The Tzelicrae

(Original post can be found on reddit, here… https://old.reddit.com/r/worldbuilding/comments/j0pwu5/the_wildsea_culture_and_history_of_the_tzelicrae/)

Perhaps the most curious of the core four bloodlines, the tzelicrae hail from within the leafy darkness of the sea itself. Beginning as self-organized colonies of spiders, a tzelicrae is truly ‘born’ when it develops a functioning hive-mind and becomes capable of acting as a single individual.

Biology

There are two important fronts to tzelicrae biology, those being their internal and external forms. Internally an individual tzelicrae is made up of thousands of spiders, constantly shifting and crawling over each other to puppeteer their external skin. Some tzelicrae reinforce their internal structure with a skeleton of driftwood and animal bones, but most prefer the fluidity that comes with a completely boneless structure.

Externally, tzelicrae create a ‘skin’ for themselves from silk, bandages and the general flotsam of the sea, often incorporating articles of clothing, gear or salvage into the whole. Masks and hoods are common, as the precision needed to accurately animate the likeness of a face takes many years to learn. It’s also commonly observed that old habits die hard, with many tzelicrae fashioning themselves additional limbs or warping their bodily dimensions to better suit their needs, unconstrained by traditional biology.

Some lucky tzelicrae win the lottery of skin, coming into possession of a donated, bartered or stolen covering taken from one of the other three major bloodlines, or from an animal or insect of the wild waves. These individuals can often pass for years as members of that bloodline, occassionally acting as spies or informers in hostile or developing settlements.

Culture

As the only one of the four common bloodlines to have been created as a direct result of the Verdancy, the Tzelicrae can trace their history back to its earliest moments with startling accuracy. Their oldest settlements are oftne built around a Huskpa, an immense living monument of silk containing spiders from all of the tzelicrae that have ever lived there. These huskpas are repositories of history and tradition, and are protected at all costs.

Due to being the best-equipped to reach the depths of the wildsea, the tzelicrae tend to adopt the cultural mannerisms and building styles of pre-verdant civilizations lost to the darkness of the roots. Scholars often have a particular reverence for their efforts, marvelling at the way they dredge and lift entire buildings from the depths to the surface.

The tzelicrae also have their own common language, Knock, created to be spoken in a variety of ways to suit the differing body shapes and capabilities of their kin. Some versions of knock are entirely oral, others signed with hands and fingers and yet others rapidly tapped out in something akin to morse code.

Tzelicrae A: A three-armed dredger of ancient and forgotten things, crawling below the surface to salvage from wrecks and ruins.

Tzelicrae B: A travelling bard with a beast-skull accordion, their clothing styled after a civilization long-lost to the roots.

Tzelicrae C: A char, a ship’s cook that has fashioned their body to better perform in the kitchen, with multiple limbs to handle food preparation and a headpiece that doubles as a makeshift table.

Art by Omercan Cirit for the Wildsea TRPG – Discord invites available on request.

The Mantid Colonies

Overview

First found within the shadowed groves of Rao Ze, the mantid colonies represent both a remarkable opportunity and a growing threat to trade and travel. Built below the waves to keep them hidden from casual travellers, the colonies have developed in both construction and complexity at a rapid pace (testament to the ingenuity of the mantids they house).

History

The first colony discovered was a re-purposed wreck, a relic of a bygone age gutted to make room for simple living and sleeping spaces. The inhabitants were hostile, unintelligible, but fiercely protective of their little kingdom. They were left alone, their location marked on maps and charts as a place to avoid. And in truth they were largely forgotten for a time, at least until the first mantid ship was sighted – a bizarre semi-sentient hybrid of wood and chitin dragging itself through the waves with oversized foreclaws, loaded with curious goods and heading for the nearest trading port.

The mantids, in their years of isolation, had been busy.

Culture

Mantid culture is an intriguing area of study for the braver sort of Wildsea scholar. Highly formal and densely ritualistic, visitors are rarely welcome in their now-grand homes. Those that are bring back reports of staccato poetry, wordless duels and impressive alchemical metal-working.

The true danger of the colonies is a familiar one – the desire for expansion. More and more often in recent years their ships have pulled themselves up to the surface on missions of pillage and war, setting up blockades and raiding settlements for their metal and stone.

And there are rumours, now, of something being built in the shadowed tangle of the lower waves. Something jade and white. Something that snaps its claws. Something that moves like a newborn god.