|c. 3966 BR
The Cephalyx are a subterranean species of mind slavers that live in hive societies across Immoren.
The history of the cephalyx lie in the ancient past of Immoren and is unknown to the people of western Immoren. Even among the cephalyx there is a limited interest in their own history, and their record-keeping is given over to the preservers, low-caste cephalyx that serve as living archives for their masters. The cephalyx are not proud of their history, viewing their ancestors as debased and diminished beings ruled by superstition and emotion rather than the beings of ever purer reason they have evolved into.
The people who would become the cephalyx were the inhabitants of the original human civilization of what is now the Shattered Spine Islands. Predating Cinot, Urus was the primary city of this civilization, worshippers of the Creator of Man. When the Time of the Burning Sky destroyed Urus, some of its inhabitants fled to the mainland. Unable to survive in the harsh conditions created by the Cataclysm, they burrow under the earth, believing the destruction to be a sign of divine wrath. The lengths these survivors went to to survive, including cannibalism, led them to believe themselves as accursed, unworthy of worshipping Menoth.
Gradually, the survivors formed a harsh subterranean caste society, with taboos on physical contact and eventually all the base functions of life. The very lowest castes handled the treatment of waste and the disposal of the dead, and the higher castes covered themselves in black, encompasissing garments. Reproduction was heavily ritualized and unapproved children were eliminated. The higher castes devoted themselves to mental pursuits, distancing themselves from all physical labor and food production. Patterning their civilization on insect hives, they delved into many studies previously forbidden, hoping to concentrate entirely on the unshackling of their minds and reconciling the physical and the mental. Gruesome anatomical experiments by these philosopher-surgeons was augmented by the creation of lenses and polished crystals and mechanical implements that enabled them to gain immense knowledge of the nature of flesh, organs, blood vessels, and brains without soiling their own bodies. These ancestors of the cephalyx developed greatly in anatomical and mechanical knowledge and physics. Eventually, they were able to create the first unthinking Drudges through this cephalomek, first from their own ranks and later from raids of the surface. Reshaping, altering and twisting their own brains and minds, the cephalyx unlocked the telepathic potential that now define them. Speech and writing became uneccessary and the potential for biological information storage was greatly enlarged. Eventually they developed their powers to such an extent that they could manipulate the world around them without physical contact, utilize mechanical prostethics through telekinesis and levitating their own bodies. The cephalyx gained an appreciation for the biological sciences they had not had previously, rising from their new understanding.
The growth of their telepathic powers enabled the cephalyx to read the minds of their peers and even dominate and damage them. Previously the most esteemed thinkers had held leadership positions but these were now usurped by those cephalyx most capable of shielding themselves from mental intrusion and forcing others to do their bidding. Cutthroat competition led to the creation of the Exulons, enforcing their will on others through mental domination. They also developed the ability to nourish themselves on the mental energy of other intelligent beings.
The fiercely independent nature of the Exulons along with resource shortages led to the splintering of the original Hive and the establishment of many such centres of cephalyx civilization beneath the mountain ranges and forests of western Immoren. This occurred during what the surface dwellers called and Warlord Era and continued into the Thousand Cities Era, with the cephalyx kidnapping surface dwellers to turn into drudges. The Exulons and the castes below them were always engaged in fierce competition with the beings capable of refining and increasing their mental powers dominating society. Simultaneously they developed cephalomek alone and in research circles.
The cephalyx were gradually able to greatly extend the lifespans and mental powers of the Exulons, although one of their challenges as a society was their focus on analytical thinking at the expense of creative insight. This created problems for them during the Orgoth occupation of western Immoren, as the Orgoth sequestered their human slaves from the cephalyx and were able to effectively resist and push back cephalyx attempts to kidnap material for raw drudges. The Orgoth's mystical knowledge and ability to drive their soldiers into berserk rage though these powers made them difficult to dominate mentally and they had no reservations about descending into the cephalyx' tunnels when they discovered them. As the occupation wore on, the Orgoth relaxed their grip on their slave populations and allowed the cephalyx to regain the initiative. The cephalyx were careful about confronting the Orgoth during this period, instead focusing on further expanding their lifespans.
