Colors Fic Snippet: Baby Salamander

Been working on getting our heroes into the bad stuff before I fish them back out of it… Have a bit of Jason starting to realize how the deep water is. So to speak.

Mary followed my gaze, eyebrows hopping up at the foot-long dark brown slither with tiny blue spots that was experimentally mouthing the toe of my left shoe. She almost squeaked. “A salamander?”

“An eft,” I started to say; stopped. “Nope, nope that’s the land stage, right… see the red fringes on the neck? Those are gills. It’s a larva. A baby.”

“A baby giant salamander.” Mary stared at the larva as it climbed onto my foot, top of its speckled head just barely out of the water. “But we’re not in Japan!”

“No, don’t think so,” I agreed, as it eyed my shoelaces. Those apparently tasted even worse; it chomped a tip just once, croaked like a tiny puppy, then s-curved back on itself and flicked away into deeper water.

There was more, larger splashing; I ignored it, slowly sitting up while I tried to work out why the sight of a harmless amphibian was scaring me to death.

It shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t be here.

“Giant salamanders are up in cold rivers,” I muttered; still keeping my voice down, I was spooked. “They need oxygen.” Something saltmarsh water was usually low on. What the heck was a giant salamander doing here?

For that matter, where was here? I’d seen pictures of giant salamanders, even larvae; looking up things Tokugawa Japan had had in common with the contemporary United States led you down all kinds of odd research paths. So I did know giant salamanders. They were brown. Maybe tan with a little near-gold speckles, if you looked at the ones that hung out near redwoods. Which, hey, California, what do you expect?

But all the species I’d ever heard of lived in cold lakes and headwaters, where they blended in under rocks and fallen logs. They didn’t do saltwater, or even brackish. And they did not have blue spots.

And… there was some kind of raspy breathing, getting closer. “Wait, what did you say – who took the luggage-?”


30 thoughts on “Colors Fic Snippet: Baby Salamander

  1. :looks up blue spotted salamanders:
    “The cutest member of the salamanders-”
    Now that is difficult. (either because, like me, you find them adorable– or because they are amphibians)

    Liked by 3 people

      1. ….oh, dear, I think I just guessed what is going to show up, given salt marsh and what looks like a baby salamander…..

        (Guessing he may have a cousin that lives in a sinkhole in Sussex.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. he has sharp eyes to identify a juvenile salamander and realize that the habitat is wrong for the species. They need to back slowly out of the area and try to look for a second problem. One of anything can be an accident, two starts looking like a pattern.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. There are a lot of variations of this. I also heard “once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, a third time is enemy action”. Its just once could be a fluke, your eyes could be deceiving you, your memory or your brain was wrong — twice starts looking like confirmation, a third time is almost definite.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. :vouches: I haven’t caught them repeating any of the nonsense “everybody knows” things– they actually use the available research tools to check stories before they put them up, so they’re a great starting point.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. D’aww. Distraction via baby salamander.

    I am curious though. You said Jason’s a historian right? Why would a historian be able to discern “well, this isn’t the right place for this species” almost immediately? That seems more a biology/ecology/environment thing. Is herpetology a hobby of his? Or does he branch out from strict history into geography, geology, and other natural things that can influence how events occur?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Amphibians can’t live in salt-water” and “Salamanders need cold streams” are both thumbnails that tend to stick, especially when you find out that the five foot long freaking salamanders in Japan live in mountain streams. 😀 (one of the possible inspirations for kappa, since they do eat small mammals, given the chance)

      And saltmarshes are notorious for not having a lot of oxygen– that’s why you can get such awesomely preserved stuff out of them.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. we don’t know how immediate things are, really

      he may have been internally mind dumping for a while based on what, how, etc.

      the prospect of hanging can concentrate the mind wonderfully, and you can pull out a lot of stuff you weren’t aware of, if you have time to think while you are calm

      If Jason is good at calm, that can carry him over a lot of story.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. If you study the history of Early Modern Japan, you end up studying all of the above. The Tokugawa Era’s food supply (and thus a lot of its economics and internal strife) was heavily influenced by the Little Ice Age, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis…. Another influence was folklore and sightings of monsters, and the salamanders fit into that.

      And if you expand out from Japan to the rest of Northeast Asia, China, and Korea, you really need to have environmental history under your belt. The ginseng trade alone was massive!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If there is a concern about plausibility of what he can recall, it might be possible to prepare a section of story bible for that.

    As well as, show him recalling information one way, thne, later show him having accidently falsified the memory.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. freakish human minds can do very amazing things

        natural abilities stacking on top of long developed skills, etc

        it is just that pretty much no single mind does a very good job of appreciating the full range of possibility that can come from human minds

        I myself am a lot better at minds that work very closely to my own.

        Fiction need not restrict itself to characters who only have minds that we frequently see ‘in the wild’.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Put it this way.

        *Sees random part number/mailbox sign number with well over 5 digits.*

        *Starts going through the primes to figure out how it factors.*

        *Hits 23 and still poking number.*

        “Ah yes. Aspirin time, I probably have a fever….”


  5. Which Salamander is this that lives in a salty lake.? Google isn’t helping me! I did find some references to young salamanders tolerating salt runoff from roads.
    On natural animal disasters what about having the magical equivalent of the Australian Emu war?
    Personally I think having a flock of attack chickens would be hilarious on film, but a fantasy universe would just start getting out the chicken and dumpling recipes.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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