Harpy are a birdlike species that evolved in the wasteland known as Heck’ne, where food is scarce and shelter scarcer.
They evolved to survive on minimal food, with what little they eat being mostly a high-protein diet of meat and plant roots.
Harpy believe they owe their species’ evolution to the shared cultural story about the Rendi Origin. Their religion, Har’py, is made directly in opposition to the Animon Goddess Scara, who they believed abandoned them during the Rendi Origin.
The harpy are in a power struggle over the wasteland with Heck’nerian spiders and sabre cats. The three are major competing predators with minimal prey and so all three species are both prey and predator to each other.
The harpy people are one of the most negatively stereotyped Sentient races on the planet, and find it hard —and a lot of the time dangerous— to move into foreign countries because of this. Most of these stereotypes come from miscommunication and preexisting religious bigotry, however, and should not be paid any heed.
The harpy are a humanoid species with a humanoid upper torso and very common facial features among Sentients. Their ears are rather long, and are often described as the halfway point between human and nurlak.
Av. Height: 5’5”
Arms, Legs, and Wings
Their lower half is similar to that of a bird and they have feathers from their waist to their knees. They have thick birdlike legs and feet with dangerously sharp talons that they can use for a variety of things; though mostly they use them for fighting and holding objects.
The majority of harpies prefer to walk on their toes. It is rare for a healthy harpy to prefer standing flat-footed.
Their arms have feathers sprouting from them to create their wings which, in most types of harpy, are used for flight and displays of aggression.
Their hands are very claw-like, with strong nails that don’t chip easily. The digits are slightly elongated and the skin is very similar to that of their feet.
Harpy wings are very flexible and their feathers can be comfortably tucked away when not needed for flight, allowing a harpy to use their arms without restriction (although they often prefer to use their talons)
All pure harpies have tan to dark skin, and hair and feathers that are either blonde, grey, brown, or black.
Harpies living in the Heck’ne tend to have very washed out, faded colours due to their harsh living conditions. Harpies living outside the Heck’ne tend to have better diets and a friendlier lifestyle, which helps increase how vivid their colours are.
Mouth and Teeth
Harpy mouths tend to be calloused and scarred. Their lips are minimal, like thin pale lines, giving their mouth just enough flexibility to talk coherently, but not making it cumbersome enough for them to accidentally bite their lips.
Harpies have serrated teeth similar to a shark’s. Normal harpy teeth are small, serrated, and well spaced in the mouth.
Their teeth help them bite off clean chunks of meat while hunting/fighting, allowing them to eat even if they are unable to take down a larger prey animal.
Harpy teeth are naturally white, but because of their lifestyle and diet their teeth tend to stain yellow-brown, which also contributes to their seemingly inescapable bad breath.
Their tongues tend to be small, pointed, and flexible so they can keep them out of the way of their sharp teeth. It is very hard for a harpy to accidentally bite their tongue, but when they do they usually bite off the tip. Harpies who have bitten their tongues are often teased.
Harpy have no gag reflex (and so cannot induce vomiting) to aid with swallowing large chunks of meat. This has both positive and negative effects on the species.
Females tend to have thicker legs than males to defend themselves and their children.
Females have feathers on their forearms, while males don’t.
Females have the feathers on their hips stop underneath their stomach, while male feathers cover the stomach completely. Males have more feathers for more protection while fighting and hunting, while females have less so that their skin can stretch properly during pregnancy.
Males have scales on the entirety of their legs, while females only have scales on their birdlike feet.
Female harpy do not develop breasts, and neither male or female harpy have nipples.
Although it is hard to tell due to the way they live, there are many variations in the Harpy species. Most of these differences are cosmetic, not behavioural.
They believe their purest form is the tailed, serrated-toothed, three-toed, blonde-feathered harpy, as this is the look of the Prophet’s bloodline.
