Endless Blue – Week 54 – The Nature of Kelaguen   2 comments

Chemistry

The Nature of Kelaguen

Kelaguen is the “wonder yeast” that revolutionized aquaculture (aquatic agriculture) and serves as the basis of the culinary arts.  Used extensively by the toothless Locanth for five Ages, it is a fungal derived substance based heavily on the compound lignin.  Its introduction into early Known World populations was key in the rise of more than one culture into the ocean nations of today.

Lignin in plants is used to bind their cells together, and is most notable for forming the familiar stiffness of plant stems (though it can be found in all parts of a plant).  Seaweed is normally poor in lignin, containing 60% less than its dry land equivalents, which makes it quite receptive to an increase in the level of the compound.  To the aquaculturists of ancient Elqua, this discovery was a breakthrough they needed to support a hungry, growing populace.

By introducing kelaguen into a strain of plant, it permeates the cell wall and bonds the desired additional compounds.  It is this mechanism that allows culinists to infuse plants with potion-like properties, but also protects the plant during transport by essentially forming it’s own protective carrier.  Depending on the concentration, the consistency of a kelaguen modified fruit would range from tenuous like berries to the near toughness of wood.  The balance between tenderness and ruggedness is the sign of a great Culinist.  When using kelaguen to denature (cook without heat), the additional compound is an acid that works between individual cells, breaking the non-kelaguen lignin connections.

Acari plants are the easiest to manipulate with kelaguen, and even a culinist’s apprentice is capable of producing acari with kelaguen in it.  However, it takes a greater skill, and some would argue an innate gift, to further infuse properties into a kelaguen grown fruit.  For those pisceans, an intimate understanding of the yeast-like substance is essential.

Grades of Kelaguen

Kelaguen harvesting has been referred to as “the most vital profession to progress in all the Ages”, and it is hard to argue that point.  Though hardly as glamorous an occupation as packbreeder or culinist, Elquan society as it exists would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of those honest fungi farmers.

Bountiful — This is raw kelaguen, found naturally in the seas of Elqua.  It is the stock version of the fungi — the basic compound that all other versions are grown from.  Until a Culinist has a few levels under his belt and can produce enough of her own stock, she will usually end up purchasing additional doses of bountiful grade kelaguen as a material component in making infused fruit.

Commercial — Commercial grade kelaguen is the most common strain, and is found in most any kitchen for denaturing food to make it more edible.  It is usually packaged by the “hour”, signifying the amount of commercial grade kelaguen needed to “cook” a meal (for one) for one hour.  It is also the basis of telling time at depths that sunlight cannot penetrate the waters deeply enough.

Potent– As the name suggests, potent grade kelaguen is the most active of kelaguen strains, possessing the most (re)active properties.  It is typically used for fermentation due to the speed and efficiency it converts sugars into alcohol.  However, it makes a poor strain to use for Culinists wanting to infuse acari fruit, as it actually weakens the rubbery consistency of the fruit skin, making any infused fruit produced with it extremely fragile and prone to rupture (which ruins the magical properties).

Preservative — Extending the time that denatured food lasts aids in freeing the individual’s efforts in survival.  Preservative grade kelaguen is a dead-end strain, killing the infused plant upon reaching it’s preservative properties.  It is a costly process and in the end ruins the taste of the meal, but sometimes it is a necessary sacrifice.  It finds more use in the hands of a Resurrectionist as a funerary preparation of bodies, usually to alleviate the bereaved Olyhydran’s fears of their loved one’s remains becoming food for the fishes.  However, such treatment makes the body more buoyant, further increasing the costs in weighting the corpse down enough to sink (of which the Church of Olyhydra takes a nominal percentage in the form of a holy “descension tax”).

Resilient — Having little use outside of alchemy, resilient grade kelaguen is used as a catalyst in alchemical research and experimentation.  As a catalyst, its positive qualities are the resiliency and consistency of its alchemical reactions, with little to no residual by-products after the initial reaction.  It is the base ingredients in one of the two compounds that form bluelight, the non-thermic light source used by most of the Known World.  The existence of this compound filled the role of picric acid, as the under sea environment hinders the acid’s effectiveness.  This helps explain the distinctive absence of any manipulable form of explosive by Elquan alchemists, since wet picric acid stabilizes the compound against  detonation.

Distillation without Heat

Fermentation is easily facilitated with the application of kelaguen, but further refinement is a bit more tricky.  Normally, distillation is accomplished by heating the fermented mixture.  Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, applying medium heat to the mixture will make the alcohol evaporate.  Placing a cooler funnel over the steamed alcohol causes the gas to condense on the funnel, which can then drain down into another receptacle, thus strengthening the final product.

This kind of set up is near impossible under the waves, as fire is difficult to produce.  While hydrothermal vents are present on the ocean floor, the Lumulus control most of the accessible ones and the consumption of spirits is alien to them. However, another means of distillation is possible, in just the opposite manner as boiling — by freezing.

This method requires the alcoholic mixture to be dragged down to extremely lower depths of the ocean, to a point where the water in the mixture freezes.  The alcohol content will remain liquid because just as its boiling point is lower than water’s, so is its freezing point.  Once the water content has frozen, the resultant liquor can be drained into another container and the process can be repeated (for purity) or extended to deeper depths (for strength).  So long as the temperature remains above the freezing point of alcohol (so long as it remains above the negatives), the process works, though it is time-consuming.

2 responses to “Endless Blue – Week 54 – The Nature of Kelaguen

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 78 – Whispered Secrets in the Deep Sound Channel | Endless Blue

  2. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 110 – Elqua Calidus: The World Scalders | Endless Blue

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