Icthara, the Voracious
Live to eat; eat to live. Consumption is the basic need of all living things, the act of taking in nutrition to keep the body alive. It is the current of life, cyclical, that all things need to thrive. Eat, eat again, eat more, and grow. Feed, consume, gorge, for you never know when you might eat again. Next time, it might be you serving as the meal. Bottom feeder or apex predator, aquatic flora or Vastness aberration, all must obey the most primal of all urges: eat to survive.
All exists to sate the Endless Hunger. Not just food, but the living are to consume all that can be digested: drink, drugs, even detritus. She is the Goddess of Gluttony, not Pride. The sunken bodies of the dead are as much a feast to Her as the freshest roe. Even the ley line nexuses fall prey to Icthara’s ravening. She sups upon their puissance; and like ambrosia, She greedily gobbles it down.
The Queen of the Feast single-mindedly travels across the water world’s seabeds, consuming everything in Her wake with equal relish.
Icthara, the Voracious, the Empress of Consumption, Queen of the Feast, the Endless Hunger
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Symbol: Two rows of three orange hooks, facing downward and inward.
Domains: Animal, Destruction, Evil, Magic, Travel
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Claw.
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Prey catcher (man catcher).
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic evil, neutral evil, lawful evil, true neutral.
Images of Icthara both vary widely and remain consistent. In all depictions, a humongous yet withering beast is described, gnarled in limb and gaunt in health. It’s skin or shell sags, and has an orangish tinge. But in truth, these beasts are not the Voracious but the transport for Icthara. The Goddess herself is found inside the beast’s mouth, rooted there in place of the tongue. Her avatar is that of a tongue louse, a parasitic arthropod that pincers and chokes the tongue or mandibles until they wither from blood loss. She then devours the gnarled muscle and replaces it with Her magnificence.
There, nestled within the tongueless or jawless mouth of the beast, She deprives her mount of most of the nutrition it consumes. This keeps Her mount in a constant state of hunger and forever foraging for more food that will never fill its empty belly. The orangish tinge of Her mount’s flesh or shell is due to icterus, and caused by a build up of toxins in the blood from such incredibly high levels of consumption. The endless quest for sustenance draws Icthara’s mount across the oceans of the Endless Blue like a zombie, forever seeking to slake the primal hunger within it. She leaves desolation behind Her as She and Her mount gluttonously extract every morsel of nourishment possible, even to the point of consuming the bodies of Her mounts when they have finally succumbed to her parasitic nature.
The Church of Icthara
Icthara has no formal church. Instead, Her altar is wherever food is served, thirst is quenched, or illicit medicine is subsumed. Her clergy is where ever a culinist prepares his kelaguen, a packbreeder slaughters her livestock, or alchemists prepare their tinctures. Every cook, vinter, and apothecary is an ersatz priest for the Empress of Consumption. Priests that cultivate their connection with the Queen of the Feast gain Her favor and the honorific of Poisonnier, which in turn gives them exceptional esteem in the eyes of true Ictharans. They are often found in the employ of governments or nobility, where their skills can be shown off on a regular basis (as is befitting Icthara). Poisonniers can find succor in any tavern or restaurant and expect to have their basic needs of room and board provided for them as a sign of supplication for Icthara’s bounty.
Shrines and Ceremonies
Ictharans celebrate their worship on a daily basis. Each of the five days of the week is dedicated to one of the religion’s methods of consumption. Every meal of the day is prepared in accordance to one of these five principles, as it is not just the amount of food that is important, but also the method of consumption: Ardenter, Praeporpere, Nimis, Laute, and Studiose.
The first day of the week is Ardenter, and it is Icthara’s will that all methods of consumption be made eagerly, avidly, and quickly. “Swallowing like a shark” is a common phrase for Ardenter eating, where gulping down food is only occasionally slowed by chewing. Ardenter meals tend to be pre-portioned to just mouth-sized chunks, to aid in the process of “shoveling food down your gullet”. Rarely is food sphereized on Ardenter, as a nod towards the more primitive times when meals where a frenzy of chum.
