Hawking's Time: Patricia C. Wrede's Worldbuilder Questions

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Note: This is the second and largest of three Guide Entries I have created about Hawking’s Time. If you have not read the first one you might not understand what I’m banging on about here. The first Entry outlines the characters and plot of the actual novel in a concise and linear fashion. Click here to read it first. The third Entry is a chapter-by-chapter synopsis (three or four lines on each of 140 chapters), which goes deeper into the plot and sub-plots and reveals the structure of the novel more clearly. You can read it here.

All dates given are RP (Râôtles Pascuyn) unless otherwise indicated as FK (Founding of Kĩnodd).

Arts & Entertainment

Patricia C. Wrede: What is the status of the various arts (dance, music, theatre, etc.) in this society? Are artists revered or mistrusted?
Roccondil Rínon: Artists have their own Guild; they are accorded respect proportional to their rank within the Guild. Art as a profession is respected and taken seriously. As with all the arts, magickal music is seen as ‘cheating’ by most people. Magick is occasionally used for visual effects in performances, or to enhance the natural sound of an instrument. If music is not performed manually, it has little merit in the eyes of the mainstream Artistic community. As a comparison to electronic music on Earth, electric guitars or pianos would be acceptable; computerised synthesisers and programmed drum tracks would not.
P.C.W: Who supports the arts? Which arts are most highly valued and why?
R.R: Kinetic arts, such as music and theatre, are often preferred to painting and sculpture, but it is a purely personal choice. Artists make money from commissions and selling their work.
P.C.W: Are there permanent theatres or concert halls for performing arts? If so, who owns and runs them? Are there also traveling troupes?
R.R: The Artists’ Guild runs theatres, galleries, etc.. Members of the Business Guild are normally involved in the actual administration (albeit often with an Artist’s Bar).
P.C.W: What do people at various levels of society do for fun?
R.R: Both team and individual sports are popular as recreational activities; the arts, especially music and dance, are often taken up as hobbies, and the second-most common Bar is the Artists’.
P.C.W: Can magic be used in the arts and if so, how - paint that glows, pictures that move, flutes that play themselves, etc.? Is there a separate branch of purely magical art, like illusions?
R.R: The materials used (eg. musical instruments, paints, etc.) are sometimes magickal, and glowing paint is sometimes used to depict the sun or in abstract pictures; however, the execution must be manual. This is not a legal or physical rule, just a cultural one. Artists may create magickal moving images, but they will not garner much respect for doing so. (Cinema as we know it, should it be invented, would probably be a different matter. Still photography is not shunned.)
P.C.W: What sports or pastimes are common (hawking, hunting, skiing, baseball)? Which ones take skill, money, and/or leisure time?
R.R: A sport resembling cricket is popular; it has twelve players to a side, is played on a circular ground centred on a sixty-foot pitch. Cricket originated in Chungan in relatively recent times (the first recorded game was in the sixteenth century RP). In America the name of this game would be translated ‘baseball’, as it perhaps resembles this game as closely as cricket. Variants of a basic ‘football’ game, most closely resembling rugby or Gaelic football, are played in the winter months; this game is older than cricket, and has been played since the Kîhul days.
P.C.W: What games are commonly known - chess, dice, poker? Which are common among everyone, and which are limited to the peasantry or nobility? Are certain countries/cities known for a passion/expertise for particular games or pastimes?
R.R: Card games are popular, as are simple board games resembling chess, draughts or backgammon. Dice are not played as a game alone, but their equivalent are used in other games.
P.C.W: Are there non-human races who tend to be naturally talented painters, dancers, etc.? How does this affect human practitioners of these arts?
R.R: No; but races do have their own particular styles; eg. in Faporra, the style of ornamentation is geometric, with a distinctive ‘dwarvish’ look. Similarly, Chungando art is known for its flowing, almost ethereal forms. A form of dance analogous to ballet origianted in Chungan, due in part to the greater proportion of elvish blood in its people.
P.C.W: Do non-human races have their own games and leisure pastimes? How do they differ from human games? How do they reflect the physiology and/or particular magical talents of the non-human races?
R.R: Football was first played by the dwarves of Faporra, but quickly moved to Kĩnodd and the rest of the old Empire. Today, of course, there are no racial associations of games and sports.


P.C.W: What is the most common building material? Why is it used (availability, cheapness)? Does it have any major drawbacks (wood=the Great Fire of London)?
R.R: Sahrenota, being built in the Kerongâtrîm, is mostly constructed of stone; in fact on some level it resembles the city of Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings, but only in a superficial way due to its circumstances: a city built on a mountainside, on terraces cut into the mountain. It is not circular, and its terraces follow the curve of the mountain. It is not surrounded by a plain; the mountain side continues down on the eastern side, and it is bounded to the west by the mountain peaks. A sister town, Ittayn (‘Sunset’), equivalent to New Jersey, Geelong or Moama exists on the western side of the pass; compared to Sahrenota, it is young, being less than fifteen centuries old for the most part. Sahrenota has survived in such a position because the pass is the key to western Sinõdla. Hrastonna, the major port of the Empire, is substantially constructed of wood, as are most of the cities of the plain.
P.C.W: How are buildings normally ornamented? Carved gargoyles, painted murals, geometric patterns?
R.R: Architects are members of the Craftsmen’s Guild, not the Artists’, though they are instructed in the use of form and shape by Artists in the same way as sculptors or painters are. Carved patterns, rather than specific carvings or painting, are the usual means of ornamentation, though they might not be called geometric, as they are often based on organic forms. Generally these will resemble abstract fractal shapes rather than specific living things. There are notable exceptions; eg. the pentacle is a common motif. Over the door of a house there are often placed the monograms of the inhabitants.
P.C.W: How tall a building can be constructed at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable time?
R.R: Nidhotan houses are usually two-storeyed, with the ‘chapel’ or magick-circle on the roof. It is usually in the open air, with a covered section for the storage of magickal materials and books, and the rest of the circle can be covered for use in the rain. Some chapels have a permanent roof but only columns to hold it up. Some houses in the more crowded areas of cities, especially in Sahrenota, are taller and thinner than most, having three or even four storeys, but seldom more floor space than the ordinary home. The Temple of Sahrenota, dedicated to the God of Time, Pascuyn, is built near the pass at the western end of the city. It has a great white stone spire, the Râôtles Pascuyn, twelve hundred feet tall, that towers above the entire city. From the top of this spire, one can see over the pass to the western shores of Sinõdla, and far off over the eastern plains and woods. On the Equinoxes, the Sun and the Hour Moon can be seen to rise and set simultaneously (the Hour Moon orbits at an angle such that it never transits the Sun) from the circle upon Râôtles Pascuyn. Sahrenota was originally built as a fortress, and another building south of the Temple has such a tower: this is the oldest building in the city, and is known as Râôtles Chriannod. It was the original guardian of the pass, and its tower is square and built of the dark granite of the mountains. A spell is in effect upon the observation deck of this tower: though it is in fact a hundred feet shorter than the Râôtles Pascuyn, one can see much further: all the way to the eastern coast, and (if one is extremely keen-sighted) around the curvature of the planet along Sinõdla even as far as Hrastonna, the chief port city of Nidhota.
P.C.W: What are typical floor plans like - can people afford to waste space on hallways or do they just have a series of rooms opening into other rooms? Are buildings normally built square, triangular, domed, what?
R.R: Homes are built squarish, usually with two storeys (though some smaller homes are one- or three-storeyed), and floor plans are as diverse as those of our homes. In the terraces of Sahrenota, rooves generally slant away from the mountain, and rainwater is collected into the Chriyã River; below the terraces, rooves are more triangular like those of terrestrial (Western) homes.
P.C.W: How many people usually live in a typical house? How large is a typical house?
R.R: A typical household is between two and six people; it is quite uncommon to be over 25 and unmarried, and singles under this age generally live with their parents. Academy attendees will sometimes live in a college on campus.
P.C.W: What are the differences in materials and appearance between a lower-class, a middle-class, and an upper-class type house? How do city houses differ from those in rural areas?
R.R: Rural houses, and those in the cities of the plain, are more likely to be built of wood (though in the older parts of cities like Hrastonna you will see plenty of stone or brick houses). The main differences between upper- and lower-class homes are size and level of ornamentation; wealthy homes are often richly decorated, in the form of coloured windows, patterns, etc..
P.C.W: How are living quarters arranged? Are bedrooms on the top floors for privacy or on the ground floor for convenience? Are parlours or libraries common? How are houses heated/cooled?
R.R: Bedrooms and private rooms are usually on the second floor, while the chapel is on the roof (as mentioned), and ‘day rooms’ - kitchen, lounge and dining rooms, studies, etc. - are on the ground floor. The arrangement is fairly similar to our own customs.


P.C.W: Is there a single, generally accepted calendar (including time measurement) or do different countries or peoples or races have different ones?
R.R: The months and weeks are more or less governed by the phases of the Moons, so are the same everywhere; the hours are usually similar, though in some places in former times the Hour Moon was inconvenient and people judged the hours by the Sun.
P.C.W: How is the day divided into smaller time units? What are they (Hour of the Lark, Sunrise Bell, Nones, etc.)? Are the names relevant to anything? Is the length of an hour fixed, or does it vary depending on changes in the length of the day as the seasons change?
R.R: There are sixteen ‘hours’ in a day, reckoned by the Hour Moon in conjunction with the Sun and other Moons. They are counted from first rise (6 am) through to last nadir (4:30 am). Regarding the seasons, they are slightly more pronounced than Earth’s, because of Ũna’s axial inclination of 30° (Earth’s is only 23.5°). It seems that the North Pole of Ũna is actually its South Pole, because the Sun rises in the West. The actual day is about fifteen minutes longer than ours, and an ‘hour’ by the Hour Moon is equivalent to 1 hour, 30 minutes and 56.3 seconds by the terrestrial clock.
P.C.W: What are the names of months, and how many days are there in each? How many days in a week/week-like period? Months in a year? Are there leap years? If so, who keeps track?
R.R: The months are named for the constellations that the Sun apparently passes through during that month: Kerong (Aries), Soyfâl (Taurus), Lassel (Gemini); Paspêc (Cancer), Porrôz (Leo), Jesolla (Virgo); Lôbro (Libra), Uncoxin (Scorpio), Apuyp (Sagittarius); Kespêc (Capricorn), Yatsal (Aquarius), Asatlê (Pisces). Each one is thirty days (from New Moon to New Moon). The weeks are six days long, five in a month. The first and last days of each week are holidays (ie. the weekend) and the second day of each month is also a holiday (the first day, it will be seen, is always a Sunday, or Dônit). The entire 360-day year is made of twelve months, or sixty weeks. At the Solstices and Equinoxes (which are also always Dônits), there is a four-day holiday including a weekend. As the year divides exactly into 360 days, there is no need for such a thing as a leap year, though there are special New Year holidays every twelve years (celebrating the twelve-year Cycle of Sêtsûlla). The names of the days in order are Dônit, Sõdit, Nerrit, Thîngit, Puytit, and Naitit.
P.C.W: Which days are general holidays or festival times? What do they celebrate? Are there any that are only celebrated in particular countries, cities, or regions?
R.R: The beginning of each month is celebrated by a three-day weekend, except Lithe, Mabon and Yule (four days) and Ostara (nine days including two weekends). The celebrations are generally linked to a specific event or eg. god. The initial holidays have special names, and I translate these by their Old English equivalents where appropriate, thus: Ostara (1 Kerong), Beltane (1 Soyfâl), Lithe (1 Paspêc), Lammas (1 Porrôz), Mabon (1 Lôbro), Samhain (1 Uncocsin), Yule (1 Kespêc), Imbolc (1 Yatsal). The other four holidays have relatively recent origins, and are translated by names that do not necessarily match the time of year on Earth: Laythanni’s Day (the day of the Love Goddess, equivalent to St. Valentine’s Day; celebrated on 1 Lassel), Emperor’s Birthday (1 Jesolla, regardless of when the Emperor’s actual birthday is), Labour Day (commemorating the twelve Guilds; 1 Apuyp), and Family Day (1 Asatlê). Note that the name can also refer to the whole long weekend, or in the case of Ostara to the entire week; but Niloc generally only uses them to refer to the Dônit of the holiday, and calls eg. the Sõdit after Samhain ‘Samhain Holiday’. The holidays of gift-giving are the Lithe, the Yule, and of course birthdays and weddings.
P.C.W: What event(s) do people use to date years? Is it a single occurrence (the creation of the world, the end of the Great War, the invention of atomic power, etc.), or are events dated based on recurring things (the 12th year of Tiberius’ reign, the 300th year of the Han Dynasty)?
R.R: Niloc’s journal begins in the year 2373, measured from the consecration of the Râôtles Pascuyn. Dates have only been counted by this since the year 850, when Jêrũne Sahro took the throne; before that, Nidhotans counted the years (like the rest of the Old Empire) from the founding of the Imperial royal city of Kĩnodd, by which reckoning 2373 is a futuristic-sounding 6208. The New Year occurs on Ostara.
P.C.W: How do people tell what time it is? Are there clocks, watches, sundials, etc., or do people have to listen for the bells from the castle or church, or do they just eyeball the sun?
R.R: Astronomy is well studied in Nidhota, though astrophysics is unheard-of. The position of the Hour Moon, in conjunction with the phases and positions of the two other Moons and the Sun, tells a Nidhotan all he needs to know about the time - that is, to the nearest five minutes or better. Watches are not carried, though there is a clock in every home and on important buildings, kept accurate by being magickally attuned to the movements of the Moons and Sun.

