Endless Blue – Week 78 – Whispered Secrets in the Deep Sound Channel   Leave a comment

Physics

Whispered Secrets in the Deep Sound Channel

It cannot be emphasized enough how much water engulfs the world of Elqua.  At only 5% of its surface being land, it is a world that is nearly submerged beneath vast, deep, and consequently heavy oceans.  The pull of gravity on the great expanses of water overhead makes the layers beneath become more compact.  As the accumulating weight above pushes downward, this increasing pressure makes the water below compress more and more, which as a result creates such problems for oceanic life as crushing pressure and maintaining buoyancy.  However, there exists an interesting positive effect of this highly compacted water molecules: the Deep Sound Channel.

The deep sound channel is a phenomenon where the speed of sound is heightened to a maximum due to depth pressure, water temperature, and salinity.  Water is a superior medium for conducting sound, since there more molecules closer together to propagate the sound wave.  Distilled water is approximately 4.3 times a better conductor of sound than ambient air.  Adjusting for saltwater, colder temperatures, and pressure, and that rises to over five times as conductive.  As these factors increase the deeper you go, the water takes on superior sound refracting qualities that rival sound propagation above the waves,  Sound can be carried more easily and farther at the expense of less energy.  This is the manner in which whalesong travels so far and remains viable.  And here, both literally and figuratively, is where the magic happens.

There are claims that not only can the calls of sea fauna be heard for miles, but older, more puissant sounds still echo since their first utterance.  It is believed that the First Words of the Verse can still be heard across the oceans of Elqua.  Those first notes, the syllables that began the world of the Endless Blue, have been resonating along the deepest trenches where only the Cetaceans can hear.  Remnants of the First Verse still reverberate here, a bass background rhythm, eternally crisscrossing the globe, holding the secrets of creation for those that dare seek it out.  Orcan and other mystics delve into the deep sound channel for scraps of enlightenment.  The echoes of the First Verse repeat, overlap, synchronize, heighten — like a natural condensator of the creative magicks that created the world — producing the purest harmony praising the act of creation.

In the Chelon Sea, there stands the memorial spire of a past Emperor, Prolixus Princeps.  Built in the later years of his reign, its foundation was laid in a valley of land that had little other use: it was too deep to be used for aquaculture, the currents too cold and saline for livestock.  Otherwise, there is no evidence to support that the choice of location was for any other reason than the area serve little purpose.  During construction, the site was plagued with reports of workers hearing “whispers where no one was”, and earned the project a foolish belief it was haunted.  It wasn’t until the death of Prolixus and building was complete that the stained glass mosaics praising his reign began to vibrate.  The climate in this area had worsened, and the water became dense enough for a tributary of the deep sound channel to wash over the spire.  Like a crystal goblet, the glass in the walls of the spire began to vibrate sympathetically with the flow of the deep sound channel, and the entire tower would intermittently sing.  After the discovery, propagandists would claim the Chelon Empire would expand as far as the spire’s sound was heard, with several outbreaks of the Shellback Wars using this belief as a rationale for expansion.

Not every race is as graciously accepting of the deep sound channel.  It is because of its inherent “audio conductivity” that the Kouton avoid building their mausoleums there.  They hoard their secrets jealously, and avoid forming any settlements in the area.  That is not to say a Kouton wouldn’t be willing to learn any mystery the channel whispered to them, just that they would not risk their own secrets to be spread by it, and neither would they want to be spotted by other Kouton lingering there.  The Lumulus avoid the channel as well, normally giving it wide berth.  When travel forces them to cross the channel, they will usually take the most direct path across despite how much more additional time it adds to their trip.

There are others that wish to utilize the channel in vain.  The lost pisceans in the Undertow consistently hope for a connection to the deep sound channel, in hopes of adding their pleas for salvation to the voices in the current.  However, unknown to them, the last surviving Kraken lingers in a pool that is filled by a side-stream of the deep sound channel.  There, she listens to the history of her kind’s former glory replay over and over again, their cruel fall from grace, their punishment by damnation, all slowly twisting her mind, maybe even her body…

The Calls of the Cetacean Hordes

One of the engineering marvels of the Orcans, the Calls date back to the reign of the Cetacean Barbarians.  This network of thin towers are dotted across the Cetacean Ocean, each supporting a strange octahedral diamond-shaped object at the peak.  These objects are carved from of dense stone with geometric precision, with four hollow triangular pyramids on the bottom and another four along the top.  The hollow pyramids are at right angles to each other, forming a square mid-line through the object.

The ancient Cetaceans discovered that sound could be reflected, and through experimentation developed these arrays of corner-shaped reflectors to help their already mighty whalesongs to travel further and with precise control.  Each of the three flat surfaces of each pyramid intersect perpendicularly, forming a concave space that bounces sound back at a path parallel to the original sound.  By angling the sides of each pyramid, sounds that enter the retro-reflectors can be concentrated and directed in specific directions.

This proved very useful to the early Orcans, whom set up small sentry stations across their borders as an early warning system to the settlements further inside the homesea’s borders.  At the first sign of danger, a powerful Versesinger could direct his whalesong toward one of these “Calls”, which in turn would relay the sound towards the predetermined settlements.  And while not as accurate, the Calls were also be used as waymarkers for Cetacean navigators that traveled beyond their homsea’s borders, becoming a “homing signal” when used with the species’ native echolocative senses.

