The Surash are without doubt,the most distrusted and least liked race in existence. Know for their slippery and conniving nature,their greedy,manipulative ways have given rise to a popular saying among the people of the Hundreds:After experiencing the deceit of the Search,one will smile upon the honest,barefaced greed of the Monroi. It’s a good measure of just how unpopular the Surash are,that most of them would rather have commercial dealings with their foreign aliens,rather than with their own kind.
Some of the more ignorant say that the innate foulness of the aquatic Surash are reflected by their loathsome forms. And in the case of male Surash,this is certainly true. Ugly drab green beings that would make the stomach of the most hardened adventurer turn,they have the repellent heads of giant snapping turtles,while their paunchy torsos end in squat toadish legs. A horizontal row of five thick tentacles sprout from their bulging bellies,each of which branches out into squirming little weblike appendages that are almost as good as human fingers,if less pleasing to look at,and their soft backs which contain vital organs like the heart and liver, are protected by hard turtle like carapaces. The latter are extremely resistant to violent blows and are stronger than the most durable human armor available.
The overall disturbingly hideous image is completed by a bright purple fold of skin housing the complex biological apparatus of lungs and gills,that dangles from their ugly chins and the gaping pores of their skin,which ooze an extremely foul smelling greenish fluid Some say that this substance,or ‘Surash sweat’ as the common name for it goes,contains a powerful toxin,though none know this for sure.
These males,to most simpletons,are the only kind of Surash around. It would surprise and even shock them,to know that there are female Surash in existence. And very lovely ones at that
A beautiful wrapping often conceals a rotten gift: this could not be more true in the case of Surash ladies.
Truly, outwardly they are worlds apart from their repulsive mates - tall and slender, moving with grace unsurpassed, like dancing flames, they flit hence and forth through their underwater cities like sparkling gems. Their bodies extract metal ions from water and concentrate them into pigment, making them shine and sparkle.
Their childlike faces, with eyes the color of the rainbow and sparkles and pouty lips, play with emotion, and most of all innocence, adorned with gold and silver pigment in artistic patterns around the eyes. Their mouths harbor no teeth, just three tongues, but they indeed do not need to: the central tongue holds a stinger and a sucker, for that is the way they feed: by first poisoning prey, and then leeching it dry.
From the top of their head to the end of their tail, a crest of very fine fins runs, resembling hair more than anything else.
Six arms they use to work their evil - two hand-like and two more like tentacles: of those, two are stronger and have bulbous ends that house pigment and play a role in their color-language, while the lower pair is more dextrous. The legs make up a significant portion of their height, well muscled as they propel the Surash femmes through the waters, ending in fins that may be walked upon, though they are able to levitate for short periods of time. Under their upper arms, another pair of fins is located - these have the purpose of steering and staying afloat. Like manta rays, the have electric organs in their palms: they can prickle, deliver a small jolt, or even stun when fully charged. Of course they could be used for life-saving, though that endeavor is rarely on their list of priorities.
Surash ladies are incredibly soft to the touch, the skin smooth and glossy, while their bones very flexible, adding furthermore to this softness, and allowing them to contort into positions most unnatural - this allows them to squirm through narrow places, and escape injury: blunt blows do them little harm, and the skin, though tender, is very difficult to pierce.
Their metabolism is optimized for a lively lifestyle: their digestion is fast, likewise the liver does provide glucose very swiftly, and the blood can carry large amounts of oxygen. These attributes are further emphasized if they mate: a Sourish femme who mates at least once per day can go without sleep at all. hardly ever growing tired (though hungry… that’s a wholly different matter).
Still, one separated from her flock would grow sluggish and lazy if not for one boon: with concentration and a little time, they can adapt their genitals to fit with the males of most species; likewise, their pheromone pattern can adapt after they could study a female of the species in question for a time, thus, they even smell ‘right’..
Ruling from their elegant cities of hewn coral that lie submerged in the murky depths of the Sullen Sea,the Sourish have built a civilization of courteous greed and deception,seeking to amass great wealth and power at the expense of others,while at the same time,strictly adhering to their twisted code of ‘honor’. It is a strange but morally convenient philosophy these master manipulators worship.
All Surash are more or less,’‘born’‘’ equal,springing from the Source. It is the common background they all hail from,rich or poor,exalted or obscure.
Upon laying their egg sacs five days after the act of coupling takes place,all female Surash make the long,ardorous journey to the Source,hesitant to entrust the care of their unhatched young to it’s doubtful care,but having no choice in the matter.
