A Zurvár Miscellany

A storage place for a collection of Zurvár related info posted to Reddit…


The majority of Zurvár have a genetic intolerance to alcohol (a standardised mutation of the ALDH1 gene) resulting in nausea and flu-like symptoms after consuming it, so it is generally not a part of Zurvár culture. Instead they drink prozyá, a carefully brewed combination of specific land plant and seaweed components with herbs and fruits added for flavour.

A few glasses of prozyá have a similar mental stimulant effect to a really strong black coffee, combined with a boost in physical energy, enhanced balance and reflexes and mild euphoria. A mild hangover consisting of drowsiness and slowed reflexes can be expected a few hours later, but truly epic amounts must be consumed to cause actual illness.

Prozyunstá (translatable as ‘heavy prozyá‘) is a variety of prozyá tweaked to increase euphoric and intoxicating effects. It’s generally comparable to 5% alcohol beer in effect and has a similar hangover if over consumed. Many Zurvár consider prozyunstá to be the drink of the immature and degenerate, but it’s still just as popular as regular prozyá.

Most settlements will produce their own prozyá, and claim it to be far superior to that produced by their neighbours.


The Vratoi are a race of psychic predators from an alternate universe that are the inspiration behind many of Earth’s vampire legends. They feed by stimulating fear, using the emotion as a gateway into their victims’ minds from where they drain off the brain’s artonic energy – a process that can very easily kill if overdone. It’s not entirely clear if the Vratoi need to feed on artonic energy or if they simply do it because they enjoy it – sadistic narcissism appears to be a common Vratoi personality trait.

Many reports of vampire activity – both historical and modern – can be shown to be the result of Vratoi leaning into vampire lore to make feeding more effective. There are some however that cannot be explained this way, which suggests that there are other things going on.


The Zurvár believe that the soul is made of three components, each of which has a different fate after death.

The Iris or “Spirit” is an immortal life-force that is incarnated again and again, gaining knowledge and experience with each incarnation. In between incarnations it dwells in the spirit world of Tekáda.

The Nelat or “Self” is the conscious, individual spirit of a Zurvár that is created when the Iris enters the body during pregnancy. On death the Nelat accompanies the Iris to Tekáda and lives there eternally among the Ancestors, watching over the living.

The Selár or “Shadow” is created at the moment of conception and is linked to the Zurvár’s impact on the world. After death the Selár remains in the world and gradually dissipates, finally vanishing when the last person to have known the Zurvár dies.

Existence as an Ancestor in Tekáda is said to be impossible for the living to understand, but a common metaphor is a vast beach dotted with millions of campfires. Each fire is an Iris and the Nelat that hosted that Iris in life are seated around the fire. Someone who performed great evils in life will not be allowed to sit around their fire and will have to exist in the darkness and cold outside of its light. Whether this state is permanent or whether an exiled Nelat can be redeemed is a matter of long debate with no firm answer.

Whether any of this is true is unknown, it’s simply what the Zurvár – to a greater or lesser personal extent – believe.


My multiverse is an infinite number of alternate universes arranged linearly in a sixth dimension. If you know how you can open gates between them and just step on through – although it’s best to check that conditions on the other side are conducive to your staying alive first.

There’s also a minimum ‘distance’ that gates can be opened across. Yes, there’s a universe right next door where the only difference to this one is that a leaf fell off a tree in Poland half a second earlier, but the ‘distance’ between this universe and that one is so tiny that it’s almost impossible to open a gate to it.


Happily the minimum distance is a matter of physics, so ‘almost impossible’ should really be read as ‘impossible unless something super weird happens’. Cross universe identity theft is a genuine issue – and something the Metaphysicians’ Guild tries to control – but it’s a bit risky because the number of differences between adjacently-accessible universes is high enough that any documents or information obtained in one universe cannot be 100% relied on to be identical in the other. There are still people willing to give it a go though!


In my main setting any sapient being has the potential to learn Metaphysics (psionics) because the necessary energetic structures are what makes consciousness possible.

Whether they’ll be any good at it is another question entirely!


‘Magic’ in my main setting is actually psionics, or ‘psychic powers’. There is a genetic component to it in that some people have a natural talent for it, and that talent tends to be inheritable, but almost everyone can learn a few bits and pieces.

I think of it like playing the piano. Pretty much everyone can learn to play the piano adequately if they put the time and effort in, but some people have a gift that makes it much easier. And there are people who don’t have any such gift but can play brilliantly because they’re willing to put in a huge amount of practice and effort. And finally there’s a small amount of people who simply lack the coordination to ever do anything more than slowly pick out ‘my father’s socks’ with a single finger.


My setting is actually a multiverse that includes modern Earth (one of things ‘metaphysics’ – which is to say psionics – allows is opening gates between alternate universes). Worlds are defined as metaphysically-aware and non-metaphysically-aware based on whether they’ve uncovered the the science of psionics.

On aware worlds everyone can use psionics as long as they’re willing to put the time and effort of learning in, and they obey the law, which tends to look down on things such as non-consensual mind reading, rewriting of memories, teleporting valuables out of bank vaults and telekinetically throwing cars around. The fact that so much ‘fun’ stuff (for a certain value of ‘fun’) is illegal means that most people learn the basics of shielding their minds from intrusion and leave it at that – throwing cars (or even cardboard boxes) around takes a lot of practice and effort and simply isn’t worth it for most people.

On non-aware worlds (like Earth) most people are unaware that such things are even possible outside of comic books and History Channel documentaries. This of course means that people who do somehow figure it out have massive potential to be complete assholes to everyone around them.


A statement of shock or amazement among the Zurvár is minak sâ, which literally means “false/mistaken star”. As a seagoing people the stars are extremely important for navigation, and mistaking one star for another (or some other light for a star) can be extremely dangerous.

An expression of annoyance or anger is išká or išká ná which literally means “shark”. Išká by itself is considered fairly mild – few would bat an eyelid at a child saying it. Adding the intensifier transforms it into the equivalent of “fucking hell!” so should not be used in polite company.


The history of the Metaphysicians Guild is a bit complex, but on the basic level it’s creation was spurred by a group of occultists in Victorian London figuring out how to travel between universes and then screwing up badly enough to draw the attention of a more advanced culture (the Wyrms) who were already debating about setting up a body to try and protect non-metaphysically aware societies from paranatural threats.

The Guild was officially founded in 1908, and is based on an alternate Earth named Metaphysica (many of the Victorian occultists were foundation members and they weren’t very creative with names). It monitors around a dozen alternative Earths, but tends to have a bit of a focus (arguably an unfair one) on our own Earth (Earth-000001) since that’s where so many of the original members came from.

The de facto HQ of the Guild is the city of De Chirico on Metaphysica, which occupies the same spatial coordinates as Paris, France.


Over the years the Smithsonian has collected various artifacts too metaphysically active to be put on display. Most of these are merely inconvenient – like the pair of Abraham Lincoln’s shoes that shuffle around on their own at night – but some are actively dangerous. The Smithsonian stores all of them in a secure warehouse in Wesley Heights.


