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The Merfolk of ‘The Fjords’

The Fjords is a merfolk AU I’ve been working on and this post is about the merfolk's physiology/culture

In this world, the merfolk (I'm just going to call them mer for short) vary in size depending on mix (think what the lower half of the mer is). Whale mer are much larger than carp mer, but even the smallest mer are at least human-sized.

They communicate with each other through sound and gestures. Private conversations are generally held using gestures/body language, while long-distance, “open” communication occur using sound waves.

Mer can be classified into 2 subcategories: warmblooded and coldblooded.

  • Warmblooded mer are endothermic and include mixes like whales, sharks, and tuna. They’re some of the best hunters in the sea since they’re not as affected by ambient temperatures. They comprise about ~10-15% of the population and have a largely predator-based hunting subculture. Most warmbloods mer migrate between arctic and tropical regions throughout the year.
  • Coldblooded mer are ectothermic and include mixes like mantas, carp, and salmon. They make up the vast majority of the mer population and have more of a hunter-gatherer-based subculture. Most coldbloods live in tropical or temperate areas and tend to settle in one place for most of their lives.

The warmbloods and coldbloods have a strained relationship, as warmbloods have historically hunted coldbloods during times of low food availability. Warmbloods are viewed with suspicion by coldbloods, and they generally live in shoals with other warmbloods. Intermingling between warmbloods and coldbloods does happen but is often frowned upon.

Mer live in pseudo-familial units called shoals. Shoals are similar to dolphin pods and comprise of the shoal leader, their mate(s) (called shoalmates), and their children (called shoalings). Each shoal has its own sigil/symbol that can be displayed on accessories/clothing or used to mark territory.

  • Shoal leaders are expected to catch all the fish that their shoalmates require, so shoal size is limited only by the ability of the shoal leader. Shoalmates and shoalings can help out with the fishing but are not expected to contribute.
  • Shoalmates are free to do whatever interests them. The addition of a new shoalmate must be agreed upon by all members of the shoal. Rarely, a shoalmate will leave one shoal for another.
  • Shoalings are cared for even into adulthood, until they have chosen one of three options for their future: leave their home shoal to set up a new shoal, join another shoal as a shoalmate, or stay and inherit the shoal. Only one (sometimes two) shoalings are allowed to inherit the shoal.

Individual mer can have one to several mates, depending on how attractive others find them. Mer attractiveness is measured in two ways – their fish-hunting ability and their pattern. How important these two traits are depends on the individual doing the judging and the individual being judged.

  • Fishing ability: strong fishers are highly attractive, as that means they can provide a steady source of food for their mates and children. This trait matters more for potential/current shoal leaders than someone looking to become a shoalmate.
  • Pattern/color: vibrant/unique patterns are highly attractive while dull/common patterns are considered a potential negative. Colorless/albinos in mixes that normally have color are shunned. This trait matters more for potential shoalmates.

Courtship is usually initiated by the “fisher” bringing a potential mate gifts of fish and rare trinkets, like pearls or an old pocketwatch from a shipwreck. Interested mates will reciprocate with a trinket of their own. Nonmigrating shoals will often have a space to display all their trinkets, while migrating shoals will carry incorporate their trinkets into their accessories.

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