The Eaters, or Eaters of Earth, are a mysterious species that is referenced constantly in Caves of Qud. They are credited with having created the infrastructure and almost all technology visible in Qud millennia ago. It is unclear if the "Earth" part of their name refers to their expansive mining and underground construction operations or a possible origin from the planet Earth.
While no one knows if the Eaters succumbed to some kind of extinction event or simply just abandoned the planet, their past presence, artifacts, and chrome halls are well recorded throughout the history of Qud's past and current inhabitants. They are also the builders of the ubiquitous Spindle towering over Qud.
The Eater culture Edit
The Eaters were a highly advanced, spacefaring race with a transhumanist attitude. They invented Cybernetics and made extensive use of such augmentations; almost every remaining building of their make contains Becoming Nooks accompanied by cultural objects, such as statues celebrating the coupling of man and machine. The dialogue of those nooks heavily implies that they saw the installation of cybernetics as something to to be celebrated. Their research also resulted in enormous advancements in the medical fields, with their remedies still being used by Qud today, as referenced in the Corpus Choliys.
The Eaters are also known for using genetic modification so casually that it became part of their fashion, modifying themselves to grow hair of different material or changing the shape of their skulls "for cosmetic reasons". They held in high regard masks designed to be stitched to their faces, further illustrating the transhumanist outlook the Eaters had on the malleability of their bodies. As an aside, the Eaters also valued more traditional fashion, as Qud's present inhabitants find the highest-quality clothing to be remnants from the Eaters' civilization.
The Eaters lived in giant, chrome-clad megacities, the remnants of which today are Qud's Deathlands and Ruins. Their civilization made heavy use of machines and robots, some of which remain operational. The most famous machines are the Baetyls, independent and highly advanced AI-entities clad in a nearly indestructible housing.
The Eaters were capable of advanced spaceflight, which they utilized on a massive scale, as they were said to have visited the worlds of over a thousand different species. Just as the Eaters visited their alien worlds, some of these species were allowed to visit and roam the Eaters' planet freely in return. The Eaters seemed to have been quite open to cultural exchange, and it is possible that some of Qud's current inhabitants, like the Urshiib or Goatfolk, could be direct descendants of those visitors.
It is unclear whether the Eaters applied their philosophy of body modification only to themselves, or if they tried to 'uplift' other cultures too. Despite the high number of alien species the Eaters encountered and treated with, their Becoming Nooks remained inaccessible to non-Eaters, indicating a non-invasive behavior focused on coexistence.
The Eaters also utilized cryonics, harboring in cryochambers interesting (and dangerous) specimens which were either taken from other worlds or genetically engineered; Bethesda Susa is one such facility that the Eaters used for this purpose. Later, they seemed to have acquired advanced understanding in spacetime manipulation too, as referenced in descriptions of anti-gravity devices.
The Disappearance Edit
At some point in their space exploration, the Eaters encountered a coalition of spacefaring species known as The Coven. The Coven welcomed the Eaters into their ranks, which led to a new era where all united civilizations prospered for ages and the Coven eventually expanded to all known reaches of space.
Among the members of the Coven was the entity Ptoh, a being from a remote star, possessed of the ability to naturally fold spacetime at will. It is possible that Ptoh was the first known Esper. For unknown reasons, the Coven turned against Ptoh and incarcerated him. They mandated that the Eaters would bear the responsibility of constructing and maintaining Ptoh's prison on Qud.
The Eaters constructed Ptoh's prison deep in the underground of Qud, but not before Ptoh contrived a plan for his escape. At some point before his transfer to the Eater prison, which would hold him and contain his abilities as designed, Ptoh fastened a mysterious glass object made from exotic material of his homeworld - the Amaranthine Prism. This artifact would someday free Ptoh from the Eaters' confinement.
Of Ptoh's confinement itself, it is only known that at some point, the entity managed to have an older guard of the prison facility wield or gaze into the Prism, which (among other things) can make the wielder see the world in Ptoh's view.
This corruption of the guard must have been the beginning of the end, the reason for the Eater's disappearance.
What happened remains unclear, but it is known that the Coven suddenly placed the Eaters' planet in isolation, in which it has remained for thousands of years. The given reason being that the Eaters succumbed to a temptation, as Barathrum the Old has confirmed.
Since the prism is said to either make the observer go mad, or see the world in the light of the dark star of Ptoh's homeworld, also seeing oneself as Ptoh sees himself, it can be surmised that Ptoh managed to establish considerable influence on the world via the Prism and its hold over the guard. The ultimate result was either that Ptoh destroyed the whole Eater civilization via mass carnage as he turned the Eaters upon one another, or that Ptoh actually converted the Eaters peacefully to his cause, offering them insight into spacetime-manipulation and/or the secrets of Esper powers, which ultimately provoked an apocalyptic intervention by the Coven.
The former is probably more likely, as the Prism needed only a very short timeframe to lead the goatfolk shaman Mamon Souldrinker into a murderous frenzy, rallying his tribe into savagely mutilating their own people, painting the rivers red. He even attracted outside followers, like the farmer offering body parts and containers full of blood surrounded by violence.
This is further confirmed by the Deathlands, the former home of the Eaters, being described as a destroyed and irradiated wasteland, full of killing machines who attack everyone indiscriminately, uncaring that the Eaters' war ended ages ago. This outbreak of violence probably prompted the Coven, already being wary of Ptoh and his influence, to isolate the planet completely.
The last few remainders of the Eaters retreated into remote Enclaves - what are known today as the Arcologies -where they remained until present day. The True Kin of the Arcologies being the descendants of the Eaters is a given, considering that they are the only beings recognized by the becoming nooks.
While Ptoh remains imprisoned even to this day, he did build a sizeable army of followers that he coordinates via the astral plane. His focus currently seems to lie on hunting and assimilating more and more Espers, which is probably related to ending his imprisonment.
The Coven was content with the improvised planetary prison up until now, but seems to have recognized the arising threat of Ptoh amassing forces, which is probably why they started sending out a signal to Qud via the Spindle, encoded in such a way that it can be read by the Eaters - or those who are ready to inherit the Eaters' mantle.