The Adams tunnel complex is a maze-like series of drainage and utility tunnels connected to the Potomac river and the old Washington City Canal. There are high levels of revenant activity, some of it actively hostile, and at least one gate which periodically opens to let creatures best described as ‘zombies’ through from a currently unidentified parallel universe. These beings are fast moving and violently hostile, happily they show no signs of intelligence and fear sunlight to the extent of never venturing above ground – even at night – and their condition is non-contagious.

The existence of the creatures was actually discovered by the United States Government during security crackdowns after the events of September 11. The Department of Homeland Security sealed up most access points to the tunnels and maintains armed patrols to keep the numbers of creatures down. The Guild monitors these but lets them get on with it – largely because it means Guild resources don’t have to be spent doing the same thing.


So you’re driving through rural North Dakota. You’ve been on the road for a couple of hours and you’re getting tired, but there’s a town about 20 miles down the road where you can pull over, get a coffee and stretch your legs, so you keep on driving. And driving. And driving. By now you absolutely should have reached the town, but there’s no sign of it. You grab your cell phone to check the map but there’s no signal. You pull over and get out of the car. The road stretches on straight in front of you and behind you – straight as a line – and to either side there’s flat, empty prairie with no fields, no farms, no nothing. You get back into the car and keep on driving. Maybe you even turn around and try to get back to that farm you passed half an hour ago. But you can’t find it. No matter how long you drive for there’s just the dead-straight, empty road and the Endless Prairie. Eventually you run out of gas. Do you wait for help? Do you get out and walk? You have a few snacks and a bottle of cola, but what happens when they run out…

Why or how this happens isn’t understood. Some very lucky people find that the prairie gives out and they find themselves driving into a town (which is how the Guild know that the phenomena exists in the first place) but what triggers it, how it can be prevented and how people stuck in it can be rescued are all unknown. The best the Guild can do is try and stop people from entering the affected area, but two or three people are lost to it every year.


The Guild monitors a number of highly active sites in Key West, but a quirk of the categorisation system places the entire Florida Keys in Region 000001-18 (the Caribbean). It’s claimed that this is for complicated administration reasons but according to rumour it’s because the current Regional Director loves the daiquiris at the Green Parrot.


An “Achilus” is a weak spot in reality that allows stuff to drift through from alternative realities. They’re useful if you want to save energy when travelling between worlds, but less useful if there’s one in your backyard that keeps letting through wasps the size of a buick.

(The wasps immediately die because there’s not enough oxygen in our air to support them and the bodies really stink up the place).


Zurvár Arèáná has a population of sapient dolphins that seem to be pathologically incapable of taking anything seriously. Numerous studies have been made of dolphin culture, but they’re all highly contradictory because dolphins consider outrageous lies to be polite conversation.


Strap in, this is a weird ride…

Back in the dark ages of the early 1990s the student-run radio station at my local university had a weekly ‘letter request’ show called Steregoround. The idea was that people would post actual, physical letters to the station asking for songs to be played, but pretty quickly the letters became more important that the songs. People would write all kinds of weird stuff (with a song request tacked onto the end) and the hosts would read out a selection of the letters they got each week. People would comment on the letters read out on the previous week’s show, send messages to other letter writers and to the hosts, pen bizarre screeds and poetry and request the weirdest music they could think of. It was kind of like a strange cross between a podcast, pen-pals, a web forum and a subreddit, with the proviso that your posts were a crapshoot – if the hosts didn’t read out your letter this week you just shrugged and sent a new one next week.

Once I became aware that this was a thing that existed I knew I had to get involved, so I started sending my own letters full of weird, nonsensical, mystical sounding crap, loosely based around my high school experiences. Some of these got read out, and over time I started building the silly, throwaway comments and references I penned into a consistent framework centered around alternative universes and a hidden world of powerful (although still rather tongue-in-cheek and silly) psychics running things behind the scenes.

Steregoround was suddenly cancelled about a year after I started taking part, but by then I’d laid the foundations for the setting I’m still working on 30 years later.


Wyrms can shapeshift between a snake-like form and a humanoid form at will, but any time they do it they end up with brand new skin and no hair. The phrase “tattooing a Wyrm” has more or less the same meaning as “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”.


Zurvár Arèáná is governed – to some extent – by the Konsortèum, which is a council made up of representatives from a number of powerful ancestral Zurvár houses, members of the Metaphysician’s Guild, a number of scientific and economic advisors, and a few private investors. It was set up in the 1960s to act as a settlement authority for the world and still acts in this capacity, but has expanded its remit over the decades and now acts (or at least tries to act) as a weak, central government.

Any given settlement on Zurvár Arèáná will tend to be pro-Konsortèum, seeing the transition to government as a natural progression, or anti-Konsortèum, believing it has overstepped the bounds of its original remit.

The Konsortèum governs by issuing ‘Settlement Advisories’ which are (theoretically) binding rulings for all settlers of the world. These tend to be treated as law in pro areas but are spottily respected in anti areas based on whether the locals regard them as fair, sensible, and actually pertaining to settlement issues.

Out of the Eight Cities, Bal is regarded as the pro capital and is the location of the Konsortèum headquarters. Kalif is regarded as the most anti city, which is a bit embarrassing for the Konsortèum as it’s the largest settlement on Zurvár Arèáná and is generally regarded as the world’s cultural capital.


I haven’t got around to mapping it in any detail. but the city of Gorat Sûlbarn Hì is constructed on the rim of a submerged meteorite crater about 15km across in the middle of the ocean. The rim is broken in a number of places making the interior of the crater a gigantic harbour and the impact damage resulted in numerous hot springs, which are harnessed for geothermal power generation. There is a central peak island which is protected as a nature reserve.


In Zurvár culture it’s expected that people grow at least some of their own food. A typical house with have an extensive garden with numerous varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs that are harvested and preserved for the use of the occupants.

Common species include…

  • Dry-land rice
  • A type of magosteen that is also used to produce a bright red dye
  • A type of small, elongated tomato
  • Pomegranates
  • Mandarins and sweet lemons
  • Olives that are used almost exclusively for oil
  • Medlars, which are mostly used for tanning fabrics
  • A variety of melons and yams

An extremely important species is the Salt Berry plant, which absorbs salt from the ground and concentrates it into hard, nut-like fruits. These can be ground up for culinary use, but it’s mostly used to clean up saline soils to make them suitable for other, less salt-tolerant plants.

Most towns will have a communal Kelp Garden where a variety of seaweed species are grown for food, materials, dyes, spices and medicines. Most Zurvár fabric is made from specialised varieties of kelp.

Research has indicated that many plants used by the Zurvár show signs of genetic engineering. It is assumed that they were obtained from other species during the Zurvár’s centuries of migration between worlds.


Zurvár Arèáná is more or less a solarpunk version of Cottesloe and Fremantle in Western Australia. Blue skies, blue ocean, sandstone and pine trees!


Ten Things to know about Zurvár Arèáná

1: Zurvár Arèáná is one of an uncountable number of alternative Earths (although it’s just as accurate to say that Earth is one of an uncountable number of alternative Zurvár Arèánás). It is a world of island chains with over 95% ocean and no landmasses larger than Great Britain.

2: The Zurvár people are a human species of unknown ultimate origin who traveled between alternate worlds for centuries before settling on Zurvár Arèáná from the 1960s onward. They have a number of minor physiological differences to Earth humans but the species are genetically compatible.

