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Sphinxes are a proud race with the head and upper body of a human fused with the lower body of a winged lion. Unlike the Greek Sphinx , they are tauric, their human torsos being connected at the emplacement of their feline shoulders. With their great feathered wings on their backs, they are truly awe-inspiring. Sphinxes can be surprisingly emotional, and are known to quickly switch from one mood to another. In spite of this, they are intelligent and think very logically, albeit often rather rigidly. They tend to see themselves as superior to other races, and can be quite self-righteous at times. They are often used as symbols for justice because sphinxes seem to hold that particular value strongly, often acting as self-appointed judges, jury, and executioners, in matters that they see fit to preside over. Sphinxes are prone to defend causes with great passion, which can sometimes border on fanaticism. They are very prideful, and insulting them or their ideals is a sure way to have them attack you.
Sphinxes of Felarya come in a range of sizes from 8 feet (head to ground) to 100 feet or more. They often have golden hair and fur, passionate, fiery eyes, and a walk with a self confident swagger. They are skilled warriors, being especially proficient with blades, and many make a living guarding places, people, and things that they feel are worthy of their protection. In spite of their size, larger specimens are not as voracious as one would expect. Most sphinxes like hunting alone and will, if possible, get their prey from a group rather than cornering a single victim, as they feel it is more of a fair contest if the prey is allowed to counter their physical weakness with larger numbers. They also strongly despise sneak attacks and will always openly announce themselves before engaging an enemy.
Sphinxes store food they eat first in their human stomach, but once it becomes full, its contents are transferred to a second, much larger stomach, situated in their feline torso. Sphinxes are dangerous on both the ground and in air, and some of them master a powerful healing and protective magic. They tend to live near mountain ranges and open fields, where they can make good use of their great, majestic wings. Like one could figure, sphinxes absolutely despise harpies, their main rivals as the dominant avian race of Felarya. The two races have often waged war in the past.
Sphinx sentinels are mostly found in dungeons, mazes, and temples. They receive very special education, learning the traditions, history, and laws of their race, as well as an impressive number of riddles. Then, at some point early in their life, young sphinxes sentinels receive the two curses that have been passed down among them since time immemorial:
- The Geas of Guardianship: on their one hundredth birthday, a sphinx is given charge over a great secret, usually a treasure or extreme magical power, sometimes a gateway or passage a hero would be expected to survive. They must guard this place for 1672 years or until an adventurer wins the prize.
- The Geas of Riddles: the second prohibition laid down upon a sphinx, given after the geas of guardianship is cast. During the 1672 years of guardianship, a sphinx is forbidden to consume any sentient being unless they have asked them a riddle and the being has failed to answer or answered incorrectly. If the being answers correctly, they must be allowed to pass and gather treasure unmolested by the guardian.
Recently, however, a lot of younger, less patient sphinxes have begun using tricks and technicalities to get around the geas. For example, if a hero answers a riddle correctly and passes the sphinx to get the treasure, but there is too much of it,he may think that he will simply make multiple trips. Hungry and impatient, the sphinx will allow him to fill up his arms with loot, and then force him to answer another riddle to be allowed to pass again. Most adventurers are so flustered by this that they fail, and are promptly devoured by the tricky sphinx. The origins of these two curses and the reason why sphinxes pass them on to each other is an absolute mystery. They're believed to go back to a time before Sphinxes first set foot in Felarya itself. As one might imagine, sphinx sentinels are extraordinarily patient creatures. They pass the time with mind games, solving complex mathematical problems, or conceiving new riddles. In Felarya, some sphinx sentinels have been known to link themselves to dryads, in order to keep in contact with the outside world. Sphinx sentinels possess a formidable memory and near perfect concentration, thus making them excellent spell casters, proficient in many types of magic, from dimensional magic, to telekinesis, to transmutation. With both this magical ability and their natural physical strength, they are frighteningly powerful opponents. Once in a while, another sphinx will come to replace the one currently guarding an area, to allow them to feed if the number of adventurers has been scarce. The sphinx then gate themselves to another world where they enter a feeding frenzy. For a few hours, the calm and composed creature turns into a ravenous and insatiable predator, engulfing prey by the dozens and stuffing themselves until their two enormous stomachs are so bloated the sphinx can barely walk. They then come back to their post, ready to stand guard once again, and digest their copious meal. This is the only time a sphinx sentinel doesn't ask riddles.
- Credits goes to Chroias for the idea of the sphinxes sentinels.