From ancient times the people of Erdasia were familiar with a small animal they called the stylio. Deirhestres of Alzarath writes about it thus: "The stylio is an animal the size of an ichneumon that walks like a lizard but has dark fur that is brightly spotted. It can be found in the hot barren lands of Erdasia, because its coat of fur does not let heat onto its skin. Therefore it is always cold, and will seek all sources of heat, sometimes sleeping so close to a fire that it should catch fire itself, but the fire does not harm it, for its fur is such that it protects it from burning. From its mouth it expels a milky liquid that is a fatal poison; should any of it touch the human body it will cause hair to fall off and skin to break in a rash. Alicorn cannot be used to neutralise such a poison."
The barren lands Deirhestres mentions are a volcanic region in northeastern Erdasia, known as Gahaggan or "ashlands", where much of the land is covered in volcanic ash, and there are several active volcanoes and a great number of hot springs. Erdasians would collect various valuable minerals from the more forbidding parts of Gahaggan, and often came across the stylio. Because of its poison and aggressive nature, they were never captured and brought into local settlements, at least not alive. As a result the animal was obscure in Dar-Isnar, and its description had changed in Sardun's "Of Animals" into a fur-covered lizard that was so cold that it could sleep in a fire and extinguish it. The steliman, as he called it, was also supposed to turn water cold if it entered it. This description may have been affected by its venom, known as syliandra, which would rapidly lower body temperature and cause cold shivers before it killed the victim.
The name of the animal changed into sylamandra or salamander in Ordosian bestiaries, and the description resembled that written by Sardun of Fahistar. Sometimes the salamander would be depicted as a serpent, but usually a lizard resting admist flames. It wasn't until the complete manuscript of Azaios' "The Classification of Animals" was discovered in Ashmerabad that the misconceptions were corrected. Azaios had studied dead stylios, and could not decide whether to classify it with mammals or reptiles. Eventually he created it a kin of its own: Stylaisha. The creature that had caused such bewilderment to an ancient scholar praised as a genius ignited great interest in the diminutive animal. It wasn't long before salamanders were captured, some even making it alive to the United Empire for study.
The salamander did indeed prove to be quite a puzzle. The animal was completely covered in black fur mottled with red and yellow, except for the wide nose and tail which were scaly, but it had no outer ears or signs of nipples. Its gait resembled that of a lizard or a crocodile, with legs splayed to the sides, its mouth was wide and profile reptilian, and its tail was long, scaly and more muscular than that of most mammals. It also had a potent venom in its saliva, a trait not known in any mammals at that time. Even more bewildering were the tales of Erdasians who claimed that the animal lays eggs.
Salamanders brought to Ordosia rarely survived for long, and they could not be induced to mate even with magics. The salamanders had proved to be as resistant to psychic interference as cats, and thus their minds could not be controlled, which explains why they were never used as living weapons by assassins like snakes often were. Only those willing to travel to Erdasia and risk getting bitten by a salamander could discover their nests, often dug deep into hot volcanic soil, and witness the birth of a salamander from an egg themselves. In the end, it was decided that Imperial zoologists were no smarter than Azaios of old, and scholars concluded that the animal had to be a transitional form between a reptile and a mammal.
In the wild salamanders are mostly restricted to the arid parts of the Gahaggan region in northern Erdasia, although another species may be found in the South Erdasian deserts. They are predators, eating small mammals, lizards and invertebrates, and bird and reptile eggs whenever available. Their venom is a potent weapon, but it seems that it is used as a defense rather than for hunting. The venom causes severe irritation if it comes in contact with the skin, but if taken internally mixed with certain substances to hide the irritant effect, its first symptom is the feeling of extreme cold. After a severe bite or ingestion of the poison death follows in minutes.
Salamander venom can also be used to produce certain medicines, and is a substance highly sought after by alchemists. Besides its venom, salamander fur has been used to make gloves which are warm in the cold, but can resist heat and insulate hands from heat at least up to a point. Luckily the forbidding natural habitat of the salamander and techniques developed to safely milk its venom have so far protected them from overhunting.