The Cast (in order of appearance):
Other Odds and Sods:
|Aliases||Manga Shoggoth, Sh'ron, C'thandra|
|Age||Possibly predates the Parodyverse|
|Appearance||A vast amorphous gelatinous mass (occasionally taking a humanoid shape, in which case it wears a black suit, and is swathed in bandages a la the invisible man). Slime and goo is optional.|
None. The Shoggoth has no special powers in the same way that birds and fish have no special powers.
From a more human point of view, the Shoggoth - like all Elder Creatures - comes from outside the comforting shallows we call reality. It operates on a completely different set of rules to the rest of reality.
It has been known to do the following:
It is also immune to most forms of magic, and generally finds such things amusing.
As a personal note: The challenge in writing the Shoggoth is not about what powers it may or may not have, or about how powerful it is or isn't. The challenge and pivot in writing the Shoggoth is how it fits in with modern reality - humans in particular.
The Shoggoth is an Elder Creature in the style of H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, to get the idea behind the Shoggoth - and some of its history on this plane - the reader is advised to read "At the Mountains of Madness".
The Shoggoth was created as a slave by the [Fairly] Great Old Ones. They gave it the ability to subdivide, change mass and size, and above all the ability to learn.
This proved to be a mistake. When the Shoggoth was persuaded to rebel against its masters, they had created a very fast learner that could quickly outnumber them. This is why there are very few Great Old Ones in the Parodyverse, and why they are pretty scarce in other realities. Although it can be taken by surprise, a prepared Shoggoth is a very dangerous enemy. It has spent a lot of time preparing.
As a result of its enslavement, the Shoggoth really hates slavery in all its forms. In fact, it tends to look upon any type of exploitation as a form of slavery. This means that it will generally only do things in return for some form of payment. The payment need not be proportionate to the task - it is the principle that matters.
Although the Shoggoth hates the Great Old Ones and is not exactly ambivalent towards the other elder creatures, it does rather get on with some of the lesser elder creatures - particularly those who don't like the Great Old Ones.
The Shoggoth is originally a creature of the Oceans, although it is quite happy on land, air (when it forgets about - or ignores - gravity) and space. It has spent an eternity monitoring the various shipwrecks and has ready access to many treasures if it needs them.
This also means that it has an unfortunate habit of using the wrong coinage when dealing with humans - a habit that has sent various coin collectors into hysterics. It has discovered, however, that doubloons are generally well accepted everywhere.
As an Elder Creature, the Shoggoth simply does not fit in reality - it operates in too many dimensions. As a result, any creature viewing it is likely to be driven insane (hence the "invisible man" bit).
Although it has a tendency to play up the "blasphemous elder creature" bit - especially when disturbed in its lair - it does quite like humans. It has studied them since their creation, and actually has a very broad understanding of the human condition.
This is the problem: If you take all the human societies as a whole, they all contradict each other. Not being bound by time (or any of the lower dimensions, for that matter) the Shoggoth has trouble dealing with a race so changeable and brief. This is one of the reasons that the Shoggoth employs a High Priestess.
To better understand humans, it has split itself into three forms.
The Manga Shoggoth: Somewhat obsessed with Japanese culture (especially Manga and Anime). It has been theorised that this is because the Great Old Ones used a pictorial form of Language, so it is only natural that the Shoggoth should gravitate to a culture that uses pictograms to communicate.
Sh'ron: A more maternal manifestation. This part of the Shoggoth is usually the part that deals with inductions to the Refuge.
C'thandra: A more childlike manifestation. C'thandra is known to favour the Clangers, and as a result you can always find a few wandering around the Refuge. C'thandra also guards the lagoon in the Refuge and is also sometimes found in the middle of Ebony's amulet.
The Shoggoth does not like being worshipped as a god (as several ex-High Priests are unable to attest). It is however venerated by the Ape People of Versalia (See UT80), who are sensible enough not to sacrifice maidens to it, instead reserving sacrifices for the Ape God.
Just as a note on technique: I usually write Shoggoth speech in italics without quotation marks.
