In the deepest parts of the ocean, ancient cities can be found, relics of the Tsithca’ca’dss, the race known as the Trench Dwellers. While few of this ancient species remain, many of their superbly-crafted devices remain, nearly as enigmatic as their reclusive masters.
Trench Dwellers crafted items using technologies uniquely shaped for the lightless depths of the sea. Unable to work metal in large quantities, they developed strange composites crafted of metal fibers, ceramics never discovered by other species, and complex organic components. Their completed devices were constructs possessed of incredible resilience and endurance, possessed of blasphemous life. Some constructs were even designed to reproduce themselves, and remain in vast numbers to this day, silently conducting the business of their long-dead masters, hidden beneath the ocean’s blackness.
Acanthids, Defenders of the Tsithca’ca’dss
These murderous biomechanisms patrol the cities of the Tsithca’ca’dss, protecting areas from other creatures that might hurt their creators or damage their ancient lairs. Swift and lethal, they vaguely resemble spiny lobsters with a broad, articulated tail and numerous small legs, each covered with numerous intersecting blades. A set of forelegs bears savage spines, which can impale and pin enemies. These deadly tools shear across each other, potentially tearing into several enemies at the same time. Trespassers and other opponents will be pierced by the spines and held for the other blades to shred. Even more challenging to opponents dependent on sight, they tend to vent out clouds of inky black liquid when they are engaged in combat. This opaque liquid has a disturbing stench to any water-breathing species and acts as a potent stimulant to the Tsithca’ca’dss. Several different types of Acanthids exist, ranging in size from small and maneuverable devices only 3 or 4 feet long, to legendary behemoths hundreds of fathoms in length. These devices incorporate both mechanical and biological components, with external armor of a rigid ceramic substance covering a rubbery organic substrate. Their bladed limbs are crafted of a bronze-like alloy. The jagged blades and wickedly-barbed spines covering the exterior shell often become encrusted with barnacles and other undersea life, lending them a ragged, overgrown appearance.
Not overly bright, Acanthids can often be fooled or confused, but they are particularly stubborn constructs, and will often pursue foes with machine-like patience.
Calcifers, The City Builders
These sensitive biomechanical organisms appear to be massive worm-like creatures with dozens of devouring maws and clusters of sensitive tendrils. Unable to function well without direct supervision from the various builder-castes of the Trench Dwellers, Calcifers are powerful construction tools. Efficient excavators, they are able to regurgitate a portion of the excavated stone as a gravelly, concrete-like paste: This substance makes up most of the upper portions of the Trench Dwellers’ cities. Under the direction of their Trench Dweller handlers, they are able to give the secreted material a wide variety of textures and properties.
Strangely, Calcifers are able to reproduce, after a fashion. When provided with the numerous metallic parts that make up their “chewing” and “digesting” apparatus, worn Calcifers will divide into two smaller constructs. The devices will then spend some months ingesting the materials needed for their biological components, eventually becoming two “fully grown” Calcifers.
Colerids, The Vent Harvesters
In the heyday of the Trench Dweller civilization, they would surround volcanic heat sources with Khiop’rj v’no, vast arrays of strange organic mechanisms known to the merfolk as “Colerids”. Resembling nothing so much as clusters of massive pipe coral, these bizarre devices ambled slowly across the sea floor on small, clawed limbs that projected from their bases. They gathered the precious minerals released by the vents and excreted them in forms useful to their masters. An integral part of their civilization, these strange biomechanical organisms were carefully guarded as treasures of the Tsithca’ca’dss.
Colerids, like Calcifers, are able to reproduce. In their case, this involved “budding” off a smaller Colerid, which would shamble along in the path of the senior until it had gathered enough materials to function on its own.
These devices, perhaps the strangest of the Trench Dwellers’ creations, look like shambling heaps of debris. Closer examination reveals the strange truth, however: These things ingest raw metals gathered by the Colerids and reshape the metal into complex metal shapes. When required to produce unusually large items, sometimes the Modulan would burst open once the item was completed. These things were generally controlled by a team of Trench Dweller handlers, as they tended to self-destruct when left unattended, deciding to create strange and wonderful items of alien sculpture far too large for them to survive creating.
Morderers, the Crop Tenders
Resembling metallic crabs with dozens of sharply-clawed limbs, these devices were responsible for tending the strange fungal or plant crops that fed their ancient cities. More intelligent than their other strange constructs, they ranged in size wildly, depending on their expected duties. Many of these extremely durable constructs remain, still tending crops for nonexistent masters.
In some areas, a variation on these devices was adopted as a defensive construct. These mechanisms, covered with barbed spines that grow from small orifices in their shells, are able to load them into launching devices built into their limbs. Generally carried into battle on one of the larger Acanthids, they would fire these vicious weapons at their opponents.