Crime & the Legal System

P.C.W: How has the presence of magic and magicians affected law and government? Are wizards barred from certain kinds of jobs (judge, jury, police)? Do some jobs require that their holder be a wizard?
R.R: Everyone can, it’s just that some don’t. Magick is often used where science or technology would be used on Earth, eg. in forensics.
P.C.W: What are considered normal and legal ways of gathering evidence and determining guilt? Is torture allowed? Truth spells? Are arbitrary judgements by the lord or landowner allowed, or is there a standard that they are supposed to follow?
R.R: Truth spells, cast by a senior member of the Magickal Guild (generally with a Legal Bar), are always used in court, and this usually allows for a quick trial. There is such a Magician assigned to every court.
P.C.W: If someone doesn’t like the judgement he receives in court, is there anyone he can appeal to, like the Emperor or the Supreme Court?
R.R: In theory, a person can appeal to the High Court or the Emperor. In criminal cases, this happens very seldom because of the use of the abovementioned truth spells; the last criminal case tried before the Emperor happened over a hundred years ago. And even civil cases rarely get to the Imperial Court.
P.C.W: Are there laws forbidding certain types of people (peasants, wizards, priests, women) from carrying arms? Are there laws requiring certain people to be skilled with certain weapons, as England for some centuries required yeomen to be proficient with the longbow?
R.R: Only law-enforcers and soldiers are allowed to carry weapons ordinarily; though swords and other weapons of the sort are sometimes passed down as heirlooms.
P.C.W: Is forensic magic possible? Commonly used? Admissible in court? Used only for certain types of crimes (and if so, what)? Is it something any wizard can do, or do you have to specialize?
R.R: You would specialise in forensic magick in the same way you would specialise in forensic science. A forensic Magician normally has a Legal Bar, or is even a Lawyer with a Magickal Bar.
P.C.W: Are certain spells (as opposed to magic generally) illegal? If so, how would a criminal magician be detected? Apprehended? Punished? Are criminal magicians dealt with by the same court system as everyone else, or is there a special branch of the courts, or are they handled by the Wizard’s Guild, or do you just send out a bunch of heroes to kill them off?
R.R: No spell is illegal per se. But just as with anything else, magick can be used to commit crime. To curse someone is illegal; but then, most curses are adaptations or reversals of ordinary spells, many of them useful or even indispensible (in exactly the same way as the Internet is both blessing and curse to terrestrial society), so banning these can not work. Magickal crime is treated just like ordinary crime.
P.C.W: Are there separate courts for civil and criminal matters? For magical and non-magical matters? For humans and non-humans? What are the differences?
R.R: The legal system is separated for civil and criminal matters. The Civil Court deals with civil disputes; the Criminal Court, strangely enough, handles crime and punishment.
P.C.W: What things are considered truly serious crimes and why? (eg. a trade-oriented culture might consider counterfeiting a death-penalty crime; in a place where life is cheap, murder might be something that only results in a small fine.)
R.R: The worst crimes are murder, rape, assault and the like. ‘Attempted’ murder is treated just as harshly as murder; in most cases both attract a life sentence (manslaughter does not). Similarly, any sort of sexual assault is treated as seriously as rape. In such an otherwise enlightened society, it surprised me to find that consensual sex with a minor is not seen as so serious. Theft, even serious fraud, is not seen as so serious as these crimes, and only the most serious thefts result in imprisonment; theft is generally seen as desperate, and easily put right.
P.C.W: What are the punishments for serious vs. minor crimes? Are there prisons, or are people punished and released? Are there degrees of punishment - branding vs. cutting off ears vs. cutting off a hand vs. decapitation - or do they just hang everybody?
R.R: Major crimes are dealt with by imprisonment. Prisoners are required to labour for the government, but this has not become a crutch. Minor crimes attract a monetary penalty. Execution has not been a penalty in most nations for centuries; the Kîhul Empire abandoned it in 3491 FK.
P.C.W: Who is responsible for catching criminals? Who pays the crook-catchers - the king, the city government, a consortium of merchants, somebody else? How are they organized - into independent police precincts, or into overlapping districts, or just according to whoever wants to hire them?
R.R: The Police, Lawyers by guild, are responsible ultimately to the Chief Justice, through the Commissioner, who holds a high rank in the Legal Guild. Much like our own, they walk a particular ‘beat’, in pairs. Though both men and women are members of the force, the pairs are always of the same gender. Usually there will be one at the ‘cop box’, to assist citizens etc., while the other will be on patrol.
P.C.W: Are there lawyers or advocates? Who can afford them? Who trains and/or certifies them?
R.R: Also members of the Legal Guild are the solicitors. There is no such thing as a barrister in Nidhota. (Sorry Anthony, you’re out of a job.) The notion of representing someone else in Court is unthinkable; people invariably argue their own case, though they do hire solicitors to advise them on how to argue their case or even if they have one. In the criminal court, lawyers are not used (that is, those who we would call ‘lawyers’. ‘Lawyer’ is also the best translation of the word for ‘member of the Legal Guild’, but by this definition, judges, policemen, court officers and even occasionally the accused can count as a ‘Lawyer’).
P.C.W: Are people guilty until proven innocent, innocent until proven guilty, or does it depend on the mood the lord is in when the case comes in front of him?
R.R: Innocent until proven guilty, practically; technically a suspect is neither once charged; but the onus is on the prosecution to prove their case.
P.C.W: Are there judges other than the lord/king or landowner? If so, how are they paid, and by whom? How often are outlying areas likely to see a judge? Is ‘mob justice’ common? Approved of or disapproved of?
R.R: Judges are high-ranking Lawyers; the Minister of Law is also nominally Chief Justice. They are public servants, and are paid by the government, out of taxes. Sometimes a judge in a rural area will have only the same rank as a middle-class solicitor in the city; but each county and colony has its own courts, magistrates and judge. Mob justice is most definitely frowned upon.
P.C.W: Are there sumptuary laws requiring certain clothes to be worn or not worn by certain occupations or classes? Do judges wear robes or wigs?
R.R: The shoulder pauldrons, for family and guild, are not legal requirements, but they have been a part of Nidhotan and Imperial society (in various forms) for more than six thousand years, and are not about to change.
P.C.W: Are highwaymen, muggers, bandits, or pirates common or rare? What sorts of crimes would the average citizen be likely to run across during his lifetime?
R.R: Robbers are rare; an average citizen would not expect to be robbed, though such things do of course happen.
P.C.W: Who can make or repeal laws - a group (such as an elected Senate, an appointed Council, or an hereditary House of Lords) or only the king/emperor/head of state?
R.R: The Cabinet and private citizens (through dedicated solicitors) can propose laws; the Senate and the Emperor must pass them. Note that Senators cannot propose laws; this has helped prevent a partisan system from arising.
P.C.W: How are alleged criminals treated before/after their convictions? Do the police/military/city guard make a practice of roughing up suspects, or is this frowned upon?
R.R: They are innocent until proven guilty. A person cannot be detained without charge; after he is charged he may be detained up to two weeks pending his trial. Usually citizens are placed under arrest at the last day, because the government is bound to pay a man’s ordinary wage for each day of detention if he is not convicted.

Daily Life

P.C.W: How do people feel about foreigners? Non-humans? How ready are they to accept different ideas? How cosmopolitan are they?
R.R: Nidhotans are not xenophobic, and many are bilingual. They are, for the most part, open to the views of foreigners on such things as religion; but Tressand’s cult (which began in about 2345 in Chungan) is seen as irrational and foolish.
P.C.W: How much social mobility is there? Is it easy or hard for a person born a peasant to advance to the middle class, or for a middle class person to advance to the upper class or nobility? How much resistance would there be? Would such a person ever be accepted socially?
R.R: You are promoted by your Guild; in this respect everyone starts on an equal footing. The royal family is a class apart, but to marry into it is not crafty or clever, just fortunate.
P.C.W: What things are considered luxuries - chocolate, coffee, cotton, flush toilets, spices?
R.R: Imported spices and foods are always luxuries, as are silks (which mainly come from Chungan, whose wet climate is more favorable to silkworms). Chocolate and coffee (which are both more bitter than we are used to) are ‘common luxuries’ - they are homegrown, and are luxuries without being delicacies.
P.C.W: What do people in general look like? Would a blonde (red-head, brunette) stand out in a crowd? Someone 5’ tall? 7’ tall? Do non-humans?
R.R: People look like terrestrial humans. The average height is about 5’6. Hair and eye colour is quite varied (thanks to the intermingling of races over the many thousands of years). Generally Nidhotans are slighter of build than terrestrial humans (Chungandan even more so); the women’s breasts are small by western standards.
P.C.W: What is furniture like - big and blocky, delicate, simple, elaborately carved or decorated? What is it mostly made of - cloth, wood, stone, etc.? Are certain things (like chairs with arms) reserved for high-status individuals?
R.R: Furniture should be decorative as well as functional; simple, flowing, elegant styles are the fashion.
P.C.W: In what ways does furniture design reflect the customs of people (eg. beds with bed-curtains for privacy in medieval keeps where servants wandered through rooms without warning; chaise longues as common furniture in a society where people are accustomed to recline rather than sit, etc.)?
R.R: Straight-backed chairs are generally only found in dining rooms and studies; in living rooms, chairs generally recline at least a little (much as per Western terrestrial customs).
P.C.W: What are plumbing and sanitary systems like? Who builds and maintains them? How reliable are they, and who do you call when the drains back up? How do they differ from city to farm?
R.R: The plumbing in Sahrenota is of a good standard. Plumbers are Labourers by Guild. The city’s water supply is drawn from five rivers, which all flow into one at its base and whose water is drawn up by giant waterwheels as was done in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
P.C.W: How do people cope with various disasters - fire, floods, volcanoes, plague, etc.? How common are such disasters?
R.R: Sahrenota has suffered from earthquakes in the past; the biggest measured approximately 6.5 on the Richter scale (it is hard to translate the Nidhotan classifications), and occurred in 3143 FK. Sahrenota expects an earthquake of a few Richter points every century or so, and the city is used to dealing with them. Lately, the quakes have been getting smaller and less frequent, and though some believe this means a big one is coming (the 3143 quake was also preceded by several centuries of relative quiet), the city is thoroughly prepared. A large section of Hofânota was burned in 928 RP, but the city dusted itself off (only a few dozen died) and returned to normal in remarkably quick time. A big quake does indeed come to pass in Yatsal 2383, which destroys much infrastructure in Sahrenota (including the railway at several points), collapses the Râôtles Pascuyn, does considerable damage to the Râôtles Chriannod, and contributes to the city’s surrender three weeks later.
P.C.W: How early do people get up in the morning in the city? Country? Are clocks common, or do people tell time by the sun or by listening for the church bells?
R.R: The Sun does not rise over the Kerongâtrîm until eight most mornings, but Sahrenota is quite high up and sunset at the lithe is as late as nine pm or after, and even in the winter it sets after six. The hours of rising and resting are little different - six or seven to nine or ten for most people - and the average workday is eight hours, from around eight to four.


P.C.W: What dishes are considered holiday food? What foods/drinks are associated with particular holidays, events, (eg. funerals, weddings) or times of the year?
R.R: Fruits and vegetables are eaten only when they are in season. The winter solstice is associated with a sort of drink related to whiskey (ie. served cold but warming on the inside). Chocolate is, quite naturally, associated with romance; wedding receptions are a chocoholic’s heaven.
P.C.W: When a guest arrives, is food or drink offered immediately, after an interval, or only on request? Is there a particular food or drink that it is customary to offer a newly arrived guest? A guest who is departing (stirrup cup)?
R.R: After a short interval, generally. When Niloc first visits Vêndu, he is not offered food as it is not a social visit; he is there to aid her with her magick. But when her father invites him to stay, he takes tea with them.
P.C.W: How many meals are considered normal in a day? When are they served? Which are substantial, and which are smaller? Are certain foods (eg. eggs and bacon) reserved mainly for a particular meal (breakfast)?
R.R: There are four meals, breakfast (seven am), lunch (one pm), tea (six pm) and supper (nine pm). On weekends and holidays dinner (ie. the big meal) is taken at lunchtime; on weekdays dinner is smaller, and taken at teatime.
P.C.W: What dishes would be considered typical of this area? What wines or beers?
R.R: Nidhotans consume a variety of different alcoholic drinks; one must remember that the entire globe has been connected for thousands of years and cultural exchanges have been many and varied. The Nidhotan palate is as varied as our own, with perhaps a bigger preference for curries and highly spiced dishes.
P.C.W: Is there a safe supply of drinking water, or do people (including children) drink ale or beer exclusively because ‘water is unhealthy’ (ie. contaminated and will make you sick)?
R.R: Sahrenota gets all the water it needs from several rivers that flow through its lower levels and the Chriyã that flows through every terrace below the third. The water from the lower levels is raised through magickally operated water wheels, Hanging-Gardens style. It is plenty clean enough to drink. Most towns have clean water by river or aqueduct.
P.C.W: What foods are considered peasant food? What foods are staples, commonly eaten every day? What foods are rare? What foods are normally cooked/eaten raw?
R.R: Roast meat and the like is generally reserved for weekends and special occasions; during the week grains like rice, wheat, corn form the core of the diet.
P.C.W: What is the food like? What herbs and spices are readily available, and which must be imported? How common/expensive are imported foods and spices? What spices are commonly used? Do people tend to like highly spiced food, or not?
R.R: Yes, Nidhotan food is often highly spiced; some spices must be imported, and are therefore luxuries, but there are plenty of native herbs and spices too.
P.C.W: How is food preserved for use during the off-season - smoking, canning, drying, etc.? How reliable are the methods used - how often does ‘preserved’ food spoil?
R.R: Though the seasons are more pronounced than Earth’s, meat and the like is not usually salted/smoked/whatever (except of course for sea-voyages and the like, and even these do not last any longer than they did on Earth in 1900), but eaten before this is needed; and if it must be preserved for a week or so, there are magickal iceboxes (read fridges). Grains are seasonal, of course; but they are easy to store and preserve. Fruits and vegetables are not generally preserved out of season; in fact you could tell the time of year, roughly, by what fruit is being eaten.
P.C.W: What foods do non-humans like, and how do these differ from those favored by humans? Are some foods poisonous or distasteful to one species that are delicacies or necessary to another?
R.R: Every intelligent creature on Ũna is one or another race of the one species Homo hawkingii; their dietary needs and preferences, though individually varied, are fundamentally similar.

Eating customs

P.C.W: Do men and women, parents and children, servants and master, eat separately, or does everyone eat together? How is status displayed at the table (seating above or below the salt, near or far from the head, serving first with the best, etc.)?
R.R: If it is at all practical, the whole household will dine together, around a round table.
P.C.W: What dishes are considered holiday food? What foods/drinks are associated with particular holidays, special events (eg. weddings, funerals), or times of the year?
R.R: Fruits and vegetables are eaten only when they are in season. The winter solstice is associated with a sort of drink related to whiskey (ie. warming on the inside). Chocolate is, quite naturally, associated with romance; wedding receptions are a chocoholic’s heaven.
P.C.W: What distinguishes a formal, high-court dinner from an ordinary meal, besides quantity and variety of food? How do formal, high-court manners differ from everyday ones?
R.R: The main thing is the quantity and variety of the food served; polite language and the like are a given, but there is little formal etiquette. There is a proper manner for the laying out of cutlery.
P.C.W: What eating utensils are used, if any? Forks, eating knife, spoons, chopsticks, what?
R.R: There are three main items: knives, sporks and what can best be described as chopsticks. Spoons are used for soup, but for picking up anything remotely solid you use a spork or chopsticks. Meats etc. are eaten with a knife for cutting and chopsticks for holding in place and eating with.
P.C.W: What is the order of a typical upper-class meal - do they start with wine, then a sweet, then stew, then salad, or is everything brought in at once?
R.R: Usually in a special meal, soup, salad, meat, wine etc. is served at once, and the meal is followed in the lounge room with sweets and another (usually stronger) drink.
P.C.W: What shape are tables/eating areas (round, oblong, square, rectangular, etc.)? Where is the ‘place of honor’ for a guest? Where do important members of the household sit/recline/whatever?
R.R: Eating tables are usually round. The head of the family has a higher-backed chair, but if there is one guest, he will sit here instead. If there are multiple guests (unless there is one of special importance), the host will take the high-backed chair.
P.C.W: Are special arrangements necessary for entertaining guests of different races/species - taller chairs for dwarves, raw meat for werewolves, perches for harpies, etc.? How do the eating customs of different races reflect their cultures and biology?
R.R: No. There are very few pure-blooded ‘dwarves’ anyway, and they are about four feet tall.
P.C.W: What things are never eaten (ie. what’s not kosher)? Why? Are some common human foods poisonous to dwarves or elves (or vice versa)?
R.R: There are no superstitions against eating certain foods; all races share a virtually identical physiology.


P.C.W: How much does it cost to get various levels of education?
R.R: Education is mostly paid for by taxes, but equipment must be bought. Usually the cost amounts to about a week’s pay per year.
P.C.W: What education is available, and where? Are there schoolhouses in every town, or do ordinary people have to travel if they want to be educated? Are there universities? Private tutors?
R.R: Any town of respectable size (pop.>1000) has a school; colleges or high schools (for ages 14-20) are usually situated in the larger towns (pop.>10 000). Each Guild has its own Academy, where people go for a few years after school. There is one of each of these in Sahrenota, Hrastonna, Hofânota (a city of twenty million that does not directly figure in Niloc’s tale), and in other million-plus cities there are at least some campuses. Often the smaller campuses of a few Guilds are merged (eg. in Jarũcka, the Scientific, Magickal, Technical and Scholarly Academies are on the same site).
P.C.W: What is the literacy level in the general population? Is literacy considered a useful/necessary skill for nobility, or something only scribes/clerks/wimps need?
R.R: The literacy rate is virtually 100% in the cities and over 99% in rural areas.
P.C.W: What areas are considered absolutely necessary knowledge for a courtier (poetry, languages, skill at arms, etc.)? Which are nice but not necessary? Which would be slightly embarrassing if anybody found out (a passion for comic books, etc.)?
R.R: Everyone of high social standing knows some Palonno, and it is always taught to the Imperial heirs as a matter of course. (Some schools teach it as a language; some only teach it as part of magick lessons.) There are few real ‘courtiers’ as such; the nearest we come is the Cabinet. The Emperor is a real person, not distant from the populace he rules, except by necessity.
P.C.W: How respected are teachers and scholars? Who supports them?
R.R: Teachers are paid by the Government. Scholars will often live from their published works or work for businesses.

