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A harpy was a malign humanoid creature with an avian lower body and a pair of wings. It subdued its prey with its ability to magically sing, inducing a trance in those that heard, drawing them closer, and then tormenting them.
A harpy had the upper body of a humanoid and the lower body of a reptile, with scaly, clawed feet and hands. They had filthy, tangled hair on their heads; black eyes; and possessed wings that rendered them capable of flight.[note 1]
Harpies had the appearance of female humanoids with grotesque, avian features. The hands and feet of a harpy ended in long, sharp talons. Most harpies were unclean creatures, who had no regard for their appearance. They tended to wear little or no clothing, so as to not restrict their flying mobility, and what little they did wear usually consisted of baubles and tokens stolen from the corpses of those whom they had slain.
The feather coloration of a harpy varied according to the region of Toril that they were native to. Rumors even abounded of beautiful harpies found in tropical lands that boasted the colorful plumage of parrots or other birds of paradise.
There was no physical difference between male and female harpies. The males possessed breasts just like the females did, leading to the misconception that male harpies did not exist.
A harpy's song, once heard, acted like a charm, inducing a trance-like state in which the victim was compelled to move towards the harpy, regardless of any dangers that might obstruct his or her path. Once the victim was right next to the harpy, it was at the harpy's whim, and the harpy would often carry or move its prey back to its lair. It was possible, but difficult, to resist the song of the harpy, and creatures who could not hear were unable to be affected by the magical song. Elves were naturally resistant to the effects of the harpy's song.
Despite their savage minds and appearances, harpies were able to sing beautifully. Their songs could even captivate the minds of those that listened too long. Harpies used this song to lure in victims to slay.
Females were able to lay as many as twenty eggs at will from the age of two, but only around three of those would successfully hatch, and any deformed young were killed by a parent. Similar, when old age weakens a harpy, it is also killed by its kin. It was unclear whether harpies looked after their young or not, but if they did, it consisted of nothing more than feeding their young, similar to birds.[note 2]
Harpies did not wear clothing, but would adorn themselves with jewelry or trinkets from their victims. They would always take at least one possession from a victim back to their lair as a symbol of their kill, but were otherwise uninterested in treasure or wealth. They were not particularly intelligent creatures, and were prone to cowardice in the face of superior power. They communicated with a language of shrieking and cackling, which dramatically contrasted with the beauty of their magical singing.
Harpies used primitive weapons; usually bone clubs, but they could also bite and rake with their claws. They had no preference over their victims, and enjoyed the killing and torture of any creature. They were almost exclusively carnivorous, but if meat was unavailable, they would resort to eating vegetation. Their preferred food was fresh demihuman meat, especially elves. Due to the natural resistance elves had to the harpy's song, harpies viewed their meat as an especially rare delicacy. The lifespan of a harpy typically ranged anywhere between twenty-five and fifty years old.[note 3]
Harpies were spiteful, hate-filled beings that would attack anything that they took offense to. This could include beautiful things, living creatures, or inanimate objects. The savage mind of a harpy was often fraught with insanity.
Harpies made homes in groups of six or more individuals within marshlands or in caves near shorelines, which were preferably near well-traveled routes. An entire tribe (known as a "scream"), although very rare, could be as large as two hundred. Harpies ventured out to hunt, and their victims were often brought back to the lair to be killed and eaten. There was no social structure to harpy life, and there were constant quarrels as a result, sometimes resulting in a fight to the death. If a death should indeed occur, harpies were quite content to eat their own kind.
It was not unknown for harpies to cooperate with other evil humanoids if it served their interests.
Harpies dwelt in and around the Kingdom of Nix, a goblin realm that lay upon the high Forbidden Plateau in the Utter East, beside a glacier in the Wu Pi Te Shao Mountains of the Yehimal. The harpies of Nix were known as merciless hunters, and were depicted as having long tails. Swooping from the skies, they caught foes in nets and carried them off. They would drop their hapless victims in the cauldrons of Nix; their demise produced a burst of mana to power the bloodforges. These harpies were instrumental in Redfang the Reaper's reign of terror over Vanesci Hamlet, by kidnapping villagers for the cookpot.
- ↑ In 2nd-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, harpies had the torso and head of a woman, but the legs of a vulture.
- ↑ The Monstrous Manual states on p. 184 that harpies do not look after their young whatsoever, leaving them to fend for themselves, but the "Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of Beauty" article in Dragon #115 states that they feed their young, similar to birds.
- ↑ The Monstrous Manual states that it is believed that harpies live around fifty years, but the "Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of Beauty" article in Dragon #115 contradicts this, saying that they live between twenty-five and thirty years at most.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Wizards RPG Team (2014). Monster Manual 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 978-0786965614.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual 3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Barbara E. Curtis (Novemeber 1986). “The Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of beauty...”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #115 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 50–52.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 184. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Tachyon Studios (1996). Brian Fargo. Blood & Magic. Interplay.
- ↑ Karen Wynn Fonstad (August 1990). The Forgotten Realms Atlas. (TSR, Inc), p. 16. ISBN 978-0880388573.
- ↑ (1989). Kara-Tur Trail Map. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-88038-783-7.