1879: Saurids Preview

As we continue through the London Kickstarter, and roll up to GenCon 50, thoughts turn once more to the future of the product line. Herewith,  then, an extended sample from the Saurids sourcebook, currently in draft at the time this post was written (back in July). Monsignor Eamonn Sherrard, SJ, AU, a special prelate delegated to the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, has been assigned to visit each of the cultures of the Saurids, and document three tribes from each, so that the Congregatio may make a determination as to whether or not a mission should be undertaken to the first non-human species encountered. Here, he relates an encounter with a Saurid healer that he found both illuminating and humbling.

The term “tribe” in itself may be misleading, as while there is a strong resemblance to Earthly tribal culture, the Saurids are not primitives as the term would suggest. We, and I speak of all of my fellow humans here, have grossly underestimated these people. The Saurids have been regarded as savages, little different from how the Indians of the Americas were regarded when first encountered by Europeans (and that misapprehension has led to substantial woe on the part of both cultures, but that argument is for another work). The Saurids are most certainly not such.

I find myself put in mind of the Mennonites. The Saurids are a highly advanced civilization, well aware of much of science, in some ways equal to our own abilities, who have chosen quite deliberately to eschew the path of industrialization for a simpler way of life. They make things as needed, rather than stockpiling mass produced goods. They maintain the way of the individual craftsman, where we have adopted the strength of the factory. They choose to live a harder, less convenient, less comfortable life in return for leaving their wilderness unspoilt, their water clean and their air unsullied. We have lives of comfort, and have brought so many benefits of the modern world to so many, and yet the air in London is so thick with coal smoke that some days one cannot see from one side of the street to the other. The well to do reside in cleanliness and luxury, but down the road lie workhouses and slums of the most perfidious filth. The Saurids are fewer in number than we of Earth. Perhaps God, in His wisdom, has enabled the Saurids to avoid industrialization by granting them a lower rate of birth, and enabled us to achieve industrialization through the necessity of keeping up with our race’s greater fertility. Wiser heads than my own must find answers to these questions, if answers there be.

As example of this, I provide the following anecdote from my own experience. Shortly after coming to the Thunderers, the first of the Plains tribes which which I sojourned, I fell ill. The journey had been long and hard, and I had been caught out in the rain on several occasions. As I lay huddled in my blankets in my tent, miserable, shaking with fever and ague, coughing spasmodically, and wishing that I had brought a more ample supply of chlorodyne along, one of the tribal shamans, Timsakanin virn Sisumikanum, came to visit. He entered my tent resplendent in savage finery, a leather circlet about his brow with feathers hanging by his temples, complex beaded necklaces overlapping on his chest, and what I am certain was a fine job of painting symbols on his face and body. He carried a leather pack, which he set down next to me. I resigned myself to silence, as it would be rude to interrupt prayers for the sick, even if they are directed to a false god.

In the ensuing conversation, Timsakanin used a number of terms that I understood only partially or not at all. When I had recovered, I sought him out for an extended discussion, and was able at that time to determine what had actually been said. The conversation as recounted here is therefore mostly a reconstruction. The key term, anarragitaivu, comes from root words giving it a transliteration of “tiny lives destroyer”, which at the time caused me great consternation in my fevered state. I have given the more accurate translation here, by context, to our own term of “antibiotic”.

Timsakanin took a small jar out of his pack, opened it, and carefully extracted a small insect, closing the lid quickly, I assume to keep the rest from escaping. He took hold of my arm, gently, as a doctor would, and pressed the insect to the inside of my wrist. I protested, especially when it nipped me, but Timsakanin reassured me, saying “it only tastes you to tell me of your illness.” He turned the insect over and examined its abdomen, and told me, “You have the shaking fever, which can be readily cured.”

I found myself wishing my hands to be steady enough to write, as I had not seen the Saurids’ magic from so close a perspective at that point. Timsakanin took a small wooden case from his pack, and laid it on the ground next to my blanket, then rummaged about a bit, pulling out two small ceramic pots sealed with wax and putting them back before accepting the third. He set it on the ground next to the wooden case, and opened the case to display a set of the most beautiful hand crafted hypodermic syringes I had ever seen. The glass tubes were precisely etched down one side with measurement markings, and down the other with Saurid symbols blessing them in the name of Dauranstal, the god of healing. The plunger and metal fittings looked to be of highly polished brass, the metal chased with delicate designs across the finger loops. Timsakanin chanted briefly in a low tone that I could not quite hear, and spread his hand over the syringes and the ceramic pot, which glowed briefly.

“Are you blessing the cure?” I asked.

His crest went halfway down and he squinted his left eye at me, the Saurid equivalent of a raised eyebrow. “Do your healers not sterilize their equipment before giving medicines?” he asked. I found myself nonplussed and with no answer. He smirked. “I can pray over the antibiotic before I inject it, if that will make you feel better.”

He picked up the ceramic pot, shook it once, then turned it over. Picking up one of the syringes, he put the needle through the wax seal, pushed the plunger a little, then drew a dark, murky, greenish fluid into the syringe. Setting the pot down, he made the same chant and gesture over my arm, and my skin tingled and burned for a moment.

“This works on the sloths and other mammals. It should work on your race,” he said, and before I could protest that I was a man, not livestock, he found a vein, sank the needle into it, and injected me. He covered the tiny puncture with a bit of clean rag, told me to keep pressure on it for a moment, and went outside to rinse his syringe. I laid back and wondered what I had been treated with. A foul taste, like the smell of a swamp, filled my mouth, and I asked for water.

Timsakanin came back in, and gave me a drink from a skin he carried, water with some sort of minty herb in it that washed out the taste. He grinned. “The sloths drink deep after being treated with antibiotics also. The taste of the mold gets into the blood and from there to the mouth, I think.”

Knowing that our own penicillin is a derivative of bread mold, I quietly hoped that the concoction was at least refined in some way.

“I will return soon to check on you. If you begin to itch, call out and someone will come get me.” He packed up his things, checked my eyes and took my pulse, and left. Two days later, I was back on my feet and able to go visit him and find out more about what had happened. While that was a fascinating visit, though, it properly deserves to be treated of in its own section, and not wedged into the ostensible Introduction.

What should be taken away from this anecdote is confirmation of my assertion, that the Saurids, like the Mennonites, are well aware of the world, and know of its complexities, but choose to live in a simpler fashion. We must not continue to underestimate them. Given the story of their origins and the hints of what their culture must be like on their home continent, we of Earth must be prepared to deal with them as equals, not as a more advanced civilization bringing enlightenment to a lot of forest-dwelling savages. The lessons of the North American continent must be taken to heart, and the same mistakes must not be repeated.