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Sträva

 
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achemel



Joined: 29 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: Sträva Reply with quote

Yay! So this is about Sträva, where the kyllahän live, or try to. This is sort of information on both the world and the culture, and I'm sure I've forgotten lots of things, so feel free to ask questions about anything I may not have covered that you want to know about. (^_^) Or not, haha.


The planet:

Sträva is, as was recently discovered, the second planet in a binary system of two closely-situated K-type stars. It has three moons, one of which is tidally locked to the planet, and one of which is suspected to be a captured meteorite. Sträva’s axis is such that it is nearly vertical, with the northern hemisphere more tilted toward the suns, but with neither pole experiencing total darkness or light for any great period of time, unlike Earth’s poles. The atmosphere is pretty Earth-like, with the exception of water vapor; there is very little water on the surface, let alone in the atmosphere, where it actually rises high enough to separate into its components and the hydrogen boils away into space. There is enough at any given time, though, to sustain the life forms scurrying around, and the presence of plants (though they are limited) helps take care of the carbon dioxide to keep Sträva from turning into Venus (sort of).

The land:

Due to the exposure of two suns and rather a lack of any significant tectonic activity, Sträva has a fairly high surface temperature and little in the way of land formations. Temperatures average, at the equator, between 88~93*F during the day, when the suns are lined up so only one is visible. Night temperatures fall to about 76*F. The northern hemisphere gets a bit hotter, and the southern a bit cooler, by about 10*F. During the season of two suns, when both stars are visible, temperatures may increase by as much as 30*F.

The land itself is mostly sand and sandy earth, which is swept into massive dunes by near-constant winds. At the equator is a sort of sand drop-off; the dunes rise to a staggering height and then just flow straight down like a cliff. The area surrounding it has rather more compact earth and even evidence of rock plate, which may explain why there is such a formation, if the rock stands as a base for the high dunes and then ends, allowing for the drop. Though solid rock may be found deep below the sand, it is difficult to access and generally is left alone.

There is a single system of caves on the entire planet, located very far in the south where the elevation is considerably higher (because there is less of the shifting dune scene) than everywhere else and rock plateau is more common than sand. It is believed, by out-world scientists of various sorts, to be quite extensive; sadly, because the people are rather afraid of the caves, their spelunking technology is sorely lacking, and little more than the mouth of the system has been explored. Furthering the fear is the fact that the very small handful of individuals who ventured beyond it have never returned, even the out-worlders with their advanced technology. It has been speculated that they are actually alive and well, and living in spectacular subterranean cities, but no one is brave enough to find out.

Water:

Water is a precious resource on Sträva – what little amount surfaces in springs survives only as plants grow practically overnight around it and shade it from the sun(s), slowing the evaporation process. Despite the limited amount above ground, there actually is an enormous reservoir of freshwater contained within the rock that’s so hard to get to; what slight tectonic activity there is causes the water to work its way up to form small springs and pools in the sand, which turn (very quickly) into oases at which wildlife gather or frequent, and around which cities rise. Though much of the water contained within the planet has already surfaced and either been lost to the atmosphere or been used by various life forms, there is still enough remaining to fill Earth’s oceans most of the way.

Something that would be very useful to the kyllahän is the water stored in the caves in the south – deep within the system there are pools, completely protected from the sun and heat, and in the caves as well as outside there are steam geysers, which are large contributors to the miniscule amount of water vapor remaining in the air. However, the natives are too afraid of the caves to find out about and utilize the water there, and unless there really is a whole civilization down there made of the lost explorers, likely that resource will remain untouched for quite some time.

Plants:

There are, rather surprisingly, an abundance of plants on Sträva, and though they spring up thickly around springs and in towns and cities where water is controlled, they also can be found scattered across the desert. The plants have so adapted to the sand and heat they will lie dormant in the earth for hundreds of years until a spring rises underneath them, or a passing caravan spills some of its water supply. Upon being so nourished, vegetation sprouts and shoots up in as little as a day and, unless wildlife comes across the sprouts and eats them, will almost always thrive on just a small amount of water. Trees rarely get scattered into the desert, and those that do grow to be very twisted and stunted, and generally produce no seeds. Seed-grasses are widespread, as are various plants with edible roots buried deep in the sand. Flowers grow around springs, and in the south where rock is more plentiful, there are vines and flowering bushes which frequently end up anchored in cracks in the stone. Likely there are mosses in the caves, but again, nobody has explored enough to find out for sure.

