Inside the Ark, when the sun dims, those who remember and watch chart the world with the hearths of men and monsters.

The Vaukala have gone by many names since they crossed the Great Expanse to Armageddon decades ago, called by their “god” of magic and a hunger for more than knowledge. Tales of “The Pale Folk of the Shattered Archipelago” or “The Watchers on the Water” have spread across the continent, but the denizens of the coasts and some in the Ashen Waste have come to know them by another moniker:

“The Night Merchants of Kell”

Several Cycles ago, the Vaukala were human scholars set to the task of studying the remnant technologies of the Ark. As the sun grew hotter and the surface was scoured, they fled into the depths. Their minds waning, research turned to worship, and a thought occurred to the light-spurned humans: “How else is there to understand the sacred writ of our god than to eat it?”

Thus, the Vaukala were born of the crude union of flesh and artifice. Their bodies were molded by the unknowable technology they devoured; their blood full of nanomachines given the command by biological processes to adapt. The caves they dwelt in gifted them a small, gaunt stature. Nocturnal eyes reflect light like those of spiders. Hairless, gray skin covers pointed bones. Orange teeth gnash at the relics of a bygone era, and guts rip iron from steel.

Eons later, the Vaukala have arrived in Armageddon, sailing the Great Expanse by “astral navigation,” which in the Dyson Sphere means the light of distant civilizations and their records of their rise and fall. They established a foothold in the Shattered Archipelago and set about their work as their ancestors had done countless times before. The Vaukala delved deep into the earth and mined its riches, and with loot in tow, the Night Merchants of Kell ventured towards the mainland in search of the flesh of their mechanical god.

Armageddon map - faction location

(The Vaukala occupy the territory in the Shattered Archipelago highlighted blue)



 The Vaukala are small, grey-to-white humanoids that consume technology. Their reflective eyes allow them to see in dim light, and their bat-like ears ease the loss of sight beyond the reach of the sun. Although they are too small to be considered “strong,” they are remarkably sturdy, owing to the nanomachines that have taken residence in their gut biome. These machines incorporate iron and other metals into their bones, nails, and teeth, making them more resilient than their human ancestors’ and giving them an orange hue.

As far as other biological aspects, the Vaukala have large, thick jaws to offer increased bite strength to bite through large chunks of metal and rock. Their wide forearms and hands capped with iron-rich nails are also ideal for digging.

Their diet is not fully mechanical, and common foods for the Vaukala include fungus, small mammals, insects, and fish. This is supplemented with non-precious metals. They engage in few domestication behaviors due to a semi-nomadic lifestyle, although they have cultivated several fungus species for nutrition at sea as well as dyes.

As creatures that eat ancient technology, the Vaukala are inherently “magical” in the logic of the Ark. This comes with a handful of benefits and detriments. Aside from strong skeletons and rapid adaptation, those who have indulged in enough technology can access the memories carried within nanomachines. These thoughts are fragmented, and the unruly consciousness of the Vaukala is not fully capable of piecing them together, but they are able to catch glimpses of the past. This has given rise to the ritual cannibalism of the deceased with an emphasis on elders, leaders, and foes. The nanomachines in their blood also give them an affinity for “magic,” allowing them to learn and cast spells with greater ease, as well as heal quicker than most.

As for detriments, the increased biological activity from the nanomachines means the Vaukala are more prone to tumorous growths, particularly in bones. Bone spurs and cancers are common, and older Vaukala will often have metallic growths piercing their skin around at least one joint. Unsurprisingly, this means they have a shorter life span than humans. Vaukala will rarely make it out of their forties. Their incredibly pale skin is also sensitive, and they will receive severe sunburns after only a few minutes in direct sunlight. If forced to enter the open during the daytime, they will wear dark, leather cloaks as well as elaborate masks with only stilts for viewing.


