Endless Blue – Week 55 – Vitruvian Mer   8 comments

Biology

Vitruvian Mer

Despite the distinct number of different sentient races inhabiting the oceans of Elqua, their morphologies all share the same common qualities.  These commonalities are what is known as “the Piscean Form“, and carry over from one race to the other without fail, though with unique variations.  These variants of the paragon form are used to classify the races — essentially defining what makes a species different from the others.  Historically (and even currently) this separation according to race has led to contention and violence, but supporters adhere to the mantra that facts are indisputable and reality must be accepted.

The basic Piscean form is defined as follows:  a “merfolkish” (read as humanoid) torso that connects to the body of a fish.  The torso, comprising one third of the piscean form’s length, possess two limbs called arms which terminate in hands comprised of three fingers and an opposable thumb, and narrows into a neck at its apex, where lies the head with the pisceans eyes, ears, and mouth.  The body, taking up the other two-thirds of the piscean, tapers from the torso at the waist to a point at the end of the tail.  This portion possess a pair of pelvic fins at roughly the midpoint of the piscean’s length, a dorsal fin along the back at the transitional space between torso and tail, and caudal fin at the end of that tail.  The final distinguishing feature of the piscean form are the gill slits, located on either side of the torso, anchored to the ribcage beneath the arms.

As exact as that description may seem, there is still significant room for variation.  It is those very variations that many use to justify their cultural superiority, notably the smug Chelon and to a lesser extent the Lumulus.  The major of these variations stem from the type of skin the individual was born with.

Flesh vs. Scale

This is the most significant divergence between races in Elqua’s waters, and is the most common trait to be judged on.  Races of the Known World are divided into two categories:  the Civilized races, and the Primitives.  While cultural development, location of homesea, and history play a role in the distinction, the difference between the two is glaringly obvious.  The Civilized races are comprised of the Orcans, the Chelon, the Lumulus, and most recently the Mer.  With the exception of the Mer, the noticeable trait shared between the other three is the lack of fish scale on their bodies.  Instead of fish scales, their bodies are covered with a denser flesh.  As expected, the Primitive races have fish scale over the lower two thirds of their body (sometimes even more), and number the Kouton, Locanth, and Sahaguin.  The notable exception is the Yaun-Teel, whose bodies have a soft fleshy tail with no scales.

Fins vs. Flukes

The dichotomy of flesh or scale carries secondary characteristics to the piscean form, notably with the fins.  Mer and the other scaled Primitive races have fins at their pelvis, back, and end of the tail.  These growths are a series of bone or cartilaginous spines connected with tissue forming a kind of fan.  In the case of the pelvic and caudal fins, these spines evolved from the digits of limbs that slowly adapted to the aquatic environment.  As such, they have flexible joints  and can be spread and/or gathered to aid in the act of swimming.

For the Civilized races that lack scales, they instead of flukes — a fleshy, flat limb where the skeletal structure of the digits is embedded in the tissue. These flukes (also called flippers) can move at the joint where they connect to the body, but otherwise lack finer motor control.  Their flexibility comes from the resistance from pressing against water in the process of swimming.  The Lumulus are a special case, almost an intermediate state between fin and fluke.  Their fins consist of five overlapping plates that possess the limited movement of a fluke but the ability to spread like fins.  In Lumulan eyes, theirs is the true piscean form, the one most closely able to be traced back through lobsters, shrimp, and krill.

Hair

Hair is the third feature used to delineate species, though it is used the least.  All of the Civilized races, to some degree, have hair, while only the Yaun-Teel from the Primitive races has the feature.  The Mer and Yaun-Teel have the greatest chances of possessing hair, growing from the scalp, eyebrows, chin/upper lip, and occasionally torso.  The Lumulus come next, with small fibers protruding all over their bodies and supplementing their senses, then the Chelon with sparse hair on the head and chin.  Finally come the Orcan, which takes the form of small bumps called tubercles, each with a single short hair protruding from it.

Race Flesh/Scale Fin/Fluke Hair
Orcan Flesh Fluke Rare
Chelon Flesh Fluke Minor
Lumulus Flesh Special Minor
Mer Scale Fin Yes
Kouton Scale Fin No
Locanth Scale Fin No
Sahaguin Scale Fin No
Yaun-Teel Flesh Fin Yes

The purpose of hair from an evolutionary standpoint is unknown, and is often used to rebuke the Godless’ devotion to the works of Seamus Lorwynn.  It hinders speed (notice the races with least/no hair can move faster than those with follicles) and causes drag, can hamper vision when allowed to grow long (thus preventing the spotting of approaching predators/prey), and can be snagged or grabbed by predators (making them easier to catch).  It can be infested with parasites and is inferior as an insulator to blubber.  Yet, hair evidently has remained, even flourishing among the Mer tribes.

Special Case: The Ceph

Note that the Ceph do not possess the piscean form, essentially being intelligent cephalopods. The origin of their species as the degenerated remnants of the once-mighty Kraken is well documented. Such being true, the lowly Ceph are treated as below even the Primitive races, despite their possession of flesh instead of scale. It is doubtful if the species will ever be considered the equal of Primitive race, and certainly will never be welcome into the ranks of the Civilized races.

Vitruvian Mer

Alleged Resurrectionist document titled “Vitruvian Mer”


Resurrectionists and the Chelon Architect

The Vitruvian Mer was inked by an unnamed Resurrectionist, based on the work by the Chelon architect named Certus Vitruvius.  This is the same Vitruvius renown for designing the Chelon Spires, one of the wonders of the underwater world.  A secret anatomist, Vitruvius held fast in his belief that there was absolute esthetic, a universal relationship of sizes in all things, and recorded his exploration of proportion in a collection he eponymously titled “The Vitruvius Codex”.  The adaption of the Fibonacci sequence found in chamber nautiluses to architecture can be directly credited to Vitruvius.    The original Vitruvius Mer is said to have been tattooed on a wide swath of Narwahl skin, and was one part of a comprehensive collection of illustrations of the major races.  It is unknown if the collected Vitruvian Codex still exists from this dark time, or even if it were real at all.

The popularization of this piece of analysis on the Piscean Form spread quickly, and led to governmental and superstitious over-reaction, and began a era referred to as the “Culling Purge” — a time of witch hunts enacted in an effort to destroy this information and other permanent records like it.  The very existence of such pro-antomist propaganda was an affront to the Church, and and a good portion of the general populace.

In fear of the heightened “anti-anatomist” movement, the Resurrectionists of the time had to go even further underground to save themselves, but that did not spare thousands of innocent non-Resurectionists from being killed at the hands of over-zealous mobs.  This exile prompted the more forward thinking of the Resurectionists to lay the groundwork for what would eventually become the College of Doctors.  By establishing a reputable organization that gives to the populace, the secondary activities of its constituent members can be shielded away.  The document even influenced the Synesthete Synod and the calculation of the Acumen Cipher, creating such classic thought experiments as “Squaring the Circle” and forming the basic pattern that the Cipher (somewhat) visibly holds.

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