"Who remembered us?"

Considerations for Sauntiaq and the Field of Metaphysics

The purpose of this document is twofold: to create a forum for Sauntiaq to anonymously share their experiences with metaphysicists, and to contextualize some of the physical and metaphysical characteristics of Sauntiaq within the shared history of the ash tundra. It is our hope that through the telling of stories, we may promote a better quality of care and awareness for our Sauntiaq neighbors.

Edited by Dr. Sinuk Vauntariaq, from interviews with Hon. “Ashe” Anu. Additional contributions made by his partner and other collaborators who wish to remain anonymous.

With thanks to the Free Companies of the Ash Tundra, the City of Basedt, Lin Dai, North Mountain University School of Sidereality, Court Normunt, Hon. Anu and his husband, Hon. Brun Nakamura, and the ocean black.

Content Warnings: Death, injury, hunger, and persecution.

The God from the Disease, Sian Te, the Saunt, the Sarcophage

A drawing of the ur-snake, creating an infinity symbol as it eats its own tail.

When I woke up, they said “Chin up, mizark. The worst is yet to come.”

I’m not sure what it is. The Manazthati thought we shared some divine sickness with their god, the god from the disease. But I don’t think he’s in control of it any more than we are.

It’s not that strange, is it? Time stops. The sun dies. The dead rise. This might as well happen to us.

Sian te; it is the hunger of the world.

Let me address the myths first:

The disease is not contagious. Sauntiaq cannot create other Sauntiaq through bite or blood ritual or whatever you may have heard. I am not saying this because the risk of transmission is negligible; it is impossible. The world that created Sauntiaq no longer exists. The people that you treat may very well be the last of their kind.

It is not a form of divinity. Sauntiaq may have dilated lifespans from exposure to the eternal storm, but this was a property of the ash tundra that died with the storm. They have been released from its trap, and now age and die normally.

There is no known cure. It is thought that removing the disease from the body would result in death, due to the absence of critical life supporting functions that are carried out by the disease. Though persecution once drove many Sauntiaq to seek cures, this is not common in the present day. The disease itself is benign and easy to manage.


The roots of an enormous, black pine tree. Several human corpses are entwined in its roots with swords and arrows sticking out of them, the unlucky casualties of an armed conflict. One individual rises from death and disentangles themselves from the roots defiantly.

They would tell me, “You have his favor. He has given you a second chance.”

A second chance at what?

She dug herself out of the soot and started walking the same way home. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was like us now, that she had changed.

It used to be that death abandoned us in the ash tundra. Time was mutilated, and those who died there were caught in the twain between life and death, their dying dragged into eternity in each cardinal direction. I know that this is hard for you to comprehend, but you must understand that we are trying to describe something that abuts the limits of language. I have met men who were trapped in their bodies for decades. They watched their loved ones make pilgrimages to see them, but they were unable to speak, or cry out, or even lift their eyes to see them. These things don’t give themselves to definition.

The Sauntiaq are those who escaped the trap. They died in the tundra, but were later revived through the ash sickness, the saunt—whatever you want to call it.[1] I am not sure why this happens. I think it might be beyond our reasoning.

This seems like a blessing to many of you outsiders, but the Sauntiaq were dealt a cruel hand. The ash tundra of old was a mockery of the desert we know today. No plants or animals could live there... The soil was poison, the seasons ran together into an endless winter, and the eternal storm devoured the sun for hours out of the day. Those who didn’t die of exposure often met their end at the hands of their own kin, driven mad by hunger and grief.

This is the world they woke up into. They inherited the knowledge of death, and would soon know the taste of starvation. I am no Sauntiaq, but I have known hunger, so I will tell it to you the best I can.

Editor's Note


Some of you know it as the Sarcophage. In Basedt it is sian te, the saunt, the hunger, the hunger of the world— the disease has many names. Traditionally, some of these were not spoken aloud, or given status in the way that we would normally afford names. The use of euphemisms was common, due to the disease’s association with the the great beast of all men (itself a euphemism for the crow prince, the grave beast, the hungry god, the definitive Sauntiaq—Anu thinks it unwise that I print his name here.)


A drawing of Morgan, stricken by hunger. It is represented here by the ur-snake, which emerges from his mouth to bite at his stomach.

Constant, gnawing.

