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The Consumers of Knowledge

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Cutters of all shapes and sizes love knowledge.  Any berk with half a brain in his brain box knows knowledge is one of the biggest sources of power in the Multiverse.  A body with the right knowledge can overcome hostile planar obstacles, give fiends and celestials alike the laugh, and get easily from one plane to the next.  One could argue that's what the Guvners have been out to do all these years; amass as much knowledge as possible and use it to master the Multiverse.  Even Clueless on backwater Primes understand that knowledge as best they can get it is one of the most important tools anyone can wield.

The beauty of the Multiverse is that for a lot of work, a bit of luck, and the right garnish, a body can find out almost any chant or dark he needs to know.  See, the planes have repositories of knowledge all over.  The 'loths keep darks in their towers for any berk stupid enough to try getting there.  Sigil's got a great library of its own.  Thoth, Tvashtri, and most other powers of knowledge keep the doors to their libraries open for almost anyone that wants the lore inside.  It all takes time to figure out, but nobody said knowledge-hunting's easy.

I bet most berks wouldn't think of the Elemental Plane of Fire as a storehouse of knowledge, though.  Fire's a place of destruction, an angry, violent plane filled with vicious efreet and salamander slavers, and its deadly heat is no place for the average basher to go, right?  Well that's all true enough, but nothing in the Multiverse is what it seems at first glance.  See, Fire's an element of destruction but it's also an element of creation and rebirth.  You didn't think fire only destroys, did you?  If it does, then how'd that shiv of yours get made?  That's right, with fire.  What's more, Fire's an element of passion and its energy fuels creativity and inspiration.  It hungers for more and looks to absorb and consume everything it can.

So how's that relate to all this blex about knowledge?  Well, thanks to Fire, a body can find vast knowledge in the heart of the burning plane.  There're these creatures that most bloods call "Consumers," short for "Consumers of Knowledge."  They're a type of fire elemental and like all of their kind, they hunger constantly.  Thing is, these Consumers hunger for knowledge.  They seek to learn, to find and know everything they possibly can about anything.  Don't matter what the knowledge is.  If it's there, they want to know it.  Secrets, chant, darks of all shapes and sizes, that's the kind of stuff they thrive on. 

'Course, there's always a rub.  See, the Consumers are just like every other Fire creature from the plane: greedy, hungry, and destructive.  Fact is, they don't care how they get ahold of the knowledge, and they can gain knowledge by, well, literally consuming it.  A Consumer that devours a written text in its flame acquires the knowledge contained therein.  I guess it becomes imprinted on the basher's brain.  They don't have to read at all.  They literally just eat the knowledge right out of the book.  Talk about a way to learn.

These bashers' favorite place to bang around is in libraries.  After all, paper and parchment burns so deliciously well.  To them, it's like one of those nice Arborean drinks that goes down so smoothly and has you bubbed before you realize it.  Many a sod and spellslinger has gone to a library only to find it's been burned out by Consumers.  They can also absorb knowledge by touching bloods that have what they want.  Naturally, most cutters avoid this, since Consumers are fire elementals and fire burns!  They say that knowledge they gain in this way is shared, but not consumed.  Surprisingly, Consumers also frequent cemeteries.  There, they feast on corpses to absorb the knowledge left in their minds.  There's some chant that the Dusties up in the Mortuary have a couple of Consumers on staff.  The fire elementals happily take the corpses off the Dusties' hands and the Dusties are still able to do their job just as they always have.  

Canny bloods have figured out that despite these creatures' hungry and destructive natures, it's possible to deal with them.  As I mentioned already, a Consumer yearns for knowledge of any kind.  Fortunately, they just want to have knowledge.  They're not trying to keep it all to themselves.  As far as they're concerned, Thoth can have all the knowledge he wants -- as long as he shares it with the Consumers, too.  It's not their fault they have to eat the paper to understand what it says, right?  Thus, it's possible to trade chant with a Consumer.  A body can usually get a Consumer to do what he wants as long as he offers some piece of knowledge as garnish.  Of course, it has to be some dark the Consumer doesn't already know, but you'd be surprised what a Consumer will settle for.  Most berks think they have to know some planes-shattering dark in order to deal with a Consumer.  Those berks forget that knowledge comes in an infinite variety of forms, and something as simple as a cooking recipe or a secret you've never told anyone but your best friends just might satisfy a Consumer long enough to deal with it.  Remember, Consumers aren't picky, they just want to know stuff.

