Waveborne buildings are often constructed from reclaimed, decommissioned ships or wrecks, assuming that at least a portion of the hull is intact enough to be used in such a way. The streets of Seahome are a prime example of this, the cramped, damp alleys flanked by these houses packed closely together, the walkways themselves shaded from the sun under sailcloth dyed in a myriad of colours.
Despite what one might think initially, these recovered ships aren’t left to decay into a dilapidated shanty town. No, work is put into each one, replacing rotted timber where needed. Personal touches are also added to each home, store and building, such as serpents painted and carved into the wood while still preserving the original ornamentation of the ship. In this way, Waveborne cities are both a memorial to their way of life and those that came before, as well as a celebration of their culture.
Aside from the intricate, often painted carvings in the wood itself, a building’s occupants will often engage in a bit of boasting, by putting the trophies from their most memorable catches or events on the outside of their house where everyone may see them at any time. Stealing or destroying such a trophy is considered to be one of the lowest, most wretched things someone could do. Fortunately, the social stigma associated with such a crime is powerful enough to prevent the vast majority of such acts.
All in all, this makes each Waveborne building a character in its own right. The ship it was based on has its own story, and with time, yet more tales of great deeds and important events will decorate the buildings, new trophies added and sagas carved with every passing generation.
The Waveborne are perhaps the most superstitious of the four nations. It is an understandable coping mechanism when the majority of their lives are at the mercy of the unpredictable seas. Sailors often develop peculiar habits or practices to improve their fortune. The one universal tradition is the Lord’s Offering. When a Leviathan graces a vessel with its presence, the sailors offer food to these mythical creatures.
The Waveborne believe that every wave of the ocean is the water itself bowing in respect to these lords of The Great Deep, and by offering them a gift of food, they may be blessed with gentle seas. Even though these encounters are rare, all ships have an offering ready. Only in dire situations will a crew eat their offering, and many fear it risks a curse, should a Leviathan find them empty-handed.
An exceptionally grand Waveborne event is the Riverrun. The biannual marathon begins as Seahome approaches the Alrettian River. The goal of the Riverrun is for the participants to swim to the coastline, up the river, and dive into the lake in search of Alretta pearls. It's an endurance swimming contest where setting foot on land or ship is forbidden, resulting in immediate disqualification.
Once they arrive at Lake Alretta, they dive to search for pearls from oysters that only live in the brackish water. The hunt for pearls is considered the most challenging part of the contest. Repetitive dives strain the body and lungs, whereas the luck involved in finding and selecting the correct oyster challenges the contestant’s patience. The return journey is the final challenge, and the winner is the first to bring a pearl back to Seahome. The winner will receive gifts from each of the Clades, and their name will be carved into Seahome's prow alongside those of other prominent Waveborne.
While there is only one winner in the race, there is still a secondary contest that the other swimmers may win. As Alretta pearls can come in many sizes and swirls of colour, every pearl is measured and a prize is gifted to whoever found the grandest of them all. The stunning orb then joins the previous winning pearls in the treasure vault of Seahome. Even those who try and make a valiant effort but ultimately fail are treated to a celebration, as simply undertaking the Riverrun and doing well is an achievement in its own right.
The Abyssal Broth Showdown is another Waveborne contest that many villages enjoy hosting. The famous dish is known for its varied ingredients and signature spiciness. Therefore the experimentation to create the ultimate abyssal broth recipe is a way to raise people's spirits before they must endure winter.
The timing matches up with the start of the winter crab hunting season. It's a popular event because the winning recipe is publicly shared; thus, sailors can collect the ingredients to recreate for themselves while hunting crabs on long voyages. Astute businessmen will pay attention to see which recipes have won and which items will soon be in high demand. Many have made a fortune by stocking their inventory appropriately.
Waveborne marriage carries two roles, symbolised as the anchor and the sail. Each partner decides which lifestyle is best suited for the situation. It's not an exclusively binary choice, but a balance between the two lifestyles is the most common practice.
