|Religion:||Gods of the Deep|
The Oneidhae are a family of diverse sub-aquatic humanoid races. Their population centers are located around the Tuil Sianaach crescent island. The mysterious merfolk have created an elaborate civilization stratified by castes based on appearance and abilities. Some of the merfolk can move about on land and have made contact with the races of the surface.
- 1 History
- 2 Society and People
- 3 Geography
- 4 Natural Resources
- 5 Religion
- 6 Magic
Oneidhae claim they were the first civilized race in the world. Their history spans back hundreds of thousands of years with three epochs called The Early Times which included a golden age, followed by The Collapse with Drudge uprisings and colonization by Pentland, then proceeded by what's considered a Renewal.
The Early Times
While surfacers were still primitive and tribal hundreds of thousands of years ago, the Oneidhae developed their civilization within what would later be called Tuil Sianaach. Basic record keeping started in 400,000+ BT, and most of these records detail Thelassian day-to-day life and politics. At the time, the crescent isle was barely above water and the cultivated reefs were expansive and thriving. Their caste system was in its infancy with Thelassians, Myrmidons, Pelagiads, and Drudges just coming into being as the population grew. The basis for the caste was built on perceived physiological differences that indicated how "close one was to the gods". Initially, the differences between the first four castes were subtle, but after millennia of adherence to this system each group developed unique appearances. The Thelassians with their elongated limbs and elegant tendrils claimed they were naturally as close to godly as any mortal can get. The Myrmidons with their musculature and raw strength were naturally the warrior class meant to protect Oneidhae and serve Thelassians. Pelagiads were very average in comparison to the upper two, but still possessed intelligence to complete skilled labor. The Drudges, with their very fishy and bulbous appearances, were built for hard labor, by the gods the Thelassians claimed. Life within this caste system was less severe and dogmatic but rife with tensions amongst Oneidhae as they tried to justify their places within society. Soceity nonetheless grew, mostly to the benefit of Thelassians, for whom it truly was a Golden Age from 120,000 BT to 50,000 BT.
The Drudges were treated harshly as serfs, and the first sign of the collapse of the Golden Age, approximately 50,000 BT, was a massive uprising that depleted the workforce to such an extent that it halted agriculture and basic city services. Instead of dismantling the caste system, the Thelassians doubled down on it and in partnership with the Myrmidons imposed harsher penalties for disobedience. Loyal Drudges were gifted larger plots of reef for personal use and other perks, thus ensuring obedient lineages.
Oneidhae society after the uprising was never as stable as it once was, with small Drudge uprisings occurring in outer enclaves over the centuries. The occasional periods of growth rarely lasted a millennia. Their religion experienced rifts with starker divisions between worshipers of Enterelos and Cephakos. Factions that were devoted to Javanikrys and completely at odds with civilized Oneidhae life emerged and encouraged instability. These factions are nomadic and hard to root out, thus they still cause problems for enclaves in the outer reaches of Tuil Sianaach. Another faction, composed mostly of Myrmidons, demanded a stricter, more brutal way of life, and were driven out of the South Sea by high-powered magic wielding Thelassians - all the way to the other side of globe near Mwayambi. As unity amongst Oneidhae dissolved and Tuil Sianaach no longer became the center of merfolk life, cultural development and progress slowed. Meanwhile, surfacers formed bustling city-states and nations with advancements in naval technology.
Fionn ancestry during this time is murky and rumored to have started after wayfinding explorers found the islands within Tuil Sianaach. Some say the humans gradually adapted to the environment with larger lungs, hands, and feet. Others claim intermingling happened between humans and Oneidhae that over time became the Fionn. As the Golden Age of the Oneidhae came to an end, conflicts between the Fionn and differing merfolk factions occurred but the majority of Oneidhae accepted the presence of the Fionn as benign.
More humans settled on what was soon to be Pentland. At first, there was scarce interaction between the Fionn and Oneidhae and proto-Pentlanders. Once Pentland was officially established and their naval force intensified, they quickly conquered the surrounding islands of Arrantiada and Tuil Sianaach. The Fionn experienced the worst of the conflict, as Pentland surrounded the crescent isle with warships. Everything came to a head over a century ago when a fishing vessel discovered the resources underwater. The Oneidhae kept out of these affairs and considered the conflict between Fionn and Pentland a surfacer's problem, until Pentland dredged for resources in a way that was destroying reefs. Fionn were made to dive for treasure, then after the discovery of diamonds an unknown party sabotaged Pentlander ships. It's still unknown who the saboteurs were, but rumors say it was a party of Fionn and Oneidhae.
