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The Pariah's Tides

"Even as we powered through the storm, as the wind seemed to scour the flesh from our bones, and the waves crashed against the hull, sending up a spray tens of feet high, I saw the change. The waters grew darker, and darker, until I could no longer see them. They were black and opaque, like some giant poet had spilled his ink bottle into the sea. The sky darkened as well, becoming the same color as the water, though the sun still shone in the sky and everything was still lit as well as it was before. I looked up, searching desperately for Polaris, and was horrified when I did not recognize the stars above me. We were somewhere else, now. Somewhere else entirely."
— Diary of a new, and permanent resident of the Pariah's Tides
  There are seven seas that can be named. Seven seas which have been charted, their waters sailed for generations, their creatures understood and categorized. Seven seas which fit into the geography of our world. But somewhere beyond those seven seas, not quite occupying the same space as its brethren, there is an eighth (though some, for some half-baked reason, obstinately insist that it is in fact the ninth). It is known by no name besides the Pariah’s Tides, and it is home to all the world’s outcasts, its rejects, its exiles, who have slipped through the cracks and ended up there.  

Weird Waves

The issue of getting to the Pariah’s Tides is a tricky one. For some, it is as easy as breathing, and for others it is a nigh impossible feat. The trick is not having a particular desire to enter the Tides. They seem to only prefer those who don’t quite know what they’re getting into. But regardless of the ease one has in entering the Tides, leaving is another matter entirely. The Pariah’s Tides don’t quite exist in the same space as the rest of the world, and attempting to forcefully push one’s self out may result in one emerging somewhere else entirely. Escapes from the Pariah’s Tides have been recorded, but they are tricky things to manage, and often involve tricking the universe itself into letting one back out.   As is likely rather apparent by now, the Pariah’s Tides are no ordinary body of water. This fact becomes all the more obvious to those who enter them, the moment they look around. The Pariah’s Tides are black. And not like the Black Sea is black, no. The waters of the Pariah’s Tides are quite literally pure, deep black, blacker than charcoal, blacker than the night sky, blacker than what you see when you close your eyes. Besides the color, the water of the Pariah’s Tides does not share too many differences with ordinary seawater, though long periods spent submerged in it can be known to spark hopelessness. That may, however, just be a result of just how little hope those who spend such a long time in the waters of the Pariah’s Tides actually have.  

Cetacean Colossi

Why exactly would those stranded out on the Tides for so long have so little hope? Well, besides the usual reasons such as drowning, hypothermia, and all the other reasons that make floating around in freezing water a bad idea, there’s also the giant man-eating whale things to deal with. The Pariah’s Tides are home to some of the strangest maritime creatures ever encountered by humanity. They are labeled as whales, simply because that is the earthly creature they most closely resemble, and no other word works quite as well to describe them. Well, perhaps ‘aberrant monster’ or ‘disgusting perversion of nature’ would work, but they don’t provide very much in the way of an actual description.   The whales of the Pariah’s Tides are all marine mammals, hence the name, though unlike the species of the ordinary world they do not possess a single uniform appearance. Most possess flippers of some sort, though others prefer… stranger methods of propulsion. Almost all have some sort of blowhole, which they use to breathe during the rare (and sometimes catastrophic) occasions upon which they surface. Very few possess the proper number of eyes or limbs, or often both. Almost none exist that don’t have a taste for human flesh, and the proper biological equipment needed to consume it. (Sometimes in every single place except for the proper one.)   For the most part, whales are a menace. They attack ships, devour sailors, and occasionally, terrifyingly, even walk up on land to devour indiscriminately, before often collapsing and dying of dehydration. However, they also have their uses, and some people even choose to arm themselves with harpoons and cannons, and go hunt these great beasts. Many of these whalers are affected by a strange condition of the body and mind, known as the Whaleman’s Creed, though many others are also just in it for the money. Whale bodies can provide a number of different resources similar to ordinary whales, such as meat, blubber (for oil), ambergris, baleen, and bone. However, these resources sometimes don’t quite function how they ordinarily might, and their effects are highly variable. For this reason, many shy away from whale oil unless desperate, and prefer to seek out alternatives or purchase ordinary oil at a truly exorbitant price.  

Shifting Seas

As is the norm for things in the Pariah’s Tides, its islands also don’t quite work like they do in the rest of the world. They drift aimlessly, not quite anchored, always shifting and changing position. They don’t actively move, per se. Instead, an island will simply, when it feels like it, be somewhere else. As simple (and as infuriating for cartographers) as that. Due to this unique quirk, no one really makes maps anymore, as a couple days will make one entirely obsolete. Instead, travel between islands is more or less just a sort of guessing game, estimating the position of a certain island upon the time of arrival, and hopefully reaching it on schedule, before it moves. Some navigators claim that they are so intimate with the Pariah’s Tides that they actually know where an island is going to be next. Perhaps this is true, as many experienced navigators seem able to more accurately lead ships to the correct islands more often. Perhaps this just means that ‘experienced’ is a synonym for ‘lucky.’ Perhaps it has something to do with the copious amounts of ambergris some navigators purchase.   Regardless of how exactly they do it, there is an incredibly high demand for skilled navigators, and they certainly have no shortage of work. Of course, navigator or not, the Pariah’s Tides are still incredibly dangerous to traverse. Monstrous whale-things, giant whirlpools and waves with seemingly no cause, storms so powerful that they almost seem alive (and in possession of a great hatred for all things living), the hazards of the Tides go on. Because of this, there are few boats that lack a whaleman or two, harpoon-wielding experts in killing just about everything. Whale, wave, wind, it doesn’t matter. The greatest whalemen can kill just about everything, especially the Creed-wracked. For some of them, it’s unknown whether ‘whaleman’ refers to the activity of killing whales, or the fact that they sometimes seem more like the aberrant, all-devouring whales than actual people. Prolonged exposure to the salty air and saliter waves of the Pariah’s Tides does strange things to people.
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Comments

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Jan 2, 2022 23:27 by Michael Chandra

Soon may the Wellerman come, to bring us Eldritch Horrors and fun!


Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Jan 3, 2022 23:06

One day, when the Elder Gods come, we'll feel all our minds go!