The ancient Elquans could not help but look up from the safe confines of the world’s oceans. Though mostly in fear of the aberrations above, a few pisceans focused passed the blinding terror to see a refracted view of the Vastness. Warped through the refractive waters of the Shore, the Vastness appeared to curve in around them, mirroring the slopes of the sea floor as they reached the Shelf. Trying to make sense of what they saw, those piscean could only liken existence in terms of what they already knew — in this case, a common egg.
Eggs are plentiful in the ocean, with the majority of life on Elqua being oviparitous — giving birth to embryos encased in a protective membrane. The parallels between what the inquisitive pisceans saw above their homeseas and what they saw with every new generation were blatant: Embryo, albumen, and yolk.
The waters that surrounded those primitive observers pooled in craters and crevasses of the planets subaquatic surface. The curvature of the ocean floor as it reaches upward toward the Vastness formed a basin, just as the embryo nestles at the bottom of an egg, with its curved spine along the outer edge. It is not coincidence that the mountain range known as the Spine of the World wraps around the borders the Known World.
Above the water, the pale sky of the Vastness blankets the world. This is the albumen, the unbreathable gap between life and the nurturing yolk. A massively wide swath of suffocating vacuum, only ended at the horizon by the blue of the water, the sky loomed over the waters teeming with embryonic life.
Amidst this alien expanse smoldered the sun. A great sphere of amber heat and brightness, the sun illuminates the Vastness. Its light seeping down into the cool waters, spreading out and dissolving into the ecosystem. Like a yolk, feeding, nourishing the life waters. That flickering, radiant spot arced across the Vastness as far back as piscean memory extended, always glaring down at the cool depths accusingly, red-eyed and unrelenting.
That simplistic model of existence is what became the ancient belief of the Source. The Source is the egg. The Source is all life. The Source is birth, growth, and death. Dive deeper into the water, you become one with the Source. Break the waves into the Vastness above, only death prevails.
The Source, the Beginning, Life Mother, Élan, Birth of All.
Symbol: A off-white sphere with a blue crescent along the bottom and a golden sphere off center to the right.
Domains: Animal, Healing, Plant, Protection, Water.
Preferred Unguis (weapon): None.
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Natural Unguis.
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic neutral, lawful neutral, neutral evil, neutral good, true neutral.
Symbol of the Source
The Source has no physical form, and thus no specific shape. Instead, the Source is seen as ever-present, part of the natural order of life. The Source is as vital a part of the birth of a new fry as she is the inevitability of death. Divinity is found in every moment of life, the actions performed in the mundane process of survival.
Worship of the Source
Worshipers of the Source revere nature and the progression of life. As such, druids, rangers, and other environmentally aligned classes are drawn to the Life Mother’s school. The religion has a strong presence in the Locanth Gulf, where the culture is strongly tide to the cyclical migration of ocean fauna. Professions such as packbreeders and culinists honor the Source at least in passing for Her blessings.
Shrines and Ceremonies
Wherever wilderness grows is a shrine to the Source. Coral reefs, kelp forests, schooling fish — all of these and more are holy sites where the Source can be revered. Any place where life ekes out existence is fit for veneration of the Birth of All.
Ceremonies, in contrast, are far more likely where pisceans interact with the environment. Source traditions in the past gave birth celebrations to honor most every step of the modern life cycle: the spawning seasons of fish, the time for harvesting kelp, birthing of new livestock and the slaughter of fauna to serve as food. Even more “nature hostile” activities like mining granite and building shelter have resulted in prayers urging the Élan of the world to bless the endeavor.
As Source worship is a non-codified religion, it is hard to form allied relationship with other organizations without being an organization itself. Despite this, there are some groups that have links to Source devotion. The Order of the Anthozoa challenges the use of Xanthellaette magic because of the alleged damage it causes to the world’s corals, and often invokes the name of the Life Mother as justification for their actions. Then there are the Cruor Druids, also known as the Bloom Druids. They often use their power to produce red tide as a terror weapon on the unprotected. Otherwise, any alliance would be more with the individual that exalts the Source than any official church.
There is little overt opposition to Source worship. It is hard to argue with the intrinsic message that life should be honored for its complexity and diversity. Despite this, there are still some organizations that speak against the reverence of nature. Olyhydra, for example, teaches that the waters and all it contains were put there for Her faithful to harvest and exploit in Her name. The culture of the Chelon also share this philosophy, treating most of the natural resources of Elqua as unlimited in supply and exist expressly for exploitation. Without the cohesion of a church infrastructure, believers in the Source have little collective power to work against those opposed organizations. Thus they are forced to react in small ways around localized events.
