|Common Nicknames||Void Vultures|
|Habitat||Urban landscapes of the Dread Empire|
Harpies are half-avian, half-humanoid beings with an ancient history equaling that of the Centaurs. Born of unknown origins, Harpies were once regal beings who avoided slavery in the Allorn Empire through some, now vague means. They were ultimately seduced by the powers of the Void, a process likely begun by the people who would become the Kathar, and in the end, the Harpies were reduced to a bestial state in service of the Dread Empire. While they still possess intellect today, they are best known as creatures of attack and amusement among the Kathar and the other Races of Aloria.
The Harpy has a relatively unknown history, information difficult to parse from the reality of the Allorn age, in addition to the regions they once commonly inhabited being some of the first to go dark in the collapse of the ancient empire. Tales of the Harpy date back to the dawn of the Allorn Empire, and a purported event which is viewed as equaling a fairy tale in the Ailor conception. Some loyal to the Allorn even doubt its legitimacy, but regardless, the tales tell of a complex love square between four notable leaders of the Allorn Empire. Through political manipulation and the interest of an Estelley deity, this square became a pentagram, and then a triangle. One of the women involved, now left out of the love she had fostered and sought, fled far from her home. Full of sorrow, and on high mountains to the west, she saw the joys of the birds and prayed that her hope of being as happy as them could be fulfilled. Thus, she was turned into the first Harpy, and from her came the entire species. However, the truth of this is in doubt. For starters, while the classic story does feature a woman turning into a Harpy, another version has a man turning into a fish, a third having no one dying or being transformed, and so on. The names of those involved also constantly shifted over the millennia of the Allorn Empire’s existence, rendering any “original copies” moot as simply being the oldest versions of what must have been a very well known story which spread far beyond its point of origin.
Harpies, though, are ultimately very old beings who seemed to have inhabited the mountains of the west for generations upon generations before the coming of the Allorn Empire. When they were encountered, they were oddly not enslaved, but instead absorbed into the Empire in a client relationship similar to that of the Drovv in Drowda or the Yanar. Why is not clear, perhaps it simply being the whims of a single Empress in power in that age, or that the Harpies wielded unique Magic of interest to the Allorn Empire. Regardless of this, Harpies lived peacefully in the Allorn Empire for many years before their sorry fall from grace. What began their degradation is not known, but where previously Harpies had grace, poise, and a refinement the Allorn could accept, by the final centuries of the Allorn, Harpies were savage, monstrous, and deadly users of Magic. They had also, evidently, been turned to the ways of the Void, and worshiped Onu the Warper. This turn was likely the result of seduction by the proto-Kathar, luring the Harpies in with offers of greater knowledge and further advancement. Instead, the Harpy Race fell and became beasts. By the collapse of the Allorn Empire, and full emergence of the Kathar, what Harpies were left were savage creatures, capable of their own rudimentary tongue but robbed of their prior skills in Magic, and reduced to pets for the nobles of the newly emerging Dread Empire. This is where they have stayed over the decades, shifting to a place in warfare and recently seen during the Dread War where they proved quite potent against Regalian defense efforts.
Harpies have many unflattering images about themselves in the artistic creations of other Races, often with crass body elements on full display, but this is not a reality represented by the Harpies of the past, nor the modern Harpies of today. Harpies stand between four and five feet tall, with a wingspan of between eight and ten feet. They have fairly standard humanoid heads with a pair of eyes, ears, and so on. Their hair is their most notable feature, once long and flowing, wavy and of dark earthy tones to compliment the rest of their bodies. Black is now the overriding color, and such luscious locks are rare to see. Instead, Harpy hair is commonly bound up into a tight conical formation on the back of their heads, and even then this right is reserved for Harpies with status. Many others are shaved or made to possess short hair. Harpy faces, while humanoid, are also sharp and harsh in their proportions, and also tend to feature weathered skin and wrinkles in even middle aged members of the species. Harpy bodies begin to transform at the neck, which is long and laced with the beginning of a member’s plumage which covers what is broadly a humanoid body yet with avian features. Their torsos are short but with a pushed forward, densely feathered upper half which narrows as one reaches their long, robust legs. Their arms meanwhile, are wings, yet feature a build like that of some Dragons or bats, with four clawed digits resting between the radius and metacarpus. Their legs themselves end in talons like predatory birds, though broader and made to suit the animal’s increased size. Harpies are, as mentioned before, covered in a layer of feathers which grow out from the fringes of their face, along their necks, and then coat the rest of their body down to their exposed legs. While hues were once described as varied, modern Harpies have either black or shades of brown plumage with minimal patterning in paler hues. The only exception is a gray, beige or cream patch of feathers along their torso.
