(Image comes from artist David Melvin’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)
In 2007, Dragon #352 did a massive feature on China Miéville’s Bas-Lag novels. This was my introduction to Miéville. In the years previous, while I had never completely abandoned fantasy novels, I’d lost touch with the genre in a big way. (My New Yorker subscription alone demanded constant attention, as did a stack of lit fic novels and short story collections.) One read of this feature was enough to send me to the store for Perdido Street Station, and I’ve been deep in the fantasy wilds ever since (if mostly in audio form). A massive part of the appeal of Perdido Street Station’s dungeonpunk setting was its races, including the cactus-like cactacae, and a major set piece of the novel involved infiltrating the cactacae’s greenhouse-like sanctuary. If you dug these creatures, Dragon #352 didn’t disappoint—they were a playable race.
Pathfinder doesn’t have cactacae, but it does have saguarois. They might be even tougher than their 3.5 forebears—they are able to eject a barrage of needles from their bodies—and potentially kinder—as their watery blood can sustain lost travelers in the desert. In general, they are best treated courteously and then treaded carefully around. Desert folk in general have long memories, and saguarois live for hundreds of years…which means if you cross one, your descendants for the next seven generations or more had better watch out.
Fleeing a pale stranger beyond their skill to defeat, adventurers take refuge in saguaroi tribal lands. Unfortunately, the banker they were hired to protect is wanted by the saguarois for mortgaging their lands to settlers without compensating the cactusfolk. The adventurers’ contract is to protect him against the undead menace, but they likely won't get paid if they just let the saguarois have him either.
Gnomes and saguarois live as one people in the Tablelands. They are noted slayers of desert bugbears and lesser dragons. One tribe, though, has given itself over to the Yellow Mark, and they draw great swirling sigils and disturbing pictograms in the earth—at least one of which has been witnessed to sprout tentacles and seize a passing wyvern from the sky.
Saguarois are a favored sailors and galley slaves among the spacefaring nations, especially those who travel in systems with double suns or hot inner ring worlds. Most saguarois think this is because of their strength and hardiness (of which they are justly proud). But get a sailor deep enough in his cups and he’ll tell you that every captain wants a saguaroi on board for the extra oxygen they exhale…and because when push comes to shove, they can be butchered for water in an emergency.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 229
The other day I mentioned a couple unfinished posts I have to tackle, and reader and frequent commenter ohgodhesloose asked:
Totally unrelated, but when you do go back to finish an entry you had to skip, can you link to it in the next current post so we don’t have to wade through and monitor the backlog to find them?
OGHL—*clutches hand to chest*—do you think so little of me? I always do that. Examples here, here, and all over the archive. I wouldn’t leave you hanging.
Finally, speaking of short story collections, my friend and former grad school classmate Damien Ober is in The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015. I’m going to get it; you should, too. After you download this week’s radio show.