Tailless / No-Flights
The most noticeable subspecies is the tailless harpy (AKA: the no-flights). The tailless harpies have no tails and shrunken wing feathers, making flight impossible. The tailless harpy subspecies is larger than any other subspecies, is able to build muscle faster than normal, and fights with their arms as well as their legs.
Four-toed and Three-toed
Among the differences harpy have are their feet. There are two toe placements that are recognised as non-deformities. Four-toed (totipalmate) and three-toed (anisodactyl).
Four-toed harpies have, as might be obvious, four front-facing toes on their birdlike feet. Four-toed harpies do not have a hallux (back-facing toe) and tend to have webbing joining their toes together. Most four-toed harpies hate the webbing as it restricts battle and will usually claw it out before they reach full maturity. However, the ones who do not claw it out hunt better during the Heck’ne’s wet-seasons.
Three-toed harpies are considered purer than four-toed harpies. They have three forward-facing toes and one toe on the back of their foot. Their claws tend to be sharper than the four-toed harpies, and their balance on the rocky landscape is better. They can use their feet to cling to branches, and tend to have much more flexible legs than their four-toed kin.
Very rarely, other variations will appear, such as the cross-toe harpies (heterodactyl/zygodactyl) and the two-toed harpy (didactyl) that may be found wandering the outskirts of the Heck’ne. They tend to die young, however, due to difficulty hunting and defending themselves.
Jutt-jaw is the common term for a harpy subspecies with teeth more akin to that of a dog. Harpies with canine teeth usually suffer from fairly severe underbites that make it hard for them to chew or tear flesh, so they tend to swallow things whole. They prefer to live in the outer-regions of the Heck’ne by the border, where smaller game such as lizards are more readily available.
The jutt-jaw harpies’ teeth may not cause as much damage as normal harpies, but the muscles in their jaws are stronger and they are able to break bones with their bite alone.
Deformities and Disabilities
Disabled harpies born in the Heck’ne tend to die shortly after hatching, due to the wasteland’s harsh ways, but some with less-severe disabilities are able to survive with the help of their families.
Mostly suffered by females. Thin-legs is as it sounds: the harpy’s legs are too thin because of an issue developing muscle mass. This stops them being able to defend themselves properly and often results in low rank or death. Most harpies with thin-legs aren’t killed at hatching but are not successful at finding friendly mates or becoming troop leaders due to their perceived weakness.
Hikai’bi — The Pale
Hikai’bi is a melanin deficiency of the skin. It is categorised as a mild form of albinism that is only found in the harpy species, though it is most likely to be inherited by with those of mixed races.
Unlike full albinism, it does not affect hair or eyes and only causes issues with the skin. Harpies with hikai’bi are unable to tan and instead are more susceptible to burns, rashes, and skin cancers. They also have a higher chance of wounds becoming inflamed or infected, and they are more likely to develop chronic wounds that heal slowly or reopen frequently.
This can have devastating effects to harpies living in their homeland of Heck’ne as the conditions are so vicious, and 78% harpies born with hikai’bi do not survive their first year.
Sometimes harpies are born with a second set of wings sprouting from their back. These wings are usually small and useless and don’t have much effect on the harpy’s physical abilities, but sometimes the wings are large and affect the efficiency of their flight. Harpies with larger wings are often forced to fly with their arms held tightly against their bodies.
It is believed to be a recessive trait inherited because of their Rendi blood and those born with four wings are honoured.
Reproduction and Lifespan
The harpy lifestyle can be violent at times, which has lead to the idea that their partnerships are inherently abusive. This is wrong, however. Almost all harpy relationships are completely consensual and rely on a trust and protection system.
Harpies tend to create harem-like troops, with the highest-ranking harpy being the guardian of the lower-ranking harpies (and any nurlak or foxen Har’py that may be living in the area). Troops are family groups (cousins, siblings, parents, romantic partners, etc) but they will often welcome outsiders into the group if they get along.