Animals:

Most animals are carnivorous, and the remainder are omnivorous. Due to the conditions of the planet there isn’t enough plant material to support an herbivore, so even animals resembling Earth herbivores – for example, the deer-like pirå – resort to eating flesh when plants aren’t around. Wild canines are particularly fierce carnivores, and even the common harinj – a ruminant used as a pack animal and a source of food, leather, and other materials – will eat meat, and become territorial upon finding a watering hole. The majority of birds are raptors or carrion-eaters, and what few reptiles there are tend to be burrowing types, and venomous. There are no aquatic or amphibious fauna, and all insects live under the sand, where the reptiles as well as burrowing birds and rodents eat them.

Sentient life:

The kyllahän are the only source of civilization on the planet. They appear very human, and form stratified societies and build cities, and generally are very social creatures.

They claim the name of their largely homogenous race comes from their origin in myth: the kyll, the silver egg placed on Sträva by their mother goddess. The name literally means “people of the kyll,” and while there are races on other worlds with similar appearance and behavioral patterns, the kyllahän claim no association with them and stick to their religion and creation myth.

The kyllahän, though originally very homogenous, have since divided into two distinct groups, separated by the equator. Both groups have rather dark skin, but that of the northern half tends to be much darker than that of the northernmost southern brethren due to being closer to the sun, and those living farthest south among the rock levels are even paler, though still quite tan. Their noses are a bit fine, which seems to be a mechanism to reduce loss of moisture and to keep sand-dust out. While many of the older members of the people have a permanent squint from the days of living directly under the sun, in actuality a lot of kyllahän have large, open eyes, and this has become more apparent as they settle themselves in shady cities. On average kyllahän stand between 5’6” (females) and 6’ (males), and they tend to be slender or wiry because of the high metabolism required to keep them going in the desert heat and from having to ration water.

The main thing that marks a kyllahän is his teeth; the canines and teeth directly before them are sharper than a human’s, and certain members of society sharpen them more, and also (to a lesser degree) the front teeth. The theory on why kyllahän have sharp teeth is that way back in history, when the people were still struggling to take root, they were completely carnivorous and needed the teeth for eating. They have since become omnivorous, but the teeth haven’t become reduced or blunted at all, so the other assumption remaining is that they are related to the vampiric peoples on some faerie and demon worlds. They will deny such relations to their dying day, especially because they've been at war with one of those races for millennia and hate them more than anything.

Society:

The kyllahän form stratified societies, even in small settlements, and live pretty structured lives. Long ago they developed their system in order to raise their efficiency and better survive in the water-scarce desert.

The social structure is something like this (from highest-class to lowest-class):
Laborers and high priests
Priests, merchants/traders, out-world residents and visitors
Lawkeepers
Magical practitioners and teachers
Slaves/war captives
Royalty

Yes, the kyllahän take slaves as war booty and yes, the government occupies the lowest tier. This seems to work quite well for them; the people work for themselves, and the government makes sure they are supplied with everything they need. The royalty once were at the top, and ruled as kings and queens, but as the kyllahän developed their system of coexistence and survival, they decided they didn’t like the idea of a single family keeping tabs on them and shoved them to the bottom of the ladder. Being a leader, to pretty much all kyllahän including the leader, is a very distasteful job that disrupts the sense of community they cherish, but it also is seen as a necessity to prevent the formation of factions or separation of the classes. As such, the royal family is kept separate from the main community by enclosing its residence in the main temple complex, but its members are sent out among the public to make sure everything goes smoothly, to solve problems, and to send feedback to the king and vice versa.

Actual management of a settlement is left to the lawkeeper class because nobody wants to see the royals poking around, but in the lawkeeper class there is always at least one royal family member anyway. The different communities within the settlement gather regularly to discuss issues among themselves and what they feel should be done to resolve them. The heads of law in a given community attend these gatherings to listen and see what they can do, and if the issue is great enough it may call for a larger law-head convention for inter-communal discussion, and it even may be taken to the king if it is a serious problem. In a normal scenario, though, the lawkeepers pass district laws and regulations for their communities, and the conventions determine general laws which apply to a larger demographic. For example, members of the lawkeepers assigned to the food and spice markets determine laws of conduct, and the convention makes laws which apply to the entire economic sector, and the king makes laws which apply to everyone regardless of caste or race.

