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The Whaleman's Creed

No line was cut, no whale was freed   The captain's mind was not of greed   And he belonged to the Whaleman's creed   She took that ship in tow  
— Sea shanty, origins unknown
  The Whaleman's Creed is an unusual affliction of both the mind and the body, most commonly characterized by the intense monomaniacal hatred of the sea and its inhabitants it inflicts upon its victims. The classic image of the Creed-wracked is that of the peg-legged captain, beard unkempt, eyes wild and unblinking, bearing down on a great whale with harpoon in hand.  

Shrouded in Mystery

While not all Creed-wracked follow this model, it is indeed not entirely founded in myth. It has been noted that who have lost something to the sea — an arm, a leg, or even something less physical such as a loved one — are more vulnerable to the Whaleman's Creed. The exact cause of the condition, however, is presently unknown. Some claim it is caused by a buildup of salt in the brain, from spending too long out on the Pariah's Tides, breathing in the air. The water of the Tides is certainly unusual, but there is no substantial evidence for it causing the Creed. Others claim that inhaling the fumes emitted from whale oil, or otherwise consuming the substance, causes the affliction. Again, while the whales of the Pariah's Tides are bizarre creatures, quite far removed from their more ordinary cousins which swim through lighter waters, it has not yet been definitely proven that this is the case. There are yet more theories, but the general conclusion is that as long as one spends time out on the Tides and has a capacity for hate within them, they are vulnerable to the Whaleman's Creed.  

Hating and Hunting

Above all else, the greatest symptom of the Whaleman's Creed is hatred. Overpowering, all-encompassing hatred towards life, towards death, towards people, towards the gods, but above all else, hatred towards the sea and its inhabitants. The Creed-wracked are simultaneously drawn to the sea, and deathly afraid of it, a terrible conflict that threatens to tear apart their minds, and gives birth to this hatred. The Creed-wracked are often whalers, as those who belong to that profession spend a long time out on the Tides, and it is not unusual for one to lose a limb, for whaling is a deadly sport. However, even those who are not whalers are eventually driven to take to the sea, harpoon in hand, to try and fight back the only way they know how: by killing the creatures of the Pariah's Tides, in a pathetic attempt to assert themselves over the mighty waves. These whalers do not care for the money their pursuits may bring to them, for the creatures of the Tides have many lucrative body parts, oftentimes far too many than is proper. They only care for the brief satisfaction the kill brings to them, before they are once again consumed by despair. Their crews, however, do not always share the same mindset, which often leads to conflict between captain and crew.  

