Endless Blue – Week 130 – Fossa Gull, the Fool Drowner   Leave a comment

Biology

Fossa Gull, the Fool Drowner

All sea hags are unique. When the echoes of the First Verse change an individual, the alterations are seldom the same, even when the species of piscean is in common. But the Fool Drowner is a league beyond that. Fossa Gull is perhaps the most singular of hags, as she appears to be a transformed kelpygmy dragged through the most horrifying metamorphosis.

What was once her tail now drift, splayed out, a tangle of vines like the threads unraveling on a broken loom. Wickedly jagged thorns protrude from her fingertips, and her teeth sit loose in their sockets. In her eye sockets flat, wide leaves wither. Her hair lays plastered to her scalp, wilted algea that hangs lifeless despite the surround currents. Upon her stooped head rests her treasure, her crown.

It’s unclear where the crown ends and the kelp of her body begins, but the crown consists of intricately woven, yet still living, vines. The loop around, bind and tie a collection of flotsam into a mosaic. The shape, color, size, and arrangement of this detritus can shift magically, and play out the scenes of violence and cruelty that bubble inside her mind. In the center of all this likes a pale pearl inside an obsidian cup. It twitches side to side, almost suspiciously, making the pearl resemble a blind eye. Above this flawed pearl are three smaller pearls — one white, one brown, and one black. They move in perfect time with Elqua’s moons, and are so accurate you can tell time by them.

The Fool Drowner, like all sea hags, demands to live in isolation, shunning any of her neighbors. However, Fossa does not suffer fools lightly, and as her epithet belies, she does not hold back from dealing with those that trespass into her territory. Stories tell of how the Fool Drowner’s vine-tentacles lash out like undulating moray eels, invading a fool’s babbling mouth and filling their lungs up with swelling seaweed. The tiny tendril tips of her vines, wiggling, peeking out from between the victim’s gills like worms, eventually drowning her victims despite being submerged in breathable water.

Fossa Gull prefers to lurk in the vertical forests — clumps of incredibly long bladder-wort seaweed with their roots in the ocean bed and its shoots reaching up to the surface of the waves. These columns of seaweed are found all over the Known World, and can be a small as 5′ diameter circles to as large as whole valleys. Fossa resides in one such valley, Ghoul Gull Gulch, also known eponymously as the Valley of the Hag. The gulch that bisects the valley is full of thick vegetation, with columns of seaweed rising surface-ward dotted along its length. She fades from patch to patch, able to summon kelpygmy packs from the very foliage around her.

Unique Abilities

Every sea hag is unique, and the transformation into… what they are to become… grants abilities found no where else in the Endless Blue. Fossa Gull has the following unique abilities, all of which can be used at will, without effort, an unlimited number of times:

Kelp Walk (Su)

Fossa Gull can step into a patch of kelp and be transported to any other area of kelp growth within 1d10x100 miles as a move action. She need only be able to fit within the plant growth at both ends of this travel to use the ability.

Hide in Kelp (Su)

Fossa Gull cannot be seen, heard, or smelled while within a kelp forest. This ability cannot be willingly turned off, and requires no action on her part to enact it. However, the effect does end the moment she steps out of the plant growth. As with Kelp Walk, the Fool Drowner need only fit within the area of plant growth for this ability to work.

Command Kelpygmies (Su)

Fossa Gull can summon a number of kelpygmies from the surrounding foliage. This amount is limited to double the number of non-kelpygmies in the immediate vicinity. Fossa can replace any fallen kelpygmy in the next round, but cannot increase the number beyond her limit.

Based on the Command Plants spell, but the kelpygmies so commanded obey Fossa’s directions without resistance, even when crossing into suicidal or otherwise obviously harmful actions. Shambling mounds summoned by commanded kelpygmies are also under Fossa’s dominion.

Sea Hag Template

The world began as the First Verse was sung, and remnants of that primordial music still echo in the deepest oceans. There, the heavily pressurized waters distorted the melody, dragging the notes out, pulling the key down. What once was the symphony of creation is now the dissonance of corruption. Those that lose themselves in this eldritch resonance are torn apart — physically, mentally, and spiritually — and recreated, never for the better.

Victims of the sea hag transformation become ugly to others, with their eyelids growing shut, their nails elongating, and their tails splitting into multiple strips, like tentacles.

Creating a Sea Hag

“Sea Hag” is an acquired template that can be applied to any living, corporeal piscean (Aquatic Humanoid) species in the Endless Blue Setting (hereafter referred to as “base creature”). It is not available to Player Characters, and gaining the template immediately forces the PC to become an NPC under the control of the DM.

Size and Type: Size of the base creature usually remains unchanged, while the Type becomes Monstrous Humanoid (Aquatic).

Attacks: The base creature’s natural weapons, if any, elongate and curl. This gives them a natural attack at the base creature’s base attack bonus. As a full action, the base creature can make 2 of these attacks.

Special Attacks: A sea hag gains the special attacks of Rend, Rake, and Improved Grab:

Rend (Ex): A sea hag that hits with both claw attacks latches onto the opponent’s body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an extra 2d6+10 points of damage.