3: The world is loosely governed by the Konsâtèum – an organisation of powerful Zurvár houses and other interested groups established as a settlement authority. Many Zurvár consider the Konsâtèum to be overstepping its mandate by taking on a governing role.

4: Also inhabiting the world are a number of pods of dolphins and small whales from Otherworld One (another alternate Earth) who petitioned for environmental asylum in the 1970s. They officially have their own government, but it might be a fiction to ease relations with the Zurvár, or might be some kind of elaborate joke.

5: The world has eight cities ranging in population from 690,000 (Gorat Bárkalif Ganalû) down to 24,000 (Gorat Mantábon Dìaz). Outside of the cities the population live in towns and villages, none with a population much greater than 2,000. The total Zurvár population of the world is estimated at 18 million as of 2020.

6: Long distance travel across the planet is by matter transmission – a technology so much more advanced than the rest of the Zurvár technological base that it assumed to have been acquired from some other civilisation during the Zurvár peoples’ travels. Those who prefer not to be converted into energy and beamed between a series of transmission towers before being reassembled at the other end must take the slower option of boats or aircraft.

7: Homes, businesses and industry are powered by solar, wind, tidal and limited geothermal power generation. Zurvár battery technology is more advanced that than of Earth, allowing pretty much the entire planet to be run electrically.

8: Zurvár kidneys can handle much higher levels of salt than those of Earth humans. Visitors from Earth are advised to drink bottled water rather than relying on local supplies which may not be sufficiently desalinated for Earth human consumption.

9: Zurvár Arèáná has no native mammals, with the largest land animals being skink-like lizards no more than 25cm long. Bird and fish life is abundant. There are no known oceanic predators large enough to trouble humans, but the cetaceans claim that there are titanic predators dwelling deep below the surface. No one is sure if this is true or part of some elaborate joke.

10: The music of the Beach Boys has been wildly popular on Zurvár Arèáná since their albums were first imported in the late 1960s. As a result a highly profitable industry has grown up devoted to mimicking an idealised version of 1960s California, including the importation (and conversion to electric drive) of classic American muscle cars and, and the establishment of hamburger restaurants to drive them to. Traditionalist Zurvár are (unsurprisingly) infuriated by this.

Weights and Measures

Measuring the distances between Worlds in Probability has always been problematic. As beings limited to perceiving reality in only four dimensions, direct measurement of the fifth is simply not possible. Instead proxy methods have to be deployed, the most common of which defaults to the amount of energy required to either open Gates or move matter directly between Worlds.

The best established measurement is the Wyrymyan ghəι (anglicized as “weyr“). The exact genesis of the weyr is lost to history, although it is noted it is very close to the amount of artonic energy required to directly (ie: without the use of a Gate) transport one ixh* of matter between Wyrymya and the ancient Wyrm colony World of Hfren, leading many to assume ancient travel between these two Worlds as its ultimate origin.

(* One ixh is equal to one 1728th of the weight of a cylinder of Wyrymyan sea-water with a height and radius of 12 ghi – one ghi measuring 6.875 cm. Bizarrely this works out to just over 1kg – 1.069kg to be precise.)

The traditional measurement of Probability among the Zurvár is the kâd, which is the minimum distance traversable via Gate in ancient Zurvár society. One kâd is equal to 16.8 weyr, which provides some commentary on the relative sophistication of Probatial travel in the ancient Zurvár and Wyrm cultures. The kâd has become the standard measure of Probatial distance across local Probability, with the weyr generally reserved for scientific usage.

(The Metaphysical Society of 19th century London created their own measurement of Probatial distance, the “Palmerston”. One Palmerston equals 77.4 kâd (or 1300.32 weyr), and is the distance between Earth and Neanderthan, the first World discovered by the Society. The Palmerston was abandoned shortly after contact was established with the Wyrms.)

The record for minimum Probatial distance traversable currently stands at 0.43 kâd (7.224 weyr) which was achieved at the Werinos Physics Institute in 2007. This is well above the theoretical limit of 0.14 kâd predicted by Probatial Resonance Theory. It is believed by many that the Goatsuckers have been capable of reaching this limit for centuries – if not millennia – or possibly even exceeding it, although the later would raise uncomfortable questions about their motivation in providing so much assistance in the development of an inaccurate theory.

Notes on Physics

The Probability Maxim: All possibilities are played out somewhere in Probability.

The Probability Paradox: Probability travel links universes into continua that invalidate the Probability Maxim. First noted by the Wyrm philosopher Ryzan in 720 BC.

Artonic Quantum Theory: Artonic energy can only be expended in discrete units or quanta. This limits the amount to which Probability can be fractured, thus restricting which universes can be reached from any given universe and creating multiple interlaced continua – thus preserving the Probability Maxim. Disproven when the energy value of the Artonic Quanta was shown to be beneath the minimum necessary to fracture Probability.

Meta-Probability Theory: Championed by Zurvár physicist Àeksùl this theory proposed a second dimension of Probability, creating continua inaccessible to standard Artonic Probability travel. Fell into disfavour after the death of Àeksùl in his tragic laboratory disaster.

Harmonic Probability Theory: Probability can only be fractured in discrete units, restricting what universes are accessible and creating multiple interlaced continua – thus preserving the Probability Maxim. The currently accepted solution to the Probability Paradox.

The dâ vamikèd

The Zurvár people have a large store of legends and myths, many of which are specific to particular Houses. One story shared between almost all Houses however is the dâ vamikèd, or “Tale of Creation”, which seeks to explain the origin of the Zurvár and their culture’s strong relationship to the ocean. Versions of the story have been traced back for over 700 years, and although variations abound, the core narrative of the tale remains constant, with “the Creator” (ràvamiket) making the five important elements of Zurvár existence in a specific order common to all versions.

The version of the dâ vamikèd presented here is taken from the well respected collection of Zurvár myths and songs collated and translated into English by Gâron Kár Vèelisavik in 1987.


The Tale of Creation

In the time before the sun, the Creator needed to cross the Great Ocean. So with his hands he crafted the first boat and set sail on his journey.

But it was dark on the ocean, and the Creator could not see his way. So he took coals from his stove and threw them into the sky. They became the stars and lit his way so he was no longer lost, and he continued on his journey.

But the Ocean was empty of all life and the Creator grew hungry. So he took splinters from his oars and threw them into the water. They became the first fish. He caught a fish, and cooked it on his stove, so he was no longer hungry, and he continued on his journey.

But the journey grew long and there was no sound on the ocean but the wind and the waves and the creak of the boat. The Creator become downhearted. So he tore pieces of cloth from his sail and threw them into the air. They became the first seabirds, which danced between the waves and filled the air with their cries. He was no longer downhearted, and he continued on his journey.

But the Ocean was wide and the Creator grew lonely. So he took twine from his ropes and knotted them together. They became the first Zurvár and provided him with the company he craved. He was no longer lonely, and he continued on his journey.

After many days of sailing, the Great Ocean came to an end.  The Creator beached his boat on the far shore and talked with the Zurvár, teaching them to dance and sing like the seabirds, to catch and cook fish, to navigate by the stars and to build boats of their own. He no longer needed his boat, so he pushed it into the water and set it aflame. But the boat did not sink, it burnt brighter and brighter, then rose into the sky and became the sun.