Fashion & Dress

P.C.W: What do people wear? How expensive is it? Can the material be produced locally, or must some or all of it be imported?
R.R: Ordinary clothes are produced locally; silks and the like are expensive as they are imported. A Nidhotan wears a pauldron on each shoulder when he goes out. The one on his left shoulder carries the badge of his family and symbols denoting the names and status of his spouse, parents and children. The pauldron on his right carries the badge of his guild and the symbol for his rank within it; it also carries his Bar, should he have one, and this is indicated by - you guessed it - a coloured bar across the back edge of the pauldron, featuring the secondary guild’s badge. If a person in over sixty or has retired (whichever comes second), this is denoted on the right pauldron also. If a person is not a member of a guild (and these are not necessarily unemployed, nor are guild members necessarily employed), then he will wear a plain black pauldron on the right shoulder. School students (who have yet to choose their guild) will wear a black pauldron with a progression of white chevrons showing how many years of schooling they have had, along with other symbols.
P.C.W: Are certain clothes customary for certain occupations - eg. military uniforms, judges’ robes, sports team uniforms, etc.? How much variation is allowed? Could a scholar wear a fluorescent green robe as long as the cut was right, or would that be too much? Is it color or style that is most important?
R.R: Not many occupations require a uniform as such; the shoulder pauldrons are the most important thing as far as uniform goes. The military has uniforms, but (like ours in modern days) they are mostly practical rather than decorative. People have ‘robes’, resembling kimonos, that they wear for practising formal magick.
P.C.W: Are the dyes for certain colors - purple, indigo blue, etc. - rare, making cloth of that color more expensive and/or reserved for nobility or other high-status people?
R.R: Dyes can be synthesised (chemically or more commonly magickally), and so colours have little bearing on cost. The Emperor’s shoulder pauldron is white, bearing the Sahra monogram.
P.C.W: Are there sumptuary laws, defining who can wear what? What are the penalties? Who decides when changes are needed? How often are they adjusted?
R.R: There are no laws restricting clothing - people can even go naked if they choose, and in the summer some do. (There is no such thing as a bathing costume: if you bathe, it is always done au naturel.) Going to an important function (formal, that is) without one’s shoulder pauldrons would be like going to a funeral in shorts and a loud Hawaiian T-shirt: technically nothing wrong, but it won’t get you any respect.
P.C.W: How many changes of clothes can a normal person afford? A noble person? A peasant?
R.R: Normal people can afford several changes of clothing; the middle class of Nidhotan society is like that of ours. Generally the only items of clothing that someone will have only one of is a formal suit, and of course the shoulder pauldrons.
P.C.W: What are current fashion in clothes like? In hats? Jewelry? Shoes? Do such fashions differ for humans/non-humans? From country to country?
R.R: Fashion is not as fast-changing and fickle as on Earth; elegant is the word. Indeed the word for ‘fashion’ is, by etymology, the word for ‘elegance’.
P.C.W: What materials are appropriate for the climate? What cloth (eg. silk) must be imported, and is therefore used only for expensive upper-class clothing?
R.R: Silk is expensive, even in Chungan, where it must be imported from. It is more appropriate to Chungan’s hot humid summers and warm dry winters (the empire crosses the equator and continues to about 30°S). In Nidhota, and especially in the north and the mountains, wools and the like are the norm.
P.C.W: What styles are considered tacky and vulgar, and what is stylish?
R.R: While nudity is not tabooed, clothing which blatantly calls attention to sexuality is frowned on, though in private lingerie is by all means acceptable. Flowing styles are popular for summer clothing, and layered styles (as opposed to one thick warm layer) for winter.
P.C.W: What types of decorations and accessories are common? What colors and combinations of colors are thought to look well together, or to clash? Do opinions of this vary from race to race?
R.R: This doesn’t really fit this question, but it doesn’t fit any other either, and it needs to be mentioned. A custom related to the pauldron system involves the ‘tattooing’ of the symbols found on the pauldrons into the respective sides of the person’s back, just behind their shoulderblades. These are not huge - one-and-a-half inches by four is typical. The tattooing technique is magickal, and the resultant tattoos are physically very similar to birthmarks. Though the symbols on the pauldrons are often highly coloured, this is not possible with the tattoos. They are always a uniform dark skin-shade (like birthmarks).
P.C.W: What physical types and characteristics are currently fashionable - tan vs. pale skin, the ‘consumptive look’ vs. robust good health, fat vs. thin, blonde vs. brunette, muscles vs. ‘dead poet’, etc.? How does this vary for non-human races?
R.R: Excessive slimness is as unattractive as excessive fatness. Most native Nidhotans naturally have dark skin (as in Hispanic or Mideastern, not Negroid), though many have eye and hair colours that one would expect, on Earth, to belong exclusively to white Europeans.
P.C.W: How do non-human fashions reflect the habitat and physiology of non-humans? Do mermaids have a nudity taboo? Do dragons dress for dinner?
R.R: There are no such things.

Foreign Relations

P.C.W: Does this country have formal relationships with other countries? If so, who can be an ambassador/envoy? Are there standing embassies and consulates, or are envoys sent only when something specific comes up?
R.R: Most nations have embassies in other countries.
P.C.W: How are treaties arranged? Are there any significant ones currently in force or coming up for signing?
R.R: There is no United Nations, but the big empires act as moderators in specific disagreements; only one will get involved in any given incident. Treaties are generally arranged only between the relevant states.
P.C.W: How much do official attitudes toward other countries affect commerce and trade? Do merchants pretty much ignore tensions between governments as long as they can make a profit, or will this get them into trouble?
R.R: Most governments are amicable toward each other anyway; and there are no trade embargoes in force.
P.C.W: How much formal spying and intelligence gathering is normally done by governments? By the military? By merchants? Who has the best information-gathering system?
R.R: Though the military has spies, they are used internally as much as internationally. The Nidhotan Merchants’ Guild is a formidable information-gathering force, and even the police go to them sometimes.
P.C.W: Which countries are traditional allies? Which are traditional rivals? How do these traditions affect current foreign policy?
R.R: Since the marriage of Quândom VII and Je’ullo of Chungan in 1856 (see below) the two big empires have been allies in most matters. There are a couple of republics in Baosahrei that are opposed to the empires in theory, but not in practice. One was mortified when it had to call on Chungan to aid it in quelling a rebellion in 1670. Olyonav abhors Chungan, both culturally and because of territorial disputes.
P.C.W: Which heads of state are related by blood or marriage? How important are marriage alliances? How do ties of blood/marriage affect foreign policy?
R.R: The Sahra Emperor and the King of Chungan are both descended from the line of the Kîhuls, and in 1856 RP Quândom Sahro VII married Je’ullo, the first daughter and second child of the King of Chungan, when he ascended the Emperor’s throne. In so doing he fused the royal lines again. He expressed the wish that she were the eldest child of the King, for then their joint realm would be more than half the world. Despite his apparent greed, Quândom VII ruled well for thirty years. He was in fact echoing a similar event at the founding of the Kîhul dynasty, when a marriage resulted in the dynasty having control over two-thirds of the globe. Since 1856, the two empires have been on excellent terms (though there is no Sahra blood in the Chungando royal line).


P.C.W: Are gestures and body language in this society generally subtle, or not? Do people talk with their hands, or is that considered vulgar?
R.R: A traditional formal greeting (more or less equivalent to the military salute) between members of the same guild (of any rank) is to sharply place the right hand over the left breast. Family and friends (of either gender) are greeted with a kiss on the right cheek. Body language tends toward the subtle.
P.C.W: What gestures are insulting? What do they mean? Do some gestures differ in meaning depending on the culture or time (eg. the American V-for-victory sign, which became the peace sign, is/was highly insulting in Europe)?
R.R: Pointing with two fingers is a decidedly threatening gesture, though in modern days it is more insulting than threatening.
P.C.W: How do overall gestures and body language differ between countries? Are there things that don’t matter in one area that are mortal insults in another (eating with the left hand, etc.)?
R.R: Both empires are descended from the Kîhul Empire. Most of the cultures that are not do not figure in this tale. The exception is Olyonav, which is the setting for the first half of Book 4. eg. Olyonavi culture finds kissing another of the same sex, even though there be no sexual implication, repulsive.
P.C.W: What are the different ways of showing respect (bowing, saluting, etc.)? To whom is one expected to show respect - one’s elders, superiors in rank, social superiors, teachers, priests, etc.?
R.R: One is expected to offer the hand-on-heart salute to members of one’s own guild. Ministers and others of starred rank are bowed to when meeting ceremoniously, though not on the street.


P.C.W: How has the presence of magic and magicians affected law and government? Are wizards barred from certain kinds of government jobs or offices? Do some positions require that their holder be a wizard?
R.R: Magicians are not barred from any jobs; except in the sense that most jobs are attached to a specific Guild, and if you are a Magician by Guild, you could not have this job. By the same token, some jobs require you to be a member of the Magickal Guild, or at least to have a Bar.
P.C.W: How has the presence of non-human races affected law and government?
R.R: Not much; for most of the history of Ũna, the population of the planet has been largely homogeneous. In older times there was a large proportion of ‘dwarvish’ blood in the Kîhuls, while the people they ruled were more like terrestrial humans and (on Kyortolzer) ‘elves’. Soon enough, the Kîhuls (and their descendants, the Sahram and kings of Chungan) lost most of their ‘dwarvish’ appearance, and in fact the Chungando ruler today, Queen Kindrammi I, more resembles an elf than a dwarf.
P.C.W: What is the basic form of government in this country - feudal aristocracy, oligarchy, absolute rulership, democracy, what? What forms of government are used in neighboring countries, and why are they the same or different?
R.R: Nidhota is technically a monarchy, with the Emperor (presently the 39-year-old Quândom IX) as the head of state. Practically, the Emperor takes the advice of his Cabinet in all matters. This is an inner circle of twelve Ministers. These also are not elected, but chosen by the Emperor from each of the twelve guilds. The public, however, does have a say in the membership of the Imperial Senate, which is a body of one hundred representatives of each county and colony. (While many parts of Nidhota are referred to by a word that literally means ‘colony’, most of them have been answerable to the Emperor for some centuries and are not looked down upon, except in jest, by the mainland, or Nidhota proper.) Each Senator is for himself, and is usually someone well-known and liked in his home county or colony. A party system - someone representing someone else in the Senate - is unthinkable. The catch with being a Senator is that you can’t propose laws of your own, whereas ordinary citizens can. Not that they do as a matter of course.
P.C.W: What services does the government or head of state provide: schools, wells, courts, an army to protect people from the Vikings? What services are provided locally or privately?
R.R: The distinction between government and private enterprise is oddly obscured, largely because of the presence of the Guilds. Many essential services (eg water, the post) are completely government-operated; but the problem arises when we discuss areas such as education, lawkeeping, and the like that are provided by semi-private organisations (but are heavily subsidised and come under the heading of government services).
P.C.W: Who has the right to levy taxes? For what purposes? On what or whom? Can taxes be paid in kind, or do certain things require money?
R.R: The Imperial Government levies taxes on income, and also makes money from the provision of certain services such as water supplies. (The Chriyã River runs through Sahrenota.)
P.C.W: Who provides support services for the head of state? What are they called: King’s Councilors, Cabinet ministers, Secretary of State? Are these hereditary offices, appointees, career civil servants, or elected officials?
R.R: The Emperor has a Cabinet of twelve Ministers: the Ministers for Arts, Business, Craft, Labour, Law (Chief Justice), Magick, Medicine, Religion (High Priestess), Scholarship, Science, Technology and Trade. These are appointed from the twelve Guilds by the Emperor; Minister is effectively the highest rank in each Guild. Any one can be either gender, except the High Priestess, who is traditionally always a woman.
P.C.W: Is the relative power of a country or king usually measured by the size of the army, the number and ability of the wizards, or the amount of money/trade flowing through it?
R.R: A country’s economy - size and type - is the best indicator of its power.
P.C.W: What are the easiest/most common ways to advance in status - amass more money, marry well, get the king’s eye, etc? How much resistance is there to someone advancing in social status?
R.R: Members of each Guild are promoted for special achievements or further study. A person’s rank is like his status: in this respect, it is easy to advance. Social status is not so important; but a good marriage is a good way to rise.
P.C.W: Who will take over running the government if the current head of state is incapacitated? How is this determined? Is there an heir apparent (either actual or political)? What happens if the heir is a minor?
R.R: The Emperor is succeeded by his eldest child, male or female, and the Emperor traditionally hands over his pauldron at sixty years of age. If an Emperor were to die younger than this, then the pauldron is handed over by the High Priestess to the heir. (This has happened only twice in the 1500-year history of the Sahram.) If the heir is under twenty when the Emperor turns sixty, he will simply continue to rule until the heir comes of age. (This has happened four times.) If the Emperor were to die leaving his heir underage, then the heir will assume the throne, but the office of the Emperor will be temporarily executed by the High Priestess, until the heir comes of age. (This has never happened.)
P.C.W: Who is responsible for protecting the king or head of state? His personal guard, the Secret Service, an elite group affiliated with the regular military? What safeguards have they got against assassins, poisoning, direct assault, magical attack?
R.R: An élite guard, drawn from the Army, protects the Emperor; but Nidhota is very secure. It has only a token army (as do most countries), and its army mainly concerns itself with natural disasters and the like.
P.C.W: Who can give orders (to military, to tax collectors, to servants, to ordinary folks on the street)? How are such people chosen?
R.R: In Guild business, much as in the terrestrial military, higher ranks can order lower. This does not really happen in practice; the ranks are not military in nature, but merely denote one’s skill, study and status. Police can place citizens under arrest if they are caught in the act or previously reported. The nature of ‘orders’ is quite different; no-one can tell you what to do if you can see no reason for it. But this does not stop the cops nabbing a man who protests his innocence.
P.C.W: Who is responsible for coinage: the king, local barons, merchant guilds, someone else? Are there generally acceptable standards for coins? How easy/common is counterfeiting?
R.R: The Merchants’ Guild is, among other things, the Treasury and the Mint. High-ranking Magicians are employed in the Mint and cast spells on coins which makes them identifiable as the genuine article. The spell is very intricate, and even the Minister of Magick cannot duplicate it. However, a spell to identify said genuine coins is quite simple, and easily used.
P.C.W: Is there an organized system of education? If so, who provides it: government, temples, private persons? How is it supported?
R.R: Education is provided by the government through privately-run schools (7-13) and colleges (14-20), and the Academies, run by the Guilds, provide further education. Generally this is paid for by undergraduates working directly for the Guild during their course. In return, under some circumstances, the Guild offers on-campus accommodation. The Academies are partly government-subsidised.
P.C.W: Who can call up men for an army, and how? Does the king ask his lords for men, who in turn draft their peasants, or can the king go straight to the bottom?
R.R: Conscription would never happen in today’s Nidhota (see under War). Soldiering is a profession, and the army is in fact partly an emergency-service organisation. In times of extreme disaster, the Emperor can call for volunteers to join temporarily, and the response is generally wonderful.
P.C.W: How much formal spying and intelligence gathering is normally done by governments? The military? The merchant guilds and wealthy tradesmen?
R.R: Most spying is the province of the traders, rather than the military; most nations are on friendly terms, so very little takes place.
P.C.W: Do relations between countries depend mainly on the relations between the heads of state, or can two kings hate each others’ guts without being able to just declare war and drag their countries into it?
R.R: Monarchs these days are mostly figureheads. War is recognised as a last-resort measure.

Greeting & Meeting

P.C.W: How did the greeting gesture originate (eg. shaking hands to prove one’s weapon hand was empty)? Is there a special I-am-not-armed gesture for wizards?
R.R: It has its origin in magickal ritual; it is symbolically protecting, blocking and indicating the heart.
P.C.W: Is there a difference between the greeting offered to an equal and that offered to a superior or inferior? Between that offered a man or a woman? (cf. the various levels of curtsey) Between that offered a human vs. a non-human?
R.R: The hand-on-heart salute (between members of the same Guild) is offered to those of lower, equal or higher rank. The person of lower rank is expected to initiate it; but it is no big deal if the higher person does.
P.C.W: Is there a way of changing a greeting gesture to make it insulting?
R.R: To use the left hand, or to place the hand on the right breast, is a minor faux pas (if the subject has both hands full, he need not return the salute; if he is carrying something in one hand, it should be in the left when he salutes).
P.C.W: When meeting someone for the first time, how are they greeted - wave, handshake, bow, some other gesture? Does this differ if one already knows the person? If you see someone you like on the far side of the street, how do you acknowledge them?
R.R: The hand-on-heart salute is used to unfamiliar persons and business acquaintances; the greeting for friends is a kiss on the right cheek.
P.C.W: How are two people who have not met before introduced to each other? What is the order of precedence when there are several people of differing sex, social status, or race/species present who must all be introduced to each other?
R.R: The order of precedence is by rank (higher first), sex (women first) and then age (older first). Ranks correspond quite closely between guilds.
P.C.W: Are there people or beings who are never introduced to each other? Are ‘true names’ significant, and if so, under what circumstances would someone be given someone else’s true name? Are there customs involving the way in which someone is named when being introduced (eg. giving all of a person’s names and titles at the first meeting, but never repeating them afterward, so that he’s always referred to as ‘George’ even though he’s introduced as the Duke George Edward Canterbury Gordon de la Suis-Foule, Marquis of Horsham, Whitewater and Framingham, Earl of St. Peter’s Close, and Viscount of Abernathy.)
R.R: When a person is introduced, his ‘parent-name’, a two-part name derived from his father’s and mother’s family names, is inserted between his given and surnames. It is seldom used afterward. A boy will take his parents’ fathers’ names; a girl will take their mothers’. The only exception to this is if any grandparent has the name Sahro/Sahri, in which case it always takes precedence. This is the name of the royal family, and the Emperor has only one parent-name, Sahro. (An Empress takes the feminine form Sahri.) A person’s surname is chosen at the age of twenty, and is generally Palonnon by etymology, eg. Moncỗ derived from Monc ‘gift’. (Niloc styles himself Moncỗ, and most teenagers will take a provisional surname, but he will not formally adopt it until 2375, when he turns 20.)