The Source lies in one of the deepest trenches of the floor of the Sullen Sea, deep, deep below the photic zone, past where Selisc swim in shafts of sunlight, deep below where great drillworm beds wave tranquilly in eternal twilight, deep below fantastic landscapes of coral, deep below the region where complex, indescribable fish whirl through blue darkness, past the black zones where alien aquatics extinct since the dawn of time brood on the vengeance of ancient days, down to the absolute bottom, where entities halfway between nautiluses and deities squat brooding upon the icy floor of the world, where archaic, oceanic presences loom from lightless shafts, where the sun has never reigned… There lies the Source.
Amidst shattered piles of stone, sprawled among ornately-carved ceremonial pillars offered by every generation of Surash ever born, the Source is a vast and bloated entity like some hideous, indescribable, extra-dimensional organ, it’s deep folds, rankles, and gills, coated in layers of branching fungal cilia-horns and encrustations of loathsomely-anthropomorphic and statuesque piles of cystic crust, belching alien bile from tall, finny towers of chitin that stud it’s sides, with vast tentacles which drape and intertwine through the surrounding acres like the roots of an evil tree. Foul and palpitant, the Source cannot speak or act of it’s own (though whether it could in the past is a matter open to speculation); it’s only action is to vomit forth sticky clouds of membraneous Surash-eggs, which are immediately captured by Surash broodkeepers and taken upwards out of the depths of mighty pressure to Temple of the Source, an ancient, looming, baroque edifice on a ledge-cliff above the Source which predates Surash awareness by many thousands of years. The eggs are taken within this structure, and there are looked over by the Speaker for the Source, the tentacular neuter being who is the Source’s high priest and emissary.
Most of the eggs in a given egg-sac are destroyed, ground up with a ritual mortar and pestle into a thick, bloody-black paste which is then stewed back into the trench (ostensibly to feed the Source). The remaining few eggs are taken above by broodkeepers to be raised in the dark malachite temples of the dark sea-canyons, to live amongst the weaponry-farms, the bile factories and soldier-pits. A God it is,to the Surash and many of the Selisc in the waters they have seized from their weaker neighbor.
Thus are all Surash brought into this world,with none more elevated than the rest in birth. A rather admirable belief,the naive might be tempted to think. Unfortunately for all of those who subscribe to the idea of the common good,the reality on the ground as seen by those who have been on rather intimate terms with the Surash,is vastly different. Political connections with close relatives are very important,especially for those who are selected to serve the vast,bloated bureaucracy known as the misleadingly named Force For The Prosperity Of All The Source’s Children and the High Army,the two powerful institutions that dominate Surash society. Those with kinsmen and women in high and powerful positions,find themselves quickly moved to senior positions,while their less well connected brethren struggle with mediocre positions and even more mediocre salaries. This is a deeply entrenched mentality that stems from the valid Surash suspicion that those outside their extended family or Clan,are potential foes rather than allies. Though most Surash are anyone at all,it is not lost on them that trusting someone of your Clan who more or less,has his interests aligned with yours,makes much more sense than cutting deals with an outsider who would like nothing better then to wreck the grip your family has maintained on a particular part of the government and make way for his own Clan to move in. As the popular Surash saying goes,my Clan against my people and my people against the rest of the world.
Apart from strict but necessary measures to keep the whale ivory currency stable and the High Army in good fighting shape,there are no laws to persecute the corruption and excesses that permeate every level of Surash society,since laws as a safeguard against wrongdoings of any kind are simply non-existent. This is not to say that the the Surash live in a void filled by lawless anarchy and chaos. Nothing could be further from the truth. An intricate set of codes exist to govern the actions of all Surash in lieu of good laws. These do not seek to punish wrongdoers,but merely see to it that the one who commits the act,satisfies certain requirements of Surash traditional ideas of civil conduct. For example,a Surash that stabs another in a tavern brawl,can get away scott free if he fulfills the archaic requirement that he sees to it his victim gets a lavish funeral.(Wether or not the funeral comes free of charge,is another matter. More often than not,insult is added to injury when the family of the victim find themselves saddled with a huge bill from the killer’s close relative who conducted the funeral.) It is for the same reason that when cheating a client out his money,A Surash merchant will avoid lying openly to his victims,given that it is considered immature and rude to lie openly about anything. Instead,he chooses to hid vital information,turning aside questions with his obsequies reassurances until the the unlucky soul he hopes to fleece,finally signs an agreement with him. When the latter finds out to his great shock and anger that he has been cheated,he is told by the still courteously smiling merchant that it was his fault for not discussing the details of the agreement thoroughly.
These social codes have been complied into hundreds of edicts and documents,with their enforcement overseen by the Speaker itself and the hundreds of provincial magistrates that labor in it’s name.
