Sometimes, a friendly face isn’t quite so friendly...
Name (Singular & Plural): Leyak, Leyaks
Sexes: Asexual, it/they (para-sapient)
Height: 10-14 inches in diameter, roughly spherical
Weight: 1-2 oz.
Skin: Translucent jelly, usually pale blue, but can cycle between superblue and magenta. Luminescent in low light, transparent/invisible in strong daylight.
Hair: No true hair, but several overlapping “veils” that create the semblance of hair, along with a tentacle hanging from either side of the head. Same colors as skin, though more prone to color shifting.
Eyes: A leyak’s eyes are dark blue or black, located under a layer of the leyak’s transparent skin. Three, almond-shaped eyes are arranged in a row across its face. Two in the usual spaces, a third centered vertically between them.
Leyak resemble nothing so much as disembodied heads, though many have compared them to terran jellyfish or other similar invertebrates. A leyak’s primary parts consist of a central head made of a translucent, rubbery flesh; a bell of veils that superficially resemble a head of hair; and two tentacles attached to the base of the veils that typically trail down either side of the leyak’s head.
A leyak’s facial features are minimal, as most possess a rounded face, dominated by three large eyes and a thick set of lips. Its mouth contains no teeth, but twin prehensile tongues. Some biologists have suggested that this resemblance to a typical sapient’s head is an example of Batesian mimicry, though critics have pointed out that this would not be effective, as there are no species with corresponding features on Mome.
Its translucent “veils” form a rough “dome” or umbrella shape over the top of its head. Each veil is a hemispherical fin, usually arranged in overlapping layers. When in flight, these veils pulsate, creating thrust and lift for the leyak. While the entirety of the leyak is capable of shifting through various colors, the veils are more prone to this, especially when motion, often creating ripples of color.
A leyak possesses two tentacles, each one only an inch wide, but three to four feet long, ending in a “flail” of five smaller tentacles, each terminating in a spherical “digit” that the leyak can use for manipulation.
Leyak are currently classified as a para-sapient species under UGC criteria (though this classification is highly contested), meaning that they are sapient if particular conditions are met. A well-fed Leyak is fully sapient and capable of higher thought and speech. Leyak also possess some level of genetic memory, retaining memories from parents, but also events encountered during their non-sapient states.
When food is scarce, a leyak’s body shuts down higher functions in order to conserve energy, effectively rendering it non-sapient until it feeds again. This has led to a number of conversations among biologists, conservationists, and ethicists in the galaxy at large. It is worth noting that on their home planet of Mome, the official Camarilla stance is that leyak are non-sapient.
Endemic to Mome, leyaks belong to its biologically-rich avian ecosystem. Mome’s avisphere primarily consists of two phenotypes: jellyfish-based filter feeders (aerozoa), and predatory flying fish that subsist upon them. Leyak belong to the former, evolving as symbiotes, feeding on microorganisms and the larger cloud-sized yukkoth jellyfish that dominate the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. On Mome, clouds of leyak generally swarm yukkoth, attaching themselves to its biomass to feed off of its jelly, but using their stings to defend yukkoth from predatory fish.
A leyak’s sting serves two purposes. Contact with the nematocysts in a leyak’s tentacles delivers a dose of venom with highly specialized effects. On the yukkoth, this sting causes increased jelly production, generating more food for the leyak. On the predatory fish of Mome’s skies, this venom results in muscle paralysis, generally causing the fish to fall into the yukkoth’s mile-long mane of drifting tentacles, where it would be slowly digested. A leyak is capable of producing the same venom orally, though without hard teeth or bones, they lack an efficient delivery system in the wild. Humanoids who have been exposed to leyak venom have described its effect as mildly hallucinatory, mentally relaxing, though still delivering the effects of muscle paralysis and increased fluid production.
In the atmosphere of Mome, leyaks are exceptionally buoyant, able to navigate through all layers of the troposphere. On most other planets, however, they are relatively more grounded, travelling via long “leaps” or “bounces,” assisted by their tentacles. Many transplanted leyaks will rely on wind, thermals, or other sources of lift to assist their travel.
Leyaks require a steady supply of hydration rich in several key nutrients. On Mome, leyaks subsist almost exclusively on yukkoths for nourishment, but on other planets will seek out any nutrient-rich fluids, often relying on sexual fluids or saliva from other species. A sustainable meal (necessary to retain sapience) for a leyak is usually a cup of yukkoth jelly per day, which is consumed all at once, followed by a day-long period of digestion. Leyaks off-world have a more difficult time, and usually consume higher volumes and greater weights of fluids in order to achieve the nourishment they need.
Leyaks reproduce asexually, via assisted means. When a high amount of foodstuffs are available, a leyak will break off a piece of its veil or tentacle, and implant it in a mound of jelly usually harvested from a yukkoth or other passive jellyfish, and often set atop a yukkoth. As high amounts of foodstuff are necessary for this, most leyak reproduction takes place as a conscious decision, often informed by the rest of the leyak community present. Introduced or invasive leyaks often leave reproductive-positive pieces haphazardly.
Upon implantation in inert jelly, a leyak part will slowly dissolve into it , extending filaments through the available matter, eventually molding the raw jelly into a new leyak. Depending on the amount of jelly present, several leyaks may be born from the same mound. This process usually takes several weeks, during which various leyaks of a community will take turns watching over it.
A newborn leyak often emerges from the jelly in a pre-sapient state, and consumes surrounding jelly until it can achieve sapience. If not enough jelly is available, a non-sapient leyak will immediately leave in search of a source of food.
Leyak are born with full memories of their parent, and are effectively clones, though some genetic variance can occur depending on the source of jelly. Biologists have theorized that this species memory is coded genetically, allowing the leyaks to maintain a sense of history in their non-sapient states that can be revived when fully sapient. Often when a yukkoth dies, signalling the end of a leyak community, leyaks will implant as many pieces as possible, in an effort to create a multitude of leyaks to preserve their community.
The development of leyaks on Mome is fascinating for biologists, as their genetic memory reaches extremely far back, and does not necessarily include markers for time, but does include significant geological events and knowledge of some species that are only present in the fossil record. It’s possible that they are at least as old as the toves, though the Camarilla vehemently denies this.
Despite a lack of construction and material goods, leyak culture is clearly evident, with extensive delving into the arts. Leyaks contain, within their genetic memory, expansive sagas, music, philosophies, and complex verbal games. Leyak communities thrive atop yukkoths, where they are rarely encountered by toves or other species. Leyak communities share ideas and histories when yukkoths pass each other.
Due to the official Camarilla stance that leyak are non-sapient, trade of them as pets off-world was initially deemed legal by the Camarilla and leyaks were briefly traded through the galaxy. However, many collectors or fanciers were horrified to find that the brilliantly-colored pets they purchased actually begged for freedom upon being fed.
Many were unfortunately freed on other planets, and unable to feed or float properly, most perished. On some planets, they became invasive, unable to form communities and only briefly sentient, they fed off the local inhabitants. Rahn, in particular, fear leyak infestations as leyaks can feed directly on rahn biomass as a foodsource. As a result, leyaks are banned from the rahn homeworld, Geis. Transport of leyaks has since been restricted, pending sapiency law reevaluation.