Endless Blue – Week 75 – Ceph Unguisurfing   2 comments

Sociology

Ceph Unguisurfing

Despite the fact Elqua’s surface is 95% covered in water, the pisceans of the Known World reside in an ever more confined space in the Eastern Hemisphere.  With seabed capable of supporting aquaculture solely found near the surface of the water, only so much food can be produced.  But just being close enough to the surface to farm makes those pisceans vulnerable to the aberrations of the Vastness.  Safe farming land is rare, so most centers of population group in the Shoals areas of Elqua’s oceans.  With few races other than the Lumulus and Orcans capable of surviving the crushing depths of the Shelf, that leaves a limited band of living space in the Shoals for populations to form settlements.  As the years go by, the piscean population increases, yet the amount of natural habitat stays limited.  The Fluid Nations have all done their share of deforestation of the world’s kelp farms and coral reefs, despite the protestations of the Locanth and those Xanthellaette Chelon.  Despite this, it is clear that more room is needed, and this has resulted in border disputes and incursions into sovereign territories.

The most affected by this population expansion are the Ceph.  They have no homesea of their own, and instead must survive in the nooks and crannies of the other nations.  The more indignant of these, dissatisfied with eking out an existence at the tail fins of the other races, dwell among the Periphery.  But as the Fluid Nations expand, the Periphery is shrinking.  There is only so much space between the Core and the natural barrier around the planet created by the Spine of the World.  Virgin waterways that once allowed the fallen Kraken the protection needed until they finished their de-evolution into the Ceph of today are rapidly diminishing.  Their race is being squeezed out of the natural ecosystem, and this loss of habitat has forced them into the urban areas.

There they find niches to live that other pisceans would find beneath them.  The Ceph survive by collecting the left over scraps and trash of the other races.  It is a demeaning existence for a species that once dominated the water world, and it is this way of life that justifies some in labeling them “untouchables”.  They have no rights under the Fluid Nations Accord, thus have no recourse when locals push them further and further out to sea.  A life of urban scavenging, keeping themselves hidden from bigoted sight, and being treated as less than animals has turned the ancestral shame the Ceph feel into anger.  That anger has festered, and some of their number have succumbed to its malign influence, and become violent.

So far, there is no concerted organization in the Ceph cells, and no targeted offensive against the other races.  The militants act more as scavengers, attacking the weak and unwary when the need arises.  However, whispers are being heard on the currents of new activity amongst the Ceph militant cells.  There are stories the Ceph rebels are being armed by some unknown source.  Halberds, tridents, and shorts swords of an unknown make are being spotted in the grasp of these indigents.

Unknown Halberd -- Illus. by Gergő Soós

Halberd of Unknown Origin — Illus. by Gergő Soós

The weapons appear to be made of Lumulated dearthsteel.  This is the same rare metal smithed by the Lumulus that played a key part in the defeat of the Kraken during the Occupation.  The tinge of metal’s sheen is ultraviolet, meaning it comes from forgeclan J’warh’abvo.   Any historian can tell you this is impossible.  The J’warh’abvo forgeclan was wiped out by the Kraken slavelords when it became apparent the Lumulus had put aside their differences with the Chelon Xanthellaettes.  The marriage of Lumululated dearthsteal and Xanthellaette Ultravision magic created ensorcelled unques that could reveal the Great Squid when camouflaged, even when cloaked.

Unknown Trident -- Illus. by Gergő Soós

Trident of Unknown Origin — Illus. by Gergő Soós

“Surfing” is a colloquialism for smuggling.  It is derived from the actions of the weapons smugglers, traveling near the surface of the water, where it is so dangerous.  So close to the Vastness, thus vulnerable to the aberrations therein, few pisceans would stumble upon the illegal activities.  These open waters are the prowling territory of the predators of Elqua.  Sharks, plesiosaurs, and even more massive leviathans roam the empty waters, appearing as little more than an indistinct dark patch in the water, until the beast shoots forward to swallow up the unlucky.  Smugglers avoid prying eyes by “surfing” along the border to the Vastness, risking attack and predation from the innumerable carnivores of the oceans.

