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.
There are four common characteristics in all conspiracies:
1. A conspiracy is a group effort. Conspiracies require a large network of operatives to succeed in their plans. Isolated individuals lack the political, financial, and infrastructural muscle to pull of anything more than a protest/crime.
2. A conspiracy is a concerted effort. Conspiracies must be a orchestrated. Capitalizing on a spontaneous event is difficult at best, and usually results in a haphazard execution.
3. A conspiracy is a secret effort. Conspiracies don’t advertise themselves. They operate in secret through manipulation, not public debate.
4. A conspiracy is an illegal effort. Conspiracies seek to achieve success outside the normal channels, usually by breaking the laws and social norms that exist to stop such behavior.
Not all conspiracy groups are evil in their intentions. Some may even have the best of intentions at heart, such as the Liberty Tide and to a lesser degree the Ceph Militants. But every one of them seeks the downfall of their opponent through force and subterfuge. What makes a group a conspiracy is the emphasis on secrecy in their operation and a particular target they work against. That target can be a person, organization, government, or any combination of these factors. All that matters is that the nebulous conspiracy have a goal to achieve that requires them to be covert, lest they betray themselves.
Blue Dragoneers — Assassin’s guild based in the Grand Bazaar, they specialize in murder for hire. Their weapon of choice is the poison of the blue dragon, a tiny but incredibly lethal sea slug. Having existed for centuries, there is no government that has not called upon their services. The Blue Dragoneers keep their secrets, but are not above threatening to reveal those past political indiscretions to get their own way. Even the Yaun-Teel government is on the Blue Dragoneers’ extortion list, despite providing the organization with a place to exist… or perhaps because of it.
Enemies: families of victims, extortion targets
Ceph Militants – Cells of Ceph that are fed up with their second class standing in society have taken to insurrection, further fueled by having no homesea to call their own. No direct organization, they range from the political dissidents that poll for a portion of the Maw be released as their native homesea, to the lethal ambushers that prey on those that cross into the no mer’s seas between nations. Many of the bandit raids on trade caravans are actually Ceph Militants either making a political statement or simply steal the supplies they need to survive.
Enemies: The Church of Olyhydra, Chelon government
The Godless — There are those clear of mind, whom embrace logic and science, that have dedicated themselves to the downfall of divine zealotry. A movement among the Godless is the attempt to bring arithmetic to the masses, the Numeracy Expansion. These “math missionaries” (called Outliers) go out among the rural areas to teach any that will learn the skills of calculation and computation. They try to educate the common piscean, give them the tools to free them from such organizations like the Church of Olyhyrda, that seeks to keep the masses shackled in ignorance. Less a conspiracy organization and more of a social justice group, their efforts in the so-called War of Math are nearly multilaterally educational. There is a distinct difference between the activities of the Outliers and the general anti-theism beliefs of the Godless movement. Most Godless are simply progressives, while Outliers are activists that take the philosophy and apply it to the populace. Of course, those outside the movement see no distinction between the two, and will often persecute anti-theists as equally as Outliers.
Enemies: The Church of Olyhydra, the Grand Bazaar
The Liberty Tide — A network of people in the Yaun-Teel Bights that believes the ownership of pisceans is wrong, that all people should be free. Working mostly at night (hence the name “Tide”) when the pull of Elqua’s moons is strongest, they smuggle slaves to the south, into the Mer Currents. From there they are taken to the no mer’s seas on the fringes of the Crèche of Civilization, where they are sent to their individual homeseas. The Liberty Tide works in waves, individuals smuggling people relatively short distances (about ten to twenty miles a day) and usually only aided one to three slaves per trip. This is a slow, but purposeful process, meant to protect both the escaping slave and the smuggler. In the Yaun-Teel Bights, the theft or aid in escaping of slaves is punished with the accused often taking the place of the freed slave, plus an additional 50 years of extra servitude. With the current cultural stress between the differing social beliefs of the Yaun-Teel Bights and the Mer Currents, the latter regrettably supports extradition attempts to capture escaping slaves.
Enemies: The Yaun-Teel government, the Grand Bazaar, Liga Synarr, the Synnove 100 Group
Maelstrom Cults — Pockets of madness, those that have lost any empathy with the life-giving waters of Elqua. These twisted cast-offs find refuge in the Maelstrom Cults. These cults are the remnants of the once mighty Elsewhere supplicants, and worshiped the same nebulous entities that were the power behind the rise of the forsaken Kraken Empire.
Enemies: Every government, the Church of Olyhydra, the Stoic State
The Movement — Disjointed and incredulous claims are surfacing of conspiracies infiltrating settlements with agents. Chalked up to the paranoid ranting of the sick and mentally disturbed, there may be truth to some of their stories. There exists a vacuum in the natural order of Elqua, a pocket of power left empty by the fall and de-evolution of the Kraken. It seems there are those aberrations that are moving into position to fill that gap — the Aboleths. With their mentally dominated servants maneuvered into key positions of government, they hope to become the next dominant force in the oceans of the Endless Blue. By using these skum, they believe they will avoid the Kraken’s major mistake — they will not dominate directly, but rule as puppet-masters from afar.
The Order of Anthozoa — A sect of the Chelon Xanthellaettes that knows the secret cost of coral bending magic and seeks to mitigate its destruction. The order seeks out ecologically dangerous intersections in ley lines and severing them for the sake of the future. This has brought them into conflict with many Chelon settlements, as those settlements are many times utterly dependent on the ley line intersection for their survival. The symbol for the Order of Anthozoa is a coral flower.