P.C.W: Is there a ‘trade language’ that facilitates commerce between countries that don’t speak the same tongue? Is there a ‘universal language’ spoken by educated or noble persons, as Latin was in the Middle Ages?
R.R: There is a magickal language, learned from the gods. It is called Palonno, and is unrelated to any human language. As anyone who can work magick knows at least a smattering of this language, it is known in every land. It has not changed over the millennia, as the gods have not changed. Traders will usually speak either Tacretta or Chungando; though Palonno is known over the entire planet, it is not spoken as a trade language, but rather as a high language of state.
P.C.W: Are some or all people bilingual? Is there a common second language many people know?
R.R: Many high-ranking people know Chungando and/or Palonno. In former times, Takredr was widely spoken as Latin was in the Middle Ages. Similarly, many Chungandan speak Tacretta or Takredr, and/or Palonno.
P.C.W: Are there ‘secret’ languages or codes known only by priests, soldiers, guild members, etc.? If so, why were they developed?
R.R: No; Palonno is not a secret language. Codes are not well-developed, but primitive ciphers are sometimes used in jest or eg. by lovers or criminals on the telegraph.
P.C.W: What are the variations in speech patterns, syntax, and slang from one social class to another? One occupation to another? One region to another?
R.R: There are various dialects spread around Nidhota; but all of them are mutually intelligible.
P.C.W: What areas do local slang phrases come out of? (eg. In a fishing town, referring to good luck as ‘a good catch’; in a farming town, as ‘a good harvest’, etc.) What kinds of colorful turns of phrase do people use?
R.R: Examples will crop up throughout Hawking’s Time. At present I do not know many Tacretta idioms.
P.C.W: What things in this culture would their language have many specific words for (eg. the Inuit languages that have 14+ words for different kinds of snow)? What do the people in this culture consider important enough to name?
R.R: Magickal things; there are several words for different sorts of spells where we would use only one.
P.C.W: What will people swear a binding oath by? What do people use as curse words?
R.R: People will swear an oath to a god, in the form of a spell. Curses (as in offensive words, not evil spells) are not as prevalent in Tacretta as they are in English; the usual references to bodily functions or sexuality do not appear, as they are taken for granted. But (relatively) harmless English slang words do have colloquial Tacretta equivalents, eg. nurd, poof, etc..
P.C.W: How many languages are there? Which ones are related (eg. the Romance languages of Europe) and why? Which languages borrow words or phrases from other languages? Which are likely to be most widely spoken?
R.R: Tacretta is widely spoken outside Nidhota, though many traders also know Chungando, and on Kyortolzer and in many places in the heartland, Chungando is the second-language of choice. Both Chungando and Tacretta are descended from the Old Imperial Takredr, the tongue of the Kîhul Emperors. Many smaller nations speak languages descended from barbarian tongues, not related to Takredr. Several personal names are Palonnon (Niloc, Vêndu, Hakiyp), though some have been adapted to the sounds of the relevant language (Vêndu from P. veint); and quite a few Tacretta words are derived from Palonnon words (eg. sant ‘blessed’). It is said that the first humans spoke Palonno, and devised a writing system for representing it (since the gods have no need for such things), and that thus all human languages are ultimately descended from it. But even by the time of the First Empire, the language had changed beyond all recognition. This story is similar to the terrestrial myth of the Tower of Babel; but it was not the will of the gods that human languages should diverge, just the way of things in a mortal world.
P.C.W: Are there different languages for different races (dwarves, elves, etc.), or is language based more on geography than race/species? Is there a special language you need to learn in order to talk to dragons or other magical beasts?
R.R: There are no non-human languages except for Palonno, the language of the gods. Language is related to geography more than race, but then races originated in the same geographical areas.
P.C.W: Do wizards have a special language that is used for magic? If so, where do they learn it? Is it safe to chat in this language, or is everything said in it automatically a spell?
R.R: Palonno, the tongue of the gods, is used for magick. Generally, one does not know any more of this language than is necessary for his daily magickal tasks; but it is learned as a language by Magicians and Priests/Priestesses and sundry others. It is perfectly safe to communicate in Palonno, as the important thing in magick is not the expression but the intention. It has been known for a soul in severe distress, not knowing a word of Palonno, to be inspired into casting the necessary spell.

Magic & Magicians

P.C.W: Are the laws of nature and physics actually different in this world (to accommodate magic) or are they the same as in real life? If the same, how does magic fit in? How do magical beasts fit in?
R.R: The existence of magick in Ũna is based on the soundest ‘scientific’ premise I can come up with. Many scientific puzzles can be explained by an as-yet-undescribed, extremely weak, fifth physical force (the first four being the two nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity). I have explained that this is what powers ‘magick’ in Ũna. The reason why magick is so weak in our world is due to a ‘glitch’ in the ‘probability plane’ (the space, described metaphorically in The Magician’s Nephew, linking all worlds, and existing in ‘Euclidean spacetime’ or ‘imaginary time’ [Hawking, 1988, pp. 141-144]), which renders the magickal force virtually powerless in all worlds near (ie. resembling) ours. I further suggest (since magick is supposedly crucial to the beginning of life) that perhaps this ‘glitch’ only arose about five to ten thousand years ago, possibly due to our own ancestors ‘meddling’ with its power.

- And yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek here.
P.C.W: If there is no specific point of divergence, what are the differences between this world and ours? If magic exists but history is the same, how is this justified? How do organized religions react to magic?
R.R: The world of Ũna is completely different geographically and culturally; its indigenous life, however, is closely related to Earth’s.
P.C.W: If there are imaginary animals (dragons, unicorns, etc) how do they fit into the ecology? What do they eat? How much and what kind of habitat do they require? Are they intelligent and/or capable of working spells, talking, etc.?
R.R: Virtually all Ũnan animals are different to some extent from their terrestrial counterparts; but there are no ‘magickal’ animals, and humans are the only intelligent race.
P.C.W: Where did civilization begin? What directions did it spread? How was its development affected by the presence of magic? The presence of non-human races, if any?
R.R: Recorded history on Ũna goes back almost ten thousand years (as compared to about five thousand on Earth). The first recorded civilisation was in the area now ironically known as Baosahrei, derived from the Takredr bara Thakr ‘Opposite the Empire’ (that is, over the north Pole) but literally meaning in modern Tacretta ‘Unconquered’.
P.C.W: Which peoples/races/cultures/countries are most technologically and/or magically advanced? Least advanced? Why?
R.R: Nidhota and Chungan are the equivalents of America or Europe (there is no one superpower).
P.C.W: Is magic legal? Any magic, or only some types? Do laws vary widely from country to country, or is the attitude generally similar?
R.R: In Nidhota, magick is legal. Period. However, crimes can be and are committed with magick; these are dealt with like ordinary crimes. In most other countries, the law is similar (though some ban certain spells/types of magick). Some religions forbid the use of certain types of magick. Tressand’s cult bizarrely proclaims that magick is fundamentally evil and forbids its members from using magick - even from using magickal items enchanted by another. A similar attitude to technology (though usually less rabid) is exhibited in our own world by certain cults.
P.C.W: What wild animals, actual or imaginary, live in this area? Are any of them potentially useful - eg. for fur, whale oil, hides, magical ingredients, etc. Are there magical beasts, like dragons and unicorns? If so, which ones? How many? Are they common, or are some endangered species? Have any been domesticated?
R.R: Animals are used on farms for muscle power, and some are eaten. There are no ‘pets’; if one owns an animal, it is usually for sport, eg racing pigeons, falconry.
P.C.W: Are there magical artifacts (rings, swords, etc)? If so, who makes them? How? Are they permanent, or does the magic wear off after a while?
R.R: The magickal power of an item is drawn from the ‘magickal æther’, and so is permanent no matter how incompetent the spell, unless of course it is disenchanted by a more powerful magician.
P.C.W: Where is scientific and/or magical research done - universities, private labs, under the auspices of the king/government, etc.?
R.R: At the Academies. These are run by the Guilds.
P.C.W: Given the magical/technological level of this society, what is an appropriate ratio of farmers or food producers to urban residents? If this is based on the presence of magic, how many urban residents are going to starve if the spells supporting farming fail suddenly?
R.R: The ratio is the same as we had in the mid-20th Century, because the combination of magick, technology and culture points to an area between about 1870 and 1970. Magick is used in farming, and without it the world could probably not support such a high, constant population.
P.C.W: Are magicians a force in politics, or are they above it? Are there national politics that revolve around magic/wizards (ie. trying to outlaw or promote certain kinds of magic, trying to draft all wizards into the king’s army, licensing of magicians, etc.)?
R.R: The Guilds are the nearest things Nidhota has to political parties, and there is a Magickal Guild, with its Minister in the Emperor’s Cabinet and representatives in most professions.
P.C.W: How much as the presence of magic affected military strategy and tactics in general?
R.R: Magick can be used as a weapon in war, but it is more frequently used to enhance other forms of combat, eg. to harden swords and shields, or to streamline an arrow.
P.C.W: Is healing usually a magical process? If so, how does the magical healing talent/spell work (ie. speeding up the body’s natural healing mechanism vs. doing instant repairs from outside)? Does a magical healer have to consciously direct the healing process (meaning that lots of knowledge of anatomy, etc. would be required), or does magical healing simply speed up the normal, unconscious healing process in the patient? Is there more than one kind of magical healer (as there are surgeons, eye doctors, orthopedic doctors, etc.)? Are there both magical and non-magical healers, and if so, are they rivals or simply different specialties?
R.R: There are a few ‘specific’ healing spells, but most healing is done by Doctors (who also have their own Guild). Most healing spells (there are variants) work to aid the natural healing process; many have effects not dissimilar to certain drugs, especially ones that work on the mind eg. codeine, cocaine, caffeine.
P.C.W: What level is medicine at? Who are the healers? Do you have to have a talent to heal? Who trains healers, herbalists, apothecaries, surgeons, magical vs. nonmagical healers, etc?
R.R: The Medical Guild trains doctors; the level of medical knowledge is (relative to other areas of knowledge) quite advanced, equivalent to the late 20th Century on Earth. Doctors specialise like their terrestrial counterparts; in fact there is little significant difference between the professions on either world. Magickal healing is not a specialty, and healing spells can be cast by any competent adult; many Doctors, however, have Magickal Bars, and use these general healing spells in the course of their work.
P.C.W: Is forensic magic possible? Commonly used? Used only to investigate certain types of crimes (if so, which?)? Are the results of forensic spells admissible in court as evidence?
R.R: Forensic magick is just like forensic science (which is also used extensively).
P.C.W: Are there separate civil and criminal courts? Is there a separate court or procedure for magical crimes? Are judges and other court officers required/forbidden to know magic?
R.R: Yes, no and maybe. There is no law forbidding anyone to practice magick; but there is always a court magician, who has the responsibility to cast ‘truth spells’ on the court, among other things.
P.C.W: Can magic be used in the arts, and if so, how - paint that glows, pictures that move, flutes that play themselves, etc. ? How do ‘normal’ artists feel about this?
R.R: See the section on Arts.

Magic & Technology

P.C.W: Are there magical means of transportation (teleport spells, magic carpets, dragon-riding)? How do they compare in speed, safety, and expense to non-magical means? Are there any drawbacks (eg. air sickness)? How commonly are they used, and for what purposes (industrial shipping vs. travel for fun)?
R.R: There are no purely magickal forms of transportation; but magickally-propelled carriages have been around for centuries, and aeroplanes (invented a few centuries ago, but even today equivalent to the early jet airliners) are also magickally powered.
P.C.W: Are magical weapons available? Can magic be used in warfare? In what ways? Are spells fast enough to be useful in hand-to-hand combat, or is magic more of a siege weapon, useful only for long, slow things?
R.R: Magick is more of a siege weapon; it is subtle.
P.C.W: How has the presence of magic affected weapons technology? Do you have to do anything special to armor, weapons, walls, to make them better able to resist spells?
R.R: There are spells in use to harden or strengthen shields, walls, etc.
P.C.W: Can ordinary objects be enchanted to make them extremely lethal (the Frying Pan of Death) or will this work properly only on things that are already weapons? Can ordinary objects be enchanted to make them (or their user) much, much better at whatever they do (the Frying Pan of Ultimate Gourmet Cooking, the Comb of No Bad Hair Days Ever)? How common and useful are such enchantments?
R.R: Ordinary things can, under some circumstances, be enchanted, but not for absolutely anything; the Frying Pan of Death or the Comb of No Bad Hair Days are right out! Magick is better used for simpler physical processes; it can catalyse chemical reactions, alter the physical properties of substances to a limited extent, and afford one a level of control over eg. the weather.
P.C.W: To what degree do magical objects and the presence of wizards and spells replace technology (eg. a chest that is enchanted to stay cold replacing refrigerators)? Duplicate technology? Supplement technology?
R.R: Magick seldom duplicates or replaces technology; technology is more likely to duplicate or replace magick. Electricity is known as a concept, but it is not used to anything like the same extent as we use it. Magick is used in many cases where we would use electricity, eg. heating and cooling (magickal iceboxes have been in use since the second millennium FK). The main exception, with respect to magick duplicating technology, is in the field of drugs. Physical drugs are used (for both medicinal and recreational purposes), and many of their functions are approximated by magickal spells.


P.C.W: What distinguishes a formal, high-court dinner from an ordinary meal, besides quantity and variety of food? How do high-court manners differ from everyday ones?
R.R: The main thing is the quantity and variety of the food served; polite language and the like are a given, but there is little formal etiquette. There is a proper manner for the laying out of cutlery.
P.C.W: What are the rules of precedence - who gets to go through doors first? Who gets introduced first?
R.R: By rank (higher first), then sex (women first), then age (older first). In practice, this matters little.
P.C.W: Is there a distinction between ‘formal’ good manners and informal, everyday manners? When and where are people expected to be on their best behavior?
R.R: Not really. Hypocrisy is a deadly sin; you must nominally always be on your ‘best behaviour’ always, but it naturally follows that this is not exactly demanding.
P.C.W: How important are ‘good manners’ in this society? How do ‘good manners’ differ from race to race? How do people/dwarves/elves/ dragons react when someone has just been, by their standards, rude?
R.R: See above, but there are specific customs relating to politeness. A good example would be the divergence of customs between the two empires, whence in Nidhota it is impolite to refuse at least a first offer of food, while in Chungan it is the custom to continue offering food until the guest refuses.


P.C.W: What customs surround death and burial? Is there a special class of people (doctors, priests, funeral directors, untouchables) who deal with dead bodies?
R.R: Undertaking is just another job, and if it is not envied then nor is it scorned. There are catacombs under the levels of Sahrenota, and in many of these are graves. They are æsthetic but not ornate. Funerals are held at the site of burial; but the main celebration (the word service is not a good translation, as it is not necessarily religious in nature) takes place at what we would call the ‘wake’. Where on a grave we would use a cross is placed a form of the deceased’s monogram.
P.C.W: How accurate is the diagnostic process? Do healers have ways of telling two diseases apart if they have similar symptoms? Do healers depend on standard physical medical tests - reflexes, temperature, contracted pupils - or do they normally use spells for diagnosis?
R.R: Medicine is at an equivalent late-20th-century level; spells are seldom used in diagnosis.
P.C.W: How expensive are healers? How available are such services to ordinary people?
R.R: As in our own world, doctors are a private business; they live on their practice. But the average citizen can easily afford for his medical needs to be attended to.
P.C.W: How much is known about anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc? Are treatments based on purely practical experience (‘We know this works but we don’t know why’), or do healers understand at least some of what they are doing?
R.R: Medical knowledge is advanced as our own was three or four decades ago.
P.C.W: How much training does a healer normally get? Where? From whom?
R.R: From the Medical Academy. To become a nurse, one trains for two years; for a general physician, the training lasts four years; a specialist’s degree (eg. surgery, psychiatry, pædiatrics) takes two years on top of that. Usually a doctor will go into general practice for several years before taking the specialist’s course.
P.C.W: Is healing generally a magical process? If so, how does the magical healing talent work? Does a magical healer have to consciously direct the healing process (meaning that lots of knowledge of anatomy, etc., would be required), or does magical healing simply speed up the normal, unconscious healing process in the patient?
R.R: Magickal healing is not a talent. Most people are capable of basic magickal healing spells. They aid the patient’s natural recovery process; specific things are dealt with by doctors, without magick.
P.C.W: Is there a reliable method of birth control? Who normally handles births - midwives, or doctors? What is the mortality rate for pregnant ladies, new mothers, and children?
R.R: Birth control - by the Pill, condoms, whatever - is not used in Nidhota, and most Nidhotans would regard the mere notion as abhorrent. An expectant mother must abstain from using any nonessential drugs and spells on herself, out of concern for the child (and all recognise this); and the reader must understand that though drugs are freely available in Nidhota, there are fewer addicts and the like than in our own world. Much of the appeal of illegal drugs in our world is in their illicit nature; in addition, most drugs discovered in the last half-century or so (and a fair few older ones) on Earth have not been discovered on Ũna.
P.C.W: Who can become a healer? Are there various kinds of healers (herbalists, wisewomen, pharmacists/apothecaries, surgeons, doctors, etc.)? If so, why are distinctions made?
R.R: Aside from general doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc. there are specialists, who typically hold higher ranks in the Medical Guild.
P.C.W: What kinds of treatments are available - herbal brews, vaccinations, acupuncture, etc.? How effective are they?
R.R: Chemical and alchemical cures are available, and various spells are also utilised. Some of these resemble such terrestrial practices.
P.C.W: Is it possible to resurrect/resuscitate someone who has died? If so, how long is it before this becomes impossible? Before serious brain damage sets in?
R.R: No; that would be unfair.
P.C.W: How is insanity treated? Are there asylums or treatment centers? How effective are treatments for insanity?
R.R: Here is another point where magick is the primary tool in healing. Druglike spells have some effectiveness, but mental illness is not as well understood as it might be. Some things are treated as mental diseases that are nothing of the sort (eg. homosexuality); the insane are generally let alone, or (if they are a public danger) treated like ordinary criminals. The general view (an unfortunate one) is that a mental disease is a part of who a person is.