The sharp angles of the Calls are a stark contrast to the graceful curves of Elqua’s leylines.  Points of intersection bring both woe and weal to the local inhabitants.  The Orcans in general pay little head of leyline locations; the Chelon, however, find the Calls disruptive.  These “Walls of Calls” interfere with native fauna, driving wildlife away much like any noisy area would.

The Sea Hags

Here be the Sea Hags.  The Crones.  Dreaded individuals of awesome might, their bodies and minds metamorphosized through immersion in the resonating theurgy of the Deep Sound Channel.  Perhaps the epitome of synesthesic divination, all their senses are tied together.  Sound triggers color, which triggers taste, which triggers scent…  Sea Hags have a supernatural attunement to the patterns of Elqua, seeing the connections that even the Synesthete Synod can only dream of linking.  They would be oracles of their world, if not for the reticence of Sea Hags to interact with the known races.  They usually maintain of stance of non-interference, playing little part in day-to-day existence for the Fluid Nations.  Indeed, they almost ignore the piscean races entirely.  There is a saying credited to the Crones: “One cannot learn unless one listens; one cannot listen if one is acting…”

Despite their collective name, the Sea Hags are not a race — each Hag is an individual, physically different from any other Hag.  The long eons submerged in the last vestiges of the First Verse has changed them.  Once piscean, their eyelids have fused shut over their eyes and have sunken into their sockets, and their forehead melons have turned transparent.  Their tails have split into multiple tentacles.  Otherwise, the manifestation of their transformation is personal.  For example, the Lumulan Sea Hag known as Black Annis has her carapace extending over her tentacles, giving them a multi-jointed look.  Cailleach of Locanth Gulf is a mix between a Gaia-mother and a Master of the Wild Hunt, while Atropos in the Chelon Sea is a living coral reef.  Of an unnamed Sea Hag in the Yaun-Teel Bights is said,  “…the lash of each of her sinewy tentacles delivers a different punishment according to the deadly sins…”  Conjecture speculates that there is no Sea Hag from the shallow Sahaguin Lagoons, but there are a few deep dips in the area where the deep sound channel can reach.

The foundation of the Prime Chorus came from the tragic divination by the Sea Hag Grendel concerning the fate of Khantusk. During the decline of the reign of the Cetacean Khanate, Orcan leaders became more and more obsessed with reclaiming their former glory and indulged in a series of ill advised military incursions into foreign territory.  As the health of the last Khan faltered, the head of the Eight Banners become more desperate to maintain the failing empire.  The head of each of the Eight Banners — the traditional divisions of the Cetacean Hordes — believed they would be the best to inherit the mantle of Orcan leadership.  During these desperate grabs of power, one particular incursion into the deeper fathoms of the Cetacean Ocean ran afoul of one of the more savage of the Sea Hags, the crone known as Grendel.  When the crone would not swear allegiance to the Banner’s ordu, the Noyan ordered his forces to attack.  He flung tumen after tumen at the Sea Hag, who slaughtered each successive wave of soldiers.  Once the waters cleared, only three pisceans remained: the crone herself, the Banner’s Noyan, and the ordu’s young vexillifer, Issoh Mumol.  Before the young Orcan’s eyes, Grendel slew the pompous Noyan and used his entrails to cast a divination of the fate of the Khanate.  Through the glaze in blood frenzied eyes, the Grendel foretold the fall of the Khanate and a rivening of its pisceans, half of whom would abandon their ways as the other half abandoned their nation.  The rift would never be mended, she intoned, unless…  unless the lost symbol of the Cetacean Hordes united them again.  That symbol was Khantusk, and Grendel foresaw the artifact would fall into the grasp of an enemy.  There would be no unification without Khantusk, and its recovery would signify the return of the Orcan glory.  The visceral bruatlity of it all burned the prophecy into Issoh’s soul, and she dedicated herself to the reclamation of Khantusk.  She founded the Primal Chorus, using it as a front to collect intelligence and influence in the quest to reclaim the lost relic of Cetacean might.

In the Tale of the Crone Gorgon, the Sea Hag of Kouton Bay that broke not only her kind’s belief in non-interference but her species’ belief in keeping secrets, aided the Piscean races in their efforts to throw off the shackles of Kraken oppression.  Many key victories were won due to her information, but inevitably the Kraken Occupation found out and in a public spectacle meant to crush all hope, dismembered her.  Her screams joined the deep sound channel, and the agony can still be heard today.  But her slaughter did not go unavenged.  As her blood spilled into the currents, it spontaneously sprouted one of the most virulent red tides since the Cardinal Epoch.  As the red tide flourished, it infiltrated the gills of the Kraken present and infected their bodies.  An insidious invader, the red tide was slow to act, as if biding its time until the Kraken were dispersed across the Known World.   It took an entire year for the infection to act.  On the first anniversary of the Rending of the Gorgon. those Kraken involved in the vile murder sudden experienced muscle spasms, rendered helpless as their twitching, flexing muscles  wound their tentacles up into dense knots, so tightly they tore themselves apart.  Victims lingered, helplessly immobile as their own bodies ripped themselves apart.  The infection was spread to any other Kraken nearby, repeating the year long incubation and unavoidable rending.  The Wasting, as it became known, has since become an annual recurrence that the Resurrectionists and their College of Doctors have so far been unable to cure.

