Taqat is a colorful, lightweight quasi-magical crystal found in the underground citadel of Nich'e. It sits at the cornerstone of the city's identity, integrated into everyday life as not only a practical tool but as a form of coinage in the city's chaotic barter economy. In this article, you'll be able to read a transcript of a lecture given by taqat expert Chanda Tamboli, as well as read about the different forms, grades, uses, and hazards of using taqat.
A general lecture on taqat, as performed by magitech specialist Chanda Tamboli to novice researchers at the Mhasalkar Conservatory in Nich’e, transcribed and made available to the public.
Now before I begin, a disclaimer: I’m not gonna get into the nitty gritty. We’ve got a limited amount of time, so I’ve passed around a cheat sheet so you can read up on the details. Most of you have grown up around taqat, but some of you haven’t and I’ve kept this in mind. It’s got the color grades, the different types, ways it’s used, fun facts, so feel to look at it during and after the lecture.
Anyway, if you’ve walked around Nich’e lately, you’ll notice that taqat is everywhere. Street lamps, food stalls, purses, even the gates outside of the Conservatory. Now for the folks who aren’t in the know, taqat is a tough, colorful, lightweight crystal. Comes in all sorts of colors and sits in your pocket most of the time. A lot of people compare them to diamonds, because they use similar cutting tools in processing, but taqat is a tad more useful. It runs the city’s lifts, helps power devices that clean our water, and a lot of people consider it to be indispensable to their daily lives. A few grams of the red kind is enough to run a stove for a month. Barely a handful and it packs a punch.
“But Tamboli-ji, why haven’t surfacers found these crystals before?” you might ask. Well, outside of the Sud’dha Ksetrom, taqat is extremely rare. Anywhere outside of here, taqat can only be found rooted in deeper parts of the lithosphere. It’s real hot down there. Not a lot of people like it when it gets that hot. Harvesting it is a downright pain in the ass when your skin’s melting off, especially if you’re only gonna get a few bits here and there.
You see, unlike most crystalline structures, taqat is plant-like. You stick it in a rock and give it enough heat--like magma level heat--it’ll grow through the rock like roots through soil. The original bit is called a core, and the bits that come out of them are called veins. But it grows real slow, takes a lot of time outside of the Sud’dha Ksetrom, longer than most of us live. Inside the Ksetrom, though--like out in the Ranivana and all the way down in Karthal--it grows fast, and it grows big. But bigger isn’t always better. There are real nasty problems that come with taqat and even more problems when it gets that big.
Taqat is what we call quasi-magical. In layman’s terms, it’s weird. Your average everday magic gets crazy around it and creates what we call a chaos factor or CF. Higher the grade or the bigger it is, higher the CF. That’s why we have a protocol here at the conservatory to use specially treated gear when handling the big pieces, just like the miners who get the raw, unprocessed stuff. That’s also why the Chancellor won’t let anybody shoot magic around the lab like they’re a kid that just discovered pyromancy. It’s a health hazard. Don’t do it.
You’ll also find that most of the stuff we will be working with today and most of the stuff in the city has been pre-processed and treated. That’s because the raw stuff is dangerous to be around, unless you’re andheran, in which case it’s only slightly less dangerous for you. And while I’m on the topic: don’t eat it, drink it, sniff it, snort it, or whatever you guys are into. You’re gonna think it gives you superpowers for about half a second until your skin starts cracking open and your legs fall off. In fact, you’ll notice that the first page of your handout is on taqat poisoning, and it’s the first page for a reason.
Now let’s get right to the good stuff, and heart of what we do here at the Conservatory. Way back when, only special shamans could handle the stuff and draw out its power. What we do now is take taqat and make it work for everybody. This is done with the use of conductors--copper, aluminum, along with some other precious metals and alchemical pastes, can be used to channel the energy inside of taqat and lower the CF. In conjunction with certain glyphs, you can even draw out the true power that each grade and color of taqat has. When you start working with larger and higher grades of taqat--like up to the blue and, if you get real good, the black--the more complex your conductors and glyphs will have to be.
