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"Excellent. Mine....ALL MINE!"
--Every Zmeu, ever
|Alternate Names/Spellings||(pl) Zmei, (f) Zmeoaică, (f) Zmeoaice|
|Appearance||Dragon or humanoid dragon, among others...|
The Zmeu is a creature with origins in Slavic mythology, legend and folklore. In particular, accounts of its existence first arise in the mythology, legend and folklore of Bulgaria and Romania.
The Zmeu is a shapeshifter, and thus it has many different shapes that it can take. However, the most common shape under which it is easily identified (which many assume is it 'natural' form), is that of an anthropomorphic dragon.
There is even a Romanian word zmeură ("raspberry"), which, when combined with the meaning of the word 'zmeu' ("dragon" or "serpent") might provide a double meaning, that indicates the creature's true form is that of a red (or raspberry-colored) dragon.
There is a reason why the Zmeu is often the antagonist within Romanian and Bulgarian mythology, legend and folklore. It is crafty and cunning, capable of dangerous and truly destructive levels of greed and selfishness.
It's most common MO is stealing things of great, even vital importance. And with the assistance of magic, the treasures they steal only get larger and larger. For example, Zmei are notorious for stealing vast riches and great magical artifacts (such as Golden Apples, which are known to confer immortality)
Also, many stories tell of young, brave and selfless heroes going to confront them by 'descending' into the 'dark' treasure troves, citadels and kingdoms they establish for themselves, leading many to believe that Zmeu most commonly establish themselves underground. Though, other accounts detail that Zmei live in celǎlalt tǎrâm (the "other world").
Zmei are known to possess great physical prowess, where strength is concerned. Though, many believe that this is derived from the Zmeu's core ability, an innate affinity for learning the magical arts.
Naturally, other abilities spring forth from this capability, as well. Among them is shapeshifting; forms they have been known to take include any variety of magical birds, ogres, giants, or perhaps a flame.
Sufficient magical power has even allowed feats such supposedly stealing the sun and the moon from the sky.