And to this day the Creator’s boat still sails across the sky every day to remind the Zurvár of the Creator and all that he taught them.


The sequence of Boat, Stars, Fish, Birds and Zurvár (often represented by the knots tied by the Creator) is found in many aspects of Zurvár society, including the standard suits of playing cards and the days of the traditional five day week. The importance of the number five to Zurvár culture is also often traced to the Tale of Creation, although it is unclear whether the primacy of five derives from the five elements of the story, or vice-versa.

The Creator character of the story has never been worshiped by the Zurvár. He (or in some versions she) is not viewed as a god, but as an important and respected ancestor. Some Houses claim direct descent from the Creator via long and complex genealogies, some of which have been proved to be accurate for as far back as the early 1100s, although nowdays those who take such tales as literal truth are far and few between.

Info Dump!

This post is a big dump of info concerning Zurvár Arèáná and the Zurvár people. Feel free to read it, but it’s in pretty raw form. I shall gradually clean it up…

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The Zurvár prefer to live on tropical coastlines, which means they have to cope with regular tropical cyclones. The traditional Zurvár house reflects this, being built of heavy masonry with small windows, and being reinforced with earth berms. The interiors are high ceilinged and tend to be dark and cool (another advantage in tropical environments) but a large amount of living, and most socialising, takes place on the flat garaqrum (roof-plaza).

The front door (Kâmá Weþá) is typically located in a verandah area known as the Kârá Weþá (Entry Box), accessed by a set of stairs up from the street or yard level. Usually protected by an awning and decorative wall the Kârá Weþá is often used to grow shade-tolerant herbs and other useful domestic plants. Adjacent to the door will usually be a Santarènè Kâmá (Bell-circle of the Door), consisting of a hand cranked circle of small bells rung by visitors for attention. The door will typically be made of heavy wood and have a glassed-in window allowing visitors to be seen from inside.

Inside the front door is the Kantà Hànak (Hall/Chamber for Business/Planning/Plotting). This is both a formal reception area for visitors and a barrier to proceeding further into the house. Anyone visiting the house on business will be dealt with in this room – which will contain chairs and a desk or small table – and not enter the family areas. Any valuable artworks or decorations possessed by the household will usually be on display in this room to impress visitors. If the house has a Teláfonak (Telephone) it will also usually reside here.

Adjacent to the Kantà Hànak – usually opposite the front door – is the Savrakad (Travel Room). This is used by visitors to refresh themselves after their journey and as a place for them to dump any bags, packs or external clothing they won’t require until leaving. Water is provided in both a basin and foot pool, and towels and toiletries are kept in the niches. Guests (as opposed to business visitors) will usually remove their outer shoes and leave them in the Savrakad. If the visitors are good friends of the host, the host will proceed with them to the Savrakad and converse while they refresh themselves. In more formal situations the host will retire to the family areas of the house and rejoin the visitors in the Kantà Hànak when they are done.

Running along the main axis of the house – usually at right angles to the Kantà Hànak and open to it via a wide arch – will be the Kantà Modák or “Inhabited Chamber”. This is the main living and entertaining space and will be fitted out with chairs, tables and shelving. The main Mazakan (radio set) will be located here, as will be the Kembá Halem (Family Shrine/memorial). Mon tálávišak (televisions) have become popular on Zurvár Arèáná over the last twenty years, and if the house has one it will be located in this room (some of the cities have a television station, in smaller settlements televisions are used with video and DVD players).

The Kantà Modák is often subdivided into a more casual and more formal area, the latter of which will be used for important private meals – more public events will usually take place on the roof – weather permitting.

The barrier that exists between the Kantà Hànak and Kantà Modák is a social one.  A visitor who walks through the archway without being invited would be considered to be extremely rude and presumptuous, and a terrible guest – the reaction would be similar to that of discovering a guest going through one’s bedroom closet. Short of exceptional circumstances they would be asked to leave immediately, and not be invited back.

The fact that there is no physical barrier between the rooms is viewed as a mark of respect. It says to guests that the host trusts them to behave properly. It’s also a symbol of the openness of the house to those (close family friends for example) who have been granted the right to enter the rest of the house without restraint.

Adjacent to the Kantà Modák will be the Abed Elbrán or “Wet Room”. This is the house’s food preparation area and laundry. It has perhaps seen the largest change since the settlement of Zurvár Arèáná, as several traditional features have been replaced by appliances imported from Earth.

The central feature of the room is the belakan (oven). This is typically constructed out of brick with a combustion chamber below and a metal lined cooking space above. The usual fuel is dried seaweed. While many Zurvár cooks claim that the traditional belakan is necessary for true Zurvár cuisine, many houses have replaced them with more convenient electric ovens imported from Earth.

While some mon belakan feature hotplates, it is more usual for a separate electric hotplate system to be used. Many models are manufactured on Zurvár Arèáná itself, although some are imported. Many houses will also have a microwave or toaster oven for when firing up the belakan would be excessive.

Dried, canned or preserved foodstuffs are stored in the kârá (cupboard/small room/pantry). This is a small, walk-in space lined with shelving. Perishables are kept in a chest refrigerator in the abed elbrán, with frozen goods in a chest freezer – usually in the redásad (utility room) next door. Upright refrigerators are regarded with a mixture of horror and amusement.

The abed elbrán is also used for washing clothes and linen. Old fashioned electric or hand-cranked Zurvár washing machines have now almost universally been replaced by more efficient models imported from Earth. Once washed, clothes are dried on lines on the roof – driers are seen as an indulgent waste of electricity.

The abed elbrán will usually have a exit to the rear of the house, which will open onto stairs up to the garaqrum (roof-plaza). Out the back of the house will be a garden area that provides much of the food eaten by the house’s inhabitants. A wide variety of food is grown including melons (sòfá dâmurn), a variety of small, elongated tomato (sòfá po’rumun), yams (ìpò), a type of dry-cultivated rice (sácè) and sugar beets (teberá). The traditional plants have been supplemented by imports from Earth including potatoes (pádàdá) and tomatoes (sòfá po’rumun tárlá or domádá).

Adjacent to the garden there will often be a chicken coop (kârá lûkol) to provide meat and eggs.

Seafood is naturally very important in the Zurvár diet with a wide variety of fish and shellfish consumed. Just as important are a variety of lagaš or edible seaweeds. These are grown in a series of communal tidal pools known as a másá lagaš. A good site for a másá lagaš is an important factor in choosing a location for a Zurvár settlement. In addition to growing seaweed for food, species useful for producing fabric, medicines and alcohol are also cultivated.

The need to protect the másá lagaš from fish predation is responsible for the Zurvár domestication of a species of sealion known as the hárùq kanad. A hárùq kanad stands up to a metre tall when on land, and has a sorter snout than most species of Earth sealion, giving it a facial resemblance to a seal. They are about as intelligent as dogs and are notable for their loyalty, playfulness and curiosity. Any Zurvar settlement will have a family of hárùq kanad who are looked after by the community as a whole.

 

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All of the roof furniture (the wind catchers, awnings, solar panels and wind turbine) are collapsible and can be brought inside or locked down when a storm system threatens. On Zurvár Arèáná – with the massive oceans spawning intensely powerful storms that can wander around the planet for months before petering out – all of the windows will have metal shutters for added security.

