Merrshaulk, the Covetous Collector
Mortal life is small, it is limited. Tiny specks in the vast endless blue, vulnerable to the slightest danger. To the living, life is precious and cannot be extended. Trapped in just a passing blink of time, with meager ability to produce, inadequate skills to survive, each passing second is lost.
With such a short time in the all-encompassing ocean, with death hunting for you at every moment, austerity is the foolish choice.. The few moments you have, have worth. Every moment should be squeezed for every precious drop of value.
Your time spent in the service of others instead of yourself therefore requires compensation. To not take compensation is to not value yourself, to waste that small sliver of a tiny life that cannot be brought back.
The only one that can define the worth of your time is you. If others cannot meet your expected compensation, then they do not deserve the sacrifice of your time. Convincing others of your worth is therefore your right. Demand the most for what you have and what you can do, for no one else will offer you its true worth.
The oceans are plentiful. The oceans provide. You need only take what you want, want as much as you can, to warrant your survival. This encourages the competition for resources, for wealth. Wealth not just in coinage, but in resources, influence, and power. This ensures only the most competent survive. And by hoarding more than you need you prohibit others from meeting their needs. Never overestimate another’s greed, nor underestimate your own need.
Merrshaulk, the Sagacious, Lord of the Hoard, the Covetous Collector, Avarita of the Greed.
Alignment: Chaotic Evil.
Symbol: A golden eel knotted around an upturned alabaster oyster shell, the eel’s head extending past one side.
Domains: Chaos, Evil, Knowledge, Luck, Trickery.
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Constriction.
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Netting.
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, neutral evil, true neutral.
Merrshaulk takes the form of an infinitely long moray eel, His golden body, streaked with mottles of copper, brass, and bronze, extends off into the infinite horizon. His body is extended out from His lair in the search for more: more wealth, more resources, more… everything. Merrshaulk’s eyes listless, dark depths, bottomless pits that seem to sink into His body for forever. When He finds what He seeks, Merrshaulk clasps it in his jaws and drags it back to His home. As soon as His prize is stored, Merrshaulk is out seeking more again.
The Church of Merrshaulk
Only a fourth generation Yaun-Teel can enter the Sagacious’ priesthood. Due to the degenerative heredity of the Yaun-Teel species, this prevents situations where a family accrues so much influence that they maintain a stranglehold over Church and local politics.
Merrshaulkite priests use the honorific of “Sidar” to denote their experienced clergy, and “Tyro” for their priests in training. Above these is the Illuminated Assembly of Cosigners, whose responsibility is guidance of daily Sidar and Tyro activity. Above them are the Signatory Council, whom plan out long-term goals of the Church. They in turn report to the Elder Brokers, whom report directly to one of the three heads of the Church, the Administrative Trinity.
The Administrative Trinity consists of three individuals: the Noble Debtor, the Noble Lender, or the Noble Collector. The Noble Debtor oversees the Church’s obligations, while the Noble Lender is in charge of the religion’s financial risks. The final administrator, the Noble Collector, watches over the Church’s income.
Shrines and Ceremonies
Tyros of Merrshaulk are required to spend periods of time out proselytizing Merrshaulk’s ideology. They are to travel across the globe, demonstrating the benefits of a life dedicated to the accumulation of wealth. By showing how the word of Merrshaulk can better their lives, the Tyros bring in new sources of tithing for the Church’s coffers.
Tithing is a major staple of Merrshaulkite worship. It fills the Church’s coffers and thus allows it to do good work in spreading the word of Merrshaulk. Keeping in “good accounts” with the Church entitles the faithful to benefits such as counseling and favor. In fact, the correlation is so singular between tithing and reaping the rewards that “tithing” has become synonymous with bribery.
Merrshaulkite houses of worship (called “Troves”) are splendorous edifices, adorned with rich, colorful mosaics. Life for a Cosigner and above is opulent, as is befitting someone that adheres so rigorously to the teachings of the Lord of Hoards.
The government of the Yaun-Teel Bights is deeply connected with the Church of Merrshaulk, and uses the Church’s congregation as advocates and tax collectors. The fastidiousness and confusing vernacular of Merrshaulkite record keeping makes it difficult for anyone else to enter the trades. The “edictspeak” barrier prohibits most save for Merrshaulkite clergy from public service.
Of all the Pantheon, only Merrshaulk has found come common ground with the uptight Church of Olyhydra. They both share a belief in hard work and servitude, and both contribute to the War of Math by keeping the populace uneducated. All that differs is the approaches of the two religions: Olyhydra promises reward in the next life, while Merrshaulk seduces with rewards in this one.
Kelpygmies — There have been reports of kelpygmy attacks on pilgrimaging Merrshaulk Tyros. These ambushes appear organized and target only the priest of Merrshaulk. It is as if the kelpygmies seek a vendetta against the god Himself, and seek to keep the masses out of the conflict.
The Resurrectionists — In areas like the Mer Currents and some of the more “civilized” Yaun-Teel Bights, Merrshaulkites will work openly with Anatomists and the College of Doctors. They see the expired bodies of the departed as just another resource, and why should such a plentiful resource be sunk to the bottom of the sea to just rot? Better to allow the College of Doctors to use the bodies — for a price — than leave the bodies for worm food. Thus the Merrshaulkites reap the rewards twice: once with a full purse for the sale, and again later with the knowledge gained through Anatomist experimentation.
Relations with other Religions
There is friction between Merrshaulkites and Ictharans. Clerics of Icthara claim Merrshaulkite clergy is trying to annex Ictharan followers through seductive logic. The Merrshaulkites are trying to convert Ictharans by absorbing over-consumption into the concept of greed.
Avarita of the Greed — As Avarita, Merrshaulk has become the patron of Yaun-Til commerce. By incorporating the Principles of Service into Her ideology, Avarita has created an economic system that both rewards the industrious generously and reigns in the ruthlessness of the egregious.
Hoarder bandits — A dark period of Merrshaulkite history, Hoarders were faithful that took the word of Lord of Hoards too far, and actively looted anyone they deemed weak in their faith. The cult was especially reviled during the Kraken Occupation, when they preyed upon burgeoning, remote rebel cells as they only began their fight for freedom. In fact, many of Elqua’s most prized pieces of art were lost to Hoarders, who to this day form bandit towns throughout the No Mer’s Seas between Fluid Nations.
“To spend any day idle and earn no value
is to give the last day of your life over to early death.“
— a Merrshaulkite warning against indolence.
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.
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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.”
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.