Enemies: Chelon government, any Xanthellaette
The Paragon Cynosure – Simply being a Resurrectionist alone is enough of a cause to be secretive, but there exists in their ranks a secluded group that go beyond even the darkest stereotype of being an anatomist. These are extremist Resurrectionists bent on the resurrection of an extinct, sentient species, the Icht. The group itself has no symbol, but when those in the cabal meet, each wears an Ichthian mask to disguise their identity. These masks are one of the few remaining artifacts left over from the Icht Dominion, and as such are incredibly valuable. This implies members of the Paragon Cynosure come from wealthy backgrounds.
Enemies: the Church of Olyhydra, the Stoic State
The Parsimonia — Thought to have been born among the secret-hoarding Kouton, the Parsimonia is an organization bent on world domination. They are charged with selling out the other piscean races during the Kraken Occupation, thus sparing the Bay of Kouton from much of the damage the war wrecked. The Parsimonia take much of the brunt of social outrage, and are the defacto scapegoat that conspiracists point to when catastrophe happens.
Enemies: the Godless, the Church of Olyhydra
The Penitants — The Cetacean Hordes split on the day the race decided to embrace the path of peace. The Narwahl Orcans left the Cetacean Ocean in self-imposed exile, ashamed that their Orcan brethren so shallowly discarded the teaching of the First Khan. All these generations later, there are those Narwahl that now believe perhaps the Orcans were right. These pacifistic Narwahl have doubts that the current “might makes right” mentality is the way to live. They have turned their back on their species’ adherence to the old ways, and seek reunification with their Orcan cousins.
Enemies: The Narwahl Khanate, Sahaguin government, the Prime Chorus
Prospectors of the Synesthete Synod — The inner council of the Synod are privy to the society’s greatest accomplishment: the Acumen Cypher. It is divination personified, an ongoing calculation analyzing the course of history. More than that, it is alive. The Prospectors investigate the Acumen Cyphers cryptic divinations, and sometimes resort to manipulating events to make those predictions come true. The interpretation of those ends, however, is complicated by each Prospector’s unique form of synesthesia. The current formulae that the Acumen Cypher has divined seem to indicate a strange corollary pattern between the activities of various Maelstrom cults that avoids the Resurrectionists.
Enemies: the Stoic State
The Prime Chorus — Part of the Orcan military government, the ONF, this is a military elite squad of Versesingers that on the surface serve as the communication network between the deployed ordus and the Eight Banners. Their true onus is the continued search for the holiest of Cetacean relics, Khantusk.
Enemies: The Pentient, Ceph Militants
Sovereignty of the Mistress — A movement in the Church of Olyhydra to break away from the Mer Currents that they currently call home and become a nation of their own. Whatever waters they have not already accumulated through purchase or school donation will be claimed when the Mistress decrees the time is right. The call will go out to the faithful, and an exodus to the new holy waters will fill the fledgling homesea with the favored pisceans.
Enemies: Mer government, the Godless, the Stoic State
The Stoic State — Dispersed across the face of Elqua are the disenfranchised: those that feel modern life has become corrupt and has abandoned them like so much jetsam. Their goal is the destruction of all magic, which is viewed as a blight upon the unsullied seas. Once the cancer of mysticism has been excised from the world, the piscean masses will prosper. They are known to resort to targeting unexpecting spellcasters for killing as a lesson to those that harm the world with their hubris.
Enemies: Sovereignty of the Mistress, any spellcaster (especially Xanthellaettes).
The Synnove 100 Group — A council of powerful merchants and political leaders, some in the Liga Synarr. This is an annual meeting of the most powerful individual from the eight Fluid Nations of the Known World, and attendance is invitation only. Their modus operandi is the manipulation of trade. They are intent on the control of finances, and are not above financial ruin of their opponents. They are currently trying to gain access to the protected stores of red coral that the Mer Currents use in the creation of their internal currency.
Enemies: the Mer government, the Yaun-Teel government, the Grand Bazaar
Ur’qwal’she Engineers — That secret part of Lumulan goverment that has dedicated millennia to the achievement of Perfection of Form, the mechanical marvel known as the Ur’qwal’she. They maintain a network of informants that vigilantly seek out rumors of lost dearthsteel artifacts. Should a rumor prove true, they recover the technology in order to recycle it into the machinery of the Ur’qwal’she. Perhaps even more xenophobic than others of their kind, in part exacerbated by their memories of what they were forced to do under the grip of the Kraken Occupation, they show no mercy to any non-Lumulan that even stumbles across their activities.
Some of these plots are obviously true; but by the same token, some of them seem completely implausible. Logic rarely keeps some from believing what they want (often desperately) to believe. There are even those that have built further complexities onto these secret societies. Some believe the Liberty Tide is a front from the Yaun-Teel government in order to eek out treacherous citizens. Others assert the Outliers of the Godless are acting with the Stoic State to expel the Church of Olyhydra from the Mer Currents. And still others state that is exactly what the Church wants, as an excuse to move into the forbidden Crèche of Civilization…
…and maybe all these plots are true.
“Where ignorance is enforced, poverty oppressive, and freedom denied, the belief in conspiracy flourishes…”
– Kouton rhetoric during the Occupation Trials