Pentland's great naval vessels built from Thymvraan oak had a hard time defending against usurpers from below. The Imperials introduced a new weapon to the battle field to counter underwater attacks - a biological weapon that could poison the reefs and surrounding water. It wasn't until a demonstration of this weapon that the Oneidhae finally submitted and allowed Tuil Sianaach and the reefs to be colonized by Pentland. This reef still bears the scars of destruction, though Imperials deny the event ever occurred.
Colonization by Pentland spurred a century of covert operations to spark redevelopment and progress within Oneidhae society.
The Inumidans are the most recent caste. While the reefs experienced a rise and collapse, merfolk of the deep led a very different life based on self-discipline and the intensive study of nature, philosophy, and the arcane. Interactions between those in higher waters and those in the deep were scarce during the Golden Age of the Oneidhae, but a group of Thelassians began corresponding with deep sea merfolk as instabilities increased. Initially, the Thelassians exchanged information and ideas intermixed with pleas to join Tuil Sianaach society to build great cities. The Inumidans hesitated until Pentland demonstrated their poisonous weaponry, which constituted a threat to all aquatic life. It took careful deliberation, but the Inumidans felt it was now their calling to help advance and protect Oneidhae society.
The Thelassians proclaimed the new caste was second tier in society, though technically Inumidans bear a similar plane of influence and power as Myrmidons. Inumidans have many important roles in cities. They lack some of the social skills that Thelassians have, but still act as advisors and occasionally diplomats. A university dedicated to science and engineering was established in the new deep sea city of Iumentorpolis. There, too deep for Pentlanders to ever reach, they've enhanced the abilities to artificially cultivate corals and created stronger weapons and regenerative armor. The deep sea thermal vents are utilized as forges where new metal alloys werre developed. For now, most of their research is going towards what may ultimately be a war with Pentland, but many Inumidans are eager to plan and develop new gleaming cities from the fruits of their research.
Within the last five decades, a number of merfolk have been born with unique features such as more limbs or eyes than normal or as conjoined twins. Rather than see these features as defects, the Oneidhae placed them on a pedestal. They possess greater magical abilities than other Oneidhae. These unique merfolk are at the top of Thelassian Oneidhae society regardless of the caste they were born in. Though there are political struggles as these merfolk vie for power within the Thelassian caste, ultimately they are providing the Oneidhae with visions of a future where they have control of their ancestral home.
Ullisa: First recorded ruler. Hers is the first written account of the caste system, with early justifications for stratifying society based on physiological differences and that good breeding is everything when it came to rights of authority.
Nada: Ruler during the first Drudge Uprising that cost the lives of many of the lowest caste. Harsh authoritarian who, with the support of Myrmidons, carried out brutal public executions of defectors and massacred entire family lines of Drudges. Eventually, as all of Oneidhae society suffered from a lack of laborers, fellow Thelassians revolted and assassinated Nada.
Nys: Chosen ruler after Nada. She, along with a new council, rewarded loyalty amongst Drudges by giving them property in nearly built enclaves in the outskirts of Tuil Sianaach. The number of uprisings fell dramatically, while simultaneously the Drudges were split into smaller groups throughout the reefs, thus making the lowest caste easier to control as well. She also founded the Pelagiad college which taught skilled trades, the arts, history, and a few tightly regulated liberal sciences.
Nerys: Ruler during the rise of Pentland as a nation and subsequently when the Imperials claimed Tuil Sianaach as a colony. She's credited with convincing the Inumidans to join Oneidhae society.
Una: The first Oneidhae to be born with strange defects that were ultimately seen as gifts from the gods, since she had incredible latent magical abilities. The timing of her birth came 20 years after Tuil Sianaach was colonized and a decade after the Inumidans joined society. Such births are still a rarity, though the number of unique births has risen within the last five decades.
Ismene: Scientist who innovated reef cultivation and growing. Her research led to super hardened corals used today for weaponry and armor.
Omphaelos: Founded the Inumidan University of Science and Engineering. He was a skilled architect as well.
Ypsilantes: Legendary warrior who used cunning to thwart enemies.
Society and People
The Oneidhae or merfolk come in a range of different appearances. There is some variation based on which city they're from, but caste plays the biggest role in determining Oneidhae physiology. Strict adherence to the caste over hundreds of thousands of years caused stark differences between each group.
Many Oneidhae, especially the nobility, believe that some castes are inherently superior to others and more fit to rule. The bottom castes have very little wealth and power, living like servants. When caste-mixing happens, the offspring tend to have difficult, ambiguous lives if they survive into adulthood.
