may be called "Luucena" by the Ancient Tiquaitan or "Filachara" by the
Tarshiinites (actually meaning "Ink Dumpling"), there is no, nor ever was there
any, disambiguation in opinion amongst the folk of the
Nybelmarian Western Bay in the fact that
this creature is amongst the oddest to grace any of
waters. As the foundation of the most widespread ink industry in the entire
Western continent (with the help of the Faen of course) the Filachara is a
creature that is not only highly remarkable, but also a creature that has strong
economic importance even in the current trading climates.
Appearing essentially as little other than a translucent, ink-filled pouch and being imbued with the amazing ability to reconstruct itself completely from the most fractional remnants - calling the Filachara ‘unusual’ is an undeniable understatement.
Filachara are most
peculiar looking things. Appearing in a variety of sleek, rounded and
streamlined shapes without any recognisable fins or other source of propulsion,
it is not inaccurate to suggest a Filachara could be mistaken for an odd looking
organ that had been severed from a much larger creature. The mobile sacs
themselves, being able to move in a variety of fluid forms due to their almost
semi-liquid structure, measure usually between one or two
fores in length, their width
being very varied (meaning Filachara can assume infinite shapes).
The ‘skin’ (or at least ‘exterior layer’) of the Filachara is made up of a slimy, almost transparent flesh reminiscent in colour of blistered human skin. Though a somewhat unsightly description, the creature does not appear ‘grotesque’, merely very abnormal. The Filachara would also seem to be able to open a variety of channels in the skin that connect to either the creature’s breathing apparatus, ink stores or (what is presumably a) stomach. This function would seem to be very important, since it allows ingestion and expulsion of various materials very easily.
Due to the fact that you can see right through Filachara, it is not difficult to examine the few fleshy constructs beneath the outer surface. Unusually, much of the space inside a Filachara is occupied by just that - space. Though it is possible to identify what would appear to be gills, as well as constructs resembling frog lungs. In most Filachara it is also possible to spot a singular small, purple pustule, no larger than a small skin boil, which many modern-day Tarshiinite monks presume constitutes the Filachara stomach. The dominating construct within the Filachara, however, is its ink sac. How much space the ink sac takes up in relation to the creature’s size is amazing, almost two thirds of the creature’s innards being part of this gargantuan ink store.
Furthermore, one of the most interesting elements of the Filachara’s appearance is the slight ‘frilling’ they seem to have around the edges of their vacuous blob-like structure, in most instances providing quite concrete definition of ‘which way up’ a Filachara actually is, its semi-fluid appearance otherwise making this quite a difficult task. It is in fact from these frills where the Filachara draws its name, since a very similar frilling appears around the edges of Fila (one of the many Tarshiinite dumpling styles), an aesthetic adornment employed to disguise the stratum of dough where it is folded by the chef.
Being a creature objectively defined by a very fluid shape, the Filachara is
warranted a multitude of abilities. Firstly, as you would expect, due to its
extreme flexibility and natural ‘squishiness’ a Filachara is able to squeeze
through the smallest gaps of rock formations and coral reefs without any trouble
whatsoever. Due to the malleability of its form, the Filachara simply
‘transforms’ the shape of its outer-skin and ‘flushes’ itself through the empty
space, in a similar way to how boiled
tuberroots can be forced through a serrated pattern (though when a Filachara
performs this feat, it fails to leave behind an edible mash).
In a manner reminiscent of the Balyei (or ‘Flying Sponge’) of the Drifting Woods, Filachara are also capable of ‘regenerating’ wounded flesh to an amazing degree. It would seem to be the case that no matter how horrific or severe the wound to the creature is, as long as one part remains, it is able to reconstruct itself. Various experiments by Tarshiinite monks estimate that as long as the Filachara remnant is in between 5 and 10 square nailsbreadths, the creature will be able to completely rebuild itself within ten hours, including the regeneration of its ambiguous internal organs, sacs and fluid-chambers. Unusually though, dissecting a Filachara into hundreds of different portions does not produce hundreds of reconstructed copies. It seems to be the case that one individual ‘slice’ stimulates its own growth, whilst the others remain in their unfortunate, shredded state. Though in nature it seems to be the case that the largest part will ‘survive’ leaving the smaller amputations to float off, in controlled conditions the process is random even when the Filachara is sliced in two halves exactly.
