Endless Blue – Week 62 – The Colorful World of the Endless Blue   Leave a comment

Physics

The Colorful World of the Endless Blue

“A big blue marble in the Vastness” is an obvious image of Elqua, the world of the Endless Blue Setting.  A world covered 95% in water, the seas appear as a single all-encompassing ocean.  When so little land breaks the surface of the planet’s encompassing oceans, such expansive swaths of blue veritably swallow the world into a giant sphere of blue.  But such a bias is unfair to the spectral wonders of the world, because Elqua is home to some of the most colorful vistas the mind could ever imagine.

Colors in the Air

Interaction of aurora and noble gasses in the atmosphere, exacerbated by the massive storms and the meandering Maelstrom, provided an incredibly vivid panorama visible even a dozen or so feet below sea level.  Denizens of the Shore (those areas where the land meets the sea) need not ever break the surface of the water to view intense jolts of brightness and hue lance across the sky violently.  This is the Vastness, the void-above-the-water, a horrifying ocean of nearly intangible gasses that leave the individual with the sensation of a hollowness on the outside where normally the ever present pressing of the sea’s embrace should normally utterly envelop them.  It is the chaotic temperament and siren-like beauty of nature’s display that has historically both frightened and inspired many pisceans.  Cautionary tales and introspective songs alike have had their muse from the Auroras, the most famous of which being the Ballad of Vastness Bright, an epic poem composed during the declining years of the Cetacean barbarians and passed down through oral tradition via the Verse.

The two auroras — Aurora Tidalis and Aurora Currentalis — dance along the ant/arctic circles, wavering ribbons of color, like currents and tides of a celestial sea.  Formed by the poles of Elqua’s magnetic field, the solar wind crashes against the atmosphere, the energized particles giving off light spectra dependent on atmospheric composition.  Normally comprised of oxygen and nitrogen, the light show given off is a wavering strip of primary green or russet red, but with the excessive amounts of noble gasses in Elqua’s thermosphere, every color of the rainbow could blazon across the sky, all at once.

Closer to home, the epoch-long wobble of Elqua’s planetary ring casts a green haze over specific sections of the world.  This Sargasso in the Vastness as it is known seems relegated roughly over the aquatic volcanic range that wraps around the globe called the Spine of the World.  Islands the fall under the ephemeral shadow of the Sargasso Sea take on a strange pale green pallor, as the red and blue wavelengths of white light are obscured.

Colors Under the Waves

Elsewhere, the seas are awash with swaths of color from microscopic life such as phytoplankton and algae blooms.  When the seasons are right, great hundred-mile colonies of these tiny creatures blossom into existence, painting the water with vivid strokes of color.  Some of these beautiful explosions of color are dangerous though, such as the toxic excretion of the red tide.  This billowing crimson cloud is infamous for it creeping spread throughout the Known World, and the wake of ecological devastation it leaves behind.

All life beneath the waves has some kind of coloration, even if it is the neutral greys and bland browns.  But the majority of life bristles splendidly with color, bearing patterns that are camouflagic, mesmeric, or chicaning.  From the smallest ameobic cell to the most immense aquatic gargantuan, color can be found in surprising abundance.  Corals and sea anemones can run the spectrum of coloration, but push beyond those limits by fluorescing — absorbing light at one wavelength and re-emitting it at another.  Other life forms bioluminescence, giving off light via internal chemical reactions. Perhaps the most spectacular of these is the ability of the Ceph, and to a lesser extent the Kouton, whose coloration can change dramatically due to emotional state or simply by will.  The prevalence of color is not limited to only animals, as the Mer, with their eight specific sub-races, exemplifying the sheer range of diversity in skin tone.

The most commonly interacted biome of Elqua is the Known World.  This is the domesticated area of the oceans that has been the center of most all civilization since its inception.  The Primitive races (Kouton, Locanth, Sahaguin, and Yaun-Teel) tend towards more neutral coloration — greens, greys, and brown.  As you reach the Civilized races (Orcan, Lumulus, and Chelon), brighter and higher contrast color schemes begin to forming,  It is the Mer that are the pinnacle of audacious display, varying in hue and shade so greatly a less enlightened mind would think they were different species entirely.

