The ktalken are an aquatic crustacean species. They resemble giant mantis shrimp and have photophores all over their bodies, which they use to express emotion and communicate. Their cultural centers and cities are built mostly in the relatively shallow water along coastlines, where nutrients running off from the land create lush waters for growing seaweed. However, some ktalken live in krill-trawling outposts in deeper waters.
Ktalken are omnivorous and eat both prey and scavenged meat. Krill they prefer to eat live, while they will hunt and kill larger animals if no fresh corpses are available. They also practice agriculture, growing underwater plants for food. They do not domesticate animals.
Four distinct subspecies of ktalken exist:
- the Iktat, or building ktalken
- the Zok, or swimming ktalken
- the Eeit, or fighting ktalken
- the Eneepk, or hiding ktalken
While the four subspecies developed in isolation from each other, and therefore have great cultural differences, certain things are common across ktalken cultures
Ktalken have no concept of money. They do, however, have extensive and well-organized memories, and so the ktalken economy is based on individuals asking for favors, and then repaying the favor when their creditor is in need. The concept of a “favor debt” is fairly superficial here, however, because a ktalken is unlikely to demand a return favor if their debtor is unable to perform it. Relatedly, a ktalken is unlikely to agree to doing a favor for someone they do not know, as the likelihood of being “paid back” is low. In anonymous situations such as markets, favors can be exchanged in kind on the spot: goods for goods, for instance.
There is no particular time frame for paying back favors, but those who accumulate large debts for long periods of time are likely to attract social stigma, shame, and ridicule, not to mention being refused further favors from others.
This does not apply, however, for those who cannot be expected to repay favors in kind. The ktalken concept of baffa refers to the debt that society as a whole owes to hatchlings, the disabled, and the elderly. Ktalken cultures have various coming-of-age ceremonies to induct those old enough into baffa, and what might be described as “retirement” ceremonies for those too old to repay their debts that release them from baffa.
Baffa also means that all adult ktalken owe the young their knowledge. Ktalken have no schools, but any hatchling who seeks knowledge will be accomodated to the fullest degree, and professionals will often take on apprentices – for anything from engineering to hunting to building to caretaking – for as long as the young ktalken is interested, or until they enter into baffa.
The ktalken are possibly the oldest sentient species in Falinde, their earliest structures predating the first records of the droth by several centuries. Theories posit that a single species of ktalken (or proto-ktalken) existed at one time, before growing populations caused pioneers to establish new civilizations in different parts of the ocean, at which point they began developing independently. This development would have to have lasted for upwards of 50000 years to achieve the level of differentiation between ktalken subspecies, meaning the early unified proto-ktalken were probably a pre-civilized species.
The ktalken re-united in year 183. The droth, having conquered the neighboring nathir, had begun sending out seafaring expeditions to find new lands to colonize, and a few ktalken realized the threat they posed. Fierce Night, a thane of the Eeit ktalken, called a meeting of representatives from ktalken in all oceans in year 180. The meeting convened in 182 in the Eeit city of Winds Battle Above, where the threat of the droth and the best response to it were discussed. This meeting is referred to by ktalken as the Winds Battle Above Fierce Night Assembly, though speaking species usually abbreviate this to the Winds Assembly. The outcome of the assembly was an agreement that the ktalken must unite for the safety of all ktalken, and all future ktalken.
Ktalken technology is by far the most advanced of the mundane species, thanks in large part to their early mastery of mining and metallurgy. Ktalken cities bustle with architects, engineers, mechanics, and specialists of all sorts.
All ktalken operate forges and smelting operations on the small islands near their cities; however, the Iktat Ktalken are remarkable for their development of underwater metallurgy. Using the heat from the lava flows in the Nelru Islands, the Iktat began building foundries on the ocean floor around year 150. With the destruction of all above-water ktalken structures that followed the Winds Battle Above Fierce Night Assembly in 183, this became the ktalken’s only way to forge metal.