The harpy are a birdlike race that originate from the Heck’ne wasteland, where food and shelter is scarce and day-to-day survival is extremely difficult.
They are one of the Rendi races, with their history detailed in the Rendi Origin tale. They believe they come from the youngest sister Zen’efay and the main religion of the harpy people, Har’py, is made directly in opposition to the Animon Goddess Scara, who they believe abandoned Zen’efay. Alongside the Rendi races they also share a history with the foxen and nurlak people, as told in the Foxen Origin.
The harpy people are in a power struggle over their homeland with several large predators, including Heck’nerian spiders and sabre cats. They also share the wasteland with mud seces, though a large majority of their interactions are peaceful.
The harpy people are one of the most negatively stereotyped sentient races on the planet and find it extremely difficult (and often dangerous) to leave the Heck’ne and move to foreign countries due to the risk of being victims of violence.
Av. Height: 5’5”
Harpy are a bipedal people with a humanoid upper torso, which shares many common features among other sentients. A harpy’s ears are rather pointed and are often described as the halfway between a human and a nurlak. Their natural feather and hair colours range from blond and grey to brown and black. Harpy living in Heck’ne may have more washed out skin and hair than those living outside of their homeland, due to the harsh conditions of the wasteland.
The lower half of a harpy is similar to that of a bird and they have feathers from their waist to their knees. They have muscular 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, and it is rare for a healthy harpy to stand flat-footed. Generally, a harpy standing flat-footed indicates an underlying health issue such as muscle disintegration or chronic pain.
Harpy have feathered wings that sprout from their arms and are used for flight and communication. Their shared wing-arms have claw-like hands with strong nails that don’t chip or break easily. The digits are slightly elongated compared to those of other sentients and the skin is a very similar texture and colour to that of their talons. However, because their wings and arms are one in the same, their use of their arms is slightly limited and harpy generally prefer to use their talons for day to day tasks where possible.
Harpy mouths tend to be calloused and scarred. Their lips are minimal, like thin pale lines, and tough like leather. This is because the teeth of a harpy are small and serrated, similar to a shark’s. These teeth help them bite off clean chunks of meat while hunting and fighting, leaving large circular wounds. Their teeth are naturally white but because of the terrible living conditions of most harpy they end up stained and yellowed.
Like their lips, a harpy’s tongue is tough to avoid being bitten off by their sharp teeth. Their tongues are also small and pointed, with very few pain receptors near the tip.
Sex and Gender
Harpy sexual dimorphism is very subtle. Harpy don’t usually care to gender themselves and have very few gendered words in their language. The only time the sex of a harpy is considered is when establishing family dynamics (of which, the only gendered responsibilities are singing and giving birth), and the sex and gender of a harpy outside of their own family is considered nobody else’s business.
The most general physical distinction is that harpy women have feathered down on their forearms, from their elbow to their wrists, while harpy men do not. Another distinction is the feathers along a male harpy’s hips will cover their entire stomach to protect them during battle, while females have less to their skin can stretch easier during pregnancy. It is also noted by other sentients that most harpy men have scaly birdlike skin over the entirety of their legs, from their hips down, while harpy women usually only have this skin from the ankles down— However, this is not a consistent dimorphism and varies depending on a variety of factors, so most harpies disregard this as a marker of sex.
Though sexual dimorphism in harpies is often used to quickly identify the biological sex of a harpy, it is common to be corrected by niritaka (transgender) or haykafica (intersex) harpy. Haykafica harpy make up roughly 3% of the known Heck’ne population, and niritaka make up almost 10% of the population. Niritaka are most common in harpy families that socialise with the local seces people, though they are found across Heck’ne and their high population in areas with seces is simply put down to having a better education of gender identity.
Harpy people of all sexes have a slit for their genitalia, which they refer to with the gender-neutral term “hoourknah.” The inside of harpy woman’s hoourknah is textured with noticeable lumps which have a rough, leathery texture to them. These bumps are full of nerves that connect directly to the harpy’s ovaries and encourage the release of eggs; and without without continuous stimuli to these the release of eggs stops, meaning it may take several months for a harpy to fall pregnant. For harpy men, their hoourknah hides their penis, which is covered in cartilage lumps which stimulate the ovaries of their female partners. There is a rumour that equates larger bumps with higher fertility, but this hasn’t been proven.
It is believed that the way hoourknah have evolved is to help prevent miscarriages as harpy are less likely to have sex during hard times. Food is scarce in the Heck’ne and a failed birth wastes too many nutrients and risks the mother’s death, so unplanned pregnancies are something that harpies try their best to avoid.
