Naiads, more commonly known as rusalki, are the nymphs of lakes and rivers. Like their wood cousins, dryads, they are exclusively female and sometimes said to kidnap human girls to transform them into more nymphs, though they prefer more traditional ways of reproduction.
Physically fit and agile, naiads are considered attractive by both humans and elves. They have long, usually black or green hair. Their skin tones range from alabaster white to almost greenish; Black-haired and white-skinned rusalki may be sometimes confused with much more dangerous bruxae.
Water nymphs, as all others, are perfectly adjusted to their environment. Perhaps most distinct such feature are the membranes between fingers that some of the naiads have, allowing them to swim even more easily. Such connection has its drawbacks however; rusalki must spend most of the time in or near fresh water as staying on dry land for too long would make them dry up and suffocate.
Naiads are excellent telepaths and telempaths, basically immune to all kinds of mental attacks. They are also able to charm people and counter several offensive spells. The most powerful rusalki may command waters of their lake at will, causing miniature storms in which they drown their opponents.
Naiads are exclusively female and use males of other humanoid races to reproduce. They tend to lure or charm young men to spend some time on mutual pleasure in a lake or river. While these encounters tend to proceed in friendly atmosphere, they may occasionally end badly for the male as the rusalka, when focused on the pleasure too much, may forget that humans are not able to breathe underwater.
Apart from the sexual encounters, a naiad can be made by mutating a child of different race in a similar way the dryads are created. Rusalki are often blamed for kidnapping young human girls on Saovine eve and reportedly replacing them with some "ugly changelings".
Naiads tend not to form large societies, preferring instead to spend their lives solitary or in small groups. They are often perceived as shy by humans, likely because they rarely know Common Speech and are a bit afraid of them.
According to the dwarves, nymphs appeared in the world centuries before the arrival of civilized races, possibly among the first living species to appear on the planet. Dwarves and naiads shared mutual hatred towards each other: naiads despised the dwarves for polluting the rivers, while dwarves perceived the naiads as savage barbarians. Elves were far more acceptable for naiad ideology and the naiads eventually adopted dialects of Elder Speech as their spoken language.
There is not much information on their initial contacts with humans. When the Nordlings arrived they might originally perceive naiads as monsters or demons, not unlike the other nymphs who blocked their industrial and territorial expansion. It is, however, possible that the first contacts were more friendly due to non-aggressive stance of the rusalki and they started to hunt them only after the first handsome boys were inadvertently drowned during too extatic encounters. The Rangers were particularly known to hunt and hang the rusalki alongside other forest creatures of the Northern Realms.
South to the Sea of Gales, a number of inhabitants of Irin and nearby areas were engaged in the procedure of "nymph trafficking". So-called nymph-hunters used to travel on ships down to the Daithi and the Yarra where they abducted rusalki to sell them to brothels and aquaria of the city's bourgeoisie. The local naiads, inspired by human woman Bevin Lagerfeld who was once trapped with them, eventually took a more militaristic approach to life together with a group of Wood Elves led by Anhalas in order to defend themselves, not unlike the dryads of Brokilon.