Merfolk, commonly referred to as "Mermaids", "Merpeople," or "Mer" for short, are a race of sea-dwelling creatures native to the Sea of Thieves. They serve as a means of transportation, transporting players to their ship or holding onto handfuls of loot.
The Transportation Merfolk is the most commonly found Merfolk, spawning near to players who have found themselves far away from their ship, or if the ship has sunk. No Merfolk will appear if the player is away from their ship while: navigating by rowboat, or on another crew's ship. Interacting with the Merfolk will take players back to their own ship, leaving any item the player is holding left behind.
The Merfolk will appear from below the waves, pale-blue-grey skinned, singing and waving a staff which emits a tall pillar of light-green smoke for the player and their crew to spot. Players from other crews who are nearby will only ever see the Merfolk and hear a momentary tune as it first breaches the water, but never hear it singing or see the the pillar of smoke.
When a ship sinks, the Merfolk will spawn at the point where the ship has despawns until the crew is all safely on board their or another ship/rowboat. In the case when players may improperly close the game, the Merfolk may linger until the player rejoins or until approximately ten real time minutes pass.
While a player is at open sea, these Merfolk will spawn approximately every "player-cannon-launch" distance. A new one will spawn as the player continues to swim; the one behind you will despawn as you go. The spawning and despawning of these Merfolk becomes less predictable when pirates swim in loose groups.
In a few instances, statues of Merfolk can be found around the world that will take players through an otherwise impassible threshold into an area or back to their ship. This is usually around Tall Tale specific locations or in Siren Shrines and Treasuries where Sunken Merfolk Statues also teleport players back to their ships.
See also: Sunken Merfolk Statue
The Storage Merfolk appear only at the surface above a Siren Treasuries and Siren Shrines where a crew has stored treasure in a Sunken Merfolk Statue. Interacting with the Merfolk will cause the Merfolk to disappear, while all the treasure stored within the statue will come floating up to the water's surface around where the Merfolk was found. Only the crew who has stored the treasure can interact with it.
This Merfolk's appearance is noticeably different than the Transportation Merfolk, with warmer toned skin, wearing a large clam shell on their back, and waving a staff that emits a pinkish-purple smoke.
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Merfolk are a thriving race of aquatic people living below the waves of The Sea of Thieves. They are defined by their silvery scaled tails, incredible swimming speed, and their eternal song which acts as an ongoing oral history of their people. While not much is known about them outside their interaction with humans, it is believed they live incredibly long lives and share a culture very different from ours.
Before the Sea of Thieves
Since long before The Sea of Thieves was established by the Pirate Lord and his crew, Merfolk have been a powerful and sophisticated civilization inhabiting structures below the waves. They've existed since the time of the Ancients, who they lived in peace with for most of their known history and who shared with them a deep knowledge of the magic and Curses of the Sea in exchange for treasures found on the sea floor.
At some point during the time of the Ancients, the Sea Queen of the Merfolk would fall in love with a Warrior of the Ancients. Born from the desire to be together in the Ocean, the Queen and her Court would attempt to turn the Warrior into a Mer using a Mermaid Gem; though the ritual backfired horribly. The Queen, as well as her loyal court, were stripped of the song which defined them as a species, eternally embittering them as they became the ferocious Sirens we know today and waging war on Human and Merkind alike from then on.
As the Sirens splintered into their own kingdom, life continues for the Merfolk. At another point in their history, Merfolk would unite with the Ancients in hunting and trapping the indominable Old Mother: mother to all Krakens and constant threat to sailors and Mer alike. They would bind her in The Wilds, wrapped in chains that would never break or rust, until she starved and began to rot away.
Athena's Fortune and the early Sea of Thieves
In the early days of The Sea of Thieves, the crew of the Magpie's Wing would have a handful of encounters with Merfolk which would go a long way in establishing the relationship between Pirate and Mer we take for granted today. Mercia, aided with a pair of enchanted pearl earrings, would be the first Pirate to communicate with them as a small procession of Mer explained to Ramsey and her that a gang of pirates had kidnapped and imprisoned a Merfolk under what is presumed to be Mermaid's Hideaway. The Crew of the Magpie's Wing's act of kindness towards the Mer, as well as Mercia's later continued involvement with the sea-dwelling people, would re-forge the kinship between Man and Mer present during the time of the Ancients.
The Merfolk would also play a key role in the forging of the Chests sought after by the Gold Hoarders today, providing both the cursed metal to forge them and the knowledge of magic to enchant the Cursed Chests.
- Transportation Mermaids lacking a pillar of blue smoke typically indicates the Mermaid of another player. Spotting these can give away the presence of a player from another crew hiding nearby.
- A Ship colliding with a Transportation Mermaid will take damage from the impact and push the merfolk to the side.
- The Merfolk are governed by some form of monarchy, presumably by the Merfolk Sea Queen.
- Merfolk in the Sea of the Damned appear significantly less scarred than their overworld counterparts. The cause of this is unknown.
- The pitch of a Transportation Mermaid's song varies per the Mermaid's apparent sex.
- The Shanty [[Shanties#Ballad of the Mer]|Ballad of the Mer]] implies Merfolk appearing to rescue Pirates may sometimes instead steal them away, turning them into Merfolk.
- Merfolk are so culturally defined by their Song that the loss of it is viewed as a total loss of identity.
- The loss of their song is largely the source of the Sirens' present rage, as without it they cannot truly remember the root of their original rebellion.