For this week’s post, I thought I’d keep with the short break away from the mechanics discussions and share another work of in-game story telling. This was a piece of my own writing from about six years ago when we were doing some discussions on the Saurids and their development as a culture. I actually had a real life practical experiment for research to go along with this one, which will be the subject next week’s post.
As with most of these posts, this may or may not end up being used for actual in-game material, but if it does, it will probably get put into the upcoming Saurids Sourcebook.
Esteemed members of Her Majesty’s Research and Development Department,
This letter is being sent in response to a request by Professor Martin Petham. I had the privilege of conversing with Professor Petham via telegraph after a my accompaniment with a diplomatic mission in the Gruv to meet with an as yet unaligned tribe of Saurids in the hopes of convincing them to join up with the Empire. Though not relevant to the contents of this letter, I will happily note that the negotiations are going well. While meeting with these people, I made an unexpected discovery that I had discussed with the good Professor. He recommended I send a description of my findings to you, along with any physical evidence that I could provide. On the case of the latter, please find the sealed samples and the live specimen in the hydroponic terrarium that has been included with this delivery, the relevance of which shall be revealed as I review the efforts of my journey.
Our mission was to meet with a tribe of Saurids called the Blue Hawks. From information given by our Saurid allies, they are a group from one of the egalitarian forest tribes living near the borders with the plains tribes, and have developed many talented warriors due to their more aggressive neighbors. We were to make contact, establish positive relations, and eventually attempt to convince them to ally themselves with the British flag. Our group consisted of six; one Saurid man turned soldier named Dan’asi, who would act as our guide and translator; Sysasa, a Maori woman and tribal warrior assigned by the officer overseeing the expedition for additional protection; Lieutenant Maxwell Scolfield, the officer in charge and diplomatic representative of Her Majesty’s armed forces for the expedition; father Edmund Claybrook, serving as our healer and spiritual guide; and myself, as the group’s botanist and general science adviser.
Interestingly, at our initial encounter with the Blue Hawks, it was not Dan’asi who made the largest impression upon them, but Sysasa. As circumstances resolved, this became most fortunate, for any other outcome most likely would not have lead to my discovery. Dan’asi had previously served his people as more of a scout than a warrior, which made him an excellent guide, but did not leave him with very strongly honed instincts for combat. It was not long after we crossed into Blue Hawk territory that we were beset in ambush by one of their hunting parties. It was here that Sysasa’s superior instincts first showed their weight, as she called for a halt and duck from the party just as a spear flew into the ground in front of us. Despite being a warning shot, she did have to yank poor unaware Dan’asi, who was leading the way, backwards and off of his feet to prevent him from being hit.
Their warriors seemed to melt out of the trees surrounding us, ten in total. Those in front held long, thick spears in front and at the ready, while those in back wielded thinner spiraled spears on throwers, which I’m told are called atlatls among Earth tribal peoples (forgive me, but the Saurid term is beyond my understanding), above their shoulders and at the ready to fly. All of them wore very simple, airy clothing, wrapped tightly around them and dyed a most brilliant blue. The apparent leader of the group, who had thrown the first spear, held her atlatl in her hand like a club, and stepped forward with it extended toward us, and spoke in her native tongue. As Dan’asi struggled to get back on his feet, Sysasa stepped forward, unaware of what was said but apparently understanding the cultural significance. With her own spear and shield at the ready, she and their leader got within a few feet of each other and locked gazes. Silence fell on both groups as the two slowly began to circle each other, neither one moving their gaze or even seeming to blink. Once Dan’asi had regained his footing, I attempted to ask him to translate what had been said, but as soon as I made to speak he quickly silenced me. Finally, as the two warriors completed the circle, the hunting party’s leader lowered her gaze and dropped to one knee, setting her weapon on the ground in front of her. At this point, all of the remaining hunters lowered their weapons, and when she spoke, Dan’asi apparently deemed it appropriate to translate. “I concede. We will not impede you, but please tell me why you have entered our hunting grounds.”
Sysasa seemed to understand the question was addressed directly to her, and took it upon herself to speak before anyone else had the chance to interject, with Dan’asi translating back. “We had no intention to intrude on your hunt. Our group has come from the British Empire seeking peace and cooperation. We have many strong warriors and valuable goods to trade. Will your people speak with us?” To this, what I believe was an approving look came across their leader’s face (I am still struggling to understand expressions of Saurid anatomy) as she replied, “I cannot speak for the elders, but we can take you to them to hear their answers in person. Come.” From here, we were lead by their party all the way back to their village.
