Memory of the Pontus Dragon (Sea Dragon)

as dictated by Arethusa Atticus, Emissary of Nethunus

In my time with walkers, I have learned that what they call fire is very different from my memories. Nethunus gifted us with fire to light our homes and aid with hunting for food. Through us, he generously shared it with walkers. In their darkest times, the flames of Nethunus continue to shine.

I never conceived that a fire existed that consumes everything it covers.

My favorite memory of fire belongs to my father's father. He was traveling with the pod to gather fish. He had not yet been called to serve, so he hunted for his own food as well as food for my relatives. I remember that we happened upon a school of fish and tried to push them close together. They were not thinking of us, but were swimming quickly to escape. Through my father's father's eyes, I saw nothing chasing them. He gathered the others to investigate further. 

Some time later we smelled the sweetness that only comes from fire, the fire that I know. Sensing ahead, we could make out the unfamiliar shape of a great creature. It was the size of a small whale, its head triangular in shape. There were two great eyes facing forward, a small mouth, and gills to either side of its neck. It had wide fins that spread three lengths and a span[thirty-five feet] with a coiling body. It had not sensed us, yet.

My father's father remembers that this great beast soon spewed fire over a coral reef, filling the sea with a great light. Fish hiding amongst the anemones and the crevasses darted out, each one shining brightly. Disoriented by the light, the fish could not see the sharks swimming towards them. Copying our techniques, the sharks swirled around the fish drawing them into a tighter and tighter formation. The light from the fish shimmered throughout the water in mesmerizing patterns. As they drew close to each other, a ball of light shone from the center, brighter than the fullest moon.

At exactly the right time, sharks dove through the light, feasting on the hapless fish. They closed their eyes as they swam through, thus immune to the blinding light around them as they ate.

We had the numbers to match the sharks, but the addition of the great beast was more than enough to give us pause. Upon returning to the city, a great circle was formed to share memories. As the thoughts swirled together, an ancient herald (an emissary that returned home after his time with the walkers) shared a memory of the Draco Pontus.

The Draco Pontus swam with Nethunus, but it did not have the form it wears now. Was it a brother? Nethunus would not say. All that was shared was that there came a great conflict. While they fought, Nethunus transformed his foe into the Draco Pontus. From that day to this, the Draco Pontus consorts with our mortal enemies.

Questions rushed in. Is there only one? Is this the same ancient creature that swam with our ocean-father eons ago?

At that time, my father's father's city did not know the answers. Since that time, I have my own memories to share. At the right time, I will share them.

Dal Tana, the Magical Salts of Shastra

General Notes

Dal Tana is the name given to the Five Salts that power salt mages. These salts can be consumed (in moderation) as food. Chefs all over the world make dishes with the bright colors of the salts. As such, most shops sell at least a little red, yellow, and blue salt. Black salt is the rarest and most expensive, rivaling the prices of fine jewelry. White salt is so common that it can be purchased in bulk for a few coppers.

Salt Mages, though, spend their lives mastering the ten forms defined by the accepted two-color and three-color combinations of the five salts. Each two-color combination fuels a different category of magical spells while the three-color combinations unlock special magical abilities.

Salt Mages use their own language to name and activate their spells. The source for this information uses Shastranusian words as is it provided from the miners and formen of the salt mines. These words appear in italics.

Mother of Salt

Mother-of-Salt (Flanya Vi Priru), is the source of the five salts. It transforms soil and rock to salt wherever it is buried, starting with black salt and growing outward to the other colors. The longer it is left undisturbed, the larger the salt deposits generated from the mother-of-salt. The largest mines in Shastra are believed to come from a single mother-of-salt that has been untouched for thousands of years.

Shastran Alchemists (Enzarosh) believe that they can split a Mother-of-Salt in two allowing for the creation of new mines. However, given the time scale required to generate enough salt, this is only theoretical.

Mining the Salt

Mining salt in Shastra is an arduous task. Salt must be dug out by hand with non-magical tools. It cannot be flooded with water to make brine for extraction by evaporation. The water will ruin the magical properties and flavors of the salt. Magic tools or even nearby magic items have a corrupting effect on black salt and a destructive effect on Mother-of-Salt.