Where a species like the Centaurs is heavily inclined toward males, Harpies are well known as an all-female Lesser Race. Unlike the Centaurs where their homomasculine population is incorrect, Harpies do indeed only produce females. How and why this process could take place is not known, but Kathar scholars believe Harpies are engaged in a sort of self-replication akin to identical body creation seen in some radical explorations of Genos from the Maquixtl and medically-inclined engineers. As a result of this, there are only so many traits a Harpy can possess, with their variation usually coming down to age and seniority, granting them greater means of physical expression.
Life Span and Development
Harpies are born in clutches of two to three large, thick-shelled pale gray eggs with blue speckles. Incubated for a period of between one and a half to two and a half months, Harplets come out looking fairly avian, with large bulging eyes, and a naked, bright pink form soon shielded by a light sheath of down. Within a few more months, they have matured physically to be equal to a toddler in size, with another three years seeing them reach the size their adult size, but still considered a teenager. Their flight feathers are fully grown in at this stage, and while prior to this they are capable of rudimentary flight and gliding, they can now truly soar. Another two years sees them reach young adulthood. Harpies are capable of living surprisingly long lifespans, able to reach their seventies before dying. However, they lose their ability to fly in their older ages, at about their late fifties, at which point they enter the crone stage of their lives, walking along the ground and helping care for young Harpies.
Harpies were once beings of intellect, grace, and even Magic-use if the tales are to be believed. In fact, some even claim the Allorn learned their entire kit of storm and lightning Magics from the Harpies. Regardless of this truth, the Harpies of today are degraded, wretched creatures. Their minds, while greatly reduced in intellect, can understand Katharic and still croak their own tongue, Ozo’menc, but such things are incomplete and fragmented, simply commands and complex sentences a rarity for their kind. Only Harpies who live to a great age are known to speak with eloquence, but they are generally rare due to the Harpy’s treatment by the Kathar. They serve as creatures of amusement, performing tricks, acrobatics, and races through aerial courses, while also existing as exotic combat encounters in gladiatorial fights, fighters in warfare, and for the training of the elite in the Kathar armies. They are also sometimes used as messengers, their aerial flight offering them great maneuverability, speed of delivery and for their masters, a relatively more secure method of communication. Harpies overall obey the Kathar who control them, with little fight back to most commands, though they do get more prickly regarding the crone-aged Harpies.
Territory and Groupings
Harpies are generally kept in small groups across the Dread Empire, either as pets and beasts of amusement to the elite, or for the purposes of battle and war. In both cases, such groups are small, numbering between fifteen and thirty individuals. Harpy flocks are led by the eldest of their group, who speak with their Kathar masters when demanded, or who hand out assignments when required. All are subservient to their masters, but crone-age Harpies are often ignored by the Kathar and left to die, considered weak and of no more use. Harpy society, however, rarely lets this happen, and will go to great lengths to keep the crones of their number alive, with the Kathar tolerating this since it gives them more eloquent communicators and emissaries.
- The ruins of Harpy civilization are said to exist within the mountains of the Princedoms of Osciird in southwestern Altaleï, long destroyed rubble now overtaken by the local Osciird Vulture population.
- Osciird Vultures and Harpies are said to have one had a close connection when the Harpies were more sophisticated. In fact, Osciird Vultures were said to be the pets of the Harpies, and one only wonders if any who live to a great age could appreciate the irony of their current situation.
- Marvelous artifacts of the Allorn past are said to be tied to Harpies, the most notable being the Harpy Cloaks. Full-body cloaks lined with enchanted Harpy feathers, the use of one would allow the user to transform their body into a feather-coated avian flying form while their faces remained clear. Barely a dozen are said to still exist in the world today.