“But hey, Tamboli-ji, can I use taqat itself as a conductor for other taqat?” The answer is no, because you will blow yourself up. Spectacularly. And I will have to hang what’s left of your crystallized, mutated corpse in front of the lab as an example to other researchers. However, what you can do is use lower grades of taqat with the appropriate conductors and glyphs in order to stabilize other, larger and higher grades in more complex machinery. You might have been told that clear grades are worthless, but we actually use them quite frequently to create a neutral field for stabilization. Ah, but we’re running out of time, so let’s continue this lesson where you can see some examples. To the lab!
The mishandling of taqat can lead to taqat poisoning. Taqat poisoning is difficult to treat by conventional and magical means, due to the nature of taqat with magic and other energy forms. The effectiveness of these methods varies on a case by case basis, much the same exposure affects individuals differently. However, there are particular manifestations of taqat poisoning that are more easily identified and commonly treated than others.
SHALESKIN / CRACKLING | Long term, unprotected exposure to raw taqat can cause the skin to malform, smoothing the exposed areas, discoloring them, and giving them a texture similar to gemstones. The flesh becomes dry and brittle, forming fissure like cracks that cause it to break and flake off the body very easily. The specific symptoms can vary with different individuals: some have the surface of their skin turn, while others it is their bones or muscle tissue. Generally this requires a great deal of long term, untreated exposure; which is not uncommon with poorly funded mining operations. Further symptoms and long term effects include sudden bleeding around affected areas, stinging pain across the body, short and long term nerve damage, hair loss, tooth loss, and excess fatigue.
CHAMAK | When handling raw taqat, brief skin contact will cause burns, but no lasting damage. However, upon extensive contact without protective gear, the taqat will burn and adhere to skin, allowing the unstable energy transferring through the skin and entering the body. When this occurs, the energy soaks into the blood, causing a condition where the subject’s veins begin to illuminate a neon glow with the color (or colors) of the taqat they were exposed to. At first this causes a brief surge of power that excites the nerves. The energy persists within the blood of the immediate, affected area and spreads outward--since taqat exposure of this kind is typically by the hands or similar extremities, the range is generally around the forearm and can go as far as the shoulder. This can cause anywhere between one to three sets of symptoms to varying degrees of severity depending upon the strength of the taqat and the duration of exposure:
TYPE I: The affected area becomes extremely rigid, as the veins and consequently muscles swell, bulge, and become extremely stiff. This is the most common effect of the three, and is commonly followed by one of the other two symptom clusters. However, it should not be relied upon as an early indicator, as the other types can occur without Type I symptoms.
TYPE II: The blood ‘fizzles’ from heat, but usually enters the beginning stages of Type III symptoms before the blood evaporates from the veins. The sudden, abrupt loss of blood in the exposed region causes a rapid atrophy, discoloration, fatigue, and a shortness of breath. Without immediate treatment, the affected area is likely to die and be lost permanently. Even with treatment, long term nerve damage, weakening of the muscle tissue, and a persistent weakness of the flesh can remain within the victim.
TYPE III: Blood crystallizes and rapidly expands as it becomes solid. The small crystals tear through the veins, muscle tissue, and sometimes into the bone, causing extreme pain, internal bleeding, and bursting of the vessels from the skin. These vessels release partially crystallized, taqat colored blood. Colorful and smooth patches of skin tend to remain after the immediate, violent external and internal damage to the body. It is advised that you see a specialist healer immediately after being in the vicinity of someone who exhibited Type III Chamak symptoms.
MULLUR SYNDROME | Any form of taqat when ingested can cause Mullur Syndrome. Lesions and Type I Chamak develop within the stomach and esophagus, alongside bile poisoning, intestinal bleeding, headaches and severe nausea. Hallucinations, delusions, and memory loss are also very common with this syndrome, along with displays of heightened aggression. If allowed to progress, Type III Chamak can occur along the back and limbs of the afflicted individual. It wasn’t until 23 AO that the syndrome was thoroughly studied and successfully by Dr. Baldev Mullur, though at the cost of extremely dubious methods that resulted in dozens of deaths. To this day, the only effective treatment is to induce vomiting after ingestion, as Mullur Syndrome is difficult to treat once the disease has progressed.
These are various the grades of taqat, ranked from least to most in terms of power concentration and value. Taqat is typically weighed in grams and kilograms, but for ease of conversion we've provided ounce (approximately 30 grams) as the standard weight by which value is determined. Please keep in mind that the value equivalences are only approximate and cannot accurately depict true value in the barter system economy of Nich’e.
