Endless Blue – Week 84 – The Cryptic System – Information Demands Freedom   Leave a comment


The Cryptic System

Information Demands Freedom

The Kraken ensnared the Known World for centuries in their constricting grasp.  Through the use of their innate power, the artifact known as Khantusk, and a pact with eldritch beings, the Occupation dominated Fluid Nations and ravaged them of their resources.  During those dark centuries, it is charged that the Kouton government collaborated with the occupiers, betraying the other piscean nations in order to lessen the devastation of their own homesea.  Despite no real proof, the stigma has lasted to this day.  But not all Kouton should be labeled traitors.  Some worked against the Occupation, smuggling vital information about Kraken deployment to the dwindling rebellion.  Those Kouton went by the eponymous anonym “The Cryptic System”, and were true unknown heroes of the Rebellion.

Information brokers, the Cryptic System provided information to the rebel movement.  The organization worked much like Kouton sociology does, with each “cell” working independently to get the crucial information beyond the Krakens’ reach.  These Kouton were radicals, freely giving away information that helped turn the tide of the Occupation.  With the fall of the Kraken Empire, the Cryptic System remained anonymous, garnering no credit for the significant contribution they gave in Elquan independence.  Now, they send information to the ears that need to hear it.

They created the Formation Maps, information on Kraken military disbursement during the Occupation.  These maps were small pieces of tanned skin from various aquatic creatures.  Taken individually, any one map contains very little information. They act more like puzzle pieces of a larger map.  It is through the use of the Cryptic key that the order of the pieces is learned.  But even that is not enough to glean the data upon the sheets of flesh.  Ultraviolet inks hide the stolen information, and that information is further encoded.

The use of a segmented map spread the risk of discovery over many individuals.  Much like the cell hierarchy of the rebellion itself, if any one section of the map was captured, the loss of data was reduced.  But mostly, this “shared risk” was a silent assurance for the Kouton involved, to whom the sharing of knowledge was socially taboo.  It was a necessary complication so the Kouton could rationalize their actions.

There are several iterations of maps that make up the Formation Maps.  As Kraken deployment changed across the Fluid Nations, new map sections were tattooed and dispersed through the Cryptic System’s network of operatives.  Updates would be passed on to the rebellion from various channels without relying on a single route.  As such, it is possible for multiple versions of the same segment to exist.

There is no complete set of Formation Maps, and Cryptic Keys are even more rare.  A single section of mapping is worth immense amounts to a historical collector.  Governments have forbidden private ownership of any part of the Formation Maps, especially those of their own homesea, citing national security as the reason for confiscation.  Without a key, multiple map segments are of little use without exhaustive research.  But with enough research, the area detailed on a single map segment might be gleaned.  Who knows what forgotten secrets might be hidden on any single segment — stockpile of weaponry, hidden stash of currency, or maybe abandoned magical artifacts.

The maps actually delineated nearly the entirety of the Known World — practically half the globe.  Vexillifers of the period retold reports that some of the Formation Map segments illustrated areas of the Fluid Nations long ago made inaccessible to most pisceans:  The Maw, the Crèche of Civilization, even some areas beyond the Spine of the World, a mountain range that encircles the globe of Elqua, separating the east and west hemispheres.

Cryptic Keys are three concentric cylinders with notched holes running along their length, like a flute within a flute within a flute.  Ball bearings are fitted between the cylinders in grooves, allowing the tubes to not only turn in place, but slide back and forth.  These keys are three-fold in purpose: Firstly is to decode the draconic Krakonian information into a medium understandable by then-modern pisceans, secondly to translate that data into a recognizable language, and thirdly to re-encode that translation into a cryptographic form.  As such, Cryptic Keys come in multiple languages, not simple the defacto language of the Known World. elquan.  From the logographic sahaguini through the melodic cetacean to the perplexing lumulan, Cryptic Keys could translate Formation Maps as reliably and quickly as the native speaker required.

Ensuing Emancipation

After the Kraken Empire fell and the Known World threw off their shackles, the Cryptic System went silent.  During this period of history, the recriminations against the government of Kouton Bay flourished, with many wide scale calls of retribution for their collusion in the Occupation.  Perhaps the Cryptic System took what happened to the Ceph, the direct descendants of the cursed Kraken, to heart.  Bigotry and vengeance swept over the newly freed pisceans, and in an understandable yet shameful backlash, the Ceph were hunted down like animals.  Even to this day, the Ceph are treated worse than even a second class citizen, and instead are treated like unclean vermin.  From this climate, the Cryptic System withdrew into even greater isolation, as even their own people shunned their actions against the Kouton “way of life”.  Though they withdrew, they were not idle.

They bade their time, and like any true Kouton they watched, they learned, and they remembered.  Slowly over the years, they have amassed information on the various governments and institutions that influence life on Elqua.  And with that information, they wield great power.  It is a power they are willing to flex in the name of piscean rights.  A dropped insight here, a planted clue there, they have once again begun leaking damaging information to the public about those in power that abuse their position.  They have become an anonymous hero to the populace, a beacon of truth that has earned them a reputation of nearly impeccable patriotism.

So thorough, so meticulous has their collection of secrets been that nothing short of divine intervention could fool them.  They do not act rashly.  They verify what they know long before they commit themselves to action.  And their action is simply to tell, to give information the freedom it demands.  And true to their Kouton philosophy, no single member takes credit for the actions of the whole.

The Cryptic System is never wrong.  They have been watching.  They have noticed.  And they never forget.

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps.
These maps were founded to change nations.”
— Vexillifer tale of the Formation Maps

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