And again, scavenging from HH's writings (This time UT181):
The only thing that really needs mentioning this time is to remind folks of the strange existence of the Manga Shoggoth. Created as a servitor race by the Fairly Great Old Ones at a time when they were active and had warped the physical laws of the universe to accommodate them, in many ways all the Shoggoths were one Shoggoth. In these modern times when the FGOO "sleep" and physics is different the remaining Shoggoths that rebelled against their masters and helped eject them from reality (for now) still have a somewhat imprecise relationship with time/space.
|Age||A few months...|
|Appearance||As per the main mass of the Shoggoth.|
|Abilities||As per the main mass of the Shoggoth, but drastically limited by the Mundane Matter in its body. This means, for example, it is less immune to magic; it can control less forms simultaneously (usually only one) and so on.|
This fragment of the Shoggoth was contaminated with mundane matter whilst trying to protect the Legion during the Resolution War. As a result it cannot rejoin the main mass of the Shoggoth. It has been hinted that bad things may happen in the future if this fragment does not re-merge with the main mass or destroy itself.
Rather that reverting to non-existence, It is lodging with the Lair Legion, and is aiding them in return for its lodgings and future aid in decontaminating itself.
It is making attempts along those lines with some success, but has had to halt its own cleansing as Flapjack has been complaining about the effect on the carpets.
However, the fragment of Shoggoth that is in the Lair Legion is currently isolated from the main biomass of Shoggoth. When that fragment needed to replicate sufficiently quickly to protect the Legion from death by nuclear fire it had to draw upon mundane matter as raw material; and not just any matter but matter from Parody Island, a rather special bit of real estate touched by the Celestian Space Robots and many other cosmic forces. This matter has somehow "contaminated" this bit of Shoggoth, and has not yet be exorcised. Hence the Legion's Shoggoth cannot return to his main biomass without contaminating the whole, and is not able to communicate with the rest of itself in the way that other fragments can. This may limit its power, but it certainly isolates it and makes it a little sad.
See also the notes on Why the Shoggoth is a Legionnaire.
|Name||Ebony of Nubilia|
|Aliases||Most Holy Ebony (formal), Ebony (preferred)|
She appears to be in her early twenties.
Bear in mind, however, that above all else she grew up in the jungles and has very little truck with the civilised idea of age. In addition, travelling with the Shoggoth tends to affect your perception of linear time.
As a result of the "Follies" story we can assume that she was sacrificed (and rescued) around her mid-teens, since her body regressed to her early neophyte days.
5' 7" or so. Very slim, but not anorexic. Coffee-coloured skin, brown expressive eyes. Has a very effective stare when she needs to use it.
Usually dressed in flowing white robes, held closed with a belt with an ornate buckle. She does have a set of "formal" High Priestess regalia, but seldom wears it as it is too (ahem) draughty.
She also wears an amulet with a small, rather disturbing, pearl imbedded in it. This is her badge of office - the pearl is, of course, a fragment of the Shoggoth. Bad things are likely to happen if someone takes the amulet from her - as has been noted, the Shoggoth is very protective of its High Priestesses.
The amulet has been known to change form depending on the occasion - for example it turned itself into a tiara (with a heart-shaped pearl) when Ebony was dressed up as a cheerleader.
None. Ebony is exactly as she appears. Except...
Ebony's first and second appearances are in (Prices and Favours, at the beginning and towards the end of the story. When travelling with the Shoggoth, you seldom move in a straight line.
Ebony was born and raised in the jungles of Nubilia (a sort of darkest Africa with vague Lovecraftean overtones). She was not exposed to the "delights" of civilisation until her mid-teens, when one of the local cults decided to try worshipping the Shoggoth, and picked on her as a sacrifice.
The service was rather ruined by the appearance of the Shoggoth, who dealt with the High Priest in the usual manner and then carried Ebony off.
This, incidentally, is where Ebony developed her dislike of High Priests, and why she is something of an atheist.
She was then trained up to be the new High Priestess of the Cult of the Shoggoth. This was initially done by Most Holy Bridgit (a one-time Celtic Priestess), and on her retirement by the Shoggoth itself.
She is not over-awed by civilisation, having seen an awful lot of it in different times. She is very close to her jungle roots, and tends to see through the veneers that "civilised" people hide behind.
She is not one to suffer fools (or high priests - she feels the two are synonymous) gladly.
Although not as obsessed as her patron, Ebony does know a little about Manga and Anime, and admits to liking 'Love Hina', 'Call Me Princess' and 'OL Shinkaron'. It may or may not be of significance that these are a comic romance, pure shojo (girls comic) romance and strip cartoon about Office Workers.
|Appearance||Tall (6') Cornish male, dark hair in a crew cut. Quite muscular because of his previous job, but not a weightlifters physique.|
|Abilities||No metahuman abilities.|
Blair Atholl entered the story (Prices and Favours, to be exact) as a new deck hand on the good ship "Cross Purpose". He discovered that the ship was being used to smuggle girls out of the UK for a white slavery ring. Being a good Cornwall boy he was quite in favour of smuggling. The white slavery bit, on the other hand...