After the fall of the Orgoth, the cephalyx anticipated a rise in their fortunes. Unfortunately for them, the rise of the Convergence of Cyriss and their underground temple-laboratories presented them with an opponent that were fully capable of waging warfare on their own terms. The philosophies of the Convergence, concentrating on a complete abandonment of biology, were anathema to the cephalyx and their mechanical bodies made mental intrusion difficult, Eventually, the cephalyx came to believe that the Convergence's philosophies were a debased and corrupted form of their own core beliefs, and that the Convergence's mechanical intelligences were not, in truth, in possession of free will. They were slaves to their clockwork goddess, and if the Convergence ever achieved their goal of manifesting Cyriss on Caen, it would prevent the cephalyx own goal of complete mental freedom. Although they did not believe that the Convergence would ever be able to complete their program, they agreed to oppose the Convergence at all costs. The cephalyx were, however, unable to coordinate themselves as a species against the Cyrissisists, as each Hive was too fiercely independent of the others. However, they were able to capture many Convergence installations and convert the biological elements of these into drudges. Unable to fully comprehend Convergence Mechanika, they could not properly maintain captured power sources, but made use of them until they ran down.
The increased activity of the Convergence in recent years saw the cephalyx steeling themselves against expansion and occasionally launching assaults on temples. In addition, cephalyx facilities in the Thornwood, already threatened by Convergence intrusion, were faced with a new threat in the form of Cryxian subterranean installations. Unexpectedly, one of the most powerful Exulons of the Thornwood hives, Thexus, was approached by Cryxian leadership offering an alliance. Thexus was able to eliminate the other Exulons that wanted no accord with outsiders and enter into a partnership with Cryx, sometimes even sharing resources and underground territory. Thexus has gained many advantages from this partnership, primarily in the form of an influx of slaves, even if military cooperation often leads to high losses of drudge slaves and their larger monstrosity cousins. In 600 AR, Thexus was able to capture a major Convergence facility under the Thornwood.
Cephalyx Hives can be found all over Immoren, deep beneath the surface of the earth.
Cephalyx Hives are self-contained, autonomous entities, similar to city-states. They compete with each other for resources and sometimes war on one another as well as outsiders. There is little direct contact between them, as this usually is a prelude to violence. However, mental interrogation of captives and spying lead to developments slowly spreading between hives. On rare occasions, the Exulons of major hives have agreed to act in concert, typically to resist Convergence intrusions, as the cephalyx do possess a shared identity.
Life in the Hive
The cephalyx are not humans anymore, but a distinct species. Referring to their city-states as "hives" is fitting - the cephalyx are as efficient, organized and methodical as any complex social insect in addition to their impressive intellectual and mental capabilities. Individual cephalyx devote themselves to their labours with an intensity and attention that would be considered obsessive by humans. They do not sleep as such, but require brief periods of inactivity, typically when well guarded by drudges, and with mental barriers up. If necessary, they can rouse themselves to full consciousness from this state. There are no "male" or "female" cephalyx, as reproduction is handled in laboratories by low-caste cephalyx by the manipulation of donated genetic material. Young cephalyx are reared in nurseries and educated through telepathic communication. If necessary, the process of maturing can be accelerated. Cerebral augmentation is central to the full development of a young cephalyx.
The species receive nutrition from a protein-rich sludge processed from underground flora and fauna, introduced directly into their digestive systems. This sludge is also what keeps drudges functioning. There is no concept of leisure time among them, instead each cephalyx spend all excess time practicing cephalomek with a religious intensity. Their population is tightly controlled, with periods of greater resource access allowing growth and the expansion of military might in the form of drudges and monstrositites. cephalyx society is rigid but also highly competitive - advancement is gained through augmentation and self-improvement and if new cephalyx survive and prove useful to their superiors, they may be given access to the resources needed for advancement. While retaining individuality and being suited to different tasks, the cephalyx of even the mid-level castes possess little freedom. Only by developing enough mentally to challenge their betters can they rise to the upper levels of cephalyx society.
