Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Snail-Barons of the Brayreyt Peninsula

From Molochrome in the GLOG discord, for a blogswap:

A fie upon the Kedger King,
Encadg'd within an iron ring!
On sea-bed sleep, immortal foe,
May in your ears lay salmon roe!
Boil the baths with your rancid sting,
For now your wrath's a drownéd thing!
Toss the land in your fitful throe,
With anchors deep we'll slow your tow,
Until that day the waters teem
And all that lingers is a dream!
-Floatie-pub song

Break Apart, It'll Be Alright

That men would worship dragons should come as no surprise. That men who wish to be worshiped should desire to become dragons should not surprise either. To the Antidrakones this desire is called red dracolatry, and those who practice it (when it's safe enough to be insulting) are red dracolatrines.

The history of the Brayreyt peninsula more than a hundred years past is ashes - burned from land and memory by the rampage of the man-drake called the Kedger King, the greatest of all who slithered up the red way.

Not even its geology was left unscathed. The peninsula's heart is shattered and sunken, a vortex from the nightmares of mariners - this, the prison of its slumbering King. Its dead are buried with a long iron nail driven through their throat and spine, for it's said that to do otherwise would leave the ghost untethered, left to be drawn into that maelstrom and devoured. The same is true of the hundred isles the peninsula's been split into - they are not rooted to a continental floor, but rather drift through their cycles, drawing ever-closer to the vortex's swirling maw. This fatal fate is held at bay by tremendous chains, half-harpoon and half-anchor, driven into the body of the Kedger King - some in fact so large that tunnels have been bored through their links that one could wriggle great distances in great secrecy through - and by the rune-bossed tracks of the snail-barons' wagonforts.

Snail-baron wagonforts look a little something like this

They rolled in at some wiped-away time, those pompous and semidentary barons, claiming to have been instrumental in the Kedger King's defeat - and who could rightly gainsay them? In the peninsula's driftwood forests there are rascals and outlaws who accuse the snail-barons of having been the King's vassals, and now fill his vacuum of power, and in the floatie-pubs an illegal play depicts them as opportunistic scavengers swooping in on this waterlogged corpse of a land with a slimy pretense of nobility.

Whatever the truth of them may be, the snail-barons have made themselves inextricable from the politics and economy of the isles. It is the snail-barons who commission the construction of the great binding chains, and the snail-barons who levy the construction of the steaming canals and plumbing which draw boiling water from the peninsula's heart and channel it elsewhere, so that people might warm their homes and cook their food despite the land's scarcity of flammable fuel, and of the levees which maintain the little consistently dry land that Brayreyt can claim, against the constant floods of its churning waters. Baronies that rebel against their crawling command are denied the warm waters, and thus die from its deprivation, or are drenched in it, and thus burn.

Wagonforts are amphibious, equally capable of paddling through rough waters and across fresh mud-flats, and are built around the chassis of their master's own shell - which never stops growing throughout the snail-baron's life. The venerable matripatriarch (for snail-barons are hermaphroditic) of a snail-baron house might command a veritable dreadnought - though despite their power these titans of earth and sea are rare, for one of the few totally waterproof materials to work with on the peninsula is snail-baron shell, and the lesser members of their peerage both terribly resent the tyranny of its stronger members, and covet the nacreous wealth of a broken shell.

Come Water, Sweep Away The Planted Stakes

I came along to an oyster bed
And saw a man who under th'foam tread
Didn't wish to share snacks
Took a swing with my axe
Cut off feet when I aimed for his head!

Beneath the snail-barons are their butlers, the chain-smiths, shell-workers, porcelain-bakers, merchant-captains, and the kelp-troopers - raftborne bands of mercenary soldiers and reavers who wander with the currents of the isles and its petty inter-baronial wars.

Beneath these fighters, traders, and artisans are the humble steamers of kelp-pies, oil-slathered fishermen, pearl-divers, the itinerant labourers who raise dams and lower moats for wages of chewsome beer, the runners of bladder-wrapped letters, log-layers, bulb-cutters, lamp-wringers, and all the other teeming masses.