People & Customs: Ethics & Values

P.C.W: What will people swear a binding oath by? What do people use as curse words?
R.R: People will swear an oath to a god, in the form of a spell. Curses (as in offensive words, not evil spells) are not as prevalent in Tacretta as they are in English; the usual references to bodily functions or sexuality do not appear, as they are taken for granted. But (relatively) harmless English slang words do have colloquial Tacretta equivalents, eg. nurd, poof, etc..
P.C.W: What are the most desired/most valuable things in this society - gold, jewels, drugs, money, furs, reindeer, oranges, etc? Why is it desired/valued? Do different races value different things? Is there a race/culture for whom non-material things (information, time) are the valuable things? How did they get that way?
R.R: Precious metals, jewels and other material goods are valued, but the most highly valued thing is one’s rank, because it determines what sort of job you can have.
P.C.W: What things are considered normal and acceptable in this society that would not be considered normal or acceptable in yours? (eg. dueling, drugs, open homosexuality, polygamy, infanticide.)
R.R: Drugs are not banned in Nidhota; the general attitude that people have a right to be stupid, so long as they endanger nobody else, features again. There is also no taboo on nudity, though from a combination of weather (especially in Sahrenota, which is in the mountains) and other factors, people wear clothes when it is practical, which is most of the time; and at important functions, you are expected to wear your shoulder pauldrons; there are miniature shirts whose only purpose is to carry these, but generally for such an occasion you dress up anyway. Some advanced magick requires the practitioner to be naked; the Tacretta word for ‘naked’ is literally translated ‘skyclad’ or ‘airclad’, and I use this rendering especially when it concerns magick (‘skyclad’ is in fact used by many terrestrial Witches).
P.C.W: What things are considered shocking in this society that are not considered shocking in yours? (eg. showing a woman’s ankles, eating left-handed, reading in public.) What are the reactions of ordinary people when someone does one of these things?
R.R: Homosexuality is never something one is proud of; but the general attitude is that it’s nobody else’s business, and should be private. Sex is not generally a taboo subject; but if a woman falls pregnant before marriage, she is not entitled to keep the child: it must be given up for adoption, or else the couple must marry. There is no stigma involved here; it is merely an accepted fact that a child cannot be properly raised without a mother and father. There are, sadly, enough childless couples around for this system to work.
P.C.W: What are the acceptable limits to honor and/or honesty in this society? Is a binding oath unbreakable no matter what, or can you get out of it if the other party turns out to be evil scum or if you weren’t fully informed? Are ‘white lies’ acceptable socially, or is lying in any form unacceptable?
R.R: You can break an oath - even one sworn to a god - if you were unfairly dealt. ‘White lies’ are unheard-of; if a woman’s ass looks big in a certain outfit, you would answer her truthfully, though gently.
P.C.W: What are the attitudes toward ownership? What constitutes ‘theft’ and what can be stolen - gems, gold, purses, small moveables, someone’s good name? Are thieves organized in a guild, licensed by law, freelance, or what?
R.R: Theft is only as common as in our own world, and is mostly petty, easily put right, and leniently judged.
P.C.W: Who is considered a citizen, with the rights and privileges thereof? What are those rights and privileges (voting, protection from thieves, the right to a hearing in Rome) and what responsibilities go along with them (jury duty, providing funds or knights for the lord’s army)?
R.R: Any child born in Nidhota is automatically a citizen, and foreigners can apply for citizenship, which is usually granted as a matter of course.
P.C.W: Are there certain classes of people (wizards, foreigners, children, peasants, women) who have fewer legal rights or less recourse than full citizens? Why? Are they considered mentally or morally deficient, a danger to the state, or is there some other rational?
R.R: Foreigners have less recourse (though they have the full protection of the Empire provided they have documentation) because they do not pay tax.
P.C.W: What are the most controversial subjects in this culture? What things can you easily start a friendly argument about in any bar? What things will automatically start an unfriendly argument?
R.R: You don’t want to argue about business (your own or general), but politics, philosophy and to a lesser extent religion are perfectly acceptable topics for friendly discussion or argument.
P.C.W: What are the social taboos - what things are ‘not done’, like wearing a bathing suit to the office? What things are never talked about? What would happen if someone did? How do these taboos vary for different races?
R.R: Business remains in work hours. It should not be brought home, much less considered socially. School students receive homework, at a maximum of around an hour and a half a night in final year. (Frankly I can’t see what Niloc was complaining about; he has it so easy compared to me. Maybe he’s just disorganised…) One is expected to wear one’s shoulder pauldrons (you never wear just one or the other) in similar circumstances to when we would wear a necktie. Actually more frequently than that; whenever you are at work or on business you wear them too. (For some classes eg. Artists this is less common.)
P.C.W: What are the biggest social faux pas - burping loudly at a formal banquet, drawing steel in the presence of a king/noble, asking a dwarf whether it’s a male or a female? What subjects or actions cause embarrassment or discomfort?
R.R: A burp is decidedly not a compliment, though it is not looked on with shock. The biggest faux pas probably concern the pauldrons and the related custom of the family signet rings.
P.C.W: What are the society’s mores regarding courtship, marriage, and family? Is marriage primarily a civil or a religious institution?
R.R: Marriage is often celebrated by a religious service, but it is fundamentally a civil institution. Dating is seen as natural from an early age (about ten); but marriage traditionally waits until one has come of age (20) for both sexes. A childless married couple has no shame; indeed they fill an important social rôle, by adopting children born outside of marriage.
P.C.W: What are the standards of beauty for people? For paintings and sculpture? For clothes and furniture? How do they differ from the standards in your culture (eg. a culture which considers fatness a highly desirable beauty trait)? How do they reflect the physical traits of the various people (eg. dwarves considering height a negative trait, werewolves attracted by length of teeth or scent, etc.)?
R.R: φ is recognised as a ‘beautiful’ number, and many artists have consciously used it (as have terrestrial artists).
P.C.W: What kind of ideal life do people aspire to? Does everyone want to be an English country gentleperson, living out in the country, or is it the New York social whirl, or the jet-set lifestyle, that attracts most people?
R.R: The peaceful, quiet, slow, I suppose country life appeals to many, though many want it and can get it in Sahrenota - and if you lived in a city in such beautiful surrounds as eg. Vancouver, would you want to leave it for such a small change of lifestyle?
P.C.W: What kinds of people are the rebels and outcasts of this society? How does society deal with them - prison, exile, decapitation, reformation, etc?
R.R: There is an efficient prison system for serious criminals and traitors.
P.C.W: Who are the arbiters of ethics (as opposed to law)? How did they get to be arbiters? Who are the arbiters of the social milieu? Ditto, ditto.
R.R: The gods are the arbiters of ethics. Duh!

Physical & Historical Features

P.C.W: In which geographical areas will the story take place? How much ground will the story cover? What are the most striking features of landscape, climate, etc. in the story area?
R.R: The city of Chriannod grew from a fortress built to guard the pass to the grand city it is today over more than five thousand years, in which time many empires have ruled it. About fifteen hundred years ago it got its own empire to rule, when it became the seat of the Sahram emperors, descended from the same line as the Kîhul emperors of the Old Empire. The first Emperor, Jêrũne, took the name of Sahro (Victor) and renamed the city Sahrenota (City of Victory). It is, as mentioned, partly built on terraces cut into the Kerongâtrîm. It is near the western end of Sinõdla, where the Kerongâtrîm curl southward from the northern edge of the peninsula. The peninsula continues down the western side of the mountains, but you can see to the ocean from the tops of the two spires, Râôtles Pascuyn and Râôtles Chriannod. These towers guard either side of the pass between Lỗrrogât and Paccât, the two highest mountains at this end of the range. Over the pass, the biggest town is Ittayn. East of Sahrenota the land falls away to woodlands, fields and rolling hills; the mountains extend for three thousand miles or so along the northern edge of the peninsula. There is an average of twenty miles from the mountains to the sea, but there are not for the most part many towns along this narrow strip of infertile land. An interesting feature, however, is a subcontinent known as Faporra, formed in a similar way to India. It is not part of the Empire, but comprised of five independent (but allied) states. It is around the same size as the Indian Subcontinent, and it extends well into the Arctic Circle. (Bear in mind that the Arctic Circle on Ũna is 60°N, not 76°30’N.) Culturally and geographically, it more closely resembles Scandinavia or Alaska; it has many glaciers and fjords, and it snows heavily. Toward the eastern end of Sinõdla, the mountains fall away, and as one nears Yûmâînna (‘the heartland’, which is made up of several independent states and a handful of colonies) the coast curves toward the north. About a thousand miles east of Sahrenota, on Sinõdla’s south coast, is the city of Hrastonna. Millennia ago, it was Sahrenota’s (or Chriannod, as it was then known) rival for the control of the end of the peninsula. Hrastonna began life as a port town, on the mouth of the Chriyã which rises on Lỗrrogât, and remains the major port for mainland Nidhota, which extends a further 2600 miles east of it. Niloc passes through Hrastonna on his way to Chungan in 2378, staying overnight with family friends. It is also where his ship returns to when he escapes from the invaded country. He and his companions pass through it a third time on the early stages of their quest in 2380. When Cruojûmâî’s armies invade Nidhota in the winter of 2380, Hrastonna is one of the last places to fall, finally being captured in summer 2382. Sahrenota eventually becomes the last stronghold of free men, and a refuge for escapees from all nations. The last part of Sinõdla, west of the mountains, is kept free for a time by the heroic defence of the southern passes by Nidhota, and the North by the remnant of the Faporram, from the subcontinent. When Cruojûmâî finally breaks through the southern defences and takes the western fields, Sahrenota is surrounded on both sides. They have been amassing food and supplies for months, in preparation for this hour, but they know they cannot last forever. When Vêndu abandons the quest in late spring 2380, she manages to make her way back to her hometown, but she probably starves in the siege, which lasts for seven months. The city finally surrenders in Asatlê 2383, and our heroes go underground - literally, into the catacombs beneath the ancient city.
P.C.W: If there are non-human inhabitants, are there any areas they particularly claim as their own (eg. dwarves in caves under mountains)?
R.R: There are some underground cities in the mountainous Faporra, originally a land of the dwarves.

Climate & Geography

P.C.W: Have human activities affected climate, landscape, etc. in various regions? How? (eg. Growth of the Sahara Desert has been increased by over-farming.) If this is an alternative earth, will the ‘alternative’ part change existing effects (if there are no people in N. Africa, growth of the desert would be slower, etc.)?
R.R: Every farm field is left to fallow some seasons, so there has been no desertification of the Nidhotan plain. East of the Empire is another matter, however; the grasslands turn to plains, and the plains to desert, a few hundred miles east of the border. There is some fertile land here, but some of the desert has appeared, like the Sahara, as a result of overfarming.
P.C.W: How do differences from Earth (multiple moons, suns, etc) affect the climate in various areas?
R.R: The three Moons (especially the outer two) cause more complex tides than Earth has; they are usually larger, as the Month Moon is 1.5 times the size of our Moon.
P.C.W: How much land is in each of the equatorial, temperate, and polar zones?
R.R: About 40% of the Arctic Circle is land, the northern parts of Baosahrei and Faporra. The geometric centre of the Three Peninsulas is at about 40°N (equivalent to New York). Sinõdla extends west of this point, Kyortolzer south, and Baosahrei north over the North Pole.
P.C.W: Note: climate affects landscape through erosion and weathering, the distribution of plants and animals, and soil formation. Winter freezing and thawing may change travel patterns as waterways freeze or flood, or mountain passes close. Weather also affects available sports, like skiing. Are all these things consistent with what you say the climate is like in particular areas?
R.R: Damn straight they are. Winter is indeed cold in Sahrenota, and the Chriyã freezes as a matter of course every year, but the pass has never closed.
P.C.W: Where are mountain ranges? Rivers and lakes? Deserts? Forests, tropical and otherwise? Grasslands and plains?
R.R: See other questions, I’m not repeating old stuff here. Some day I’ll get around to drawing a proper map of Ũna.
P.C.W: If there are imaginary animals (dragons, unicorns, etc.) how do they fit into the ecology? What do they eat? How much and what kind of habitat do they require? Are they intelligent and/or capable of working spells, talking, etc.? How common are they? Are any endangered species?
R.R: There are no magickal animals, though most Ũnan animals differ at the race or species level from terrestrial animals.

Natural Resources

P.C.W: Which areas are the most fertile farmland? Where are mineral resources located?
R.R: The best farmland is in the Nidhotan plain, though the heartland, near and far south Baosahrei and Kyortolzer have their share. Kyortolzer’s jungles are a haven for exotic plants, some of which yeild valuable spices and other materials. The Kerongâtrîm are quite rich mineralogically, and the heartland is quite rich especially in useful (as opposed to precious) minerals like coal and iron.
P.C.W: Which animals, birds, fish, and other wildlife are commonly found in which areas? If there are imaginary animals such as dragons, where do they live?
R.R: Most animals are similar or even the same species as terrestrial animals, and are found in the appropriate areas.
P.C.W: Which natural resources, if any, have been depleted in which areas over time?
R.R: The veins of the Kerongâtrîm are still rich, and should hold out for centuries more. Some of the plains of eastern Sinõdla and the southwestern heartland have been desertified by overfarming.
P.C.W: Which resources (eg. coal, oil, iron ore, gold, diamonds, limestone, etc.) are particularly abundant, and in which areas? Which are scarce and where? Are there places with major deposits that haven’t been discovered yet, or where such deposits haven’t been fully exploited?
R.R: There is gold and silver and jewels, as well as industrial metals like iron and copper, beneath the Kerongâtrîm, and the mountains north of Sahrenota have been mined extensively. The richest part of the mountains is the part controlled by Faporra. That is the biggest reason that the Empire has any territory north of the mountains; in past times there were campaigns waged for the Kerongâtrîm. There are entire cities underground in this part of the mountains, including Jatnoi Gurran, to which Niloc, Quândom and Caloranîr flee after their escape in Book 7. In southern Kyortolzer (Olyonav) there are underexploited coal and oil deposits. Beneath the North Polar icecap there are also untapped resources, which Cruojûmâî exploits in the early stages of his campaign. The heat that he generates, first to melt the ice, and then in mining operations, raises the sea level by several feet.
P.C.W: How much conflict has been or might be caused by these imbalances in resources? How much active, peaceful trade?
R.R: If you want something, certainly in modern times, you deal and trade for it. The Merchants’ Guild is one of the oldest. Usually the different states have something their trading partners don’t, eg. the trade between Nidhota and Chungan: Sahrenota’s mineral resources and knowledge for Cli’ijart’s spices and coal. NB however that because of magick, coal is not so necessary or valuable.
P.C.W: What water resources are available, and for what uses? (eg. a mill wheel requires flowing water, ie. a river or stream; irrigation needs a large, dependable water source like a lake or large river, etc.)
R.R: Sahrenota’s water supplies come from the five rivers that pass through or by the city, and are brought up by means of magickal water wheels and pumps.