In theory,the Speaker is the most powerful individual in Surash society,but once again,theory doesn’t necessarily translate into the actual truth of the situation. True power lies in the hands of the sly and corrupt High Stewards,an elite governing body made up of the most powerful officials that have managed to scheme their way in. It’s official purpose is to advise the Speaker in issue of great import. Supposedly,any advice the High Stewards offer the Speaker is non binding,since only it has the authority to carry out important decisions on the part of the Source,but everyone knows that it is the High Stewards who call the shots. If the Speaker dares to veto any ‘‘advice’’ they try to implement,they can make life difficult for it,something which it is well aware of. And yet to all appearances,the people and even the High Stewards revere it’s chosen messenger,with the latter missing no chance to grovel and prostate themselves before it. Yet again,the all powerful dictates of custom are responsible,since they demand that the Speaker be treated as the living embodiment of divine authority even if in truth,he possess but little of it.
Currently,the High Stewards are under the grip of the influential Tawaguchi Clan,with three out of the exalted five of them hailing from it,making them them the defacto rulers of the State in the process.
Inevitably, there are some of the more devout Surash who complain in private that the Source is enraged at having it’s voice as represented by the Speaker silenced and and voice fears that a time will come when it rises from the dark depths where it lies to put to and end the insolence of its arrogant offspring. These individuals are dismissed as fringe eccentrics however,and often treated as such. The only real threat that emanates from them,is the existence of a fringe extremist group known known as the ‘‘Minions of the Source’‘,an organization of fanatics who are so paranoid that the Source will rise up to destroy their race one day that they have dedicated themselves to the cause of bringing true power into the hands of the Speaker. Known for their usually abortive attempts on the lives of minor officials,they are regarded as more of a nuisance than anything else by the authorities. It is a cutting measure of how little popular support they enjoy,that most Surash refer to them as the ‘‘Crazy Ones’’ or the ‘‘Lunatics Of The Source.’’ In the cynical and maliciously greedy world of the Surash,such devotion is scoffed at,though in the all to common public religious processions organized to appease the Force,many of those rich enough to hire off duty soldiers to accompany them for protection against the many dangers of the Sea,will make high profile pilgrimages to the depths where the Source lies in order to offer lavish sacrifices of rich food to it.
The deceit of the Surash extends to their relationships with foreign states. This the area where the true talents of their seductive females come into play. Possessing a natural flair with with foreign languages and a disturbingly acute to ability to read others like a book,they make the ideal ambassadors,inspiring trust where none should exist,given the dire reputation of their people. Seducing their way with smooth finess into the trust and beds of the important leaders and influential figures that dominate events in the foreign courts,the female ambassadors of the Surash are able to exploit any infighting and intrigue they find,to further the interests of their people,convincing each competing faction that though the Surash drive a hard bargain,they never go against their word(which is true,in a very literal sense),while at the same time,successfully painting everyone else as aggressive foes determined to wipe any potential threat out. On occasion,they also serve as assassins for the ally of the moment,using their little stingers to get rid of any obstacles their new best friend perceives,a little favour that aids them greatly in gaining his trust. Of course,they are very careful to off only those inconvenient individuals who are adamantly opposed to any Surash interference in their internal affairs,killing two birds with one stone so to speak. When asked to bump off other potential allies,they will persuade him instead to focus on a more ‘‘dangerous’’ target.
This policy of playing off everyone against each other,has naturally made them many foes in those nations where they have chosen to play their games of intrigue,with some occupying very powerful places. In most cases,a fear of invasion would be very warranted,with such bad feeling and antagonism directed their way by kings and monarchs who have good reason to feel that they were jerked around by the Surash.
But the Surash have never feared an assault on them by an unfriendly enemy,nor in all likelihood ever will have to. Well organized and disciplined,most of the High Generals leading it are the leading scions of the strongly nationalistic Tagawuchi Clan. With the blessings of their all powerful Clan,the High Generals have whipped up the Surash High Army into a powerful force,one that a couple of years ago surprised the Hundred when it seized a sizable portion of the fish rich upper waters from the weaker Selsic neighbors of the Surash,after the former had defaulted on a loan made to them by the latter.
Though many Selsic feel very strongly about this aggressive ‘‘land’’ grab, there is little they can do vent their spleen,since their own armies have been paralyzed by a fierce power struggle in the upper echelons of their leadership between two powerful factions,one in the pay of the Surash,and the other strongly determined to end further Surash attempts to weaken their nation.
The strength of the High Army lies in it’s fearsome cavalry. Made up of hundreds of Ghoron Riders,these Surash mounted warriors ride into battle on the backs of the huge salamander-like Ghoron beasts. On their broad backs are positioned vast catapults which are used to launch Hanan Balls,highly reactive spheres manufactured by their weapons workshops that when hurled with moderate force at enemy units,explode with great force,blowing up everything within their short radius.