TERMS- HISTORY - POPULATION - RACIAL FEATURES - TODAY - NOTABLES
- 'Nymph' is the general term. Major classes of nymphs are those of water (naiad), vegetation (dryad), land (oread), caves (lampad), and fire (igniad).
- 'Nymph' can have nudge-nudge-wink-wink connotations, so they're alternately called elemental humanoids by the politically correct and the stuffy.
- Are traditionally referred to with female pronouns though they're not inherently gendered beings.
- Technically they're not a race or even a species, because they have no hand in the creation of new nymphs and existing nymphs have nothing like a social society or culture. If anything, they are a sporadic natural phenomenon that happen to be self-aware.
- Nymphs are sentients that come to be in places of concentrated natural magic. (Such places are the result of the Network's closely overlying neighbor dimension- which leaks the mad alien physics and energies into the Network the inhabitants know as magic- lying uncommonly close.) The theory goes that passing soul stuff catches in these places like driftwood on riverbanks or cotton on brambles, condensing over centuries, causing an area to become distinctly 'eerie' as creatures begin to perceive it as a living thing. Gradually, so does the place. At some point the environment takes on full consciousness and can project itself as a physical thing. We call that thing a nymph, and the place its site.
- The nymph (the being of concentrated magic) is the mind and the site (the grove, reef, etc.) the body. The mind is tethered to the body and the body is tended by the mind. A nymph feels everything that happens in her site and will be notoriously protective of it. They're not known to leave their sites willingly and long absences are lethal.
- It was once believed nymphs were related to humans, that they were humans risen or fallen to a state of nature. In truth, nymphs have no 'true' physical appearance and only copy what creatures they come in contact with. Those who have never encountered human beings do not know the shape.
- In antiquity, nymphs were frequently taken as goddesses and they, being naturally self-centered and gullible, didn't play along long until they believed it themselves. In a way, the system worked. Humans protected their goddess' territories and gave them what they desired. (Usually one and the same. Nymphs aren't into material possessions but they're obsessed with their domains.) In turn the nymphs would share their sites with their worshipers, instead of trying to drown them or drop trees on them. On the downside, these nymph-centered cultures were stunted technologically as nymphs frown on things like waterwheels in their lifeblood or butchery of their trees for building material. Fortunately for humanity, nymphs are fairly guileless and simplistic and rarely made any demands beyond protection of their sites. That is, they never became power-hungry tyrants because there was no appeal, and the idea of dominion beyond their site probably never occurred to them.
- Rare and almost always solitary. An exception are sea naiads who form social clusters around certain islands and reefs.
- Features, abilities, and needs depend on the class of nymph, their location, and the magic backing their existence. Some generalities:
- All nymphs shapeshift but are limited to things they come in contact with. Often they take no form at all, just an influence in the area. They take shape to interact with the denizens of their sites- the birds, beasts, insects, and fishes- which have no fear of them, often mimicking the animal they are attending to, with some creative elemental flare.
- Because they're made of soul stuff, nymphs are able to perceive the thoughts of others to some degree. They understand and quickly learn any language spoken to them by observing the thoughts conjured by sounds as they're used. (The act of speaking focuses thought- it's otherwise difficult to pick anything out of the churning stew that is a mind.) This would also make them aware of ill intent, except that as one lies one is strongly aware of the truth and this confuses nymphs, merely putting them off instead of on full alert.
- The traditional belief is that nymphs are female, and very female at that, because they have a strong tendency to appear so when encountered by men. There's a theory why this is. Firstly, statistically it has indeed been men who are tromping around unexplored wilderness. And nymphs, which love the creatures of their domains more than themselves, are not unfamiliar with sex as a bonding ritual. When they encounter men (or indeed any new creature), offering a highly desirable form and encounter is both a hello and a peace treaty. It really can't be denied the nymphs enjoy it as well. There are thousands of stories of men who spend a peculiar amount of time off in the forest or wherever, who might be followed by their wives one morning and thrashed, and of men getting in fantastic rivalries over nymphs, and generally a whole world of accusations and denials and shame the nymphs themselves are not concerned with in the slightest.
- They extend a similar offer to women, who are merely less likely to brag about their adventures afterward.