HOLLOW | Burnt out taqat with sponge-like holes and an ashen surface, a state that only occurs to taqat separated from its vein. Hollow taqat most benign form of taqat, pretty much useless save for cultivating other taqat, though some alchemists seek out this ingredient for their potions. No one has ever been known to become ill from ingesting hollow taqat, it still helps to be wary. Can be sold to miners, who use this type of taqat as a sort of fertilizer to cultivate existing veins.
Terran Equivalent: 0.4 oz Tin
USD Equivalent: $0.10/oz
CLEAR | Considered the lowest grade of taqat, transparent with faint opal-like streaks in the crystal. It carries a small amount of energy that can be used to emit temporary light and has little commercial value. Hollows out far more quickly than other grades, so is often collected by mine owners to cultivate higher grade veins. The presence of clear taqat and its “neutral” energy is often favored by magitech specialists for stabilization of other grades in more complex taqat-based technology.
Terran Equivalent: 2 oz Tin
USD Equivalent: $0.25/oz
RED | A common, low grade of taqat that emits a vibrant red glow that resembles embers. Often used in devices related to heat, such as lighters, lamps, stoves, or even sewn into clothes to provide insulation. It’s also frequently worn around the necks of rakshasa children as a good luck charm, a symbol of their ancestral fire as they wait for their magic abilities to manifest.
Terran Equivalent: 4 oz Tin
USD Equivalent: $1/oz
YELLOW | A medium grade of taqat that emits a neon yellow glow and faint static. Often used to amplify the conduction electricity, especially alongside metals such as copper. Commonly found in most machines, such as auto bikes, or the electrical lifts found throughout the city. Favored amongst pranksters who enjoy a shocking handshake.
Terran Equivalent: 1 oz Silver
USD Equivalent: $10/oz
GREEN | A high grade of taqat that emits a deep green glow. Often used in devices related to organic growth. Common in Mhasalkar Conservatory greenhouse and in building construction sites to stimulate the expansion of the city’s fungal structures. Has also been known for its use in emergency medicine to quickly heal superficial wounds, albeit with more scarring. A single chunk with a healing glyph is often carried by Ksetrom Outpost Rangers for such instances.
Terran Equivalent: 1 oz Gold
USD Equivalent: $50/oz
BLUE | A high grade of taqat that emits a blue glow. Those with psychic ability will often notice that this particular grade seems to emit a pulse. Larger, raw chunks have been known to interfere with psychic ability. This grade of taqat is most associated with the creation of currents and directing energy. Heavily trained psychics in Ksetrom tribes often use blue taqat as a focus to commune with spirits.
Terran Equivalent: 1 oz Platinum
USD Equivalent: $100/oz
BLACK | An extremely rare and chaotic grade of taqat of a deep black color that emits little to no light. It does not occur naturally and has to be processed from rainbow taqat. According to chayans, it hums a faint but beautiful song. This grade of taqat is strongly associated with the mysterious network, Obsidian, who trades exclusively with it.
Terran Equivalent: 1 oz Rhodium
USD Equivalent: $500/oz
These are the various forms of taqat, ranked in no particular order but present for your convenience.
RAW | Taqat in its natural form is considered the most volatile. It’s common for crackling to occur in the surrounding wildlife where taqat is found, accompanied by increased static and an ozone-like smell. Raw taqat has to be handled carefully by individuals trained in the mystic art or by those who possess the appropriate protective gear and tools. People who handle raw taqat say that it often seems to carry a pulse like a living thing, but that it often fades soon after the vein is mined.
PROCESSED | Raw taqat that is processed and cut by taqat mining facilities and the most common type found within the city of Nich’e. These crystals are safe to handle regularly for extended periods without protective gear, but are still unsafe to ingest. However, the chemicals used to tame taqat also reduces its power. As such, experienced researchers who specialize in taqat’s use often prefer using its raw form in advanced studies.
MOTTLED | Mottled taqat is the form naturally found occurring in nature, with veins that are a mix of the various color grades. Often large cuts of mottled taqat are appraised by specialists for its value before being divided up into smaller, but “pure” chunks. Because it’s difficult for your average person to delineate the true value of a piece of mottled taqat, they are not often accepted in markets.
