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Batakai (1257-1303) - Culture
Written By: Deirdre / Wyld_Dandelyon (Writer)
Batakai was an early Empire botanist, hired by the military to trace down a disease that was killing soldiers. She is also known for her beautiful drawings and her recipe for lizard stew.

In the early days of the Empire, when military might was more respected than science, there was a woman whose father, uncle, brothers, and cousins, all were conscripted into the army to fight the Roluma.

Batakai had an accident early in life that left her legs withered. As a result, up until the army interfered, she had been pampered and indulged: her older sister, Yakitai, enjoyed running the household, and there was plenty of money, for the men in her family were accomplished traders. She had plenty of time for her preferred pursuits, collecting frogs and other amphibians, some reptiles and snakes, and drawing wildlife.

But with only her mother left to do the trading, and Batakai not suited to the travel and heavy lifting needed for the family business, Batakai was informed she should find other employment. After some looking, she found a job working for a botanist as an illustrator.

The botanist was drafted to serve as an epidemiologist when a mysterious illness swept through the troops in the region he taught in. He insisted that Batakai be drafted with him, both because he valued her work and because otherwise she would have been left destitute. Working together, they eventually traced the disease to contact with a particular variety of yellow lizard called lereterl that had a skin disease caused by a parasite called itiikirs.

The Emperor was all for simply killing off all the lizards, but that would have been as difficult as eliminating mice on a farm. Another factor was that the healthy lizards were a valuable (if not very popular) ration supplement. But identifying the problem wasn't sufficient. There had to be a solution. In humans, the parasite caused high fevers and dreadful lesions, primarily on the hands and feet. Many died of the infection, and more than half of those who did not were left so scarred that they could not adequately wield their weapons.

In response to this challenge, Batakai designed posters and a manual with beautiful color illustrations showing how to safely handle the lizards before inspection, how to detect the infestation, and how to safely dispose of any infected lizards. (The basic instructions were to hunt lizards wearing gloves, wash the gloves in lye, and burn the infected lizards to ash in a fire that was not used for cooking or socializing.) There were also instructions on how to detect the infection in humans in the early stages, how to treat the infection and prevent it spreading from person to person, and Batakai’s very tasty recipe, using local ingredients, for lizard stew.

“Batakai Stew” became very popular, and is served in ethnic restaurants and on Rejoining Day in the present day. And Batakai’s beautiful and technically accurate drawings (each signed by her) led to Batakai being remembered in stories and history books, with the name of her boss (Professor Urlithigai, emoses) living on almost exclusively as a footnote to her story.

Additionally, the itiikirs parasite has become quite rare. Scientists theorize this is because people in the region made good use of those posters for generations after the war was over. Reproductions of the posters are available, in Empire archives, to be printed if there is a resurgence of itiikirs infections in the local lereterl or any similar lizard population.

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