Beneath the waves, coloration is due to self-produced melanin and dietary carotenoids.  Since melanin is produced by chemical breakdown in response to ultraviolet, and chlorophyllic plants require light to photosynthesize, the races of the Shore tend to be the more colorful (the Mer) while those of the Shelf are more muted (Lumulus, Orcans).  The light-absorbing properties of water coupled with the particulate matter and microscopic life aloft in the currents eventually absorbs all wavelengths of light, making it impossible to use chlorophyll to create needed food for survival.

Colors on Land

It is a shame that life above the water’s edge is so lethal to the piscean species.  If there were not so much antagonistic superstition about the surface world, some of the greatest sights imaginable would be witnessed.  Though the foolhardy, the brave, and the ostracized sometimes dare to break the surface, what awaits them on the scattered archipelagos of Elqua is a stupefying vision.  It is the Cetacean epic skalds, the Endira Mundis, the Seamus Lorwynns of the world to peel back the veil of superstitious fear and plunge pell-mell into the grandeur of what lies beyond.

The coloring of plant matter on world is due to one of two chemicals: carotenoids which produce yellow, orange, and red colors, and anthocyanins which produced red, purple, and blue shades.  Red is the common factor, and this is due to the color green in chlorophyll.  Plants use chlorophyll to internally manufacture sugar, and accomplishes this by absorbing all the wavelengths of light except green — which it reflects and is why plants are green.  This is evidently true in the homeseas of the Known World, where kelp forests and seaweed fields wave gently in the currents their leaves covering the shades between olive and chartreuse.  Even the kelpygmies, animate humanoids comprised of plant matter, are colored by the sugar producing pigment.

However, early in the world’s pre-history, during the White Age, Elqua froze over.  A form of Endless White, the surface was a hardened, barren sheet of ice except for a sampling of rhodoarchaea, a simple cell form of life that instead of using chlorophyll to manufacture energy, employed retinal.  Retinal gives rhodoarchaea the violet tinge it is named for, as it reflects red and blue wavelengths and thrives under the greenish tinted light cast by Elqua’s planetary ring.

As more complex plant-life evolved these magenta precursors to a level of bearing fruit, the expression of red in carotenoid and anthocyanin became dominant.  This is due to the starkness between green and red.  They are antagonistic colors that do not blend well, and natural selection favored those plants whose fruit were more easily identified through color.  On Elqua, this same evolution occurred, but instead green plants producing red fruit, it was purple plants producing yellow fruit.  This coloration comes from the retinal in the plant and either cryptoxanthin (orangish yellow) and lutein (yellowish green) in the fruit rind.

Here again we see the influence of the noble gas infused atmosphere taking effect, helping to retard spoilage and allowing terrestrial Elqua fruit to evolve in unique ways.  The rind of many fruit has become translucent, the pulp ranging from the near liquid slough of fermentation to the near crystallization of amber sap.  This has led to the convergent evolution of bio-luminescent plants whose fruit glow as the chemical reaction inside ripens.

These “huelight” fruit are organic versions of the bluelight alchemical concoctions the sages of the Known World developed to provide light in the darkness of the Shelf’s aphotic depths.  The pollinated pods first form in a reddish hue like the stem and leaves of the plant, and as the fruit ages it grows in size and the color shifts to orange and yellow.  Fully formed, the fruit give off greenish blue light where upon most are consumed by the aberrations that comprise the majority of life on land.  The rare circumstances that huelight remains too long on the vine, it radiates a painful purple light, getting ever brighter until the fruit finally bursts from the internal pressure of waste gasses created in the ripening/bio-luminescence process.

To the eyes of Endira Mundi, as she peeked above the undulating waves so long ago, the lights peppered across the horizon where like the blinking pinpoints seen in the Vastness when it was calm and the sun had set.  It looked to her that the land of Elqua was littered with nexuses of these twinkling specks, and they spread outwards from her world into the Vastness like spawn on the ocean current.  The sight changed her in ways that could never be undone, the Endira from before shed like the shell of a Lumulus and in her place was the birth of curiosity.

The aberrational creatures that stalk the land are in turn no stranger to visual flamboyance.  Even those species that lack any form of eye seem to indulge in the chromatic display, another streak of color on the great big blue marble spinning silently in the darkness of the Vastness.  And to the young eyes of the Mer girl, it was a canvas of majesty.

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