- While nymphs attempt to present themselves as strikingly beautiful, so far as they can read the desires of the person in front of them, their idea of beauty is completely defined by their site. They attempt to remedy our ugliness with good doses of their beloved environment. A naiad in a forest pond may have reeds and moss for hair, opalescent skin, and duckweed freckles. A sea naiad might have a watery body dark as the depths, floating with glittering flecks of sand and trailing sprays of water from wrists and ankles. Igniads are always unsettlingly on fire. (Igniads are not often laid. Or care.)
- A nymph's power depends on the magic backing her site. Very saturated areas have very powerful nymphs. Most have only mild manipulative abilities and all have the possibility of exhausting their magical store, which kills them and renders their site mundane.
- Decimating a nymph's site will also kill her. If you drained a naiad's pond she'd die with it, like everything else that depended on it. Natural causes sometime destroy a nymph's home (tectonic plates snuffing out her volcano, for example) and that's life. She'll do everything in her power to protect it, though, and after a rampant fire you might see a patch of land that survived completely thanks to a resident nymph.
- Most can leave their sites temporarily. Weaker nymphs can venture further and stay longer while stronger nymphs get woozy just stepping out of their grove. It's reputably hellish (and, like organ transplant, iffy), but nymphs can relocate if they quickly find a suitable place. The survival rate is low and they become a bit messed up.
- They don't need to eat, sleep, or breathe (but will sometimes for fun). They can get sick in the sense that they suffer when their site is suffering. To hurt a nymph you'd attack her site, because 'she', the amorphous spirit thing which inhabits it, can become invisible, intangible, and invincible. There are magical methods of attacking a nymph proper, and people who are trained to do so, in which case she's in a whole new kind of trouble.
- Nymphs don't age. When they're not interested in certain types of attention, they might appear quite old or young depending if they're trying to spook, comfort, or intimidate a visitor, again borrowing from our minds and biases.
- And pissed-off nymphs rarely look anything like pretty young maidens.
- Nymphs have almost as bad a reputation for being licentious as humans. It's humanity's fault for encouraging their lust, but they don't help by appearing as beautiful naked ladies as soon as they learn what you get by doing such. It's a rarity and a mystery, but nymphs sometimes conceive. You can bet they have little interest in their offspring.
- So half-nymphs usually begin life on the doorsteps of their fathers' houses. Because nymphs have no genetics to pass on, half-nymphs are full humans built from their fathers' genes with some erratic bonus features inherited from their mothers. They're all female, for reasons unknown. (It's suggested that nymphs may not grasp that male humans can be born from female humans, or something. Or they might just be terribly sexist.) A typical half-nymph will have some manipulative influence over her mother's element and some form-altering ability. Their powers are infamously half-baked and more nuisances than boons.
- Not to mention the social stigma. Half-nymph heritage basically makes public that your dad was loose with a kinky magical hippie tree lady in the woods. Sometimes the dads can't handle this reflection on themselves and won't acknowledge their kids. Go figure.
- The unkind term for a half-nymph is a hymph.
- Bound to springs, ponds, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, reefs, bays, glaciers, portions of ocean, and marshes. The most common class.
- Along with dryads, naiads usually have quite a lot of plants and animals depending on the health of their site. If a nymph's existed in a place for many years local animals will know where to go when sick or injured. Nymphs are never happier than when they're taking care of their space, even its living components. Through their control of liquids, naiads can halt bleeding and purify blood of poisons and wounds of debris.
- Sirens are another name for ocean naiads, specifically obnoxious ocean naiads who lounge naked on cliffs during storms and loudly place bets on if the ship will make it through the cliffs instead of maybe doing something about the freaking storm wouldyougetoffthefreakingcliffsanddosomethingaboutthefreakingstormwillyou?!?! They don't actually bring about sailors' dooms but they don't impede them either, hence they've earned an understandably poor reputation. Guess what? They don't care.
- The sites of sea naiads are vast, ambiguous, and not easily disrupted, so they tend to have the least concern for them. Their domains are so general they often overlap, and this ability to congregate and the relative stability of their sites allows them to have something like a social group. Whether they're bored or just tidying up, these groups have a tendency to horde shipwrecks and other human junk and treasure into big communal piles on which they grow reefs. They're reasonably safe to go diving around, but do not take things. It's not the shiny yellow metal the naiads will punish you for disturbing, but the precious little barnacles growing on it.
- Are bound to portions of forests and jungles, with sites as broad as valleys to as small as a single tree. Considered the second-most common.
