Native to the Mediterranean, the siren is an oceanic creature that lures sailors to their deaths against the cliffs.
The most well-known legend of the siren is the tale of Odysseus. In this tale, the crew has to fill their ears with wax to ensure they cannot hear the sirens’ call, while the captain Odysseus tied himself to the mast so he could listen. Unlike the modern depiction, in this story the sirens did not sing to lure him in; they instead told him that they had news of his homeland and his family, who he had not seen in many years.
Traits and Behavior
Sirens are an exclusively female species found in warm ocean areas, living on coastlines and cliffs. They have a variety of appearances, with the one consistent trait is the face and head of a human woman. They can fall into three main categories of appearance, with some overlaps, and all three will live in large communal groups.
The first group is similar to a harpy, part human and part bird. These sirens usually have the head of a human and the remainder of the body is avian, but there are some sirens that have human arms and a birds legs and tail. Their feathers are generally neutral colors, similar to seagull and albatross coloration, and are usually water resistant. Some sirens can fly, but many have only vestigial wings. A small number of harpies also have beaks or a beak-like jaw, but this appearance is rare. They prefer to perch on taller rocks above the water.
The second group closely resembles classic mermaids, with a humanoid upper torso and the lower body of a fish. Unlike the mermaid, a siren’s tail will be that of an eel or shark, and will not have a scaled appearance. The separation of the two parts will be in coloration only; the siren’s skin will be the same on all parts of their body. They spend most of their time at least partially submerged, leaving their torso and upper body exposed for their lure. Their tail is usually in tones of grey and blue, and their upper body will have any range of human skin tones.
The last group is the most human in initial appearance, taking the form of a woman with no unusual physical traits. However, up close, sirens will often have eyes resembling a cuttlefish, and they will have a mouthful of sharp, needle-like teeth. While human in appearance, they will always have gills and can live comfortably underwater.
All sirens will have what appears to be long hair, usually dark in color, that acts more akin to a jellyfish’s tentacles, and can distribute a sting to their prey while the prey is enraptured by their call. While they are famous for targeting humans, they also hunt a variety of fish and even seabirds if they are available. They are exclusively carnivorous.
Sirens lay eggs in large clutches, with only a quarter surviving to hatching. The eggs are laid in communal nests, and are raised by every member of the flock. Any mature adult siren can lay eggs, and as there are no males they do not need to be fertilized. Sirens often form romantic bonded pairs or groups, and usually remain in the same flock they are born in. If the flock becomes too large for their area, a group of younger sirens will leave to set up new grounds, but they will often visit their family.
Sirens live by luring ships to crash into the rocks on which they live, and salvage both food and supplies from the wrecks. They will eat the sailors, as well as any food that was on board, and they greatly enjoy salvaged items like jewelry or clothing. Their homes, carved into the cliffs or even built from the remains of ships, are often decorated with salvaged items mixed with shells and rocks found at the bottom of the ocean. Sirens cannot swim too deeply, and stay in shallower water, but they often trade with deeper sea creatures for items that they gather on land. While sirens rarely go far from their cliffs, they will collect feathers and dry flowers that can be found nearby.
To lure sailors, sirens will often sing or call out to them as they pass. The siren’s voice is hypnotic and will lure people in. Survivors report hearing beautiful music, secrets or things they want to know, even being seduced by the siren. It appears, however, that the siren call is whatever the listener wants to hear, thus the wide variety of reported sounds. Sirens themselves do not hear the hypnotic qualities of their voices, so they often sing their own songs, and are singing in their own language, not any human one. They also enjoy singing underwater, which usually sounds like whale song.
Sirens can live for up to 200 years, and the oldest of the oldest flock are considered the chief. Beyond death, the flock can collectively remove a chief from their position through a vote, which exiles the former chief to a lonely rock side. The flock may visit to care for them, but they will not be allowed back to the flocking grounds to avoid a power struggle. To do this is rare because of the severity of the punishment for the former chief; more often the other flock members will form an informal council to limit the chief’s power if they are abusing their position or are no longer capable of leading.
When a siren dies, their body fades into sea foam and they disperse into the ocean.
Sirens do not actively attack anyone unless they get close enough to use their hair to incapacitate their victim. Their true threat is their voice, and therefore the best way of staying safe is to block their voice out (as in the Odysseus example of wax in the ears). If they cannot get you to come close, they will move on to another target rather than pursue.