The large ink-stores and relatively effective spraying system of the Filachara also gives it a useful defence mechanism. Though highly ineffective out of water, when submerged and threatened the Filachara can compress its entire body and flatten its internal ink pouch, causing piercing streams of ink to be released into the water through the pore-like channels in the creature’s skin. The black spray, when mixed with the seawater, produces an underwater ‘smokescreen’ covering areas much larger than the Filachara itself. This allows it the perfect opportunity to drift off into safer climes. As a result of this mechanism’s systematic activity, many are led to believe that the Filachara has a highly developed sense of the water’s movement, presumably detecting objects within a few peds if they are moving fast enough.
Territory. Filachara have only been reported to reside in the coastal waters of Nybelmar’s Western Bay, a stretch of ocean in modern times falling under the jurisdiction of the Tarshiinite men, traditionally a coastal and industrial people. It has for a long time deluded scholars in the region as to why a creature which is so populous in these particular oceans was not found anywhere else, not even as close as neighbouring waters. One commonly accepted solution to the mystery, as proposed by Monk Sasarta, was that the Filachara in some way ‘fed’ off of the coral reefs that were unique to that region’s waters.
Also, despite the fact that many will spend their entire lives (however long that may be) in the ocean, Filachara do have amphibious qualities, allowing them to breath both in and out of the water. Though having very little natural application, this ability allows harvesters of Filachara ink to act deliberately without fear of killing the creature. It would seem impossible, however, for a land-bound Filachara to heal itself if wounded, water appearing to be a necessity in these instances.
Habitat/Behaviour. Though remarkable in their construction and abilities, the day-to-day existence of these creatures is a somewhat monotonous one. The creature itself seems to have no preference in whether or not it is part of an enormous group (in reported cases of up to thousands) or floating alone, the composition of Filachara schools appearing to be random. Filachara seem to do little more than float around when not approached by predators. Though the somewhat abstract nature of their movement has an almost mesmerising quality to it, the novelty can quickly wear off for Tugara Divers (divers who use very precise apparatus made from Tugara sponge and thick glass that allow to see and breathe underwater for a limited amount of time).
The seemingly most exciting thing that the creature does is avert those who would seek to eat or ensnare it, which it does with considerable skill:
I approached today’s
dive with innate disappointment. I knew in my heart of hearts that the
tropical coral reefs we had encountered yesterday, bustling with an
explosion of colourful sea-life and vibrant flora could not be matched by
today’s expedition. My assumptions were only confirmed when we were told
we had to look for Filachara today. Though amusing at first, these
creatures quickly become uninspiring when compared to the giant
crustaceans and serpents we had seen in the past.
As an additional embellishment to the Filachara’s inescapable mystery, the first
question we must ask before trying to define what a Filachara eats is whether in
fact it eats at all. Though dissection after dissection after dissection of
these Ink Dumplings has caused Tarshiinite monks and others of scholarly
vocations to theorise extensively as to how food could be taken in and what
ambiguous parts of the creature’s innards could process it, there is no evidence
to suggest that Filachara even eat anything whatsoever.
Despite this confounding prerequisite, some unusual behaviours exhibited by Filachara have led many to believe that they in some way gain sustenance from a variety of things. One commonly accepted idea is that the Filachara somehow scrapes small remnants of plant life off corals and sucks them in via the (presumably two-way) channels in its flesh. This idea seems very viable since it not only explains why Filachara seem to enjoy scraping against the reefs, but also provides a practical explanation as to why Filachara can’t be found anywhere else.
Mating. Though the practicalities of Filachara mating are shrouded in mystery, the pregnancy and birth of Filachara young particularly is unbelievably unique. Like many aquatic creatures, the Filachara carries its unborn young inside itself. The appearance of Filachara before they are released into the seas however is relatively lacklustre, appearing as little more than transparent, blister-like pustules. The Filachara youths are, however, greatly numerous (which in conjunction with their healing abilities probably attributes for their huge natural populations). Filachara are thought to carry anywhere between two hundred and a thousand young inside them at any one time, and due to a high survival rate, this results in a lot of small dumplings.
The birthing process, however, is undeniably spectacular:
The Filachara Birthing Process. After my
previous encounter with the Ink Dumpling (where my precious Tugarumo was
damaged irreparably), I was sure not to disturb the next one I
encountered. As this Filachara drifted aimlessly towards us, I noticed a
very subtle difference in its appearance. It seemed engorged, as if
stuffed with too many glass marbles.
The Filachara, though odd, is not without its uses. In fact, it seems to almost
be the case that the intellectual Tiquaitan and the industruous Tarshiinites
(and even the Feudal Kingdoms before them) envisioned a variety of usages for
this unusual little beast. Though it is thought the strong-stomached citizens of
the old Tsu kingdom tried eating the slimy flesh of this beast at some point,
throughout history the most useful aspect of the Filachara would appear to be
the rather viscous ink-like substance it holds within itself.
