Biology, Habitat, and Migration
The collection of amphibious humans known generally as Thassans, and scientifically as Homo Sapien Thalassan, appear to have originated in or around the Arabian sea approximately 1500 to 1000 BCE. To date, they are the only Imbued-created life to have achieved a stable breeding population. Other modified life, when created, has proven infertile, or their offspring revert to the default species.
Ancient artifacts as well as mitochondrial and Y-chromosome testing indicate their racial group diverged from the Persian peoples, where they spread across the northern portions of the Indian ocean, and later eastward into the Philippines and coastal region of China, as well as the southern portions of the Mediterranean sea. Roughly 500 to 200 BCE, some made a one-way migration to the western coast of North America, and have since spread as far north as Vancouver and as far south as Peru.
Thassans, much like their Terran ancestors, are apex predators and omnivores adapted for survival in adverse conditions. Despite this, their ocean habitats are limited to shallow oceans in the tropical and subtropical regions, as well as certain regions where prevailing water currents pull warm tropical waters into cooler temperate regions, such as western Australia and Canada. As such, Thassans have never migrated to the greater Atlantic ocean under their own power.
Ocean temperatures and conditions have rendered regions closer to polar zones impossible for Thassan habitation, and other needs prevent them from moving into deeper waters. For the most part, their habitat is limited to waters less than 50 meters deep. While some Thassans are known to go deeper in desperation or as a test of manhood, they are only marginally more resistant than land dwellers (hereafter referred to as “Terrans”) to hazards such as Nitrogen Narcosis and Decompression Sickness.
While they are water-breathers, Thassan life is more akin to dolphins than fish. Thassans have the ability to absorb oxygen through every inch of skin, possessing tracheae not unlike those of insects instead of sweat glands possessed by Terrans. They store this oxygen in specially adapted subdermal fatty tissues, then access it in time of need. While warm blooded, this adaptation makes them somewhat more vulnerable to cold than Terrans.
Because water does not contain enough accessible oxygen to support mammalian life, Thassans must regularly surface for air. An adult Thassan can store enough oxygen in their tissue to stay submerged for up to two days of normal activity, while children must surface up to twice a day. Their advanced circulatory system allows Thassans to engage in physical exertion for longer periods of time than their Terran counterparts without the debilitating effects of anaerobic respiration.
They are capable of staying on land for several hours, but report finding the experience extremely uncomfortable. Sunlight is especially harmful to them, causing their sensitive skin (and with it, their breathing organs) to die. Out of direct light, they can survive on the surface for up to two days before dehydration becomes life threatening. Often their tribal rights of passage involve sending their youth to spend a night on a beach, from sunset to sunrise, to test their strength and fitness to be adults.
Thassans are genetically human, and do have the ability to breed with Terrans, but offspring conceived of such unions have proven incompatible with life either in the seas or the on surface. In both cases, the respiratory system cannot support the child, which asphyxiates not long after birth.
Cultural Concerns and Aboriginal Status
Thassan society appears limited to nomadic and early agricultural in nature. They have not, and indeed cannot, adopt more modern behavior. In part, this is caused by their relative isolation from surface societies; they are unable to enter Terran societies for any length of time, and even with equipment to assist, Terrans cannot survive long at all in Thassan friendly environments. This isolation and protection from Terran expansionism has allowed their culture to develop on its own terms, with little interference from surface societies.
More directly responsible for the lack of adjustment is that their native environment makes both fire and maintaining written records impossible. Limited to verbal history, simple tools, and what they can acquire through trade or theft with the surface, their societies remain much as one might imagine the lives of the earliest cave dwelling humans to look like.
Complicating the matter of inter-cultural relationships further, Terran fishers and Thassans have often come into conflict, with misunderstandings, misinformation, and sometimes outright war between the two. Accounts of Sirens, Mermaids, Selkies and Nereids show the story of their interactions from the Terran perspective, either luring sailors to their deaths, or serving as allies and sometimes mates.
From the Thassan perspective, Terrans carry a reputation akin to that of the Greco-Roman gods. Capricious beings capable of bringing both great gifts and utter ruin to those who draw their attention. Stories persist in all Thassan cultures of Terrans carrying off young maidens, forcing them into marriage, and some few lucky heroines escaping back to the sea to tell tales of rape and forced servitude. As one would expect, this perpetuates a deep seated cultural mistrust and often hate for surface dwellers.
While it is unlikely that such abductions have ever been a common occurrence in any part of the world, there is no questioning the bringing of gifts and ruin aspects to Thassan stories. Terran arms dealers are often the most successful trading partners to the Thassans. Steel weapons, usually in the form of spears, are readily traded for pearls, local delicacies such as shark fins, and even treasures from lost ships in some regions.
In recent decades, some attempts have been made to reach peaceful coexistence with the Thassan peoples. Modern fishing industries follow strict regulations intended to prevent accidentally catching Thassans in their nets and possibly sparking further incidents while many coastal regions have been declared no-sail zones which carry strict punishments for violating. In many southeast Asian regions, the law is to allow the Thassans to carry out their own justice on trespassers, almost always ending with the ship capsized and the crew presumed dead.
In North America and Australia, many Thassan tribes have joined in alliance with the Aboriginal peoples of those regions. The nearly constant war between Thassan tribes over limited hunting or farming waters has complicated this matter far too much for an introductory essay to cover. These and other complications have resulted in a general ban on Thassan migration, baring Thassans from taking up legal residence in the Gulf of Mexico or other viable habitats within the Atlantic ocean.
Thassans, like all human populations, are known to have Imbued, however the isolated nature of Thassan culture makes it difficult to identify the total number of Thassans in the world, let alone the percentage of which have powers. Thassan tribes tend to treat their Imbued as tribal deities, and powers appear to revolve around physical prowess, healing, and control over nature, a pattern also seen in many isolated South American tribes.
As always, the nature of powers makes it difficult to predict how an Imbued led Thassan tribe will behave. In addition, Thassan cultures appear as varied and diverse as Terran aboriginal societies, ranging from outright hostility to simple mistrust of outsiders. One must take care to remember that the actions of an individual does not necessarily reflect the population as a whole.