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Figuring Out Sphinxes and Manticores

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Patrick-Leigh, Apr 26, 2021.

  1. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    [​IMG]
    (Art Source: the-lone-nomad)​

    I’ve been trying to settle on the origins of Sphinxes and Manticores in my story setting. Like many of the races which are a blending of humanoid and animal features, Sphinxes were once a humanoid race that were transformed during the Divine War. As the gods fought each other, the distortions of reality resulting from their battles altered various people into new types of beings. My current thinking is that the first Sphinxes were originally Elves, which is why Sphinxes have such long lifespans and tend to be great intellects, sages, philosophers, and, in some cases, Oracles (someone who can see possible futures but not necessarily which future will come to pass.)

    Where I’m having some difficulty is with Manticores. I have come up with three possible ideas of their origins. The first is that they were some other humanoid race that was altered by the Divine War. Sphinxes and Manticores have some similarities to each other but are separate races and thus incapable of interbreeding with each other.

    The second idea is that the first Manticores were originally Sphinxes, likely several generations removed from the first Sphinxes, who, near the end of the Divine War, were altered in a similar fashion as their ancestors. Their cat tails became a scorpion’s and their wings shifted from being feathered appendages to bat-like wings. In this scenario, Manticores and Sphinxes are related to each other and thus capable of interbreeding.

    The third scenario is similar to the second but instead of some Sphinxes becoming Manticores due to random chance and distortions in reality, the first Manticores were Sphinxes who sided with an evil god or goddess and were modified into Manticores to make them better suited for combat. As with the second scenario, Manticores and Sphinxes are therefore related and capable of interbreeding.

    If I go with the first scenario, then Sphinxes and Manticores cannot have offspring together as they are two entirely separate and unrelated races. If I go with the second or third scenario, the results of a Manticore and a Sphinx breeding is not some kind of Sphinx/Manticore hybrid. Instead, the children of the pairing will be either a Sphinx or Manticore depending on their sex. If the Manticore is the father and the Sphinx the mother, then the sons will be Manticores and the daughters Sphinxes. If the father is the Sphinx and the mother is the Manticore, then the sons will be Sphinxes and the daughters Manticores.

    Regardless, Sphinxes and Manticores are both capable of good and evil. Sphinxes are not exclusively good and Manticores are not exclusively evil or vice versa, even if Manticores originated as a result of the deliberate actions of an evil deity. In my setting, the All-Father, Ahzgael, will not allow any sapient race to be exclusively good or evil, though some, particularly Eldritch Abominations, are nearly exclusively evil primarily because the good Abominations are quickly killed off by the evil ones. Manticores, therefore, may have had origins that are connected to an evil act but that does not dictate what kind of people they are, especially after so many generations have passed.

    To be honest, I’m leaning toward the second or third scenario, mainly because it does simplify things a bit for me. I also like the idea of Sphinxes and Manticores, which are very similar looking creatures, actually being related and capable of reproducing with each other. But I can’t really decide if the second or third scenario is better or if I’m just missing some interesting possibilities with the first scenario. Thus, I’d like people to help me reach a decision by getting feedback from them. Which of the three do you prefer? Or do you have some alternative suggestions for how Manticores came about? Let me know!
     
    LAG likes this.
  2. LAG

    LAG Minstrel

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    manticores can also come from another dimension, being the evolutionary path sphinxes have followed there. They enter this dimension and, depending on biological compatibility, you can write interbreeding in.
     
    Patrick-Leigh likes this.
  3. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Being from another dimension, like a parallel universe, wouldn't work in my setting unless it was from a separate Plane. However, I do know that the eight Transitory Planes were originally a single Plane that got broken into eight pieces near the end of the Divine War and that some of the people who inhabited the original Transitory Plane were altered while it was fragmenting. If a group of Sphinxes happened to be living there at the time, then they would have likewise been changed by the event. If I go that route... I could see Manticores not being the only thing to result from Sphinxes being affected by the shattering of the original Transitory Plane. Perhaps there are some other mythological creatures who I could say were created from Sphinxes who were altered by the event. I'll need to mull that one over, because it has a ton of potential.
     
    LAG likes this.
  4. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I’m digging the second and third option. I’m a sucker for the “sundered race” cliche. Like a unified people who become divided. That’s always cool.

    What I would suggest is making both two and three official. Like, the Sphinx believe in the third option and the manticore believe in the second. I think they’re both similar enough that there can be some ambiguity to which is true and having the two people believe different things can create a kind of ideological distinction between the two.
     
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  5. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Now that
    That’s an interesting point. Perhaps there’s some truth to both - it wasn’t because they sided with an evil god per se but they may have listened to one telling them to ignore a warning to leave a particular area or they’d be changed when a distortion hit.
     
  6. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    All right, based on some of the feedback I'm getting here and other places, I'm thinking that I'm going to go for a bit of a combination of scenarios two and three. I believe that Sphinxes will have originated early on during the Divine War (which covered a period of at least 1,000 years from a mortal perspective, possibly longer.) Thus, by the time a portion of the Sphinx population was transformed into Manticores, their numbers had been able to increase and there was already some diversification within their population, with different Sphinxes taking on the characteristics of different large cats. (That is, some went from having the bodies of lions to having the bodies of tigers, leopards, panthers, etc..)

    What brought about the first Manticores was a group of Sphinxes living on the original Transitory Plane before it was fragmented into the eight current Transitory Planes. That event, which came near the end of the Divine War, was tied into a larger disaster that also resulted in the creation of the nine Echo Planes and sections of the Celestial Plane being broken off into the various Ancillary Planes. A lot of creatures were drastically altered by this event, particularly those dwelling on the Transitory Plane when it began to break apart. For instance, Faeries living on the original Transitory Plane became things like Naiads and Dryads. Thus, this group of Sphinxes that were also present were transformed into the first Manticores.