Unknown Short sword -- Illus. by Gergő Soós

Short sword of Unknown Origin — Illus. by Gergő Soós

Could a forgesmith of the J’warh’abvo have survived all these centuries?  It is true that Lumulus are essentially immortal…  But the artistry in the weapons’ design is not of Lumulan origin.  Could another race have discovered the secret of making Lumulated metal?  But that doesn’t explain where the dearthsteel ore has come from — the Lumulus would never allow dearthsteel into the general populace, often attacking non-Lumulans seen with even scraps of the material.

Surface Waves:

The most immediate concern to the populace of the Known World is the threat to safety.  These armed militants are becoming increasingly more bold now that they have adequate ungues in their possession.  Raids on outlying settlements have begun, and traders are wary of risking their cargo to aggressive Ceph.

This interference with trade has caught the attention of the Yaun-Teel.  Used to unfettered trade routes, this new development has begun to affect the profitability of their business.  Many of the powerful merchants — especially the Liga Synarr — recognize opportunity when they see it, and want to cut in on the action.

The Lumulus demand the return of dearthmetal to the Lumulan government.  They blame the Chelon for supplying the weapons, claiming them to be the left over slag from the Liberation.  The Chelon, of course, deny it; and in return, accuse the Lumulus of being the smugglers in order to frame the Chelon government.

The Orcans, as self-appointed diplomats to the “lesser species”, are somewhat powerless.  The Ceph have no homesea for the Orcan’s to sanction.  Political missionaries must be sent out to Ceph settlements and vainly attempt to contact the Ceph militants in order to begin negotiations.

The Dark Undercurrents:

The Liga Synarr is funding an international “customs service” at major settlements whose purpose is to track down these illegal sales of ungues.  While they legally cannot prevent anyone from entering or leaving the settlement they have adopted, the local governments turn a blind eye to their patrol of nearby no Mer’s seas and the “endless blue” waters above.

“Endless Blue” is a colloquial term for the horizon-less areas of the oceans between the surface and the ocean floor that are far enough away that either horizon is obscured by the water itself.  It is this featureless space in the ocean that the smugglers use to slip their contraband across the Fluid Nations and into the tentacles of the Ceph rebels.  There is only one law in this featureless expanse — the law of survival.  The Liga Synarr uses this fact to justify their smuggler-hunting operations.

Should the Liga Synarr agents be successful, they will find the unguisurfing leads back to somewhere in the Sahaguin Lagoons.  Somewhere, in Narwahl waters, these weapons are being forged.  The Narwahl then exchange these illegal ungues to the Kouton for some unknown payment, whom in turn smuggle the weapons over the Fluid Nations to myriad cells of Ceph dissidents.

Perhaps the Narwahl are after information from the Kouton, whom are well known to hide their secrets.  Could it be the Kouton have a clue to the location of the infamous Khantusk?  With it, the Narwahl could re-unite with their estranged Orcan cousins and form a new Cetacean Horde.

And then there’s the fact these weapons possess  an anomalous, strange property.  Most ultraviolet-enchanted items fluoresce to those with ultravision.  These new ungues do not.  To those with darkvision, these weapons seem to shimmer just outside their range of sight, a slight wavering on the periphery of their vision.  It is almost as if the ungues are glowing in the infrared spectrum.  No Lumulan forgeclan has produced material that reacts to that wavelength.  Only two races in the Endless Blue naturally posses darkvision:  the Kouton that are buying the dearthsteel weapons, and the Yaun-Teel that are hunting for them.

Could this be the work of a new forgeclan?  Where did this smith come from, given that forgeclans are so closely tied to family?  Could the descendant of a Lumulus that had fallen victim to the Undertow found a way out?  This blind “Pale Smith” would be utterly at the mercy of anyone in the Known World.

Ceph are not Pisceans!
— Common bigoted Piscean slogan.

Pisceans are not Ceph!
— Equally bigoted Dissident response.

2 responses to “Endless Blue – Week 75 – Ceph Unguisurfing

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 109 – Cruor Druids: Wielders of the Red Tide | Endless Blue

  2. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 110 – Elqua Calidus: The World Scalders | Endless Blue

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