The role of the anchor is to stand firm, be it at a village or on Seahome, and maintain a reliable household for the family. Anchors are the supporters who can be depended on and they may run a local business on land. The role of the sail is to set out and take risks. They seek out treasure, prey, and opportunity in the world, supporting their families by braving the seas in search of all they have to offer. Sails carry the expectation of eventually accepting their roles as teachers, using their experience to guide the next generation. A married couple can consist of dual sails, anchors or a combination of the two.
Waveborne birth is an intense affair. Due to the high mutation rate among these people, a couple can never be sure of what happens after childbirth. Should the child be born with features outside of the parents’ clade, it is tradition to offer the child to the clade where it belongs.
As expected, this practice causes intense stress for those involved, even if it's believed in the child's best interests. Families who cannot accept this outcome will often exile themselves and raise their children in isolation on the coastlines. Waveborne do not treat self-exiled families with contempt, and the child in question will always be welcomed back by the clades should they choose to do so.
When parents agree to allow their newborn to be adopted by another clade, they're given priority for the subsequent adoption. Clades treat their members as one family, and this connection runs strong for the entire nation. There is strength in unity, and the sea favours the strong. Even between clades, there is a sibling dynamic to their rivalries.
To the Waveborne, death sustains life. The ocean feeds them, and they must provide for her in return when their time comes. As such, the bodies of the Waveborne are offered to the ocean. If the situation allows it, the crew will collect an item of significance from the body before setting it free to the depths of the sea.
Sometimes, this item is selected from the individuals' possessions onboard, usually rings or other small goods. This item is entrusted to the captain, who now bears the duty to deliver it, and the news of the passing, to the family or friends of the deceased. Later that day, the crew will celebrate the person's life. This funeral celebration involves a lot of storytelling about the best memories each person has of the deceased. The recipients of the news will perform the same celebration of life once they learn of the person’s fate.
If a person goes missing, a guiding stone is made on the anniversary of their disappearance. This runestone carries the hope that the lost soul may return home. When a missing person returns, their guiding stone is gifted to them as a reminder of those who thought of them in their absence. The fortunate sailor tosses a coin into the sea as a show of thanks for allowing them to return to their loved ones.
Being so closely connected to the sea, the Waveborne’s clothing often draws inspiration from the oceans, lakes, rivers and their denizens. Their clothing is often imbued with various materials to help with repelling water, allowing them to stay warm even in the most hostile of seas.
The textiles themselves are often fairly simple, dyed in various shades of blue, dark greens similar to the colour of dried seaweed, or even stark white colours resembling the ice and snow of the north seas. Regardless of the colour, their garments feature extensive use of decorations, inspired by the creatures of the water, serpents and the like. These patterns will often wind and snake their way along collars, sleeves, cloaks and robes, usually in a colour contrasting the clothing itself.
Much like the Wingfolk, the Waveborne are consummate merchants, negotiating vast distances to ferry goods and people from one place to another. This means that they’ll often incorporate elements and ideas from the other tribes, leaving their own culture in a constant state of flux, changing and flowing with the times depending on who they happen to be trading more or less with at any given moment in history.
As far as their armour is concerned, they tend to favour light, elegant designs that allow them to swim more or less unimpeded, or that at the very least don’t drag them to the bottom like a millstone around their neck would if they wind up going overboard.
While they’re certainly capable of producing plate armour, they usually end up making various forms of scale mail, where the thickness of the individual scales can be varied greatly to keep the weight down. Their armourers often base the designs of the scales in their work on local fish, allowing their work to be easily identified by just looking at the shape of the scales.
The Waveborne understand they are at the mercy of the sea. She gives and takes, depending on her mood. The use of music is a form of stress management to counterbalance the tempers of this fickle mistress.
During windless days, when sailors must wait, the crew perform shanties to raise their morale (usually aided with a couple of drinks). These shanties are accompanied by foot stamping, rail bashing and clapping. Upbeat songs improve morale on these long voyages. Each clade has its own shanties that its members enjoy sharing with others. The annual rulership exchange ceremony on Seahome is only complete upon hearing the beloved song of the new ruling clade. The representatives of the other clades sing along as a gesture of harmony and goodwill, and so the cycle rolls on.