Shastran Artificers (Oon Zerosh) are in high demand. They are renown throughout the world due to their extensive experience building effective, yet non-magical drills. These muscle-powered drills are similar to Archimedes screws normally used to pump water. The salt is hard, yet brittle; the drills are designed to allow most of the broken pieces to be gathered into carts. Drills range in size from the lever-powered tunnel borers to the personal hand drills operating by turning a crank.

As the miners dig deeper into the mine, some are tasked with reinforcing the tunnels with arches. Shastran Alchemists (Enzarosh) have developed a thick paste that interacts with the salt to create a substance they call concrete. The paste has a simple formula, lime, manufactured rock sand (meo loisha) or volcanic ash, and a bit of water. When the paste is applied to the walls of the tunnel, it transforms into a concrete arch to keep the tunnel from collapsing.

Working in the salt mine is dangerous without protective equipment. The three biggest dangers are dehydration, hypothermia, and inhalation of the salt. To protect from dehydration, miners cover all skin with a thick cloth garment and gloves. This also prevents hypothermia from the unnaturally cold tunnels. To prevent inhalation of the salt, Shastran Alchemists have developed a type of electrum called Gretuer Mona that makes the salt inert. A mask made of Gretuer Mona covers the nose and mouth of the miner. From time to time, an inert bright pink dust gathers on the mask and the miners merely wipe it off with their gloves.

Other Hazards of Salt Mining

The five salts react strongly to the presence of magic and spellcasters (Inzarosh) except for Salt Mages and Psions. The five salts become volatile and either activate random magical effects or detonate magical items and spellcasters. They doesn't affect the fey or fey creatures unless they use magic or cast spells. If the salt activates random magic, much of the precious salt is lost.

To protect the salt, security around the mine entrances is tight and the penalties severe. Guards line a perimeter around mine openings far enough away that magic will not trigger the salt. Visitors are questioned and sent away peacefully. Those that resist face nullification or worse.

Shastran alchemists originally developed Gretuer Mona to non-magically detect the presence of magic or persons that employ magic. Sprinkled on suspected magical items or spellcasters, it turns into a fine, brightly-colored pink dust in the presence of magic. The electrum alloy doesn't discriminate between divine or arcane spellcasters.

Those that do no consent to the test will discover that one or two psionic guards are stationed at every post. The guards will cover the area with Gretuer Mona to nullify any magic items and disrupt spells. Then they will attempt to force feed an elixir made with the electrum alloy to all trespassers. The elixir will temporarily nullify the ability to cast spells or commune with deities or patrons. It is extremely painful to spellcasters through intense headaches and a burning sensation. Sorcerers will writhe in intense pain from the transformation of their blood into dust. All others will have stomach pains, but no other harmful effects.

The elixir can last anywhere between two hours to forty days depending on the amount swallowed and the constitution of the victim. (This had horrific effects in the last war 30 years ago). The guards are punitive by order of the king. They will continue to force feed elixir until trespassers are unconscious or dead. For those they do not employ magic, either the psions will drive them away or the guards will cut them down. The five salts are the primary income for the Shastran kingdom, so no quarter is given to any potential threat.

Any unauthorized Salt Mage that approaches a salt mine suffers a fate worse that nullification. They are poisoned by their own salt, doomed to become a brightly colored zombie that vomits blue and red salt or a Dessicate (darnyawu), a Salt Mage lich whose magic is fueled by their body.

In short, don't mess with the guards of a salt mine. Since you cannot use spells or magic items to combat them, they will mess you up in ways worse than death.