Fairy tales of Hags stealing the breath from the gills of the impertinent and disobedient are a common part of piscean childhood.  One of the most famous is the chronicles between the Hag known as the Harridan and the Fry of the Black Mangrove, where the children suffered at her hands after taunting her maliciously.  The stories go back and forth between which was the original aggressor, and each subsequent round of the escalating interaction becoming more and more fantastic.  From what the tales suggest, the antagonism between the two factions is ongoing to this very day.

Whispers in the Dark

But the First Verse is not all that still lingers in the deep sound channel, preserved in a cerulean amber with eerie clarity.  The trace murmurs of the replaced Icth, bemoaning both their appearance as well as their disappearance.  The rustling movement of the expanding kelpygmy tribes, as they mysteriously appear across the Known World.  The unending gyre of the Maelstrom as it trawls the ocean floors, upturning silt and sediment, eternally scratching at the sea floor as if searching for something.  What might happen to a monolithic Spur in the wake of the deep sound channel?  What reaction might occur if the Indigo spread into the channel, or a red tide was carried along its currents?  Could it be that the Leviathan of Coinchenn that the First Khan slew during the Mer Exodus was a transmogrified Sea Hag Icht?  And then there is the floating island of Atlantica, the enigmatic chunk of stone and sand that seems to eternally hover between the surface and the ocean floor.  It is not hard to realize that at some point it may — or even does — pass through the deep sound channel.

In the fathomless depths, secrets lie, and lies are kept secret…

Endless Blue — Player Race Illustrations by Vincent Coviello   Leave a comment

In the fall of 2013, I had the pleasure of commissioning a series of nine digital paintings by Vincent Coviello (V4m2c4 on DeviantArt).  Each image has a tight line drawing, a full color illustration (as seen below), and a final background composite.  Many of the magnificent details in these drawings came from Vincent himself, and his input was spot on.  During the whole process I could not help myself from checking my email compulsively for the newest sketch or update.  I may have suffered a little bit of withdrawal when he finished the project.

Illustrations of the player races in the Endless Blue Campaign Setting.

Illustrations of the player races in the Endless Blue Campaign Setting.

 

This and some of his other work has been recently featured on IO9.com in the article “Can We Please Have More Diverse Dragon Designs Like These?”  His hard work and talent are plain to see.  It was a pleasure working with Vincent, and hopefully, someday I will again…

Endless Blue – Week 77 – Aquatic Prosthetics: Restoring What Was Lost   Leave a comment

Archeology

Aquatic Prosthetics: Restoring What Was Lost

Life beneath the waves is a perilous existence.  The constant battle between the well-honed ungues of the predator and the evolutionary adaptions to escape of their prey is a constant specter.  Those escape tactics don’t always succeed, and by some twist of fat should the prey survive an attack, they rarely always survive unscathed.  The lucky remain relatively intact, with scarred-over gashes where tooth tore flesh.  But many other creatures pay a dear price for their freedom, losing limbs to the jaws of the aberrations above or the ocean predators below.  For these victims, their loss need not be completely permanent.

Prostheses are artificial creations that replace lost bodily parts.  Their purpose is so the piscean can regain normal function in day-to-day society.  While lost limbs are seen as a red badge of courage (and those individuals are given respect for the dangers they escaped from), their absence still proves a hindrance to living under the waves.  Instead of having to rely on another piscean for daily functions, most pisceans prefer the independence granted by limb replacement.

Form and Function

Most prostheses are single function.  Meaning, they are designed to replace a single activity the lost limb could accomplish.  Tails and fins are designed to give maneuverability back to the amputee.  A lost hand would be replaced with either a hook for combat or a flipper for movement.  Chirurgeons, who often “cut to cure”, rely heavily on prostheses for their patients.  Resurrectionists study anatomy in order to better understand the piscean form, and by extension this helps them design better prostheses.

Mariners and other soldiers often lose a limb in the service of their homesea.  In the cases of lost hands, many chose to have their favorite weapon replace the lost hand.  Spear and Trident heads are the most prevalent, but simple blades or even blunt cestus’ are known to exist.  Many military groups bestow those maimed in service with a traditional prosthesis that bears an inscription or other carved insignia dedicated to the piscean’s sacrifice for their homesea.  Such a prosthesis would be passed down from generation to generation, down the family line, as a symbol of respect and reverence, in many ways becoming a family heirloom.  Sahaguin have been known to purposely amputate themselves so a particularly famous family prosthesis could be attached to their body, raising their esteem in the community.

Forms of Prostheses:

Limb — Prostheses of this type can vary in nature.  While a finger is usually too small to replace and still maintain functionality, a limb missing at various points along the arm is more common.  Hand, forearm, and full arm limb replacements are possible.  While movement at the joints is possible, it is a bend-and-lock mechanism that must be adjusted through applied force.  These prostheses are incapable of mimicking normal movement of a limb.

