Today we venture into the mysterious Inner Sea of the Ninth World, a place that might be the most outlandish and peculiar thing yet in a book filled with outlandish and peculiar things. It also marks the last of the third part of the sourcebook, so we’re at last drawing to a close on this review!
The Inner Sea is likely derived from reports in recent history of large quantities of water trapped deep beneath the Earth’s crust, in the upper mantle region. That water certainly isn’t liquid, but rather bound up in complex chemical structures; the Inner Sea, however, is decidedly made of water in a liquid form.
One of the first things we learn about is the presence of a sapient race – or rather a parasitic bond between two races that allows for sapience as a result – in the high-pressure and incredibly hot waters of the Beneath. They occupy mobile cities that travel the Inner Sea as prospectors, relying on ancient numenera known as Towers to keep the Sea in existence and habitable.
There are only a few ways to reach the Inner Sea – teleportation is likely the easiest for land-dwellers, but there exist physical connections between the surface waters and the Beneath. Of course, diving hundreds of miles through the twisting darkness of a passage in the planet’s crust is likely to be incredibly harrowing, to say the least. Survival is easier – thanks to the influence of the Towers, the pressure is tolerable and the temperature is merely on the warm side rather than the furnace-like boil that would be expected at such a close proximity to the world’s mantle.
Survival devices found in the Inner Sea tend to be unique, with their own bizarre methods of adapting their users to the environment; some examples include a mask that permits the user to act as if the water were made of air, while another is a living suit of fishlike design that essentially turns the wearer into said fishlike creature, permitting them to swim and breathe via the suit’s gills.
Interesting tidbit: the day-night cycle projected by the Towers is a 26 hours cycle. If you were feeling like it, this would let you work backwards to when the Inner Sea and the Towers were constructed, as they mimic the length of day on a much young Earth. It’ll be about 200 million years from our time before the rotation slow to a 25-hour day, after all.
Thanks to the Towers, there’s plenty of local life – kelp, seaweed, sea grass, and more, fish and eel-like frang and shark analogues as well. The most interesting, of course, are the Chearrans – human-like, of only animals intelligence on their own, but given a greater level of awareness and understanding when bonded with the niephris parasites. Their children are raised as treasured pets until old enough to bond with a parasite, an act that can overwhelm those undergoing it as they come to self-awareness for the first time.
Next time, we’ll pick up with the Towers, the numenera that permits life to exist in the Inner Sea!