Lore: Summerset – Sload
Couldn’t quite let the Sload thing go, decided to come back and explore further.
“Sload.” In my decades in Tamriel, I’ve heard the word, but never really tracked it down. Sload, the Coral Kingdom, Thras, the Coral Tower… those are all familiar, but I didn’t know what / where they were. A Sload npc was featured in the game Redguard, but that’s the one I missed.
During the Summerset promotions, I heard reference to the Sload as enemies of the Altmer, not as invasives creature like dreugh, but as an organized force with tactics and magic. That was super confusing. Are they people, or are they monsters, I kept asking.
Answer: yes. They are people-monsters.
Let’s start with a picture:
Yeeeeeeeah. I’m sticking with my “salt & flamethrower” plan. Who knew Jabba the Hutt had descendants on Tamriel?
And now I’m gonna have that laugh in my head all day. Good job, Zells.
(Turns out the Jabba look is totally intentional. While researching, I found that Michael Kirkbride said Jabba was an inspiration when he was creating the Sload. Also, the name is a portmanteau of slug and toad.)
History, life cycle, habits, and more after the cut. The “life cycle” part includes “grubs”; don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The coral kingdoms of Thras […] are home to a godless tribe of beastmen called the Sload. These amphibious slugmen, perhaps the most hated race in all of Tamriel, were long thought to be extinct. […] Sadly, it has been reported Thras has risen again, and its masters, the Sload, have recently been seen in various areas of Tamriel. Citizens are encouraged to avoid these beasts, and contact the nearest Imperial authorities when they learn of one’s existence.
– Imperial Geographic Society, Pocket Guide to the Empire and its Environs (1st Edition): The Wild Regions
It is impossible to look at a map and point to Thras, as the kingdom of the Sload is mostly underwater and therefore invisible to land-dwellers. The earliest maps indicate a small island chain, but cartographers and spies have noticed the islands have varied dramatically in size over the centuries, indicating they are exposed and covered by the ocean in turn, by natural or magical means.
The Sload have been at war with the Altmer of Summerset pretty much continuously since the Aldmer arrival on the island. The Sload use coral as their primary building material, and it is assumed that the old coral ruins on the island are their constructions, so it is possible they were at least partly displaced by the elves. They travel swiftly and gracefully via coral passways and through the wreckage of ships as they move, and it is difficult to know the full extent of the kingdom.
Thras has had two Tower-related structures over the course of its history: The Coral Tower, and the Pillar of Thras. Before the destruction of Thras, the Coral Tower was probably an active Tower, but it is no longer. The one-thousand-foot-tall Pillar of Thras appears to be a reconstruction of the Coral Tower, but it does not seem to be an active Tower.
Biology & Traits
Life cycle of a Sload. Okay, let’s do this.
Sload change forms over the course of their lifetimes. As juveniles, they are described as “little amorphous grubs”, and they then grow into octopus-like adolescents called polwygles, who cannot survive on land. As adults they have “no limit to age or size” which is… not comforting. Older adults collapse under their own weight if removed from the water, so only the younger adults interact with outsiders on land.
Is it better or worse that they can only come onto land during certain stages of their lives? I prefer enemies I can see, is the thing, but the whole Sload deal has an iceberg feel about it. Or, like, cockroaches. If ya see one, you have to assume the walls are full of their babies.
On that note, Sload are hermaphrodites, and reproduce asexually. As they pass into the later stages of adulthood, their reproductive organs are absorbed into their bodies and they become infertile. The adults have no emotional attachment to their young – in fact, Sload soap, a potent alchemical creation, is made by the Sload out of baby Sload grubs and polwygles. I’m saying they grind up their babies to make alchemical reagents, yeah.
It would be so much better if they weren’t sentient. The Pocket Guild to the Empire & its Environs, First Edition says they are magically adept, and gives this warning, “All land-traveling Sload know the Recall spell at a high level of skill, and use it casually and frequently as the default mode of travel. It also provides the best defense; they teleport out of difficulty instinctively.”
