Salterra sickness


Remedy is a story of medical drama. Mostly because of the gripthia, which strikes aemet villages in sudden epidemics — but there’s also the minor player, salterra.

Salterra is a ferrin illness, and a genetic one. “A demon that clings to family lines”, Aligare folk say. It makes sticky fluid accumulate in the airways, causing coughing and breathing difficulty in young kittens — sometimes severe enough breathing difficulty to kill them.

Steam and herbal medicines can ease the symptoms and save lives. If a salterra-afflicted ferrin survives to adulthood, they’re out of the woods. The symptom left is lower fertility than normal. If that ferrin tries to have children, they’ll have moderate difficulty concieving and a smaller litter of kittens than usual, maybe only two or three. That’s why I called the sickness salterra: it salts a person’s earth, making it harder for them to grow children of their own bloodline.

In Remedy, salterra adds another layer to Peregrine and Tillian’s complex relationship. Peregrine promised to look after his first earferrin’s family line, which took on a greater significance when that first earferrin’s mate brought salterra to the bloodline. Long-lived Peregrine and his mate Giala have tended several litters of ferrin kittens and helped them survive. They set pails of water on the hearth fire and sat up late with coughing kittens.


“Most of your litter took herbed steam for three weeks.” Peregrine swallowed; the motion didn’t loosen his tongue any. “Wellis needed the steam longer that. It wasn’t as trying for him as for your mother, though.”

A pause – like Tillian could taste the vinegar of understatement, or imagine the way Kelria had nearly smothered to death – and she squirmed deeper into Peregrine’s feathers. “The steam really helped us?”

Their breathing had seemed to flow easier after a steam treatment, to Peregrine’s panic-sharp senses, but he had never once asked a Redessence kitten. He was too busy with the thought that they might choke so soon and never have their chance to live – Ambri help them, it wasn’t fair.

Remedy, a story of Aligare, Chapter 9


It only adds to Peregrine’s burden of guilt. He doesn’t see this as just saving sick kittens’ lives; somewhere in his deepest-buried thoughts, he believes that these friends wouldn’t be sick at all if he hadn’t asked them to be hearing assistants to a deafened miner. It’s another imposition Peregrine has made. And since Tillian was sick when she was small, she’ll have a hard time having a litter if she decides to do that. That’s just one more reason Peregrine wants to push her away, so she’ll stop being an earferrin and find a life that’s really hers. (Not that Peregrine wouldn’t look after Tillian’s kittens if they carry salterra. He’d just think angsty, angsty thoughts and not tell anyone about them.)

I added salterra as a parallel to the main gripthia plotline. Both sicknesses force a person to rely on the generosity of others or else they won’t be able to draw another breath. Relying on others is how Aligare society works, but usually not in such an immediate way. It’s an element I added to early drafts as an experiement, and hey, salterra ended up being another serving of food for thought.

One Comment on “Salterra sickness”

  1. […] Salterra sickness ( […]

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s