Laborers make up the largest part of any community. There are many jobs involving manual labor, and then there are those which could be considered “office” jobs, though perhaps not in the sense of say an American corporate office. “Office” workers in any Strävan settlement typically take care of keeping records of a given labor business and take care of business negotiations and payments and things like how to set up a space in the market in accordance with district laws of conduct. For example, with glassworkers, the people who actually produce anything are the manual laborers and actually work very hard. Among their class will be the “office” groups, who hold a station inside the common city and who record output and trade results each day, what the trade results actually were (as in, for 20 glass dishes they received perhaps two fine bolts of textiles and some leather goods), how much each worker receives for his production quota, how much product was given to traveling merchants and for what in return, where those merchants are going and with whom they then will trade in other cities, and anything involving expansion of the workplace or improvement or replacement of machinery. This sort of labor-office coexistence holds true for pretty much every other part of the economy. Priests may do a lot of thinking as their work, but they also have members who do physical labor to support the gardens within the temple complex, those who keep the place clean, those who work in the common city as healers, those who maintain records and such, and those who travel to visit sister temples.

Priests, temples and magic:

Priests are the highest class on the kyllahän social scale, due mostly to their relations with the mother goddess, Baakj, and the deities surrounding her. The priesthood inhabits apartments nestled in various areas of a temple complex, and in larger cities there may be more than one temple. In Labä especially there are multiple temples, some of which are dedicated to the same deity or star.

The priesthood itself is divided into factions serving the various gods and goddesses, and while they generally get along, there is occasional strife when one faction tries to outdo another in the building of its temple or the manner of its worship. Within any faction there is a sort of sub-organization, with six high priests at the top and six sub-heads below them, among which there is usually a member of the royal family. The high priests are the most skilled in magic and usually have been in the temple their whole lives, and know how things run. The lower six are perhaps a bit less skilled, and they recommend royal children for the ritual which marks them as initiated and acknowledged royalty. They also form a level to which some legal matters are brought if the lawkeepers aren’t giving out suitable solutions but the matter doesn’t need to be taken to the king.

Temples are placed at the center of a settlement, and face the rising sun in the southwest. They are tiered structures, the number of levels depending on to which god/dess they are dedicated, and are topped with a sanctuary which contains a holy relic or artifact, and in which spirits are said to gather during rituals. In the lower tiers, guarded from the front of the temple by a wall, is the expansive set of apartments meant to house the royal family. Also behind the wall are canals with floating gardens, orchards, and small field plots, which the royals and priests work to supply themselves with food and some basic materials so as not to tax the city resources. Surplus is given to the common market, and harinj are kept within the temple’s outer courts as food and pack animals, and as a source of fertilizer for the gardens and orchards behind the wall. The priests’ apartments and communal bath also are in the outer courts, along with the school grounds (which are set out in a honeycomb around the central walk leading to the temple itself) and the north and south pyramids at the entrance of the complex. The grounds are tended to by both priests and royalty, and the outer courts receive some attention from students and resident acolytes in their free time.

The priests are the largest group of magical practitioners on Sträva. Being priests, they generally have the most time to learn magic, and in turn teach it to the settlement’s children as part of their education. Magic is regarded as a blessing from Baakj, and is believed to be the breath of the planet, much like water is the blood of the planet.

Magic across the universe stems from an energy called soma, which links all inhabitable worlds and gives them life. Earth, always at the very edge of a thin tendril of this energy, lost its magic hundreds of years ago, and has since been declining. Wink Sträva, though also at the end of the soma line, is quite richly infused with magic, and soma actually is the supposed cause of surfacing water; according to the creation myth, Baakj felt the world she’d made and protected felt disjointed and out of place in the universe, and so placed it at the edge of a stream of soma, and the world absorbed it so quickly the water trapped inside jumped to the surface to get away from it. This actually holds some truth, and applies to modern magic; magic-made water (or food, for that matter) or natural water drawn up by magic is somewhat poisonous, and even a natural spring only protected by magic will leave some ill effects on anything that drinks of it. This has caused some difficulties in establishing cities, as water has to be hunted down, but the kyllahän have learned to work around it.