The roof also doubles as water catchment, with rain diverted away to tanks for future use.

—-

This is the first part of the rundown of the in-world history behind my conworld of Zurvár Arèáná and the Zurvár people.

Much of the material in this part of the history was developed when I was in high school and I’ve never really gone back and revised it – being more focused now days on the history, geography, language and culture of Zurvár Arèáná. As such there are bits that are a bit inconsistent, illogical and juvenile. Please feel free to point out any particular problems you notice, but don’t be offended if my response is “yeah, I know” rather than a decent explanation

Probability and Metaphysics

There are two underpinning concepts in my conworld. The first is a fifth dimension called “probability” (this is a direct crib from Douglas Adams by the way). Moving in probability takes you to alternative universes. For instance, if you were standing in the middle of Times Square and moved a small distance in probability, you’d still be standing in the middle of Times Square, but a slightly different Times Square. Move a bit further and you’ll be in a completely different Times Square, and further still a universe where New York City doesn’t even exist. All my conworlds are alternative (sometimes very alternative) Earths, known as Otherworlds.

The second concept is that of “Metaphysics” – or in ordinary, non-pretentious language, psionics. Metaphysics covers the old standards of direct mind to mind communication, mind reading, telekinesis and teleportation, but also movement through probability. Most sentient beings can learn a few metaphysical tricks with training and rigorous practice, but some individuals have much higher potential.

Metaphysics operates through the generation and manipulation of Artonic Energy. This obeys rules – but rules that I’ve only vaguely defined to date.

OK, that’s the background – on to the history…

The Metaphysicians Guild

While the Zurvárr people have been traveling through probability for thousands of years, the story of Zurvár Arèáná really begins on our Earth, in London, England in the 1880s. Here a man of mysterious origins using the pseudonym ‘Azmael’ established an occult society named “The Guild of Metaphysicians”. This attracted the usual crowd of enthusiasts and dilettantes, but unlike most of the other ‘magical’ groups flourishing at the time, Azmael had some actual, working knowledge of metaphysics. In 1889 he and his group managed to establish contact with the Otherworld of Wyrymya – an incredibly ancient society highly skilled in metaphysics. The Guild initially thought they’d contacted some kind of spirit world full of ‘ascended masters’, but the Wyrms they’d contacted soon cleared up this misapprehension.

The Guild’s breakthrough had actually happened at a fortuitous time, as numerous groups in Wyrymyan society were agitating to protect the non-metaphysically aware societies of local probability from exploitation. Being contacted by a group of ‘primitives’ who regarded the Wyrms as some kind of spiritual messiahs provided these groups with a prime example of how metaphysics could be exploited by the unscrupulous, and the Wyrymyan government decided to establish a body to prevent such abuses and protect non-metaphysically aware species. This organisation was named the Metaphysicians’ Guild in tribute to the group of occultists who sparked it’s creation, and was founded in 1893.

The newly established Guild set up shop on a previously uninhabited Otherworld that was renamed Metaphysica. Facilities – part university, part police precinct – were set up on the spatial locations of major settlements on both Earth and Wyrymya, and the Guild, which included members of many species the Wyrymyans were in contact with, began cataloging and investigating the Otherworlds within their remit.

The Neanderthan Scandal

One of the earliest Otherworlds charted (in 1895) was a pre-agricultural Earth still locked in an ice age and inhabited by a species of human descended from Neandertals. It was designated as Neanderthan. The party of Metaphysicians sent to scout it included a number of Azmael’s group, who had been inducted into the Guild based on their involvement in its founding. Unfortunately, although they had handled their exposure to a more advanced society well, they were still afflicted with the prejudices of the 19th century, and quickly came to regard the Neandertals they encountered as brainless savages. Relations between the locals and the Guild party deteriorated until the Metaphysicians’ camp was attacked. The party managed to send a distress call back to Metaphysica, and a large relief party was dispatched, only to arrive in the middle of a pitched battle. In the resulting chaos a massive blast of artonic energy was released, destroying a dozen or so Neandertal villages, killing hundreds of Neandertals and leaving a crater two kilometres wide in the spatial co-ordinates of Luxembourg.

In the aftermath of the fiasco the Guild revised its policies and started investigating non-metaphysically aware Otherworlds in a much more careful and surreptitious fashion. Over the following decades it became a well organised and well regarded body among the metaphysically aware societies of local probability. It broke ties with the Wyrymyan government and became truly independent in 1931 (although it continues to receive funding from Wyrymya to this day).

The Neanderthan War and the Zurvár

In February 1960 Metaphysica was suddenly attacked by tens of thousands of Neandertal warriors, led by powerful shamans who managed to open artonic gates between Metaphysica and Neandertan (subsequent research indicated that artonic radiation from the Luxenbourg crater had caused mutations in the local population, giving them enhanced Metaphysical ability). The Guild headquarters of the time were not constructed for defence, and bloody fighting spread across the European and Asian sectors of the world. The Guild was paralysed by the surprise nature of the attack and was suffering heavy losses when a massive force of Zurvár mercenaries who had received the Guild’s distress calls arrived on-world and intervened in the fighting. With the support of experienced Zurvár fighters the Guild was able to regroup and drove the attackers back through their gates.

Once the crisis had passed, the thankful Guild offered the mercenaries anything they wanted by way of repayment. The mercenaries (who had already recovered large amounts of loot from the battlefields) simply asked for directions to somewhere with a decent beach to settle down with their families for a few years. The Guild offered them freehold of a recently cataloged, uninhabited ocean world and any assistance they required to settle it. That world was to become Zurvár Arèáná.

 

Artonic energy is produced by sentient brains as part of their natural function. With practice an individual can harness this energy and manipulate it to achieve psychic and telekinetic effects. It can also be used to punch holes (“gates”) through probability, allowing travel between Otherworlds.

Massive expenditure of artonic energy can cause localised damage to probability, which causes all manner of strange effects – primarily distortions in space and time and objects spontaneously slipping back and forth between Otherworlds. It can also (I have to admit I don’t know exactly how at this point ) result in persistent low level fields of artonic energy, which have “interesting” effects on the evolution and development of local lifeforms.

It’s pretty much limited to psionics, although I forgot to mention that it can be produced by complex electronics as well as organic brains. There is another type of energy, called Orgonic which is a property of living things – it’s chief use is for healing (for those wondering about the name, Wilhelm Reich managed to detect both artonic and orgonic energy, but conflated them together and came up with some very strange ideas).

‘Evolved separately’ is a bit tricky to pin down in this setting. The Zurvár for example evolved somewhere out in probability, but are to all intents and purposes human (with a few interesting adaptions) because their evolution mirrored ours so exactly. Humans and Zurvár can even interbreed without problems.

The Wyrms are a different matter entirely. They’re actually shapeshifters, their natural form is a large, snake-like creature with trilateral symmetry, but they can change at will to a form that will happily pass as human under light scrutiny. The exact details of how this works are muddy, but it has something to do with them having twelve stranded DNA and being able to ‘jump tracks’ between this DNA in every cell in their bodies simultaneously. The Wyrms have an interesting history, having almost completely wiped themselves out in a nuclear holocaust around 1200 BC, an event that took almost all traces of their original culture with it. It’s not even known if they had the ability to shape shift before the Cataclysm (as they call it) or if it was a mutation brought on by the poisoning of their biosphere.