Shastranusian Words

  • Cran Manucho - A brightly colored zombie that vomits bright red and blue salt created by posioning a salt mage with their own salt.
  • Danu Poa - Literally the Hollow Person. This is the name for those that use psionic powers.
  • Darnyawu - The Salt Mage lich created by poisoning a salt mage with their own salt.
  • Enzarosh - Shastran Alchemists. They are known for developing concrete, electrum alloys, and the nullification elixir. They are also employed to refine raw salt into its five component salts.
  • Flanya Vi Priru - Mother-of-Salt, the source of the Five Salts.
  • Gretuer Mona - An electrum alloy made of gold, silver, and a bit of platinum. The Shastran Alchemists alone know the formula. It can detect the presence of magic or magical items.
  • Inzarosh - A generic term in Shastran for any creature that can cast spells.
  • Meo Loisha - Manufactured rock sand. Shastran Alchemists and Artificers worked together to create this cheaper substitute for volcanic ash, a critical component in making concrete. Meo Loisha has to be very fine, almost like dust to active the salt in the mines.
  • Oon Zerosh - Shastran Artificers. They are renown for the creation of non-magical and non-clockwork machinery used to dig in the salt mines. They also worked with alchemists to develop a material used in making concrete.

A Step Into Elsewhere

It's been one of those weeks where I'm not able to sleep very well. The sink is clogged and despite a 25 and 50 foot auger, I cannot seem to alleviate the problem.

Seeing my frustration, my loving wife asked me about household problems in Shayakand. She asked how if magic would be used to unclog drains or would folks do it the mechanical way.

It's funny how that question took me to the "Game within a Game" post I wrote on NMP.

I replied that most people in urban areas live in apartments that have no kitchen. For a few coppers, most eat at local eating places that serve as a kind of fast food place. As to whether or not garmadala experience drain clogs, the answer is based on the clientele. You see, if a basha loves to eat at a certain garmadala, the kitchen is blessed by a myriad of priests with several enchantments.

Being tired, though, I began to ramble quite a bit about the garmadala, the end of the Shayakand empire, the Garuda, the Amanakshi and various other things. My favorite rant, though, still brought me back to a little garmadala northeast of the market center near the largest library in Varama.

Varama served as the resort city for the emperors. The entire city was built to provide a seaside resort for the emperor and his satraps. After the empire dissolved, the city survived due to its extensive libraries and influx of peoples drawn to the milder climate and ocean breezes.

Walking through the busy street to reach the garmadala, I could smell the mint and cardamom coming from the large doorway leading into the serving area. On the L-shaped table are six dishes of delectable dishes - even the curry lentils in the first two tureens are a joy to the palate. There would be raised eyebrows, if I, a common scribe of the working class, purchased one of the savory meat dishes. But on a beautiful day like this with a breeze blowing off the cold water current that runs close to the shore tempering the cloudless sky - savory meats are worth the stares and the coin.

Strolling out from the serving area into a stone plaza, there are several tables offering chess with the meal, as long as you bring your pieces with you. The wooden pieces in my jhola have lost of bit of the green and gold paint, but they have been victorious more times than not.

Sitting at a table, a merchant asks for the pleasure of conversation and perhaps a game. Noticing my meal, I was mistaken for a man of higher class. Still, we talked for some time and the match was close. She and I made small talk about business, but inevitably we began discussing our favorite writings. We had both heard the rumors of an extant copy of the Book of Beginnings about the Mpura. The possibility of such a treasure appearing in a library made us both hope the rumors were true.

I ask to see her again and she readily accepted my invitation. In the Virama, a man of lower class can court a woman of higher class without raising so much as an eyebrow. After such a womderful meal and the hope for love - it is difficult to leave the table and make my way back to my humble apartment.

The smell of sea air, mint, and curry follow me back - even to my chair. It is easy to step into a place of imagination on sleepless nights like this.

The hint of mint and cardamom stays in my memory. The memories of a trip to a place that I could almost touch allows me to let go of the day's stresses enough to sleep perchance to dream. With a big moon in the sky, I am sure that I will dream of Shayakand.

I am sure that I will see my beloved there, wearing a sari as she did on our wedding day over six years ago. There we will be the spices, the libraries and the chatter of the market vendors. There will also be the breeze and the dancing on the shore.

Many thanks to my wife who helped me escape for a bit to help me sleep.

Good night to all.