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Dubrovnik-(Croatia)

Qalîs, Szurgiki

The country of Szurgiki comprises the rugged islands, coastal area, and surrounding sea at the west coast of Paradigm past the Ilætî Sea.  It lies between 43°–51° north latitude and 14°–21° east longitude.

Its capital is the great port-city Melîs, and other major ports among its islands include Prawfîs, Loku, Ara-jidî, and Qalîs.  Benîs, a powerful merchant community, is carved into the stone of a pass in the mountains at the head of the Tempis River, serving as a gateway for traffic between the thriving sea-trade on the west coast and the Calla Lowlands.

Geography and ClimateEdit

Cupronickel deposits in the windswept  cliffs and sheltered harbours make the Surgiki region a prime area for settlement by seafaring peoples, and its multitude scattered islands–protected from the worst of the sea's tempest by the larger barrier islands to the west–provide a strong network of trading and fishing ports.  The Tempis River flows from a deep gorge in the Enazor Crags through the high hills of Fwth to the east, and on to the Ilæætî Sea.  Granite, limestone and basalt are the most common minerals in the Enzor Crags, but a high concentration of fine marble and soapstone can be found here, too.

Like the western Calla Lowlands, Szurgiki tends to cool summers and mild winters, with its seaward location causing frequently dense cloud cover and fogs that often don't lift until past noon and return at dusk.   Szurgiki is inspired by Greece, the west coast of Turkey, and Crete on Earth.

Flora and FaunaEdit

The larger islands at the western side of the Szurgiki territory, whose eastern shores are uplifted by steep mountains, are covered in lush, dense temperate rainforest; giant ferns, blue moss, and exotic mushrooms grow in the wan light filtering through the canopy of massive Ekoa trees, enormous conifers prized for their wood.  A number of aggressive species, such as the Whipspear plant (which fires highly-poisonous darts at animals encroaching on the area above its shallow roots, the decaying body then providing nutrients), the Hubla Gorga (a plant that reaches out with subterranean vine-tentacles to snare unwary creatures, which it drowns and in a large, central pitcher filled with enzyme- and pheromone-rich digestive secretions), and Strangler Vine (a prehensile organism that drapes from the branches of trees and strangles to death its victims) make exploitation of the rich natural resources of these islands an impractical endeavour for all but the most determined and prepared.

A race of dolphin-tailed mermaids inhabits the waters of Szurgikî and south into the Floeni Sea, living in small family groups and dealing frequently-enough with the land-born people.  They are familiar with the sea but have little knowledge of waterbending, for their cultural memories are minimal.  These merfolk were already a secluded group when the great mermaid empire collapsed, so their vocal histories are scattered fragments of the great epics that were their forebears.  The great whales of the deep have their own legendary memories, the least of whose individual songs have been said to last months.  Mentioned in some of these songs is Ouhu'aa, a behemoth sea turtle on whose back rests an island paradise, forever travelling over the oceans, so it can almost never be intentionally found.

ArchitectureEdit

Szurgiki's primary architectural medium is the grey stone of the rugged seaside cliffs.  Hewn into the very rock face, the cave-like structures follow the original fault lines, refined into chambers of varying opulence.  Smooth, unadorned surfaces predominate, though these are decorated with ceramic tile mosaics and murals imbued with delicate-hued pigments that are resistant to fading and wear.  Houses and public buildings alike are arranged around a central, rectantular courtyard which is either open to the sky or has a domed ceiling with a series of cleverly-arranged shafts through the mountain above to allow illumination.  Square-columned porticos grace the façades of the most important establishments and manors, and the plain openings that lead into the antechamber belonging to the rest dot the cliff faces.  Broad tiers serve to section the cities somewhat, with shallow steps following long curves along the major streets, and steeper, rough ledges climbing through the narrow alleyways winding among the older districts.  Squat, flat-roofed apartment-houses made of a rubble-and-plaster concrete dominate the lower-class areas, closer to the water, and cloth awnings spread in a riot of colour along the market quarter's collonades.  Large cupronickel ornaments and statuary can be found in the richest homes and civic buildings.

LawsEdit

  • Unauthorises public use of magic:  prison, 2 days & nights
  • Subverting proper authority:  water-torture (this involves subjecting the criminal to simulated drowning, sufficient repetition often resulting in a paralyzing phobia of water–a dire fate for anyone whose life is so closely tied to the sea)
  • Destruction of property:  public flogging, stocks for 1 working-day, fine
  • Theft:  confiscated item, branding on upper back, fine equal to item's value (the Thieves' Guilds of the cities of Szurgiki require a certain number of these brands before admittance is even considered, and keep stringent records among themselves, rewarding those with high actual-thefts-to-brands ratios with high rank, indicated by subtle modification to the thief-branding)
  • Piracy:  confiscated goods, loss of social status, public flogging, fine equal to value of goods
  • Unpayable debt:  indentured servitude
  • Rape:  castration, mastectomy, head shaved
  • Murder:  departed soul bound to the murderer to torment them (this requires use of magic, but not scrying, as the soul remains close to the body along certain metaphysical-space dimensions)

Criminals, magic-users, and other unsavoury social outcasts tend to live in the grimy holes in the cliffs among the twisting alleys, and this is a good place to end up dead if unwary, or to find a dealer for illicit merchandise, or someone who'll do any deed. Merely somewhat-questionable goods and services can be somewhat-easily acquired in the seedier sections of the markets and docks, for enough coin.

