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Description: In the south, there is a relatively small torn area (about twenty miles long and varying from ten miles on the east side to thirty miles on the west) that is almost completely covered with an iridescent substance much like mother-of-pearl. After the border between it and the rest of the world cleared, the first explorers found little there but these odd towers, a few stunted plants, and some very odd slugs, grayish at the base and green on top. It didn’t take long for the first explorers to realize that it wasn’t wise to stop for any period of time in that area, as the slugs would eat nearly anything organic, though they weren’t partial to living animal tissue. However, hair, clothes, food, backpacks, sleeping bags—all these were fair game. And wherever the slugs went, once they’d eaten, they laid down a slime that quickly dried to match the towers.
The slugs are much more active in daylight, however, once they find a source of nutrition, they can be quite active even in total darkness; tours of the towers are mostly scheduled for moonlight as a result. Then, so long as one doesn’t lie down to sleep or sit still for any significant time period, one is probably safe from having one’s clothes eaten or body pearlized.
It didn’t take long for someone to bring a few slugs to one of the nearby towns; when they got into a vegetable field and started eating and sliming everything, the townspeople found that the only way to eliminate them and their eggs was to burn the whole thing to the ground. They quickly enacted rules to keep the slugs in their native habitat, and to keep the borderland burned clear of vegetation that might allow the slugs to migrate.
Of course, someone saw how much money they could make with a factory to cover new objects in what had been a rare ancient style (see Origins below), and applied for licenses to work with the beasts. Several licenses were issued,however, very stringent controls are required to ensure that the slugs do not escape. One factory is in the borderlands near the towers, others are outside distant cities, in places where the factory is in a place that is, and can be kept, inhospitable for the slugs. The workers in these factories go to a locker-room building, and change to working coveralls that have been treated with a substance the slugs find distasteful in the morning, then return after work to communal showers, with a supervisor charged with inspecting them to be sure they do not accidentally or on purpose carry any slugs or slug eggs out of the factory with them.
Location: In the south, far from any large city.
Origins: In ancient times, shortly before the upheaval, there was a popular style of statuary, furniture, and other items that were covered in an iridescent mother-of-pearl substance. Until the Towers were revealed, modern scientists were very much at odds as to how that could have been achieved. It seemed like an organic substance, however, no one was aware of any critter that could cover chairs, tables, statues and other large objects with their secretions.
There was a factory, however, that coated these items, using a genetically engineered slug. The top was engineered for photosynthesis, so that slugs could be stored in a somnolent state for long periods of time, during which they required little or no food. This also gave the slugs a love of bright light, so that they could be directed to areas of the object to be covered simply by placing those areas in direct sunlight. They could also shine a light on any small flaws and draw the slugs to that area easily. The color of the coating could be controlled by changing the slugs’ diet.
The slugs can also be lifted and moved without getting covered with the slime if one is very careful to only touch the green parts of their skins.
The slugs were found to be efficient pests, and stringent controls were used to keep them in the factory. When the upheaval came, however, it left the area with insufficient resources to maintain a good ecosystem. Eventually, the slugs escaped and slowly ate and covered almost the entire area. By the time the time-fields there stabilized, they had covered almost all of the land that could produce sustenance for them,and were nearly extinct.
The slugs have a very long life-span if they lack food; they go into a state much like hibernation, slowing their metabolism and remaining still,absorbing energy from sunlight and moisture and minerals from rain and dew. They tend to climb upward to get as much sunlight as possible, unless they smell food, thus creating towers. When they’ve eaten well, they produce many tiny eggs, which they anchor in low hollows. The eggs mature very slowly, unless they are covered with nutrient-rich liquid. Pure water will prompt a few eggs to hatch; spilled soup (or even human or animal wastes), on the other hand, will cause quite a lot of eggs to hatch.
Mythology and Beliefs: The locals call the slugs simply “the pests”, among themselves, despite the fact that they bring in tourists and the local factory has brought in some money as well. They call them Pearl Slugs when speaking to businessmen and tourists, however. They joke about how the Creator must have a dark sense of humor to send them such a wonderful tourist attraction.
Some scientists believe the ancients created the slugs somehow, others that they were imported from some distant island. A few even claim that they have to be somehow a product of the upheaval, though those get laughed at due to the ancient artifacts covered with the same substance created by the slugs.
The most interesting mythology connected to this area, however, belong to the tribe that calls this area the Moon Mother’s Garden. They live about a week’s travel to the east. They had legends of a Moon Mother and her pearly garden prior to the opening of this torn area. They quickly recognized the Pearly Towers as the Moon Mother’s long lost Garden, and make pilgrimages to the area for various rites of passage. They will paint themselves with herbs that the slugs avoid, except for some particular area, for instance, a “bracelet” area on an arm, and lift slugs to that area, giving the slugs food and chanting praises of the Moon Mother while the slugs build up a permanent piece of jewelry on their arm. This can be problematic, since the material is quite tough; if a person develops fat or muscle later in life, the constriction can be quite a problem, and it is hard to saw through them without causing significant wounds. More recently, the bracelets are left un-joined, so they can be turned and slid off of the person if necessary, with minimal tissue damage.
Young girls will let the slugs create a “bodice”, a breast-plate like covering on the front of their bodies. They are sworn to be “pure” for the Moon Mother until their skin grows enough new layers for the bodice to come loose. After that, holes are drilled in the bodice and leather or silk strands used to tie it to her, and it is worn for special occasions until the woman gets too heavy (or too busty) to wear it. These “moon maidens” have their own secret society, are said to be able to bless and cure people, and generally have higher status than women in this tribe who did not pilgrimage to the Garden during her first year after menarche.
A bride and groom will draw a design on each other’s chest or belly, tending each other’s slugs until a piece of jewelry is made. Once both pieces come loose, they can have the wedding and exchange the jewelry, which is worn much as wedding rings are worn.
The tribe also has shamans who serve a long training period as adults. At the beginning of their formal apprenticeship, they travel to the gardens where they shave off all head and body hair as an offering to the Moon Mother, and allow the slugs to create a headdress for them. The headdress can be quite elaborate, but it is limited by the fact that they must sit upright, cross-legged, and let the slugs so their work all in one sitting. They are allowed one assistant to help them carry food in to the Garden, to give them the ceremonial drink of water and special herbs, and to help them feed the slugs on their heads. The thicker and more elaborate the headdress is, the more powerful it is assumed they will become once their apprenticeship is served. Once the headdress comes off of their heads, they are not allowed to shave their hair off to wear it again until the apprenticeship is over. If, at the end of that time period, the headdress doesn’t fit them, they are deemed to have failed the training and must start over from scratch, or take up another profession.
The tribe calls the slugs Mother’s Helpers and Moon Mother’s Pets and Moon Slugs. They frequently make carved and painted models of the slugs, which are used in jewelry and as teaching models.
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