Powerful but broken creatures, enslaved to keep mankind alive in a flooded world.
This wiki page is divided into TWO sections: Non-spoilers for before The Sundered and spoilers for AFTER The Sundered.
If you don’t want spoilers for The Sundered, only read down to the halfway point (don’t worry, I’ll make it clear). If you’re already read the book, feel free to read beyond it.
Either way, enjoy.
Non-Spoiler: Sundered Ones According to Harry
The Sundered Ones appeared at the same time as the deadly black water that flooded the world. While no one knows for certain where they’re from, plenty of folks have suspicions. There are no mentions of Sundered Ones in the history books; they simply appeared, powerful and broken and deeply useful when claimed.
There are plenty of theories. Some think that both the black water and the Sundered Ones were part of a strange evolution that took place deep underground, and someone dug too deep and unleashed them on the world. Others posit that the whole mess was some kind of warfare-experiment-gone-wrong; black water that kills when touched and strange creatures with telekinetic powers certainly seem to fit that theory. Just the fact that the Sundered Ones cannot reproduce bolsters it, as well, and certainly fits better than the rarest (and kookiest) theory: that both the Sundered Ones and the black water are part of something from another world – literally, though from just what planet, it’s impossible to say.
But everybody knows aliens don’t exist. Right?
Sundered appearance is wildly varied. There’s no way to predict fur or scales, tails or extra fingers, faces or headlessness or even the presence of arms.
Children are taught that higher tier means more human in appearance, though plenty of high-tier Sundered Ones look nothing like the evolved homo sapiens.
Abilities and Tiers
Sundered Ones are divided according to power, intelligence, and appearance. High-tier Sundered Ones are rarer; they’re harder to claim, and they’re far more dangerous to keep on one’s mental leash. But by golly, the benefits are astounding. Claiming and controlling Sundered Ones guarantee human cities can still have food, water, and even electricity; without them, the humans would starve.
The higher the tier, the more difficult a Sundered One is to claim. The tier-system seems over-simplified, but it’s an efficient way to keep people from claiming the wrong Sundered Ones and possibly losing their lives. Schoolchildren are (or were) taught this via song:
Fifth-tier’s strong and lifts big blocks, not too bright but strong as ox.
Fourth-tier’s fine with clever fingers, painting, sculptures, make good singers.
Third-tier’s quiet, good for play, safe for children every day.
Second-tier’s wild, feral, free, eats everyone, but works for me.
Claim the rest with little work, but they die soon, so best not shirk.
- First-tier are the rarest and most powerful. It’s distinctly possible that they’ve gone extinct, which is probably why they’re not mentioned in the children’s song.
- Second-tier are dangerous; highly violent and volatile, they are often not worth attempting to claim, and their intelligence and will-power make them likely to pull a reversal. They tend to be a fairly flawless humanoid hybrid – such as Bakura, a lizard-man – instead of an oddly jumbled hodgepodge of animal parts
- Third-tier aren’t really dangerous at all. They’re difficult to claim initially, requiring both training and willpower, but they rarely ever turn on their owners. In fact, this tier seems to grow affectionate toward their masters and the families of their masters. Third-tier are safe to put in positions of aid and succor, for children and the elderly. They usually have a gentler appearance, visibly softer, and often smile.
- Fourth-tier are the most creative of Sundered Ones. They have some artistic sense; if told to decorate, they’re capable of doing so, though simply. They aren’t particularly compassionate like third-tier, and not angry like second-tier. Their primary distinction is a particular skill with details. Most often, they have numerous appendances (I hesitate to say “fingers”), suited for intricate work. There’s also significantly less “flow” to their design. Unlike second and third-tier, they’re distinctly mismatched (scaled limbs and furry tummies, too many eyes, or mouths in the wrong places, that sort of thing).
- Fifth-tier are not terribly powerful, and tend to be less intelligent. They also are often more distinctly animal-like in appearance (such as Quimby’s strange resemblance to a seastar). They’re identifiable by sight almost at once.
- Lower tiers than fifth are the most common, and rarely numbered because there isn’t much point. Like Gorish, they don’t have a lot of power, and usually don’t live long once claimed.
- The truly magnificent Sundered Ones have all gone extinct; according to Harry’s studies, the first-tiers could create things out of thin air, and had so much power that their only limitations were the imagination of the humans who claimed them.
- Unfortunately, all the Sundered Ones are in danger of extinction, as well. Most of the high-tier have been, in essence, over-fished; estimates of surviving Sundered Ones range from the low thousands down.
If you don’t want spoilers for The Sundered, don’t read any further.
Spoilers: Sundered Ones As They Really Are
The Sundered were born from Motherwater, splashed out from her like drops. They share her makeup.
Sundered Ones change appearance at will – or they did, before The Hope broke them. They tend to choose forms that make them happy. As a result, Sundered Ones come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, limb-combinations, and hides.
Before they were broken, many changed appearance on a daily basis. Others, like Aakesh, keep the look they prefer. After Jason Iskinder broke them, they were all stuck in the form they’d chosen at that time; once The Hope goes down, they resume their shape-changing games.
Abilities and Tiers
The whole “tier” thing is nonsense, but Harry had no way of knowing that. Jason Iskinder made sure that humans would think of them in limited fashion, designed specifically to keep the most powerful Sundered Ones in the least powerful positions as part of – for lack of a better word – dehumanizing them.
The only limitation the Sundered Ones really have is their exposure to new things. Unlike humans, they cannot invent something they’ve never experienced; once they see an idea or experience a sensation, it’s theirs forever, and they can apply it in unique and brilliant ways to other known ideas. However, outright invention seems to be beyond them.
That is one of the reasons why they value creativity in humans; we can create concepts from scratch, which seems like magic to them.
Sundered Ones think of themselves in terms of birth order: first born, second born, etc. Aakesh was first born; Bakura was among the second born. For a better idea of both powers and birth-meaning, read the spoiler-filled set of short stories, Love Makes Whole.