Today, the review of Into The Deep for the Numenera setting and system ventures into the Depths, the next part of the book, starting with the Squamous Coliseum! What lurks in the deep darkness?
The domain of King Faralousus, the Squamous Coliseum is the heart of the city of Ahmas, situated nearly two miles beneath the surface of the ocean and kept habitable by ancient technology. Pressurized and filled with a breathable atmosphere, it’s a brutal place where the strongest are given power and wealth, while the weak are kept alive and strengthened by a secretive cabal. The invisible corridors and submarine vehicles are the only reliable ways to get to the city; the pressure alone will kill most surface dwellers before they get anywhere near the city.
Ahmas got its start as a laboratory for deep-sea creatures who had a habit of kidnapping humans to experiment on, mutating and engineering them with the material of sea creatures; when they disappeared and the inhabitants settled in, it was discovered that only some of the mutations were passed on, usually the most powerful ones. Seeking to ensure their survival and the propagation of superior traits, they created the Squamous Coliseum; while it began as a series of trials of physical aptitude, it has long since devolved into straight trial by combat.
The result is a brutal society where the strong rule, the learned attempt to sample and isolate what makes them strong, and the weak are little more than fodder. King Faralousus seeks to breed an army of easily controlled super-warriors, with the intent of conquering the other submarine settlements of the world and becoming an emperor. As it is, he’s plenty dangerous in his own right, and he has enforcers who are mostly hulking brutes with a scattering of wiry and murderous spies who snoop on everything in the city. He also has his sages, who work to replicate the strength of those who win the coliseum’s brutal fights, but they’re only somewhat successful.
The Hushed Moh, on the other hand, have a great deal more success; they use the tools and techniques of the city’s original inhabitants to create biological numenera that enhance them and those they offer to help, allowing them to stand among the city’s powerful citizens. While many of these creations are short-term cyphers, some have permanent effects. All of the effects involve mutations that resemble deep-sea beasts.
The Coliseum itself is about what you’d expect from such a society; anyone can enter, and they’ll get tossed in with the other proles seeking glory, eventually fighting their way to a position as a champion if they’re both lucky and strong. The main reason to join is that if you succeed, you gain a great deal of respect and power in this society.
Minifera is our next stop, a place that results from the overlap of numerous prior civilizations, all now lost to time. Lit by countless bioluminescent creatures, the city is a swirling mix of domes, spires, pods, and tubes on the side of a ravine in the ocean floor, inhabited by colony organisms known as naiadans. The individuals of these creatures – dyremmi – can integrate with other lifeforms, granting impressive abilities such as resistance to the crushing pressure of the depths. Those who fully accept this hybrid state become naiadapts.
Those who visit unprepared may find themselves “attacked” by wild dyremmi attempting to save their lives; most of those who experience this simply discover themselves to have a deep adaptation cypher active, but a few become surprise naiadapts. That the dyremmi do this is just one example of what the naiadans are capable of accomplishing with the selectively bred forms of their dyremmi. Others include producing electrical jolts at will, telepathy with anyone that has naiadan biotechnology integrated into them, and even the ability to transfer memories in a cypher form.
The naiadans themselves are a fairly harmonious species, content to dwell in the deeps and continue their exploration and research of the world; one of the few things that upsets them is the existence of the Skelirroth Fleet and the damage it does to the ocean floor. Explorers who want to make allies of the naiadans might do well to offer to help them bring the Fleet to a permanent stop; rescuing those aboard with dyremmi adaptations might be a good idea, of course, if the explorers don’t want to condemn the Fleet’s inhabitants to an unpleasant end beneath the ocean.
Next time, I’ll pick up with the Naiadapt descriptor option, and the way it offers more in both benefits and drawbacks than the average descriptor.