General History

P.C.W: How far back are there records or tales of historical events? How widely known are these stories?
R.R: Ũnan history goes back some ten thousand years, to the First Empire, which arose in Baosahrei. About as much is known about this empire as we know about the oldest Egyptian, Babylonian or Mesopotamian civilisation. There are professional historians, but most people know at least the outline of their world’s history, having studied it at school. Historians and archæologists are Scholars by Guild.
P.C.W: Do average people believe old tales, or do they dismiss some that have a basis in fact (as people dismissed Troy at one time)?
R.R: Generally people believe the ancient legends, and most of them at least reflect the truth.
P.C.W: How long have there been people on this world? Did they evolve, were they created by the gods, or did they migrate from somewhere/when else? If there are non-humans, how long have they been around and where did they come from?
R.R: Humans as a species are estimated to have existed for about one hundred thousand years, and they evolved from primate ancestors, as was ordained by the All-Mother at the Beginning of Time, before Ũna existed. Originally, there were beings whom we would regard as ‘non-humans’; but then, scientifically speaking, Ũnan humans are not ‘humans’ either; we could not reproduce with them, though their biological structure is at least as fundamentally similar to ours as a chimpanzee’s is. There were ‘elves’, ‘dwarves’ and various other subspecies of Homo hawkingii, but they are for the most part now so intermingled that the population of Ũna is essentially homogeneous. Baosahreians and Faporram are still slightly ‘dwarvish’, and the population of Kyortolzer is generally slighter of build than that of Nidhota, owing to the greater historical presence of ‘elves’ on that continent-peninsula.
P.C.W: Where did civilization begin? What directions did it spread? How was development affected by the presence of working magic? The presence of non-human races (if any)? The actions of gods?
R.R: Civilisation began in Baosahrei, and spread over the sea to the other peninsulas. Gradually, assisted by the gods, humans discovered that the three peninsulas were linked. In the days of the Kîhul Empire, many explorers attempted to reach the North Pole. It was achieved in 1998 FK. The southern continent, Kordandar/Cuytantal, is less civilised (though the two empires have sizable colonies on it), and it is where Cruojûmâî comes from. His island is raised five hundred miles off its shores.
P.C.W: Which peoples/countries/races have, over the centuries, fought, been allies, traded, or traditionally been rivals? Where are such old events still important - still causing hard feelings?
R.R: Chungan and Nidhota, the two great empires of the present time, were never at war with each other, but Chungan has sometimes been in disputes with its neighbours over borders, most recently with Olyonav to the south in 2295. This causes problems when Chungan is invaded in mid-2378, and Olyonav sticks to its guns and does not allow refugees until it becomes more than necessary. Even then, it is only possible through Nidhota’s intervention, in which Niloc has a hand.
P.C.W: Which peoples/countries/races have been in conflict, allied, etc. in the *recent* past? Why? When and why were the most recent wars? Who won?
R.R: Ũna is presently in a state of relative peace that has lasted for the better part of a century. There have been occasional flare-ups, notably the revolution in Jatpass in 2319 and the border dispute between Chungan and Olyonav in 2295; but even these are as distant from today as the Great Depression.
P.C.W: Which peoples/etc. are considered the most civilized? Which are most technologically advanced? Most magically advanced? Least advanced?
R.R: Most cultures are on a level footing; Nidhota and Sinõdla in general is considered the most civilised area. Nidhota is also the technological and magickal leader of the world.
P.C.W: Is there a single, generally accepted calendar (including time measurements like hours and minutes) or do different countries, peoples, races, etc. have different ones?
R.R: Most countries count years from different dates, such as their founding, though some smaller and younger nations count by the Nidhotan or Chungando dating system.
P.C.W: How many languages are there? Which ones are related (as the Romance languages are) and why? Which languages borrow words or phrases from other languages? Which is likely to be most widely spoken? Why?
R.R: Tacretta is widely spoken outside Nidhota, though many traders also know Chungando, and on Kyortolzer and in many places in the heartland, Chungando is the second-language of choice. Both Chungando and Tacretta are descended from the Old Imperial Takredr, the tongue of the Kîhul Emperors. Many smaller nations speak languages descended from barbarian tongues, not related to Takredr.
P.C.W: Is there a ‘trade language’ that facilitates commerce between countries that don’t speak the same tongue? Is there a ‘universal language’ spoken by educated or noble persons (or magicians), as Latin was in the Middle Ages?
R.R: There is a magickal language, learned from the gods. It is called Palonno, and is unrelated to any human language. As anyone who can work magick knows at least a smattering of this language, it is occasionally used as a language of trade. More commonly, however, Tacretta or Chungando are trade languages, and Palonno is used as a high language of state. It has not changed over the millennia, as the gods have not changed.

History of a Specific Country

P.C.W: Who are the rivals or enemies of this country? How close are they physically? How powerful?
R.R: Nidhota has few real enemies; it opposed the Jatpass revolution in 2319, and the republican government does not respect it as it might. Jatpass is four hundred miles at the nearest borders from Nidhota. It is a middle-sized country. Olyonav, which has a quite unfriendly if not hostile attitude toward Cli’ijart, is by contrast large as countries go (its population is one hundred and sixty million), and forms most of Chungan’s southern border.
P.C.W: Who are the heroes and villains of each country’s history (eg. Washington and Lincoln in the U.S., Henry V in England, etc.)? Why are they heroes, and what does this say about the country and people?
R.R: Quândom V was an outsanding Emperor, though his father, Mattễpre II, is not looked on in nearly as favourable a light. As an aside: Quândom, most accurately translated Gabriel as it is derived from quẫnt ‘god’ and dom ‘man’, is a common name, especially for Emperors. I suppose (at least in England) it would be approximated in this usage if not in literal meaning by ‘Henry’.
P.C.W: How accessible is this area? What natural features mark the borders? Who are the neighboring countries/peoples and what are they like?
R.R: The eastern and western borders between Nidhota and Faporra have shifted over the centuries, but they have remained steady for 250 years. Faporra’s southern border has always been the top of the Kerongâtrîm. Nidhota’s eastern boundary runs in the south over the river Hyacrol; in the north it is more arbritrarily defined, though the current border follows closely the edge of the Kîhul Empire at one late stage.
P.C.W: Why did people settle in this area in the first place - strategic location, trade route, water transport, minerals, good farming, etc.? Have things changed much since, or do people still depend on whatever brought them here in the first place?
R.R: Most of the reasons certain areas were settled remain valid; Sahrenota itself, though, is an exception. It is, however, one of the oldest cities on the planet.
P.C.W: How do the weapons of this country compare with those of surrounding cities and countries? Have there been recent innovations that may upset the balance of power, or is everyone more or less equal?
R.R: On Earth, the military is a major source of technological innovation. On Ũna, where armies are much smaller than ours, and the rate of technological change is intrinsically slower, every nation and empire is on a virtually equal footing.
P.C.W: How many people are there in this country? How does this compare with world population? What is considered a small town/ large town/city in terms of number of people?
R.R: The global population is about 3.1 billion. Nidhota (including its colonies) has about 25% of this, and about 30% of the global land area. Chungan has about 30% of both population and area.
P.C.W: How diverse is the population of this country - how many different races (human or non-human), creeds, etc. normally live in various cities and towns in this country? In what percentages?
R.R: The population is both diverse and homogeneous. That is to say, there are diverse races and beliefs, and they are all spread fairly evenly over the Empire.
P.C.W: Is population shifting from rural to urban, south to north, mountains to coast, etc.? Why? What effects has this had on the places being left? The places gaining people?
R.R: There is very little net migration, intra- or internationally.
P.C.W: Is magic legal here? All magic, or only some types? Do laws governing magic vary widely from country to country, or are attitudes generally similar?
R.R: Magick is generally legal. In Nidhota it is completely legal, though crimes can be committed by magick; in a few countries certain spells or types of magick are forbidden, and usually with just cause.
P.C.W: What does this country import? Export? How important is trade to the economy? How is currency exchange handled, and by whom? What is the system of coinage used, and who mints it?
R.R: The currency of Nidhota is minted by the Merchants’ Guild, and overseen also by Magicians. International trade is important to Nidhota, especially in raw resources.
P.C.W: How much of this country is farmland? Forest? Desert? Mountains? Plains?
R.R: See other sections.
P.C.W: What are the primary crops (eg. potatoes, cotton, tobacco, coffee, rice, peanuts, wheat, sugarcane, etc.)? Are any grown mainly for export?
R.R: Chocolate and coffee, native to Sinõdla, are major export crops for the Empire, though they are not grown merely to trade with. Tobacco and most other drug-plants are grown in Chungan, and form a smaller part of that empire’s trade economy; spices also are traded by both empires.
P.C.W: What crops can not be grown here because of the soil, climate, etc.?
R.R: Most of the plants that are traded between the empires - spices, tobacco, etc. - do not grow well in the other peninsula, due to climate or soil or other reasons.
P.C.W: What water resources are available here, and for what uses?
R.R: Nidhota, though it does not have a very wet climate like Chungan does, has ample water supplies for its farms and cities. Water is drawn from the numerous rivers that run out of the Kerongâtrîm. The southern side of the mountains is more windward than the north side, and eastern Faporra depends partly on desalinised seawater. (This is an alchemical process.) Chungan has ample rainfall, though it is flatter than Nidhota, to supply its population.
P.C.W: What wild animals, actual or imaginary, live in this area? Are any of them potentially useful - eg. for fur, whale oil, hides, magical ingredients, hat feathers?
R.R: Some animals are harnessed for farm work, transport, etc., and some are eaten. There are no domestic pets, though there are many animals within the walls of most cities. (Not that most cities have walls.)
P.C.W: Which animals, actual or imaginary, are commonly domesticated in this area? Which aren’t here, but are elsewhere? (eg. water buffalo in India vs. oxen in Europe vs. camels in desert areas).
R.R: Horses are used for transport in Nidhota (especially in cities), though they have generally been replaced by cars; in other countries oxlike or mulelike animals are used for goods transport, though again they have mostly been superseded by magickal or mechanical means.


P.C.W: Is magic a profession, an art, or just a job? What is the status accorded to magicians in this society? Are they forbidden overt political action, or are wizards and/or the wizard’s guild knee-deep in court intrigue?
R.R: Magick is closest to a profession, though most people know a smattering of magick (just like most people know enough mathematics to aid them in their daily affairs). The Magickal Guild is a large one, and the Minister of Magick has considerable influence in the Imperial Cabinet.
P.C.W: Does the level of technological advancement match the level of social and political advancement?
R.R: Socially and politically, Ũna is both behind and ahead of us. Most states are nominally ruled by hereditary kings, and the Sahram and Chungando Empires are no exception. They both have many overseas territories (as do some of the older small kingdoms), but there have been no successful separatist movements. The Empires care for their colonies. They are ahead of us in that they have no party system but still a genuine democracy, an Emperor who is neither figurehead nor dictator (as England had from the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century), and neither one head of government nor an unwieldy bureaucracy.
P.C.W: What are the major political factions at present? How long have they been around? Which factions are allies, which enemies? Are there any potential new forces on the political scene (eg. a rising middle class, a university gaining unexpected power because of certain magical discoveries, etc.)?
R.R: The Guilds have been around in various forms for millennia; the system has been stable for a long time. The Guilds are neither allies nor enemies in general; each looks after its own area. They will agree or disagree on specific issues, but not as a matter of principle. They are not parties. Individual Guilds have come and gone over the centuries; the disbanding of the Warriors’ Guild and establishment of the Technical Guild in the fifteenth century, and the offshoot of the Medical Guild from the Scientific Guild in the twelfth century, are examples.
P.C.W: How much influence do special interest groups such as merchants, wizards, or various religions, have on court politics? How do they exercise their influence - indirectly (by talking lords or council members into taking their sides) or directly (by having their own representatives on the council)?
R.R: Merchants, Magicians and Priests each have their own Guild and Minister. Most special interest groups can and do affiliate with one or more Guilds.
P.C.W: What political positions are considered conservative? Liberal? Unthinkable? How do such positions differ from what is considered conservative/liberal in your own society?
R.R: What would pass as rabidly conservative (as exemplified in Australia by Andrew Bolt, or in Nidhota by Tressand’s cult) is essentially unthinkable; but then so is an attitude pro changing the system that has worked for thousands of years to something untried and unrecognisable. A moderately conservative attitude is shown by Vêndu’s father Hofâlle, or by the fiercely loyal, aristocratic, chivalrous Râmbuol. People such as Pawdranîr, Niloc and Caloranîr have a relatively liberal attitude. Liberal is not to be confused with modernist (as it often is on Earth).
P.C.W: Are there any shaky political alliances between disparate groups? Why were they formed? How long is it likely to be before they fall apart? When they do, what will the effects be?
R.R: The existence of one High Priestess brings religions away from competition; if they do not approve of her, they lose the support of the Empire. Not that they can’t practise if they don’t endorse her; but they are not accorded special status. The current High Priestess, Hakiyp Ludân, is akin to eg. the present Dalai Lama or Pope John Paul II in her charisma and wisdom, and most faiths would follow her of free will anyway.
P.C.W: What ancient rivalries and hatreds still affect current attitudes and political positions (eg. Scottish and Welsh separatist groups; Catholics vs. Protestants vs. Muslims; Hatfields vs. McCoys; dwarves vs. elves)?
R.R: There are very few private or local tensions; religious and racial differences do not cause conflict in normal society. There are a few family rivalries; eg. some of those descended from the old kings of Hrastonna claimed sovereignty over at least that city. They were placated by Quândom V when he appointed one of them, a Senator for twelve years, to be his Chief Justice.
P.C.W: What kinds of people are likely to face prejudice: dwarves, werewolves, merchants, women, undertakers? Is this institutionalized, or is it mostly a matter of public attitude?
R.R: Nidhotans are generally very open to others. Hofâlle Howpa is quite overprotective of his two daughters, due to an incident involving Yaso some years ago.


P.C.W: How many people are there in this country? How does this compare with world population? What is considered a small town/large town/city in terms of number of people?
R.R: The population of Nidhota (mainland and colonies) is about eight hundred million. Chungan has a population of around nine humdred million. The biggest city on the planet is Chungan’s capital, Cli’ijart, pop. thirty-nine million. Sahrenota is the capital of Nidhota, with a population of eighteen million; but the largest city in the Empire is the port of Hrastonna, which has steadily grown to twenty-seven million.
P.C.W: How diverse is the population of this country - how many different races (human or non-human), creeds, cultures, etc. normally live in various cities and towns in this country? In what percentages?
R.R: The population is both diverse and homogeneous, with the biggest range of races and creeds to be found in Hrastonna.
P.C.W: Is population shifting from rural to urban, south to north, mountains to coast, etc.? Why - invasions, plague, job opportunities, gold rush? What effects has this had on the places being left? The places gaining people?
R.R: There is very little net migration.
P.C.W: Given the magical/technological level of this society, what is an appropriate ratio of farmers or food producers to urban residents?
R.R: Similar to the terrestrial situation in about 1950.
P.C.W: Is there much immigration into or out of various countries? Why? To or from what other areas?
R.R: There is not much net migration, but certainly people move between countries. A part of Hrastonna (like Springvale in Melbourne) is largely given over to descendants of refugees from Jatpass in 2319. Unlike Springvale, it is not a comparitively poor area.
P.C.W: Which geographical areas are most heavily populated? Least? Why? Are certain regions or types of terrain more popular areas for non-humans (dwarves, etc.) to live? Why?
R.R: The stereotype of dwarves living underground/in mountains does manifest itself in Faporra, where there are veritable warrens of dwellings. The capital of the largest Faporran nation (there are five) is almost entirely underground, above the Arctic Circle where the sun does not set for weeks on end in the summer, nor rise around the Yule. There are some places on the northern side of the Kerongâtrîm that only see the Sun in summer; but there are rich veins of both precious and useful metals under them (southern Faporra is the highest part of the mountain chain), and so another underground city has been built here. To see the mountain face aglow with thousands of lights, as Niloc does as he makes his escape from the prison camp, is awe-inspiring. Faporrans are often referred to as ‘dwarves’, though most are at least five feet high, and there are few indeed among them whose ancestry is purely dwarvish. They do not call themselves ‘dwarves’, though they are not deeply insulted by the word.