- The most vulnerable to humans, in the sense that their sites are most frequently in the way of development and most simply destroyed. However, dryads can do frightening things with roots, vines, poison, thorns, and giant falling trees, and have been known to be so violent in defending their sites they've actually fought off armies.
- They can also heal, taking full advantage of all medicinal qualities of the vegetation at their disposal. Some say eating fruit offered to you by a dryad will enhance your love life, while others say it will paralyze you and the dryad will feed you piece by piece to her trees. What to believe, what to believe...
- The catch-all class, these nymphs are bound to stuff like cliffs, canyons, mountain tops, and old ruins (often mistaken for ancient ghosts). Their sites tend to be less easily disturbed short of dynamite blasts, and so they're among the most passive about visitors. Often dormant. Animals tend to be more sparse in these places, and these nymphs are less used to contact. They are not known to approach people, but will watch, possibly as a tall, rippling shape in the distance or a stone that's always just six meters behind you. Described as creepy and surreal.
- Cave-bound nymphs. Very mysterious. They're the only nymphs not known to take physical shape. Spelunkers inevitably carry a light source, which fascinates lampads into appearing as a floating light. They don't like it when people come to mine out the precious magical minerals that brought them into existence, and snuff the problem by collapsing their tunnels.
- Igniads require an area of constant fire. Basically, we're talking volcanoes. There's a region of the Network that is one freaking huge volcanic mountain range that's been blistering the land for millenia. It's where dragons evolved from weedy six-limbed lizard things to massive monsters which incorporate fire into their very biology, consuming the mineral-rich magma and boulders igniads hold dear. The two have had a long and tenuous relationship. Dragons are to igniads as humans are to dryads.
- Humans and igniads don't often cross paths. Dragons are pretty much the only threatening thing to a igniad, otherwise they're difficult to upset. You try messing up a volcano. They don't care if you build right up to their lava flows. They know who'll win.
- There are still tribal groups which worship a local nymph. There are also pagan-style religions which hold that nymphs are nature goddesses. Otherwise...
- Nymphs, specifically dryads and naiads, are suffering from something that's a mix of poaching and habitat destruction. Legally, they and their sites are protected under Network law as sentient beings with innate ownership of their land. In practice, the trouble begins when somebody wants to, say, turn a valley into a vineyard, but there's a nymph in one of the groves. A nice person would approach the nymph and attempt a deal of some kind, like leaving a decent perimeter around her part of the valley and offering regular compensation for any trouble the vineyard might bring her. A less nice person might just start clearing and building in hopes the nymph will tolerate it. This is of course a gamble, and the nymph might go psychotic and cause as much regular damage on the developers as possible. A really nasty person might go straight to the nymph's site and get it and her out of the picture permanently, possibly with dynamite. This is disgustingly not uncommon. There's a reason nymphs in modern times tend to be either very shy or very violent towards people.
- The law considers killing a nymph (directly or by destroying her site) murder. But many don't see nymphs as anything more than kinda-sorta sentient elemental matter on par with animals and killings go unreported.
- Another awkward scenario is the possibility for nymphs to develop in urban and rural areas. This is complicated. The difference in these nymphs is that they've been pulled together not only from the soul stuff and magic of the area, but also have something of the residents of the place in them. They're more intelligent, more innately human, their 'element' includes mankind. They're usually 'raised' by people in the area, work well with human(oids), and both sides can form an agreement to share the space. Ancient city parks and fountains are often the sites in question.
- For example, the river through Gallyheim produced a naiad, christened Sionainn, sixty years back, who's part of the reason the city has such sterling water management, sewage treatment, and above all, very, very clean riverbanks. Having a tentacle of water lash up and strangle you for pitching your beer can in the bushes is a great disincentive to litter.
Márie Branagan | A half-nymph born of a marsh naiad and a young tailor in Thurmun'dheel. Despite her origins, she was cherished by her father and later by her stepmother and younger half-sisters. She was apprenticed to her father who intended she take over the family business as she was kickass at the work.
Since childhood Márie has had the ability to control small amounts of water directly touching her skin, which has mostly been useful for flicking tiny water balls at people and drying off instantly after getting soaked. Any sort of water plant grows better in her presence and she has to turn all the houseplants in the house once a day because they begin leaning towards her bedroom. She's immune to water hemlock and many other toxic plants but has never had occasion to discover this.
