Iceland Spar (sunstone) question

The main plot in my side project (fantasy novel) involves the main cast being set up to plan and carry out an elaborate heist for the Jarknasteinn, a carved piece of Iceland spar or a sunstone.. Apart from needing it to navigate somewhere, why would you plan a heist for Iceland spar?

It’s staggeringly valuable, for any of a host of reasons: exceedingly rare gem, nobody knows how to carve it any more, the work of an ancient race that’s long lost to us, doubles as a lava lamp…

The classic bit would be for it to be just one part of a greater thing, all of which are exceedingly rare (if not unique) and hard to come by.

The person who currently owns it is Evil Incarnate and the party might well want to rip him off even if all they got was his collection of owl masks. I mean, who doesn’t like owl masks?

The owner has a competitor, and this is his way of counting coup. The party doesn’t even realize until they get their hands on it that it’s that Jarknasteinn; up until now, they always thought that Jarknasteinn was the name for a traditional Dwarven drinking mug, and everybody has one or two over their fireplace for when guests come over, but this one? This one freakin’ glows.

Say, the center piece of an elaborate piece of jewelry with a connection to an ancient society? When completed, it will fit into a mysterious mosaic, and the double-refraction property of the sunstone will be the key to a Raiders-esque revelation.

It’s your story, you tell us.

LOL at “doubles as a lava lamp.” :smiley:

My campaigns tended to have silly bits in them. Once upon a time, they found themselves travelling through The Valley of the People who ate Very Hot Food.

I wouldn’t have started this thread if I knew why.

Also, Ethilrist, what games did/do you play?

D&D 1-4, Champions, Fantasy Hero, Twilight 2000, GURPS, Rift, Torg, Stalking the Night Fantastic, Dragonquest, and Runequest.

This is not necessarily as silly–or at least, as unrealistic–as it sounds. Names for various peoples have often been “assigned” by neighboring peoples, and may in some cases have been shorthand descriptions of visible distinctions or customs peculiar to the named group. The Osage called the Sauk “the Hard to Kill People”, and I recall a (possibly apocryphal) claim that their name for the Cherokee meant something like “Thing On Their Heads People”, a reference to customary headgear. If you have a valley where a very spicy pepper grows and the locals eat a lot of it, it would not be surprising if their neighbors called it something that amounts to the name you gave it. (Though it would likely be somewhat briefer in the original language. Valley of the Chiliheads, perhaps.)

Ordinary Iceland Spar Crystal, maybe not. But say this one piece has chemical impurities that give it a specific quantum-mechanical (bullshit) property. It can be built into a “crystal set” that will read minds, or let you view eight seconds into the future, or something else screwy.

The team of adventurers has learned this before the world’s major universities have, but they know that MIT will figure it out in the next five days, so they’ve got five days to snag the crystal.

This is how I’d run it in a game session…

Trinopus, thanks! Maybe it can serve as a light-source on its own (like the Silmarilli in Tolkien) or tell who’s more suited to a particular position through its foretelling abilities. Maybe it glows especially bright or gets very hot or something.

Also this happened:Alderney sunstone discovered

Iceland spar isn’t really rare – I’ve seen big chunks of it, and have a small piece of it myself.
Iceland spar is only the most recent candidate from the “sunstone” of the sagas. Before this they used to think that cordierite might be the sunstone.
As for what you’d use it for – Iceland Spare separates the two polarizations of light – literally displacing the image of one polarization from the other. Even if you don’t realize the two images are different polarizations, it’s interesting to see two completely separate images of what the stone’s been placed on.

You really do learn something new every day on SMDB. I had no idea about cordierite as the sunstone before.

Exactly! It’s your “Maguffin” (spelling various) and so you can do what you want with it. There’s a wonderful freedom to writing fantasy. But “with great power comes great responsibility.” Fantasy has rules of its own, almost as strict as the rules of science fiction. The fantasy explanation has to have dramatic plausibility. It has to ring the right emotional and mythic chimes in the reader.

I get the sense that your story is going to be “Urban Fantasy,” i.e., it’s in the “real world,” but with some magical or mystical elements stuck in. Obviously, just glowing in the dark isn’t enough of a power for the stone, since a l.e.d. from Radio Shack can do that. That this thing is sought after by a crack team of adventurer-burglars means that it must have some unique property that the reader will appreciate.

Urban Fantasy is my personal favorite, by the way. I’m a pretty good reader and can offer critiques that aren’t totally offensive, so, if you’d like a reader, send me a PM! At least two other SDMB writers can vouch for my good faith.

(The Harry Dresden books aren’t my absolute favorites of the genre, but they are decent examples of the “Urban Fantasy” concept.)

It’s actually YA medieval fantasy with a Dickensian element. Think Chronicles of Prydain but with a Norse/Icelandic basis (the legendary sagas/Norse myths and legend instead of Celtic mythology as inspiration). Combine that with a Dickensian urban Industrial Revolution setting as in Oliver Twist and you basically get what I’m aiming for. So yeah basically “Old Norse society meets the 1830s in a fantasy world with berserkers and dragons.” The protagonist is a kid who’s a bit like the Artful Dodger in OT (complete with being raised by a dwarvish fence/Fagin) except that he’s also the typical saga hero (at least that’s what I want to happen) performing incredible feats and having a different morality than people in the 21st century would.

It’s Dungeon Punk. Not a common genre but the best way to explain it is to take the standrad fantasy setting from those games you mentioned and combine those tropes with aspects of medieval Iceland and Dickensian London along with exploration of medieval Scandinavian (and general Christian European) racism and anti-Semitism (eg “Old Icelandic Homily Book” and the blood libel along with the famous depictions of “Finns” or Saami people in the fornaldasogur) For example what if Bill Sikes was a beserker and Fagin was a dwarf?

Do you mind reading YA medieval clockpunk fantasy?

EDIT: clockpunk/dungeonpunk

Another edit: games Ethilrist mentioned. Sorry my brain’s melting into mush right now.

Three ideas spring to my mind :

The simplest one : “It’s mine”. That’s about it. People can get cranky about private property, dragons moreso. Maybe that stone was part of some ancient being’s treasure trove, got nicked and whoever it belonged to wants it back because fuck everything, it’s mine, that’s why.

A more involved one : IIRC sunstones were used by Vikings for navigation and charting. I draw a blank on the specifics, but they basically were a primitive/magical key to longitude (or was it latitude ? Which is the difficult one ?). Well, say this one and no other in all of Christendom (Because) is said to not only let one chart the seas of Midgard, but also Jotunheim and Niefelheim and all the other 'heims.

The less original one, inspired by CalMaecham’s input: maybe this particular sunstone has the precise albeit forgotten/unique specs (size, cut, width, crystalline composition…) to be able to diffract light between this world and the next, i.e. gaze into it and you get to see ghosts, or Valhalla, or what’s there superimposed with what’s really there, that kind of thing. In the D&Dest of terms, maybe it’s a Gem of True Seeing.