The society is largely matriarchal. Females, while smaller than males, have a higher affinity for magic, naturally putting them in charge. The priests, mages and governors tend to be females, though males sometimes fill these roles. Lineages are traced from the mother. Still, female Oneidhae can be found in the lower castes.
Some merfolk are born with anomalies like multiple pairs of arms or as conjoined siblings. Their shape is considered auspicious, touched by the divine. This overrides their ordinary caste in determining their place in society.
Humanoid upper halves: all merfolk have some kind of humanoid torso with at least one pair of arms. Some torsos have slick skin, others have scales. They may or may not have webbed hands, fins, quills or membranous "plumage" coming out of their arms or backs. A handful of rare individuals, usually female, may have multiple pairs of arms.
Head shape: ranges from almost human-looking to having a short dragon-like snout. Membranous appendages like those of an axolotl or a sea dragon may sweep back from their heads like hair. Some have short but nimble tentacles protruding from their lower jaws. Some have crests and quills. Many have large specialized eyes that have heightened sensitivity and can see into the ultraviolet spectrum to compensate for the low light underwater.
Tail shape: Most of the merfolk have long fish-like or serpent-like tails below their torso. The fins and appendages coming out of the tail vary in shape and number. Some Oneidhae can separate their tails into two individually articulated legs to walk on land, while some others can slither on land like a naga. A minority have octopus-like tentacles for a bottom half instead of a tail.
Some Caste Groups
The exact way appearance maps to caste is largely unknown by surface races. A few known caste groups are presented as an example, with the equivalent of their caste names rendered in surface-common.
Thelassians or Highborn tend to have a long tail with smooth flesh like that of a dolphin, ray or eel. They frequently have long fleshy appendages or plumage extending from their heads, which serves the same function as hair and as a self-defense tool, lined with stingers. They are medium-sized, graceful and intelligent, if haughty and convinced of their superiority. Most sorcerers and priests to major deities are Thelassians. There is additional stratification among the highborn, with the topmost echelon ruling over society. Thelassians, even if they can, do not walk on land on legs as a matter of pride.
Pelagiads are below the highborn and could be considered a middle class. Their tails are covered in fish-like scales as are parts of their bodies. Most Pelagiads are physically average, lacking any special abilities or weaknesses. There are further subdivisions among their kind, ranging from respected artisans and merchants to basic semi-skilled laborers. The Pelagiads as a social stratum have the greatest amount of internal social mobility in Oneidhae society compared to other caste groupings. Many Pelagiads can appear very human-like on land with two legs. Some can even do a full transformation, of whom Thelassians often employ as spies.
Myrmidons are of the Oneidhae's elite warriors. While many commoners can be made to take up arms, the Myrmidons are evolved for mayhem and excel at it. They are covered with scales that resemble overlapping armor plates. Their tough fins are anchored with sharpened quills that could be used for offense and defense. Their tails are highly muscular, making them the Oneidhae's fastest swimmers. Some have the ability to split their tails in two and use these as crude legs for surface walking.
Inumidans are a strange group characterized by bioluminescent appendages, eyes bigger and more bulbous than the rest, and extra appendages in the form of prehensile tentacles. These tend to be specialists such as scientists, scribes, advisers, healers, certain priests or, occasionally, magic-users. While quick and intelligent, they are more physically vulnerable than common warriors and less charismatic than the aristocrats.
Drudges is a catch-all term for the laborer castes, which tend to be of a smaller size than other Oneidhae but more plentiful in their reproduction. Lacking many physical or social advantages of the higher tiers, the various drudge castes are responsible for the core of society's menial work - building, cleaning, carrying, mining, farming, etc. When the labor has skill involved, groups of drudges are sometimes supervised by a Pelagiad or Inumidan. Drudge uprisings aren't unheard of but tend to only happen when the current aristocrats go overboard with negative treatment.
Politics and Military
Oneidhae within Tuil Sianaach follow an aristocratic matriarchy based on a caste system. Each Oneidhae city and enclave have their own Council of Matriarchs run by elder Thelassians. Each caste group, except for Drudges, have representatives, who are also matron elders of their caste, that meet with Matriarchs to discuss the economy, societal ills, religious celebrations, and civil projects. The Thelassians have final say on decisions, but the lower castes' input is sometimes taken into consideration.
The current system is a tangle of city-states with their own policies and economies, and thus trade amongst Oneidhae can be convoluted. Colonization by Pentland further complicates matters, since cities within the Imperial's reach in shallow depths are expected to make contributions to the colonizers. The value of items also varies depending on a cities' natural resources, and councils try to wield this to their advantage. Relations between city-states often devolve into petty trade wars that occasionally turn violent.
