|Common Nicknames||Charmers, Hexfish|
Cunning and deceitful, the Kelp of Aloria were only recently confirmed as real by scholars of the Regalian Empire journeying to Essalonia. Prone to taking on magical guises, they are notorious for luring their victims to secluded places and drowning them. They predominantly dwell in underwater caves, away from the outside world, but are carnivorous hence their need to hunt, though they more commonly seek out fish rather than people. Kelp are rare and fascinating, but a person should take the utmost care when in contact with one.
The Kelp has a poorly understood history given that it is wrapped up in many myths and fables from across Aloria. Many a nautical Culture had and still has stories of beautiful women or men being tied to the water enough to have aquatic features, but the story of the Kelp focuses solely around the Proto-Velheim Ailor and likely begins around 300 BC. The colonization of Veløya took place around this time and for many, it soon became a land of myth, legends, and tall tales that led some to even doubt its very existence. But Veløya was real, and its unique geography and range of local wildlife spurred many adventures over the following centuries. Among these creatures were the Kelp, initially just a story before corpses and survivors of such encounters emerged in the final decades of the Cataclysm convinced the locals of their presence. However, in the disruptions that shook the world following 0 AC and the collapse of the Velheim trading network alongside geographic changes to Veløya itself, the Kelp faded back into mystery. By 200 AC, they were a known threat in the area, but foreign powers continued to ignore the Velheim tales. The Regalian Empire in particular was especially belligerent in this, convinced they were nothing more than corrupted tales of the Daphalar, creatures of Altalar myth born of Morrlond, the Unwritten God. However, the Kelp was eventually proven to be real to the scholarly community. Large-scale attempts to hunt the Kelp that followed this reaffirmation of their existence caused more harm than good to local people. For every Kelp finished off, ten hunters died in the attempt. In recent years, the various states that deal with the threat the Kelp possesses have removed their group hunting strategy in favor of maintaining continuous bounties on these creatures. Mages and alchemists of great renown also have their own bulletins for body parts of the creature as their strange body-changing ability makes their body parts ripe for experimentation or use by both parties. The Bone Horror Crisis is suspected to have put a serious dent in the creature’s numbers, but overall, they are crafty animals, and they may simply be hiding or avoiding the prying eyes of the Veløya locals.
Kelps are generally smaller than the average Ailor, ranging in heights of 5 feet to 5 and a half feet while weighing in at around 110 to 130 pounds. Their bodies are often covered in sea weeds and aquatic plants which they use to tactfully obscure their hideous bodies and faces. Their eyes have black sclera with often yellow or bright blue irises. Small dents exist in their heads where ears should be and their mouths are filled with sharpened teeth that often stick out of their lipless mouths. Their bodies are frail and often warped in spots, with spotty fins dotting their bodies and barely visible gills in their necks. Their scales are a brown-green color and they have webbed armpits as well as thin, webbed, clawed hands. Their bodies appear to be a humanoid feminine shape with a scaled tail that meets in muted flukes at the tip. Barely any of this is seen however, due to the plantlife veiling their bodies.
The most notable trait of the Kelp is the special part of its brain found at the front of the skull, otherwise known as the “Magic Cell”. The “Magic Cell” is believed to be the cause of their natural magical ability. It is exceptionally rare to find intact and is said to be incredibly useful in alchemy, though only affluent scholars and Nobility could even hope to afford it, due to the few intact Magic Cells that exist in Aloria. Another notable feature of the Kelp is its scales, as items adorned with these scales tend to act as efficient amplifiers of the abilities of mental-based magics. However, the elusiveness of the creatures makes the extraction of scales fairly difficult. One Kelp scale alone can sell for almost a thousand Regals, mainly due to the rarity of the animal’s parts on the open or even private market. Another fact to note is that their bodies go through extreme deterioration upon death. Extraction of the valued parts of their bodies is hard unless the proper preservation or harvesting equipment has been brought with the hunter.
The Kelp all look generally the same in their natural form, with their scales ranging from mud browns to dark greys. There is also no exterior distinction between female or male as all appear to be humanoid females in their natural form. However, analysis of corpses collected in recent years shows that males do indeed exist but simply appear effeminate.
Life Span and Development
The Kelp is a strange creature as its breeding habits have yet to be observed, but it seems likely that the Kelp lays a kind of egg in small batches amongst leafy foliage and the murky waters that surround their homes. Some also lay them at the bottom of the underground watery caves which dominate southern Veløya, revealed by the region's unique sinkholes. Over several months, the eggs develop at a steady pace, despite only one or two surviving to hatching. Following this, the hatchlings immediately begin to learn from their parents. They are taught the species’ unique racial skill mere days after they are born, and it has been observed that the individual traits of the parents are imprinted onto the offspring. They mature rapidly, reaching their full diminutive size four years after hatching and can live for around 40 years. They are only fertile once in their life and after that, they exist only to care for the young and to teach them how to survive, not abandoning them until their death.
The Kelp lack sophisticated mental faculties due to the existence of the unique “Magic Cell” in their heads. This has given less room for their brains to develop as sentient Races might, and so they cannot perform complex thoughts. This is somewhat contradicted by their major trait, that if they are disturbed by a sentient Race, they will enchant themselves to appear as beautiful females of that Race and try to fool the intruder by imitating Common. When their victim is sufficiently lulled, the Kelp drags them underwater and drowns them with the help of others in the group. This is, however, a rare form of hunting and additionally may just be a reflex rather than a conscious tactic employed by the Kelp. To eat normally, Kelp hang motionless for sometimes hours at a time in underwater flora to draw fish in and then eat them. All of this they teach to their offspring, who then carry on the same techniques and strategies of their parents.
Territory and Grouping
The Kelp live in western Essalonia, in small groups of eight to twelve in shallow bodies of water, swamps, and underground cave systems. These groupings are tightly knit, with two or three couples and their children making up the unit. The rare times when two groups interact, they act cautiously at first yet soon this fades away to general friendliness. There is noted tension in some units when mating season begins, but based on observations made by scholars and hunters, this fades rather quickly.
- Kelps are able to speak convincingly in Common when disguised by their magic. However, what Kelps that have been caught undisguised only communicated in an incomprehensible, guttural fashion.
- Some have compared the Kelp to the Slizzar, especially following the Chrysant War to further vilify that race.
- The Kelp and Maerrow curiously get along as the two major aquatic predators of Essalonia, not competing with the other and instead feeding off of whatever meals each leave.