|Common Nicknames||Sky Cetean, Air Flying Whale|
|Habitat||The North Belt|
Aetherwhales capture the imagination of many an Alorian today. These beautiful creatures of the sky with a majestically massive form are widely believed to have been driven to extinctinction through centuries of hunting, deaths, and finally irreversible world-altering events. The scholarly community is confident in this assessment but as long as tall tales from Ellador insist on their continued survival, then the hope of the Aetherwhale’s return remains alive.
The Aetherwhale, while often seen as a fantastical beast in the modern-day, was very real and lived for millennia in the cold north of Aloria. Their pods soared through the skies of the ancient North Belt, over landmasses now gone or fundamentally altered by Magic and the Cataclysm. They were known to the Drovv, and later the Altalar, as majestic, ethereal creatures. While some were hunted, especially by the Altalar as the Allorn Empire degraded across Daen, their existence in the far north made these efforts largely impractical. Then came their end, although it started small. The Dwarves, while primarily living underground, had always known about the Aetherwhale, and it is widely believed their first airships were made in the likeness of these creatures to achieve great heights. But the Morrok mount of the Dwarves was never one to share its skies, and while predation was a natural part of the world, the Dwarven taming of the Morrok and support of their propagation resulted in a hit to the Aetherwhale’s numbers. Then came the first Dragon Worshipers, who would become the Isldar, and with them the Wyvern. Today, many Isldar insist their near-total purge of the skies of the Aetherwhale was due to the command of the Violet Creation Dragons, while others suggest that Wyverns hunted down the animal. This, combined with Aetherwhales being caught in the crossfire of the warring Dwarves and Dregodarians, continued hunting by both the Morrok and their more natural predator, the Aethershark, lead to the animal’s end.
Many believe the final stroke for the Aetherwhales came during the birth of the Isldar, when the ancient magical blast of ice and snow rendered much of The North Belt into the modern icescape it is known today, followed soon after by the Cataclysm. A number of the species found elsewhere beyond Ellador were corrupted by the Void during the Fifth Void Invasion and wrought one last devastation on the world before their end. However, this postulation is false, as the animal was already suited to cold temperatures due to its adaptation to life in higher altitudes. Additionally, when the Void Invasion ceased, the corrupted Aethersharks around these corrupted whales ate them. It took several more decades before the Aetherwhale went fully extinct. Why this happened is anyone’s guess, as the Isldar had retreated, the Wyverns, Morrok, and Aethersharks were not nearly as active, and the transformation of the land below them had not affected the air. However, their final end is believed to be at the hands of first Vampires, and then Ailor. When the Dorkarth Bloodline rose in Ellador soon after the Cataclysm, it is suspected their vile Dreadforts played a key role in killing the larger pods of Aetherwhales remaining before the unturned Ailor finished the job. Some of them undoubtedly did it because they were starving and in need of food, along with the shelter the aerial mammal's bodies could have provided, but there are also beliefs that the Ailor were frightened of it, likely due to those corrupted by the Void from decades prior. The last known Aetherwhale accepted by professional scholarship was felled in Ellador in 102 AC. It was alone, a giant of its species, and many Hedrylli bards claim it simply gave up on life as the last of its kind, allowing the hunters pursuing it to have their victory.
But rumors and reported sightings of the animal have persisted over the past two centuries. Many of these claims can be attributed to Aethersharks, who did not follow the Aetherwhale to extinction, or clouds, but some are harder to explain. There are also reports which mention seeing them briefly in the clouds near The Northern Expanse, a vast territory little explored, which could indicate their survival in that distant land. Still, no Regalian scholar has seen anything but old carcasses in all of that time, and even most Isldar and Dwarves accept that the animal is extinct. But for many others, the claims of hearing mournful calls through the mountains on a cloudy night still hold hope of this majestic sky-beast’s survival.