Tail — A common predatory tactic is to sneak up from below and bite their prey in half.  It is rare to survive this kind of suprise attack, but it does happen.  Survivors find a great portion of their tails lost.  Such a loss severely impacts the ability to swim through the water.  Tail prostheses are based on a flexible rod that replicates the undulating movement of swimming in reaction to movement in the hips.  Otherwise, the prosthesis is rather stiff, making its existence obvious to the observer.

Dental — Blunt trauma to the face can result in permanent dental damage.  The repair of lost teeth or a damaged jaw is possible through dental prostheses.  These are usually permanent implants, but temporary removable dentures are possible.  Due to the variation between the shape of the mouth, all dental prostheses are custom-made.

Ocular — Lost eyes can be replaced by finely smoothed glass or obsidian glass spheres that are inserted into the empty socket.  Unfortunately, these prostheses are cosmetic only, and cannot restore binocular vision.

Dorsal/Pectoral/Caudal Fin — The replacement of fins is important to the mobility of the afflicted piscean.  Fins are normally in a constant state of small waving motions, in order to stabilize or shift the orientation of the individual.  Even the most delicate of fins can be replaced, but restoring the original minute dexterity is beyond the skill of prosthetics designers.

Enscorcelled Prosethetics
These are magical works of metal, bone, coral, and other materials.  Imbued with mystic energy, they act exactly like the missing appendage or organ.  The most infamous of these magical prostheses is the Cetacean artifact, Khantusk.  Wielded by the first Khan of the Cetacean Hordes, and lost during the battle of the Leviathan, Khantusk bestows great leadership and mastery of command to those that posses it.

Resurrectionist Prosthetics
Biological prostheses are the grafting of flesh given life once more.  These prostheses are not cheap: Resurrectionists still suffer from the superstitious fear of the populace, so they must work in secret, and require severe compensation for the risk they incur.  But should a piscean possess enough wealth, he might persuade a Resurrectionist to graft a limb.  These limbs utilize the same animus vitae that Resurrectionists employ in the animation of homonculi.  The replaced limb becomes a natural part of the, with the same blood flow as the rest of the piscean.

“Transpisceanism”

The Transpiscean Movement is in its infancy.  These Resurrectionist believe that the races of the Elqua should not be limited by the piscean form.  The piscean form can be improved upon, through the grafting of newer organs.  Some fear this idea of slowly replacing the body with homonculi organs, piece by piece.  But it goes further than a creeping supposition of the body — Transpiceans believe they should not be limited to the shape of their bodies.  Extra arms, dermal carapaces, even organs like ink glands or venom sacs can be infused into the piscean form, at the individual’s whim.

Due to cultural taboos, Transpisceanism is viewed negatively by many species of the Known World.  The Chelon and Lumulus, usually at odds over almost everything, both reject the idea of purposely revising the body.  The Church of Olyhydra views it as an aborration against the Mistress’ design, to such an extent as to decry almost any prosthetic other than those that are the most primitive, basically sticks strapped to arms.  But Transpisceanism has found a home in the Mer Currents due to the culture’s inherent openness to new ideas.  There it flourishes just as well as the Olyhydran Church, and it is just a matter of time until the two philosophies clash.

The piscean form is an artifact designed by inheritance.
It was not designed to remain in its present biologic state
any more than roe is designed to remain roe.
– Transpisceanist argument.

Endless Blue – Week 76 – The Aboleth: Puppeteers of the Deep   Leave a comment

Zoology

The Aboleth: Puppeteers of the Deep

When the Kraken Empire fell, the apex predator of the Endless Blue disappeared almost overnight.  This left a vacuum in Elquan ecology that has never been truly filled.  That is, until now.  The aboleths have stirred from their “long dreaming”, and begun infiltrating their thralls into the political and social circles of the Known World.

Aboleth

Huge Aberration (Aquatic)
Hit Dice: 8d8 +40 (76 hp)
Initiative: +1 (Dex)
Speed: 60 feet (12 cubes)
Buoyancy: Shelf (adjustable)
Armor Class: 16 (-2 size, +1 Dex, +7 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+22
Attack: Tentacle +12 mêlée (1d6+8 plus slime)
Full Attack: 4 tentacles +12 mêlée (1d6+8 plus slime)
Space/Reach: 10 ft. by 20 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Subjugate, parasite, psionics, slime
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., ultravision 60 ft., mucus cloud
Saves: Fort +7, Ref +3, Will +11.
Abilities: Str 26, Dex 12, Con 20, Int 15, Wis 17, Cha 17
Skills: Concentration +16, Knowledge (any) +13, Listen +16, Spot +16, Swim +8
Feats: Alertness, Combat Casting, Iron Will
Environment: Deep, dark waters (Shelf)
Organization: Solitary or slaver brood (1 plus 7-12 skum).
Challenge Rating: 7
Treasure: Double standard.
Alignment: Usually lawful evil.
Advancement: Huge (9-16 HD),  Gargantuan (17-24 HD)
Level Adjustment: -

Aboleths are vile, alien aberrations.  They occupy no true role in the delicate ecological balance of Elqua.  Instead, they subvert and undermine the natural ecosystem to suit their whims.  They do not insinuate themselves into the natural order, but instead disrupt it by their very presence.  Nothing preys on these aberrations, allowing them free passage where every they go.  And where ever they go, the reap devastation.