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, the sea hag must hit a medium- or smaller opponent with a claw attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. The sea hag can then then wrap her tail around the victim, pinning the victim and enabling it to perform a Rake on subsequent rounds.

Rake (Ex): A sea hag can attack a grappled foe with both claws at no penalty. This attack is made as a +13 melee attack bonus and inflicts 1d6+7 damage on successful hit.

Unique Ability (Su): The corruption of the First Verse grants the victim abilities unlike any other. These abilities can be activated at will, with no concentration needed, an unlimited number of times per day.

These unique abilities are templated off of spells found in the Endless Blue Campaign Setting. Instead of simply reproducing the spell, the effect becomes a supernatural ability (Su) and is altered in some manner to match the character’s theme. For example, Fossa Gull’s unique ability Kelp Walk is based on the normally Kraken-only Shadow Walk spell.

A transformed piscean can gain multiple sea hag unique abilities, as determined by the DM.

Damage: Those base creatures with existing natural weapons gain an additional 1d4 points of damage, while those without gain talons that deal 1d4+4 damage.

Special Qualities: All sea hags gain Spell Resistance 14. They also possess the form of currentsense called tracescent to 60’/12 cubes. Normally blind, sea hags are aware of their environment through the ability to taste even the most trace amounts of perspiration or other bodily scents. Sea hags are often characterized as darting their tongues out, lapping at the water to find their prey. Treat this ability like the Blightsight extraordinary ability.

Horrific Appearance (Su): Looking upon a hag is so revolting that those that do must make a Fortitude save at DC 13 or suffer 2d6 Strength damage. This cannot reduce the stat below 0, but at 0 the victim becomes helpless. Those suffering this damage or those that initially saved cannot be affected again for another 24 hours. The Difficulty Challenge is Charisma based.

Feats: A sea hag gains the Alertness, Blind-fight, and Toughness feats.

Organization: Solitary

Challenge Rating: Base creature +3, modified by unique abilities. Each unique ability incurs a Challenge Rating adjustment of +1 per two levels of the spell, rounded down. Fossa Gull’s Kelp Walk incurs a CR of +3, Command Kelpygmies adds +2, but her Hide in Kelp does not increase her CR.

Treasure: Most sea hags possess a sea hag crown of their own making, and guard it jealously. Otherwise, standard distribution found on sentient pisceans.

Alignment: Sea hags are capricious and cruel, driven mad by the echoing of distorted First Verse snippets. Their alignments circle around chaotic evil, ranging into neutral evil or chaotic neutral. True neutral sea hags are rare, but not unheard of, notably the crone Gorgon during the Kraken Occupation.

Advancement: As base creature. However, the act of transforming into a sea hag prohibits the base creature from gaining levels in any class or prestige class that requires being trained or is dependent of their race. Sea hags are repulsive to their previous species, and though they may have been piscean at one time, are no longer so — thus cannot enter/advance in classes like Versesinger, Forgesmith, or Xanthellaette. They maintain whatever levels and skills they already possessed at the time of transformation into a sea hag.

Level Adjustment: +5

It seems to be true,
that what one kelpygmy knows,
all kelpygmies know.

If such be the truth,
the echoes Fossa Gull heard
drives all their hatred?

Was it the First Verse
the song that gave us all life
that turned them on us?

— Kouton haiku-soliloquy

Endless Blue – Week 129 – Coveted Trinkets and Cursed Treasures   1 comment

Archaeology

Coveted Trinkets and Cursed Treasures

The races of the Endless Blue have accomplished so much in history. By their very will and ingenuity, the created architectural marvels and innovative philosophies that have made Elqua the world it is today. But not everything has been the result of inspiration and perspiration. Magic has left its mark indelibly in the chronicles of Elqua. Wondrous magical items can be found among the waves of the water world.

Aboleth Skum Doll — A fetish replica made by Aboleth to control their Skum slaves.  They are created in the same process that alters the victim into a unresistant servant, and aids in enforcing that domination.  The unethical would desire to use these voodoo dolls for their own nefarious purposes.

Conch Horn of Sending — Made in pairs, these conch shells are magically linked. There is no known limit to the range of these wondrous items, and as such are highly prized by military organizations and governments.

Blowing into one will make its mate emit a sound.  Placing the now sounding shell to the ear allows a verbal message to be received. There is no limit to the length of these messages, but each time the speaker and listener switch roles, the conch horn held by the speaker must be blown into again. This makes dialogs difficult, but listening to a monologue extremely easy.

Delphiz Fife — A magical dolphin whistle, where by playing one of three tunes will summon 1 dolphin, 1d2 irrawaddy, or 1d3 vaquita. The animals must be within four hundred + 50 feet per uninterrupted round of playing.  For each 50 feet the dolphin(s) need to travel delays their arrival by 1 round.  The tune must be played continually until the dolphins appear.  Once arrived, the piscean must make a DC 10 Perform (hydrocurrent) check.  Success means the dolphin(s) will obey the summoner; failure results in them frenzying and attacking the summoner.  The DC increases by +5 for each time the delphiz fife was used in the previous 28 hour-period.

Ephemeral Fins — This set of thin, gossamer ribbers are worn over the tail fins. They mask any traceable taste/odor left behind the wearer.  Makes the use of Bloodscent or Currentsense when tracking the wearer impossible, dispersing the scent in the water until it is undetectable.

