Glisslaggen
Glisslaggen
Type Amphibious/reptilian
Distinctions Shapeshifting; usually non-human
Prized for their scales
Communicates mostly via telepathy
Lifespan 400 ~ 500 +
Regions Shuya

Also known as Ice Wyvern, Snjórwyrm, and Eirsvønirr among others, the Glisslaggen are sparsely distributed in the cold mountain peaks of southern Shuya. Though some may occasionally intermingle with humans, in general they are a rare sight as they tend to make their homes in cold, high-altitude areas that do not support human settlement. In the past, they have been regarded as guardians of the mountains. Most of their life is spent buried under the cold, frigid waters of montane streams and lakes, and their diet is mostly piscivorous. In the warmer southern regions of Kardia, Glisslaggen are known mostly for their scales which are adept at channeling water sorcery, especially pertaining to ice. Moreover, they remain cold no matter the ambient temperature and are especially prized by those travelling through the Paskian desert.

Biology

Mostly resembling very large snakes, Glisslaggen can reach up to twenty feet in length, though most cap off at around twelve to fourteen. Colouration ranges from white to pale blue, grey, or pink, with some occasional spotting or mottling. Scales have a sparkling sheen to them in order to better help them blend in with the snow, though some are more pearlescent. It is known that the scales of adult Glisslaggen do not possess any melanin, and colour variations along with reflective properties are due to the microcrystalline structure of the scales themselves rather than pigments. Young individuals (up to 12 years of age) do possess melanin and can be blue, grey, brown, or orange in colour, with the latter two more common in individuals living on mountains with redder rocks. Some may even be dark brown or black. All young Glisslaggen possess patches of lighter and darker colour which is theorized to disrupt the shape of the young individual and provide camouflage. As they age, their scales thicken and lose the ability to hold melanocytes though some individuals do retain darker skin beneath their scales, albeit generally with more even distribution of tone. As the genes for coding scale structure and skin pigment are different, adult individuals with patterned scales will not retain the same pattern from their youth. Eyes are generally dark in colour and pupils can constrict considerably so the sunlight at such high altitudes do not blind them. Those who find themselves in areas without permanent or semi-permanent snow cover may have trouble with night vision, especially in densely forested areas like Uclain.

Their gills are amphibious and extend in five tines from the back of the cheek behind the ears. Think axolotl. Oxygen can also diffuse through their skin. Out of water, they switch to breathing with lungs. Some individuals may report feeling dizzy or lightheaded when switching between the two methods if they've been using one for a long time; usually, this goes away after a while and frequent switching can help prevent it from happening. When they are out of water and not using their gills, the delicate, filamentous extensions retract and fold under the tines to prevent injury and conserve moisture.

Glisslaggen are natural shapeshifters. Along with the ability to shapeshift into a more humanoid shape, they can also change their forelimbs into paddle-like structures resembling those of a seal, or feathered wings used for flying. Although their human shape does tend to follow the same 'mould', depending on the individual, there may be small changes in physical appearance depending on how often they take that form. Generally, they don't do it that much and may forget the small details and only take on a human form when they need to travel further south, as they find warmer environments more uncomfortable in their bigger form. Albeit, they find it pretty uncomfortable as humans too, just less. Because of their natural affinity towards shapeshifting, Glisslaggen may also have an easier time when it comes to other types of transmutation. As reptilians, they have short hind legs with strong claws that they use to anchor themselves to streambeds. Out of water, they move either by 'skipping', hopping a short distance off the ground with one feet, then another, sometimes with the assistance of their wings, or by running. The former is actually pretty cute. The latter may be terrifying, as most people don't expect aquatic creatures to move so fast. Other forms of locomotion between the two is difficult for them since they find it hard to keep their balance. In deep, soft snow, they might burrow under it and slighter side to side on their bellies like snakes.

Occasionally, Glisslaggen are know to enter a state of diapause or hibernation. Diapause is always performed out of water. After finding a suitable spot, the individual burrows itself under heavy snow cover and curls up in a tight circle. Their metabolism and rate of respiration slows down, and their internal body temperature cools to just above freezing. Even among the Glisslaggen themselves, it is not known what exactly causes this. Some go into it voluntarily, some involuntarily. So far, it is theorized that they may remain in this state indefinitely, and the oldest Glisslaggen is known to have slept for almost two thousand years before awakening. Many of them sleep in the mountains to this day, though estimates on exact numbers vary. Other Glisslaggen may be able to sense another in diapause when within their proximity, and it is suggested that, depending on how deep they're buried, it is best to awaken them. As with the causes of entering the state, it is unknown what factors might cause them to awaken. There is the concern that, as snow continues to fall and compress the older snow beneath it, those who sleep too long may find themselves either crushed or encased in ice when they wake up, unable to return to the surface.

Individuals who are mixed with another face cannot shapeshift into an innate reptilian or amphibious form, though transmutation is, again, easier for them along with ice magic. They do not have the juvenile scales; instead, white scales will start to grow on their body starting at around puberty. Lucky them. The locations and density vary; usually around their back, spine, shoulders, stomach, outer arms, buttocks, and the top/front of their legs. Small scales may even grow along the face, usually on the cheeks, nose, and forehead. Unfortunately, the scales of half Glisslaggen are not as good at channeling magic as their full-blooded brethren, though they can come in handy as reusable ice cubes. Mixed individuals also possess gills and can breathe underwater. Hot, arid environments are superbly uncomfortable to them and most tend to avoid the Paskia desert like the plague.