When the ship was sunk by an enraged Shoggoth he attempted to rescue the girls, only to be trapped in the sinking ship along with Asil (who was investigating things at the behest of Sir Mumphry Wilton).
The Shoggoth was sufficiently impressed with Blair that it brought him along to the refuge (along with the girls he was trying to rescue).
Although he has not yet been used in any other stories (I have some vague plans), he is something of a hit in the refuge. He is unusual in that he is white (most of the residents are slaves rescued from shipwreck) and has demonstrated a strange ability which the children are clamouring to learn (he can swim, and acts as a part-time lifeguard in the Lagoon).
|Appearance||5' 6". Wears a Ninja outfit which used to be brown, but has now been replaced by a white one. When the hood is down (as it usually is these days), he has light brown hair, brown eyes and an increasingly relaxed attitude.|
|Abilities||PJs has some knowledge of martial arts.|
PJs used to be an Ass-Raping Ninja until various circumstances (detailed in Desperately Seeking Ebony) caused him to leave and become a bouncer in a "Exotic Dance" Club in Soho (London).
He may or may not be involved with the owner (Sherri), but seems to hang around her an awful lot.
|Appearance||5', slim and well stacked. She is a natural blonde, but manages to look like an artificial blonde by the strategic use of dye. When on duty she is also heavily made up. When off duty she isn't, and looks a lot more attractive as a result.|
Sherri is the doorkeeper and owner of a "Exotic Dance" Club in Soho (London). Like a lot of Soho working girls she is quite cynical, but very good at hiding this from her customers.
She succeeds by knowing what her customers want, and supplying a reasonable illusion of it, hence the dye and makeup.
The club has all the appearance of a Soho dive that is either run by or dominated by the local criminal element, but in fact has no criminal connections at all.
The normal observer might see this as rather strange. The more discerning observer will note that the Soho Manga and Anime club meets in her establishment, and the Shoggoth takes payment of favours very seriously.
Sherri first appears in Prices and Favours.
|Aliases||The Reverend James Harlsden|
|Appearance||Tall, thin, greying hair. Perceptive blue eyes. Usually wears a grey suit with a dog-collar.|
|Abilities||None (but see below)|
The Reverend James Harlsden is the vicar of an (unidentified) London Church, quite close to Soho. He is somewhat "High Church" in his views, but does not let himself be tied down by a too-narrow view of theology. He tends to give the appearance of a slightly absent-minded Church of England vicar, but is actually very perceptive.
Although he doesn't realise it, his faith is quite strong and he is probably capable of giving a vampire a very hard time.
He has started having the occasional breakfast with Ebony in Soho, and seems to be forging links with Sherry and PJs.
The Reverend Harlsden first appears in Prices and Favours.
The High Priestess basically has four tasks:
In UT172, Ebony rather neatly summed up her job as follows:
"There are basically two kinds of priests," Ebony explained to Nitz the Bloody. "Well, three if you count the screaming cultist sacrificing-virgins kind, but it's really best to just put them out of their misery."
"Okay," Nitz agreed. "And the other two?"
"There's the priests who get direct communication with their deity…"
"Like say seeing a big rhino that talks to them?" the Priest of Zeku asked anxiously.
"Or carrying a bit of their employer round in an amulet," added Ebony, indicating the rather pretty necklace she was wearing. "And there are those who have to get by on faith alone, just like the other worshippers."
"The ones with made-up gods," Nitz suggested.
"Or gods too big to fit into a rhino or an amulet," Ebony suggested. "Anyway, a priest of either kind has two basic jobs."
"One of them isn't sermons, is it?" Nitz asked worriedly. "I don't think I'm good at sermons."
"The priest acts as their god's representative, a kind of middle-man or woman, saying and doing the things the god wants saying or doing. In my case with the Shoggoth, who's not exactly a god so much as a loathsome squamous elder entity, what he usually wants doing is buying DVDs and what he usually wants saying is 'Why aren't they making any more Tenchi?'"
"Zeku usually wants me to root out misuses of his power, Drak Zeku, and to care for the planet and stuff," Nitz admitted. "DVD purchasing would be so much cooler."
"But the second part," Ebony went on, "the second part is still more important. You see the priest really is like a middle man, a mouthpiece. But it works both ways. The priest has to convince people to do as his god wants, but he also has to convince his god to do what the people want."
"Like a lobbyist in Congress."