The Oneidhae system of governance wasn't always so complex, with a period of unity that many aspire to regain. A group of Thelassians have an agenda to centralize Oneidhae governmental authority within Coleneapolis, which would be the capital. The plan is to standardize the currency, to establish a trade policy that focuses on exports and imports with other nations, and to foster a homogenous Oneidhae culture based in Tuil Sianaach as their ancestral home. Oneidhae cities would have a single Thelassian sent to attend council meetings in the capital. Smaller scale, local politics won't be dissolved, but broader reaching topics, such as the economy, will be handled by the one Council of Tuil Sianaach, with a Queen figurehead presiding over it. Work is already underway to progress this agenda, though conflicts arise since plenty of Thelassians enjoy their power over their cities. Sometimes these Thelassians suddenly "disappear" and are replaced with nobility who are falling in line with centralization. Ultimately, it'll be necessary to gain independence from Pentland if the Oneidhae are to re-establish their empire in the sea. Popular perception (aka Propaganda) of this plan amongst lower castes is that war is a necessary evil, since Pentland holds a weapon of biological destruction over their heads, literally, which prevents Oneidhae society from truly flourishing.
The military is entirely composed of Myrmidons with a system of divisions and ranks similar to most standing militaries. The headquarters and training camp for the military is in the city of Ommastrephidae. Female Myrmidons command divisions, though sexual dimorphism makes male Myrmidons the brute force behind the operation. Myrmidons stay out of politics as individuals, but they follow the orders of Thelassians to enforce law and order, and protect their peoples. Tangentially, this means they engage in the political games of the nobility.
The Thelassians have arranged marriages that bind political or business deals. Myrmidons are paired based on physique, as a breeding program to produce superior warriors. Pelagiads and Drudges have more leeway to choose who they marry within their respective caste, but arranged marriages between different reef communities are common in order to avoid inbreeding. Inumidans tend to abstain from marriage and produce young with multiple partners.
Oneidhae within Tuil Sianaach reefs strictly adhere to caste laws when practicing marriage customs. Thelassians will hold exquisite feasts and parties that may last for days. The lower castes are expected to pay tribute to the Thelassian couple with gifts, namely handcrafts. Depending on the Oneidhae faction, the lower caste is either paid to work the festivities or expected to donate their time. Lower caste weddings are very "do-it-yourself" with everyone within a city or enclave's caste community contributing to organize, prepare, and commence the festivities. Inumidans simply don't get married unless it's to have named figureheads, but even that is just for show.
Reproduction techniques vary with some Oneidhae laying egg clutches and others giving live birth. Typically with live births, only one or two Oneidhae are born at a time. Egg clutches can produce up to a hundred Oneidhae at once. Drudges reproduce in mass quantities, for instance, with the expectation that many die from accidents, illnesses, or predation. It's rare for Drudges to only produce less than 50 offspring at a time -- one offspring produced via live birth is even rarer. Pelagiads, Myrmidons, Inumidans, and Thelassians produce fewer offspring than Drudges but they have the resources to care for and protect offspring into adulthood.
Family Structure and Education
Oneidhae typically live with family in multi-generational houses, which can be large compounds depending on the size of the family. They care for their young until the age when they're sent to an apprenticeship, mentorship, or university. Depending on the caste, childrearing can require an entire caste community. The life of Oneidhae youth is completely determined by caste and has certain stark differences.
Thelassians have Pelagiads provide basic care for infants and education similar to governesses for children. Interaction with parents is scarce, since most Thelassians are kept busy with council meetings, checking on large scale civic projects, and governance during the day followed by extravagant parties with other Thelassians at night. Parents are none-the-less expected to teach religion starting at an early age. When Thelassians are adolescent, they're assigned mentorships to different Thelassians to hone skills such as political sciences, mathematics, the arcane arts, and philosophy. Depending on the faction, Thelassians will also be assigned to learn combat from Myrmidons. They also access the coveted Laws of Ullisa at adolescence which details the rules of the caste and punishments for breaking caste and committing other crimes. The entirety of their education is meant to prepare them to be the stewards of the Oneidhae, the ones meant to lead.
Myrmidons rear young that are meant to be the protectors of the Oneidhae and enforcers of the law. They take pride in their carefully crafted lineages, and the family unit is in fact very strong despite infrequent interactions. Training begins as soon as the young can hold a trident or glaive. They're sent to bootcamps in Ommastrephidae where their education and training is rigorous. Thelassians teach religion peppered with propaganda at monthly retreats in Coleneapolis. Myrmidons in training are allowed to return home once a year for a full month to recuperate. There are, in fact, female Myrmidons, though they are assigned as the protectorates of their local enclaves, cities, and palatial Thelassian estates. Males tend to form the armies meant to thwart foreign invaders at borders or are sent to the farthest reaches to clear out dissidents or enemies and claim new territory.