Ephod of the Currents — This apron-like piece of clothing is worn over the pelvis and attached to the belt.  It is embroidered in a soothing, wavy pattern.  The wearer of an ephod of the currents never tires while traveling on the currents under their own power.  Useful for scouts that escort merchants along the trade streams, the Liga Synarr not only use them regularly on the Pecuniary Stream, but personalize them with the Liga Synarr crest.

Gizzard Stones — At first glance, these seem to just be some well worn stones found anywhere along the ocean floor. But on closer inspection, each of these one-inch stones has the unmistakable markings of having been ground against each other.

An indispensable tool for culinists, gizzard stones are small, smooth oval rocks, coming in sets of three or more.  Swallowing the stones prevents the swallower from suffering the effect of poison as the gizzard stones absorb the toxin.  However, the stones also absorb any other “unnatural” material, thus preventing the sought after effects of alcohol, potions, or kelaguen.

Goggles of Ultravision — One of the key creations by the Rebellion during the Occupation, these goggles are sturdily made lenses of obsidian set into frames that are held if in front of the eyes by a strap of anglerfish leather.

The goggles give the wearer the ability to see into the ultraviolet spectrum.  If the wearer already has that ability, the goggles extend its range by 15 feet.

With ultravision, the piscean can pick out items and creatures that are camouflaged — ie, their disguise is derived from pigmentation that matches the surroundings.  A source of ultraviolet light is still required for this power to work. These are prized wondrous items, and often have become family heirlooms passed down by survivors of the Occupation.

Harpoon of Holding — This item can be any spear, trident, or halberd. This weapon can be identified by the multitude of rear-facing barbs on each tine and the rope attached to the other end. When used in combat, upon a successful damage roll the harpoon embeds into the flesh of a target. No amount of force will pull the harpoon free; instead, the victim must cut his own flesh to pry the barbed-head out. The attacker can use the rope as a leash, preventing the escape of the victim. Or course, there is nothing stopping the victim from heading straight toward the piscean holding the other end of the rope…

Net of Capture — This magic net appears as a masterpiece of artisanship, with crossing ropes woven into each other instead of knotted around each other. The hem is double-stiched, with a pull cord to tighten the net closed.

The net of capture possesses two distinct powers: the first negates the drag of any creature trapped within, making it extremely easy to overcome the thrashing of even the most powerful swimmer. The second power is it bestows a -5 penalty to escape artist checks to free one’s self from the net’s grasp.

Portable Blow Hole — A crude name for a crude creation, this item takes the form of a thick band of inorganic material in the shape of an oval. A truly vile item, this clamps over the mouth of a piscean and wraps around the head, locking seamlessly in place. It prevents its victim from breathing in water. In order not to asphyxiate, they must travel to the surface of the ocean and expose the clamp to the Vastness. With the intake vent located on the back of the head, this leaves the bearer in a vulnerable position while breathing — exposed to the openness of the Vastness, and facing away from any possible encroach of the surface aberrations. It is removed via either a remove curse spell or the death of the bearer.

Puffercloak — These cloaks have highly mottled coloration, covered in spots or swirls like a finger print.  When the wearer suffers a successful hit, the cloak instantly inflates like a balloon, giving the wearer +10 temporary hit points.  When inflated, the spots/swirls on the puffercloak expand proportionately, and shrink in size with each lost hit point.  After losing those hit points, the cloak ruptures and deflates, requiring it to be repaired in order to function again.

Ring of Buoyancy — Easily confused with the ring of depth, a ring of buoyancy makes the wearer immune to the effects of decompression sickness (known to most pisceans as “the Pull” or “the bends”).  Bearers automatically pass any Pull (bends) test, but must still make Concentration checks to act under the increased/decreased water pressure.  The ring appears made of an intricate weaving of blue-tinged silver wires in an irregular pattern.

Ring of Depth — This ring consists of three different layers of solid gemstone — blue chalcedony, turquoise, and lapis lazuli — polished to a glass smooth texture.  Anyone wearing a ring of depth gains the ability to adjust to different depths.  This magical ring allows races that are native to the Shore or Shoals to survive the tremendous pressures of the Shelf, and vice versa.  It allows the wearer to perform actions without the need to constantly make Concentration checks to adjusting their internal swim bladder(s).  A secondary effect of the item will indicate what aquatic zone the wearer is currently in, as the bands magically switch places, with the outermost layer indicating Shore (chalcedony), Shoals (turquoise), or Shelf (lapis).

Scintillating Nautilus — This is a huge helmet with a visor that extends down to the clavicle. It is festooned with a myriad of pearlescent fish scales whose pattern sparkle and shift in idle water, cascading waves of color, one after another. The scales catch the light and daze those near the wearer, heightening the ambient light. Once per day, as a full round action, the scintillating nautilus can be used to mesmerize any opponent that looks upon it’s glittering patterns. This is the equivalent of a gaze attack with a 30 foot range. Those that look into the swirling color are dazed for 1d4+1 rounds. This is a mind-affecting pattern effect, and a Will save of 16 negates the effect. If an active ultraviolet light source is within 10 feet of the scintillating nautilus, the dazed effect becomes a blindness effect instead.

