All proteans are serpentine creatures with arms and an armored snake-like torso. The internal anatomy of a protean is mutable, and all proteans have the ability to change their outward form. Proteans all have the ability to fly, and cannot be held or captured by normal means.
Scholars have long been intrigued by how different proteans, embodiments of chaos, would share so many features, and point out that there is still order in the purest chaos. Others note that the serpentine form is one of the most primeval ones and suggest that when creation began, no other shape could exist. The proteans are tight-lipped on this matter, which only adds to the confusion when even chaos cannot be expected to be chaotic.
Proteans are physical embodiments of chaos and change, unmarred by good or evil. As self-willed extensions of the Maelstrom itself, proteans serve as its limbs, senses, and immune system against infectious law. They ultimately seek the sublime dissolution of static reality, and often assault other planes in an attempt to reach this goal.
Proteans have no innate gender, but can take on any sex they feel like, including none or both at the same time. Some proteans are created by reproduction between two or more proteans, while some are formed directly from the raw chaos of the Maelstrom. Once-mortal petitioners can also become proteans, but this process is far less common than on other planes and never happens unless a petitioner specifically asks a protean chorus to transform them.
Proteans were the first beings to exist in the Maelstrom, which predated the presence of the other planes in the Great Beyond. Their first contact with other planes came when they accidentally created rifts in the fabric of the Outer Sphere which opened into the Abyss. The proteans soon came into conflict with the qlippoth, who dwelt in the Abyss. While this war continued, other planes started to appear in the Maelstrom such as Axis. The axiomite natives of Axis also came into conflict with the proteans, and the two have been locked in attempted mutual genocide for some time. According to the imentesh historians, the gods appeared from "somewhere else" after the planes had coalesced. Proteans deal with the gods warily and on a case-by-case basis.
Proteans dwell in the depths of Maelstrom, revelling in and endlessly instigating creation and destruction from the planar matter around them. Proteans view this endless, ultimately futile cycle as necessary to understand the Maelstrom.
Proteans rarely leave the Maelstrom, finding travel uncomfortable, if not painful. The proteans that most often do so are illureshis, imenteshes, and pelagastrs, who visit divine realms or the Material Plane to undermine law and sow chaos by inspiring creation or destruction. Even then, they are usually averse to manipulating mortals, finding such a thing uncomfortably similar to what archons and devils do.
Proteans are organised into cabals, called choruses, each led by keketar and izfiitar priest-kings, that each have their own interpretation of how to best express the will of the Maelstrom. The one point in common that unifies all choruses is the maxim: change occurs, and each protean is an agent of that change. Their inscrutable, whimsical, and ever-changing goals, and gleeful embrace of both creation and destruction without consequences make them unpredictably dangerous to most other creatures, no matter how helpful they might seem. Mortals often find it difficult to study proteans, with their perpetual change being the only constant.
Proteans view other planes as mistakes, curiosities, or cancers infecting the Maelstrom, and delight in spreading chaos across the Great Beyond. As many other outsiders are ready to push them out (if not killing them on sight), proteans often employ mortals to travel the planes on their behalf, and their presence can ripple into a great wave of chaos.
Proteans are strong allies of valkyries, einherjar, empusas, and chaos-corrupted inevitables, called "unshackled". Their arch-enemies are demons and qlippoth, whom they view as perversions of themselves; proteans often cooperate with bebiliths to hunt demons. Proteans are friendly with azatas, especially lillends. Proteans view gods as loud, ignorant children that nonetheless are powerful enough to foil their goals.
On the Material Plane, proteans have a reputation of being both madcap and subtle, and might do anything from engineering aeons-long schemes or just eating a roadblock on the spot. At the same time, they delight in mortals' capacity for true free will.
The verbal language of the proteans is constantly and quickly changing, sometimes quite radically, frustrating planar linguists. The keketar proteans have a crown of symbols that resemble writing, but linguists cannot agree on whether the proteans truly possess a written language.
Proteans worship a pair of dualistic creator-gods called the Speakers of the Depths, the manifestation of the Maelstrom's chaos, with whom they are in constant communion. The religion is based on a hatred of order and stability, a respect for creators and the act of creation, and an emphasis on action as opposed to philosophy. Different proteans interpret these themes differently.
The most powerful proteans are demigods known as protean lords. Outside of a few specific choruses that emulate a given protean lord, they are not rulers of their race (a concept which they find bizarre and abhorrent), but act as itinerant prophets lying outside the hierarchy of choruses.
On Golarion, most proteans are found in the Worldwound, fighting both mortals and demons in the hope of miring the Abyss in an unwinnable fight. They can also be found in large empires like Kelesh and Cheliax, and, historically, Thassilon under the reign of Emperor Xin, seeking to break down their stability.
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