Inumidans can have many half-sisters, half-brothers, and numerous extended family relationships. They reproduce with multiple partners from different communities or far enough removed in familial relations to avoid the bad kind of congenital defects, like organs on the outside. Though with so many born at once it can be hard to keep track. Education is tantamount to this caste, and they place their young in large boarding schools where learning is rigorous. They're a deeply religious caste, as well, and thus boarding schools focus primarily on religion for children with teachings branching out to arcane arts, engineering, and various sciences as they get older. The learning never ends for Inumidans, and as teenagers they automatically move on to the university in Iumentorpolis where they deepen their knowledge to become a master of a particular subject, such as city planning, architecture, civic engineering, arcane arts, alchemy, chemistry, etc, with the ability to earn minors in multiple subjects.
Pelagiads and Drudges care for their own young and sometimes offspring from other families in their caste by forming schools with multiple caregivers, which can be a mix of male and female Oneidhae. Drudges never learn to read but some can do basic math. Drudges learn from their own through apprenticeships, namely in farming and construction. Pelagiads are educated to read, write, and do mathematics while young. Pelagiad youth have an opportunity to join the university designed for their caste, which focuses on trade skills, basic arcane arts such as healing, math, medicine, and some approved liberal arts like history and religion. Pelagiads can take on skilled trades and be doctors, artisans, merchants, chefs, etc. They're often expected to carry on the trade of their parents.
Acoustics and Language
The use of sound has paramount importance to the Oneidhae. Because sound carries so well in water compared to light, the Oneidhae evolved highly sophisticated echolocation and communication methods, capable of inflecting and harmonizing sound waves like no other creatures. Merfolk communicate with each other through multi-ranged songs that simultaneously communicate content, mood, social standing, level of importance and other intangible qualities. The higher castes have an incrementally graceful command of language. A conversation between two highborn can almost qualify as a harmonic duet - pleasing to the ears and infused with layers of meaning.
Oneidhae can engage their vocal cords to replicate surface speech but it loses a great deal of meaning in comparison. Surfacers have a hard time hearing Oneidhae speech since much of it occurs at a higher or lower register than most humanoid ears can discern. A great deal of Oneidhae artform is linked with the manipulation of sound and creative acoustics play an important role in city planning.
The majority of the Oneidhae live in elaborate underwater cities. Most of these are built atop massive coral reef systems or carved out from the rocks of an underwater cliffside. Most cities are built on relatively shallow continental shelves to allow some light and heat to reach them.
Compared to the surface cities' horizontal sprawl, merfolk cities are much more three-dimensional. Varying depth layers form different "neighborhoods" that serve different purposes. Cities tend to be marvels of integration with indigenous sea life. Grand vertical gardens, large decorated buildings and bioluminescent lighting give these cities an air of unmatched splendor.
The Oneidhae practice agriculture/aquaculture to feed their populations. Sprawling farms of kelp and other edible plants populate the shallows. Massive schools of fish are raised and herded for their meat and labor power.
Not all Oneidhae are urban. There are nomadic merfolk groups who live off the sea through hunting and gathering. They tend to be much more hardy and aggressive and prone to raiding. Also, individuals encountered in the "wilds" might be outcasts, hermits, explorers, adventurers or long distance couriers.
Enteropolis: Deep sea cold water reef, specializes in hardened corals, most diverse city
Coleneapolis: Tropical and cold water reefs next to Tuil Sianaach, massive, would-be capital city, Thelassian upper echelon playground, still a very diverse city
Iumentorpolis: Deep sea hydrothermal vents -- mines, forges, engineering academy for Inumidans. Harsh high pressure environment
Ommastrephidae: Tropical reef, military training
Teuthidae: Deep sea cold water reef, kelp farms
Keuppia: Hydrothermal vents, mining
Nautilidae: Tropical water reef, university for Pelagiads
Terrimian: Cold water reef too close to Pentland, many defectors live here
Ammonoidea: Cold water reef farm
Metasepia: Kelp farm
Belauensia: Tropical reef and kelp farms
Ceratitida: Cold water reef farm
Submarine volcanic activity throughout the vast deep sea landscape creates an abundance of minerals, but only specialized Oneidhae such as all Inumidans and certain Drudges and Pelagiads have the ability to dive into the deepest trenches of the ocean to carefully mine resources. The process of deep sea mining is laborious due to the delicate slow growing nature of deep sea corals, which are often found surrounding hydrothermal vents and volcanic ridges and many sea creatures depend on them for spawning grounds and habitation. Inumidans carefully plan designs for the mines to ensure productivity and safety, but it is none-the-less a dangerous and sometimes fruitless job.