Relations with other Religions
Belief in the Source is looked down upon by the Pantheon/Idolatry as a backwards practice. Without an avatar that can be comprehended as an individual, Pantheonists treat it as little better than backwards superstition. Yet, there is a kernel of understanding with the Ictharans. Icthara, in Her voracious hunger, espouses the respect of life given for the sake of food. And the clergy of Sekolah find it difficult to promote rising to the top of the food chain without giving due to the competition faced along the way.
Cystomite Cults — Posited with the question, “What rests outside the shell of the Source”, most pisceans would respond flatly with “nothing”. However, there are some that claim outside the known is the Elsewhere, and there the first aberrations scurry along the shell like lice. These Cystomites scuttle across the outer surface of the Source, seeking tiny cracks in its protective shell through which to pierce their proboscis and drink the source of animus vitae. Cultists of Cystomites believe they will be granted boons for enabling the alien aberrations in their feeding upon the Source.
“All of piscean history is a nightmare of Élan…”
— the consensus of the Cruor Druids.
The Shelf: Illustrated
Deeper than the Shoals exists a world of darkness, where the sun’s light cannot penetrate and the weight of the surrounding water presses in incessantly until it crushes even shell. This is the area known as the Shelf, and it is perhaps the largest and most mysterious area of Elqua. It is here that thermal vents spout scalding water upward, where chemical seeps belch strange compounds into the ocean. Deep trenches hide immense creatures in their fathomless depths, and the very liquid around you leeches the warmth from your veins til they freeze. A constant snowfall of tiny organic particles drifts down from the upper zones like a lazy, ever-present winter. Yet despite this utterly inhospitable environment, life continues to thrive as it does everywhere in the Endless Blue.
Enshrouded in darkness, life here has adapted to the extreme conditions. Some creatures evolved ultravision to pick out their prey from the surrounding inkiness, while others generate their own light through bioluminescence. Strange fauna anchor themselves to gashes in the sea bed and feed upon the hydrocarbon-rich emissions escaping from the world’s core. Even other forms of life have altered themselves to survive the harsh conditions, blind and transparent, yet eerily cognizant of the surrounding waters.
The Shelf is where the water world’s secrets hide. The Undertow, a massive sinkhole that swallows up thousands of gallons of seawater an hour, lays hidden in the Chelon Sea. Many of the Spurs — enigmatic crystalline outcroppings jutting out from the silt — lay invisible to the naked eye. Monsters of the deep, such as the Leviathan, the beast that cost the First Khan his tusk, call the Shelf home. There are lesser mysteries as well, for the Lumulus utilize the chemical seeps in the creation of their metals, forged to perfection in the volcanic heat of hydro-thermal vents.
Domenico created a vista for his final illustration of the Shelf, including strange, alien looking plant life, scattered among the myriad smoldering underwater smokers and chemical stacks. The little effects he added, like the rippling refraction from the boiling water escaping the crevasse, are amazing. Check out Domenico’s Facebook page for more examples of his work and his amazing grasp of color.
The Shoals: Illustrated
While the sun-lit waters of the Shore seem idyllic, it is the horizon-less ocean of the Shoals that gives the Endless Blue setting its name and there where the majority of piscean life unfolds.
The Shoals is the second zone of Elqua’s oceans, and like the Shore it is defined by the amount of light that penetrates the depths. Starting where the wavelengths of yellow light are absorbed by the surrounding water, the Shoals extend down until about 300 feet below the surface, where finally the last bits of blue light fail to reach deeper. Here, in this zone of cooler coloration, life thrives in a constant state of shade.
Just as the Shore is prime for aquaculture, the Shoals is perfect for shelter. The Shoals is where the majority of settlements exist. There is enough light to enable pisceans to watch out not only for oceanic predators such as barracudas, piranhas, or sharks, but severely lethal aquatic catastrophes like red tides, gulfweed sargass0s, and undersea eruptions. Along this band of the sea floor is where you will find the cities and villages that house the piscean populations. Above is too close to the Vastness and too dangerous; below is too close to the Source and too hallowed.
This is also the place where most of the seas’ fauna swell in numbers. Great schools of fish, casts of crabs, and myriad other creatures live in abundance among the Shoals. Here the pisceans themselves become the apex predators, hunting and capturing the native animals for use as food, clothing, and sport.
Domenico captures a sense of “pre-twilight” darkness of the Shoals, when sun has finally set but there still lingers the final rays of murky illumination along the horizon. Check out some of his other work on his DeviantArt page, and maybe even catch a glimpse of something else he’s working on for the Endless Blue…
The Shore: Illustrated
The world beneath the surface of Elqua’s waters is by no means a homogeneous horizon. Not only is the sea bed littered with myriad biomes, but the sea floor itself varies. Pisceans categorize the waters into three different zones. These zones, based on the depth of the sea floor, determine the purpose of the territory in each homesea.
