The Black Tide
Twenty leagues off the west coast of Kossier island,lies a scattered chain of four small islands that lie just outside the zone of Big Red's influence. Totally devoid of Amethyst,they are of absolutely no interest to the garangutan Kraken,but are neverthless blessed in their own way,being lush and verdant. Many of the spices that grace the tables of Banhoesea and the comely,dark haired female slaves that are so prized by the harems of it's nobility,hail from the vast plantations and slave markets repectively that the DeMadden Company owns and runs with the aid of prominent tribal chieftains of the native Tuvalatu tribe.
Contrary to what one expects,the Company has a barely noticable presence on the islands,apart from a token force that resides in a little fort they erected half a century ago in the scrub jungles of the main island's interior. As far as the Company high officials are concerned,posting a significant detachment of soldiers would be a meaningless waste of money and manpower,given the complete absence of any threats to the Company's hold over the islands. The natives are servile and meek,choosing to declare themselves under the protection of the Company in return for a handsome cut of the profits made from the booming spice trade,ruling out any likelihood of a native revolt taking place in the near future. As for that bloated brute Big Red, as the high officials scornfully refer to the rapacious Kraken,he would not wish to go to war with powerful DeMadden Company over a bunch of islands that have nothing to offer him. Even his most rabid warriors understand that and would never dare to launch a raid on any costal villages to grab vestal maidens to sate the voracious apetite of their master. Thus it is,that the only times that the men of the Company actually get to see the islands,is the once annual visit that a high official makes in order to commemorate and reknew the pledge of allegiance the islanders have made to the DeMadden Company.
There,in the smoky taverns and brothels,they hear strange tales of the Black Tide. The natives who worship Ulmania under her various names,often appeal to her as the Godess Protectress,willingg with to shield them from the ravages of this great evil that descends on their shores once every 60 years. Mere superstion to the skeptical sea-men that hear these hushed tales only to scoff at them, but even they, when seeing the expression of dread on the face of the story teller and his feverent prayers to Ulmania that the Black Tide leave his loved ones alone,find themselves wondering if there is indeed some basis behind the the story of the Black Tide.
They come in the dead of night,vast hordes of black wriggling things slithering out of the sea to smother the silver sands of the shore for miles around like some fell tide of malignant evil. Then they swarm and seethe over each other,never moving from the vicinity of the beach,appearing as if to wait for something to happen.
Hours later,the next wave of terror comes in the gruesome and demonic forms of hundreds of monsterous brutes,each one a fiend that would inspire dark dreams for nights to come. Repulsive serpentine beasts, they crawl on twisted, thick arms, pulling themselves by gnarled, taloned paws. They possess no legs, but instead have a long, writhing, meaty tail. Their heads resemble those of crocodiles, adorned with plates and horns of chitin. Their bodies are covered in scales and plates of thick chitin.
Organizing themselves into maruding bands of twenty each,they swoop down on the nearest costal villages,dragging away all the unfortunate residents and smashing open the skulls of those who resist abduction. Hours later,the various bands return with the captive wretches they have snatched from the villages and bring them to the part of the beach where the loathsome wriggling masses of the worms await the fresh living bodies that the beasts have collected for them.
But the victims are not devoured as one would expect,their skin stripped to bone by the vast hordes of the repulsive squirming things. Nay,it is a far worse fate then simply being eaten alive, that they are doomed to suffer. The wriggling black worms are parasites. Devoid of bodies that enable to perform the functions that abilities that humans take for granted, they must enter the body of another being to seize controll of it and use it as their host.
They begin life in the reefs that are found in abundance off the shores of the ocean, thousands of them clustering together in the vast eggs sacs that are laid by their ancestors. Lying slumbering in the sacs for almost a century, they are only awakened when summer arrives,warming the waters that insulate the egg sac. Immediately they begin to emerge from their eggs, driven by the powerful, inexorable, urge in their bodies to swim for the shores of the island. But first, the same urge has them lay their own clutches of eggs,wanting to ensure that there is a future generation to see to it that their kind continues to thrive.