    Where the second and third scenarios will be merged is that this group was warned by one of the good gods that a great disaster was coming to the original Transitory Plane and they needed to vacate it as quickly as possible. However, one or more evil gods told the Sphinxes to ignore that warning in the hopes of creating a new race that was more suited for their twisted ambitions. A portion of the Sphinxes listened to the evil god or gods and remained on the original Transitory Plane while others fled from it. Thus, when the distortions hit and the original Transitory Plane started to fall apart, the Sphinxes that had remained were transformed into the first Manticores.

    This is why, for a long time, Manticores were seen as being allied with the Dark Pantheon, particularly by Sphinxes. It didn't help that there were plenty of Manticores who did dedicate themselves to the Dark Pantheon and did wicked things, including killing a lot of Manticores who refused to serve the evil gods. This resulted in a large portion of the Manticore population being quite awful for a long time. I'm thinking that this changed with some kind of religious movement that took off among the Manticores, sort of like the Great Awakening. Large numbers of Manticores rejected the Dark Pantheon and sided with the Light Pantheon. Thus, by the current age of my story setting, Manticores are largely seen as equally capable of good and evil as a majority of sapient races. Further, Manticores have been able to improve their image by adopting various trades.

    Most notable are Manticore perfumers. In mythology, Manticores were sometimes described as having a potent stench and a breath that was foul enough to kill someone. I've modified that concept so that Manticores have the ability to produce a potent scent weapon, such as the kind employed by skunks. They do tend to have a noticeable musky smell to them, but it's not necessarily unpleasant. However, they can spit a liquid that is highly noxious in terms of odor. One thing I learned about perfumes is that, sometimes, small amounts of unpleasant smelling odors are included in the mixtures. When combined with other aromas, this results in a positive olfactory experience. Building on that concept, I'm thinking that Manticores discovered that if they collected the noxious fluid they can spray at enemies, processed it correctly, then mixed it with other ingredients, they could make some amazing perfumes. The liquid acts as something of a catalyst, enabling other compounds to blend together in ways that would otherwise not be possible. This has actually resulted in Manticores becoming a big part of the perfume industry.

    And that's all I have time for at the moment, but I'll post more later today if I can manage it. Let me know what you guys think!
     
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Are you going for a kind of angel-fallen angel dynamic with these guys? It works if that’s what you’re going for but there’s a little ambiguity whether these a flesh-and-blood mortal creatures, divine creatures or somewhere in between.
     
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  8. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Sphinxes and Manticores are both mortal creatures, though I'm thinking that Sphinxes in particular tend to have a strong connection to certain spiritual forces in my story setting. Nearly half of all Oracles are Sphinxes, for instance. An Oracle is a priest or priestess who is connected to the Archon of Time and can therefore see potential future outcomes of events. (The future isn't entirely set in stone, so the best they can do is give fairly good predictions, not tell you exactly what's going to happen unless there is literally only one possible outcome.) Oracles can also look into the past, to some extent, though the further back they look, the harder it is for them to see things clearly. Additionally, plenty of Sphinxes who are not Oracles become Sages, philosophers, or other types of "big thinkers" that people turn to for guidance on various matters. Manticores may also be like this to some degree, but I mostly think of them as beings that are more grounded in the here and now rather than beings that look to the future. Basically, Sphinxes are more esoteric, if you will, while Manticores are more elementary. I'm thinking this is actually why Sphinxes and Manticores are actually prone to pairing up - they help to balance each other out. Sphinxes look at the big picture but can miss what's right in front of them while Manticores are more in the moment but can therefore miss the forest for the trees, if that makes any sense.
     
  9. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Might be kind of cool if the manticore were initially allied with a evil god in the same way Sphinx can be associated with the time god. But then they rejected him.

    Gives them a kind of apostate angle while keeping them from being totally “natural servants of evil powers”. It also gives a little justification for their “here and now” attitude.
     
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  10. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    That's an excellent point. I can see it being a result of a strong difference in worldviews among the Sphinxes living on the original Transitory Plane. Perhaps the ones who left before the fragmentation process started were either Oracles associated with the Archon of Time or those who sided with the Oracles and heeded their warning that a big disaster was coming. The Sphinxes who remained and became the first Manticores were the ones who preferred to live in the here and now and rejected any warnings about future events for the most part. They felt that "living in the future" (and, to some extent, living in the past) the way the other Sphinxes were was foolish because one can only truly live in the present. This view wasn't necessarily wrong, because the other Sphinxes were letting the Oracles dictate a bit too much about their lives (even though the Oracles themselves tried to discourage this.) The evil god capitalized on this rift by telling the "in the moment" Sphinxes they were not only correct but "righteous" and that the Oracles were wrong about their predictions that the original Transitory Plane was going to be struck with a great disaster, or at least that the disaster would be as bad as the Oracles indicated it would, assuring them that they would survive whatever happened because they, unlike the other Sphinxes, were better at adapting to changes in the present.

    Thus, when the other Sphinxes left, the "in the moment" group stayed. When the disaster hit, they were transformed, but, as the evil god had stated, they survived with only a few fatalities. The evil god was then able to further capitalize on things by spinning their transformation into Manticores as a blessing, not a curse, one which the other Sphinxes had not been able to obtain because of their cowardice. This caused many of the Manticores to further heed what the evil god told them so that, over time, they were corrupted by him or her. And that's all I have time for at the moment, but I'll come back to this later.
     
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