So the slugs can cast Recall, but I can’t. ::twitches:: (I miss the Recall spell.)
The same source also indicates the Sload have eidetic memories; they can perfectly remember anything they see or hear. On the upside, they cannot grasp tightly, and therefore cannot use tools well. They are also extremely cautious, and usually only take action when they have extensive plans in place.
It is commonly believed they cannot read or write, but we do have one example to the contrary – the book N’Gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! is written in the Sload language by the Sload necromancer, N’Gasta.
I’d rather the slugs not be literate, actually.
It should probably not come as a shock that their odor is considered highly repugnant. In fact, “obscene” is the word used.
As for their elders… well.
One of the few first-hand accounts of the Sload we have comes from a First Era journal kept by a diplomat to Thras, found in the Second Era and passed to Telenger The Artificer, who we know from a few ESO quests. Telenger’s reaction to the journal is documented in the Loremaster’s Archive series in the book A Loathsome Civilization. In it, he attempts to decipher a description of the Sload communing with one of their elders. These are his notes:
…a badly-damaged entry discusses an audience in the submerged tower of an “Elder Distended One.” I can make out little of the discussion between the two, but there are mentions of an “impressively corpulent body and strangely pulsating head,” and three eyes that emerged upon its belly that each “opened again as a toothless mouth, disgorging [unreadable] that the attendants eagerly consumed.” This is the first insight I have encountered into potential cultural leadership among the Sload.
Really. Not. Okay.
Magic / Religion
Ready for it to get worse? The Sload are ardent, accomplished necromancers, so there are dead-but-moving bodies in the water trying to get you, too. People-bodies, but they also raise sea-monster-zombies for defense, because why not? My brain has stopped doing the Jabba The Hutt laugh in favor of The Jaws theme.
The journal by the diplomat I referenced above also expresses frequent disgust at the undead slaves commonly used as servants by the Sload, and mentions they keep undead sea creatures (crabs, turtles, etc.) as pets. That’s a level of necrophilia we have not seen elsewhere, thank the Divines.
(The same diplomat also notes that even the land-based dwellings have several inches of slimy water on the floors, and the food served is composed of molds and fungi. I’m wondering who that dude ticked off to be assigned “diplomat to slugs” duty.)
One of the (many) reasons everyone hates the Sload is that they troll up and down the coasts looking for graveyards and burial sites, then use the bodies for their own purposes. This is particularly a problem for the Redguard, who bury their criminals on islands off the coasts, to prevent their spirits from harming the living. Sload are known to set up laboratories and research centers on those burial places.
The Sload are known to be areligious, but they do sometimes engage in Daedric rituals as business transactions. They are also known to have respect and admiration for Mannimarco, the King of Worms, probably because of his skill with necromancy, and it is assumed Mannimarco has some kind of pact with them. So much of this is not comforting.
In addition to necromancy, it is assumed the Sload are comfortable with weather and sea magic. A journal from a survivor of the All Flags Navy describes foul and terrible storms that grew stronger as the ships approached Thras. The crew heard whispers in the wind and passed through fog heavy with the “stench of rot” and so thick that it reduced visibility, causing ships from the fleet to wreck on the coral and other obstructions.
Returning to Not. Okay., let’s discuss the plague.
The Thrassian Plague first appeared around 1E2200, and was responsible for the deaths of more than half of the population of Tamriel at the time – it’s considered one of the greatest horrors of Tamriel’s history. The Sload used the chaos of the plague to their advantage, looting cities up and down the coasts as well as plundering the graveyards for newly-dead bodies to use in their necromantic rituals.
I haven’t been able to lock this down completely, but in ESO the city of Skywatch is celebrating the Festival of Defiance – I believe the festival honors the city’s survival over the plague and/or Sload attacks. (Give me a shout if you know the exact reason for the festival; I’m sure an npc explains it, but I can’t find the dialogue.)
