Hive-minded spider colonies in humanesque skins, the chelicrae are an increasingly common sight across the rustling waves of the wildsea.
Chelicrae begin their lives in a burst of terrifying sentience, a spontaneous interlinking and uplifting of a thousand arachnid bodies. The resulting mass, web-tangled and confused, is taken in by its more experienced fellows. Given first a name (in Knock, a language of chitters and clicks), then a skin (a patchwork of canvas scraps and spidersilk). Those early days are usually devoted to seclusion and self-discovery, as the mind shared by the newly-suited spiders learns how best to talk, walk and see.
The precise workings of that mind are difficult for non-chelicrae to comprehend, no matter how they try to explain it. Each of the spiders that makes up their body is capable of acting independently, but as a whole they consider themselves a single, singular entity. A chelicrae that loses some of its component spiders may feel it like a more traditional being feels an injury, or as a loss of memory, or a sudden, yawning absence.
The complexity of their intelinked minds are in stark contrast to the simplicity of their skins. Most are human-esque – arms, legs, a head with a face – but the proportions and numbers differ wildly from individual to individual. Without a skeleton or organs to worry about, the spiders that make up a chelicrae often end up taking forms that other races find… unsettling.
When a chelicrae has found a comfortable form it usually adapts its first skin to fit, creates another entirely or takes the discarded (or donated) skin of one of the other wildsea races. Some even keep these skins in good enough condition and take mundane enough forms to pass as an ardent or an ektus, at least until an unnatural movement or tear exposes the spiders within. These tears can be mended temporarily with spidersilk, but with no natural healing ability must eventually be patched or sewn shut.
On the Wider Waves
The chelicrae are a mixed bunch. Some form close-knit communities, staying close to where they were birthed and raising new chelicrae that might be born there. Others join the Silk Brothers, a secretive cult whose members treat the exploration of bizarre and unnatural forms as a form of worship. Some few hide their true nature, slipping from port to port without most ever suspecting what they are.
The bravest chelicrae become wildsailors, heading out onto the rustling waves of the Wildsea to fight, trade and scavenge. Few of these ever bother to hide what they are – wildsailors are an accepting bunch, and salvage crews especially enjoy the edge a semi-formless hive-mind offers their crews.