A djinni in its base form is a formless cloud of smoke which can waft through the air even against the wind. However, it is rare to see a djinni in this state except as a brief transition between forms.
The majority of djinn prefer to take on a human guise, often appearing Arabic (a consequence of the long contact between the Arabs and the djinn). Some djinn prefer to take on the shape of an animal, usually a carnivorous one. These djinn, often called ghuls to distinguish them from their more civilized cousins, frequently have a taste for human flesh.
To magic-sight, a djinn’s aura appears to be composed of purplish flame, and the same effect is seen on spells cast by djinni mages (though it’s uncommon for djinn to study magic, since their innate wishpower is nearly as powerful if a little less versatile). A djinni who is a mage has a much more powerful flame-aura than a normal djinni.
The djinni birth cycle is complicated by the fact that they do not have a fixed form. To some extent, the djinni’s form at conception dictates the cycle, so for example a gestation period of around nine months if the djinni is in a human form.
Since human form is the most common form a djinni will take, the remainder of the life cycle section will assume that it is the chosen form.
A new-born djinni is difficult to distinguish from a human; the purplish aura of flames is not yet visible to those with magic-sight, and their powers are not active. A mother who has conceived is locked into human form until the child is born; she can still revert to her base form of smoke without harm to the child, but when resuming a solid shape the human form will reassert itself. Time spent as smoke does not count towards the gestation period, so spending a long period in this state can indefinitely delay the birth.
As a child, a new-born djinni lacks any djinnish abilities and as such is unusually vulnerable until they come of age. For human-form djinn, coming of age is signalled by the arrival of wisdom teeth, but unlike normal humans, these teeth come in around the same time as the rest of their adult teeth.. At this point they gain their djinnish powers and auras almost overnight, though learning to control these powers is not so instantaneous; it’s usually at least ten more years before they have a good grasp of djinn-power.
Adult djinn do not age in the same way as humans. Over time they may begin to appear old, and their hair may turn grey, but never in a way that makes them appear decrepit. You could possibly sum this up by saying that they will never really appear older than, say, 60 years. Another way to put it would be that they suffer only the non-negative effects of aging.
Djinn die suddenly as their soulfire burns out. This could be as a result of overexerting their power, but is more likely to happen on its own, with little warning from an outside perspective, at an age of between one and two centuries. A djinn usually has warning of their own death at least six months in advance, sometimes as much as a year ahead; they can feel that their flame is dying and know that their end is near, though they can’t predict the exact moment of their death, since it depends on how much they use the wishpower.
A djinni’s diet is generally dictated by their form, but there have been some rare exceptions (such djinn taking the form of carnivorous horses). A djinni also typically needs to eat more than a native member of the species whose form they inhabit, due to elevated body temperature and the fire in their soul.
Djinn possess two essential abilities. One is their shape-shifting, by dissolving into smoke and rearranging themselves into a new form. The other is commonly known as wish-power.
The shape-shifting allows them to assume any form they desire, whether it be a real creature or some horror of their imaginations. In smoke form, they can also squeeze into tiny places (such as the interior of a bottle) or through tiny openings. Their smoke form is unaffected by air currents, so they could use it to travel unhindered through a hurricane. It’s also immune to physical damage, since any attempt to damage it merely passes through harmlessly.
The wish-power is a form of reality bending; it allows for physical changes to the world, on potentially massive scales. This includes things such as conjuring an item out of the air, destroying an item, changing the fundamental structure of an item, etc. While highly versatile, there are many things that the wish-power cannot do. For example, it cannot resurrect the dead, erect magical barriers, locally alter physics, enchant items, or curse a person (unless the curse can be manifested physically, for example as a disease).
Djinn also have a talent for fire manipulation. While this can technically be considered a subset of the wish-power, since fire is a physical thing, it’s a significant enough subset to have a category of its own. Many djinn have made their living as fire-eaters or fire-dancers in town squares.
It’s possible for djinn to lose their power by overexerting it. This is more likely with younger djinn, since older djinn are likelier to die from it. A djinni who has lost their power is locked into their chosen form forever and, for nearly all intents and purposes, no longer djinn. However, for the purposes of reproduction, they do still count as djiin; in other words, their children will be djinn (unless they were male and married a human woman).
Society and Culture
The djinn are divided into three tribes or clans: the Ifrit, the Marid, and the Jann. Each tribe has an appointed leader; how this leader is chosen depends on the tribe. Iblis has been the leader of the Ifrit for over four millennia; how he managed to live so long is still a mystery, but he is primarily responsible for his tribe’s poor reputation. Although in mythology the Ifrit are frequently associated with fire and the Marid with water or weather, neither have any particular affinity with either one.
For the most part, djinn keep to themselves, living alongside human societies especially in Africa, India, the United States, and the Arabian Peninsula, yet mixing with them only as much as is necessary. Djinn strongly dislike the cold, and as such are very rarely found in Russia, Scandinavia, Canada, southern Chile and Argentina, Alaska, and anywhere else with a snowy winter.
Many ghuls instead choose to disrupt human societies, usually by attacking and preying on them. Civilized djinn generally have a strong dislike for these creatures, sometimes going so far as to hunt and kill them like dumb beasts.
It’s possible for djinn to mate with humans (or indeed any species whose form they choose to take). If the djinn is the mother, the offspring of such a union will also be djinn; if the djinn is the father, the offspring will be ordinary humans (or whatever the species of the mother is). Although the djinn parent does contribute DNA to such offspring, it is the DNA of the form they chose and does not transmit djinnhood.
The djinn have their own language which seems like a fusion of Sumerian, Arabic, and some unique elements. It’s written in Arabic script, though with several more letters than standard Arabic. Humans call the language Djinnish, though of course the djinn themselves have a different name for it.
The djinn are known to be the most ancient race to evolve on Earth, although there are several older species that showed up much later (ie, that are not native to Earth). They evolved as beings of smokeless fire flitting about the molten surface of the planet, and built a civilization amidst the magma. However, when the planet’s cooling threatened their demise as a species, they hatched a plan and, eventually, managed to recreate themselves in their present smoky form.
By the time the landmasses of the Earth had settled into their modern form, the djinn had settled primarily onto the Arabian peninsula and divided into the three clans. They had a brief but bloody conflict with the Arab peoples which was eventually resolved by a magical contract (the three wishes contract).
Djinn have found their way into the myths of others besides the Arabs. In Greece for example, Heracles slew at least seven ghuls in the progress of his twelve labours for King Eurystheus: the Nemean lion, the Erymanthian Boar, the Cretan Bull, and the carnivorous Mares of Thrace were all djinn in animal forms. Some have found circumstantial evidence that the Chimera was also a djinni, but this is intensely disputed. Some have also conjectured that the Minotaur was half-djinn, though what little is known of djinni-animal interbreeding seems to contradict the theory.