 The “Night Merchants” are just one facet of the system that governs the Vaukala. They engage in a religious caste system based around what they consider to be bloodlines with leadership decided by what is a disorganized democracy amongst the higher castes. While traditional human bloodlines are unchanging, the Vaukala’s ritual cannibalism gives a surprising amount of mobility to those hungry for power. Bloodlines are charted by memories instead of familial ties, although the latter will inherit some of the former. From highest to lowest, the castes are as follows:

  1. Those Who Remember: Populated by immobile elders, particularly savvy traders, and descendants of those in power, Those Who Remember are keepers of “oral” histories and inherited memories. Leadership is often selected from amongst the younger members of the caste, and this leader will lead discussions, break ties, and be the sole representative of their people if foreign decorum dictates. This caste is also the body that determines the castes of others. When a member of the caste dies, every part of their body is made into a soup that feeds the entire Vaukala warren or crew.
  2. Those Who Hunt: Those Who Hunt, more colloquially known amongst outsiders as “Night Merchants,” are the Vaukala tasked with obtaining technology, and so they act as traders and diplomats. Trading is the preferred method of obtaining technology, although merchants in the past have resorted to stealing and other deceptive means. These less agreeable methods are far from preferred, as the Vaukala are seldom as populous as a region’s natives, and any retribution can be devastating to the warren or crew. Merchants are a part of the body capable of deciding leadership when they are with the warren and typically act as the de facto leadership while at sea. These individuals will also take up the role of law enforcement to an extent while in the warren.
  3. Those Who Create: This is the skilled worker class of the Vaukala. Doctors, craftsmen, and the like. Although they are not able to vote, they will sometimes accompany merchants on expeditions if it is necessary. Those Who Create generally have some inherited memories.
  4. Those Who Toil: The lowest and most populous class of the warren, Those Who Toil mine, fish, and farm for communities. They aren’t particularly disrespected, although their lack of access to ancestral memories leaves them with less immediate skills and thus fewer uses in the eyes of the upper castes.

Vaukala warrens and pilgrimages rarely exceed a few thousand in population, and this generates a “small town” or cult-ish political system. Every member of a warren is a neighbor, and they work together towards a common goal: Ascension. Internal conflicts are rare, and most are satisfied with the opportunities given to them. This has also led to a certain degree of stagnation, where their processes and culture have remained unchanged for centuries.

With a society based around ever-changing blood and no access to the memories of other, living individuals, there must be some objective way to determine castes, and there is to a degree. Those in the upper two castes have enough nanomachines in their blood to “smell” them in the blood of others. The exact amounts are imprecise, and weighting is given to the quality of memories. For example, one with the blood “quality” of Those Who Create might have inherited mostly memories of exploration and navigation yet relatively few memories of crafting ships, so they would be allowed to accompany Those Who Hunt, albeit in a lesser role, until they have devoured enough technology or kin to ascend fully.

This also brings up a separate issue: what’s stopping a Vaukala from lying about their memories?

The answer is twofold. First, the Vaukala’s inherited memories and relationship with technology are representative of their connection to their god. To lie about it would be blasphemous and if discovered would almost certainly result in execution. Second, those of the upper castes will often take confidants amongst themselves and leave phrases, key events, and other details to verify the veracity of claimed memories. The trouble is that sometimes memories will be passed along without these cues, and although it won’t disprove the claimant, it will cast doubt on them.

History & Flag

 The two are included in the same category as one tells the story of the other. The early history of the Vaukala was mentioned earlier: human researchers who fled underground where their devotion took on a different flavor. They returned to the surface on a continent they call “Kell.” Whether that’s its true name or whether it exists at all is a matter of some conjecture. According to their stories, after plundering Kell of what technology they could find, their people were divided into several pilgrimages across the Great Expanse, following the lights of distant civilizations. What the denizens of Armageddon know as the “Night Merchants of Kell” are descended from one of these groups.

Their true flag is inconveniently long and still growing as the Vaukala journey onward. It tells the location of Kell relative to several other contemporary civilizations as well as the distance between each subsequent destination. If the flag is accurate, they will have looted 43 islands and continents to varying degrees. The veracity of the flag has been called into question as no such lights exist in the sky, but it has been over a thousand years since the Vaukala claim to have departed Kell.

The “abridged” flag they use is depicted below, which shows the aforementioned location of Kell, a line showing the path they took, and the sun itself during the nighttime. Its proportions vary based on the customs of the locals.

