Endless Blue – Week 36.1 – The Undertow: Under the Rock Under the Sea   3 comments


Under the Rock Under the Sea

Everyone has secrets, be they tiny embarrassments of everyday living, to the soul corrupting shame that ruins everything around you.  They are kept by individuals, families, and organizations, but none more so than governments.  Whether such practiced deceit it is for the lauded benefit of their constituents or the puerile reward of their own self interest, every government has things to hide.  In the Known World, secrets abound like lamprey, sucking sustenance from the secluded nooks and crannies where they hide.  One such secret is the Undertow.

Those given to flights of fanciful delusion tend to find depth of conspiracy in even the smallest inconsistency, and the Prime Meridian is a prime example.  Cartography and navigation were demonstrably the creations of the early Chelon thinkers. and while most every aspect of their ingenious system is poetry except for the glaring inconsistency of the Prime Meridian.  For all the sensible reasoning for latitude and longitude, degrees and poles, there seems to be no eminent logic behind the choice of where to position the first line of longitude, 0 degrees.

The official reason espoused by the governing Chelon is that it marks the deepest spot in Elqua’s oceans, a point in the Cetecean Ocean’s floor submerged by a brine lake.  For the longest time, that assertion was taken as gospel by the less than educated masses.  But as time passed, education became more accessible to the lower class and as a result more of once was mystery about the waterworld has become fascinating but mundane fact.  Individuals began to question the assessment of the Chelon scholars that appointed the Prime Meridian’s status, and then flatly challenged it — most notably by their own people.  In an effort fueled by patriotism, an expedition of Chelon measured a remote area of their homesea called The Abyss and while unable to dive to its lowest depths, incontrovertibly prove that it was significantly deeper that the cetacean plain.

The expedition brought acclaim and fame to the explorers, and raised some controversy that the primary method of navigation was flawed and needed to be corrected.  In response, the Chelon have offered excuse after excuse as to this discrepancy, from the weak challenge that the expedition did not take into account the depth of the brine lake to the blatant ridiculous claim that sea level over the Chelon Seas is higher than elsewhere.  Detractors began to vocally deride the government for its falsehood, and even go so far as to charge that it has led a conspiratorial campaign at discrediting as many participants of the expedition as possible.  Why is there such a narrow-minded, focused refusal by the Chelon government to ignore the Abyss?

The real truth is that the Chelon government has no idea.  It is simply continuing the tradition that was started so very long ago in the Golden Epoch.  At its very heart, it was decreed that the Abyss was to be marginalized.  Why has never been stated, and those in the government that have dared to speak the question have found their political careers stillborn overnight.

There is a reason, and it is all because of a simple bubble.  But not a bubble in water, like the innocuous but embarrassing side effect that comes from respiration underwater.  No, this is a bubble in stone, the very foundation bedrock that comprises the tectonic plate of Elqua’s geologic crust.  Located beneath Abyss in the Chelon Sea lurks a massive sink hole, a spot of crumbled rock opening into a vast airy cavern that could very well threaten the stability of the sea bed above it.

The Abyss is a desolate portion of the Chelon Sea, its depth hostile to the native pisceans and its isolation of no strategic import.  As such, it is rare for anyone to pass by the area, let alone investigate deeply enough to find the faint but definitely perceptible vortex of swirling currents cycling around each other as the waters drain into the cavern below.  This is the Undertow, and to speak its name is tantamount to treason.

But what the Chelon government does not know is that through that gyre is not just the emptiness of a cavern, but the ancient beginning of a whole second world beneath the waves, one beneath the rock.  And its genesis began back in the Golden Epoch from which the Chelonite policy was first drawn.

It was a time of war and suffering, with the Cetacean Barbarians invading the highseas that would one day become the Mer currents.  The hordes began a swath of attacks to the southwest of the Mer homesea and curved northward, in effect creating a hook into Mer territory as the spearhead encroached on the Chelon Sea.  The tactic isolated one of the Mer ethnicities early in its development and began carving it from the greater whole.  Retreating from an overpowering enemy they could not defeat, they retreated into Chelon territory.  To save themselves for ensured destruction, the Mer tribe fled blindly, with the ravening horde of Cetaceans right behind them.  Just as the predatory barbarians caught up to the fleeing Mer, the gyer of the Undertow caught the two forces unaware and mercilessly dragged them down into the depths — a massive sinkhole that would be dubbed “The Bubble Below”.