At any rate, magic is used primarily for assistance in healing and protection, as any other use for it on Sträva is rather lacking. Everyone has some soma inside, and if s/he has a high enough concentration of it s/he will be able to use magic. However, performing magic requires a lot of control, and it may take one’s entire life to master difficult spells. As many kyllahän are exceptionally long-lived, especially the royalty, becoming a real master of magical spells is feasible, and often the goal of practicing priests. Magic can be used in warfare also, an activity in which the kyllahän take enthusiastic pleasure, and is a great aid in the study of stars.

Religion:

Here is a brief recount of the creation myth:

Baakj drifted in the darkness that is the night sky for eons upon eons, and when she finally grew lonely enough she created the stars – Vånskje – to keep her company. By the light they emitted she saw what a vast place the sky was and pondered what to do with it. The stars on their part saw what an amazing creature Baakj was and desired her, and being bored on occasion Baakj would have unions with them. She shed a single tear of blood at her first union, and this became the core of the world, around which she wrapped a strand of her hair to keep it safe. Now that her interest was directed elsewhere, the Vånskje became very jealous, and Baakj took the tears of the most upset among them and placed the drop of blood inside, wrapping another strand of hair around the water. While thinking of a way to protect this thing forever, from Baakj’s mouth came Hjoetg and Vliålj, embracing each other from the start, and they were the hottest of her star children. She thought to use them to protect her little creation but their heat was so strong it cracked the hair around the drop and the waters spilled over the world’s edge. Baakj fixed this by separating her children and wrapping more of her hair around the drops of water, and this hair was shattered by the heat of the suns and became the sand. Vliålj, heartbroken at her separation from Hjoetg, sent her soul out of her sun-home as a comet to see him, but Baakj caught her and allowed her instead to circle the world as the moon. When there is an eclipse, it is Vliålj finally joining Hjoetg, and is an auspicious occasion. At her first meeting with him she had Smådj, who is the mistress of secrets and twilight and guards the lives and fate of all things in the Threads of Heaven. Baakj, at any rate, joined with the stars a few more times and eventually from their kind words to her formed the silver egg, Kyll. Upon seeing this she decided the new children inside shouldn’t be all alone in the dark and moved the twin stars and the world between them into the trail of soma coming from the darkness. The world quickly linked with the other worlds from which the soma flowed and soaked up the magic, and the water deep under the sand began to surface to get away from it. Baakj placed the egg near a rising spring and it cracked, and the shards of the shell became dragons and cats and all the other animals on Sträva while the kyllahän emerged from the inside fully-formed. Ten of them, in male-female pairs, began to build the first temple to Baakj, and belatedly another male emerged from the sands where the egg had been, and his face marked him as one specially cherished by Baakj, and he became the first priest.

This myth is the basis of the kyllahän counting system, with 11 base numbers but an overall 10-count, sort of. The myth also points to the possible real origins of the kyllahän (as evolution on such a dry planet would be rather difficult); the silver egg likely was a protective transport through early inter-world portals, and descriptions of Baakj from other accounts as “tall, pale, with long red hair” suggest pre-Sträva relations with faerie and demon races.

Fun fact:

Strävan mammals, though lacking in variety much, have proven themselves so hardy in constant desert conditions that several attempts have been made to use them on other desert-like worlds. However, they are so adapted to Sträva and its terrible dryness they end up drowning in their own inability to get rid of excess body moisture.

As for the kyllahän, they lose moisture through their eyes; when they do any form of strenuous activity, be it working, running a message, or fighting with each other, they appear to cry. This is a trait found in a number of vampire-like peoples on other worlds.
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Tolkien_Freak



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks very interesting, wish I could read more of it ATM. I'll have to come back in a bit and read the whole thing.

Quick comment - keep in mind that the massive amounts of surface water and water vapor in the air here on Earth are the main reason the temperature is so stable. On a planet with little water, temperatures would have a much larger range between average highs and average lows - during the day it would be VERY hot, at night it would be VERY cold. The atmosphere does help this a little (it wouldn't be like Mercury), but water is one of nature's best heat-absorbing materials - it takes a very large amount of energy to heat up water compared to other stuff. Just a comment ^_^
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achemel



Joined: 29 Mar 2009
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Location: up for debate

PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, that's very true, but I like to think that having two suns might help, and plus, there's magic! (^_^) Tee hee hee. I know that deserts on Earth can have extreme temperatures as well, even with our stable atmosphere, but it just wouldn't be Sträva if it wasn't all sand. Maybe Baakj is watching over the place and keeps them from freezing every night. Shocked I'm up for suggestions on improving the bit on temperatures; I really didn't put as much thought into it as some other things.
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Tolkien_Freak



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two suns to me just seems like it would be hotter. IDK though.
You can of course completely ignore the issue, especially if there's magic (^_^).
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Aert



Joined: 03 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could do something with the orbit, maybe having the binary stars rotating at the same speed as the planet around the center of gravity, but the planet 90* off the line between the stars (for coolest temperature year-round). I doubt this would affect the difference in temperature from day to night, but it could do something.