Some of the most abundant minerals are gold and diamonds. So abundant, in fact, that to the Oneidhae they're worthless and often called the "Turds of Cephakos". The Oneidhae nonetheless protect these resources since the Tuil Sianaach crescent island was taken because of the presence of diamonds. They're not ignorant of the value these things hold for land dwellers. Other metals and minerals are valued more, instead.
Copper can be found in the deep sea, but it'll quickly corrode in the salty water. Nickel on the other hand is resistant to corrosion.
Bronze and silver are valued in more or less the same way as land dwellers, thus traded by weight or used for currency
Diamonds have more practical uses due to their hardness. They've been integrated into innovative new hull smasher designs, for instance.
Obsidian is another abundant material created when deep sea lava flows harden rapidly in the cold water. The Oneidhae use obsidian, which can hold a sharper edge than metals, for arrowheads and knives. "Colene's Tears" are smooth and rounded obsidian stones that can be traded by its weight for goods among the Oneidhae. Some highly structured cities create standardized "coins" out of obsidian as the lowest domination.
Javanikrys' Tears, or Javanium, is priced among Oneidhae as equivalent to gold, and Colenium is priced equivalent to platinum. These are two metals found buried beneath volcanic rocks found in deep ocean mountain ridges. Both are rust and corrosion proof and harder than mythril. Javanium is a light copper color, resistant to magic, and highly conductive for electricity. Colenium harnesses magical energies and is light weight. These metals aren't used for currency but are crafted into armor, weapons, and jewelry by Pelagiad smiths for the Myrmidons.
The Oneidhae are experts at creating reefs. Techniques that utilize grafting and magic quickly form elaborate coral reefs. Inumidans are given the role as architects and engineers for these projects, while Drudges do much of the unskilled labor that involves moving and stacking rocks to create outcrops for corals to latch onto. Under natural circumstances, it takes millennia for reef systems to grow and flourish, but the Inumidans are proven sorcerers and can utilize healing magic that spurs coral growth. Civic coral projects that expand over a kilometer worth of reef can be completed in a month, with hundreds of workers constantly toiling away.
Hybrids of stony coral with a superior hardness akin to cold steel and faster growth are made into regenerative armor and weaponry. For land usage, the hardened coral is simply the skeleton. The armor and weaponry don't regenerate quickly on their own, but with healing magic the armor can be repaired in minutes depending on the extent of damage.
Kelp gardens are another engineering project taken on by Imunidans with Drudges for menial labor. These gardens, along with reefs, form the agricultural system of the Oneidhae.
The Oneidhae worship a pantheon of gods and demigods. General themes of Order, Chaos, and Neutrality, Good and Evil, are present within their religion. The religion is as stratified as their caste system, with Oneidhae positioned near the bottom of the pyramid. The gods are: Elder Goddess Javanikrys, God of Order Enterolos, God of Chaos Cephakos, Goddess of the Spirit Realm Colene, God of Death Iumentorid. Javanikrys is worshipped as the primary goddess of all life, who created the realm of the sea. Brothers Enterolos and Cephakos were created by Javanikrys from pure whimsy, but they control the balance of the world and keep each other in check. Colene was created from the combined tentacles of Enterolos and Cephakos. She reigns over the spirit realm, which is an ever growing cluster of eggs.
Beneath these gods are demigods created when the three siblings copulated with various lesser sea creatures. The merfolk originated from the demigods as they copulated among themselves until their sacred lineage became thinner and thinner. Thus, higher caste Oneidhae are said to be closer to sacred.
The elder goddess, Javanikrys, is worshiped by all in private with home altars or openly by cultists. Javanikrys, a humanoid octopus of immense magnitude, is the mother of the gods, Enterolos, Cephakos, and Colene, and creator of the oceans and lesser aquatic plants and animals. Iumentorid is believed by her most fervent worshipers to be one of her offspring, as well. She only created these three or four major deities then left her children to their own devices. She is a terrifying goddess of fickle whims. The worst natural catastrophes: mega cyclones, abyssal earthquakes, undersea volcano eruptions, are said to be caused by her fury. She has a deep hatred for land dwellers, since many of them were created in her primordial ocean soup but betrayed her to walk on land. Land dwellers have since forgotten her existence and instead pillage the resources she's created.
Merfolk fear and respect her as the creator of their realm, but they understand Javanikrys holds no favor over the merfolk as they were tangentially created from her whim to create the gods. Merfolk that hold severe hatred toward land dwellers believe they have her favor, however, and dedicate their raids to her. Splits between merfolk factions occurred over the worship of Javanikrys as more merfolk started emulating the God of Order and/or the Goddess of the Spirit Realm, who are seen as gentler and more approachable deities.