Although it may be hard to discern due to their lifestyle and lack of historical documentation, there are many recognised variations of the harpy race, each coming from different families and areas. These differences are mostly noted by other sentient races that live in Heck’ne alongside the harpies, as harpy people are generally more concerned with their family and survival than differing each other by physical attributes. Because harpies themselves do not care for these differences, there are no native words to describe them.
The most famous race of harpy are the blond harpy. The blond harpy originates from the Har’py royal bloodline and is believed to share features with the Har’py goddess Zen’efay and first Prophet Au’ku.
The blond harpy have, as their name implies, blond hair and feathers. They also have dark skin, long feathered tails, three toes, and thin-but-muscular builds.
Tailless / No-Flights
The most noticeable race of harpy is the tailless harpy, also known as “no-flights”. The tailless harpies have no tails and shrunken wing feathers, making flight impossible. Tailless harpy are larger than other harpy, are able to build fat and muscle faster than normal.
They also tend to instinctively fight with their arms as well as their legs, a rare trait among harpy.
Because of their size, it is believed that tailless harpy have very distant wolven ancestry. This, however, has never been proven.
Four-Toed and Three-Toed
Among the many differences between harpy races are their feet. There are several two toe placements that are recognised as non-deformities. Four-toed (totipalmate) and three-toed (anisodactyl).
Four-toed harpies have, as their name implies, 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. It is thought these harpies originated along the coast, and are sometimes referred to as “coastal harpies.”
Three-toed harpies are much more common 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. Their feet are, however, much more likely to sink into mud and get stuck.
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 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 or use tools to slice their food. 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.
The jutt-jaw harpy variation originates from an area that used to be shared with orcs, and it is believed they may be descended from harpy/orc mixes.
Common Disabilities and Health Issues
All too often, harpies born with severe physical disabilities will die during their early childhood as a result of the wasteland’s harsh conditions. Harpy families do their best to aid their children, but if a condition is too severe the only hope for the child may be to send them out of the wastes to live in another country, such as I’reka.
Thin-Legs — Kizza’kiita
Mostly suffered by harpy women, thin-legs is as it sounds: the harpy’s legs are too thin because of an issue absorbing calcium to develop strong bone and muscle. Harpy with thin-legs often suffer aches and pains comparable to arthritis, and may also have dental health issues.
The condition stops them being able to defend themselves properly and often results in a low rank. Most harpies with thin-legs are able to survive into adulthood, but often find it difficult to care for their family and children.
In a family setting, harpy with thin-legs may be given the role of egg-carer and spend almost their entire adult lives in the family’s sleeping area caring for young children and maintaining their homes. Outside of a family setting thin-leg harpies may resort to more dishonourable means of survival.
The native term for thin-legs, kizza’kiita, which literally translates into “not fighter.”
The Pale — Hikai’bi
Hikai’bi, also known as “the pale,” is a melanin deficiency that most often effects the skin. It is categorised as a mild form of genetic albinism that is only found in the harpy people, though is most likely to be inherited by those with mixed parentage, especially those with non-harpy mothers. It’s not sure what exactly causes hikai’bi, but it is very different from pale skin inherited from a pale parent and puts the sufferer’s health and life at risk.
Unlike full albinism it rarely effects the hair and only causes issues with the skin’s ability to create melanin and protect against sunlight. Harpies with the pale 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. Harpies with hikai’bi may also suffer from digestive disorders, or develop eyesight issues as they get older.
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.
Four Wings — Daisa’fii
Sometimes harpies are born with a second set of wings sprouting from their back. It is rare for these wings to be big enough to use for flight, but not uncommon for them to stop a harpy from being able to use their regular wings for flight.
It is believed to be a recessive trait inherited because of their Rendi blood and to give birth to a daisa’fii is considered a blessing.
Relationships and Life-Cycle
Mayts and Family Troops
The harpy lifestyle can be stressful, and it relies on a complex ranking system to make survival easier. This system has lead to the common misconception from outsiders that harpy partnerships are inherently abusive or have unbalanced power dynamics. This is false, however, as harpy relationships rely on having complete trust and loyalty to all partners involved. Without this trust, the family group risks falling apart.
Harpies can either live in small polycules with their romantic partners and children, or in large troops of extended family. The dynamic doesn’t change much with which lifestyle they may choose, though in larger groups there may be frequent tussles and changing of rank.