Their huge, massive bodies are roughly twenty foot long prism-shapes, and consist of sickly colored teal, segmented plates covering their front and a flexible, finned tail behind a circle of socketed tentacles.  Its ventral side is a pale, jaundiced pink that falsely looks tender and vulnerable.  Along its sides are a series of darkened, pulsating sphincters.  These orifices constantly ooze a steady flow of mucus that the aboleth spreads over its entire body with its four tentacles.  This cloudy, rancid mucus is insoluble in water, and prevents the aboleth’s scent from being carried on the currents.  It had detrimental effect on the biology of the average piscean.

The vertical row of sanguine eyes on the prow of their head betrays the wicked intelligence of these monsters.  They see all matter as their play things, and treat creatures with cruelty and disdain.  Their unblinking vision can stare straight into the soul of a piscean, and somehow finds every weakness therein to manipulate.  They will distract and seduce a victim, separating him from the group for enough time to crush his will and mentally enslave him.  Once dominated, the aboleth initiates a slow transformation process in its victims that culminates in their utter submission into a form of sub-piscean known as a “skum”.  Skum are the puppets of the aboleth, working for the aberrations, completely unaware they dance on strings.

Aboleth possess a communal racial memory.  What one aboleth knows, all know.  An aboleth possesses the knowledge and memory of its predecessors as if they were its own.  This way, there is no actual “teaching” of aboleth ideas and culture — you have to be an aboleth to know it.  This has produced a level of technology far in advance of the pisceans of the Known World.  A form of bio-technology, their artifacts were once living creatures, now perverted in purpose by the malign needs of the aboleth.  Without being an aboleth, no one can utilize their bioconstructs, no matter how simple, other than clumsily swinging and thrusting.  The operation of aboleth biotech requires the mind of an aboleth, controlling the body of an aboleth, to act in an aboleth manner.  At the very least, all aboleth grafts — the fusing of a living creature with new abilities — requires repeated, frequent anointment in the aboleth’s own bodily excretions.  That alone makes the technology almost useless to the piscean races.

Combat

An aboleth prefers to use its skum thralls for combat, but if cornered will attack using its tentacles, whipping their slender lengths with fearsome speed and accuracy.  But overall, aboleths abhor calling attention to themselves or their agents, and utilize their illusion powers to the fullest long before resorting to violence.  Once violence is needed, though, they are  savage, torturous monstrosities.

Subjugate (Su):  An aboleth can attempt to enslave a living creature within 30 feet.  To do so, the victim must either be out of line of sight of any ally, or be physically touching the aboleth.  Should the victim fail a Will save (DC 17, Charisma based), he is suffers the effect of a dominate person spell (caster level 16th).  A subjugated creature automatically complies with the aboleth’s mental demands as if they were his own free will.  This telepathic domination can be countered with a remove curse spell.  Unless the victim is addicted to the narcotic effects of the aboleth’s slime (see Slime, below), he can attempt a new Will save every 24 hours to break free.  Should the aboleth die, the Will save decreases slowly at the rate of one point per passed day.  There is no limit to the distance an aboleth can maintain dominance over a subjugated victim.

Psionics (Sp):  Aboleths posses the following psionic powers with an effective caster level of 16 and saves DCs are Charisma based: At will—hypnotic pattern (DC 15), illusory wall (DC 17), mirage arcana (DC 18), persistent image (DC 18), programmed image (DC 19), project image (DC 20), veil (DC 19).  Aboleths understand all spoken languages.  Further, an aboleth automatically senses everything a subjugated victim experiences, and has full access to the victim’s memories.  Finally, an aboleth enables a subjugated skum overcome the suffocation effect of its mucus cloud (see below).

Mucus Cloud (Ex): An aboleth constantly exudes a cloud of mucus that it surrounds itself with, about a foot thick.  Those unlucky enough to come in contact with and breathing this substance must pass a Fortitude based save at DC 19 or lose the ability to breathe for the next 3 hours as the cloying, viscous goo clogs their gills.  Additional contact/inhalation with the mucus cloud and failing another Fortitude save renews the effect for 3 more hours. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Slime (Ex): A blow from an aboleth’s tentacle or inhaling the aboleth’s mucus cloud (see above) can cause a terrible addiction. Exposed creatures must pass a DC 19 Fortitude save or become addicted to the narcotic properties of the aboleth’s slime.  Each additional hit in the same round requires another save, but with a cumulative +1 to the Difficulty Class.  Remaining in the mucus cloud continues the cumulative penalty, but the DC rating resets at the beginning of the next round should the victim retreat or otherwise leave the area of the mucus cloud.

An addicted creature’s thinking becomes clouded, and he will subconsciously choose actions that invoke additional attacks from the aboleth and re-entry into the creature’s mucus cloud.  For example, an addicted fighter might chose to cross the aboleth’s  threat area and enter hand-to-hand combat instead of maintaining his distance from the aberration.  Even the victim will not realize he is unconsciously putting himself in danger in order to get another fix.

Casting a remove disease spell is enough to break the addiction and free the victim’s will from the slime’s influence.