Attitudes & Social Norms of the People of SzurgikiEdit

Generally an independent sort, Szurgi prize self-reliance while being supportive of strong social bonds with intimate acquaintences.  Used to a general lack of physical privacy, the Szurgi are wont to mind their own business, and consider most things as need-to-know.  This is especially true for career criminals; anything that could be dangerous to know is often better off unknown, as this provides an avenue of plausible deniability, in addition to protecting the individuals that do need to know from information-leaks.  The odd combination of such a loose network of knowledge and solidarity results in a surprisingly robust society.

The popular Szurgi attitude is an important factor in their disdain shown towards scholars and magic-users (who tend to be busybodies that want to know far too much).

Szurgi are somewhat infamous among those of other cultures for having short tempers, most having little patience for political maneuverings and blatant dishonesty.  They are considered often enough as negotiators for third parties due to their straightforwardness.

Chest-baring bolero jackets, the traditional garb of the Szurgi, convey the individual's openness of heart and honesty, as well as their ability to provide for others, while hiding the upper back, shoulders and collarbone, which are culturally associated with eroticism and sexual intimacy.  Prostitutes advertise their services by wearing shoulder-baring halter tops festooned with gaudy jewellery that expose their upper back and arms, and allow generous extra padding of the bosom to exaggerate their appearance.

Concerning MagicEdit

The earliest annals of the Szurgi people clearly indicate that each of their ships carried at least one mage to aid journeys on the often-tempestuous seas, blunting the severity of storms, augmenting defense against sea monsters, and healing the ill and wounded.  This shipmage practise ended abruptly a few decades after the nation of Szurgiki was founded, after an unknown event caused all attempts at scrying (the most common use of magic for the seafaring folk) in the country to invariably result in an apocalyptic vision and overwhelming sense of an acrid scent in the seer's nostrils.  At that time, this vision started to rarely manifest in the dreams of common inhabitants of Szurgiki as well, waxing and waning in frequency among the entire populace in an eleven-year cycle.  Due to this unsettling phenomenon, magic itself has become distrusted, and magic-users a shunned, derided class.

Surgiki's only active waygate is in Melîs, the city's official limits actually redrawn to separate the gate from the city proper; Benîs' waygate is actually in Fwth.  Melîs' waygate feels 'different' when used and leaves a very faint, lingering, disctinctive acrid smell in traveller's nose.  This unusual property has led to a major decline in use of the Melîs waygate by incoming travellers, and reluctance to use any waygate at all by Szurgi.

There are open spatial rifts near the other major cities that would be the foundation of waygates, but these are not used (Ara'Jidi and Qalis' rifts are in open water).   These rifts happen to be arranged in a pentagram formation, but this fact isn't noticed or seen as any relevance to anybody but rare cultists (mostly because the other rifts aren't regarded as anything but navigation hazards to be avoided) who carry pentacle-amulets and seem to be trying to work towards some nefarious goal.

There is an unusually rough patch of sea at the centre of the pentacle formed by the spatial rifts, but there are plenty of other patches in the Floeni sea that are equally or more rough.   Mermaids avoid the pentacle-focus, and have their own ominous legends about it, but they don't generally share those with humans (or at least, nobody's asked about it).

A single, officially-delegated civil-service mage position is allowed on the councils of the cities of Szurgiki; the presence of this position is the defining characteristic of a city, versus merely being a town.  The individual holding this office is afforded a bare degree of courtesy and respect only due to being on the city's council, and is seen by most as a purely bureaucratic position with no real function other than pacifying the magic-users.  In reality, the mages often provide valued insight to the city council, and their powers have on more than one occasion protected cities from devastating storm surges.

The Vision of SzurgikiEdit

The sun is red and swollen, filling a tenth of the sky where it is fixed, low in the to the southeast, with strange violet streamers swirling occasionally on its surface.  A thin band of dust dotted with glittering specks crosses the sky from east to west.  What buildings remain are all empty, with thick sediment rising up to cover the lower districts, the sea sluggishly lapping at the eroded foundations of the middle-district buildings.  There are a number of mermaid skeletons are half-buried in the silt, and a small girl with strangely warped features is crouched by one, tugging at something unknown.  The sky overhead is black, fading to an ugly dark purple cloud bank out at sea to the southwest, and the thin air is pungent with the heavy, acrid smell of ozone.

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