Wyrms cannot interbreed with humans or Zurvár.

Haven’t had time to format up part two of the history today, but here’s some more info anyway…

Notes on Zurvár Biology

The Zurvár are a human-variant species of near-local probability. While the Otherworld of their origin is unknown, it’s considered highly likely that they originate from several different, close-by worlds.

Zurvár are able to pass as Earth humans under all but the most serious scrutiny. The Zurvár species has a smaller range in skin tone than Earth humans, with colouration ranging from mid-brown to light olive. Hair colour ranges from dark brown to light blonde, with occasional (although rare) occurrence of deep black or red. Eye colour tends to be brown, although other colours appear in small numbers – the most common being green. About 60% of Zurvár have epicanthic folds, giving their eyes a slight almond shape. There is no noticeable difference in build, height or lifespan between Earth humans and Zurvár.

As far back as records exists the Zurvár have been a maritime people, preferring to live next to the ocean wherever possible and deriving much of the sustenance from it. A number of evolutionary adaptions to this lifestyle are apparent in their population. Full webbing is common between the toes. Webbing between the fingers varies between virtually non-existent to all the way up to the first knuckle – the average is about 1cm. Zurvár kidneys are better adapted to high levels of salts than Earth humans, a Zurvár can drink nothing but sea-water for up to two weeks without suffering ill effects – attempting a similar feat would quickly kill an Earth human (as a consequence of this tolerance water supplies on Zurvár Arèáná are often not completely desalinated – Earth humans visiting the world should be careful what they drink).

These differences aside, Earth humans and Zurvár are almost genetically identical and can breed without difficulty. Children of such unions inherit a mix of features from both parents and can usually pass for either Earth Human or Zurvár.

This is the second part of the rundown of the in-world history behind my conworld of Zurvár Arèáná and the Zurvár people. This material is a bit better developed and more ‘modern’ than the older material in part one – which is responsible for a bit of a disconnect between the two. Specifically, I’m not at this point entirely sure how the offer of a world to a group of Zurvár mercenaries turned into the offer of a world to the entire Zurvár race. I’m also not entirely sure why there were so many Zurvár mercenaries available to fight in the Neanderthan war, as my modern conception of the Zurvár is of a much more peaceful people. The exact origin of the Konsâtèum is also something of a mystery at this point. No doubt I shall solve these issues with time – on to the History…

Zurvár Arèáná and the Konsâtèum

Historically the Zurvár have been a nomadic people, moving in extended family groups (known as mon mòet or ‘houses’) from Otherworld to Otherworld. On finding a location that suited their requirements they would settle for some time – usually somewhere between ten and twenty years – before packing up and moving on. Some houses exclusively sought new territory, while others limited themselves to cycling between known locations – most varied between the two, revisiting favoured places while seeking out new locations to add to their journeys.

Favoured locations for the Zurvár have always been tropical and semi-tropical oceanic coastlines. Most Otherworlds discovered by the Zurvár had only limited areas matching this profile, and many were either already inhabited or had undesirable features such as dangerous predators or other threats. The nomadic nature of the Zurvár allowed these issues to be coped with – small, mobile populations being able to easily relocate when problems arose.

The Otherworld that was to become Zurvár Arèáná on the other hand presented the Zurvár with a new opportunity. An entire, completely uninhabited world with a climate ranging from tropical at the equator to sub-tropical at the poles, made up entirely of island chains with no dangerous predators and abundant seas – in other words a paradise large enough to absorb the entire Zurvár race.

The suggestion to permanently settle on the planet was circulated among the houses of the Zurvár, and most responses were positive. The challenge was how to co-ordinate such an undertaking. The Mataphysicians Guild was already offering assistance, but a Zurvár body was needed to control the settlement process.

The answer came in the form of the Konsâtèum – a pre-existing group of powerful houses who had combined resources in the early 20th century for purposes of exploration and research (the name of the group being taken as a loan-word from English). The Konsâtèum stepped forward and offered its services to survey the planet, establish the best sites for colonies and manage the development process. After much debate the offer was accepted, and in 1963 the Konsâtèum (in association with the Metaphysicians Guild and the Wyrymyan Government) was granted control of the settlement and development of the world, which was officially named Zurvár Arèáná – Planet of the Zurvár.

The first step taken by the Konsâtèum was to establish a number of subsidiary bodies, most importantly the Konsâtèum Kredatèn Mametak Kelkertaklá (Konsâtèum Settlement Survey Authority), which dispatched hundreds of teams to survey the planet. The results of these surveys indicated that Zurvár Arèáná was everything it seemed to be, and plans were drafted for settlement.

The Seven (Plus One) Cities

The final plan for the settlement of Zurvár Arèáná was finalised in 1965. It called for the establishment of seven large cities – mostly around the bodies of water christened the Eastern and Western Oceans – each with a hinterland of smaller settlements extending outwards for several hundred kilometres. Five of these cities were to be established directly by the Konsâtèum, with the remaining two made open for tender by private groups of settlers conforming to Konsâtèum approved standards. The first of these cities Gorat Balzad Zurvárurn (First City of the Zurvár) was founded in early 1966, with Gorat Bárkalif Ganalû (City of the Great Blue Bay) and Gorat Sûlbarn Hì (City of Evening Breezes) founded later the same year. The first of the privately settled cities Gorat Karaþ Dárgurn (City of the Western Karaþ) also took place in late 1966.

Gorat Mìam Doráþû (City of the Golden Dawn) was founded in 1967, followed by the second of the privately settled cities Gorat mon Dìad Mantábon (City of the Pine Groves) in 1969. Shortly after the founding of the later a schism occurred between the settlers, causing a large group to splinter off and establish a new, unplanned city six hundred kilometres north which they named Gorat Mantábon Dìaz (Free City of the Pine Tree). The two cities maintain a rivalry to the present day.

The last of the cities Gorat Bármárgiv (City of the Great Lake) was founded in ST0070, bringing the total number of cities to eight.

All eight cities are known casually by truncated nicknames. Gorat Balzad Zurvárurn as Bal, Gorat Bárkalif Ganalû as Kalif, Gorat Sûlbarn Hì as , Gorat Karaþ Dárgurn as Karaþ, Gorat Mìam Doráþû as Mìam, Gorat mon Dìad Mantábon as , Gorat Mantábon Dìaz as Dìaz and Gorat Bármárgiv as Márgiv.

The settlement process established by the Konsâtèum was simple. Any Zurvár was welcome to settle on Zurvár Arèáná. Settlement in established population centres was open to all – pending approval by the local authority – however to establish a new settlement required a minimum number of settlers and financial capital, and the site and plans had to be approved by Konsâtèum inspectors. Establishing a plot on the world required payment to the local authority – to make this easier the Konsâtèum offered a selection of low interest loans. Loans and assistance were also available to communities as a whole to establish infrastructure such as power stations and water treatment facilities. This system served (and still serves) well to establish the planet and by the mid 1980s the population of Zurvár Arèáná had reached 4,000,000.

