In an earlier post, I mentioned the dragons in The Empire’s Edge are an indicator species. What does that mean? An indicator species is an animal (or plant) that shows the effects of environmental change by a noticeable drop (or increase) in population or health. Peregrine falcons are often pointed to as an indicator species in the use of pesticides for mosquito control, for example; DDT controlled mosquitoes well but with each subsequent predation up the food chain the chemical became more concentrated in the predators’ body tissues until at the top of the chain (the falcons) the result was insufficient calcification of eggshells and a severe drop in population. In the case of the mountain wyrms:
“…the climate change was not his imagination. The northlands grew colder each year. The wyrms favored warmer climates and no longer bred this far north.”
Obviously, climate change (let’s not argue the elephant in the room of AGW, shall we? That is not our topic of discussion here) is not in the hands of the humans of this pre-industrial nation; yet an animal that winters in cave systems used by humans for industry is in real peril. When that industry is wrought by a neighboring kingdom over which you have no control, what do you do? Wars were started for less.
I based the mountain wyrms’ plight on that of the insectivorous bats of our world. “Bats? Ew!” you say. Not so fast—how fond are you of mosquitoes? You know, the ones that endangered the peregrine falcons due to how we need to get rid of them? A single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in one hour. In the United States, our bat species often hibernate and breed in cave systems. Bat Conservation International (http://www.batcon.org/) has issued a call to action for a solution to “white nose syndrome,” a fungal infection that has killed millions of hibernating bats and is spreading fast—possibly due in part to human exploration of these cave systems as the spores can travel on shoes and clothing. Search their website for information on the dangers of wind-powered electricity generation as well as safety closures of abandoned mines—both are responsible for declines in bat populations.
The mountain wyrms face similar peril. My hero and heroine race to find a solution that will make both sides happy—the state-sanctioned harvest of ore from delicate habitats—needed to support the war effort with a southern border enemy—and the army marching upon them from the north, the Cochet Empire. To the Cochet, the mountain wyrms are sacred representations of their god; if the wyrms die out, so will their culture. Conservation of this important animal must begin immediately, even if it is economically non-viable to do so. Blood will be spilled over it.
*insert rumble of taiko drums* To hear and see a demonstration of kumidaiko by the taiko drummers of Kodo, go here: http://tiny.cc/pa5t3
As a sci-fi/fantasy fan and author, Kelly believes the best stories contain the human element of romance. Scribbling pieces of stories into spiral notebooks since first grade, she became serious about the craft of writing in 2001. Her dream is to see her work on the bookstore shelf next to Anne McCaffrey's. In her free time, this former zookeeper crochets, knits, quilts and gardens – badly. "I'm better with words than with plants," she says. Kelly lives in Oregon with her husband and daughter. Visit her on the web at www.kellymccrady.com