Art by EUDETENIS
The Gestalt Hydra is probably the most unusual creature in the Dragon, Reptilian, and/or Slime races if it could be determined which of the three it best fits in. While other species of hydra generate new heads as a result of age or their regeneration abilities, the Gestalt Hydra takes a completely different approach. It will seek out a humanoid of any kind, usually an adventurer, and swallow them. The consumed humanoid will be absorbed into the Gestalt Hydra, increasing its mass and adding a new head to it. The main head will gain all the knowledge and abilities of the absorbed humanoid, though its skill in using those abilities depend greatly on what stage of development it is in.
The Gestalt Hydra goes through five stages of maturity,
advancing to the next stage for each two heads it gains. Its behavior
and abilities change for each stage.
Stage 1-Fledgling: A Gestalt
Hydra that has not yet assimilated anything resembles a long lime green
serpent with a single stubby horn on its head. Their bright coloration
can give away their presence and a wary adventurer can usually fight one
off. Killing a Gestalt Hydra, even at this low stage, is very tricky as
their bodies are more similar to a slime's in composition, coming back
together and reforming itself after it's been hacked to pieces. Fire can
keep a Gestalt Hydra from regenerating. At this simple stage, a Gestalt
Hydra acts like a basic snake. While it can consume non-sentient prey
and plants, it will always be looking for a humanoid to absorb. A
secondary head is usually powerless to resist its serpentine instincts.
2-Trapper: After assimilating two humanoids, the Gestalt Hydra will go
through a significant change. Its heads will extend much further from
its larger body on long flexible necks. The lesser heads of the Gestalt
Hydra will start to regain some of their original features while the
main head will have a blend of the two. At this stage, the Gestalt Hydra
is more cunning and willing to use its enhanced brainpower. It will lay
traps for potential assimilations, generally using its sticky spit. Its
body has darkened to an emerald green, making it easier to blend into
its environment and ambush victims. The heads will be capable of
speaking the languages its absorbed victims know, though the lesser
heads are usually still subservient to the main head.
3-Legion: After a Gestalt Hydra has gained its fifth head, its body and
temperament shift dramatically. Its moss green body has gained
considerable mass, so much that it grows a pair of lizard-like legs to
help pull itself across the ground. The necks of the Gestalt Hydra have
developed into forms resembling snake people with torsos and arms. This
stage is when a Gestalt Hydra is at its most aggressive. It has gained
enough strength and power at this point that it doesn't need to trap
adventurers. It can attack with great ferocity, wielding the multiple
abilities that it has absorbed. While the lesser heads do have more
independence in this stage, they are usually too filled with a thirst
for battle to resist the commands of the main head.
4-Noble: Once a Gestalt Hydra has managed to add a seventh member to its
throng, it goes through another major shift in form and behavior. The
main body now resembles that of a large lizard with dark green scales.
The necks of the Gestalt Hydra now resemble lesser nagas with the end of
their 'tails' joining the main body. The lesser heads have almost all
of their former appearance, though they still have serpentine scales,
claws, fangs, and other features common with less nagas. Having acquired
all the strength it requires, the Gestalt Hydra now focuses its efforts
on expanding its mental capabilities. As such, it will act more genteel
and aristocratic, becoming much more sociable with other beings.
Instead of trying to acquire new members by traps or force, it'll try to
persuade potential joiners to willing assimilate. Gestalt Hydras can
make very convincing cases about the benefits of becoming one with them.
It would be most likely to seek out those of higher intelligence like
scholars or mages and be very picky with their selections.
5-Royal: The rare nine-headed Gestalt Hydra has reached the peak of its
growth. Its main body resembles a brontosaur, making it larger than
other species of hydras. The nine necks now resemble greater nagas. The
lesser heads have all their original features from before they were
assimilated from the waist up. From the waist down, they resemble a long
serpent though they are still joined to the main body. The main head is
often a sight to behold, combining all the best traits of the other
heads with a magnificent crown of nine horns. The alignment of a Gestalt
Hydra depends on the alignments of its members, though at this stage,
they are typically charismatic enough to be respected by almost all
At this final stage, Gestalt Hydras are known to
engage in something known as 'trading off'. There are times where one of
the lesser heads want to leave, the main head wants to have a better
member, or an individual wants to join a fully-occupied Gestalt Hydra.
When that happens, the lesser head will envelop both itself and the
individual into a cocoon-like sac. After a day of gestation, the sac
will open, releasing the lesser head freed from the Hydra with the
individual taking their place.
Separating an absorbed person from
a Gestalt Hydra is very difficult outside of the trade off. Simply
chopping them off of the Hydra isn't usually enough as their gelatinous
body structure makes reattaching very simple. Absorbed components also
feel a very strong connection towards the Gestalt Hydra, only those with
very strong wills can resist if they don't want to be a part of the
Hydra. Slaying a Gestalt Hydra is a difficult feat due to their
regeneration powers. But it can be done, usually by targeting the main
head. Targeting the main body is also effective, but their expansive
mass makes hitting the center a challenge. When a Gestalt Hydra is
slain, the people they've absorbed will be freed, but the shock of
suddenly becoming individuals again can be very traumatic and it could
take them weeks if not months to recover.