I collect succulents, so after lunch my wife and I had a walk around, to see what was new in stock. We saw an interesting little thing, like a tall aloe, and I bent to read the little plastic tag upon it.
“Dragon tree”, it said.
“I can use that”, I thought.
So I bought the dragon tree, and began my research.
There’s a huge pile of folklore about the dragon tree, and it connects to other interesting pieces, so soon I had enough to write an article. I couldn’t really see a way to fit it into Ars Magica, because the Canaries are, in a very real sense, the edge of the Mythic World. Then Ancient Magic was announced and I thought “I wonder if David will take this?”
Features that suited me strongly, from the accumulated folklore, included:
- Their limitation to the Canaries.
- Herakles seeking the Golden Apples.
- Herakles as accidental creator of the trees.
- Herakles dying from the touch of the blood from which the trees grow.
- Ladon as the progenitor of the trees.
- The cinnabar resin from the trees as a medicine. Notice that its use in incense did not occur to me at this time, although it plays a role in Rival Magic.
- Ptolemy’s Zero Longitude.
In my first ever Ars Magica game, the first NPC I created was a hydra called Ladon turn up to eat the satyr horns the player characters had collected, since they were excessively valuable. I loved making him an offical character, even if he was much changed in the process.
My parents visited me later and I told them this story.
Then my mother said to me “That’s not a dragon tree.”
Next time they visited, they bought me a real dragon tree.
Later, I was reading Marco Polo and he said “The sorcerers of Soqotra are the most powerful in the world.” I researched Socotra, and on the cover of the first book was a dragon tree. I knew I needed to write about them.
And so that’s how two Ars Magica books started with a tiny piece of nursery plastic.