Also, it's very likely that the stars will have different temperatures (eg a red, and yellow; yellow and blue; etc). Depending on the alignment, orbit, and output of each star and planet, the temperature and weather will be very different.

Of course, remember that the 'Goldilocks zone' is different for each star type. It is the average distance tha tliquid water can form from the star, but since each star has a different output, the distance will differ.

Is the entire planet sand? No major bodies of water? If so, you would have to do something with the mountain ranges to influence weather patterns, I think. Maybe some major volcanism resulted in a volcanic range: the soil near it would be much more fertile than plain sand (eg. the Serengetti grasslands).

Speaking of which, I have to wonder: how is the atmosphere maintained? On Earth, the oxygen is replentished by the oceans and plants, drawing in CO2 and stabalizing (for us) the oxygen content. If you want to get more into the chemistry of things though, you could have various other gasses as a result of the difference in geography (oxygen is actually poisonous - making apples rot, and so on).

You should read the D'ni books - they have quite a bit about world-building, the idea of The Whole (everything interacting with everything else), and so on - characters in the book actually create worlds via writing them, and there's a decent degree of depth and thought into how they work (otherwise, of course, stuff you don't want will happen unpredictably). Also, the world they live in (at least the surface) is pretty much all desert from what I remember - the area around the main character at the beginning at least.

Hope this helps a bit Very Happy
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kyonides



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What about their currency and their banking system? he he he
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achemel



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whoa, lots of good comments! (^_^)

Well, as for the orbit, the planet is actually very very old, much older than Earth apparently is already, so I figured rather than having 2 G-type stars which might make the habitable zone kind of really far out and giving the planet seriously extreme hots and colds, 2 K-types that would last longer but not be as hot would bring the zone closer and let it last longer as well. And, I kind of doubt this is how it actually works (and I didn't pay very much attention in my science class last year, even though the teacher was AWESOME), but I thought when both suns are visible on Sträva, the planet might be just a tad closer to them, and some sort of combination between gravitation toward the suns and perhaps some effect from the moons would cause the planet to spin just a little faster to kick up the winds that blow in after the season of two suns (cuz there's the windy season right after that... did I mention it in there?). I have no idea how winds are made, but I always thought planetary rotation had something to do with it.

Technically there are large bodies of water, but they're all underground; the sand used to be rock, but wind weathering and very slow tectonic movement have ground everything down. The only surviving surface rock is in the south, where plates are pushing together so slowly they can't even form a mountain before it gets sanded down into a sort of plateau. I do believe the south also had a volcano, just one that's been dead for a gazillion years, anyway, and some of its remains might be forming the cave system, but otherwise it hasn't contributed much.

A bit of CO2 is taken in by water, but there isn't much to soak it up. The plants do most of the work, I guess, but I'm not too sure about whatever's left. There aren't any CO2 emissions like from volcanos or industrialized cities or anything, just breathing and normal bodily functions. Oh, and glassmaking... and dragons. I honestly couldn't tell you what sort of ratio between oxygen and carbon dioxide there is at the moment on Sträva. I can tell you that there's iron in the sand, and silver in the rocks in the south. The Fe-O2 reactions make the whole planet kind of red. Other than that... I might read up on world-making. Isn't D'ni from Myst or something?

@kyonides - they actually still run on a barter system, though interaction with out-world nations has raised some interest in a solid currency. The main problem is they don't have enough metal resources for coins, and plants are too precious to make some kind of paper currency, so they're going to have to experiment with something else if they end up really wanting some kind of money. Glass is probably the way they'd go, since they have so much sand at their disposal. Wink
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I would like to learn:
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ddamachel, tadvaradcel, ra cel, lashel, hemnalg, nomah
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