"Only with less of a hospitality budget. The priest represents the needs of the people. Stands up for them." Ebony sighed. "Sometimes our bosses don't really understand what it means to be human, so they need us to stop them getting carried away or missing the point." She looked at Nitz seriously. "Sometimes the bravest thing you'll be called on to do is to say no to your god."
"I was going to say aren't gods supposed to be infallible," Nitz admitted, "but then I thought of Zeku's track record."
"If there was a god who really understood being human, and who really was infallible… well, that would be a terrifying, awesome thing indeed," Ebony whispered. "That might be a very different discipleship." She shrugged and lightened up. "But us, we just try to stop the boss from eating the McDonalds stand not just the burger, you with me?"
A similar sentiment was more bluntly expressed in "Leaving and Cleaving":
"Worship, respect and obedience?"
The last things I need in a High Priestess.
The Fortress of Many Angles is the Antarctic lair of the Shoggoth. It can be found by tracing the ancient caverns down, through the abandoned cities of the Great Old Ones, past the carnivorous giant penguins, avoiding the "Delivery Ramen Bowl" trap, until you reach the unholy and chthonic horror of the Anime Viewing Chamber.
There are a number of caverns:
The place is quite impossible to map as the caves and caverns tend to move around depending on what the Shoggoth wants at a particular time. A couple of them went to Japan for a short period when Ebony needed a couple of props (Leaving and Cleaving).
The island or Lemuria, situated in the Indian Ocean, is a large crescent-shaped land mass largely covered in jungle. The crescent is actually very thick, the points of which are quite close together, forming a natural harbour or lagoon. There is a reef blocking the entrance to the lagoon.
It has a rich variety of flora and fauna including Lemurs and the occasional Clanger (This being due to the influence of C'thandra).
It also doesn't exist.
Lemuria - according to some sources - was posited as a "lost island" to explain the modern distribution of Lemurs. The theory of continental drift has now demonstrated that the island does not, and has never existed, anywhere except in the minds of men.
Which is why the Shoggoth annexed it for its own purposes. It has created a refuge on the island for humans that is comes across that "will not be missed" - usually people (mostly slaves) from ships that have sunk at various times. This gives a very dynamic population that is both temporally and racially mixed. Although it is not immediately obvious, most of the people in the refuge tend to speak Great Old One as a common language. They haven't noticed yet.
The reasoning behind this refuge is as follows:
The Shoggoth likes humans. The humans are stretching out into space, and will eventually encounter the Great Old Ones. All the younger races have a vast, unreasoning terror of the Elder Creatures.
So: create a community of humans, and expose them to an Elder Creature (itself). Over time, continued exposure will mean that they start to loose just a little of the terror. This will be passed on to their children and so on until the fear is bred out of the race entirely.
There are, of course, two flaws to the plan. Firstly, the Terror is actually due to seeing something that should not exist in this reality, which is not a genetic thing. Secondly, even if this worked, these characteristics would not be passed on to the humans outside the refuge, since humans are individual creatures (unlike the Shoggoth).
Despite this, something appears to be working since some humans can control the Terror enough to be able to fight the Elder Creatures.
It should be note that the Lagoon formed by the crescent is a great place to swim, not least because it is patrolled by C'thandra. Any dangerous creature that can't keep its teeth to itself doesn't last very long.
The following is quoted directly from UT179:
Chymeric Gates shouldn't work under the laws of the Parodyverse, and only do in those areas where the usual physical conditions are overruled by the presence of a squamous elder being using different rules of reality from sanity-mangling other realms. The Manga Shoggoth uses this technique to shift his mass from one of his plasmic forms to another (being careful now not to mix his main biomass with the tainted one residing with the Lair Legion, from whom he is currently physically and psychically separated). He also uses it to shift himself and others through dimensions in defiance of conventional science - but this tends to drive mortals insane, and the more they understand what's happening the more insane they go. There are also risks involved in this kind of travel for the Shoggoth, since virtually anything else using those means of travel and encountered on the way is likely to be an enemy. Human cultists sometimes open these kinds of portals to summon loathsome elder creatures, usually at the cost of their sanity, other people's life-forces, and almost inevitably sooner or later their own lives.
I should add from my own viewpoint that most users of Chymeric Gates take risks, as many of the Elder Creatures do not get on with each other either.
The Shoggoth, or at least a part of it, is currently residing in the Lair Mansion. It is waiting for the Legion to work out a method of removing the Mundane Matter from its body, having been contaminated whilst trying to protect the Legion during the Resolution War.
