Whales, also known as the "First-Singers" or "Carteloreen", are large, warm-blooded, gregarious creatures that have chosen to live completely in and underwater, although they are air-breathers. They are variously regarded as semi-sentient beings, the bards of the ocean, and valuable sources of oils and fats. Friends to the merfolk, capable of complex and eerie melodies, and harvested by the Avennorians, these great beasts are still shrouded in mystery to many people.
Appearance. Although there are four main types of Carteloreen, they are all fairly similar in appearance. They look rather like a rounded, three-dimensional diamond, with a softly triangular head, heavy humped ‘shoulders’ from which two long front flukes depend, and a tapering tail at the other end with a distinctive tri-fluke design, similar to the dolpholk. The jaw shape varies depending on the whale (see below). Their bodies are often patterned in long horizontal irregular stripes of deep sea colours; greys, blues, turquoises, and purples.
Image description: The so-called Dove Whales, a particular colouration of Guorani Carteloreen. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
What appears to be peach and pink mottling around the muzzle and mouth region
are actually symbiotic organisms known as Likken. Resembling the woody growths
that sometimes form on old trees, they appear to be a type of fungus
particularly adapted to a saline environment, and are nourished by the
off-scraps of food detritus that drift around the whale’s mouth during and after
feeding. The benefit they provide the whale is unclear, but whalers have long
noted that beasts with thicker Likken colonies are invariably the fatter and
healthier, while the rare whale they harpoon that is ill or dying has few or
none. A line from a popular
Avennorian folk song records this delightfully; “Chase the lass / with
freckles graced / Hunt the whale / with likkens faced.” While this might seem
inconclusive in and of itself, crude experiments on captive whales have
demonstrated that forcibly removing the Likken results in immediate lassitude,
refusal to eat, and eventual death.
A breath-hole at the top of the head, just before the swell of the ‘shoulders’, substitutes for what would be nostrils on a land creature. Air is sucked into giant lungs before the whale submerges, sufficient for dives of nearly half a candle-width (half-an-hour). This breath-hole also seems to be connected to the Carteloreen larynx, the mouth only used in eating. See “Thytellor”, below.
Special Abilities. Whales have been tentatively classified by human scholars who are interested in such things as semi-sentient; their intelligence is not known or measurable, but the complexity of their songs, and their apparent ability to communicate information with the merpeople and dolpholk, suggests thought processes beyond those of an ordinary beast’s.
“Thytellor”, or “sea-song”, is the unique and structured noise produced by the workings of the whale’s larynx, breath-hole, and stored air. Sounds ranging from deep ‘earthen’ pulses to high ‘wind’ tones travel great distances under the water and are easily received by other Carteloreen, dolpholk, large fish, and merfolk. Although no one is ready to classify Thytellor as a language at this point, it is possible that some mage or scholar will in the future invest time in the study of these marvellous creatures and discover that we have yet another race dwelling among us, deep in the oceans of Caelereth!
Territory. The Carteloreen prefer the deeper, cool waters well off-shore, and it is not uncommon for whalers to go from half-a-day to a week out to locate pods for hunting. They rest and sleep on the surface, but when playing and hunting dive deep below the surface of the water into the oceanic crevasses. Pearl divers sometimes encounter Ashalea whales in warmer shallow waters, and other whales infrequently ‘beach’ themselves on reefs or in coves - the reason unknown. Sword-whales, or Caefan, are usually found much further north along rocky coastlines.
Habitat/Behaviour. Carteloreen may be observed in some of the following behaviours: swimming, eating, bubbling, breeching, dancing, drumming, podding, and islanding.
They swim with an up-and-down thrust of their three back flukes, and wing-like sweeps of their large front flippers.
Eating varies, as described above in Diet.
Bubbling is an unusual technique in which a group, or pod, of Guorani whales co-operate for the purpose of ‘herding’ fish into tighter clusters for easier consumption by circling the school and releasing bubbles from their breath-holes to frighten the fish in the desired direction.
Breaching involves leaping almost completely out of the water in an amazingly graceful arc, sometimes combined with revolving or leaping over other whales.
Dancing is a motion in which the whale hangs vertically in the water, using subtle motions of its flukes to spin in place, rise and fall - only a few very persistent divers have been fortunate enough to see this elegant behaviour.
Drumming involves raising the tri-fluked tail above the water and bringing it down with a noisy splash; whether this is for communication, play, or warning is not known.
Podding is defined as any temporary (non-family unit) group of whales which chooses to eat and sleep and hunt together, similar to merfolk. Since whales are naturally gregarious, and the young remain with their parents until fully grown, the Carteloreen are often found podding.
Islanding is a type of sleeping or resting position in which the whale floats motionless on the surface of the water, its breath-hole well clear and its spread flukes stabilizing it from all but the heaviest swells.
And of course singing, or performing Thytellor, is a favorite activity among the younger males and females; tilting their bodies into diagonal positions in the water with heads down and flukes high, they project their sounds to reflect from the seafloor and echo across literally furlays upon furlays of distance.
Diet. There are four main types of whale, divided by mouth types and thus diet: the Guorani, the Su’ufanu, the Caefan, and the Ashalea. The Guorani, ‘devourer’, has a heavy toothed lower jaw and eats primarily fish. The Su’ufanu, or ‘weaver’, filters minute marine organisms through an interlaced curtain of springy fibers just above the beast’s gullet, apertures on either side of the body draining the seawater back out. The Caefan, ‘sworded’, has a slim, sharp-toothed muzzle, with a long ivory horn, about a fore to a ped in length, protruding from the upper end of the muzzle, with which it spears seals, otters, and other northern coastal beasts. Scraping the creature off against rocks, it then tears away strips of flesh with its strong jaws. The Ashalea, ‘Wind-song’, is a long-snouted beast with a suction-tube tongue taking small seacreatures directly to the strong digestive acids of the stomach. Between the four types, they can consume most of the marine livestock in Caelereth’s oceans - fortunately the items lower on the food chain reproduce themselves prolifically!
All Carteloreen come in the two standard sexes, with the standard anatomical
distinctions. Although they have not been observed mating or giving birth, from
the anatomy of flensed and beached whales it is simple to determine that they
mate like large land animals, without the restrictions of gravity. Female whales
carry their babies for about a year, and nurse them for about the same length of
time from small nipples concealed in the ‘armpit’ of the front flukes.
Avennorian whalers will not pursue a whale determined to be nursing, although
there are no such restrictions on pregnant whales, since it is impossible to
determine sex or fertility until the animal is butchered.
Myth/Lore. There is little information or knowledge about the Carteloreen outside of the coastal whaling communities, so a mysterious aura hangs about these beasts; even their name, “First-singers”, carries some of that same mystery. The most famous legend involving whales is of course the tale of Silffin, the mythical white Sword-Whale of Baveras. There are also fireside stories about the terrible Northriders, shaped like men carved from ice, with burning ruby eyes set in their crystalline faces, who ride the great blue Guorani whales through the iceberg-studded seas... but of course those are only fireside stories, told to terrify the children, and we know better - don’t we?
Information provided by Bard Judith