The next day is Praeporpere, wherein food is to be consumed too soon or at inappropriate times. This is generally celebrated by the consumption of raw foods or foods that are not denatured enough by kelaguen. Praeporpere meals are the “risky” meals, such as eating raw fugu flanks or indulging in repeated snacking during the day.
Nimis is the middle day of the week, and orthodox practitioners of Ictharanism feast on this day, eating excessive amounts and leaving great amounts of prepared food to go to waste. Meals become more like buffets, with courses being prepared without expectation of them being desired. The excess is to be left to rot or be fought over by scavengers.
Laute comes next, and on this day the choice of food and drink is made by its luxuriousness, exoticness, or costliness. The rarest meats, the most succulent kelp, and especially imported foodstuffs from across Elqua are save for meals on Laute.
The final day is Studiose, and Ictharans spend the whole day preparing food in the most elaborate and fancy ways possible. Emphasis is put upon the presentation of the meal, with more garnishes than actual food. The resultant food spheres are often more colorful and selection vastly more varied on Studiose, and it is not unheard of to arrange those spheres into mosaics.
The parallel between Icthara with Her mount and the artifact the Ur’qwal’she with its pilots is hard to ignore — a massive beast of deific perfection cradling the tiny life within. During the Kraken Occupation, many of the Ur’qwal’she engineers turned to Ictharans for help in secluding the Perfection in Form, hoping Her knowledge of oceanography would aid in hiding the Lumulan treasure. Those Lumulus Poisonniers that aided the engineers ensured their silence by severing their own tongues. It is said Icthara was so moved by this action that She ensured not a single one of them suffered at the whims of the Kraken. Folk lore has rumored that consuming one of these sacred severed tongues allows the eater to commune with the Empress of Consumption, and erroneously believe this is why Lumulus consume their own shed chitin.
Icthara is in many ways the Matron Saint of Kelaguen. Crops of ricelqua planted in Her honor are said to grow faster and more hardy, while acari fruit grow larger and more robustly. As such, many of the Ictharan daily rites are an intrinsic part of culinist practices.
The Order of Anthozoa are an errant branch of coral shapers (xanthellaettes) that see their bending magic as detrimental to the health of the world. They support Icthara’s feeding upon ley line nexuses as a means of reducing the damage other xanthellaettes wreak as they shape coral.
The Blue Dragoneers, a society of assassins that specializes in poisoning, often court Poisonniers into their ranks. Poisonniers are often perfectly suited for delivering poisoned meals whose side effects appear more due to gluttony than butchery.
Poisonniers seeking rare meats and other delicacies can turn to the Vastness Hunters. The taboo of consuming the flesh of aberrations can bring a premium to Poisonnier pockets and acclaim to their fame.
Xanthellaettes generally detest Icthara, as She has come to represent the Lumulus, just as they have become linked to Ahto. Her feeding upon ley lines is seen as detrimental to the “purity” of their coral magic. However, Icthara will aid Xanthellaettes whenever possible, despite the xanthellaette’s grudges.
The Church of Olyhydra faults Icthara worship for its hedonistic indulgence in sensual eating. Olyhydra emphasizes a more stoic, austere approach of outright denial of pleasurable things.
Relations with other Religions
Worshipers of the Source see Icthara as a parasite, a festering tick on the skin of the Source that is gorging itself on its animus vitae. Believers of the Source contend that Icthara shows no respect for the Sea Mother, the Source of All Life, and charges that the Voracious’ dogma is a destructive current to follow.
Gula of the Gluttony: As Gula, Icthara loses the mount aspect of Her divine visage, and instead becomes simply so corpulent She can barely move under her own power. She manipulates, cajoles, and forces the others of the Pantheon to do her bidding as a parasite would.
Nihilist Gyre: A reformation faction that is antagonistic towards Icthara’s cavalier attitude that there is an endless supply of fish in the sea. This cult that claims the Maelstrom is the work of Icthara, resulting from the damage Her predation and scavenging have done to the aquatic environment.
“There is no love purer than the love of eating;
When everything can be eaten, everything is loved…”
— an Ictharan table grace.