When facing challenging times, such as navigating storms, the crew unifies with a chant to synchronise better, maintain focus, and push through the peril. These songs often reflect the harsh reality of life at sea and don't brush off the difficulties ahead, hence the lyrics usually feature an undertone of triumph through struggle.
Waveborne music is most well known for its group performances, but many sailors sail alone and have songs to suit such a lifestyle. Harmonicas and concertinas are popular choices for the lone sailor.
Other popular instruments among the Waveborne are the tambourine drum, fiddle, guitar, and harmonica. The human body is also an instrument as songs are often accompanied by stamping, clapping, slapping, and singing.
The Waveborne are not all bound to the sea, though their culture and way of life are most certainly connected. Their villages exist along coastlines and even inland along rivers. As such, there exist some traditional forms of agriculture as their fleets of vessels require a constant supply of food.
Potatoes are a favoured ingredient due to their longevity and suitability for storage in dark, cold areas. Waveborne villages will also preserve foods to sell to sailors, such as dried fruits and vegetables.
Anyone who has sailed on a Waveborne ship has probably experienced a bowl of the famous abyssal broth. This rich, spicy hotpot is made with whatever was the catch of the day as the main ingredient. While the catch is being prepared, a diced onion is softened in a pot with some oil. This is soon followed by chillies that have been thinly sliced (sailors often compare their strength by how many chillies they can handle). Following the chillies, all manner of available vegetables are added depending on what the crew could stock up on before setting sail. Preserved ingredients such as dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and seaweed are rehydrated in a bowl of fresh water, then added to the onion-chilli mix. Once the mix comes to a boil, the prepared seafood is added. A lid is placed over the pot and the mix is left to cook for several minutes, with sea salt added to round out the flavour. Crews often experiment and vary the ingredients to prepare for the annual abyssal broth showdown.
Seahome is the capital of the Waveborne, a floating city that started as a few rafts lashed together. These days it truly is a city, its winding streets linking homes fashioned from decommissioned ships and materials from the mainland. Seahome drifts atop the currents around the lands in a predictable pattern, never remaining in one place.
This makes trading with Seahome somewhat difficult, as the sailors have to be aware of this cycle and keep good track of time in order to actually find it. As such, most coastal towns and settlements, or people inland who wish to trade, try to keep very accurate calendars, so they’ll know when Seahome’s close by.
This is, of course, a double-edged sword. Those who are diligent can make good use of this pattern to make trade even more efficient, but it also means that trading is a very seasonal thing, dependent on where Seahome is at any given time.
The city itself is in many places cramped, the winding paths shaded by looming buildings and sailcloth dyed in all manner of colours stretched between them to offer shelter from the sometimes merciless sun. The buildings are often lavished with intricate wood carvings and trophies, each telling a tale of a member of that household.
It’s a cultural melting pot, and many are drawn to it by the allure and mystique of a city that’s always on the move. Here ideas and information are exchanged as often as goods, and it’s rare to see anyone living in Seahome for any length of time without picking something up from the Waveborne or another tribe.
Perriet Flounder is a living legend and the eighth captain of the Stormscar Merry, the most famed treasure-hunting ship in Nova Thera. The Merry is a ship belonging to the Chitin clade and passed down to a successor raised by the previous captain. Perrier Flounder is rapidly ascending towards fame as the most successful captain to helm her. Flounder personally joins his crews on deepsea dives to search the depths for relics and treasures of the old world. A Seahome joke, partially steeped in truth, is that the Great Library owes an entire wing dedicated to Flounder’s discoveries.
Chicain Scally earned their fame by discovering the largest pearl in the Riverrun, almost as large as the palm of their hand. After winning the contest, Chicain threw their pearl back into the sea, declaring that such a prize could only belong to her. Their actions sparked a fierce debate, especially from the late-arriving contestants. The rulership of Seahome found a way to appease everyone. A secondary contest to the Riverrun event to discover the grandest pearl of the run.