Thursday, January 13, 2011

Five uses for salt in fantasy

Inspired by Felicity Savage’s novel Humility Garden, which is set on a world called Salt where there were literal fields of the stuff. People rarely ventured out into those because if the wind blew crystals of salt into their eyes, the crystals would grow there and blindness would result.

1. Salt circles

Magic circles can be drawn in salt, to either provide protection for whoever is within or to keep power contained within the circle.

To make it a bit more complex, different colors of salt could hold different kinds of magic within the circle. Aluminum chloride can be pale yellow, while copper (II) chloride is blue-green.

2. Salt armor

Not as practical as chain mail or plate, but slabs of salt might be an effective defense against creatures composed of snow or ice. I’d also love to see armor covered with long needles of salt, especially if these were wont to break off and fly at opponents.

3. Salt used to attract water

Useful in the desert – sprinkle salt in a hollow dug in the ground and wait for water to well up from below. Of course, that would also attract predators who can detect salt or water a mile away.

4. Salt lenses

I read somewhere that salt lenses are used with infrared lasers, but I just like the idea of looking through such lenses and seeing things invisible to the normal eye – things which might not want to be detected.

5. Salt sown into earth

Historically, convicted traitors in Spain and Portugal could expect to have their houses demolished and salt plowed into the ruins and the land, to ensure that nothing would grow there again.

But what if this was done as a cleansing measure to remove the taint from the earth, and what if it was believed to have worked, such that other people were encouraged to live there? What effect would the salt have on them?

I’d love to see the crystals becoming semi-sentient somehow – perhaps because the traitor was wrongfully convicted, and therefore there is no taint to destroy. And so the crystals try to show the new occupants the truth.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting concepts but I think they are unworkable unless a heavy dose of magic is involved.

How about a sort of post-apocalyptic world (of the magical type) where the survivors must lived in heavy salted areas to protect themselves against demons and their ilk. The catch is that areas outside the
"Salt" are flourishing with life but also infested with all manner of dark creatures.

D L Dzioba said...

Actually, I have a world I created where salt is a booming trade because my elves use it to clear paths in the rainforest where they live.

Loren said...

One can kill snails and slugs by putting salt on them. They then go the way of the Ancient Mariner, dying of thirst as the salt soaks up their water.

Salting the ground does that to plants.

Salt lenses are often used in IR optics because they stay transparent down to lower frequencies than glass or quartz ones. That's because their atoms are heavier, making them vibrate more slowly. Lower limit:
SiO2 - 3 microns
NaCl - 10 microns
KBr - 20 microns

Marian Perera said...

ralfast - I like your post-apocalyptic world. The survivors probably need to resalt the boundaries each time it rains... unless the salt is really thick, like a wall maybe.

D L - Nice to read about elves who aren't tree-huggers... and who live in a rainforest too! There isn't enough speculative fiction set in that kind of climate.

Loren - The mention of slugs makes me wonder what kind of fantasy creatures would be similarly affected by salt.

Freshwater mermaids, maybe?

Thanks also for the explanation about salt lenses. It sounds like a great detail I can use in the future.