Not bad. But when she hit fourteen the last of her haywire nymph traits kicked in, and it was crippling. Márie is obliged to become a creature of the marsh for long stints several times a week. A great blue heron, specifically. She was highly put-out by this bizarre handicap but with a lot of support and straight faces from her family and friends she was ready to march on with her suddenly much complicated life. She continued working in her father’s business on her days with fingers and took up delivering mail on days with feathers.
In her mid-twenties she teamed up with a family friend trained in alchemistry (Master Brogan) to set up a specialty tailoring business in Elarg for shapeshifters and other beings of varying and complicated dimensions. Today she directs their small pack of tailors and wrangles the business end of things. Along with Brogan, she is kinder than most people have any business being.
Márie's father, Todd, had a sweet way of explaining to a young and bright-eyed Márie about why she didn't have a mommy. He told her that her mother was a beautiful and kindly spirit of nature, who could make the leaves and the animals dance with her laugh, and who had a duty to the marsh from the tallest trees to the tiniest sprout, and that is why she can't be here with us. But children like you are rare as diamonds, you're here to do something special.
Adult Márie loves to give her father crap about the whole nymph incident, which they both have a laugh about. I don't think Márie's ever tried seeking out the naiad. Surely the nymph's long forgotten them both and wouldn't understand why Márie would want to meet her. Which she very much doesn't.
Neridia | A young naiad residing in the overgrown fountain below the central dome of the Altalamatox Library.
Probably Neridia had only come into being for a few months before she was severed from her spring, thrown in a truck, and gotten neatly out of the hair of whatever company wanted her land. Normally nymphs are just killed, but her captors were enterprising and wanted to see if they could sell the naiad off in the city as a pet, or to be melted down for raw magic, or whatever they could get a few bucks off her for. But within a day or two she was withering and obviously dying so they dumped her in an alley and were gone.
Alan, the Librarian who handles deliveries, had been in the habit of riding his horse along alleyways to avoid traffic. He saw this blue child curled pitifully in the gritty puddle under a drainpipe, and, only vaguely knowing what a nymph was, got her on Augusta's back and sped her to the Library. They placed her in the fountain for the night while they tried to contact some sort of help service. But by morning Neridia had bound herself to the fountain.
Nymphs that survive relocation are not likely to be stable, even by nymph standards. Neridia almost never, ever speaks. She is incredibly timid, rarely takes form around strangers, and only trusts some of the Librarians, some of the time. One of the only people to earn her friendship is Eric Thedrial, frequent Library visitor, because he has an extremely old and gentle soul and Neridia is soothed and intrigued by this. She fears Vra'kriss in particular because he is unpredictable and loud. She gets along well with Shad, because words are not their strong suites, and they just attend their work happily and quietly together.
The fountain was once a slab of stone in a pool with water pouring from the top. Under Neridia's influence, a good plot of the central lobby under the big dome is now misty, ferny, mushroomy, butterfly-and-bird-infested, bouldery forest, in the middle of which there is a pond floating with lilies, leaves, duckweed, and frogs, with a rock spire jutting out of it draped with little waterfalls. Neridia spends most of her time spread out through the water, tending to her little domain and its inhabitants, making it rain, muffling outside noises. At night she pads off trailing a little rivulet behind her and waters all the Library's plants.
When dire battle breaks out with wicked bookly apparitions, Neridia keeps her distance, ghosting around to heal the wounded. On just a few occasions invaders have blundered into her forest patch to hide. The Librarians never find the bodies, but if they thought to look they might notice a few more fish in the pond.
Most nymphs are only ever about as mature as human children. Neridia is very much a young child, but growing up in a building with regular human contact, a family almost, she is destined to become an unusually intelligent nymph. As a literal force of nature and tapped into the ungodly immense magical reservoir that is the Altalamatox Library, she is potentially the most powerful Librarian, but has no knowledge of this and wouldn't think anything of it if she did.
James Colly | An intrepid volcanologist (if that's not redundant), James and his team were working on the slopes of the Network's largest nymph-controlled volcano when he stepped on unsafe ground and plunged into the scalding magma below... to find himself saved by the grace of the resident igniad. Fascinated and thankful, he was surprised that she was interested in remaining in his company and built up a friendship with her. She fell deeply and secretly in love with one of the other volcanologists.
Some time later she approached James and told him she had grown curious of the world beyond her lava. He was thrilled she'd come to show this level of interest in the outside world. She reminded him of his debt to her and revealed she had a way of temporarily exchanging states of being with another. She could spend a weekend as a flesh-and-blood human being while James could transcend merely loving and observing volcanoes from a distance, to actually be one. He never stood a chance.