Religion & Philosophy

P.C.W: How do various religions, if any, view magic? Do any forbid it? Require it? Why, or why not? Do any require/forbid magicians to be priests/priestesses (as opposed to members of the congregation)?
R.R: Though on Earth (and in many places on Ũna) religion and magick are usually inextricably intertwined (cf. how religion and science were connected in the Middle Ages, or in Foundation), this is not necessarily the case in Nidhota. There are the equivalent of atheists and agnostics; these usually explain ‘the gods’ in terms of the ‘projection’ by ordinary people of their inner selves onto the magickal plane, pointing out that the gods appear slightly differently to each person, though they are definitely the same entity.
P.C.W: Are there actual gods/godlike beings? If so, do they take an active role in the religions that worship them? Do they take an active role in the lives of everyday people? Why?
R.R: The gods, though they are not physical beings in the same way as humans are, are demonstrable entities. Some religions proclaim that they are manifestations of one God or Goddess (similar to the Hindu pantheon).
P.C.W: How many gods are there, and is there a hierarchy among them? Which ones are good or evil, or is this meaningless when speaking of gods?
R.R: There are many gods; they are all brethren, the sons and daughters of the Allmother, who is the creator of the Universe. She is transcendent, like the Omega (Clarke, 1986). There is no hierarchy among the gods. Their government, such as it is, is an Athenian democracy.
P.C.W: How do various religions view non-believers? Foreigners? Non-humans? Which support the state/king/government, and which are more interested in ordinary people?
R.R: The current High Priestess, Hakiyp Ludân, is very like the Dalai Lama: she is a charismatic character, as much involved in philosophy as worship. She is able to transcend differences between faiths; the position is always appointed from a different faith to her predecessor. She plays a major part in the final book.
P.C.W: Is there a difference between miracles and magic? If so, how are they distinguished in everyday events?
R.R: Miracles are as common and credible as on Earth; they are attributed by believers to the intervention of the Allmother.
P.C.W: Is there tension, rivalry, or outright hostility between any of the actual gods? How does this affect church politics? People’s everyday lives?
R.R: Not at present, except some fundamentally good-natured rivalries; but it is not unthinkable.
P.C.W: Where does religion fit into this society? Is there a state church? Is freedom of religion the norm? Do people generally think of the temples/churches as parasites, or as useful parts of society?
R.R: Almost everyone is affiliated with at least one faith; there are less than five million atheists in Nidhota. People are free to believe what they want, and this means religions are actually more stable than on Earth (‘If I were free I would not be so keen to leave’), though their practices do evolve.
P.C.W: If there are actual, demonstrable gods, what part does faith play in their worship? Why do they want worship? What are their various rites like, and why? What offerings are considered good, better, best? Are people supposed to pick one or more gods to worship and ignore the others, or do most people pray to whoever is most likely to grant results in a specific situation (the god of harvest when bringing in the crops, the goddess of war when in battle, etc.)? How do people decide whom to worship? Which temple to be affiliated with?
R.R: People pray to whichever god is relevant to the situation.
P.C.W: How much part do various religions and philosophies play in public and private life? Are philosophers and theologians considered academics, or do they debate in the marketplace, like Socrates? How much influence do their theories have on the way people actually behave?
R.R: Theology and philosophy belong in books, and their practitioners are Scholars and/or Priests. They do, however, influence people’s lives significantly.
P.C.W: Are priests or philosophers full-time occupations, or do they need day jobs? If they are full-time, who supports them - the congregation, a wealthy patron, the temple’s investment fund?
R.R: There are not many priests; the Religious Academies confer many more Bars then full degrees, and usually the leader of a celebration is an ordinary citizen. But there are Oracles, who choose one god to serve and communicate with. They do not predict the future; they are media for communication with the gods, as doing it on your own is sometimes difficult, time-consuming work.
P.C.W: Why are the gods interested in people? Are they like the Greek pantheon (quarrelsome, larger-than-life humans), or are they more transcendent and incomprehensible? Do the gods have limits to what they can do? To what they will do? Can the gods make mistakes?
R.R: Yes to all; they are interested in people because it is in their nature to be. They were given the charge by the Allmother of coexisting with the human race.
P.C.W: How do the various temples and philosophies explain the classic ‘problem of evil’? Do they think bad things are always a just punishment for some transgression, a character-building exercise, the result of an evil antagonist (Satan, Loki), or just something the gods can’t prevent?
R.R: The gods are not omni-anything, even put together. The ‘problem of evil’ cannot be solved, though much thought has been given to it.

Rules of Magic

P.C.W: What things can magic not do? What are the limits of magical power?
R.R: Magick is a simple physical force which, like the others and especially like electromagnetism, can be harnessed in different ways.
P.C.W: Is there a difference between miracles and magic? If so, how are they distinguished?
R.R: Miracles are not performed by anyone, even the gods. They are generally attributed to the intervention of the transcendent Allmother.
P.C.W: Where does magic power come from: the gods, ‘mana’ (cf. Larry Niven’s Warlock stories), the personal will-power of the magician, etc.? Is it an exhaustible resource?
R.R: The ‘magickal æther’ is inexhaustible; the very word is misleading, as it is not a source of energy, but rather a plane in which energy moves.
P.C.W: How does a magician tap magical power? Does becoming a magician require some rite of passage (investing one’s power in an object, being chosen by the gods, constructing or being given a permanent link to the source of power, successfully summoning a demon, etc.) or does it just happen naturally, as a result of study or as a part of growing up?
R.R: It is a natural thing, part of maturing.
P.C.W: What does one need to do to cast a spell - design an elaborate ritual, recite poetry, mix the right ingredients in a pot? Are there things like a staff, a wand, a familiar, a crystal ball, that are necessary or useful to have before casting spells? If so, where and how do wizards get these things?
R.R: Any of the above. Except familiars; animals are not used in magick.
P.C.W: How long does it take to cast a spell? Can spells be stored for later, instant use? Do spells take lots of long ritual, or is magic a ‘point-and-shoot’ kind of thing?
R.R: Magick cannot be stored, nor is it a ‘point-and-shoot’ tool.
P.C.W: Can two or more wizards combine their power to cast a stronger spell, or is magic done only by individuals? What makes one wizard more powerful than another - knowledge of more spells, ability to handle greater quantities of mana, having a more powerful god as patron, etc.?
R.R: Two magicians can combine their powers to cast stronger spells; in fact some spells (eg. those involving sex) require two practitioners. Knowledge of more spells, and of more details of spells, makes for a more powerful magician. In school, magick is mostly taught as a ‘what’ rather than ‘how’ subject, ie. students are taught how to perform it, not how it works. Niloc Moncỗ, however, is well-read on how magick works and is thus much more powerful than most of his peers.
P.C.W: Does practicing magic have any detrimental effect on the magician (such as being addictive, slowly driving the magician insane, or shortening the magicians life-span)? If so, is there any way to prevent these effects? Are the effects inevitable in all magicians, or do they affect only those with some sort of predisposition? Do the effects progress at the same rate in everyone?
R.R: Some spells have adverse effects, and miscasting some otherwise harmless spells can also harm the magician; but there is little or no risk from magick in principle.
P.C.W: How much is known about the laws of magic? How much of what is ‘known’ is wrong (as Aristotle’s ideas about human anatomy were wrong, but accepted for centuries)?
R.R: The fundamentals of magick are known, and the magickal æther (sometimes referred to as the ‘magickal plane’) is a documented phenomenon. However, the true nature of magick as the fifth fundamental force has not been discovered (and nor have the other four forces, though Newtonian physics has been known for millennia).
P.C.W: What general varieties of magic are practiced (eg. herbal potions, ritual magic, alchemical magic, demonology, necromancy, etc.)? Do any work better than others, or does only one variety actually work?
R.R: It is not possible to divine the future, nor are there ‘point-and-shoot’ spells; magick is never as simple as saying a few words. But most other sorts of magick practised on Earth work, eg. alchemy (potions), charms, rituals, etc..
P.C.W: Are certain kinds of magic practiced solely or chiefly by one sex or another? By one race or culture or another?
R.R: No sort of magick is exclusively the domain of one sex. Some very advanced spells require sexual intercourse as part of their ritual; by the time one is ready to attempt these one is usually married anyway, so this is not generally a problem. Certainly, though, some cultures are better-versed in different sorts of magick.
P.C.W: Does a magician’s magical ability or power change over time - eg. growing stronger or weaker during puberty, or with increasing age? Can a magician ‘use up’ all of his/her magic, thus ceasing to be a magician? If this happens, what does the ex-magician do - die, retire, take up teaching, go into a second career?
R.R: Magickal ability does not change much with time, but with practise and study. Magick is not drawn from personal life-energy, but from the æther. It is inexhaustible; indeed the very word inexhaustible is misleading when speaking of magick. That said, casting magickal spells is tiring work.
P.C.W: Can the ability to do magic be lost? If so, how - overdoing it, ‘burning out’, brain damage due to fever or a blow, magical attack, etc.?
R.R: Magickal ability can be lessened by various misfortunes, or by certain spells (see below).
P.C.W: Can the ability to do magic be forcibly taken away? If so, how and by whom? (eg. certain spells could only be worked by virgins; raping such a witch robbed her of her power.)
R.R: A reversal of a sort of magick strengthening spell can go some way toward decreasing someone’s magickal skill; but like just about any spell you can think of, it is not irreversible.
P.C.W: What is the price magicians pay in order to be magicians - years of study, permanent celibacy, using up bits of their life or memory with each spell, etc.?
R.R: Serious study in the magickal arts can take years; the current Minister of Magick has ten years at the Academy under his belt.

Rural Factors

P.C.W: Given the magical/technological level of this society, what is an appropriate ratio of farmers to urban residents?
R.R: The same as we had in about 1950. There must be many farmers, to support the national population.
P.C.W: Given the state of roads and transportation, how much food is it possible to ship to a given location before it spoils? (This limits the size of cities.)
R.R: Enough to maintain cities of populations in the tens of millions. The rail system is first-class; freight by road, by contrast, is not a common mode.
P.C.W: Are rural areas primarily farms, forests, fields for grazing, or ‘waste land’? In outlying areas where there aren’t many people, how many roads are there, who builds them, and who maintains them?
R.R: Most of the above, but there is little ‘waste land’; it is all fertile, except in and north of the Kerongâtrîm.
P.C.W: How reliable is the weather from year to year - is crop production relatively dependable, or do people have to cope with regular famines due to drought or floods?
R.R: The weather in Nidhota is generally quite agreeable and reliable.
P.C.W: What kinds of catastrophic/weird weather are common - tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, waterspouts, dust storms? How do people cope? How do non-humans cope?
R.R: In eastern Sinõdla (beyond the borders of the Empire) the desert is subject to dust storms; Sahrenota and Faporra often suffer heavy snowfalls in winter.
P.C.W: Can peasants/yeomen own their own land, or does it all belong to the lord? What kinds of rights over land, crops, game, etc. does the lord/landowner have? Is poaching a problem?
R.R: The entire Empire is subject to the Emperor; the wording on the deeds to farmland talks about the ‘right to work the Emperor’s land as one sees fit’. There is no middleman, no landlord. In the cities, a similar system operates, but some people do rent their homes, rather than owning them.

Science & Technology

P.C.W: Is the level of technology in this society comparable to that of ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, what?
R.R: Generally between 1870 and 1970, though in some areas it may be earlier (eg military technology) or later (sociology).
P.C.W: What important inventions or advances have been made (the wheel, gunpowder, printing, flush toilets)? Have any of them been produced in quantities sufficient to affect the daily lives of the average person, or are flush toilet a luxury for nobility only?
R.R: All of the above have been invented; automobiles have been common for centuries. Aeroplanes were invented in about 2050. Electricity was discovered several centuries ago, but the means to generate large quantities of it have not been invented. There are a few small battery-operated devices on the market.
P.C.W: What inventions or advances have not been made that you would expect to see at this stage of technological development? Why? Which ones are about to be made?
R.R: Electricity is not used to the same extent as it was when we were at a comparable technological level. This is mainly due to the existence of magick: houses can be lit, heated and cooled easily by means of magick. Necessity is the mother of invention; here, there is no necessity. The common terrestrial concept that if something can be done, it should, does not exist.
P.C.W: How much is known about the laws of nature, physics, and magic? How much of what is commonly known is wrong (eg. Aristotle’s ideas about human anatomy, which were wrong but accepted for centuries)?
R.R: The nature of magick as the fifth fundamental force (or the others for that matter) is not known; but the existence of the magickal æther or plane is well-documented. Mathematics is at a level equivalent to the early twentieth century, and a standard of beauty is the Golden Ratio φ. It is treated as one of nine fundamental numbers (though its surd value is known), along with 0, 1, -1, 2, √2, π, e and i. In fact a popular mathematical puzzle, never solved, is to combine all nine numbers (similar to what Euler did with e+1=0) in a single equation. There are mechanical crank-operated calculators.
P.C.W: Are the laws of nature and physics actually different in this world, or are they the same as in real life? How does magic fit in? How do magical beasts fit in?
R.R: Magick is another fundamental force.
P.C.W: Where is scientific and/or magical research done - universities, private labs, under the auspices of the king or government, etc?
R.R: At the Academies. These are run by the Guilds.
P.C.W: In what areas might magic replace technology, and thus suppress its development (eg. if a spell to keep food cold is easy and cheap, there’s no need to invent refrigerators)? In what areas might magic cause more rapid technological or scientific development (common use of crystal balls might lead someone to think of inventing the lens/telescope sooner)?
R.R: In most cases this has happened. Neither magick nor technology, on their own, would put Ũna in even the seventeenth century; but in tandem they bring society to an early-twentieth-century level.

Social Organization

P.C.W: Does it require a license to be a wizard? A driver’s type license (something nearly everyone gets upon coming of age) or a doctor’s-type license (something that only a small portion of the population will ever get)? Who certifies wizards: the government, wizard’s guild, local priests, independent accounting firm?
R.R: A degree from the Magickal Guild is conferred on a small percentage of the population (professional magicians); but you don’t need a licence to practise ordinary, everyday magick.
P.C.W: What are the various ranks and titles and proper forms of address for the aristocracy/nobility? Is everybody ‘my lord’ or ‘my lady’, or are there more distinctions (your grace, your highness, your majesty, your holiness, etc.)?
R.R: The Emperor is addressed as ‘Your Majesty’, and the Ministers as ‘Your Grace’. High-ranking citizens are addressed as ‘my lord’ or ‘my lady’, and anyone of higher rank than you, within your own guild, is formally ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’. With the exception of the latter, these do not depend on your own rank; even to a Minister, someone of a starred rank within another guild is ‘my lord’, and even the Emperor, formally, addresses Ministers as ‘Your Grace’. (Informally, of course, since they are familiar, they use personal names; and the Emperor is ‘Quândom’ to the Chief Justice just as the Chief Justice is ‘Hofallu’ to the Emperor.
P.C.W: Which occupations are most respected? Which are most looked down on? Why?
R.R: Occupations which require imagination and intellect (craftsmen, artists, magicians) are highly regarded; those which involve drudgery are not looked down on as such, but hold less esteem.
P.C.W: How many levels are there in this society (eg. peasant, bourgeoise, warrior, nobleman)? How firm are the divisions between classes (is it disgraceful for a nobleman to engage in trade or for a warrior to help with the harvest)?
R.R: There are between ten and fifteen ranks in each Guild. The second, third and fourth (from the top, Minister) are referred to as ‘starred’ ranks, as the emblems for them are based on the pentacle. Ranks generally have different titles, but are approximately equivalent. Each starred rank is exactly equivalent across the board, though the proportion of members with a given rank will vary between Guilds.
P.C.W: How difficult is it to rise or fall from one social level to another? How much social mobility is there? How much do people think there is?
R.R: It is very easy; you are promoted by your Guild.