A harpy troop will claim a territory for their family to live in and fall into ranks and duties that best suit their capabilities. Usually rank is defined by physical strength, though there are exceptions. Higher-ranking harpies are expected to protect and feed the lower-ranking harpies, and the lower-ranking harpies are more likely to spend their time caring for children and maintaining the family’s personal space.
Troops will always have a leader; one who sets the other troop members to their duties, and who has the final say and maintains order. The troop leader can be anyone who’s proven themselves worthy of the title but often defaults to parents and grandparents. Troop leaders, more often than not, would prefer to die than give up their rank and risk their family’s safety.
Smaller harpy troops are usually made up of around 5-15 adults in a polycule, with a varying number of their children. Though sometimes a smaller harpy troop may have two separate polycules that have chosen to live together and share resources.
They refer to the members of their polycule as their “mayts” (also sometimes pronounced as mat, mayet, and myit) which is often misunderstood by non-harpies due to the similarities with the International word “mate.” When talking about same-sex partners with non-harpies in other countries they may uses the term “same-mayt,” though they don’t tend to make this distinction in their native language or homeland as harpy culture has very few gender-exclusive terms.
Though harpies use a ranking system to distribute duties, all harpies in a polycule are respected and seen as equals.
The harpy people are not mammalian and do not produce milk. Likewise, they do not develop breasts or have nipples. This is because they are egg-layers.
Mothers will carry their young for six months before laying a large, flexible egg with an already mostly-formed infant inside. This egg will remain unhatched for another 6 months before the child will break their way out into the world. If the egg is torn open during birth, the baby still has a chance to survive if cared for. 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, usually between 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 and the egg will be cared for by both parents. Only diamond and obsidian blades have been known to cut a healthy harpy eggshell, and they are immune to soulstone infections.
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.
The hardened shell will begin to degrade after 3-4 months, sending extra nutrients to the child in preparation for hatching, and after the 6 month incubation 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 races on Demrefor.
By 10 eclipses, most harpy children have finished their emotional development and have the mental capacity of an 18-year-old human. By age 15, they should have completely finished puberty and are considered full adults. From here they begin to slowly even out with other sentients, and by their 20th eclipse, they are no different from other sentients 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.
• 15% 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.
The culture of the harpy people is strongly connected to the religion Har’py. Almost all harpy follow the religion in some way; whether it be believing in their goddess or simply following the laws of honour, the religion effects the everyday life of almost every harpy on the planet.
Because their way of life is so heavily connected to their religion, the harpy people are often opposed to changes of lifestyle that have not been dictated by the Heck’ne’s current leader. Many sentients from outside the Heck’ne have tried to encourage culture changes in the harpy, but they are always met with resistance.
The constant push for harpies to change has made them distrustful of outsiders and, though they allow others to come into the wastes and live by their own law, many harpy are reluctant to leave Heck’ne as when they do they are met with social pressure to abandon their beliefs. Those that do leave Heck’ne tend to stay in the Rendi, where they are more accepted.
Honest and Honourable
The harpy people are a very honest people and lying in harpy culture is seen as an act of dishonour. To accuse someone of lying is a very bold accusation; and so most harpies will take each other on their word without challenge, unless they are absolutely sure that the other party is lying to them.
There is a popular saying in harpy culture: “kaka mia mal sasao,” or “don’t whisper what you won’t scream.” This saying means to speak your mind, openly and proudly, and discourages the spread of gossip and rumours. This saying is taken very seriously by the harpy and they will use it to defend themselves against accusations of dishonesty.
Because of their honestly, a lot of harpy have trouble understanding sarcasm and will take things very literally.
Fighting and Dominance
Fighting is the main way that the harpy people resolve conflict. If a harpy is accused of something dishonourable it is usually a physical tussle that will solve who is in the right. This fight is not always solely between the accused and the accuser; often entire troops will war with one another to protect the honour of a single family member.
Dominance is shown with the puffing-out of wings, crouching down with an arched back, and the bearing of teeth with open-mouth hissing; while submission and compliance is shown by the covering of the face with the wings and the exposure of the back of the neck as the submissive stares at the ground and makes 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 attacks. 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 severely injured or killed.
It is common with harpies to claim things as theirs in battle, mostly territory and food.
If a harpy wants something, they will challenge the owner of the item for ownership. “Claiming” is a legally recognised way to come into possession of things and is not considered dishonourable, provided the fight is a carried out after a public challenge, and with neither party having an unfair advantage over the other.