Of course, you can guess what happened. The igniad took off with her lover with no intent to return to her lonely existence as a mountain full of fire, and James... well, he's hasn't been quite himself for almost a decade now.
Colly is an extremely unique case. He's become among the most powerful single entities in the Network, being a cunning, innovative, vengeful human spirit in full control of an enormous volcanic mountain. To occupy his time, justify his reason for being, and to secure wide financial and social influence while under the handicap of being physically confined to his magma, he's erected a very profitable company around Mount Brisancer.
In the beginning, a factory was built on the mountain's outskirts which collected its lava, rich in molten magical minerals, for cooling into raw magical physicals, like great chunks of ore for refining into glass, oil, and powder and shipping all over the Network for production into magical items. When this began to thin his lifeblood, Colly found that old, battered, unwanted magical objects could be fed into Brisancer's seething crater by the ton to enrich the lava and replenish his strength. Factory buildings, pipes, canals, conveyor belts, scaffolding and machinery now cobweb the mountain from foot to crown and even plunge within the awesome crater itself.
Mt. Brisancer is the single largest employer of dragons in the Network, who withstand, indeed thrive in, intense heat and are pro at heavy lifting. Dragons also constitute a large portion of his company's consumers, as larger dragons can no longer draw the substantial amount of magic they need to function from their environment and require a steady diet of magic-enriched ore.
James never got the hang of most igniad tricks and the closest he's able to manifest himself as human is as a smoky phantom. If he feels like being terrifying he can slop around his crater as a colossal dribbling magma thing or coil in the air as a thick black smoke thing. He's mostly a consciousness which speaks and breezes around his domain. He has direct control over all the magma, lava flows and falls, smoke, and fire of his hellish body and can physically feel everything that goes on around it and in it.
He's still hellbent on scouring the Network for the igniad and her lover and has taken great pleasure in detailing the punishments which await the pair when he gets his molten mitts on them.
The perky, self-confessed nerdy volcanologist has long since become a severe, brooding, meticulous man whose (admittedly deserved) self-pity and general anger have given him a sadistic streak, while his serious personal immobility fuels the relentless building of his corporation. Stupidly wealthy, Colly has styled himself as genteel and hosts formal functions and dinners in an elegant, heat-shielded chateau above the churning lava lake within his crater.
On the nicer side, James is a huge music lover (jazz, blues, and old rock in particular, and pop when no-one's listening) and a die-hard record fan, enjoys old movies and new podcasts about myriad things which interest him, and he loves to listen to stories. He's a hauntingly good singer. He's not exactly mired in self-pity even most of the time, honestly, and is often as not in a friendly, chipper mood, if a little business-y.
He has a Barbossa-like obsession, with water. A tall crystal decanter of it lives on his desk. James attempts not to look horribly intent when people sip their glasses during meetings.
Speaking of his desk, he's constantly frustrated by his lack of middle gears, in that he has the raw might to blow acres of mountain and valley straight into the upper atmosphere but lacks the dexterity to hold a pen, turn a doorknob, or operate a mouse. Manipulating warm air, he can barely turn the pages of a book. He does much of his computer work via voice commands. There's a crucible in the center of his desk glowing with coals which provides hot air he can use to flip through memos or operate the tiny fans which active many of his things, like toggling the voice capture on his computer system or answering the phone.
Many of the rooms James spends any amount of time in have unobtrusive contraptions tucked in corners which, when initiated by fan, ignite a powder and spew the heavy smoke he forms into his ghostly shape.
James may be an unintentional antagonist in the modern portion of Eric Thedrial's story, whose underlings would find the shapeshifting immortal, properly interned, silenced, and fed, an unimaginable source of raw magic for James' enterprise. The unspeakable bastards. James himself is not exactly evil, and being wrongfully imprisoned himself, as it were, there would be hell to pay if he found out part of Brisancer's input was coming from some sad captive his managers did not see fit to inform him of. But where it all breaks down with James is his precious RRREVENGE, and while he wouldn't honestly keep Thedrial on the mountain, he would certainly threaten to do so in exchange for some detective work by his friends, who have recently had a brush with a girl who should be an impossible being... a half-nymph igniad. Which makes James' metaphorical blood run to ice.
Referring to Mr. Colly as a nymph is a really good way to find out exactly what 1000°C feels like.