Endless Blue – Week 36.2 – Undead Sargasso, Twisted in Vine and Soul   Leave a comment

Botany

The Undead Sargasso: Twisted in Vine and Soul

Undulating waves ripple over the expansive oceans of Elqua, a never ending rise and fall of water, pulled in contrary directions by the criss-crossing orbits of dark Urowes, steady Ymaris, and distant Oberus.  Its surface is a frothing, rippling rind of crystal-clear tropical waters, vibrant blooming clouds of rhodoarchea algae, and free-floating patches of sargassum.  The swirling intermix sapphire blue, jasper red, and hazel enstatite paints a whorling, curling seascape in watercolor.  But despite this beauty, there exists a malignant suppuration like a leprosotic seeping wound.

Sargasso are drifting patches of botanical growths that have clumped together like a blanket of plant-life.  A chaotic twisting of flotsam, sargassum, and other debris, these patches bob and ebb on the cresting surf.  They are usually more of a nuisance than anything else, as they block out the sunlight from even the shallowest areas of the Shore and few productive animals can digest their cellulose leaves.

The sargassum  plant itself is a brownish-green, limp algea with small nodules, pale and waxy, budding close to the stem that serve as the plant’s method of flotation, producing lighter-than-water gasses and concentrating them in a small space.  When the tiny berry-like lumps are crushed, the released tension creates a cracking sound, like bone being broken, and the escaping gasses are usually noxious.

The sargassum can clump together quickly and easily, and have been known to grow almost as long as an Orcan, and in these sufficient amounts can even  entangle the strongest Orcan in its twirling fibers.  Drifts of gulfweed can be found everywhere on the surface of Elqua’s oceans, floating passively, belying the horrors it hides just below the water’s surface.  But these are natural phenomena, a balance part of the world’s hydraulic ecosystem.  It is the tainted gulfweed, the undead sargasso, that is a mar upon the crown jewel of Elqua.

Most dead bodies will tend to float to the ocean’s surface unless there is significant structural damage that compromises whatever method of buoyancy it utilized while alive.  This is usually the dispersal of gasses in special bladders.  But upon the cessation of life, the process of decomposition quickly manifests, and this mundane chemical reaction produces a prodigy of lighter-than-water vapors that saturate the corpse’s flesh.   This is what produces the bloated look of cadavers, and the ravages of caustic seawater and scavenging necrophages only heighten the revilement.

Bodies that are not consigned to the depths, to sink eternal in the cooling, encompassing embrace of the sea and become one with the Source risk becoming lost to their eternal reward.  Without the time honored traditions of weighting that most pisceans adhere to, a body will rise to the surface where it usually becomes a smorgasbord for surface abominations that will quickly pick the bones clean, if not swallow the remains whole.  But sometimes those floating corpses run afoul of a patch of sargassum and become entwined in the slick gulfweed, limbs wrapped with seaweed, in turn wrapping around more seaweed.  That in itself is not dire, were it not for the inexplicable change that comes next.

Tiny worm-like roots of the coiling vine slowly bury into the rancid flesh of the dead, growing longer through skin and muscle, forming a chlorophyllic nervous system.  The roots leech nutrients from the decomposing organs, the miasma of rotting flesh saturating the effluvium-filled pods of the sargasso, turning it toxic, churning the substances, mixing them into a morass of gasses that radiate with negative energy that slowly corrupt the dead into aberrations, into “undead”.

Most corporeal undead — the majority of which are zombies and ghouls — will float, either by their own vapor-laden corpses or the tight entrapment of tangling gulfweed.   Over the centuries enough untended, forgotten, or simply abandoned bodies have risen to the surface of the waters where, bobbing like a cork buoy, have drifted together, almost as if attracted by others of its grisly kind.  An immense number have collected in a floating sargasso of leathery tentacles and bony fingers, unrelenting ravenous hunger and unceasing hiemal cold, reaching out to destroy the tiniest glimmer of life, the smallest flicker of warmth, or just any moving thing within its life-sapping grasp.

The largest of the undead sargassos floats stationary over the Maw, an ever present eclipse and it littered with the bodies of both slaughtered piscean and eviscerated Kraken.  It overshadows the ruins of the Kraken Empire in a perpetual twilight of thick color and gelid waters.  It is said some of the gulfweed here bristle with unspent eldritch energy, cast off magicks of the Kraken during the Occupation.  As if there were not enough reasons to avoid the blockaded area, the threat of long forgotten spells triggering at random should be enough to terrorize even the most stalwart explorer.

Occasionally individual bodies break off from the tangled patch and become free roaming undead.  Severe storms are generally the culprit, with the frothing tidal waves smashing down on the otherwise motionless patches.  The worst is the yearly appearance of the Maelstrom over the Crèche of Civilization, when enough damage can be done to the physical integrity of an undead to rupture its putrid flesh, releasing the entombed gasses that held it aloft and send the aberration plummeting to the bottom of the sea.  There, with scraps of ectoplasmic sargassum clinging to its lethargic limbs, it will wander the silt ocean floor seeking to feast upon the energies of life.  But roaming zombies or ghouls are not the end of the potential horrors, as incorporeal undead can develop as well, and unlike their clumsier cousins, they retain their swiftness through the currents just as if they still felt their heartbeat pulsing through their muscles as they swam.  Banshees are a well known form of incorporeal undead amongst the Orcans, formed from the unconsecrated remains of a Versesinger.

“The Departed allowed to float upward, ascending into the evil of the Vastness,
will become tangled in sargasso. There, trapped in body, expelled in soul,
basking in the torment of unresolved reward, their twisted souls surrender
and become the Lost…”

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