It all comes naturally to them. The worms are not sentient. Like ants or termites,they are not capable of thinking for themselves, but merely obey the encoded set of instructions that lie dormant in their genes, waiting to be awakened. And so their great rush to the beaches of the islands begin. The enormous mass of their tightly massed together bodies turn the waters pitch black as they pass, making them an easy target for hungry fish in search of a feast. By the time they slither ashore to their destination,less than half their original numbers remain.
But still enough remain to call forth their brutish helpers. Their bodies give out a huge mindless cry for aid that compells the latter to come to the aid of the worms. For they too,have have an important part to fullfil in ensuring the welfare of the worms, being given the task of gathering hosts for their slimy little supplicants to infest. The parasites,upon infesting the bodies of their hosts,actually slither their way up to to the brain of the victim. It then proceeds to absorb it utterly,taking great care to keep the brain alive as it does this. Soon,it has claimed the victim's intelligence for itself,consuming his soul entirely and wiping out his mind in the act,an act that will take a week for the worm to complete. During this length of time, an interesting pattern emerges.
Even as the worm begins to develop a sentient mind,one built on the spark of self-awareness harvested from the victim's brain, the physical body of the host begins to change into something decidedly non human. What they become depends on the level of intellect that their former owners possessed. The physical bodies of dullards unfortunate enough to be infested by a worm,are twisted and corrupted into the very brutes that aide the worms in getting their hosts. On the other hand,a fairly smart person turns into something else entirely.
The second kind resemble, from a distance, extremely thin, hunched men with whip-curved spines and long necks. But from up close, it becomes abundantly clear that they are not human; their skins are clad in glimmering bluish scales, and their scoliated spines are crowned in rows of complex spines. Their hands are small and sly, and have six long fingers with curved nails; these hands they constantly rub and wring together, in a sly and sycophantic motion. They are short and bandy-legged, and their draping tails are half-again as long as their bodies. Their faces are reptilian and long, with a long solid dental ridge rather than separate teeth. Their brows and jaws are bearded with flexible spines, and their throats possess fanning fins.
The first type are ever hungy carnivores,fiends that lurk in dark coves,waiting reach out to grab any uanwary prey that swims along. Their powerful tails can crack open the skull of even the biggest and most robust Shura and their wicked claws are capable of ripping open the biggest octopus or squid,making them fearsome predators. But they are not reknown for their intelligence,and also happen to be terrified of magic,even the weakest spark. Shura hunters heed their traditional tales that surround this creature and are always careful to wear enchanted amulets made of Amethyst shards when stalking prey in places where these creatures have been sighted.
The second type is a parasite rather than predator. A parasite that feeds off the efforts of his brutish breathen. Though capable of hunting on their own,they simply prefer to grab the kill of a brute. The brute will not object to this,but meeky surrenders his kill,recognizing the presence of a superior being,one he sees with a mix of hate and grudging awe. Hate because he is is bullied and robbed by the other,but awe because the other is not a minion like him,unshackled by the former's inexorable urge to serve the needs of the worms.
It is respect well deserved. Extremely sly and gifted with magic,they have the ability to leach Amethyst stones of their magic,drawing the latent power of the stones into their own bodies. This way,they amass a powerful amount of magic within themselves and need not rely on Amthyst stones to cast spells,unlike other beings.
Powerful spell casters to be reckoned with, many of them have set up protection rackets in the small costal villages of Acqua. Appearing to the villagers in the midst of a a powerful gale it has conjured,this fiend demands offerings everyday of the best of what food the village has,as well as bright gold jewelry,being the rather vain thing it is. Shiny jewelry complements it's gleaming scales very well,meaning that it has a great weakness for shining baubles.
To help a village get rid of such a leech that afflicts it,is not easy ,given that it is a gifted mind reader and can probe a human's mind with ease,enabling it to detect any intention of treachery or violence towards it. Thus,setting a trap for them is nigh impossible.