The troop leaders can be of either sex and are usually the strongest fighter in the group, with their second being either a ‘first-choice’ partner or the best hunter of the troop. Troop leaders, more often than not, would prefer to die than give up their rank and risk their family’s safety.
When referring to partners in International, they prefer to use the term mate or, in the case of same-sex couples, “same-mate.” This originated because their language’s term for spouse, “mayt,” sounds very similar and it is a simpler translation for those with limited language resources.
Harpies have a cloaca-like slit for their genitalia, which they refer to as ‘hoourknah’. These small slits are not cloaca and are only used for reproduction. The males of the species keep their penis inside their hoourknah except for when urinating or having sex, and it is considered inappropriate to show genitalia unless preparing to reproduce. Males have fantastic control over their genitalia and only get aroused when they wish it.
Harpy males have scraping barbs on the tip and halfway down the shaft of their penis, which stimulates the females into releasing eggs from their ovaries. The females’ inner walls, in turn, are very roughly textured and strong. It may take several attempts for the female to be impregnated as without continuous stimuli (2-3 times daily), females do not release eggs. This evolutionary trait is made to stop miscarriages, as harpies do not tend to have sex as much during famine because they spend more time hunting. Food is scarce in the Heck’ne and an unborn baby dying wastes too many nutrients and risks the mother’s death, so harpies have evolved to try and avoid unwanted pregnancies.
The harpy species is not mammalian and does not produce milk. Instead, the females will carry their young inside them for six months before laying a large, flexible egg with an already mostly-formed infant inside.
If the egg is torn open during birth, the baby still has a chance to survive if cared for. Survival is not common, however, and if death occurs harpies will consume their torn-egg young in a ceremonial feast. The reason the eggs remain unhatched for 6 months is to help development; the children who hatch too early tend to need constant care, food chewed for them, and are prone to illness. This makes them difficult to raise in the unforgiving wasteland.
If the egg-laying is successful, after a short time (8-12 hours) the egg’s shell will begin to dry out and harden. The egg will become an almost unbreakable shield around the baby (only diamond and obsidian blades have been able to break a healthy shell) and the egg will be cared for by both parents.
Because of the nature of the eggs hardening after being laid, harpy eggs are flat on one side and bulging on the other. Attentive harpy parents take advantage of this and will strap their eggs to their back, flat-side down like a backpack, and will even use them as weapons in battle.
The hardened shell will begin to degrade after 3-4 months, sending extra nutrients to the child in preparation for hatching, and after 6 months the shell has thinned out enough for the child to break themselves free.
Once the egg is hatched the infant is developed enough to start walking and hunting within a few days.
They generally start learning to talk at 2-3 weeks old, and are one of the fastest-developing sentient species on Demrefor.
By 10 eclipses, most harpy children have finished their emotional development stage and have the mental capacity of an 18-year-old human. By age 15, they should have completed puberty and be ready to reproduce. From here they begin to slowly even out with other sentients, and by their 20th eclipse, they are no different from other species of their own age.
• The expectancy for a Heck’ne born harpy’s lifespan is around 50-55 eclipses, while some harpies raised outside the Heck’ne have remained healthy into their late 90s.
• 40% of harpies who get pregnant miscarriage before or while laying their eggs. Half of these miscarriages kill the mother.
• There are ages that harpies are more likely to die at than others. Ages with high death counts include: 4 eclipses; 7 eclipses; 14 eclipses (female); 20 (male).
• Less than 1% of eggs laid never hatch, but almost 60% of children who hatch late die within their first week, so eggs are usually abandoned if they do not hatch within the expected month.
Harpy culture is based strongly around their religion, Har’py. They believe that it is better to keep their homeland from change and, even though harpies are seen by other Sentients as violent, they are very loyal to their culture and religion and most of their inappropriate behaviours are survival techniques that have evolved into natural instincts.
They dislike outsiders not because of their aggressive culture, but because of the way they are often treated by other religions. Outsiders who show them respect are usually welcomed into the Heck’ne and given a chance to learn their ways.
