The slow metabolism of the zaratan assures them incredibly long (if uneventful) lives, measured in millennia.

The zaratan is an enormous, passive turtle found in the warm seas of the world. Thankfully, the zaratan spends most of its existence in a profoundly deep slumber.

The shell of a zaratan looks like a sloped, rocky mound several hundred feet in diameter. The zaratan's head, over 50 feet across, is often mistaken for a partially submerged, barnacle-encrusted boulder. The zaratan usually keeps its eyes shut, covered with stony lids that blend with the rest of its head in texture and color. The zaratan's four flippers appear to be small reefs, supporting a variety of corals, barnacles, and small fish. In its dormant state, a zaratan appears to be a small, floating island.

At any given time, a zaratan is 99% likely to be sleeping. As it slumbers, it keeps its mouth wide open. The zaratan spends the rest of its time either mating or conversing with others of its own kind.

The older a zaratan gets, the longer it sleeps. As a result, many actually become indistinguishable from a floating island or reef, supporting their own mini-ecosystems on their broad, rocky carapaces and underbellies.

The older and wiser zaratans are perfectly content to be attended by lesser symbiotic beings, provided they are not too bothersome and don't interfere with a zaratan's sleep. A few are known to support small, uncivilized villages, while others have even been used as a mobile base for pirates and corsairs!

Visitors will find most inhabitants of a zaratan highly superstitious. Many revere their island home as a god. They believe (rightly) that were their deity to awaken due to hunger, their island might sink beneath the sea, destroying their village. As a result, these villagers strive at every opportunity to keep the zaratan well-fed and content, sacrificing large quantities of fish and even visitors to placate their floating deity.

Every few centuries, by sheer coincidence, a pair of zaratans will drift into each other. Should they awake (and be of the opposite sex), they will mate. The courtship ritual may take decades, and the mating itself lasts as long as a year.

The zaratans communicate with one another in a language similar to that of the whales. Conversations between the zaratans often last decades.

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