Parasite (Ex):  If an aboleth can successfully isolate a subjugated victim for at least a week, it can implant a parasite that replaces the victim’s tongue and prevents the dominate person effect from being dispelled.  It requires a heal spell to expel such a parasite, followed by a regeneration spell to regrow the consumed tongue.  Addiction to the aboleth’s mucus must be cured separately.

Creature Lore
Common:  Relegated to myth, aboleths have so rarely been seen that the populace believes them to be obscure, minor folklore.
Uncommon:  Some apocryphal scriptures of the Church of Olyhydra describe aboleths as invaders from the Vastness, set to seduce the unwary into damnation.
Rare: Aboleths are reputedly immortal.  Like the Lumulus, they do not die from old age, and instead simply grow larger and larger as the centuries pass by.
Obscure:  The slime of an aboleth, once absorbed into the body, acts like a narcotic.  Habit forming, victims will seek out aboleths in order to collect the tiniest trace of their addiction.

The Dark Undercurrents:

The aboleth incursion has been plotted out long ago.  The vile aberrations have systematically mentally enslaved key pisceans and sent them off to infiltrate normal society.  There, under the telepathic direction of their overlords, these dominated individuals built up bases of power, ensuring their entrenchment in the homeseas of the Known World.  As time passed, the aboleth slowly altered their slaves, and as they reproduced, increased their number.  These new generations of slaves needed less and less mental attention of the aboleth, until the point where the slaves essentially serve of their own free — albeit, unknowing — will.

Much of this complete domination is successful through the use of a parasite.  Created by the vile knowledge of the aboleths and passed down through their cumulative racial memory, these parasites are bred not unlike a piscean Packbreeder develops her animals.  The parasite begin life in a pupal stage, and appear like a nodule about the size of a Mer’s molar.  This nodule is inserted into the mouth of a victim through the mucus forming orifices along the side of the aboleth, where it gestates.  As it matures, it slowly gives off chemicals that deaden the sensation of pain in the victim’s throat.  Once the nodule dissolves completely and the pupa matures, it bites into the tongue at the back of the throat and slowly devours it completely.  The host remains oblivious to this change as the parasite anchors itself on the stump and replaces the consumed tongue with its own body.  It reacts to impulses in the body’s nervous system, flexing in the same way that an intact tongue would.  Speech is not hampered by this exchange, and indeed, the aboleth can take over the victim’s vocal chords through the parasite and speak for him.

The depth of infiltration these enslaved pisceans have achieved is staggering.  It would have taken multiple generations to so thoroughly ingratiate their way into the upper echelons.  Skum reproducing, passing on the aboleth parasite to their offspring, they repeating the cycle…  The planning must have taken generations, way back to a time period when the Kraken still dominated the Fluid Nations.  Which then begs the question, “Did the aboleths have a role in the fall of the Kraken?”  Perhaps they made a new deal with the Elsewhere powers that fueled the occupiers’ rise?  Might this pact have been the catalyst for the dark powers to abandon their servants on the eve of their final battle?

There seems to be a suspicious link between Lumulus and Aboleth lifespans.  They share a similar alien mentality and psychic ability.  Could there be a link?  The Orcans are quite sure they were the first race on Elqua, could it be that the aboleths played a part in the creation of the crustacean species?  Could there be a deeply submerged command in the psyche of the Lumulus, laying dormant, awaiting the day their aboleth masters reactivate them as skum?

If aboleths have a weakness, it is the coating of mucus that enshrouds their repellant bodies.  Without this intact layer of phlegm, their skin would shrivel and dissolve in the briny waters of the Endless Blue.  This makes areas of underwater brine pools, rivers, and falls especially dangerous to the aberrations.  It is the greasy, insoluble aspect of their excretion that saves them from an excruciating fate of being salted alive.  To avoid this fate, an aboleth can enter a suspended state they call “the long dreaming” or “the endless slumber”.  This state of torpor is involuntary, leaving the aboleth comatose and at the mercy of its surroundings.  It cannot escape this state of its own volition, and is utterly dependent on either random chance to save them, or their own contingency plans put in place years earlier.

“Coincidence is the veil of the puppeteer; masking him as he pulls the strings of marionettes…”
– conspiracy theorist mantra.

Endless Blue – Week 75 – Ceph Unguisurfing   Leave a comment

Sociology

Ceph Unguisurfing

Despite the fact Elqua’s surface is 95% covered in water, the pisceans of the Known World reside in an ever more confined space in the Eastern Hemisphere.  With seabed capable of supporting aquaculture solely found near the surface of the water, only so much food can be produced.  But just being close enough to the surface to farm makes those pisceans vulnerable to the aberrations of the Vastness.  Safe farming land is rare, so most centers of population group in the Shoals areas of Elqua’s oceans.  With few races other than the Lumulus and Orcans capable of surviving the crushing depths of the Shelf, that leaves a limited band of living space in the Shoals for populations to form settlements.  As the years go by, the piscean population increases, yet the amount of natural habitat stays limited.  The Fluid Nations have all done their share of deforestation of the world’s kelp farms and coral reefs, despite the protestations of the Locanth and those Xanthellaette Chelon.  Despite this, it is clear that more room is needed, and this has resulted in border disputes and incursions into sovereign territories.