Enterolos, God of Order, and Cephakos, God of Chaos, are giant humanoid octopus brothers that represent a duality. They were sculpted from volcanic rocks by their mother, Javanikrys, then instructed that only one may rule over the profane realm. Thus, a bitter rivalry began. The two are constantly battling with each other, which can cause giant cyclones over the ocean as anger rises. The two occasionally team up against their mother when her whims effect something that the brothers are mutually invested in. Some merfolk factions worship one brother over the other. Other factions see the two as providing a balance in life. When one brother starts to get too powerful, the other checks him. Depending on this take, a merfolk faction may act as a lawful, neutral, or chaotic entity with scales tipped towards good or evil.
- Worship of Enterolos creates societies that strictly adhere to laws and protocols. Cities created by those who publicly espouse the God of Order are engineered with the newest merfolk technologies. Merfolk-made reefs, bioluminescent lighting, elaborate kelp gardens, and multi-tiered structures are common features.
- Worship of Cephakos creates unpredictable and nomadic societies. Structures tend to be impermanent and flimsy, tools are more primitive, and life is determined on a day-to-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, basis. These merfolk are volatile, act on impulses, and/or will do things just to see what happens - potentially at the expense of others.
- Those who treat the brothers as equals are the bridge between the two. They live in small enclaves composed of permanent structures and public works, but much of their life is tied to the ebb and flow of nature.
Colene, the Goddess of Spirit Realm, also known as Giant Octopus Mother, was created by Javanikrys from two tentacles ripped off from each brother during a fight. She represents neutral forces within nature. Upon witnessing the plight of merfolk spirits trapped in their corporeal bodies, she created a realm in which to tend to them after their corpses were consumed by Iumentorid's hordes. The spirit realm is a clutch of eggs, created after the emergence of mortal merfolk so that their spirits had a place to rest. Her perpetual delicate care of the egg clutch is seen as an act of true altruism, and some merfolk factions make it a tenant to follow her example. Merfolk factions that do this tend to value Enterolos more or the brothers as equals. Javanikrys cultists still see Colene as the keeper of their souls, but that Javanikrys ultimately decides who does or doesn't reach the spirit realm via Iumentorid - who they believe was created by the elder goddess. To them, any merfolk that associates with land dwellers is cursed to remain trapped in their lifeless corpses.
Iumentorid, the Ghost Whale God of the Dead rules the underworld, the Abyssal Realm, and glides over the deep sea terrain with hordes of ghost sharks, goblin sharks, ratfish all formed from chunks of Iumentorid's rotten flesh. These hordes eat the dead that falls to the ocean floor in order for their spirit to be freed from their corporeal bodies. He is said to have been created by Colene or Javanikrys from a dead whale. Prior to Iumentorid's creation, merfolk corpses never decomposed, thus their spirits never freed. The only way to return to the spirit realm is by having merfolk send their corpses to the Abyssal Realm. Merfolk that are seen as outcasts, betrayers, or undesirables are often denied this burial by keeping their corpses from ever sinking into the abyss. This would be the merfolk version of hell.
All factions worship the God of the Dead and hope to be eaten by his hordes when they die so their spirits may be released. Once every such and such double full moon, Iumentorid rises from the abyss, leading his hordes along with him. It's said that it's a bad omen if a living creature witnesses Iumentorid, and that they'll be joining him soon. This god is neutral and treats all corpses the same. Javanikrys cultists would say that she decides who Iumentorid brings back to the spirit realm.
Lesser Gods and Mortals
Beneath the gods is a menagerie of lesser gods of the deep. They're the offspring of the gods and profane creatures of the oceans. These are colossal versions of creatures normally found in the oceans. Different clusters of merfolk might consider one of the lesser gods as a "house deity" that has more of an impact on their day-to-day lives than the upper echelon deities.
Merfolk were created by the lesser gods as they propagated among themselves until only a faint trace of sacred lineage was left. This is also the basis for the caste system. Parentage determines one's abilities and position at birth, and the higher the caste you're born into, the closer to the gods and demigods you are. Caste is determined by the matron of the family
Merfolk born with an excess of limbs or conjoined are thought to sit just below the demigods and above normal merfolk. It's believed their spirit was touched by a tentacle of a god when they were created. Being born with strange birth defects and deformities overrides the caste system.