Vaukala flag - Great Fictional Map



The Vaukala religion is simple: the Ark is their god, and everything in its image is holy. The Vaukala must become holy. To worship it, they must become closer to it. The most succinct way to do this is to become one with the Ark by eating it. Their god is technology, and thus by semi-flawed logic, all technology is their god. It then follows (to the Vaukala) that they will become holy and understand their god by devouring all technology.

To the Vaukala’s credit, this is, from their perspective, coming to pass. By accessing the memories of their ancient ancestors, they can see the physical changes in their people. Those among them who consume enough technology have a preternatural sense of where they can find more as well as a greater understanding of how that technology and the nanomachines work. The empirical evidence aligns with their views, although their position is based on an initial misunderstanding.

One of the main consequences of devouring holy objects is that it means one’s body becomes holy, which brings about the obsession with blood as well as their stance on avoiding direct conflict. Any Vaukala blood that does not stay within their people is a waste. If a Vaukala dies, they are eaten. If a Vaukala is killed in battle, their body should be retrieved at great expense. If this is not possible, then they have lost a piece of their god as well as a millennia’s worth of memories.

The only time the Vaukala will willingly enter an open conflict is if it is unavoidable. The exception is if the conflict is with Harbingers, Lifeforged, or other mechanical entities capable of fighting back. The allure is often too great to resist, and stories of a flying Harbinger enclave are passed around for centuries. This ideology leads to something of an inconsistency: if technology is sacred, then wouldn’t these sentient, mechanical beings be equivalent to angels or messengers of their god? This has been a point of some debate over the years. It is not unthinkable that another Vaukala pilgrimage has ended with the worship of a Harbinger. The unspoken opinion of the warren located in the Shattered Archipelago, however, is that the quest to become one with the Ark outweighs all else.

Culture & Economics

 Aside from religion, there are several aspects of Vaukala culture and economics that scholars have not yet properly explored.

The first of these would be the Vaukala’s seafaring. Their shipwrights make a variety of vessels depending on the occasion. The larger ships that carry the pilgrimage onward are dismantled at the destination and turned into housing. For trading, more modest ships with intricate canvases to conceal those on deck from the sun are constructed, and most travel by oar. Although sails are used, the Vaukala prefer to travel at night due to their skin and eyes, as well as the desire to avoid conflict, which means wind-powered travel is used mostly during the daytime while they sleep. As the pilgrimage will often be at sea for months at a time, the Vaukala have become master fishers. The parts of the fish they do not eat are used as fertilizer for domesticated fungi along with their own waste.

The second would be their mining. As originally subterranean creatures, the Vaukala are well-suited to mines and other dark places beneath the earth. Their small stature allows them to slip deep into caves, and their reinforced bones increase their odds of survival in mild rockfalls. Precious metals are smelted and crafted into jewelry or ingots for trading while the rest is eaten, save for if the Vaukala are contracted to make weapons and armor for a local faction.

Another aspect many would find worth mentioning is their music. As a seafaring people who prefer to dwell in nature’s concert halls, the Vaukala play bass drums that echo throughout caves and provide a steady rhythm for the beat of oars. Several forms of their folk music use these echoes to determine timing and generate ghostly harmonies with voices and woodwinds.

There indeed remains much that remains unexplored about the Vaukala and their society. Vaukala’s interaction with the outside world is, as mentioned previously, generally limited to the “Night Merchant” or “Those Who Hunt” caste. But what do those interactions look like? Early interactions often have a language barrier, which is made more difficult by most sapient life’s aversion to strangers in the night. A typical approach would be an envoy carrying gifts of gold at twilight, announced by musicians onboard a merchant’s ship. Nanomachines have a remarkable ability to comprehend commands, and although the Vaukala are slower on the uptake, they are quick to learn languages by any human standard. After a day or two of immersion, a merchant should be able to understand enough of a language to ask for more information. From there, trade agreements, access to borders, and alliances can be struck. The best-case scenario is for locals to be hired to find technology. If not, then they will seek access to ruins on their contractor’s lands. If all negotiations fail, the Night Merchants will return at night and evaluate the lands themselves.

This entry was made by community member, Spaghetti Moe. 

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