The claiming of family members has been outlawed since the Prophet Tru’man, but it still remains a prevalent issue among more isolated harpies. To help combat this the Kunya’mup Kiitas were formed.
Although harpy culture being based around survival often leads to them having to carry out aggressive acts, they also enjoy peaceful activities with those they care for and are very affectionate with their families.
Hunting is one way that harpies enjoy bonding. When families aren’t hunting for food they will often chase each other and playfully wrestle. Teeth and talons are avoided in these tussles.
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 each other.
When resting, harpy women will sing to calm anxious partners or children; this is considered a part of their responsibility to the family as listening to singing has a calming and undeniably positive effect on a harpy’s health. It is uncommon for men to sing as they believe it is the duty of the women to sing, and that it is the duty of the men listen to their song. The reason for this is related to childbirth; during the latest stages of a harpy’s pregnancy singing is the only duty they are able to safely fulfil, and this has carried over into their cultural perspective. The only time harpy men will sing is if there is no women to sing to their children. Their songs sound like hums with no lyrics and, although they vary from harpy to harpy, tend to be a higher pitch than their speaking voices.
It is very rare to find a harpy that is not a member of the Har’py religion. As the religion affects their culture so greatly it is something they are all taught from birth. Most harpy who are not in the true Har’py religion are raised with the teachings of the False Har’py, but will correct themselves if given the opportunity.
It is also not uncommon for harpy to believe in the three-eyed goddess, the maiden Klict, and the Rendi sisters.
The Har’py language, most commonly referred to with the title of the Har’py religion instead of the name of the people, is very harsh-sounding. The accent used to speak it is quite raspy, coming from the back of the throat and chest. They tend to avoid sounds that use the tongue or lips against the teeth, and so have a very open mouth way of speaking. Like their voices, their laughter has a very recognisable crackle to it, and it’s often described as a cackle.
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 they never had reason to evolve it. Their non-verbal language skills are still rather complicated, however, as body language is one of their primary communication methods. Because of this they find sign language very easy to learn and their own sign language incorporates their natural body language.
Alongside their spoken and body languages, the Har’py language also uses clicks, chirps, hisses, and growls as indicators of emotion and tone.
Culturally only the women sing, though men are physically capable of it, and it sounds like a high-pitch hum.
It is also important to note that there are few gendered terms in the Har’py language. Their pronouns are completely gender-neutral, and they use only three personal pronouns: tirr (I/me), terr (you), and tarr (they/them). Likewise, they only have two possessive pronouns, farfah (mine) and farfeh (not mine), as they believe the only important distinction between owned objects is whether it is their own, or someone else’s, with the true owner being less important than the fact it is “not theirs.”
The only true gendered terms in the harpy language are words related to family; which all have gender neutral equivalents.
Cultural harpy clothing is very simple. The only clothes they wear are sun-bleached leather sashes. These sashes are a sign of family rank; with higher ranking harpy wearing more sashes than lower-ranking harpy. 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.
Some harpy hunters will also rub animal blood on their faces and in their hair, wearing it like make-up. This practice is more common with harpies who live deeper in the Heck’ne, and less common with those who live near the wasteland’s edge.
The harpy people 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 the highest ranking member of their troop.
Harpy have no natural gag reflex, and if they eat something toxic they are unable to induce vomiting and need medical treatment. Because of this, most harpies will keep the charcoal from their campfires in case of emergancies.
Because harpy have no lips, they are unable to kiss like most other sentients. Instead, they nip each other gently, skimming the blunt side of their teeth over the skin. This is considered the highest form of trust; as it would be easy to turn a harpy kiss into a deadly bite.
Most harpy will unwillingly fall asleep when gentle string instruments are played, liking them to the sounds of a singing mother. Over 70% of harpy living outside the Heck’ne give the name of a violinist when asked about their favourite musician.
Transphobia and homophobia are acts that offend the honour of harpies and their rights, and most will react with absolute disgust, if not violence, to outsiders that they find expressing these bigoted views.
A harpy’s diet is almost completely made of raw or half-cooked meat, with very little fibre. What little plants they do eat are usually root vegetables such as carrots or turnips.
All harpy, regardless of whether or not they have actually been to the wasteland, are considered Heck’nerian citizens. Harpy born outside of Heck’ne are often referred to as “honorary” Heck’nerians, and are always welcome in their homeland. This has carried over to how they view all Heck’nerians in general and all of wasteland decent are welcomed warmly to associate with harpies and their world, provided they are respectful.
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