The lowest castes of a hive oversee fundamental infrastructure and maintenance in the Hive Infrastructure Tier. Examples include food production, waste elimination, construction and overseeing reproduction centres. Typically, these tasks are handled by young cephalyx or elders that have failed to augment themselves or have suffered brain damage due to failed augmentation procedures. They are led by the lowest status leadership tiers, who need to demonstrate superlative performance both in themselves and their charges to hope to advance. Still, no cephalyx engages in menial labor - all physical tasks are handled by drudges, the creation of which is one of the first things a young cephalyx must learn.
Part of this Tier is also the highly specialized Preservers, who function as the living archives of the species. Their mental powers are specialized to the tasks of brain probing without hurting their subjects, an impossibility for more powerful cephalyx, whose telepathic probes can strip an indvidual of knowledge but lead to irreversible damage.
The next Tier is Priority Operations. This caste mainly practices cephalomek. Higher castes within this Tier are engaged in research. Subjects include refining drudge and monstrosity creation, brain manipulation and enhancement and field operations as Mind Benders, Agitators and Dominators. These activities are mainly project-based and individual cephalyx can shift between different projects depending on interests and aptitude. The highest level of this Tier are the Cognifexes, who run autonomous advanced research projects.
The Leadership Tier are composed of Overlords, Akulons, Silexus and Exulons. Overlords are the lowest level, typically organized into trios that complete tasks while involved in intense competition. The Akulons are the mid-level management, directing multiple Overlord teams. Silexus govern resource allocation and serve as the link to the Exulons. They are not present in every hive and are appointed by the Exulons.
The Exulons are the supreme rulers of a cephalyx hive. Years of competition, augmentation and development have given these access to unsurpassed longevity procedures and resistance to disease and decay. An Exulon can mentally dominate any of his subordinates and must be able to resist domination by multiple junior rivals to keep their positions. They require the mental energy of sentient minds to function at optimal capacity and have a great hunger for this. Exulons are not well suited for cooperation amongst themselves - most hives can only maintain an equilibrium under the direction of a small group of Exolons. To rise to this level, and Akulon or Silexus must be able to resist domination by other Exulons and grudgingly be allowed its position, which is typically achieved in secret as existing Exulons do not look kindly on new rivals upsetting the equilibrium. Meetings between Exulons are intense affairs, akin to invisible battles in which the strongest mind or coalition of minds make the losers back down. 
All members of a hive are expected to contribute to the defense of the hive. Some, such as the preservers, are seldom engaged in military activities, but will be utilized if necessary. All cephalyx will avoid exposing themselves to harm if possible, shielding themselves behind drudges, monstrosisites and dominated surface dwellers. The higher castes can be quite callous in expanding the lives of their lessers if necessary, but waste is frowned upon. The cephalyx knowledge of anatomy can make even those not oriented toward hive defense formidable opponents, and their mental abilities serve them in much the same way as spells and magic do for other species. Some cephalyx are especially talented in directing multiple monstrosisites and function much as warcasters do on the battlefield.
When the Cephalyx enter battle, they utilize their drudges and monstrosities as frontline troops augmented by Dominator-enslaved surface dwellers. Dominators are capable of directing their slaves from afar and can utilize them as spies and saboteurs without exposing themselves. drudges are directed by different members of Priority Operations on directions of superiors. The cephalyx prefers ambush to open battle but can defend themselves fiercely and effectively, especially in defense of the hive.
- Cephalyx Mind Bender & Drudges
- Cephalyx Mind Slaver & Drudges
- Cephalyx Overlords
- Cephalyx Dominator (attachment)