Sea Hag Crown — Each sea hag crown is unique, and is made by the individual sea hag with detritus found in the hag’s territory.  Sea shells and coral are most common components, but can also include scales, teeth, hide, rock, wrack, and even hair.  Despite the gruesome description of the parts, assembled crowns are quite magnificent in their artistry.  A sea hag crown grants the wearer a fearsome image and a significant boost to their attempts at hostile intimidation.  However, the crown will also exacerbate the wearer’s flaws (such as jingoism or greed) to an equivalent level.  Finally, any Sea Hag can sense the presence of a sea hag crown in their territory, and view it as an affront to them (unless they are the hag that created it).

Spinercloak — Indistinguishable from a puffercloak, this variant works in exactly the same manner, but will also create magical spikes appear when its bearer is struck.  Opponents that strike the spinercloak take 1d3 points of piercing damage unless the attack had reach.

SuddenTide Flask — Other than being constructed of expensive material, there is nothing to indicate a suddentide flask is anything out of the ordinary. Twice per day can be opened to create a sudden surge of water capable of capturing a piscean in its wake. The first time the flask is used, the geyser of water pushes anything caught in it away on the current. Successful swim check each turn to avoid being caught/escape the torrential current. On the second use, the water current is drawn into the flask like an undertow, pulling a hapless piscean toward the flask’s user. Again, a successful swim check must be made each turn the flask is pointed at the victim to keep from being pulled inward. If both uses are not used in the same day, the item will reset 28 hours after the previous use to “geyser”: the first use of the day is always a geyser; the second — if at all — is always an undertow.

Tarp of the Endless Blue — This magical sheet of woven textile has a deep blue coloration, hinting at its powers.  When wrapped around a stationary cart, pack animal, or piscean, the tarp blends into the background water and appearing to vanish.  This is not an invisibility effect, so true seeing and other magics will not reveal the hidden subject’s location.  The tarp however is vulnerable to ultravision, a necessary flaw needed so groups of rebels wrapped in these tarps could locate each other during the Rebellion.  Movement while the tarp is in effect will result in a wavering mirage like ripple that can be spotted (DC 10).

Teeth of Utterance — These are the nondescript teeth of a shark, barracuda, or other predatory creature.  They radiate magic when detected for, but otherwise betray no hint as their power.

When pressed into the character’s gums, the tooth will take root.  This gives the bearer an unsettling appearance, similar to dental prosthesis.  Once the user as attuned himself to the new arrangement of teeth, the magical tooth grans the user the ability to talk to that type of creature.  Created by Resurrectionists and coveted by Packbreeders, it does not grant any additional intelligence to the animals spoken with, meaning the user is limited by the animal’s natural cognitive ability.

Totem Masks — Created by the mercurial Fry of the Black Mangroves, totem masks imbue the wearer with the abilities of the imitated creature. Carved from the black mangrove trees’ bark from above the surface of the water, the masks are terrifying visages with their craggy, dark ebony wood that seem to absorb all light and their pale, translucent green eyes that bioluminesse.

Only one Totem Mask can be worn at a time, but its effects are enhanced by similar magical items.  Due to the intrinsic link between the creation of these masks and the Fry of the Black Mangroves, pisceans possessing a totem mask are often view as having committed an atrocity to procure it. Some sahaguin, however, find such conjecture actually enhances their reputation.

Angler — The angler totem mask acts like goggles of ultravision, but with a built in ultraviolet light source situated in the middle of the forehead. The effects of goggles of ultravision and an angler totem mask stack, with the stealthy advantage of the goggles blocking the bioluminescence glow of the mask’s eyes.

Flounder — With a successful Concentration check (DC 10), the wearer of a flounder totem mask gains 360° vision, and can see everything behind, above, and below as easily as everything before the piscean, so long as nothing obscures that view.

Hammerhead — The wide set eyes and grinning mouth of a hammerhead totem mask grants a +5 bonus to Intimidation checks, as well as extends the wearer’s vision by 10′. Unfortunately, due to the position of the mask’s eyes, they cannot be used in conjunction with goggles of any kind.

Icarfish — An icarfish totem mask is roughly bullet-shaped with a cowl around the shoulders that covers the back. This mask grants the unique skill Jump, thus allowing a piscean swimming along the surface of the water to leap into the Vastness and dive back into the safe ocean. The pack slides apart in the void above the water and acts as gliding wings.

Manta — This totem mask has two lobes, one from each temple, protruding upward from the head, and tapers down widely to the shoulder blades, where a half-cloak is attached. The manta totem mask doubles the amount of travel possible before the wearer becomes fatigued. When used in conjunction with an ephod of the currents, the wearer can travel at a forced march without becoming fatigued.

Marlin — One of the most basic, therefore most common of the the totem masks, the marlin totem mask covers the face and looks as if the upper lip was pinched and pulled outward to a sharp point. A marlin totem mask grants a 1d3+1 gore attack.  Many Icth Masks in private collections are actually this inferior item.