Over the years the Konsâtèum has adopted the role of a (somewhat weak) central government for the planet. This role is not without controversy – many Zurvár feel that it was given its authority to settle the planet and that in continuing to run it it has overstepped its bounds. The Konsâtèum on the other hand claims that the planet is still being colonised and as such it is still within its remit. Despite requests from both sides the Metaphysicians Guild and the Wyrymyan government have refused to intervene – declaring the issue an internal Zurvár matter. Debate continues, although it must be said that as long as there’s food on the table and time to go surfing on the weekends the majority of Zurvár don’t feel strongly either way.

The Mon Dolfin

In 1972 several pods of bottlenosed dolphins resident in the Pacific Ocean of Otherword One* made contact with the Zurvár and requested asylum on Zurvár Arèáná to escape from threats such as pollution and drift netting. Their request was granted and 1,238 dolphins, porpoises and small whales relocated. In 1975 several remote and uninhabited island chains and their surrounding waters were ceded to the Cetaceans as exclusive territorial zones exempt from Zurvár law, known as mon Burzum Dolfinár (Cetacean Areas) or mon Mazon Dolfinár (Cetacean Reserves). The largest of these surrounds the remote Pùlost Yestur (Yestur Island) in the Eastern Ocean, which is regarded as the Cetacean capital.

The mon Dolfin have thrived on Zurvár Arèáná with a current estimated population somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 worldwide (Cetaceans have an extremely relaxed attitude to most things in life, including statistics).

Communication between Zurvár and Dolfin is handled mostly via metaphysical (psychic) means. There is a pidgin language of whistles and squawks suitable for the hearing and vocal apparatus of both species, but it is very limited – apart from the area of cheerful profanity in which it positively abounds.

The ruling body of the Cetaceans is the Koreb Dolfinurn Tárlán (High Cetacean Council). Details such as the composition, number and location of the Council are unclear, although it is a recognised legal entity under Zurvár Arèáná law. It is a common theory that the Council is a fiction created and maintained by the mon Dolfin to make dealing with the Zurvár population easier. Equally popular is the theory that it’s a fiction created and maintained by the mon Dolfin as some kind of obscure joke.

(*Otherworld One is an alternate Earth superficially identical to our own, but with many historic events ‘scrambled’ from our perspective. Examples: The Lusitania sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 with great loss of life, while the Titanic was sunk off the south coast of Ireland by a German submarine during World War One. World War II ended with a massive assault on the Nazi Alpenfestung in the Austrian Alps. Elvis Presley disappeared in 1977 then re-appeared fit and healthy in 1979, only to be assassinated by a crazed fan in New York city in December 1980. The world’s most successful coffee chain is called Queequegs. Charles Manson is a respected musician and founding member of the Beach Boys. And so on.)

Zurvár Arèáná Today

Zurvár Arèáná is for the most part a peaceful and prosperous world. The total Zurvár population stands at around 7,000,000 with the largest city, Kalif, boasting a population of around 650,000. Transportation around the planet is mostly handled by a system of matter transporters, a technology the Zurvár are particularly skilled with. New settlers still arrive, but numbers have fallen since the 1990s and it is now thought that the majority of Zurvár reside on the planet. Discussions are on the table to establish a new city in the near future and a number of sites around the Gulf of Sponges have been surveyed in anticipation of this.

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Well, according to the source and destination of all human knowledge (ie: Wikipedia) Cyclones usually form between 10 and 30 degrees N/S, although they can sometimes form at up to 5 degrees. My understanding is that the equator side of the limit is based on the Coriolis effect (which would be the same on any planet with the size and rotation characteristics of Earth) and the polar side of the limit comes from ocean temperature. Zurvár Arèáná has a warmer climate than Earth, so I’m assuming that cyclones would consequently form further north and south.

Furthermore cyclones only die when they’re cut off from the warm water that fuels them, either by heading too far north or south, or by passing over a continent. Zurvár Arèáná has no continents, so the storms don’t die until they hit cooler waters around the poles. I’ll have to figure out exactly how close to the poles they can get.

OK, after some back of the envelope calculations and squinting at ocean temperature maps I think I can say that cyclones form on Zurvár Arèáná between 10 and 40 degrees and tend to die (degenerating into extratropical cyclones) off around 60 degrees. Comparing data from a whole bunch of sources – and gut instinct – suggests that the average settlement would be hit by about 5 cyclones in an average year with about the same number of serious tropical storm systems.

No biggie. The Zurvár scoff at storms

 

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If you mean the top right corner, that’s the entrance to a seln malazká or “Storm Tunnel”. Some Zurvár settlements link important buildings with tunnels for communication purposes during severe storms. It’s a bit unusual – although not entirely unheard of – in a private house. Doors into the tunnels are heavy and vault like, and can usually only be opened from the building side.

 

The tanks to the side store rainwater collected from the roof. The larger tank contains the ‘raw’ water, the smaller filtered. The drains are now modeled on the roof, which is slightly slanted out towards the edges to direct the flow of water.
Around the back of the house can be seen the top of the septic tank. Some areas of the larger cities have centralised sewage systems, but most houses rely on septic tank systems.

In this version all the roof furniture has been removed and stowed inside the house. The awnings and poles have been taken down and the wind turbine pole folded and locked. Metal shutters have been fixed over the windows and (as this is a particularly strong storm system) the doors. Finally the herb planters outside the door have been protected with a fastened down plastic sheet (if it breaks lose it won’t do any damage, and hey, herbs can be replanted).

Regarding the internal walls and arches – all the walls are built from interlocking masonry blocks a good 75cm thick, fixed together with mortar. The roof is supported by metal beams, socketed into the stone. Combined with the earth berms it makes for pretty strong construction. If that still doesn’t seem strong/waterproof enough I’ll invoke creator fiat and say the Zurvár have incorporated some building techniques/materials from more advanced cultures such as the Wyrms

The most obvious factor is that of wealth. The house illustrated is typical of a reasonably well off family who’ve taken out a Settlement Loan with the Konsâtèum to fund construction. A less wealthy family, or an individual, would construct a smaller home – although along the same basic template. The rooms would be smaller, there might be less bedrooms and the utility and storage areas would be combined.

Smaller homes are also found in the cities where a house doesn’t need to be quite so self sufficient. There is also a wider variety of architecture, including low-rise apartment blocks and accommodation above workplaces and shops. These dwellings are typically inhabited by young Zurvár who’ve just moved out of home, or are living away from home for education or work purposes. The traditional division between public and private areas of the home is generally ignored, or only weakly implemented in these homes.

Gender is not a huge issue in Zurvár society. Social equality of the biological sexes has (theoretically) been the norm for centuries and while there are some societal roles viewed as traditionally masculine and feminine they are violated often enough that only the most conservative minority has a problem with them. While there is no specific religious or societal prohibition on same-sex relationships they have, historically, been treated as second class when compared to straight relationships. This has gradually been changing – gay and straight partnerships have been equal under Konsâtèum law since the early 1990s and disapproval of non-cisgendered relationships is increasingly unacceptable among young Zurvár.

The main political/ideological issue on Zurvár Arèáná concerns the Konsâtèum, and whether or not it’s overstepped its authority in becoming the de-facto government. Zurvár who oppose the Konsâtèum are far less likely to take out Settlement Loans and as such their homes tend to be smaller, or take much longer to build. There are also some differences in architectural style between different ancestoral Houses, the most obvious being that of House Fèelis who prefer to build round rather than rectangular houses – a style that has caught on with some other Zurvár for purely aesthetic reasons.