I know there are those among the Empire who believe the Saurids to be a primitive people, and some who go so far as to believe them savage or ignorant. To these people, I cannot say enough to encourage you to dash these beliefs from your mind. While their culture may be more primitive than ours, by visiting their village it is abundantly apparent that this is by deliberate choice, and in many ways they have advanced their more simplistic ways to the point where higher technology and industry is not only unnecessary, but would in fact be less efficient for them.
Due to the nature of our initial introduction, we were most able to interact with their hunter and warrior members, but even this exposure gave us insight into a number of advancements that they had developed. The primary interest of these related to my discovery was in the development of their weapons, specifically their throwing spears. The trees supplying the wood for their spears are grown specifically for the task, having a few seasons of growth to attain a diameter of three to five inches. Initially we were shown their production after the trees were harvested. They use a two person technique to slide the limbs back and forth in a trench with a ring of sharpened stones in the middle that strips the bark and shapes the limbs uniformly. The inner bark from the trees is saved during this process, which is later ground into a powder and steeped in water to create a blue dye. This is the same dye we saw in their warrior’s clothing, which I learned here they use symbolically as a link between the warriors and their weapons, and also derived the name of their tribe.
After this point in the process, the ring is replaced with one having pointed stones in a triangle pattern. The limbs are passed back and forth the same way, turning them as they go to produce a spiral pattern to the wood. The rings are swapped out several times with longer stones until a deep groove is cut. The limb is then taken to a trench, which is then filled with an extract from an invasive weed native to the Gruv. This weed is quite fascinating; it grows at the bases of trees and produces bulbs that contain a fluid that shrinks the cellulose of other plants. In its natural environment, it attacks the root structure of the tree, causing it to wither and die, thus creating a break in the canopy for it to take in sunlight for itself. When applied to the limbs in just the right concentration for the right amount of time, the cells of the limbs collapse and compress (as I observed under microscope), shrinking the limb and tightening its structure, resulting in a spear that is smaller, still strong, but also flexible, making it much more accurate in flight.
I also was shown techniques they had developed in cultivating the trees. They have set up groves just for the task, with stone pillars placed regularly through out. The pillars are magically linked to other specialized stones within the village, and are used to draw heat from the area around the pillar in the grove and vent it off to the linked stone. The purpose of this is to encourage the trees to grow stronger, as the colder environment will result in a much tighter wood grain. The linked stones are also used in a number of ways as non-flamable heat sources, including heat for their homes on cold nights, non-smoking cook sources, and in pools of water to create warm baths and hot springs for therapeutic purposes. To encourage their trees to grow into straight limbs, they are coppiced, where the tree is cut close to the base, leaving a stump near ground level which will then have new shoots growing up straight from it. There are multiple groves set up in areas around their village so that they can rotate between them and continually harvest new trees each season. I was permitted to visit one of these groves, and saw that some of the stumps were truly massive, indicating reuse over many generations, likely going back thousands of years. It was in this examination that my discovery occurred.
To another of my profession, I would suspect that the description of the process used to create their dyes should also bring to mind the species Fraxinus quadrangulata, commonly called the Blue Ash, which is native to the midwestern region of the Union states. Upon making this correlation myself, I decided to examine samples of the specimens, which our Saurid hosts most graciously provided with the promise that any knowledge gleaned that might advance their weapon techniques be shared. Most important for this examination, they even permitted me to take a sample of a living specimen from one of their more recently coppiced trees, which you will find in the afore mentioned hydroponic terrarium. Given that these trees have been harvested by coppicing rather than new growth, the new samples are offshoots of the exact same specimens that their ancestors planted originally. After thorough examination, it is my professional opinion that these specimens bear no discernible differences from the data describing the species as it exists on Earth. For anyone reading this who does not realize the immediate implication of this, I shall speak it plainly: this means that, at some point in time far in the past, another Portal must have existed between the Gruv and Earth that allowed this species of tree to cross over from one world to the other.
I of course cannot speak as to the exact circumstances of this cross over. It is possible that the trees are native to either world (though until they are encountered in other regions of the Gruv, I would suspect them to be native to Earth). It is possible that the Portal opened on Earth in the region where the trees are most prevalent, or it may have opened elsewhere and the specimens may have been carried. There are many, many questions that this discovery raises and does not answer, however, all evidence I have suggests this to be the case. I would ask that the specimen I have provided be studied in greater detail than I am capable of with my field equipment, and given more direct comparison with samples from Earth. It may be that my assessment does not hold under further scrutiny. However, if my findings are correct, based on these implications, we as the scientific community may have to seriously review and consider the origins and classifications of life on both the Gruv and Earth.
Doctor Permelia Braumstone
Professor of Botany, University of Oxford