Piranha — Much like the marlin mask, the piranha totem mask is a frequently encountered variant. It possesses an extended chin and hinged underbite that grants a 1d3+1 bite attack

Puffer — This globe shaped mask adds poison to all natural attacks. A Fort save DC 15 is needed, otherwise lose 1d2+1 points of Dexterity as the victim suffers tingling and numbness in their extremities. When a puffer totem mask is paired with a puffercloak, the temporary hit points are increased by 5; with a spinercloak, the poison extends to the cloaks spines as well as the bonus for a puffercloak.

Squid — A squid totem mask is bulbous at the back of the head, and come down to cover the shoulders in a mantel that has a series of weighted leather straps hanging from the fringe. This totem mask enhances grappling attacks, granting a +5 bonus to grapple or pin an opponent.

Sucker — Notable for the large discus with straps that covers the chest, this totem mask reduces the effects of encumbrance. Meant to be used by multiple pisceans in co-ordination, the straps and disc act as a scaffolding to allow encumbrance penalties to be reduced one step for each participating sucker totem mask beyond the first. Thus, two sucker totem masks working in tandem can carry the equivalent of a Medium load for an individual that had a strength equal to the sum of their Strength stats with no penalty, and three can carry the equivalent of a Heavy load for an individual that had the strength of the three of them combined.

Trillobite of Protection – Made of nephrite, this piece of jewelry resembles a fossilized trillobite. It performs as a scarab of protection, absorbing 12 energy-draining, negative energy, or death effect attacks. In addition, it can absorb petrification and flesh to coral spells, but at the normal cost of charges.

“Stoics say that belongings only act as chains, crippling the mind…
To de-clutter your possessions is to de-clutter your soul.
Those people do not comprehend the power that ownership bestows.”
— Overheard at the Grand Bazaar of the Yuan-Teel Bights.

Endless Blue – Week 128 – Myths Among the Waves   Leave a comment

Folklore

Myths Among the Waves

Folklore is way to explain that which is beyond simple education. Through parable, what it means to be piscean, to be part of a particular culture, can be shared with succeeding generations. The following three stories are examples of how folklore shapes the minds in the Endless Blue.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell

Perhaps the most ubiquitous parable in the Endless Blue is the tale of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. While variations are found in most all cultures, it is unique in that any number of morals can be drawn from its narrative.

Anchored on the natural process that bivalve mussels (like clams and oysters) use that produces pearls, the parable tells of how a tiny speck gets caught between the mussel and its shell. The rough speck digs into the body of the mussel, scraping and cutting the tender flesh. In response, the mussel slowly excretes nacre, which coats the speck in a smooth coating. Thus it lubricates the irritant for a moment.

With time the nacre hardens, and the burgeoning pearl again begins causing friction for the mussel. More nacre is excreted, the pain is eased, and the cycle continues. As the pearl slowly grows, the mussel is entranced with the process. Idyllically it basks in iridescent glow of the pearl, marveling at its beauty, lost in the intriguing growth. How large will it grow? How much will it be worth? Will it ever stop hurting?

Time passes, the pearl grows, and the mussel finds that the once tiny irritant has now become a massive growth. No longer can the bivalve close its shell, and thereby leaves a vulnerable spot open to the elements and predators.

From this point, the resolution of the parable varies. Some tellings say the pearl grew so large that eventually it occupied more space in the shell than the mussel itself, and the animal is forces out of its shell, where it is preyed upon by predators. Or the shell finally cracks from the pearl’s expansion, ruining the mussels protection and again leaving it vulnerable. Other versions tell how the mussels ultimately expelled the seductive gemstone, and thus was spared those horrible fates.

Different cultures derive different moral lessons from essentially the same story:

– that ignoring a problem too long will lead to worse results. If the speck had been expelled as soon as it was felt, none of the negative consequences would have happened.

– that obsession blinds you to the world around you, a sort of “curiosity killed the cat”. The mussel was so intrigued by the growing pearl that it put its own safety aside to see how large it could be cultured, to the creature’s detriment.

– that unfettered greed will lead to ruin. A similar variation as above, but focuses on the pearl’s beauty/monetary value and how mussel was so preoccupied with the growing pearl that it failed to see how it caused the animal’s demise. This is a favorite interpretation by the Church of Olyhydra, and seen as apocryphal to Mershaulkites and followers of Avarita.

– that any obstacle can be overcome eventually. This is a tale of warning, where the mussel ultimately realizes the danger the pearl represents and saves itself. By persevering, continuing to try in the face of great odds, anyone can succeed.

– that suffering through adversity rewards us in the end, paralleling the “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” idiom.

– that even treasure can be found in the ugliest of places, a version of the ugly duckling story that concentrates on the unattractiveness of the mussel’s shell and slimy bodily appearance.

– that death is natural and can lead to beautiful things. In this version, the tale continues with the harvesting of the pearl by a piscean artisan and made into beautiful jewelry, usually a ring then used to woo another into marriage.

Source: Most all Elquan cultures

The Rainbow Eel

The Rainbow Eel is a parable from a time when pisceans ascribed primal powers to animal spirits. These spirits represented an ideal of what it meant to be the creature, but also the embodiment of some aspect of piscean nature.

The Rainbow Eel was believed to a beautiful, scintillating representation of eels. Long and lithe, speckled with rainbow scales, it glittered in the water where ever it swam, breaking the light into its component colors. Obsessed with her own appearance, she was known to swim in long arcs, circling around and around, mesmerizing herself and any whom gazed upon her with the scattering of light on her scales.