The most affected by this population expansion are the Ceph.  They have no homesea of their own, and instead must survive in the nooks and crannies of the other nations.  The more indignant of these, dissatisfied with eking out an existence at the tail fins of the other races, dwell among the Periphery.  But as the Fluid Nations expand, the Periphery is shrinking.  There is only so much space between the Core and the natural barrier around the planet created by the Spine of the World.  Virgin waterways that once allowed the fallen Kraken the protection needed until they finished their de-evolution into the Ceph of today are rapidly diminishing.  Their race is being squeezed out of the natural ecosystem, and this loss of habitat has forced them into the urban areas.

There they find niches to live that other pisceans would find beneath them.  The Ceph survive by collecting the left over scraps and trash of the other races.  It is a demeaning existence for a species that once dominated the water world, and it is this way of life that justifies some in labeling them “untouchables”.  They have no rights under the Fluid Nations Accord, thus have no recourse when locals push them further and further out to sea.  A life of urban scavenging, keeping themselves hidden from bigoted sight, and being treated as less than animals has turned the ancestral shame the Ceph feel into anger.  That anger has festered, and some of their number have succumbed to its malign influence, and become violent.

So far, there is no concerted organization in the Ceph cells, and no targeted offensive against the other races.  The militants act more as scavengers, attacking the weak and unwary when the need arises.  However, whispers are being heard on the currents of new activity amongst the Ceph militant cells.  There are stories the Ceph rebels are being armed by some unknown source.  Halberds, tridents, and shorts swords of an unknown make are being spotted in the grasp of these indigents.

Unknown Halberd -- Illus. by Gergő Soós

Halberd of Unknown Origin — Illus. by Gergő Soós

The weapons appear to be made of Lumulated dearthsteel.  This is the same rare metal smithed by the Lumulus that played a key part in the defeat of the Kraken during the Occupation.  The tinge of metal’s sheen is ultraviolet, meaning it comes from forgeclan J’warh’abvo.   Any historian can tell you this is impossible.  The J’warh’abvo forgeclan was wiped out by the Kraken slavelords when it became apparent the Lumulus had put aside their differences with the Chelon Xanthellaettes.  The marriage of Lumululated dearthsteal and Xanthellaette Ultravision magic created ensorcelled unques that could reveal the Great Squid when camouflaged, even when cloaked.

Unknown Trident -- Illus. by Gergő Soós

Trident of Unknown Origin — Illus. by Gergő Soós

“Surfing” is a colloquialism for smuggling.  It is derived from the actions of the weapons smugglers, traveling near the surface of the water, where it is so dangerous.  So close to the Vastness, thus vulnerable to the aberrations therein, few pisceans would stumble upon the illegal activities.  These open waters are the prowling territory of the predators of Elqua.  Sharks, plesiosaurs, and even more massive leviathans roam the empty waters, appearing as little more than an indistinct dark patch in the water, until the beast shoots forward to swallow up the unlucky.  Smugglers avoid prying eyes by “surfing” along the border to the Vastness, risking attack and predation from the innumerable carnivores of the oceans.

Unknown Short sword -- Illus. by Gergő Soós

Short sword of Unknown Origin — Illus. by Gergő Soós

Could a forgesmith of the J’warh’abvo have survived all these centuries?  It is true that Lumulus are essentially immortal…  But the artistry in the weapons’ design is not of Lumulan origin.  Could another race have discovered the secret of making Lumulated metal?  But that doesn’t explain where the dearthsteel ore has come from — the Lumulus would never allow dearthsteel into the general populace, often attacking non-Lumulans seen with even scraps of the material.

Surface Waves:

The most immediate concern to the populace of the Known World is the threat to safety.  These armed militants are becoming increasingly more bold now that they have adequate ungues in their possession.  Raids on outlying settlements have begun, and traders are wary of risking their cargo to aggressive Ceph.

This interference with trade has caught the attention of the Yaun-Teel.  Used to unfettered trade routes, this new development has begun to affect the profitability of their business.  Many of the powerful merchants — especially the Liga Synarr — recognize opportunity when they see it, and want to cut in on the action.

The Lumulus demand the return of dearthmetal to the Lumulan government.  They blame the Chelon for supplying the weapons, claiming them to be the left over slag from the Liberation.  The Chelon, of course, deny it; and in return, accuse the Lumulus of being the smugglers in order to frame the Chelon government.

The Orcans, as self-appointed diplomats to the “lesser species”, are somewhat powerless.  The Ceph have no homesea for the Orcan’s to sanction.  Political missionaries must be sent out to Ceph settlements and vainly attempt to contact the Ceph militants in order to begin negotiations.

The Dark Undercurrents:

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Endless Blue – Week 74 – The Conch Lock of Curin’s Pass   Leave a comment

Architecture

The Conch Lock of Curin’s Pass

The pisceans of the Endless Blue are true architects, planning cities, designing shelter, and building monuments.  The sheer depth of Elqua’s oceans means other than settlements along the Shore, there is little chance for a piscean structure to break the surface of the water.  Aside from the mad vision Magistrate Talmadgius may hold, the largest hand-made structure that extends beyond the wave-tops is the infamous Conch Lock.

