Rusalkas appear as pale, nude, androgynous humanoids†—particularly elves and half-elves—with perpetually damp skin and long dark hair that floats around them as if it were underwater, even when on land. Their appearance often leads people to confuse them with ghosts or other spirits of drowning victims. Each rusalka's appearance includes traits related to their home, such as the currents of a stream reflecting in the grace of their movements.
Rusalkas can emit an enchanting call in the form of speech or a song that draws their quarry close and dazes them. The types of creatures each rusalka prefers to enthrall varies, and can range from most commonly humanoids to animals, or even magical beasts.
Lack of gender
Despite their feminine appearance, rusalkas do not have a gender. They identify as female mostly to help them take advantage of both their enemies and their thralls.
Rusalkas are not born often, and they reproduce through craft and song. A mother rusalka fashions a child from mud while singing all of the songs it has heard, which are said to imbue the offspring with a certain personality and influence how many children result from this ritual—as many as six. The mother then embeds the mud doll in the bed of the body of water, where its magic keeps it intact and receives further magical infusion and fey connections from its mother. After a week, the mother retrieves the doll and wipes away the mud to reveal their daughters underneath.
After birth, rusalkas take less than a month to grow into the size of a typical 8-year-old humanoid child, at which point they are sent away to find their own home. They mature at 40 years of age and can live natural lives of up to 500 years, though many die before then while failing to find a home or being killed by adventurers.
Like other aquatic fey, rusalkas share a connection with water. They often choose places with hidden dangers, such as streams with deceptive currents or ponds frozen over with thin ice—any body of water where mortals might face or seek their death. They also protect their domains from corruption and spoil, though they often demand tribute for others to reasonably exploit their resources.
Rusalkas primarily focus on themselves and rarely cooperate, with the exception of groups of rusalkas—often sisters—who share a single body of water. Each of these groups is called an eddy, and are more commonly found in streams and rivers, including known eddies in the Sellen, Sphinx, Vanji, and Yondabakari rivers.
Most rusalkas, however, are bitter rivals all vying to cow the local mortal populace. In many cases, they keep their pets and thralls close as protection, or use them to drive away competition.
Rusalkas naturally enjoy music and are proud, skilled singers. Many enjoy the company of musicians, whether volunteered or coerced by their enthralling abilities. They often target bards, and if challenged to a test of musical abilities might grant their respect or direct their ire to a challenger.
They also enjoy glittering treasures, especially valuable gems and metals, and will equally accept them as tribute, earn them through deception, and take them by deadly force. They use such baubles to decorate their underwater lairs, and occasionally as payment to others to dispose of rivals or perform other tasks beyond their abilities.
Rusalkas are particularly active in a week-long period in early Sarenith known as the Blue Week. Most villages near a rusalka's residence ban fishing and swimming during this period, but enforcement is difficult, as this is a period of particularly good weather. Superstitious people carefully lock their doors from both within and without.
The rare creature who impresses a rusalka and earns their respect is often offered a special token by the creature. Such tokens are usually smooth stones or wood, and are sometimes engraved with artistic designs or wrapped in bits of watery vegetation. Such tokens can grant their bearers the ability to walk on the water of that rusalka's domain, though their fickle granters can disable them at any time.
When on Golarion in the Material Plane, rusalkas prefer climates in colder, temperate areas, including northern Avistan, Brevoy, the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and the Crown of the World. However, they can live in any body of water, and some are known to have appeared as far south as Garund.
For additional resources, see the Meta page.
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- Rusalka (real-life myth) on Wikipedia