I am designing my own fantasy world. In it, I am trying to tie various aspects of the world, such as water, fire, life... to a particular race that has a magical affinity for that aspect. Dwarves for earth, elves for life, etc.. I am struggling with what race to use for water.
I would like to use a fantasy race that modern readers would recognize. While this means the race will have been used before, the race should not exist in a single, copyrighted IP as that could have legal issues. If there is no preexisting race, I will invent my own.
The race must not be solely aquatic and must be able to naturally travel over land even if it makes them uncomfortable. The civilization is responsible for water based trade on the oceans and rivers of the world which rules out mermaids. Additionally, an over aggressive culture that only fights with land based ones wouldn't work. I imagine them using boats to transfer goods among the other races and living in a Venice like city. Very mercantile city with lots of water, canals, and fountains all over. Their water powers allow them to manipulate currents to travel quickly, even with no wind. They need to be cunning enough to maintain their monopoly over trade and dedicated enough to prevent any of their race from contracting out to any other as a pilot, and negating their advantage.
Let me know what race could work in this role. If there aren't any you can think of, trait suggestions for inventing a new race are appreciated.