I got good at distracting myself. Sometimes, when it got really bad, I’d leave camp and take off wherever the tundra would take me. Disappear for days. That kind of hunger changes you.

Everyone hated it when I did that, but they understood. I never wanted to act out against the Companies, they were like family to me… We were all just trying to cope.

Sorry to say we wouldn’t be having this conversation, if you knew me then. I was a piece of work.

We’d eat in shifts. The veterans always let the new recruits eat first, because they knew they could handle the hunger better than we could. I was stunned the first time that happened to me. There’s something thicker than blood, there—a stranger giving up their meal for you, knowing they may never get another one.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it is difficult to find food in a world with no forage or game. There was food—I am living proof of it—but you will not meet many people who are willing to talk about what they’ve done to get it.

Two main sources of food existed in the ash tundra: the ruins of storehouses and ice cellars from the old world, and the holy city Basedt. The former had been run dry by years of scavenging. Those that didn’t stand empty were guarded jealously by the Manazthati, or were locked under the watchful eye of the Free Companies. Casting your lot with them never guaranteed a meal, though. There was never enough.

The City of Basedt, meanwhile, had rich, green gardens and a healthy desert, a healthy tundra. Plants took there. People could live well there. If you could get into Basedt, you would never again have to wonder where your next meal would come from.

And if you were like the rest of us, and couldn’t get in… Nahe, at least you knew where to start looking.

This is where the Sauntiaq get their other name— “hungry ghosts.” Basedt made no effort to discriminate between people like me, who ambushed their Watchmen looking for rations, and those who tried to eke out a good living on the ash tundra. We were all the same to them, woods-touched and monstrous.

Signed, Anu.

I would stop here with a word of caution: Some of you have this concept of “betterness” that is foreign to the tundra. Judge me harshly, but leave the rest of us out of this. We did not have the luxury of choice. You will meet people who did the impossible, and never lifted a finger against one another. Many more had to do the unconscionable to stay alive. It is hard to be “better” when you and your brethren are starving.

What is bitter about this is that the Sauntiaq metabolism is different,[2] but not in the way that Basedtis thought. Sauntiaq are well-equipped to cope with hunger. Far from ravenous ghosts of the storm, they are comfortable going weeks without eating after a good meal. I have known some Sauntiaq to survive years without food.

This is hard to appreciate when the average Sauntiaq was malnourished and underfed. Starvation didn't give way to death, but ceaseless hunger and pain. Eventually, a starving Sauntiaq would return to the state of inertia from which they were born. This was a source of intense grief and fear for many of them, who remember what it was like to be trapped between life and death.[3]

If hunger did not drive a Sauntiaq to distraction, this fear often would. The Free Companies have a phrase for this state, in which Sauntiaq who have gone hungry for too long will do anything to stop the pain: “Stolen self.”

Do not mistake them. This loss of self is not fundamentally different from the behavior of a desperate man, thinking only of his survival. Sauntiaq are no more prone to hunger than any other being. They were made intimate acquaintances with it by Basedti persecution and the horrors of the ash tundra, which prolonged their suffering in a way that you and I cannot comprehend.

Nor do all Sauntiaq share this relationship with hunger. I am aware of some Sauntiaq who experienced hunger as a form of constant, chronic pain with no relief, and others who felt it only as a curtain of numbness. Others experience hunger but paradoxically lose all desire to eat; My partner had no interest in food for almost a year after the onset of the disease. A lucky few have never had to go hungry.

Editor's Note


What Anu is describing here is relatively new to us in the field of Metaphysics. Sauntiaq actually metabolize the metaphysical bodies of their food, in the way that others metabolize physical sugars, fats, proteins, and starches. That is—they eat magic. This is why fresh, raw foods are generally more appealing to the Sauntiaq palate than cooked and preserved foods; a larger portion of the being’s metaphysical 'soul' remains. (Though this preference is not at all shared by everyone. I know Anu’s husband to be a big fan of skaltsleel. I suspect joy may be another critical component of Sauntiaq metabolism.)

It’s thought that the ability to metabolize magic is what allows Sauntiaq to go without eating for long periods of time. Theoretically, a Sauntiaq could subsist on pure magic in the form of god's blood or sacre, but Anu tells me that this was unsustainable in the ash tundra. Those who tried to practice magic found that their soul would “get lost.” Any blood expressed in the form of magic, or otherwise lost from the body would not regenerate. This made practicing most forms of metaphysics unfeasible outside the walls of Basedt.