Suminarae, the True Lie
Suminarae is a contradictory Goddess that makes sense. She is Goddess of beauty and peace, the lie of the outside belying what is within. Not all that is beautiful on the inside is reflected on the outside, just as inner peace does not quell the unrest of others. That is where the trickery comes in, the subterfuge, the lies.
She spouses the lies that heal, the passing falsehoods that make up idle talk. The perfect false self protect the flawed true self from harm. This is the image of substance, the protection of deceit. This is why She believes in keeping the populace ignorant, as ignorance is blissful peace. The romantic metropolis as opposed to the true city, the beautiful seascape versus the monotonous blue, there is ugliness in the truth, and balm in the lies.
It was Suminarae that found the world of Elqua for the Pantheon, that slaughtered its indigenous pisceans to make room for the Pantheon’s immigration. The race that loathed itself, that denied their own worth, beckoned to Her from across the planes. They were practically begging for sweet release, and it is Suminarae that now lies about that horror, that covers it up with the lie of omission.
But the Insidious Doubt has more secrets that define Her. Perhaps the most unexpected lie of Suminarae is that She is not whom Her flock worships. She is, in fact, the shard of Trishna known as Tornesh, the male twin/face of the Binity of Desire. Be it the seduction of lies, the lust for the beauty, or the luck of random chance, Tornesh is now a twisted falsehood of His former half-self, a fully free Goddess at peace with Her lies.
Suminarae, the Omission, the True Lie, the Hidden Truth, Insidious Doubt, She Who Knows, Malvy of the Deceit
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Symbol: Pearl clenched in a scorpionfish’s mouth.
Domains: Chaos, Healing, Luck, Travel, Trickery.
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Spine
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Spear
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic evil, Chaotic good, chaotic neutral, true neutral.
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Home of the Gods
The Gods of Elqua are unique in that their realm is the very waters around their worshipers. There is no equivalent to a Mount Olympus off of some abyssal trench or a perfect realm nestled in another dimension. The gods of the Pantheon are found in the very waters of the Endless Blue. Not any one set spot, but freely roaming the oceans like the other denizens of the water world. The Gods are out there, in the blue, to be experienced by the worthy, the unlucky, or the damned.
The souls of the departed pisceans are believed to either remain, disembodied, among the currents (such as with Ancestor Worshipers) or are absorbed by their higher power (like with those that believe in the Source of all life). This is where the Church of Olyhydra in different from her deific brethren: She promises her loyal followers an eternal respite from strife as they bask in her presence. Even the Pantheon, with all its lessons and stories, only insinuates that death is the final end. Olyhydra promises there is something more, and to a subjugated populace, that is an enticing idea.
Civilization and the Vastness
The Known World of Elqua is currently experiencing what would be called a burgeoning Renaissance. Chemistry in the form of alchemy is being codified. A form of concrete that sets in water has been developed. The Godless are actively attempting to educate the masses. Diplomacy between the Fluid Nations was achieved with the eponymous Fluid Nations Accord. Scientific observation has led to the rise of the College of Doctors and “modern medicine”. Fauna are tamed by Packbreeders and flora cultivated by Culinists. Even the formation of the Pearl Papacy in the Church of Olyhydra has heralded an oncoming time of change and enlightenment.
But above the waves, in the reviled hell known as the Vastness, the wilderness is anything but tame. The surface world is a savage place, populated by massive monstrosities and lethal landforms. On the scattered islands that make up the only landmass above the water, aberrations that can only be described as alien dinosaurs rule the world. Their form and function terrify the aquatic pisceans below to such a degree that the world above is universally shunned. It is the antithesis of life in the nurturing waters, thin and vacuous, swarming with horrible grotesqueness and terminal to all life.
Imagine the soul rending fear early pisceans must have felt when they dared peek up out of the water, their final sight the massive jaws of an aberration clamping down on them. Or the visage of his oblivious friends as suddenly the waters explode in a swirling froth of red and their friend is suddenly… gone. Of talons and claws, smashing through the water, skewering the unwary and dragging them from the seabed with such utter force. The shock wave, both physical and emotional, radiating outward as death plucks another meal from amongst the pisceans. The cacophonous sound of thrashing gone in an instant, left with nothing but the soft sloshing of the ocean fading in its absence.