And beneath even these lowest parts of society are:

  • The clam'p'd, those who've suffered the decapitating bite of an enormous parasitic clam native to the peninsula, and struggle constantly against the steering molluscan drives of their bivalvic helmet.
  • The scaphinfilas, nefarious beetle-men specialized in the consumption and imitative replacement of snail-barons - a bogeyman to those lords, a stock figure in illegal plays (though no friend to common folk either) - the intrigues of the barons are rife with accusations of replacement by a scaphinfila
  • The cropshennards - lost souls of the war to bind the Kedger King - butchered and mutilated, yet keening deathless, walking upside-down on the underside of the water's surface, attempting to embrace those whose faces remind them of old friends and descending with them to depths unknown (in a better case) - pitifully dreadful.
  • The foulest of the foul, princes of the firesome crown, rumoured heirs to the King, nigh-unspeakable, and not least because there's as-yet no-one who could speak plainly of them.

Bite The Hook, Have An Adventure

-Though intensely poisonous to them, some snail-barons are still addicted to imported salt-drugs. If you can smuggle some through the derelict reaches of the chain-tunnels (while avoiding other criminals, cults of the Kedger King, large lairing water-snakes, and suchlike) you stand to addle some serious brass.

-A rebellion against the snail-barons is led by a maid bearing a magic sword, claiming it was granted to her by the knight who bested the Kedger King, dredged up from the darkened waters - a cropshennard plot?

-Being physically bound to their wagon forts, the snail-barons are reliant on heralds for open communication, and a system of disguised letter-runners and encrypted letters to communicate discreetly - if you could intercept one of these runners and forge their letter, whole domains could become your escargo.

-The dread pirate Groppensey is convinced that if he digs deep enough he'll find the buried treasures of the old and forgotten Brayreyt - and he seems to have discovered surviving ruins sunk in the silt. His last team he sent down never came back (possibly trapped by a mudslide), he's got no trustworthy people left he's willing to risk - so he's put out notice in underworld circles for the opportunity.


  1. You're really leaning into the spoken word poetry but I'm into it! Great reading!

    You start with this bit about dragons, and I can kind of piece it together, with the Kedger King as like a metaphor for the evil or corruption of a prior age. What is the relationship between the dragon and snail that you're trying to get across? The dragon here seems to be about power and avarice, a dungeon-y dragon, or a nidhogg, but the setting could also lend itself to the carp swimming upstream and transforming into a dragon interpretation as well.

    I really like the concept of the vortex, I've played with that idea as well, and how it lends itself to a very dynamic kind of geometry and geography. It would be interesting to see you explore this more, and also how that affects the ecosystems.

    1. Re: the relation of dragon and snail, you'd have to ask Molochrome - I was just riffing off his idea. Had in mind the Britannic dragon of the movie Excalibur, an embodiment of the land, whose breath is the fog. Generally, tried to channel some combination of Yorkshire and Maine, because I'd just watched a video of Gordon Ramsey fishing for oysters in Maine.

      The Kedger King - kedge/kedger is:
      -A small anchor
      -"Perhaps an alteration of 'cadge'" (itself a corruption of cage)
      -A glutton
      -As a verb, to warp a vessel by carrying out a kedge in a boat, dropping it overboard, and hauling the vessel up to it
      Used a bit of all these for him. Don't know if Molochrome had any of these in particular in mind when he made the name, but it's a pretty obscure word so I'd be surprised if he didn't.
      Not supposed to be past evil or corruption, and not secretly good either - maybe a pseudo-Uther Pendragon, or a morally-ambiguous Arthur, a more central authority opposed to the fractious and feuding snail-barons.

      Another fun word: cropshen is the thrown-out bits of herrings, the gills and suchlike that aren't eaten.

    2. I actually did look up the word kedger because I figured it had to mean something, but I missed the glutton definition, that's interesting that I caught the avarice haha.

      I didn't catch the tragic hero angle but in retrospect I can see somewhat how that's set up, and also is much more interesting and more can be done with that, I like that better. And also as you said gives it a more Arthurian feel maybe.

  2. Been meaning to say for awhile, good stuff