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The ring leech is a mobile marine pest, ubiquitous in Torn World waters. Similar to a lamprey, it comes in varieties ranging from 1 to 10 feet long. Smaller varieties sometimes attach themselves to human swimmers. Sharp teeth that can cut through sea monster hide may also go through a boat's hull. The ring leech has a round, jawless mouth; in some species this is supported by a sturdy ring of bone not attached to other bones, which makes a nice hoop for crafts. A posterior sucker at the end of the tail allows the ring leech to cling more securely to its prey. This fish-like creature breathes water through gills. Giant sea turtles sometimes nip ring leeches off of host animals, particularly enjoying the larger species.
Unlike lampreys, most species of ring leech are long-term parasites that prefer not to kill their hosts; some even have antibacterial saliva. The smallest species are short-term feeders that don't do a lot of damage, but can cause infection, especially after letting go. One 12-inch species, the cuddly ring leech, has the bizarre habit of coiling around its prey as if snuggling; and its saliva famously dulls pain receptors while exciting pleasure receptors, a feature that discourages hosts from trying to dislodge it. This sometimes tempts humans into playing with them, a practice that would be illegal except for the fact that accidental bites are fairly common. The largest species are medium-term feeders that can school on large sea monsters and drain them to death; they have longer middle fangs. One 10-foot species, the monstrous ring leech, can kill even a thunder-whale or a heat-thief, albeit too slowly to be much use as a weapon.
Their bite leaves a distinctive ring-shaped scar called a "kiss-scar." Different species leave slightly different marks: narrower or wider rings, round or oval, nearly solid circles, etc. This scarring can ruin an otherwise good hide in some species of sea monster, but in others it produces interesting effects. The cuddly ring leeches' saliva is not as effective an anticoagulant as their relatives; this leads them to make multiple bites, often in a spiral pattern. Immature cuddly ring leeches tend to swarm; the hides of creatures with multiple spiral cuddly ring leech scars are particularly decorative and highly prized. Ring leech scars on dreamskate hides turn translucent after tanning. Sea serpents usually grow pearly white scales over scar tissue. Weed-eaters sometimes develop scars in their bright contrast color.
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