THE FILACHARA MOLLUSK ("LUUCENA", "INK DUMPLING")

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING - USAGES - MYTH/LORE - RESEARCHERS

Though they 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 Caelereth’s 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.

Appearance. 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. Return to the top

Special Abilities. 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.
Return to the top

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. Return to the top

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.

After finally locating one of these unusually elusive creatures we quickly set in to try and capture it. The four of us prepared our net and glided agilely through the water in the general direction of the beast, hoping to ensnare it, take it ashore and study it later. We were shocked, to say the least, at the creature’s reaction. As we drifted to around an arm’s length of the Filachara, it seemed to collapse into itself. If this wasn’t unusual enough, a literally gigantic explosion of black liquid that quickly stained the glass visor on my Tugarumo followed the contraction. Blinded, and thereby in no fit state to try and catch the Ink Dumpling, I conceded and swam to what I (correctly) presumed was up.

Though the Filachara may have proved to me he is more interesting that his reputation gives him credit, I can’t say I’m pleased. Tugarumo cost a fortune to replace.

-- Kuhi Narata - Tugara Diver in the service of Monk Kilan
Return to the top

Diet. 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.
Return to the top

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.

As the creature drifted closer, it became apparent that the marble-like balls inside of it were moving on their own, ricocheting in unison onto the Dumpling’s flesh from beneath it. As the movements increased in speed I became only more intrigued. The longer I waited, the more violent the fluctuations became- until it happened. The Dumpling literally exploded from the inside out, with the mass of small clusters thrown in all directions.

After the initial shock, I noticed what remained of the Filachara. Though parts of it had inevitably been lost, the area around the ink sac seemed to be regenerating itself at an amazing rate. As I stayed there in further awe, the creature managed to almost completely reconstruct itself. Unfortunately, my Tugara was beginning to soak up too much water, and I had to reach the surface if I didn’t want to drown.


-- Kuhi Narata- Tugara Diver in the service of Monk Kilan
Return to the top

Usages. 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.
Return to the top

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.
Return to the top

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. Return to the top

 Date of last edit 30th Forzoen Rivers 1668 a.S.

Information provided by Decipher Ziron View Profile