Named after the extra-aquatic phenomenon of rainbows, the Rainbow Eel also represented the treacherousness all pisceans expect from the abominations that prowl the Vastness. The Rainbow Eel was known to be fickle, sometimes welcoming pilot fish to preen parasites from her elongated body, only to turn on them suddenly and consuming them whole.

The story goes that the Lernygne Lax, incessantly pursued by predators of the wild, desperately sought sanctuary among some “blooming dark water [that] billowed up from the sea floor”. There it hid in fear for itself, all the while the boiling waters slowly cooking it flesh. This in turn attracted more hungry sea life, until the area swarmed with hunters.

Even the Rainbow Eel could taste the hint of simmering salmon in the waters, and taking advantage of her long, lithe body, dove into the poluted water after the Lax. Her flesh sizzled from the heat and her eyes burned from the chemicals, yet she did not falter in her aim. Her maw wide open, she bit down upon the helpless Lernygne Lax.

The moment her teeth pierced the Lax’s succulent meat, the gift of knowledge struck her. She realized her folly. The heat and chemically infused water had blackened her once prismatic scales, and her eyes glossed over with cataracts. She recoiled, and as the collected hunters watched her thrashing, the Lax escaped.

The Rainbow Eel regained her composure, and the gift of the Lax left behind showed her everything she had lost. Blinded, she could never gaze upon her own, or any, beauty again. Ruined, her burnt scales lost their glamour, and with nothing left but her own cruelty, she was abandoned by her admirers.

Except for the loyal pilot fish. Only they stayed with her, not caring her former luster was gone. For coming so close to her body the pilot fish could see what other could not; if you looked closely enough, the faintest traces of the Rainbow Eel’s opalescence could still be seen in her scales.

Source: Spiritualist Folklore

Sedna

The chronicle of Sedna is a creation myth from the Book of the Idolatry. Sedna was a demigod, the child of Acedia (Ahto) and Gula (Icthara). As the offspring of indolence and gluttony, she is the representation of unslaked hunger, of forced fasting and missed meals, of failed feasts and ruined repasts.

When Acedia first withdrew from Elqua, he left the firstborn Sedna alone, unable to fend for herself. Wracked with hunger pains, her stomach churning, gurgling madly, she tried to wake her sleeping father. Unresponsive, Acedia slept.

As the hunger drove her to desperation, she again tried to awaken the slumbering Acedia, grabbing and shaking him violently, causing the sea-quakes felt across the Known World.

Groggily, Acedia batted her away with a blow so mighty it took her hours to return. Again she tried to rouse him, and again he buffeted her away. This is where the tides come from.

Finally tired of being repeatedly banished, Sedna dug her fingers into Acedia’s gills and hung on for dear life. She bit into him, driven by starvation. If he would not feed her, he would serve as her meal.

In pain, Acedia lashed out, severing Sedna’s fingers. Her fingers were carried away on the tides. The fingers of her left hand became the whales, dolphins, and porpoises of Elqua, while the fingers of her right became the seals, walruses, and dugongs. As she bled into to waters, the droplets of blood became the algae known as Cruor, which cause the Red Tide when they bloom.

Unable to swim and emaciated from hunger, she was dragged across the oceans by its currents, her hair falling out and settling along the seabed, becoming the kelp forests.

In her anguish, tears poured from her eyes, flowing into the brine rivers and forming brine pools and lakes where most all life is desiccated by her bitterness.

All the while, Acedia slept, dreaming of a world his child would never see.

Source: The Book of the Idolatry

Be it through idiom, parable, or myth, folklore serves as the unifying ideals that a culture holds dear. It gives voice to the voiceless, direction to the directionless, and insight to those whom seek vision.

If the cultures of Elqua have anything in common,
it is the need to tell stories that empower themselves.
— Unknown.

Endless Blue – Week 127 – Lingual Ticks – Impediments of the Elquan Tongues   Leave a comment

Linguistics

Lingual Ticks — Impediments of the Elquan Tongues

Communication is the foundation for everything in the Endless Blue. Without the ability to communicate, culture and technology cannot blossom. You must be able to teach concepts, convey intention, in order to pass knowledge from one individual to the next, from one generation to that which follows. This is the purpose of speech.

Each of the Fluid Nations has developed speech, and by nature of isolation or remoteness, the languages differ significantly between these populations. Even those with origins in ancient aquelan have, over time, evolved in divergent directions. This is how languages become different.

With intelligence comes the ability to learn, and since languages are a primary method of conveying meaning, it was natural that neighbors would pick up the native tongue of other neighbors in order to better communicate. Bordering homeseas are better off knowing the language of their neighbors, to better facilitate trade and commerce, to warn of danger, or express thanks.

However, despite the willingness to learn or aptitude for speech, some languages of the Fluid Nations can never be truly mastered by foreigners because their very structure is predicated on physical morphology to accomplish — the very shape and arrangement of jaws or voice box make it impossible to duplicate in foreigners without that very same morphology. Two of such languages are Lumulan and Cetacean Sonal.