The Bubble Below is a massive cavern system under the silt sea bed that underlies the Known World, so massive in fact it’s farthest borders reach under practically all the Fluid Nations.  The initial plunge from the entrance of the Undertow to the midnight waters below is a nearly 1000 foot drop straight down with nothing but stagnant air all around.  The suddenness of the gyre’s pull and the lengthy drop before hitting the surface of the sinkhole’s waters killed hundreds on both sides when they slammed into the seaweed encrusted surface of the falls’ run off.  It is another 500 feet below the level of the Bubble’s sea level before the averaged sea bed is encountered.

Stunned by the impact, drained from the flight/chase, the pisceans were ripe pickings for the native denizens of the sinkhole.  The first few years of their entrapment  in the bowels of the earth were savage and desperate, with both races suffering unimaginable casualties.  In the face of the overtly hostile environment, the two combatants put aside their established roles and worked out an accord of mutual beneficence so both could survive together where neither could alone.

Once the new alliance was forged, the Mer/Cetacean survivors became settlers, slowly learning the ways of the everdark and taming it to serve them.  The explored the myriad tendrils of cave systems and underground rivers and were surprised by their expansiveness.  The traced back their tragic path as much as they could until they saw the falls that spilled into the empty bubble, the echoing roar of plunging water so deafening that listening to it unprotected can even destroy the melon of a Cetacean.  But even if the falls had been silent, the half-mile distance straight up to the mouth of the Undertow was an unreachable goal as if they could reach up and catch the moons.  The Falls aerate the saltwater that pours down from the Undertow, and as it flows outward throughout the subterranean ocean it pushes the staler water through tiny rock fissures back into Elqua’s surface oceans.  Entry through the Undertow is a one-way trip: there exists no magic to fly, and nothing can swim against the current falling down from the opening (not to mention swimming against the pull of gravity).  With any hopes of returning to the surface seas unattainable, the survivors turned their attentions to colonizing the darkness around them.

As time passed, other races suffered the same cruel plight of the Mer-Cetaceans.  In small numbers, the migrating families of Kouton and Locanth have been claimed by the Undertow, entire squads of Chelon and Lumulus combatants in the Shellback Wars were caught and dragged under, even a few Sahaguin have been lost to the sucking pull of the Bubble Below, eventually trapping enough of each race to barely sustain the gene pools.  Only the Ceph and the Yaun-Teel are unaccounted for in the Undertow, most likely due to the fact their races did not evolve until relatively recently in evolutionary standards.

Evolution has not left the trapped pisceans untouched, however.  Without the light of the sun to shine, coloration of the races has faded away, and now the races have all become albino, their soft rubbery skin a pink-tinged pallor and their scales a translucent milky white.  Like ghostly apparitions, each race is now a banshee-like shadow of their former vibrancy.  But perhaps the most unsettling was the speed in which evolution threw aside the development of eyes, fusing the eyelids over the useless sockets, sealing over the small orbs so they could begin metamorphosing into the most sensitive melons in the case of the other races, but into hyper-acute melons in the cetaceans capable of passive echolocation (using the reverberating drone of the Undertow’s falls as a sound source, which carry throughout the Bubble Below as a faint but noticeable rumbles).  These new Cetaceans, calling themselves the Beluga, gave up their violent, expansionist ways and took up the mantle of protector of the “helpless”, those that cannot see without making sound.

And protection they needed.  Just like the Vastness above the surface of Elquas waters, the empty but deafening air of the Bubble Below became dangerous.  An undead sargasso began to grow, a festering blanket of twisted vines and limbs, blighted seaweed and flesh, writhing and groping at any spark of life it can reach in a vainglorious need to consume light.  The Beluga formed a paladin-hood dedicated to the destruction of the vile aberrations that sometimes break free of the floating morass that now covers all of the seas below.  The Lumulus have also changed greatly over the generations, having through sheer necessity shed their xenophobia like they shed their glassy exoskeletons.

Here the pisceans have led relatively fulfilling lives, forming communities and families that in many ways have escaped the butchery and treachery that the brethren the left behind had to endure.  It has not been without its difficulties, with roaming undead, their own threat from the Indigo, and possibly the blubbery, bloated lone Kraken that still exists in the world to contend with.  There are also the wonders to discover in the pitch black.

3 responses to “Endless Blue – Week 36.1 – The Undertow: Under the Rock Under the Sea

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 66 – Wonders of the Aquatic World « Endless Blue

  2. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 78 – Whispered Secrets in the Deep Sound Channel | Endless Blue

  3. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 102 – The Shelf: Illustrated | Endless Blue

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