Editor's Note


With the storm dead and gone, Sauntiaq may now pass on as normal.


The emblem of the Free Companies of the Ash Tundra, which is styled after the scars sustained by their leader Rayet. They are huge and jagged, shaped like the killing teeth of a great beast.

Most Sauntiaq are marked by a distinct form of scar tissue. I do not know the word for this in Satik, but in Sarikote we call it mun, after certain imperfections in our pottery.[4] I have heard some Sauntiaq call them “marks” as well, though this was used by the Stormwall of Basedt and has negative connotations.

Mun are polychrome black, red, and white scars that form from wounds sustained by the Sauntiaq at their time of death. These are tissues left behind by the disease after it begins to take hold. Its onset is signalled by repairs that the body could not have done on its own, which are necessary for the Sauntiaq to function as a living, breathing person again.[5]

Many sketches of the various mun carried by different Sauntiaq. Rayet traces the jagged, teeth-like mun around her neck, which became the emblem used by the Free Companies. Deputy Kabinai has full-body mun which wind like ropes around them. One individual is missing their right eye, where black scars emanate from the wound. The god from the disease himself makes an appearance, with mun styled like tear streaks down his cheeks, as well as various scars winding in and out of his exposed ribcage and talon-like fingers.

Sometimes mun form from grave injuries that a Sauntiaq sustains later in life, as well. The regenerative qualities of the disease are well-documented.

Like hunger, no two Sauntiaq have the same relationship with their mun. This is outside of my experience. I can only retell what I have heard.

They shot us on sight. Called us ghosts and monsters. Do you know how that feels? To lock eyes with a sister from the Watch and realize that she no longer recognizes you?

I don’t envy the ones who can pass among the living. Lot of them deluded themselves into thinking they had a chance at getting into the city. Those stories never had happy endings.

Me? Look at me. The tundra took half my face with it on the way down. But it’s not a bad thing, really. Everyone knows who I am. I don’t have anything to hide.

I got off lightly. You’re the first outsider to recognize it, actually. Most are too polite to ask. Sometimes I think you people wouldn’t know one of us if we got up in the rafters and started howling about the beast.

My wife thinks they’re pretty badass.

Few Sauntiaq will talk about their mun, due to their connection to death or other traumatic life events. This is further complicated by the visibility of some mun, which were used by the Stormwall to identify Sauntiaq out in the field. The City of Basedt had no tolerance for them within or outside their walls.

Many Sauntiaq still conceal their mun in memory of the persecution they faced. Though Sauntiaq are a protected class throughout Asthaom and beyond the ocean black, the existence of this document attests to the lack of awareness that the world has for Basedt and the ash tundra, as newcomers to the global theatre.

Not all Sauntiaq carry mun. Some had internal injuries that did not manifest outwardly, and others succumbed to entirely nonviolent or non-injurious causes of death. Sauntiaq with minor mun or no mun could often pass as non-Sauntiaq among Basedtis, though other characteristics of the disease made this difficult in the long term.

A tiny drawing of an almost completely naked Morgan, who has no mun, and is looking a little befuddled that he had to prove that.

Editor's Note


I asked Anu about this later. He explained that mun is the generic word for ‘scar’ in Sarikote, which is true of my dialect as well. Mun only became associated with the scar tissue of Sauntiaq when Basedt was cut off from the outside world. Interestingly, mun is also used to describe 'imperfections' left behind on Sarikote pottery, such as fingerprints—namely those that remain long after the potter’s time.

Anu paused here to stress that mun is a “thing” and also a “feeling or memory.” That is, mun is both the imperfection and the shared memory of the imperfection, between the maker of the pot, the pot itself, and the person handling the pot.

It’s not known which meaning came first—‘scar" or ‘pottery imperfection’—but its association with Sarikote polychrome leads to a triple-meaning when applied to Sauntiaq. The Sarikote language has another, more obscure word for Sauntiaq, and it is Munaamun: “one who is scar-crossed like a polychrome pot.”

Editor's Note


Anu is disinterested in the argument over whether Sauntiaq are considered alive or not. To this he asks “Is nothing alive [in the eyes of Metaphysics]?”


The Free Companies of the Ash Tundra, gathered all in raucous song.