By the Clicking of Their Tongues

Lumulan language utilizes several non-larynxial consonants, called fricatives.  In writing, all of these sounds are represented by the same symbol, an apostrophe: .  Lumulus produce these sounds by either clicking the carapace around the mouth together or by pressing the tongue against parts of the mouth. Hence the ease of detecting a non-native speaker — the mouths of other pisceans simply cannot move in these ways.

Lumulan employs a group of phonemes called “click consonants”. These sounds are usually formed by , and are represented in these texts with a single apostrophe (‘) for simplicity’s sake. However, the symbol actually encompasses a range of sounds:

ʘ The Bilabial Click – This is the most common click consonant used in the Lumulan language, and consists of smacking the lips together. With the chitinous skin of a Lumulan, this results in a tapping or clacking sound, while the same action done by others with soft fleshy lips results in a slurred, mushy sound of lip smacking.

| The Dental Click – These clicks are formed by placing the tongue against the front teeth, forming a vacuum with the tongue, and breaking the vacuum by pulling back the tongue. It is sort of a “tut” or “tsk” sound associated with disapproval, or the sound made to draw a cat’s attention.

! Alveolar Click – These clicks are made by strongly pressing the tip of tongue to the ridge of the mouth and pulling down sharply so the tongue smacks the lower jaw. This would be the best known form of click consonant the reader has experienced.

ǂ The Platal Click – A loud sound, like a snap, made by flattening the tongue against the roof of the mouth and pulling it down sharply. It is more of a lip-smacking sound that the “tock” of an alveolar click.

ǁ The Lateral Click Similar to the Dental Click, but the tongue is placed against the ledge along the roof of the mouth leading to the soft palate, a vacuum is formed, and the tongue pulled back. It sounds like the sound made when urging a horse forward.

The Retroflex Click – This sound is made using the tongue to squeeze against the top of the mouth, forcing sound out. It is somewhat like the “th” sound, but shorter, akin to a squirting noise.

ˀ The Glottal Click – This is a sharp clap of the vocal cord, similar to a shortened choking noise. It is notable due to the variation of its pitch, which can be modified by shaping the mouth wider or narrower and raising or lowering the jaw.

˭ The Unaspirated Click – Literally, this is a snap of the jaws or teeth. In many, this click consonant is painful to perform, but the sharp impact of mandibles is the intention of the phoneme and thus a dead give away of a non-native speaker.

Duets Sung Solo

Versesingers are the pride of the Cetacean race. Their ability to sing two or more concurrent notes is legendary. An Orcan can accomplish this because they posses an organ called a syrinx as well as a larynx.

The syrinx is located at the base of the trachea, at the point where the trachea branches into the lungs. By vibrating the walls of the trachea, it produces sound.  Either by tensing or easing the muscular tissue, sound can be modulated between deep bass and high treble.  The potential range is an impressive five octaves, and is how accomplished Veresesingers can generate the two-or-more distinct tones at once.  It is this physical feature that makes it impossible for any other race to qualify as a Versesinger — they simply do not have the necessary organs.

The inability to reach all eight keys, thus preventing the speaker from utilizing all of Cetacean Sonal’s verb tenses, is considered a speech impediment in native Orcans. This isn’t to say that speaking Sonal requires perfect pitch; just that it requires a vocal range that most have trouble even reaching.

Cetacean Sonal come from solresol, an ancient music-based language from the dawn of memory. It is said to be the language that the Verse was sung in, with the First Verse issuing in the existence of Elqua and the Last Verse signalling its eventual final demise.

The Polyglot

Childish urban myths abound in the depths of the Endless Blue. From folklore of the Anemoi to the manifestation of the Idolatry, stories thrive on ideas that challenge the accepted state of life as we know it. There is rumored to be an individual that knows any word ever spoken, that has the ability to speak every language ever known. Known only as “The Polyglot”, this individual has garnered a whispered reputation across the waters.

It is said the Polyglot is a transpiscean — someone who believes the piscean form is not inherently divine as adherent to the Piscean Form proclaim and instead believe it not only can be improved upon through mortal means, but should be improved, it must be. Embracing Resurrectionist grafts normally reserved for paraplegics as a means to true linguistical mastery, the Polyglot had a syrinx implanted in the throat, and his jaw replaced with chitinous plates.

His goal, so stories go, is to posses the Kopia Accidence, a relic upon which was written tracts in aquelan, solresol, and the strange ichtoglyphs that served as the written language of the forgotten Icht Dominion. How this is of value to him is debatable — the contents of the Accidence is little more than bureaucratic transactions. It could be the Polyglot wants it for no other reason that it’s importance in breaking the impenetrable cryptography of ichtoglyphs… or maybe there’s something hidden in the fractured hexagonal tablet?

Icthara’s Tongue

Upon first glance, this item appears like a broach in the shape of a trilobite. Finely multi-jointed, the broach can flex, even undulate, in an agile, fluid manner.

The dark of the item is it is a curse thing. It is believed these accursed items were created as punishment for those excommunicated from the Ictharan Church, whose crimes were so vile as the clergy deemed the waterworld is better off never hearing them uttered ever again.

