Sea elves

When they are young the sea elves live near the coasts and the surface, and they are consumed with espionage and the selling of information. Barnacles are their spies, which they attach to whales, sea turtles, and ships, and wait for them to come around after voyages or migrations of thousands of miles. The barnacles record all that they see in the ridges of their shells. Each barnacle is matched to a single sea urchin, known only to the sea elf that cultivated them both, and its secrets can be played when a particular spine of that sea urchin is dragged across the ridges of its shell.

As the centuries pass, each sea elf that survives the intrigues of the surface becomes vast and irregular in form, and slowly settles into the abyss. The mature sea elves are still obsessed with information, but now they take a longer perspective. They taste the silt that settles out from the mouths of rivers and listen to the slow grind of the continents. To make permanent records, they swim slowly back and forth through the slow rain of organic matter from the surface, interrupting its fall and thereby tracing symbols of enormous width and breadth but minuscule thickness into the endless black plain of the deep sea bottom. In time this finely-laminated ooze becomes compressed into mudstone and then slate, and in this way the accumulated writing of the sea elves becomes woven into the very fabric of the world. Hand a magic-user from the surface world a piece of slate from a mountaintop, and if she is very sensitive she may be able to decipher some of the symbols that are partially impressed there, but these are only tiny fragments of stories, poems, arguments, and spells that once spanned leagues of the ocean floor, and now wind their way through entire mountain ranges.

Some madmen claim that the spells of abyssal sea elves do not take effect until they are uplifted and eroded, and that in this way all life on land is distantly controlled by the millennia-long and eons-deep plots of the sea elves. If there is any truth to this, their hold on terrestrial life must be distant and vague at best, for many kingdoms of men may rise and fall in the time it takes for erosion to liberate a single word of one of these spells. Still, some seers and oracles allege that there is a central line that runs through history, and that this line does not run true. That over the ages, an inhuman will has bent–or is bending–all the skeins of history away from the heights, dry land, and open air, and back toward the oceans, the ultimate cradle and destiny of life.

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This started out as a comment on Zak’s blog, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I built on a little more and promoted it to a post.

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