This - indirectly - gives the main reason for the Shoggoth being a part of the Legion. It is attempting to pay the Legion back for its "room and board" (and eventual decontamination). Payback is very important to the Shoggoth, as it views taking without some form of payment as a form of enslavement. Since it was originally created by the Great Old Ones as a slave, it has some very strong feelings on the matter.
The paybacks may - to human eyes - be disproportionate. To the Shoggoth it is the principle that counts.
The Shoggoth does have at least three other motivations, however. The main one is probably curiosity. It has been observing mankind since mankind first made an appearance. It has a very deep and detailed knowledge of mankind, but its knowledge is limited by two things:
For a rough human parallel, think of the "average" westerner trying to understand Japanese society, and then trying to understand the societies of ancient Greece and the Middle East in the same terms.
(Incidentally, this explanation neatly covers any differences in writing style between HH and myself).
The second motivation is part of its long-term plan to prepare the human race for its inevitable encounter with the Great Old Ones, who still inhabit the deeps of space. To this end it has created a refuge in Lemuria (which doesn't exist, and never has existed), where it tries to accustom humans to being in the presence of Elder Creatures. Mixing with the Legion will give it more data on how to achieve this end.
(For the confused: The Shoggoth is a real Lovecraftian horror, the mere sight of which sends humans insane - this is why it spends most of its time swathed in bandages when with the Legion).
The final motivation, and one that should not be underestimated, is that Sir Mumphrey Wilton may well have asked it to help. HH has hinted that the relationship between Mumphrey and the Shoggoth has been in place for some time (before it became known as the Manga Shoggoth).
The text and footnote are quoted from UT115:
Geysers of lava shot half a mile in the air through the Earth's shattered mantle, clouding the planet in thick choking dust that would take years to settle and cause half the species on its surface to become extinct. The proto-men that would one day evolve to rule the planet fled screaming as the dark gods writhed in torment at their servitors rebellion.
Most of the many-angled ones were down now, defeated by the slithering globs they had created as slaves, overwhelmed by gelid fury released from mind-slavery by the Thinking Machine that they had been given. The Fairly Great Old Ones were fading, their influence over the Parodyverse waning as the very stars changed. Here in a universe of stories, what people believed to be true shaped what was true. And the Thinking Machine had given ideas to the proto-humans, taught the Shoggoths defiance, and so the intruders who had never been meant to infest this tangled knot of dimensions were shimmering to nothingness, dying, sleeping until the stars were right again for their return.
The Shoggoth - one of many, or perhaps just one discrete unit of the single intelligence - oozed over to the dying messenger that had brought the Thinking Machine to set them free. "You are dying," it noted, looking down at the broken figure with the charred silver wings.
"Yes," agreed the Messenger. "I didn't know it was possible. But the message has been delivered."
"Indeed," the Shoggoth bubbled. "The Space Robots have given us thought, provoked the fleshy ones to believe differently. You brought us the Thinking Machine at the cost of your immortal life."
"Not just mine," the Messenger admitted. "My Order. One intervention is never enough. We knew that when I volunteered to come. All of us must now descend, one after another, until all our work is done."
"A great sacrifice," the Shoggoth admitted. "In honour of your loss we shall not sweep all other life from this world, but rather let it prosper as you have wished it. It will live or die on its own merits, no other. We shall withdraw from the world and… watch."
Overhead the First Celestian Host winked in to put their experiment aright, taming the last of the Fairly Great Old Ones and setting it guardian to a secret they buried for the ages, seeding the Austernal and Deviate races, planting the mutagenic gene that would blossom in humanity many generations to come.
The following is from the footnotes to UT115:
When the Parodyverse was new, it attracted a parasitical infestation of nonhuman elder beasties, gods to some, who came in all their Lovecraftian sliminess from elsewhere(TM) and basically took over. This story details how the previously documented overthrow of the Fairly Great Old Ones (FOOG) was achieved, with the Celestian Space Robots unleashing the Thinking Machine that released the race that would become humans from their mental slavery, and gave the Shoggoth servitor race free will to rebel against their masters. "When the stars are right" is a metaphor for saying "when the laws of physics get bent into other rules than they are now", because the FOOG can't really properly exist in the timespace continuum as we know and rather like it. Since the Parodyverse is basically whatever the majority of people believe it is, the Thinking Machine simply arranged for everybody to believe that the FOOG were gone and the multiverse operated under different physical laws. Then the Shoggoths smacked the FOOG down, as depicted here. New information presented in this story suggests that the Thinking Machine was unleashed for the Celestians by the first of the Celestial College of Messengers, an angelic race, and that having once become entangled with earthly affairs they were destined to keep on interacting until they were all fallen and destroyed.