“The Vastness is a hungry, lethal expanse that will feed on any life
foolish enough to swim too close to the ebbing tide.”
Portable Forges of the Oresmiths
Lumulus that understand the working of metal become Oresmiths. They join one of the eight Forgeclans (from which they take their surname) and ply their skills make lumulated metal. This is a process of metalsmithing that makes the metal immune to corrosion from salt water.
The main tool needed for this art is the forge, but you cannot light a fire under the waves. In order to be able to smelt metal of ore, Oresmiths use thermal vents that litter the sea floor of the Lumulus Basin. They set up a large, cement-like block that is anchored to the sea floor over a deep sea vent, also known as a thermal vent. As the hot water automatically rises, the surrounding waters can maintain a more habitable temperature. The portable forge captures the rising hot water and absorbs the heat into its walls. In many ways, it acts as a convection oven, able to reach hotter temperatures that those of the hydrothermal vent itself. With enough accumulated, smelting of basic metals can be done.
The process is similar for lumulated metal, but instead of a thermal vent that releases super-heated water, it must overhang a chemical seep. Chemical seeps are much like thermal vents, but the water is inundated by other chemicals that the Oresmith can use in the forging of metal. The belief is that lumulated metal can only be forged over special seeps, the likes of which no Oresmith would ever divulge.
The Locanthic Pueblos
As a nomadic race, the Locanth follow the schools of fish that serve as their sustenace as they migrate. The Locanth eventually learned and began to predict the pattern of these migrations. With that knowledge, the found certain places that they could camp at during the season. Those places were fairly regular, so the Locanth built more permanent housing, their pueblos, so there could be shelter awaiting them ahead as the herds migrated. As the seasons changed, the Locanth would move from seasonal housing to the next, freeing some of the Locanth’s energy and resources from the need to find and erect shelter on a repeated basis.
What this also means is that, out of season, the pueblos remain unoccupied. Pisceans friendly to the Locanth have been allowed to rest in these pueblos as they traveled, and eventually a code of conduct emerged that anyplace where Locanthic pueblos are found is neutral water for the weary traveler. The empty houses welcome anyone that leaves them in the same condition in which they were found. It is by mutual unspoken agreement that no hostilities may take place at the pueblos: all are welcome.
The Pueblos are usually somewhat out of the way from the more traveled currents, so as to not adversely affect the native life. Conversely, this also means the inhabitants rarely come into contact with predators while inside the buildings. Usually the pueblos are built into the side of a steep hill or rock outcropping, and resemble a barnacle or clam. Multiple buildings are clustered around each other, with portals along the outermost edge and connecting the individual buildings together into a massive network of chambers.
So long as the pueblos are treated honorably, any wayward piscean can find sanctuary within its walls. Those that don’t eventually find karma catching up to them as Locanth destroy any defiled pueblo.
The Shape of Homeseas
No map can illustrate the shape of nations perfectly, short of creating a globe. Flattening out a sphere onto a rectangular space results in a warping of shapes near the poles. But on Elqua, the problem is magnified by depth.
Nations as we know them are mostly sea level to about one kilometer higher. On Elqua, the homeseas are essentially inverted: the land lowers instead of rises. However, the habitable land area under the water reaches five times that downward, and the further down you swim, the harder it is to survive. This means the Fluid Nations are more like bowls than plates.
Further muddying the situation is the medium: water. Water absorbs light much faster than air. This means, if you extend the borders of a homesea directly upward, most of the contents of the “bowl” are a featureless, horizonless blue. Areas like this cannot be inhabited easily (floating islands like Atlantica might be used to accomplish it).
The final problem is the shallow waters that line the borders of the homeseas are incredibly dangerous areas to live in. The waters are so shallow a piscean would have to crawl flat against the sand to stay underwater. With the predator aberrations that populate the surface world in such numbers, these areas of sea are completely ill suited for habitation. As a result, all homeseas relegate these expanses as “no Mer’s seas”, a neutral area where indigenous life can thrive without the worry of piscean encroachment.
With this mind, while looking at the map of the Known World might seem like the Fluid Nations are larger than the continents we have in real life, those areas are mostly composed of uninhabitable expanses of water.