PURE | Pure taqat is a term used to describe single color crystals after processing and distribution. This is the most common form of taqat accepted as currency in Nich’ean markets. It’s near impossible for single colored veins to occur naturally in the Ksetrom, as it’s near impossible to determine which colors each vein will produce over time. Many have tried to cultivate pure veins through synthetic means, though without much success.
RAINBOW | A very rare form of mottled taqat in which the vein colors are blended together into a resemblance of black opals. When processed it dulls and takes on the opaque appearance of obsidian, earning it the name “black taqat.” Rainbow taqat is said to sing and even entrance miners or other such unfortunate individuals into a hypnotic state, but who believes those old wives’ tales?
PEARL | An opaque, pearlescent type of taqat which grows almost exclusively on the premises of the Mandira in the Sud’dha Ksetrom. It is the only type of taqat that’s known to be benign in its raw form, and has the unique ability to absorb energy from other forms of taqat. This makes it indispensable in the treatment of taqat poisoning. However, it’s also unusually fragile and immediately hollows after its use. One gram of pearl taqat can absorb approximately the equivalent of one gram of green taqat’s energy. Pearl taqat is often distributed freely to those in need of healing by monks to those who visit the Mandira, but some shards inevitably make their way to Kal’bajar for astronomically high prices.
MAGIC & TECHNOLOGY
Taqat can be a double-edged sword in the face of magic. It’s been known to amplify existing magical ability, as well as in some cases imbue those originally mundane with magic--albeit with hefty side effects. At the same time, taqat can prove to be an unpredictable form of interference, distorting or even dampening the magic of those not trained to cast in its presence. However, as stated in Tamboli-ji’s lecture, taqat’s power can be channeled through the use of the appropriate rune conductors and applied to existing technologies in a process called taqat augmentation.
The most common use of taqat in Nich’e is as a form of coinage. Nich’e runs on a chaotic barter system, but taqat has the most stable value amongst most Nich’eans. As higher grades can prove to be dangerous to be stored in large quantities, special banks belonging to various mercantile guilds have emerged in recent years dedicated to this particular task. These banks often work with mining companies and taqat specialists to ensure that taqat is stored safely and securely. Under the careful watch of mercantile guilds like Mayaram and Shamshir, taqat weaves throughout Nich’ean markets with relative ease.
Taqat is not only a centerpiece of Nich’ean magic and its economy, but permeates its day to day rituals. For the magically inclined, taqat laced belongings are not only a practical accessory but a sign of status and power. However, color grades themselves also have their own unique symbolism. Red taqat is present at coming of age ceremonies for rakshasa, symbolizing the eternal fire of their ancestors. Blue taqat finds a home at the altar in funerals, its psychic energy synonymous with connection to lost loved ones whose bodies have turned to ash in cremation. Green is given with wishes of fertile home and sought for connection to the wilderness, yellow taqat jewelry worn to energize the self and ward off melancholy. A bit of clear taqat is brought on journeys to attract good favor, luck from faeries, and ward evil eye. Black taqat is seen as a double edged sword--a sign of fortune, but also an omen of downfall.
Though it’s not to say these are prescriptions for how taqat is to be used, but do keep it in mind as you navigate the city, not as a researcher but as one moving part amongst many.
The first thoroughly recorded use of taqat in Nich’e only appears in written accounts a few decades after what religious scholars believe was the creation of the Sud’dha Ksetrom. Its presence is seen as one of its many gifts, changing the way Nich’eans developed their magi-technologies. The taqat boom invigorated the settlement’s economy--paired with the presence of a stable food source as well as sea access, the once hodgepodge refugee settlement bloomed into a trading post and even managed to recover from a war that devastated the rest of the Terran Depths.
Originally, it was only trained mages and shamans who used and handled taqat regularly, especially those with powerful psychic ability. However, with the discovery of conductors, glyphs, and refinement of the taqat augmentation process, taqat became accessible to even the most unmagical layman. The creation of protective gear enabled the development of complex mining operations, and with its mass proliferation came the growth of mercantile guilds and their respective banks. And now, with new contact with the outside world, taqat is garnering interest from researchers and businessmen alike.
Though most assume that taqat can only be found in Ksetrom, there has been evidence of very minute amounts of taqat scattered down deep within the Terran Depths. One must wonder if its presence lingers in other lands across the seas.
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