Spheres

Homes. Gods. Everything.

Llonari had seen many Spheres during his short life. The small and deadly Strke, the magnificent Edd, Éhtivl which was said to look like Oblogga... Yet he never had the chance to gaze at his own home. Of course, he knew the spheria by heart, but that was never satisfactory. That's why he couldn't hold his excitement. A friend of his father was leaving for Oppollln and he had begged him every chance he had to accompany him. He finally gave up when Llonari's father told him it was the only way to make him stop.

The skip was rather large. He thought they would be cramped in a small space, but there was enough room to let both of them extent their tentacles, even with the skipper. When they left, the child immediately turned around to embrace the Sphere. He waited so many cycles to behold this sight.

A sight he would never ever forget.

 

If you manage to witness a spark of life in the void of the Expanse, it is most certainly a Sphere. None other is able to survive there for long. On their backs however, countless beings twist and turn, live and die. Risible bugs desperately holding onto the might of giants, they call themselves smart species, civilisations even. But they should not forget their place. If it wasn't for the Spheres, they would be long gone. And if it wasn't for the Leviathans, the Spheres would be the incontested masters of the Expanse.

 

Anatomy of the beast

There is hardly any Sphere that looks like or functions like another. They come in all flavors of shapes, size and behavior. However, one thing is common in everyone single one : the ridiculously huge bubble of gas covered by a thin membrane covering their backs.

 
Deep Terror by バシウス (Bacius9)

The shell

The hard part of the Sphere, and what gives it its shape. Organs, flesh and every biological process are protected by a sturdy layer of bones or cartilage. The composition and aspect of the shell hint the charateristics of the Sphere : how deep it can dive, for how long, its age and much more. Some have very robust shells able to resist the brutal jaws of Leviathans, others are bare and vulnerable to the most agressive Primals

 

The shell can bear a wide variety of appendices, the most commons being mouths, wide eyes, and prehensive tendrils or arms used to catch food.

 

The membrane

The membrane is the most curious piece of this body beyond understanding. It is nothing but a thin half-skin, half-water layer, covering a large bubble of strange water mixed with different gases. The most abundant one is oxygen, but others are suspected such as carbon dioxyde and possibly azote. Although bodies and water cross the membrane with few if any resistance, the gas seems to be trapped. This particularity that no science managed to explain is what allows life inside on the Spheres.

 

Pressure is the force behind the invisible boundaries that keep us between the Surface and the Abyss. Too high, and the gas bladder explodes, killing the reckless adventurer instantly. Too deep, and the pressure will painfully trample the body. But Spheres are different. They are able to dive at crushing pressure that would kill anyone on the spot without flinching. They easily venture at depths noone else can, in a darkness devoid of any other beings. Yet the membrane manages to preserve a bubble of life at its core. The gas maintain a quasi-constant chemical and physical environment, ignoring the outside stress and negating pressure changes.

 

Limits

No matter how godly they can seem, the Spheres have their own limits. No Sphere was ever able to be in view of the Surface, let alone reach it, and even the sturdiest fail to hold themselves when diving into the Abyss. Depending on its physical caracteristics, a Sphere can go higher or deeper than others, or endure extreme conditions for a longer time. However, it is not a bright idea to prolong the trip in such hard condition. It may cause irreversible damages, dooming sometimes the Sphere and its inhabitant to a sunking tragedy.

 

Physiology and behavior

 

Another strange similarity between Spheres lies in their physiology. They all follow benthic cycles, though with different length, and seem to reproduce in similar ways. Another common trait, not as universal as the previous two, is their motility. A large number of Sphere simply floats around, following aimlessly the currents. It is not because they're devoid of propeller limbs. The main job of spheriers is actually to activate those limbs to make the Sphere move wherever they wish. Maybe is it too much of an effort and extensive swimming might cause harm to the creature, so they don't abuse their powers.

 

Some Spheres are different, endowed with fins or tentacles dedicated to swimming. They have a way faster rythm, thus are among the smallest and usually slender. It comes to no surprise that these Spheres represent the majority of predator Spheres.

 

Spheres can eat just about anything, with the exception of the hard shell of surfaceans. They have multiple tools to help them gathering enough nutrients for their enormous bodies, but with almost each Sphere comes one strategy. Few use active hunting, prefering a passive approach of a myriad of sensors along its extremities, sometimes with adhesive or poisonous ends. Others have merely gigantic mouths that swallows everything in its path. More realistically the majority of the Spheres combines different strategies for a better efficiency.


 

Benthic cycles

These cycle have, in fact, nothing remotely benthic. Truth be told, they are more of epipelagic cycles. Once in a while, the gas escapes from the membrane and it slowly deflates. When that occurs, the Sphere naturally guides itself towards the shallows, at a highest point than ever.

 

There, the flattened creature floats for some time, replenishing its gas capacity. While the exact process is unknown, the Spheres are able to synthetize its inner gas from the oxygen-rich shallow water. It is a lengthy work, where the Sphere is highly vulnerable. Luckily for them, active Spheres have trouble going up here, and its inhabitants fiercely defends their home.

