inside of the creature. These holes can regulate the amount of lighter-than-air gas that is within the whale, granting the creature control over its elevation. Other noteworthy features of the Aetherwhale are its hollow structured bones, which aid in the creature's flight, as well as its seemingly natural immunity to being struck by lightning. This is due to a natural rubber-like compound in the skin of the animal that repels electronic impulses. A trait that, despite best efforts, has never been replicated. Finally, Aetherwhales have the ability to absorb moisture through their skin, but only in extreme situations. They typically will fly through a cloud and simply consume the moisture of a cloud if they feel thirsty.
Males and females are somewhat easy to distinguish from each other. Males are typically smaller in size, will be a darker gray coloration, and have a larger, more pronounced bone plate on their heads. The males of the species will use the plate to drive out potential rivals when courting a female, and will ram into each other with the plate to attempt to knock the other out of the sky. Females, on the other hand, are slightly larger in size, are a lighter shade of grey, and have smaller bone plates on their heads. A pregnant female will upkeep active protective patrols of her nest, and their will be slightly larger and slower than an unbred female.
Life Span and Development
The average Aetherwhale lives to be roughly one hundred years old if able to grow to maturity. Gestation periods can last up to two years, though young are live birthed in nests constructed at the top of mountains. These young are roughly ten feet long at birth, and weigh upwards of forty pounds. The Aetherwhale learns to fly within the first two hours of its life, the microbacteria required for its flight starting to form while still in the mother and multiplying rapidly with access to fresh air. Those that cannot fly within the first two hours are abandoned, and often live alone until they find a mate. An Aetherwhale reaches full size around twenty years of age, with the full size it will reach at 80 ft. long for males, and 84 ft. long for females. During the twenty year span, the bone growth on the forehead of the creature fully develops and hardens, and is the heaviest part of the animal. An adult Aetherwhale will reach sexual maturity and find a mate around thirty years of age, who they bond to for life.
Although never tamed, Aetherwhales are largely harmless to most other species. All recorded instances of interactions with the species have involved the Aetherwhales simply playing across the sky, and only engaging in defensive actions should they have been attacked. There was one instance where an Aetherwhale killed a hunter, but witnesses say the whale simply scooped up the man in its jaw and dropped him from the sky. Whether the species has a natural predator was never determined, due to the species mysteriously disappearing from the world. The one group that Aetherwhales are actively violent against is birds, due to them being the natural food source for the animal. Other than that, they are the epitome a gentle giant.
Territory and Groupings
Aetherwhales have been recorded living in large, family clusters of twelve at the most, which have been dubbed ‘pods’. These units tend to stick to one mountain and claim the skies around it, with different groups owning different mountain peaks. On these mountains they construct nests of gathered stones, in which they birth their young. They seem to constantly be on the move, though they never stray far from the mountain that houses their nest. The only observed conflicts between groups are often settled via ramming competitions of the biggest males. These individuals clash with each other, smashing their bone plates into each other’s sides until one side is knocked from the sky. The victorious Aetherwhale then moves his pod onto the mountain top. Correlations have been drawn between more conflicts and higher mountain peaks.
- It is rumored that Ironhall once held a completed skeleton of an Aetherwhale, though any evidence of this has long since been lost.
- Aetherwhales are considered a mythical creature in Ellador, despite clear evidence of them existing. This is due to a large number of children’s stories that are focused around one particularly friendly Aetherwhale named ‘Puff Puff’.
- One explorer cited witnessing an Aetherwhale shooting a bolt of lightning from its maw as if it could breathe lightning. No other case of this has ever been observed so it is mostly chocked up to a simple optical illusion.