Before their monopolisation of the gold resources in the Scepteres, high quality ink (and vast amounts of it) was the most profitable industry that the Tarshiinites dabbled in, selling high quantities of the stuff to the Faen who distributed it to be used with brushes, quills and mechanical utensils all-over the continent. Due to the fact that once sliced open (removing the ink sac) the Filachara can quickly regenerate itself, the resources harvested are far from perishable. Once filtered, treated and reduced in various ways by trained professionals, the ink itself becomes much thinner - making it perfect for writing, especially for the brush-stroke style of writing employed by the Tarshiinite men. Though Filachara ink (or 'Filachara chara') is the most commonly used, many wealthier Tarshiinites (specifically monastery abbots and council scribes) tend to use Charalara Octopus ink - characterised by its rarity and its inability to smudge.
Furthemore, 'Raw Ink', as it is generally known, is used in a variety of other ways by the Tarshiinites. If left untreated and poured in large volumes into an 'Inking Tub' (generally around twice the size of a regular bathtub), iron plates can be submerged and stained to receive a dark colouration with an obscure purple shimmer. Though serving more of an aesthetic purpose than anything else, the dark colouration of Tarshiinite armour does provide troops with the ability to act relatively covertly in low light conditions - one of the many clever tricks they employed to win the Tiquaitan Republican Wars.
Also during the time of the wars agaisnt the Tiquaitan many members of the Tarshiinite priesthood tried to utilise the naturally poisonous quality of the ink. Though the accomplished and intellectual monks managed to invent hollow spears (reminsicent of shatterhead arrows), spraying gauntlets, needle-shooters and a whole variety of other contraptions - they all proved to be relatively ineffective on the battlefield.
The ink was not only used by the Tarshiinite men though, in fact, far from it. Before their extinction, the still elusive practices of Tiquaitan medicine included Filachara ink in a number of ways. Though much of the Ancient Tiquaitan's wisdom has been lost, one specific medicinal tonic including a highly purified form of the ink and various herbs and flowers from the Fragrant Hills would appear to relieve a variety of aches and pains, as well as the symptoms of Arufritas (an ailment diagnosed by Tiquaitan doctors as an extreme brittleness of bones and stiffness of joints).
Tiquaitan foreseers (as a mark of dedication to their vocation) would often choose to irreversibly tattoo the edging of their eyes, creating a black rim a few nailsbreaths in width. This physical modification, especially when set against the ashen white skin that was typical of the Tiquaitan, led this particularly important caste of society to be recognised almost immeadiately. Due to the place of importance foreseers held in Tiquaitan society, it quickly became a capital crime to imitate this form of tattooing - leading to execution without exception.
As aforementioned, the Feudal Kingdoms that formed the Tiquaitan milennia ago (Tsu, Jirai and Chima) tried to use this ambiguous creature in a whole manner of ways. Though for some time it became fashionable in Chima to eat Filachara flesh, the sheer disgusting nature of the foodstuff probably killed the trend rather quickly. The kingdom of Jirai however did have a more practical use for the ink. In times of war between the kingdoms (which was practically always), foreign prisoners who had no relative use to the Kingdom were executed using a rather crude construct that forced the lethal fumes of boiling Filachara ink into the bodies of victim - resulting in a cripplingly painful but relatively quick death.
Myth/Lore. Though the Filachara is undeniably a remarkable creature, it would seem the very determinisic dogma of the Tarshiinite priesthood has not allowed the kindling of 'mythic nonsense'. Irregardless of this harsh stance on superstition, some unusual sayings and superstitious practices have been employed. The most prevalent would probably be the one told to children (or those with otherwise poor tablemanners) to prevent them from eating dumplings with their hands. They say that if you refuse to eat it with the correct cutlery, the dumpling on the plate will get confused, think its a Filachara, and fill itself with ink - ruining the taste to say the least.
Researchers. Though it is unfair to attribute all we know of the Filachara to one specific handful of people, the most extensive studies (though officially attributed to Monk Kilan of the Tarshiinite 'Sunrise Library') were conducted by the Tugara diver Kuhi Narata, who after a few brief encounters with the creatures became obsessed with them. Though Kilan's various essays summarising the findings of Kuhi should not be discounted as worthless, it is fair to say that the field work conducted by the brave diver himself was the driving force in our enlightenment to the nature of these entities.