To a peery cutter, the Consumers are a great source of knowledge.  As I've said, Consumers generally don't care who else has the knowledge as long as they have it, too.  A body that comes armed with a good amount of information can usually get information from a Consumer in return.  'Course, here's where the peery comes in.  Consumers hunger for knowledge and are incredibly intelligent creatures.  That doesn't make them especially wise, though.  Their nature as creatures of Fire makes them both single-minded and somewhat ignorant of the larger picture.  See, they're so focused on their hunger that they don't always put the knowledge they consume into the proper context.  They're not looking to learn, they're just looking to have.  As a result, a body looking for information from a Consumer may not get the answer he's hoping for, or he may get the answer, but the Consumer'll deliver it in a way that doesn't quite make sense.  This is where the inspiration aspect of fire comes in, though, since the unusual answers Consumers give can grant a well-minded cutter a different angle to consider his question by, and thus gain a sudden flash of inspiration.

Appearance/Society

Consumers usually look like bright yellow humanoids wreathed in flame.  The yellow part has a spongy texture and is not as solid as it looks.  The Consumers, like all fire elementals, are actually made of amorphous energy and they can adjust their basic forms however they see fit.  Some bloods say the Consumers usually take humanoid shapes because there's an awful lot of knowledge that comes from humanoids and other creatures that have humanlike body structures.  Though the Consumers themselves are probably asexual, they appear in both male and female shapes, and the details of their forms runs the gamut of races, figure types, and appearances.  Nobody's really sure why any given Consumer prefers a male or female form, or an elven or human shape, but most suspect it has to do with what kind of knowledge that particular Consumer has acquired.

The Consumers can be found individually or in small groups, but a body usually never encounters more than five or six of the bashers at once.  They tend to be restless and distractable and thus wander from place to place quickly.  Even libraries that have suffered Consumer attacks are usually not completely incinerated.  On the Inner Planes, they usually inhabit civilized areas since more knowledge tends to be concentrated in cities than out in the wilds.

They do not have powerful mental connection the way formians or illithids do, but Consumers are linked by a limited range of telepathy that allows them to share knowledge with each other via physical contact.  Two or more Consumers within range of each other that aren't busy eating are usually standing still as they exchange knowledge over their telepathic link.  They tend to get very intensely focused when trading knowledge with each other, to the point of shutting out the world around them.  Cutters would be well-advised not to bother a Consumer they see standing still like a statue, since the elementals don't react kindly to berks interrupting their mind-chats.  Best to just wait patiently until the exchange is done.  Of course, that might be a long time depending on how much each Consumer is gleaning.

This same telepathy allows a Consumer to acquire knowledge from other creatures' minds as well.  Unlike physical consumption of books and corpses, this form of consumption doesn't destroy the original knowledge or the source of that knowledge -- usually.  Since the Consumers are fire elementals, though, a berk without fire protection is bound to come away with some nasty burns.  Consumers have been known to kill people through prolonged contact, simply because they're trying to learn what's in a poor sod's brain.  It's important to understand that such deaths are never caused maliciously.  Rather, the Consumers are just such single-minded bashers that they don't know when to quit.  'Course, most folks that get dead-booked in this manner quickly become nothing more than so much ash on the ground.  Some particularly nasty chant says evil bloods have been known to use Consumers as assassins and information gatherers just by pointing them at an unfortunate sod that knows a dark they want.  It's been suggested occasionally (outside of Sigil, of course), that Consumers have attacked the dabus in the past, hoping to understand the rebuses.  It's also been suggested that's why you don't see many Consumers in Sigil.

There's no known central structure or method of disseminating information to other Consumers.  Most Consumer groups don't have clear leaders, but they do work well as a team.  Generally, any one group has the same knowledge and understanding of the situation, even if one or two are decidedly more powerful than the others.  A good number of Consumers have some degree of spellcasting power, having devoured many spellbooks and unfortunate spellslingers.  This sometimes includes spells that a body won't expect from a fire creature, like cones of cold and so on.

Some folks say that somewhere in the Plane of Fire is a powerful Consumer that sits at the center of all Consumer society.  Chant goes that all Consumers report to this high-up blood and he has up in his brain-box all of the knowledge ever acquired by any Consumer that's ever walked the Multiverse.  They say if a body finds this big, powerful Consumer that he can answer any question, but only if the berk asking can answer a question posed by the high-up.  Supposedly, sods that can't answer the question get devoured by the Consumer's flame.

-- Argyros, Sensate Planewalker and Heartwarder of Sune

The author will include stats for the creatures in a future edit.

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