 

The passive period of a benthic cycle is equal to approximately a tenth of its active period and its duration is mostly influenced by the volume of the membrane, the smallest Spheres spending the shortest time up there.

     

Reproduction

Or so is it called. Spheres live in a totally different realm of life and time. Their lifespan is so great that they look immortals to most other species. As a matter of fact, noone ever saw a Sphere dying of old age. For all they know, the difference between Spheres may be simply distinct stages of their lives. However, since they seem to produce offsprings on a regular basis, it is admitted that they are all mature ones.

 

Are they parasites merely defending their host, parts of the main body dividing for the same purpose or offsprings released in the event of a fatal benthic cycle ? This was another great enigma until scholars decided to settle on the latter. Before ascending to the shallows, multiple creatures are ejected from the shell of the Sphere. Their number range from a dozen to thousands in the bigger Spheres like Oblogga. They are very close to their progenitor in appearance, despite the shell making up for the major part of the body, and a membrane so small it allows for two passengers at most.

 

Semi-autonomous, they can't wander far from the Sphere in their early life, just like little kids depending on their mother. After a while, when they are old enough to follow it by their own means, the Sphere leads them to the shallows. During the passive phase, they stand guard around the main body, fending fiercely any intruder. Although young, they are fine and swift warriors, threatening even to other Spheres. Later, when the new cycle begins, they are free to go and live their own lives. Given they escape from the festival, of course.

 
"When I was a child, I was jealous of these things. I mean, can you imagine it, to cross the ocean by yourself, with nothing holding you back ? Nothing pinning you down ?   — You're saying you're not jealous anymore ?   — Nah, I'm freeer than them now, because I'm aware of my liberty."
Hollene, skipper of Anhvall and Etete
 

Mature offsprings or skips are not totally autonomous. They can only be by themselves for so long, and must come back to a Sphere from time to time, to rest and feed. It is not mandatory for them to return to their original Sphere, but some are incompatible. Either their anatomy is too divergent or the sizes simply don't match. Then, after some time, they grow self-sufficient and bigger, welcoming several people onboard. And if you wait long enough, they will become whole new Sphere, entering a new stage of their lives.

 

Their growth is so long that to tame a Sphere, several generations of spheriers are needed. Sometimes in the festival, an offspring is chosen by a family of spheriers and become its great project for the next hundred cycles.

 

Vessels of civilisation

When all hope was lost, they turned to their guardians, the great deities of the oceans, and begged for their mercy one last time.
— Extract from the Genesis

Did the Spheres exist before the apocalypse or were they another consequence ? Even the greatest scholars have failed to answer this question, so much it became a rhetorical one : "Who came first, the Spheres or the Apocalypse ?" One thing is for sure, every civilisation that survived the cataclysm did so thanks to the Spheres.

To hunt or to be hunted ?

Even the great Spheres aren't safe from this old saying. It is possible to roughly classify Spheres between two categories : The Predators and the Placids. The first are a threat to the latter, seeking actively to feast upon their kind.

Fortunately, they are few in number, and the world is currently in a fickle equilibrium. The weakest placid Spheres have long been hunted down, and the remaining ones are too much for a single predator. With no choice but to turn against each others, predator Spheres may become endangered in a near future. But should they set aside their hostility and form a pack, the Expanse would turn once again into a bloody mess.

 
 

Distant origin

The term "benthic" is actually outdated, having lost its sense since the Apocalypse. It is said that in the ancient times, the Spheres went to elevated places, laying on a seafloor in the epipelagic zone. Therefore, they were truly benthic during their passive phase, though less vulnerable than they are now. Later, even after these places disappeared, the term stayed behind, raising many interrogation in younglings' heads.

Some spheriers seek to perpetuate the original meaning of the word, bringing their Spheres to the few rocky places that exists, such as the Spire or the Heavenly Yard

 

Catch the skip !

The beginning of a new cycle is the time for a big festival, the Catch of the cycle. Every aspiring skippers go out of the Sphere to reach out for an offspring, then enter the membrane and connect to its mind, in a way close to the one of the spheriers. However, the offspring is not entirely tamed, but share a synergic relationship with the skipper, therefore becoming a skip once the ritual is achieved.

 
by pxfuel
             

On naming things

The old term used to refer to the people living in a Sphere was the same, just with less emphasis. Due to confusion and misunderstanding, a new idiom was prefered, and by now these communities are designed as Spherias

The forefathers were incredibly skilled in long forgotten arcanes. They realized numerous feats, though the only one remaining nowadays is the Sphere taming. Spheriers are very strong-willed individuals present in every species, with very few exceptions. They bear the great power of the ancients, coming from famous lineage or appearing out of the blue from commoners blood. However, it is useless without proper training. To sharpen one's mind to the base requirements for Sphere taming, cycles of studies and reinforcement are necessary. But when it is achieved, the spherier merge its mind with the Sphere to enforce his will.

 

However simple it seems to be to the untrained eye, the mind of a Sphere is an intricable maze of obscure and dangerous thoughts. This is why to control safely a Sphere, several spheriers works together, each in charge of a peculiar area. They are overviewed by the master spheriers, gifted individuals even among their kinds, with a mental so strong they are able to merge with the Sphere as a whole.