Use of Puffer Fish
Puffer Fish contain a poison that is deadly to most species, but some Oneidhae have developed immunities to environmental toxins via specialized organs similar to high-powered kidneys. The toxin from this fish creates a euphoria-like state and is known to induce spiritual visions, thus it's considered an important part of religious rites and practices. The puffer fish remains alive in the process usually, with its back "kissed" to ingest the toxin via mouth, and is kept as a pet by many Oneidhae. Deeply superstitious Oneidhae fear that ingesting the toxin from a dead puffer fish leads to terrible visions that bring calamity, but that doesn't mean some Oneidhae don't try it anyway.
Females comprise the majority of magic users and have a higher proficiency in arcane arts compared to males - especially those from Thelassian and Inumidan backgrounds.
Most magic users need to put in many years of disciplined study before they can start to use arcane secrets. However, some Oneidhae are born with strong innate magical potential. These are the merfolk with deformities - conjoined bodies; excessive limbs or eyes. It is said that these merfolk are the closest their kind will ever be to godly, given their stratified religion that justifies the caste system, and magical abilities is further proof of their prestige and status. It's caused many merfolk to cross caste lines with the glimmer of hope that their offspring will bear the mark of the gods, which in fact rarely occurs thus leading their offspring to lead ambiguous lives.
Typical arcane abilities involve hydromancy, occasionally with freezing abilities. Some can produce electricity through arcane means, while with others it's a natural defense mechanism. Others can create mirages and illusions.
Divination abilities are also seen with healing abilities, contact with sacred planes, scrying and detection spells.
The orders of mages within Oneidhae culture are modeled on the oceanic layers with Light, Dusk, Midnight, and Abyssal orders. Chaos Mages are separate from these orders, but they may have loose organizational affiliations. Abyssal Mages are known amongst Inumidans, but they keep their society secret from most of Oneidhae society. Light, Dusk, and Midnight Mages are known throughout Tuil Sianaach for the many roles they fill in society. Teachings for these mages are done within temples to the greater deities.
Thelassians and Inumidans, with lower caste acolytes, within this mage order practice arcane arts "for the greater good of Oneidhae". These mages tend to worship Colene as their primary deity. Their magic practices can vary with many acting as healers for their castes, spiritual advisors, and priests. A few are considered Oracles. Thelassians, Inumidans, Pelagiads can be Light mages with their practice focused on healing, earth work, hydromancy, and divination -- all for the purposes of creation rather than destruction.
This order of mages uses offensive and defensive magic to fight for and protect the Oneidhae. Enterolos is the primary deity for these mages. They'll utilize hydromancy, shock, and force magics, amongst other arcane arts to maintain peace and prosperity. This order can be made up of Thelassians, Myrmidons, and Inumidans.
This is the common order of mages amongst Inumidans. Their arcane arts are combined with alchemy and chemistry to create magical creatures, such as magic and pollution eating stony corals, mollusks, and sea sponges, or to enchant magic items made with Colenium or Javanium. They're based in the university in Iumentorid.
A mysterious sect of Inumidans, and some of their lower caste acolytes, practices dark arcane arts such as blood magic and necromancy. Many Abyssal Mages are diplomats and councils, unbeknownst to the Thelassians these mages work for.
Sacrifice plays a role in certain rituals and spells. An aquatic animal related to a certain god, such as whale calves in honor of Iumentorid, will be killed and blood let into the waters as a component of a spell, which can be for summoning and/or binding, amongst other things. Sometimes the sacrifice used in a ritual is an Oneidhae caste breaker.
These Inumidans will also use the corpses of caste breakers, murderers, and other Oneidhae who commit grievous religious sins to create horrific undead monstrosities rooted in the fact that a merfolk's corpse houses its soul unless returned to The Abyss. Meaning, even a cut up Oneidhae technically bears its spirit but in parts. A sort of spiritual parasitism via aquatic worms is used to seek out and reattach body parts in this instance. Otherwise the parasites simply tunnel through the corpse until it's basically a shell. Thus, the nefarious Inumidans have destructive puppets to wield according to their whims. Usually, an object is used to bind the corpse to this undead state, such as a stone or metal ore carved with runes. The victim of this undead curse is completely aware of what's happening -- it's akin to watching themselves from the outside.
Chaos mage is a general term for Oneidhae sorcerers that cause mayhem and disrupt societal order. There's no cohesive religious sect for chaos mages, though many of them liken their role to Cephakos who checks his brother Enterolos whenever the balance of neutrality shifts too far towards order. Chaos mages are therefor terroristic in nature and are willing to destroy themselves in the name of their agenda. Frequent targets of attacks are Thelassian council meetings, religious observances, and celebrations. It's difficult to root out chaos mages since they'll embed themselves within society and will bide their time until they self-destruct, typically with an implosive force.