It's time for another exciting installment of Fridays in AEthrem! This week's episode - ss'ra: ancient engineers or future foes?!
In the modern day, ss'ra seem a small threat to all but the lone and helpless explorer. Standing only about a meter tall, with a typical understanding of only the most basic of technology, members of this scaly species exist in small tribes or clans far from human populations, engaging in regular skirmishes with outside groups of their own people. Ss'ra populations can be found scattered over nearly half the globe, some friendly to humans, others vehemently hostile to outsiders.
How could such a species once have controlled half the world, and rivaled the ghond culture as a world power, as archaeological evidence indicates? The secret to their former strength lies in a unique quality of the ss'ra: while an individual ss'ra is not particularly intelligent by human standards, they have the uncanny ability to share thoughts an knowledge with other nearby ss'ra. As a communal population of their species grows in size, so too does their individual mental faculties and their capacity for innovation.
During the time of their conflict with the ghond, the entire ss'ra species was apparently linked as a single culture. From their shared knowledge, they had engineered technologies far beyond the capabilities of modern human society. Artifacts and legends speak of light and sound being harnessed by the ss'ra of that time to provide communication, defense, and to power transports and other fantastic machines. While some of these tales are certainly misrepresented or outright fabrications, relics recovered from the ruins of that civilization have inspired the creators of modern technologies, such as radio broadcasting and the airplane.
This golden age for the ss'ra came crashing down with the final strike of the ghond. Few historical records remain of the alleged thandi act that destroyed the unified ss'ra culture, but its impact was clear - the once connected, singular population was fragmented into myriad small enclaves. These smaller groups lacked the knowledge of how their species once remained connected over long distances, keeping each cluster of ss'ra isolated. However, another oddity of the ss'ra mind was their real undoing.
While individual members of the ss'ra species incorporate into the shared thoughts of an established group easily, it appears that established groups cannot connect with other communities of the species. It is possible that each group functions slightly differently, and they cannot "talk" to others. Ss'ra who have worked with humans have problems explaining the experience (as they do when describing most complex things verbally), but have compared it to hearing incomprehensible gibberish or radio static when foreign ss'ra are nearby.
The smallest communities of ss'ra are incapable of understanding this effect, but very easily determine that eliminating rival groups of nearby ss'ra stops the irritant. This has led to the current stagnation in ss'ra culture - as a group of their species grows in number, so too does the area over which they can be "heard" by others. Any enclave sufficiently large enough to form the foundation of a new unified culture inevitably draws the ire of numerous smaller gatherings of their species as they expand, and are worn down in unwanted skirmishes over a period of years.
Rumors still persist of closed communities of ss'ra in isolated areas, remnants of the former civilization with technology still far beyond modern human innovation, who have yet to be broken into small, squabbling tribal communities. Some stories claim that these lost ss'ra are simply building their power until they can reemerge whole into the modern world, the rival of every human nation across the globe. Others tell that they are already actively opposing human civilization in secret, quietly organizing their people and preparing for a lightning strike before the humans can counterattack with whatever power the ghond once used to fragment the ss'ra in antiquity.
Archaeologists and treasure hunters alike have found no true proof of these tall tales, but they still seek out the ruins of the ancient ss'ra culture. A well-preserved find could provide invaluable historical information or be the hiding place for a plethora of devices large and small, any of which an inventor's guild would gladly provide a small fortune to acquire. A researcher or an entire venture company could retire on a single discovery like that, if either were likely to ever actually give up their world-hopping careers.
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