Fighting is the main way that harpies resolve conflict. If you want something, you assert your dominance and take it. This was less common in the days before the corrupt Prophet Alak’alabi, but the terrible ruler led the Heck’ne into such bad times that the harpies were forced to adapt.
Dominance is shown with the puffing-out of wings, crouching down with an arched back, and the bearing of fangs with open-mouth hissing; while submission and compliance is shown by the covering of the face with their wings and the exposure of the back of their neck as they stare at the ground and make a high-pitch chirping noise, similar to an owl’s distress call.
If a harpy shows submission during an argument, it is considered the dominant’s duty to not allow the display to progress to a fight.
If neither side of an argument shows submission and it cannot be resolved with a small tussle, harpy often challenge each other to Gra’gahoo da: a religious fight to the death with strict rules.
Harpy battles are vicious frenzies without much technique behind them. Most harpies use their feet, teeth, and claws to savagely rip their opponents to shreds until they show submission. Instinctively harpies break away from fights every few minutes to circle and re-display; this gives their opponents a chance to show submission without the risk of being killed.
Although harpies can be aggressive, they enjoy peaceful activities with those they care for and can be very affectionate.
Hunting is one way that harpies enjoy bonding. When families aren’t hunting prey they will often chase each other to practice speed and stamina. Usually, this ends with a bout of play-fighting and wrestling which helps build their strength.
When they aren’t hunting or play-fighting, harpies like to lounge about and relax in the shade together. Troops of harpy will often lie together casually and make jokes as they relax and groom.
When resting, sometimes harpy women will sing to calm anxious mates or children. Their songs sound like bird vocalisations and, although they vary from harpy to harpy, tend to be a higher pitch than their speaking voices.
Harpy, unlike most Rendi races, do not believe in a mix of all religions. They are always taught of the Har’py religion and most believe in that, and by extension they believe in the Animon religion, but only as an opposing force to their own goddess. They also speak of the Three-Eyed Goddess, especially those who have gone through worse hardships than normal.
The Har’py language, usually referred to with the title of the Har’py religion instead of the name of the species, is very harsh-sounding. The accent used to speak it is quite raspy. They tend to avoid sounds that use the tongue or lips against the teeth, and so have a very open mouth way of speaking.
The harpy people do not have a written language and are completely unable to learn how to read or write. They simply lack the ability, as their species never had reason to evolve it.
Their non-verbal language skills are still rather complicated, however, as they have many natural signals in their body language that express things well and are not easily translated into other languages. Because of this, they find sign language very easy to learn and have their own modified version which includes their natural body language.
Harpy laughter has a very recognisable squeak-like crackle to it, making it sound almost as if it echoes itself. Some Sentients liken it to parrots squawking, though many others do not see the similarities.
Only the women sing, and it sounds like birdsong.
Clothing and Armour
Harpy people wear clothing to define their rank in society. The less clothes a harpy wears, the lower rank they are considered.
Cultural harpy clothing is very simple. The only clothes they wear are sun-bleached leather sashes.
They can have up to three large sashes that can be worn around the waist, chest, and stomach, and several smaller sashes that can be worn on their arms or legs.
No sash placement signifies specific ranks, with the only marker for importance being the amount of leather used, and the sashes are worn wherever the harpy feels most comfortable.
Most non-harpies living in harpy societies live naked, although higher-ranking warriors or beloved mates of harpies may wear a sash around their waist or on an arm or leg, depending on their specific rank.
Harpy people, like all the bird races, are very light and have hollow bones (excluding the bones in their legs). This makes for a very humorous look when they swim, as they tend to struggle to keep themselves from floating to the surface.
Harpy names most often follow the Har’py naming conventions, with the first half of the harpy’s name being chosen by their parents, and the second half by their leader.
Make Your Own!
If you would like to make your own harpy character, you can use this base!