 

Thanks to the abilities and methods of the spheriers, Spheres make perfect habitats with great space, a friendly environment and perfectly obedient. Cities and nations emerged in the Spheres, cradles to the new civilisations that fill the Expanse. They live in symbiosis, the Sphere offering shelter and its denizens protecting it from its complex yet primal instincts. They can range from small communities to tiny worlds.

 
For real, how do they swim ? I get that they follow the current for the major part of their lives, but they have all the ability of propelling themselves without the expected appendages and a grotesque shape. Hell, Strke is the fastest one and it's nothing but an odd bubble. And if you dare spout your magic nonsense one more time, I swear to the Father this won't end well.
Rationalist Akllarelsllh shortly before kicking his assistant out of his office
 

Wild Spheres

 

Even considering the numerous offsprings that die in their early life and those who become Skips, lots of them reach the age of maturity. And among them, very few get tamed and and harbors life. About ten to twenty out of a hundred offsprings mature, and become Spheres. Without Spheriers to control them, they follow their most basic instincts, float adrift or hunt down others for the predator ones. Curiously, no benthic cycle has ever been recorded in the population of wild Spheres, raising the hypothesis that the life in the membrane is either deleterious to the integrity of the membrane, or the opposite, essential if benthic cycles are a natural part of a Sphere's life cycle.

 

The overall number of wild Spheres is stable, since they are a great food source for the inhabited Spheres, which regularly hunt them. As a response, some lay as deep as possible in the Expanse, where Leviathan happily exploit their foolishness. Stuck in one of the lowest level of the food chain, they only feed on Primals or smaller offsprings. Usually solitary, in rare cases schools of wild Spheres have been spotted, forming a group so big it could threaten civilased Spheres. When that happens, the great Spheres order the extermination of the group before they come to harm.

 

The Obloggian perspective

Our Sphere is our pride. Twin Spheres are not so incommon, we can mention Éhtivl for instance. But they usually are quite small and born from anomalies. The two Spheres of Oblogga are one, and the second biggest of all in the Expanse. Their shell is really big and sturdy, which makes it hard to dive too deep. The whole bottom is one enormous mouth circled with tendrills bringing its food to the forest of teeth.

 

Lacking means of propulsion, we are also aboard the slowlest Sphere, which makes it impossible to claim a Hunt.

But we are thriving nonetheless, living in the bony spires that reach the top of the membrane, and growing fields of varech and livestock in the Backplains.

 

The monstrous size of Oblogga means six master spheriers are needed to keep it in line, and a multitude of regular spheriers to support them. To no surprise, a being so great is the source of two religions of fanatics, which engage in frequent war to set foot inside what they believe is their sacred land. We can't blame them, it is hard to think of a higher power than the one of Oblogga, our home for eons.



Cover image: by Jean Chevillard

Comments

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9 Sep, 2021 05:59

Fantastic read and great work on making these spheres feel alive! I wonder what it is like to live in/on one of these units. ^^   Keep up the good work! :D

Summercaaaaamp when the writin' is easy. Words are flowing and the hype is hiiiiigh. \o/
My Summer Camp Entries
2 Oct, 2021 22:22

Thank you for your encouragement! It sure is a peculiar experience, especially on the bigger ones where it's easy to forget you're on a giant being.

I gathered some awesome articles in my Reading Challenge, want to take a look? There's also a Reading Challenge Big List combining all mentions of authors for the challenge, maybe you're in there too!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
24 Sep, 2021 18:55

What an awesome critter you have here. I love how you depict them so beautifully and as I said before the quotes are just amazing. Well done!

2 Oct, 2021 22:28

Thank you! It means so much to read that from someone I look up to!

I gathered some awesome articles in my Reading Challenge, want to take a look? There's also a Reading Challenge Big List combining all mentions of authors for the challenge, maybe you're in there too!
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Oct, 2021 14:23

This is a great article and deep-dive into your world :D It answers a lot of questions I had about the spheres. I love how you explains rationally everything and make it all perfectly coherent.   Only question I have left is about the food. You mention briefly algae at the end and livestock, and in the future I'd love more details about them and about how everyone finds food in the Expense/if they are things floating around other than sphere and leviathans :D

To see what I am up to, here is my civilisation challenge article.
4 Oct, 2021 09:31

Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate it :D   I'm planning a whole article (or several) about the food in the Expanse. People eat mainly macroalgaes, livestocks (which is Primals and other tasty species) and jellies. In the ocean, there's a lot of plankton in the epipelagic and mesopelagic zones (the upper layers of the Expanse) that the Spheres consume as their main diet. Jellies too. Jellies are everywhere. They can also prey upon Wild Spheres, which are untamed Spheres without inhabitants (and I was going to add this section in the Skip article, but I just realized it makes more sense to put it here).

I gathered some awesome articles in my Reading Challenge, want to take a look? There's also a Reading Challenge Big List combining all mentions of authors for the challenge, maybe you're in there too!