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Sand Mermaids are, as the name implies, mermaids adapted to living in the Akaptor desert. As such, they have the ability to swim through sand almost as if it was water. They achieved this through a number of traits that they developed over hundreds of generations, such as the innate affinity for earth-magic every sand mermaid is born with. Even when untrained, this magic allows them to move the sand in front of them to around them as they move, creating a flow around their bodies that propels them forward, much like how regular swimming works.
Generally, sand mermaids have tan skin and dark hair. They don’t grow as large as most of their sea cousins and the biggest specimens will only reach up to about 110 feet in length, head to tail fin. A feature every sand mermaid share is their fold-able fins, located in pairs on the sides of their head and on their forearms. The fins on their head act as their ears and are extremely sensitive to vibrations when deployed, making their hearing better than even most nekos'. When swimming beneath the sand's surface, they open their fin-ears fully, which allow them to feel the subtlest of vibrations through the sand around them. This makes up for the fact that they can't see with their eyes under the surface, as they have to seal them hermetically behind thick eyelids to protect them from the sand. When above the surface, they usually fold their fin-ears up in order to reduce their sensitivity, protecting them from being harmed simply from being spoken to, or by the sound of the wind. However, these fins can also be used to sense moisture from great distances when opened above the sand's surface, which is a great boon in the dry and hot desert, but leave the sand mermaid vulnerable. As a result, sand mermaids searching for water will seem to flash or flap their ear-fins open and shut them quickly in rapid succession, slowly getting readings on which direction to go. The fins on their arms also fold, and almost seem to disappear in the arm in this state, as the outer spine folds over them and blend perfectly with the skin. These fins serve a much simpler function, which is to push against the sand moving around the mermaid for more mobility.
Sand Mermaids can use their 'sonar' ability as a way to locate themselves in the vastness of the desert. They do this by taking a survey of the 'bottom' of the desert, where sand turns into a solid bedrock, which is much more lasting and well defined than the sand above. Most mermaids are taught when they are young and learn where certain 'landmarks' such as deep trenches or high « mountains» are situated in the bedrock. It creates a mental map that prevent them from getting lost in the desert. However, in order to do this, a mermaid must swim down deeper in the sand, as each individual's sonar range is only about 1.5 times that of the length of their body. Fortunately, this is not a major problem in any respect, as sand mermaids, in place of having gills and an underwater respiratory system, possess extra large lungs, allowing them to hold their breath below the sand for great periods of time (approximately 5 hours for healthy adults). Interestingly enough, sand mermaids are entirely immune to the temporal effects of Akaptor's sand due to the odd story of their species. Their main weakness remains their sensitive hearing; even with their ear-fins folded, harsh sounds can still cause considerable discomfort or harm to a sand mermaid.
As a species, sand mermaids have no definite way of living. Some choose to prowl the desert alone, doing whatever they please, while others choose to form small groups of three to five, at least to hunt, but sometimes also to form small communities or families together. In terms of personality, sand mermaids are often quite lax and collected people, hard to rile up or excite. This calmness generally makes them good spellcasters, able to easily focus their magic in any situation, and obviously extremely prominent at earth magic. It makes them good decision-makers as well as they can stay calm in face of danger. In terms of their diet, sand mermaids are, as their size would imply, predatory, hunting anything from colonies of insects living in the sands, to humans. In groups, they sometimes hunt sand whales. on a related note, calling a sand mermaid a 'sand whale' is taken as a major insult, and is a good way to get on one's bad side. Sand mermaids have been rumored to gather and even live within the Buried Palace in Akaptor, entering through doors and windows of the structure far below the sand's surface. They are said to know of many other submerged ruins across Akaptor desert unable to be perceived, let alone accessed, by most other races!
The concept of how sand mermaids came to be is considered an interesting one by researchers of magic, history, and survivalists alike. According to their history, a small group of river mermaids, the biggest of them said to have been no longer than fourteen feet head to tail, were transported via one of Felarya's famous dimensional anomalies, and wound up in a somewhat large oasis located in Akaptor Desert at some point in recent times. In their efforts to survive, they practiced moving around on and through the sand, as they knew what small supply of food that was in and that came by the oasis from time to time wouldn't last. Eventually, one of them figured out how to move the sand using magic and taught the rest. However, upon trying to travel from their oasis and push their abilities to explore their surroundings, they all fell victim to the temporal effects of Akaptor's sands, and wound up stranded far in the past, in a shallow sea that covered the area at that time period. With great determination, these river mermaids braved the past world using their adapted abilities, putting in motion the next generation in the process. Their descendants continued the evolutionary process over centuries, developing extra fins and sensory organs to better suit the desert as it became drier and harsher, even going so far as to trade their gills for greater lung capacity. Their reproduction habits also changed, reducing the number of eggs sand mermaids lay to no more than one per insemination, in order to both prevent overpopulation, and to reduce the stress of feeding for a family in the food-scarce areas of the desert. Typically, a pair of sand mermaids will care for their egg, both before and after it hatches, until the parents feel that their offspring will be able to survive on his or her own. Due to the process of surviving the travel to the past, sand mermaids today are immune to the temporal effects of the sand, allowing them to move freely throughout any part of the dangerous desert.
- Credits to Nyaha for the Sand mermaids idea.