Known History

Glisslaggen are draconic in origin, and it is unknown when or why they migrated to the Shuyan mountains. Even today, many of the rural, isolated villages of Shuya attach special connotations to them and view them as guardian deities or mountain spirits. Most Glisslaggen tend to view this with bemused compliance, though some do find it grating. Unfortunately, there have been cases of megalomaniac individuals using the reverence of the religious Shuyans for their own gain. Individual pockets of Glisslaggen may have rich, expansive histories that stretch back centuries or more, but there is not much to say about the history of the species as a whole. There is not much that unifies them as a species in terms of culture, but not much that sets them apart, either. Mostly, they maintain a habit of distant respect. You keep to yours, and I'll keep to mine.

Because of the scarcity of food in their environment, they are by necessity very sparse and scattered. However, despite common depictions of them as serene, lonesome beings, they are not true solitary creatures. Glisslaggen cannot talk out loud in their preferred form and communicate mostly via telepathy, and with enough practice their 'voice' may spread beyond many mountain ranges. Much of their communication occurs at a distance, but they do regularly talk amongst each other and do have friends. Often, you'll find a loose network of Glisslaggen scattered among different mountains within the same range, and many networks do overlap. Families may share the same stream until the young are old enough to fend for themselves, and even then they may stay if the river can support them. They do tend to be territorial and chase out uninvited intruders, especially when resources are scarce. Yes, this does apply to other races.

Most of the art they create is impermanent, such as ice sculptures or pictures drawn in snow. The scales of particularly pretty fish may be used as jewelry, but aside from that they don't tend to accessorise themselves or their home. Some Glisslaggen may be found in lakes and ponds, but most of them prefer fast-flowing water and there's really no reason to go through the hassle of finding a pretty shell and putting it there only for it to get swept away. As there are very few things that can kill or even hurt an Glisslaggen, they tend to not make shelters and sleep and wake within their chosen body of water. Most of their innovation lies within the field of magic as it applies to their environment or to show off pretty tricks. Sometimes, they might even be willing to teach their tricks to humans. Oooor they might cause an avalanche instead, depending on their disposition. Usually, though, they are happy to interact with humans or human-like beings as long as they remember their manners. It does get awfully lonely up in the mountains by yourself.

Age and Development

Glisslaggen are slow to reproduce. It is not uncommon for them to go decades, or even centuries between giving birth, and many never do. They are born hermaphroditic, but it would be more accurate to say that they are genderless and sexless in their natural state. By default, Glisslaggen don't have much of a sex drive, but some who spend a lot of time as human do develop a stronger libido. When an individual's territory has enough resources to support a mate and a child, their body will start to produce eggs. Pheromones are released through the air and water in order to draw a mate, but unknown individuals who show up are usually chased off by the female. Glisslaggen may not usually have sex drives, but they do know love and in most cases the female will already have a mate picked out. If not, those who are closer to the female will have a higher chance of mating. Fertilization isn't actually possible until two weeks to a month after two Glisslaggen make contact with each other; if the female changes her mind during that time, she may chase off the 'male' and start looking for another mate.

Fertilization takes place internally. During that time, the female cannot shapeshift, even if it's just her wings, or else the fetus would die. Interestingly, the period of gestation varies according to the resources in the environment and the mother's health and can range from seven months to two years. After internal gestation is done, the female gives birth to a chain of eggs, usually eight or ten, each about the size of a hand. The eggs almost function as a separate organism, with permeable membranes that share nutrients between them. The young are in passive competition with with each other, and only one will survive to hatch. After eight months, a single young will remain. Glisslaggen babies hatch by chewing themselves out of the egg, and will consume the shell of their egg and the remaining eggs for sustenance. Their siblings would've already fused with them; interestingly, this makes all Glisslaggen genetic chimaeras.

Both parents raise their kid together, though sometimes they will split if there isn't enough food to provide for all three. Sometimes this results in a 'shared custody', where they switch parenting duties between them; other times, one becomes the primary guardian of their child. Whatever the case, when they deem the child able to fend for themselves (usually at around 14-16 years of age), the family will disperse into their own territories. Most of the time, though, they will still keep in contact.

Relations With Other Races

Because of their remote locations, low rate of birth and sedentary lives, they are perhaps one of the more mysterious and distant inhabitants of Kardia. Most people don't know much about them, which is just fine by them, thank you very much. Even the people who live in the same range as them may go their entire lives without seeing one, thus the near-reverence they are held in among some rural Shuyan villages. Most sightings occur during winter, when some individuals choose to migrate down to the lower altitudes because of food, boredom, or curiosity. On the northern mountains, especially, they are becoming a more common sight. Still rare, mind, but not as rare as their southern neighbours. The Shuyan monarchy has made a concentrated effort to reach out to them, and there are some that have taken up human hobbies and trade with the humans, mostly fur and meat and their own scales, though they find the concept of eyes puzzling and worthless. Usually, they're not too concerned with humans disrupting their lives unless they're acting hostile in some way, and they have been known to cause avalanches, rockslides, snowstorms, etc to hit those who try to disrupt their peace. There are some who seek out the Glisslaggen for their scales, or to learn ice magic from them, or to try and sway them to their side in some political conflict. The latter doesn't usually work; they don't like to get involved in the politics of other races, but they might help you cause an avalanche or two as a prank. Depending on how bored they are, some may even be glad for visitors. … and/or concerned about humans having travelled this far north, because really, you are so delicate and fragile, shoo, go back to where the air won't hurt your face.

A lot of them tend to forget that clothes are a thing when shapeshifting into a human. Ha. This has caused some… interesting cultural misunderstandings.

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