Finally, there are naturally some individuals who, for reasons of politics, ideology or simply personal taste, reject the traditional house entirely and construct dwellings that are completely different.

The Pèá Vágás

(People have been bugging me to post something to remove our new Prime Minister’s visage from the homepage. Well – to quote TISM – bash this up ya ginga!)

As is common among many human-variant species of local probability, the Zurvár use cards (pèá) for purposes of both gaming and divination. The most common set of cards are called the Pèá Vágás.

The Vágás are divided into five suits, corresponding to five elements of the Zurvár creation myth. These are lòtò (boats), katálá (fish), rindû (seabirds), táká (knots) and minak (stars). Each suit has 10 cards, numbered one to five and double one to double five. The double five of each deck is the pèá tálá or “great card” and has its own name and unique symbol…

lòtò (boats) – altáká (The Sun)
katálá (fish) – hì sùim (The Incoming Wind)
rindû (seabirds) – hì piridim (The Outgoing Wind)
táká (knots) – takal (The Takal – the knot symbol that represents the Zurvár people)
minak (stars) – minak tálá (The Great Star)

Each of the suits is associated with a number of elements and ideas, chiefly of use for divinatory purposes, but also featuring in some card games.

Suit Element Positive Aspects Negative Aspects Roles
lòtò
(boats)
Living Things Protection,
Strength
Restriction,
Intimidation
Protectors and Defenders
katálá
(fish)
Water Reliability,
Skill
Dullness,
Fear
Workers and Labourers
rindû
(seabirds)
Air Creativity,
Passion
Arrogance,
Obsession
Artists and Performers
táká
(knots)
Earth Wisdom,
Intelligence
Resistance to
Change, Passivity
Thinkers
minak
(stars)
Light Ambition,
Persistance
Greed,
Treachery
Guides and Leaders

 

The most basic form of divination is to draw three cards while considering the situation one seeks advice on. The first card reveals positives about the situation, the second negatives, and the third provides a balance between the two. Many Zurvár regard this as nothing more than outdated superstition, but a surprising number will still ‘draw the cards’ before commencing a major undertaking “just for luck”.

In addition to the attributes listed above, every card in the Vágás deck is associated with a particular profession. Again this is used for divination, but it is also used in a number of childrens’ games such as motás qudáqurn (‘balanced house’) where the players attempt to assemble a hand of compatible workers to inhabit their ‘house’.

Lòtò (Boats)
1 – Healer/Doctor
2 – Metaphysician
3 – Militia Member/Peace Officer
4 – Judge
5 – Warrior
11 – Scout/Explorer
22 – War Leader/General
33 – Advocate/Lawyer
44 – Ship’s Carpenter
55 – Ship’s Captain

Katálá (Fish)
1 – Farmer/Butcher
2 – Baker
3 – Brewer
4 – Sailmaker
5 – Carpenter
11 – Potter
22 – Weaver
33 – Labourer/Builder
44 – Metalsmith
55 – Boatbuilder

Rindû (Seabirds)
1 – Sculptor
2 – Dancer
3 – Carver/Engraver
4 – Painter
5 – Singer
11 – Musician
22 – Writer
33 – Tapestry Maker
44 – Storyteller/Bard
55 – Creator (an individual skilled in many artforms)

Táká (Knots)
1 – Student/Scholar
2 – Philosopher
3 – Accountant/Business Person
4 – Historian
5 – Researcher/Scientist
11 – Engineer
22 – Architect/Builder
33 – Marine Architect / Boat Designer
44 – Poet
55 – Sage

Minak (Stars)
1 – Messenger/Mail Carrier
2 – Parent
3 – House Elder
4 – Mayor (elected leader of a Zurvár settlement)
5 – Counselor/Adviser
11 – Mystic/Prophet
22 -Lawmaker
33 – Mapmaker
44 – Teacher
55 – Pilot

Pèá Vágás decks may easily be obtained in any Zurvár settlement and vary from cheap, printed pasteboard to elaborately engraved metal plates aimed at the fortune telling and tourist markets.

Keldáq and Keldáqimon

An significant aspect of Zurvár music is a form of harmony singing called keldáq (‘balance singing’). Keldáq has existed among the Zurvár for as long as their histories record and in addition to being a form of entertainment has a notable ceremonial aspect.

A full, traditional keldáqimon (‘balance singing group’) consists of five vocalists with no musical accompaniment,

1 Keldit Fodim (‘front singer’) – The fodim provides the main melody that the rest of the group follows.
1 Keldit Lârim (‘top singer’) – The lârim sings in a high falsetto, prefiguring and and echoing the lyrics sung by the fodim.
1 Keldit Burmá (anchor singer) – The burmá provides a rhythm by producing non-verbal sounds in a deep bass, interspersed with occasional echoes of the fodim‘s lyrics.
2 Keldit Nìad (back singers) – The mon nìad sing a counterpoint to the fodim and each other with a mix of echoed lyrics and non-verbal sounds. This is considered the most demanding role in the group.

A number of variations of keldáq exist. While many involve assigning additional singers to the roles, the most common is a simplified form called keldáq rèd (‘short keldáq‘), which uses only the fodim, lârim and one nìad. Use of instruments is more common in keldáq rèd than in full keldáq.

The most important ceremonial use of keldáq is on the sûln cârálân (‘day of the departed’). Held every five traditional years this is a commemoration of the community’s deceased and begins with the assembly of the population at the local cremation ground before dawn. As the sun rises a full keldáqimon perform the kelkârâ, a lengthy keldáq song sung in Old Zurvár. Properly timed, this should finish just as the sun clears the horizon. Being chosen to perform the kelkârâ is considered a major honor for a keldáqimon and in the larger settlements on Zurvár Arèáná there is fierce competition to be selected.

Keldáq is also used ceremonially at weddings and funerals, and any Zurvár party worth the name will feature some keldáq singing – if only at the hands of drunken attendees.

Mostly Just for My Own Benefit

The Zurvár second (ZS) is 1.10592 seconds long.

The Zurvár minute (ZM) is 125 ZS long, for a total of  138.24 seconds or 2.304 minutes long.

The Zurvár hour (ZH) is 25 ZM or 3125 ZS long, for a total of 57.6 minutes long.

There are 25 ZH in one standard 24 hour day.

The hour count of a Zurvár day begins at sunrise and continues until the following sunrise. This means that a given day may be longer or shorter than the standard 25 hours depending on latitude and time of year.

A traditional Zurvár week lasts five days. A month is five weeks (25 days) and a year five months (125 days). The traditional calendar has been superseded by a redesigned 365 day calendar on Zurvár Arèáná, but the traditional calendar is retained for cultural and traditional purposes.

For scientific purposes the Zurvár epoch is fixed to 00:00:00 GMT on January 1st 1954. The traditional calendar has also been synchronised to sunrise on this date.

In the traditional calendar, today (Oct 22nd 2012) would be the fifth day of the fifth month, in the year 172. A person born today would be ascribed the horoscope of ‘Double Knot’, which predicts a well balanced personality skilled at problem solving.

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