Aetherwhales were titans of the sky. Fully matured adults were capable of reaching as much as 80 feet long with a broad body reaching around twenty feet wide at largest, while their weight was difficult to ascertain. Their heads were uniquely formed for whales, with a strong triangular shape to them alongside a massive, upturned mouth that could take up as much as one-third of their body. The top of their head was also quite dense and highly resistant to damage. At the rear of this “head plate” sat a quadrant of blowholes that, instead of allowing the animal to breathe, helped to regulate their position in the air. The animal had two pairs of milky-blue eyes the size of an Ailor’s head that sat just above the end of the corner of the whale’s mouth. The rest of the animal was a rapid taper down to the tail, but shortly after the eyes sat three pairs of broad rounded flippers, each anywhere from ten to six feet long. The first two were often the largest and primarily used for steering the animal, while the final pair were meant for minor adjustments and the gentle caressing of calves. Their bodies ended in a broad, flat fluked tail.
The animal’s skin was one of its more unique traits, as while it had a blue-grey coloring along much of its back and tail, the animal’s underside was a pure white with a unique splotching of this color that splayed itself over its head. This skin was also well known for being able to take electric shots, though it is believed that this was some biological process allowed by the animal’s unique blood and internal organs in conjunction with the skin, as those who sought to protect themselves from lightning while wearing Aetherwhale skin have all failed. Another unique feather of the Aetherwhales were their hollow bones, alongside a series of internal gas-sacks similar to those of the Air Pocket Whale, but these produced lighter-than-air chemicals through some unknown biological process rather than retaining normal air. It was these sacks that connected to the animal's blowholes, allowing for rapid ascents and descents.
Aetherwhales are believed to have once had notable visual differences based on which part of The North Belt they lived in. However, the Elladorian variant, which also survived the longest, is believed to have been dominant with a reach as far as Cain, and has largely obscured records of unique subgroups of Aetherwhales as they remain the most prominent in the popular conscience. As for gender differences, there were minimal ways to tell, as calves kept close to both parents, with males still playing a role in the family structure.
Life Span and Development
Aetherwhales were born as singular calves from their mothers at high altitudes, with further details being obscured both due to the high elevations and how time and myth have affected the public’s view of them. From this point, calves gradually matured over as much as two decades, at which point they entered a youth stage they existed in for another two decades, before reaching adult size. However, even as adults they would continue to grow, reaching the truly massive scales the mature Aetherwhales were known for. Aetherwhales are said to have had lifespans that rivaled even the Altalar, unique even in the sphere of cetaceans they are technically classified as, at somewhere between 400 and 600 years. The only evidence of the 600 year-mark was an Aetherwhale known only as The Elder, known to the Drovv before their war with the Altalar, and then observed for at least three centuries after.
The Aetherwhales have been saddled with many mythical qualities they likely did not possess, but they were both clever and caring creatures. Pairs of Aetherwhales mated for life, not engaging with one another frivolously, and they cared for their young greatly, rebuking those who sought them harm with great aggression. While the Aetherwhale might have initially looked lacking in defensive capabilities, their anatomy was quite deceptive, and their heavy skulls could be used to bash foes both in the air and into the mountains, usually to their death. Despite these attack patterns, the animal was a capable trickster, infinitely knowledgeable about the terrain far below, but also the sky far above. More than one tale exists of Aetherwhale pods or individual members leading pursuers to crash into a misty mountain peak, emerge from obscuring clouds into an unknown thunderstorm, or simply lose their prey in a dense patch of clouds. However, Aetherwhales had little experience with the Races of Aloria, and their age-cold strategies did not adapt fast enough to the changes those Races caused for the world of the Aetherwhale.
Territory and Groupings
Aetherwhales roamed across the whole of The North Belt likely from the Awakening of the Altalar to the dawn of the Regalian Empire soon after the Cataclysm. Each subtype, though there was little diversity within the species, had a particular nesting ground they returned to every five years for the birthing and early raising of calves. Aetherwhale pods could reach as many as fifty individuals and were clustered around the oldest members of their species.
- The Hedrylli song telling of the hunt of the last Aetherwhale is called “The One Blue Tear” and names its subject “Foralltid Ensom” or “Forever Lonely” when translated from Skodje.
- A large number of children’s stories about Aetherwhales are focused around one particularly friendly member of the species named “Puff Puff.”
- The Aetherwhale has no connection to the Aether of the distant Sihai.