A Slow Descent

The Whaleman's Creed is not an instant process, of course. It is generally regarded as being divided into four separate stages, which reflect the Creed-wracked's descent into madness and the gradual metamorphosis of both mind and body that they experience.   The first stage is a Trojan Horse, the approaching pain and misery masked by a pleasant facade. It all begins with dreams. The afflicted begins having dreams of the sea. Gentle, lapping waves, the smell of salt, the rhythmic rocking of a boat. These things have not yet grown odious to the afflicted, and seem quite pleasant. Spurred on by these dreams, which often follow the afflicted even into the waking world, so that they are distracted by thoughts of the sea even as they go about their business, the afflicted is drawn to head out of the waves. This stage typically goes unnoticed to those already at sea, though the second stage is far more noticeable.   As the Whaleman's Creed progresses to its second stage, the dreams turn to nightmares, and the afflicted begins fearing the sea as much as they are drawn to it. They no longer view the sea as pleasant, but as terrifying and horrible. And yet, they cannot leave. No matter how hard they try, they are still drawn to the waves that fill them with such fear. It is at this point where hatred begins to develop. The afflicted wants to leave the sea, to set their feet on dry land, yet cannot tear themself away, and so they begin to loathe the sea for this, as if it were somehow at fault. The physical signs of the Creed also begin to surface at this point. Long, white lines begin to form on the afflicted's skin, currently nothing more than bizarre discoloration, but concerning nonetheless. Additionally, the afflicted may notice increased strength, or increased tolerance to pain.   The third stage of the Creed is marked by a shift in the target of the afflicted's hatred. Where previously all their hatred was directed at the unfathomable depths of the sea, such an enemy quickly proves unbeatable. How does one kill water? The afflicted seeks then to find a more tangible enemy, which serves as a sort of vessel for the sea. In the afflicted's mind, in destroying this vessel, so do they injure the sea. The creatures of the Tides prove to be perfect for this purpose. And so, the afflicted seeks to hunt. And hunt, and hunt. During this time, the afflicted will often choose a specific, more impressive creature as its nemesis, and relentlessly chase it down, so that they feel as if their life has just a smidgen of purpose. The physical changes continue. The afflicted begins to neglect their needs, ceasing to eat, bathe, or groom. But physically, while they appear starved, they grow no weaker. Indeed, their strength and endurance both increase dramatically. The white markings, previously just coloration, deepen into shallow grooves, giving the afflicted's skin an odd, slightly barklike appearance. It is at this point when the afflicted may be considered truly Creed-wracked.   The fourth, and final stage of the Whaleman's Creed comes when the Creed-wracked undergoes a significant change: they lose their name. The Creed has stripped them of everything, and now it comes even for the very fiber of their being. A person without a name is not a person at all, merely a hollow shell, but the Creed-wracked is not yet at this point. Left without their own name, the Creed-wracked latches on to the name of the thing closest to them: their ship. Thus, with a sort of rudimentary act of onomantic Abstraction, the Creed-wracked is bound to their ship, and their ship to them, and at least for a while longer the Creed-wracked is saved from total loss of humanity.    When this change comes, the Creed-wracked again begins to experience dreams. But this time, they are dreams of one thing. Dreams of a final quarry, the greatest quarry. A whale, white as salt, the size of a mountain. Abandoning all other pursuits — their nemesis, if they had one, entirely abandoned — the Creed-wracked begins to seek the great whale, venturing farther into the Tides than ever before in pursuit of it. Eventually, they disappear. Perhaps they found what they were looking for, but more likely they were simply swallowed up by the sea. But still, rumors circulate about the Pariah's Tides, rumors of a great white shape in the distance, hundreds of boats moored into its skin. But such rumors are quite obviously nothing but nonsense. Right?
Type
Supernatural
Origin
Magical
Cycle
Chronic, Acquired
Rarity
Extremely Rare

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Cover image: Ahab Portrait by Dylan Pierpont

Comments

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1 Dec, 2021 16:48

That's an interesting twist on the way sailors are always usually said to have a love of the ocean and so on. Very cool!   Is there a cure?


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
1 Dec, 2021 19:51

None that I've come up with, yet. When I further develop Onomancy (or perhaps Tulpamancy, I might change the name) I may come up with a method, perhaps involving the Hollow Men, a group of nameless onomantic merchants, whose name is very literal. But for the moment, the only cure is death, and even that is not easily achievable when the Creed-wracked are concerned.

2 Dec, 2021 01:55

"I am one with the ship and the ship is with me."   I like it. Also, was I supposed to hear that opening quote to the tune of the Wellerman?

2 Dec, 2021 21:41

You were indeed, the quote is directly taken from the song. The Wellerman was actually the song that inspired the entire world of the Pariah's Tides. After listening to it for a solid couple hours on loop, I was suddenly struck by inspiration. The article I'm currently working on is more or less my translation of the Billy of Tea and its quarry into the world.

2 Dec, 2021 22:43

Nice. Looking forward to it.

27 Jan, 2022 19:54

I could see this being something really cool to have appear in a ttrpg. Very flavorful and unique. If there has to be something to criticize, the last section is a little bit a wall of text. Maybe another paragraph break or two, or maybe another subheading would help?

21 Mar, 2022 21:17

Thank you! I separated the fourth stage into two parts, one about the Creed-Wracked being stripped of their name, the other about their dreams of Gamburg and Wrong John.