In any case, it is known Skywatch was under siege by the Sload many times over many years. At one point the city was lost: During a siege, the city was being defended by a group of war mages in the citadel. A Sload alchemist consumed a bunch of volatile concoctions and leapt from a high cliff, causing a huge explosion when he landed, which destroyed part of the citadel, and the city fell.
Skywatch was reclaimed, but the island of Errinorne, easternmost island of Summerset, was held by the Sload for almost a thousand years. After the defeat of the Sload by the All Flags Navy, Errinorne was considered indefensible and was abandoned.
(Whenever any Tamriel location is described as “abandoned”, I assume air quotes are involved. Jus’ sayin’.)
The Sload had been a problem for a long while, but the Thrassian Plague was a Last Straw moment. In approximately 1E2260, the other races allied together and formed the All Flags Navy, sailed to Thras, killed every Sload they could find, destroyed the Coral Tower, and used unknown magicks to sink Thras under the waves. Ta-da! problem solved.
Or so the optimistic version of the story goes.
Here’s the not-so-optimistic version: we don’t know what magick the fleet used to sink Thras because they didn’t – the Sload destroyed the Coral Tower themselves, and sunk Thras on purpose. The resulting whirlpool destroyed half of what was left of the All Flags Navy, and the survivors went home telling of their victory, leaving the remaining Sload to rebuild.
Remember that Sload above who killed himself to break the siege defenders at Skywatch? The sacrifice play is okay with them, and it is widely known they do not have emotional responses in the way the other races do – the cold-blooded (pun intended) decision to kill some of the race so the rest can survive seems to me to be well within their Venn diagram. Particularly if you consider that the ruling elders are hidden, possibly deep under the waves, and the ones we can see are just the kids and younger adults. And we’ve already established they’re willing to grind up their own larvae to make alchemical concoctions, so.
I’m ending with an Easter Egg.
Back in Oblivion, you encounter a creepy little town called Hackdirt. Exploration of the town proves the inhabitants to be cultists of a very Lovecraftian variety, who worship “the Deep Ones”. Amongst their possessions is the Bible of the Deep Ones, which is written in Daedric text. If you translate the Daedric alphabet back into English letters, the result is the (indecipherable) text of the one Sload book we know to exist, N’Gasta! Kvata! Kvakis!, written by the Sload necromancer N’Gasta.
The Sload have worshipers. Fantastic.
So what we’ve got is: Slug + Toad, marinated in Jabba the Hutt, covered in zombie sauce, and served with a side of Lovecraft. What’s not to love?
Salt and flamethrowers, people. Salt. And. Flamethrowers.
I’ll see you on the shores of Summerset next week, provided my ship doesn’t crash into the reefs and/or the captain doesn’t get eaten by zombies. 3 days!
And here are my reference sources, most of which are linked above.
General Lore Pages
All Flags Navy: http://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:All_Flags_Navy
Coral Tower: http://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Coral_Tower_(Thras)
Pillar of Thras: http://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Pillar_of_Thras
Sload: http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Sload – very thorough page with lots of links
The Lost Fleet: http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/The_Lost_Fleet
A Loathsome Civilization by Telenger the Artificier – https://www.imperial-library.info/content/loathsome-civilization
Auridon Explored, Chapter III – description of the abandoned island of Errinorne http://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Auridon_Explored,_Chapter_III
Journals of Tsona-Ei – the whirlpool that destroyed Thras and half the attacking navy was a magical disturbance as well as a natural one. At least one of the ships that sunk was pulled into Coldharbour (probably more), and is included in the wreckage of The Lost Fleet in the Fist of Stone region. Tsona-Ei’s journals, in four parts, describe the creation of the All Flags Navy, its attack upon the Sload, and the passage of his ship into Coldharbour. The journals can be found in and around The Lost Fleet, and through the associated quest.
Mannimarco – https://www.imperial-library.info/content/mannimarco
N’Gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! – https://www.imperial-library.info/content/ngasta-kvata-kvakis
Pocket Guide to the Empire’s Environs, First Edition: Wild Regions
Pocket Guide to the Empire’s Environs, Third Edition: Thras