I miss the days when I wouldn’t bite holes in my tongue.

Many Sauntiaq have long canines. There is no pattern to their growth; some are large and noticeable, others are small and easily missed. I have heard lost teeth can be re-grown.

A few sketches of various Sauntiaq and their teeth. Rayet has relatively small canines, where the god from the disease has large, dramatic, two-pronged fangs. With some convincing, Morgan also shows his chompers, revealing particularly large lower canines.

Like mun, large canines were a trait used by the Stormwall to identify Sauntiaq. This was notoriously unreliable, though. Basedt itself tells a folktale of a woman who was exiled on suspicion of being a Sauntiaq. She was not, but later became one when she succumbed to the tundra.


Morgan at nightfall. The light catches his pupils such that they're illuminated brightly, like a cat's.

The iris is dark and sooty, almost black. There is a film behind the eye that reflects light, like the eyes of night animals.[6]

A comparison between two Sauntiaq's eyes, before and after becoming Sauntiaq. Deputy Kabinai had bright chestnut eyes in their past life, where Morgan had rich, dark brown eyes. Both turned sooty black after death.

The teeth and eyes took the longest to change in a Sauntiaq. Some woke up from death completely transformed, but others experienced the change over the course of weeks to months.

It took us a while to realize. I started losing things, stopped eating, stopped smiling, stopped looking people in the eye. There was never a single moment of clarity… It just rotted in the back of my mind.

But I remember looking at my reflection for the first time in months, and seeing a stranger’s eyes.

Editor's Note


A tapetum lucidum.


Morgan, crumpled up in restless sleep. His nightmares reach out around him, represented by a spiral of greedy hands.

I don’t believe this is a Sauntiaq-specific phenomenon. I have yet to meet a survivor of the ash tundra who didn’t have some form of nightmare-induced sleep disorder. But night terrors are so common among Sauntiaq, even now, that it would be irresponsible not to mention them.

It was the same dream, over and over. I woke up in Basedt and was hunted like an animal.

I don’t really remember them. I would just jolt awake, sometimes, sweating hard.

I dream that I’m other people, it’s always somebody different. Somehow I think it’s going to be fine this time. Then I taste copper, and feel my teeth cutting into the inside of my mouth.

I still have nightmares, you know.

Death of the Storm

A vista of the ash tundra, after the storm lifted. It shows a clear sky and a visible sun, with the horizon sprawling out before the viewer. Ashe, Morgan, and the Caribou God pause to take in the view beneath a stand of black pines.

One day, it all just stopped.

No, I didn’t imagine any of this. When you asked me to participate, I thought “Moq ne, absolutely not.” Why the hell would I want to talk about those days again? In front of a doctor? Fuck you. History should forget us, the world would be better for it.

I was sure I’d say no, but then I stopped and thought about it. I’m mighty lucky to live in a world with people who nurse their wounds and ask “How did we get here?”

I pity you. It was a sight to see—the morning sun rising over Basedt’s crumbling walls. People climbing over the debris, together, to watch the tundra catch light for the first time in 100 years.

I lost most of my life to the storm. You’ll drive yourself into the absent North if you think about it for too long, but I can’t help it. For the curtain to lift at the last second… What is that? Who remembered us?

The storm disappeared as suddenly and violently as the day it arrived. Maybe this is the reason the wounds of yesterday are still fresh for so many of us. We never had closure.

The Sauntiaq that come to you now are grappling with 100 years of unfinished business. Any symptoms that they experience cannot be removed from the context that mothered them, and just at it is true of any other group, there is no one treatment plan for helping them manage their condition. In broad strokes some themes emerge, but we know that this document can only capture a pale shadow of the hardy and diverse spirit of Sauntiaq.

As metaphysicists, you will inevitably find that there are limits to the help you can offer. The Free Companies and other focus groups can provide more holistic care to Sauntiaq in these cases. But to have this conversation, you will need the client’s trust, and that can be painful territory for a people who have had many reasons to distrust doctors and physicians.

I don’t think any of us want your sympathy. But to tread lightly and listen closely—mu lor, that’s everything. If you can get a Sauntiaq to tell their story, the two of you just might get somewhere.

In these cases, Dr. Vauntariaq and I believe that this is your greatest gift: a willingness to listen, and remember.

Signed, 'Ashe' Anu and Sinuk Vauntariaq.