Transport & Communications

P.C.W: What are the common domesticated animals used for transport at various levels of society - eg. oxen, horses, donkeys, camels, etc.?
R.R: If you ride an animal, you ride a horse. Bicycles are more common, though.
P.C.W: Are there magical means of transportation (teleport spells, magic carpets, dragon-riding)? How do they compare in speed, safety, and expense to non-magical means? How commonly are they used, and for what purposes (industrial shipping vs. travel for fun)?
R.R: There are no purely magickal forms of transportation; but magickally-propelled carriages have been around for centuries, and aeroplanes (invented a few centuries ago, but even today equivalent to the early jet airliners) are also magickally powered.
P.C.W: For traveling short distances within a city, what are the alternatives? Can people hire a cab, a litter, a rickshaw, or do they have to walk or rely on their own servants or horses?
R.R: Most people own their own carriage, drawn either by horses or by magick. There are cabs, and most cities have an efficient passenger rail system. Sahrenota does not, due to its peculiar topography, but it is linked to the Imperial network. There is one railway that runs up the terraces. It only stops four times inside the city, at the sixtieth, fortieth, twentieth and second levels. It forks at the twentieth level, and one line curves southward and tunnels under Lỗrrogât to Ittayn. There is a tramway system (labeled as such because it runs along streets and compared to trains it is quite slow) within the city. The tram lines cross between terraces by magickal platforms that rise and fall along the walls, whereas the railways are on ramp-bridges that climb up the terraces. Sometimes the line forms a ‘cutting’ in the outer edge of a particular terrace, sometimes the bridge continues over the edge. The steepest gradient of the railway line is one in fifty, at around the tenth level.
P.C.W: How are messages sent when necessary? Is there a public/private postal system, or does everyone of importance have to send messengers? How fast can news get from one point to another?
R.R: Messages can be sent by telegraph at practically infinite speed; the postal service is also quite efficient.
P.C.W: Are there magical means of communication - crystal balls, scrying in a pool of water, telepathy? How common? How reliable? How expensive?
R.R: There are magickal telegraphs, and anyone can operate them. They haven’t quite invented the telephone, but they’re working on it. The system works by attuning the receiver’s telegraph to the sender’s, and the message is indicated in a very similar way to the ‘sympathetic needles’ described by Famanius Strada in Prolusiones Academicæ (1617). Just about every house has a telegraph, and they are not expensive to operate. Telegraphs have a range of a couple of hundred miles, and are therefore used only within cities or between neighbouring cities. There is not an organised retransmission system; messages take up to a week to reach the other end of the Empire.
P.C.W: How available is water transportation?
R.R: Hrastonna, the main port of Nidhota, is also the biggest city in the Empire. Ships are safe, as safe as the Titanic was supposed to be. That is not to say they are ‘unsinkable’, merely that marine safety is taken plenty seriously. Travel to other countries and the Empire’s overseas colonies can be by ship or by aeroplane. If there were no land in its way, a fast ship could circumnavigate the globe in a matter of weeks. Aeroplanes are available but expensive; even Niloc, whose family is fairly well-off, travels to Chungan in 2378 by ship. When he, Pawdranîr and Caloranîr steal aboard the evil ship bound for Cruojûmâî’s island in 2382, its voyage takes nine days.
P.C.W: How common is travel (for any reason)? Does the concept of travel ‘to see the world’ or for fun, even exist? How dangerous is travel? How large a group is considered safe? How much traffic is there inside/outside the main cities? Which areas are the best/worst?
R.R: Holidays are often taken away from home; the highways are well-maintained. Travel alone can be asking for trouble, but two or more people ought to be safe.
P.C.W: What are the fastest means of traveling long distances over land? Over water? Which are the safest?
R.R: If you are travelling longer distances, you can take an aeroplane; however these are expensive, and travel within Nidhota is usually more convenient by rail or carriage.
P.C.W: What is transportation like? Are there good roads? Who built them? Who is responsible for maintaining them?
R.R: All of Sinõdla was once a part of the Kîhul Empire, and the roads were built to last and maintained to last even longer by the Sahram Empire. There is also an excellent rail network linking all the major cities of the Empire.
P.C.W: Where would a traveler stay at night? Are there enough travelers to support inns, or do people have to stay at the equivalent of medieval monasteries or in people’s homes?
R.R: There are hotels in the larger towns (though if you know someone well in the city they will often offer to put you up), and any town of respectable size has an inn. But people seldom take tents or caravans with them.
P.C.W: Are some classes of people (slaves, peasants) not expected to travel at all? Are some (heralds, messengers) expected to travel constantly?
R.R: As on Earth, there are some jobs that require lots of travel. No-one is rooted to the one place.
P.C.W: How do people find out what is happening in the world - rumor, town crier, newspapers, TV and radio? How slanted is the news they get this way, and in what direction? Is there freedom of the press? If not, who controls/censors it and through what means?
R.R: There is an essentially free press, and news is generally delivered straight. The papers are the medium of news transmission; radio and television have not been invented. Rumours can spread quickly via the telegraph.
P.C.W: How are books produced? Are they common (has the printing press been invented), or are they valuable hand-written objects? Where are the great libraries/collections? How accessible are they to scholars, wizards, the general public? Who supports them?
R.R: Yes; the printing press was invented thousands of years ago. The Great Library of Kĩnodd was savagely burned in 3917 FK by religious cultists who believed that man needed to be taught that he did not know everything. Such an attitude is echoed (in opposite circumstances) by Jacob Bronowski’s response to Auschwitz: ‘This is how men behave when they believe they have absolute knowledge.’

Urban Factors

P.C.W: How many people are there in this country? How does this compare with world population? What is considered a small town/large town/city in terms of number of people?
R.R: The global population has remained relatively steady. In the Kîhul days it was about two to two and a half million, passing the three billion mark in about 1500 RP and at the moment sitting at about 3.2 billion. Mainland Nidhota has a population of about six hundred and fifty million, in a land area roughly equivalent to Canada. Obviously the land is quite fertile; Australia, by comparison, can only support maybe thirty or forty million. The colonies have a further two hundred million. Sahrenota’s population is about eighteen million.
P.C.W: Is population shifting from rural to urban, south to north, mountains to coast, etc.? Why? What effects has this had on the places being left? The places gaining people?
R.R: There is not much net population shift, as farms are quite profitable. Lêmâjîr’s family moved from a relatively small city (Vêôscanta, pop. 2 million) to Sahrenota in 2368; but they were not farmers.
P.C.W: Does city layout reflect some philosophy (religious or architectural or political), such as that the ‘head’ of the city must be at the center, the highest point, or the most strategic location? Or were layout considerations mainly practical? Or did most cities ‘just grow’?
R.R: Sahrenota grew around the Râôtles Chriannod, and later the Râôtles Pascuyn, guarding the pass between Lỗrrogât and Paccât, and is partly built on ordered terraces cut into the mountainside. Each of these is about seventy feet above the other, and surrounded by a four-foot wall. Horizontally, these follow the curvature of the mountain, which also dictates how wide they are; they can vary from half a mile in some places to four miles in others. There are sixty of these terraces, and below them the city extends for several miles over the more level foothills of the Kerongâtrîm. The Chriyã River rises on Lỗrrogât, and flows through the city on an ordered path. There are artificial ‘waterfalls’ on each terrace, and very wide ramps at frequent intervals that lead from one terrace to the next. The terraces are not for strategic reasons (à la Minas Tirith), though they do provide an excellent natural defence when Cruojûmâî comes knocking. The Emperor’s palace takes up a lot of space on the eighteenth terrace, and the House of the Senate is built on the nineteenth terrace, just below this. (The terraces are numbered from top to bottom; but each has a specific name, and these are usually used instead.)
P.C.W: Are there public or private parks in most/any cities? What kinds of activities take place in them?
R.R: There are several parks in Sahrenota, and it is not really claustrophobic for the most part; but Hrastonna especially and most of the cities of the plain are very wide-open by comparison.
P.C.W: Are cities generally laid out on a square-grid system of streets? How wide are the streets and alleys?
R.R: The layout of Sahrenota’s streets reflects its unique setting. The major roads run parallel to the terrace, and if there is a road on the edge of the terrace, it is invariably on the outer edge.
P.C.W: Where do people go to shop? To eat? To have fun? To do touristy things?
R.R: There are commercial districts all over Sahrenota, and most of the top few terraces is given over to leisure, eating, et cetera. There are no skyscrapers; the only real towers as such are the Râôtlesam Chriannod and Pascuyn, and other than them, the tallest building is only eight storeys; elevators have not really been invented. By really invented, I mean that magickal platforms transport visitors to the tops of the Râôtlesam, and trams between levels, but they are not in common use elsewhere. The business district is on the north side, in the middle terraces (roughly speaking, twenty through thirty-five). The industrial district is below this; but many things are imported, rather than homegrown; this is only to be expected in such a city.


P.C.W: Are there questions that must be asked or avoided when visiting someone (eg. how’s the family, how’s the business, never talk politics or religion, etc.)? Are there topics that can only be raised by the host? By the guest?
R.R: Politics and religion are ideal topics for discussion, and general enquiries into a person’s health or family are polite, though not requirements by any means. Except on a business visit of course, work is generally avoided as a topic of conversation.
P.C.W: How seriously does the culture take the responsibilities of host and guest? What rules define when someone becomes a host or guest (eg. in some mid-eastern countries, giving bread and salt to someone makes the person your guest; giving him a 5-course meal without bread or salt doesn’t)?
R.R: Offering food makes someone your guest, but drink doesn’t.
P.C.W: What things are considered courteous to offer a guest: food, reading material, personal guards or attendants, music/entertainment, a person of the opposite sex to sleep with?
R.R: At the appropriate times, guests are offered meals; visits or dates are usually organised around meal times, and if it isn’t a meal time, small foods like crackers are usually around.
P.C.W: What is considered a courteous response to a host’s offer? Are there things it is considered rude to accept? Rude to turn down? Rude to ask for? Rude not to ask for?
R.R: It would be rude to turn down a first offer of food, except of course if there were medical reasons.
P.C.W: When a guest arrives, is food or drink offered immediately, after an interval, or only on request? Is there a particular food or drink that is customary to offer a newly arrived guest?
R.R: After a short interval, generally. When Niloc first visits Vêndu, he is not offered food as it is not a social visit; he is there to aid her with her magick. But when her father invites him to stay, he takes tea with them.
P.C.W: How do the different customs of various countries/races interact, conflict, etc? eg. a man from a culture where it is not polite to refuse a host’s offer of food being the guest in a culture where the guest is expected to say ‘when’.
R.R: This exact situation in fact arises when Niloc is the guest of someone he meets in Chungan. He gets hopelessly embarrassed.


P.C.W: Which peoples/countries/races have been in conflict in the recent past? Why? When and why was the most recent war? Who won? Who is still mad about that?
R.R: Ũna is presently in a state of relative peace that has lasted for the better part of a century. There have been occasional flare-ups, notably the revolution in Jatpass in 2319 and the border dispute between Chungan and Olyonav in 2295; but even these are as distant from today as the Great Depression and the First World War.
P.C.W: What major weapons of war are available (eg. siege towers, catapults, cannons, A-bombs)?
R.R: Military technology is relatively backward, being at a level equivalent to Earth in the nineteenth century. An exception to this is in firearms; guns have been invented, but are not well-developed. They are not common weapons in warfare, where even today an attitude favouring close-quarter battles prevails.
P.C.W: How much as the presence of magic affected strategy and tactics? Do army commanders have to use specific unusual formations or techniques to deal with possible magical attacks? How can magic be used as part of a battle plan (eg. getting a weather magician to make it rain so that the enemy cannons are harder to move in the mud)?
R.R: Magick can be put to all sorts of uses, including war. Weather magick is in fact a common tool for generals, and this usually results in violent storms above battlefields when conflicting spells are acting from both sides.
P.C.W: How are armies usually structured? Is there a formal, independent command structure, or is everybody officially under the command of the lord who brought them to the king’s army, or what? If a formal structure, what are the various ranks and titles?
R.R: Most armies these days are token armies; the largest is Chungan’s, with a million employed. For an empire with a population of nine hundred million, that is low. Military rank is indicated by the uniform worn, but not by shoulder slides; the space is already taken up by the guild and family pauldrons.
P.C.W: Who can call up men for an army? How is this done? Does the king ask his lords for men, and the lords then draft their peasants, or can the king go straight to the bottom?
R.R: Conscription would never happen in today’s Ũna, even at the end of desperation; the Ũnan equivalent of Vietnam happened centuries ago, and was the beginning of the end of the Kîhul Empire. Kĩnodd was involved in a period of expansion at the time (3900 FK/65 RP) and a botched annexation of far southern Baosahrei escalated into a war that lasted six years, and eventually involved sending in conscripted troops. By 3906 FK/71 RP Kĩnodd had pulled out. (By this stage western Sinõdla was no longer part of the Kîhul Empire, and, after ruling a small republic, Chriannod (>Sahrenota) had been taken over by the kingdom of Hrastonna in 3833. When Jêrũne I took the throne in 4685 FK/850 RP, he moved the capital back to Sahrenota.) The scandal that followed this incident ensured that as long as it was remembered, conscription would not be considered by any civilised nation.
P.C.W: Are there professional soldiers/mercenaries? Is a career in the king’s army possible, or would you have to be a mercenary or sell-sword in order to make a living as a soldier? Does the army accept volunteers?
R.R: Being a soldier is a profession, though volunteering is possible in emergencies.
P.C.W: How large is a typical army? What percentage of the soldiers in it will be trained (knights, professional soldiers, guards, mercenaries) and what percent will be untrained recruits? Are recruits given training, or are they expected to learn on the job (ie. in battle)?
R.R: Recruits are given ample training for any situation (combat or otherwise) they would be expected to encounter. A typical nation has an army of a few hundred thousand, depending on its population.
P.C.W: How is the army supplied? Are soldiers allowed to live off the land/peasantry, or do they pay for what they take? How are supplies handled during long campaigns? How many days worth of supplies can the army haul along with them? (Ref. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army for the math on how much a horse can carry, etc.)
R.R: Though the armies of past empires, and of Nidhota until several centuries ago, were quite large, they were governed from home and could not just ‘live off the land’, any more than ours could.
P.C.W: What are the accepted conventions for making war (eg. only fight in winter when nobody is busy with crops; don’t make war on civilians; only certain kinds of weapons are used; etc)? Do they differ from race to race?
R.R: There has been a convention to not assail civilians in warfare for some millennia; ranged warfare (beyond simple woomeras, bows and the like) is not as respectable as ‘conventional’, hand-to-hand combat. In past times, the Warrior Guilds of the Sahram and Kîhul Emprires, among others, was much like the Samurai class in mediæval Japan; in battle, they would seek one another out and fight one on one, with swords or even barehanded. The custom here was that you did not assail an unarmed warrior unless you yourself were barefisted. You could of course discard or sheathe your sword in order to take on such an opponent.
P.C.W: Are particular non-human races traditionally better with certain weapons (eg. dwarves with axes, elves with bows)? Why - because they have greater strength, better eyesight, more manual dexterity, etc?
R.R: When there were clear distinctions between the races, dwarves were renowned for their skills with the broadsword: it is true, across many worlds from Arda to Almëa, that dwarves are better with close-quarters ‘swung’ weapons, and also elves with ranged weapons. On Ũna, though cannons and rifles have been invented in principle, they were shied away from as we recoil from nuclear weapons. ‘The glamour of warfare is lost once you are able to deal mass death at a distance.’


P.C.W: What do you need to do to cast a spell - design an elaborate ritual, recite poetry, mix the right ingredients in a pot, speak the right words in an ancient language, etc.? Are there things like a staff, a wand, a familiar, a crystal ball, that are necessary to have before casting any spells? Certain specific spells? If so, where and how do new wizards get these things? Do they make them, buy them from craftsmen, inherit them from their teachers, order them from Wizard Supply, Inc.?
R.R: Yes: all of the above. Palonnon poems are an important part of magick, and Palonno naturally separates itself into iambs. A common meter is the pentameter, but other structures are used. Magickal items such as potions, staves, blades (athames), are used in many spells.
P.C.W: Is there a numerical limit to the number of wizards in the world? Why?
R.R: Yes: the population of the world. Everyone can, it’s just that some don’t.
P.C.W: Where does magic power come from: the gods, the ‘mana’ of the world, the personal will-power of the magician? Do different races/species have different sources for their magic, or does everybody use the same one?
R.R: The magickal æther is the source for all magick, including that performed by the gods.
P.C.W: How does a magician tap his/her magic power? Does becoming a magician require some rite of passage (investing one’s power in an object, being chosen by the gods, constructing or being given a permanent link to a source of power, etc.) or does it just happen naturally as a part of growing up?
R.R: Magickal knowledge comes as a part of maturing as a person, though there are certain spells one may cast to make one a more powerful magician. These are, however, difficult spells to begin with. It is one of these that Vêndu steals from Niloc.
P.C.W: Does a magician’s magical ability or power change over time - eg. growing stronger or weaker during puberty, or with increasing age? Can a magician ‘use up’ all of his/her magic, thus ceasing to be a magician? What do such magicians do then - retire to teach, commit suicide, get a normal day job, go into consulting?
R.R: Magickal ability does not change much with time, but with practise and study. Magick is not drawn from personal life-energy, but from the æther. It is inexhaustible; indeed the very word inexhaustible is misleading when speaking of magick.
P.C.W: Is a magician’s lifetime normally longer or shorter than average? Why? Does this vary for different races/species? Are there races/species all of whose members are magicians?
R.R: Anyone can be a magician. Lifespan is not affected by magick except insofar as ours is by our science and technology, ie. medicine.
P.C.W: Are certain spells illegal (as opposed to magic generally)? Why - because of the effect of the spell, or because of the ingredients or procedures needed to cast it, or what? How are violations of this law detected?
R.R: No spell is illegal per se, but certain uses of magick are most definitely illegal.
P.C.W: How are illegal magicians apprehended? Punished? Is this the responsibility of the magician’s guild, or do ordinary law enforcement agencies have to deal with it?
R.R: Illegal magick is dealt with by the ordinary legal system.

My reason for putting all this work on here is simply to get feedback. But I don’t want ‘That’s cool, keep up the good work’. Tell me what you like and why. Even more importantly, tell me what you don’t like or don’t understand. If Hawking’s Time ever gets published, I’ll make sure you’re on the Acknowledgements page.

This is the second and largest of three Guide Entries I have created about Hawking’s Time. The first Entry outlines the characters and plot of the actual novel in a concise and linear fashion. Click here to read it. The third Entry is a chapter-by-chapter synopsis (three or four lines on each of 140 chapters), which goes deeper into the plot and sub-plots and reveals the structure of the novel more clearly. You can read it here.

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Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

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