The first of these zones is the Shore. It is comprised of the area stretching from where water reaches the land to the depths at which the warmer colors of the spectrum naturally absorbed by the surrounding water. At 15 feet, the wavelengths of the color red are filtered. It takes another 10 feet for orange to fade, and around the 35 to 45 ft mark, it becomes yellow’s turn to wane. This depth of water, where lighter colors taper off and the darker one close in, marks the boundary between the Shore and the next zone.
Following the lessening wavelengths of light is important for aquaculture — the science of growing food submerged in water. Plant life, be it based on the green chlorophyll found in phytoplankton or the purple retinal used by rhodoarchaea, needs light to photosynthesize. If the plant cannot make food from available light, it inevitably dies. This makes the areas of the Shore where most all of the sun’s light penetrates prime land for raising crops. Deeper than the Shore, and not enough light reaches the fields for the plants to grow significantly. But despite this, the Shore is not a farmer‘s paradise.
So close to the surface, the aberrations of the Vastness prey upon the flora and fauna of the Shore. With waters so clear you can see to the sandy bottom, pisceans must constantly keep themselves and their livestock protected from predators above the waves. The sky lancer is an example of a surface aberration that can spot prey from above and dive down into the water to skewer it. Unfortunately, many of the aberrations above eclipse the sky lancer in size and reach…
Here we see an example of the shallow waters of the Shore, colorfully illustrated by Domenico Neziti. Domenico has done work as a colorist on Dust Wars for Image Comics, Star Wars: Empire #38 & 39 for Dark Horse Comics, and more recently illustrations for Green Ronin Publishing. Working for the Endless Blue, I think he’s outdone himself here. The rippling of the water above, and the criss-crossed refraction of light on the sea bed are amazing!
Check back next week for more of Domenico’s work, and a glimpse into the next zone of life in the Endless Blue!
The Vexillifer — Chronicler of the Tides
The oceans of Elqua have run red with blood just as often as they flowed their welcoming blue. From the unpredictable outbreak of the Shellback Wars, through the rise and fall of the Cetacean Hordes, to the world-shaking domination of the Kraken Occupation, conflict has left devastation in its wake. No nation has been spared the catastrophic havoc of war.
The disruptive effect of warfare led to the creation of the Vexillifer. Chaos in the heat of battle leaves even the most hardened veteran disoriented, and the aftermath of that combat definitely leaves those living in those places bewildered and traumatized. War destroyed their homes, broke apart their families, and left them adrift…
Bringing order to that strife is the purpose of vexillifers. Vexillifers are essentially witnesses for navies. They have the responsibility to keep their company in cohesion, to chronicle the tides of battle, and to codify for posterity the consequences of war. They are also burdened with the responsibility of notifying the next of kin of their fallen comrades.
Read the rest of this entry »
Life in the Sahaguin Lagoons could be idyllic, with ample farming land and abundant shelter. Despite the tropical paradise of the homesea, the Sahaguin culture makes daily life a survive-or-perish ordeal. Sahaguin must prove their worthiness to survive on a daily basis, as only the fittest will survive. It is by winnowing away the weak that the Sahaguin become stronger, and the Sahaguin race will survive.
And thus ends Naiche’s contribution to the Endless Blue. He did wonderful work, and hopefully he will be able to revisit the setting sometime in the future…
If it can be said truthfully that the civilized races disdain the primitive species, then there can be no doubt that they all despise on the lowly Ceph. Abandoned by their dark masters on the eve of complete domination over the oceans of Elqua, the dreaded Kraken were transmogrified from apex predators to bottom feeders.
Having lost their grip on the Known World, the piscean races turned savagely upon their once-powerful overlords. So horrible was the retribution that the race now called Ceph was almost wiped out. Desperate to survive, the Ceph fled and hid in the no man’s seas between the Fluid Nations. There they dwelt in secret, hidden among the kelp forests and coral caves, fearful for their lives, but sometimes raiding the wary that wandered too close to their waters.
The hatred for them boiled down as the years past, and the Ceph eventually became known more as a pathetic nuisance rather than valid threat. The Ceph reluctantly returned to the piscean homeseas, only to be treated by bigoted pisceans as vermin. It has been a slow, painful process to worm their way into piscean life. Doing so has forced the Ceph to eke out pitiful existences by scavenging off the detritus of the other races. But ingratiate themselves they have, even if it means being treated as the world’s second class of sentience.
Check out Naiche’s Instagram page for more samples of his work.