To be used, the “victim” must have his tongue removed. Then, inserting the broach into the mouth head first activates the magic. The broach animates and immediately clamps down, grafting itself on the stub of the severed tongue, in effect replacing it. It maintains every bit of the original tongue’s flexibility, and actually improves upon it.

The grafted tongue grants the knowledge to speak any language the victim is exposed to, but they are still subject to physical impediments for Lumuluan and Cetacean Solresol. Meaning, while the victim understands and can speak the two languages, they will never sound like a true native speaker due to their physical limitations (obviously a Lumulan victim would be able to speak Lumulan and an Orcan speak Orcan without detriment, but chances are they would have already known those languages before bearing the tongue).

These items grant a bonus to persuasion to the bearer, and the tongue turns silver when this bonus is employed. However, the tongue will turn inky black when the bearer utters a lie. These abilities make the victim’s intentions obvious to anyone observant enough to look for clues. On top of this, should the victim ever come under any kind of compulsion magic, the tongue becomes even more devious — it makes it impossible to utter a known lie, yet the black coloration will always indicate they speak untruths.

Finally, the tongue enables the victim to identify any ingestible poison through taste, but does not immunize them from the poison’s detrimental effects. This would find them in high demand for food tasters, if not for the aforementioned flaw of forced fraudulence.

The Whisper in the Waves

This is a new phenomenon from the hinterseas around the Known World. Some lone individuals claim to have seen “dark water” come from beyond the Spine of the World, a thick, viscous liquid that swallows up all water and light. Reports claim whole settlements have been swallowed up by this mysterious liquid, but when investigations have been conducted, the settlements seem to have never existed, and no trace of this indigo remains.

The rumors have begun to spread across the bordertowns, claiming a “whisper in the waves” precedes the indigo washing over the settlements. This sounds much like the incantations of Cruor Druids, who control the Red Tides, and will often attack remote locations in a similar manner. However, the Red Tides are no mystery — they are algae blooms whose toxic emanations kill all life. Buildings are left behind intact, and the red tide has a short life cycle, thus leaving behind telltale clues to the culprit.

The Indigo operates differently, with no individual seen to summon the blight. The whispers on the waves cannot be described well, either. They are obviously voices, speaking some unknown language that has no equal or connection to the tongues of Elqua. It is an ethereal murmuring, emanating from nowhere yet audible even inside the deepest basement. The whispers sound longing, yearning for something, reaching out even as the ichor of the Indigo spreads over a community and capture it in its grasp. Few have the chance to react to the sound, let alone evacuate their homes and escape their fate.

Words are pretext, sweet promises of a perfect future
That sour when misunderstood,
Turn bitter when used in lies,
That sting our soul like salt in wounds,
And we savor each moment they linger in our ears…

— a Versesinger vocal exercise

Endless Blue – Week 126 – The Price of Progress   1 comment

Geography

The Price of Progress

Tired of subsisting while others prosper, a native Locanth tribe called the Estar Current abandoned their ancient tradition of harmony with nature to begin strip-mining for precious stones. The local sea hag, aghast at the destruction to the environment near her home, threatens to destroy them if they do not stop. Stuck in the middle, the adventurers must resolve the conflict before it is too late: Make them stop or you all will die…

Nestled between two steep hills lies a valley, itself bisected down its length by a deep trench. The trench is full of incredibly tall reeds and other soft-stemmed plants that form almost a blanket over the trench bed, but are not strong enough to support the weight of an individual. The flora is wildly overgrown and may hide any manner of stealthy predatory creatures.

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Endless Blue – Week 125 – Governments of the Fluid Nations – Yaun-Teel Bights   Leave a comment

Politocology

Governments of the Fluid Nations: Yaun-Teel Bights

Yaun-Teel Bights
Aliases: The Vault Unyielding, the Prosperity of Merchants, Gem of the Pecuniary Stream.
Region: Hinterseas
Capital: Sher-Umaruramu

The Yaun-Teel Bights rests between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cetacean, north of the Mer Currents and east of the Chelon Sea. It has temperate waters bounded by long archipelagos of sand bars which form the aforementioned bights.

Climate is mild in these waters, and seasons have little variation. This make farming a poor prospect, but living area is plentiful. Since much of the nation is shallow open waters, travel into, across, and through is relatively danger-free, further contributing to the nation’s rise as the prominent trade force of Elqua.

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Endless Blue – Week 124 – Governments of the Fluid Nations – Sahaguin Lagoons   Leave a comment

Politocology

Governments of the Fluid Nations: Sahaguin Lagoons

Sahaguin Lagoons
Aliases: The Stalking Expanse, Apex of Predation, Dominar’s Dominion
Region: Hinterseas
Capital: None.

The Sahaguin Lagoons lay directly south of the Creche of Civilization and east of the Maw of the Kraken. They are the most isolated of the Fluid Nations, and share no common border with the other homeseas. This suits the Sahaguin fine, as they prefer to deal with their own business, without the scrutiny of the other piscean races looking down on them.

The majority of the region falls under the dim, greenish shadow of the Sargasso Ring, and as a result the nation is known for its dark waters and muted coloration. With only the weakest wavelengths of light left to illuminate the homesea, aquaculture is relegated to the sliver of waters in north western areas not eclipsed by the Sargasso Ring.

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