The Conch Lock is a contiguous wall linking the islands that make up the Maw.  The erected barriers form a fortified defense around what was once the heart of the Kraken Empire.  Created early during the rise of the Kraken, the wall was built to protect the center of Kraken power.  It served its designed purpose well, remaining unscathed during the final days of the rebellion and the Siege of Andropoli, remaining intact to this very day.  If not for the abandonment of the Kraken by their dark benefactors, the damnable creatures would still live to this day behind their sullen wall.

From sea floor to breaking waves, these large monolithic walls block off the Maw from the rest of the Known World.  The walls themselves are made of great slabs of granite, hoisted into place my the powerful tentacles of the Kraken themselves.  While it was very common during that period for Kraken to force slave labor into erecting their monuments, the sheer size and weight of these granite slabs was beyond the range of the lowly piscean races.  The excavation and stoneworking of these slabs, however, was the toil of slaves.  Strip mining was used to dig the silt, sand, and earth away from the buried granite, and the left behind pits around the Maw leave a pattern with more than a passing resemblance to suction cups from gargantuan tentacles.  Most of the ecology around the Maw and these Tentacle Pits is ruined, leaving behind the eerie remains of coral and upturned rock.

Map of Curin's Pass

The path of Curin’s Pass through the Maw

Now the structure stands, silent and ominous, as a stark barrier separating the pisceans from the birth of their worst nightmares.  The pock-marked sea beds around the Maw delineate the border between the ruins of the Kraken Empire and the Fluid Nations.  This “no Mer’s seas” is a neutral zone, where trespass is publicly forbidden by unanimous decree of all the Nation’s governments.  Even those mercenary individuals that call no government “Master” avoid the area.  For every tale of untold riches and power left behind by the ancient squids, there are a dozen horror stories of corruption and evil to go with them, each more minutely detailed than the last.  And even if a crazy piscean survived the crossing of the no Mer’s seas, they are left facing the impenetrable walled in jaws of the Maw.

The wall of the Maw follows a chain of islands in the shape of the open jaws of sea predator.  Roughly egg shaped, with the narrower end pointing north west, the rounder end is formed by a series of larger, major islands.  All of the islands have a shallow slope to their Shore areas, except between two of these major southwestern islands.  Here, there is a sharp drop down to near Shelf depths.  This pass-way was once called Curin’s Pass, and before the Occupation was a well-traveled current between the Cetacean Oceans and the Sahaguin Lagoons.  This is the same current traveled by the Narwahl when they chose self-exile over abandoning the ways of the Orcan Horde.  Here, across Curin’s Pass, the mostly featureless walls that form the jawbone of the Maw now feature a curious anomaly.  Unceremoniously embedded in the granite is the conical device known as the Conch Lock.  There is no gate for the Conch Lock to open, no hinge nor seam to indicate anything to be opened.  How the Kraken passed through their own wall is a mystery.  But now, there is just a great smooth slab from sea floor to the Vastness above the wave, and an enigmatic, radial centerpiece.

The lock itself look like a huge conch shell, but instead of following the Fibonacci spiral pattern, it has a series of concentric rings.  There are four rings around a central axis, with each ring divided into eight sections.  In the center of each ring section is the outgrowth that makes conch shells so distinctive.  Just as each ring can be turned around the central axis, each of these outgrowths can rotate in place.  These pieces rotate on their own without the need of outside influence, but also turn easily when grasped in the hand.  The four rings rotate around the central shaft, with its own outcropping that extends a good three feet out into the waters.  The overall diameter of the Conch Lock, sans outgrowths, is four feet across.

Like some strange clockwork puzzle, the Conch Lock’s rings and outcroppings rotate in an unguessable pattern.  Sometimes dextral-wise, sometimes counter-dextral-wise (also known as sinistral-wise), the only consistency to these movements is the timing — some part of the Conch Lock will move every 4 minutes.  Any attempt to prevent the turning of a ring or outcropping results in a tactile click, as if the mechanism responsible for its rotation disengages and re-engages in preparation of the next movement.

There are no symbols representing numbers or position anywhere on the Conch Lock, but there is a pattern of circles and arced lines over the pieces.  There does not seem to be any one proper arrangement of the arcs and circles, with multiple possible solutions matching all points of intersection.  These markings bear a passing resemblance to Ley Line cartography by a Xanthellaette, but no single possible combination corresponds to any known Ley Lines on the face of Elqua.

Could it be these etched line on the Conch Lock form a map not of Ley Lines, but of Spurs?  Why does the floating island known as Horizon’s Compass seem to point straight through Curin’s Pass and the Conch Lock?  Could the Conch Lock, with its streamlined symmetry be an unrealized Icht relic?  Might the recent prognostications of the  Synesthete Synod’s Acumen Cypher have some clue to the solution to the Conch Lock?  And what vile aberrations — mutated by exposure to years of remnant dark magic — might be slipping out of the Maw through the gaps in the jawbone wall where the islands sit?

Endless Blue – Week 73 – Societies Submerged in Shadow   1 comment

Sociology

Societies Submerged in Shadow

Just as there are great dangers lurking in the dark of the ocean abyss, there are conspiratorial organizations hiding among the pisceans of Elqua.  Spoken of in hushed tones, these manipulative groups seek power and wealth for their own purposes, and are quite willing to sacrifice anything, or anyone, that tries to impede them.  They are the shadow societies of the Endless Blue, the moving dark that works for its own sake.

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