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Activities in Selhomarr:by Geoff Gander
Never had Anslin seen so much activity! Every way he looked, he saw people dressed in colourful clothing dancing gracefully in public squares, others singing songs of ancient deeds and long-dead heroes, and still more debating obscure topics passionately. Even while in the countryside he scarcely saw an idle person! Where people were not tilling the fields or hunting, he saw then running, swimming, or playing a bizarre game called dilianath.
Jia, the innkeeper, had decided to show him the sights today. This was nothing at all like Anslin's home town of Athenos! "Few people in Selhomarr are idle by choice, for the sharpening of the body and the mind brings one closer to personal excellence, which in turn allows the individual to serve society to his utmost. Let me first tell you about what the people in Selhomarr do for enjoyment, and from this you may one day understand what you see today..."
Dancing is an activity especially enjoyed among the Ilarnnians. Much of Ilarnnian history is symbolised through dancing, and there are literally hundreds of different dances that commemorate different things. Dances of this type are referred to as "tale-weaves", after the manner in which sinuous, graceful movements seem to weave historical tales through their movements. To a trained observer, it is possible to know what is being described, who the historical figures are, and how the events unfold. Accomplished tale- weavers spend their entire lives practicing the art, and often begin at very early ages. Due to the difficulty of this talent, tale-weavers are treated in Ilarnnian society much like professional musicians or artists in other cultures; many can name their prices for performances. In most performances, tale-weaves are accompanied by very restrained, soft music. Although many Lhomarrians appreciate the beauty and complexity of tale- weaves, many find them too abstract, and prefer their own methods of telling tales through song or operatic plays.
Lhomarrians tend to dance for much simpler reasons. Whenever there is something to celebrate, not only do they feast; they also hold dances. These tend to be rather simple, but rhythmic. Many of them involve partners circling each other, dancing as a group in a long line that snakes about, or sometimes spinning rapidly. Many dances also start slow, but slowly gain in speed until the entire crowd is a blur of colours and movement. The music that is played at these dances often involves stringed and woodwind instruments.
Eating and Drinking:
Like many other cultures, Lhomarrians and Ilarnnians love to eat and drink, especially during festivities. Lhomarrians, especially, use any important event as an excuse to hold a feast, especially such events as the birth of a child, a marriage, the completion of a youth's Wandering, and annual holidays. Ilarnnians also hold feasts, though not quite as often, and even then they are not nearly so exuberant.
For all peoples of Selhomarr, feasts, and the simple act of eating together as a family, are extremely important. By sharing food, their bonds to each other are believed to become stronger, and sitting around the table allows everyone present to share what is on their minds, as well as lighten the burden of everyday life. In comparison to other cultures, the people of Selhomarr are fairly sober on the surface, with ideals of duty, tradition, and fellowship that bind everyone together. To foreigners this seems rather strict, though it is not. This is why many newcomers to Selhomarr have written about the seemingly "magical" transformation that happens around a dinner table - where friendly, but slightly formal, people gather about and swap jokes, laugh at each other, and tell tales.
For this reason, the act of sharing food is a vital part of friendship. When a Lhomarrian or an Ilarnnian invites another person to eat with him or her, it is a way of saying that, "I am willing to open myself up to you." Natives of Selhomarr will often consider a friendship "incomplete" unless food is shared at some point. This is why, when invited by a complete stranger to dine or share a drink, many Lhomarrians and Ilarnnians will politely decline, as this is considered improper. Likewise, if a citizen of Selhomarr shares food with another, he or she will expect that other person to share food in return at some future time. If not, he or she will feel rejected and insulted. None of these customs apply to meals that are purchased, such as those in an inn, because the food is not considered to be truly shared. In terms of diet, the people of Selhomarr eat healthily. The list below describes what one can purchase in a typical market:
Food Group What is Commonly Available Dairy products Cheeses, milk Fruits and vegetables Apples, beans, carrots, grapes, lettuce, onions, oranges, peaches, pears, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips Grains Barley, breads, wheat Meats Beef, chicken, crustaceans, fish, mutton, squid
One thing that many visitors to Selhomarr remember long after they leave is the prevalence of singing in Lhomarrian culture. Many tales cannot be experienced in their full glory, say many Lhomarrians, unless they are sung. They have songs about almost everything, from glorious battles, to lost loves, to celebrating the end of a year.
In most cases, songs are also accompanied by music, which is usually played with mandolins, harps, or various woodwinds. Some of the epic songs, such as the Song of the Homecoming - which relates the entire saga of the rise of Old Lhomarr, the war against the Carnifex of Y'hog, the destruction of the old world, and the arrival to the new one - have no music at all. This specific song lasts several hours, with different people taking on the roles of different historical figures.
Lhomarrians also stage operatic plays as well, in which there is often a story with a simple moral at the end, or a re-enactment of an historical event. These are extremely popular as a source of entertainment, and good productions have been known to draw audiences in the thousands.
Both Lhomarrians and Ilarnnians enjoy sporting events, though those games preferred by the more numerous Lhomarrians tend to be fast-paced, loud, and violent, at least, by Ilarnnian standards they are.
The most popular game in Selhomarr is called Dilianath (literally, "silver ring"), a highly competitive game that is played throughout the empire. Almost every settlement with 500 or more inhabitants will at least have an amateur team, and larger towns or cities will have several, both at the amateur and professional levels.
The game is played on a field, chalked out with concentric circular rings, with the largest being 100 feet across, and the smallest, nearest the centre, being 10 feet across. Each ring is separated by a distance of 10 feet. At each of the four cardinal points there are two posts, spaced 10 feet apart. The object of the game is to score the most points by bringing a silver ring (the dilianath) between either one of the other team's two sets of goalposts, with each successful goal awarding one point. Most often, a score of 50 is considered sufficient to win a game.
In a game, there a two teams of eight players each, though most teams will have several "reserve" players they can bring in if someone is injured, which happens often. Two of these players are assigned to guard each of the team's two sets of goalposts. The remaining six from each team choose their positions on their half of the playing field, often according to a predetermined strategy. Once everything is ready, the gamesmaster tosses the dilianath into the field, and each team scrambles to get it. Once the ring is in a player's possession, he or she can only take a maximum of five steps before having to pass it to another team-mate, otherwise the other team gets a point. As a result, a typical game is often a flurry of passing, jumping, dodging, and tackling. The dilianath itself is thrown to other players, much like a discus or a frisbee. Opposing players can do anything they want to get the dilianath - from intercepting it, tackling the player who has it, or tripping them so they drop it. The only thing that is forbidden is the use of weapons during a game, and deliberate attempts to injure an opponent. Needless to say, games are very exciting, and the crowds who turn out to watch often cheer loudly for their favourite teams.
There is always a gamesmaster presiding over the event, who, if he or she sees anything that violates the rules, will wave a black flag, ordering an immediate pause of play. A white flag is waved to resume play.
Other sports are also practiced in Selhomarr. Towns and villages near bodies of water will hold swimming competitions, and all over the empire running is popular. Also popular is archery, boxing, javelin throwing, and rock climbing.
Ilarnnians practice many of these sports as well, though dilianath has never been very popular among them. The most popular sports among these people are those that require precision and great amounts of discipline, such as archery and gymnastics. They tend to shy away from those pastimes that emphasise abrupt movements such as boxing, which they consider to be unrefined.
Another pastime enjoyed by people all over Selhomarr is that of storytelling. The history of the peoples of Selhomarr is a very long and well- documented one, full of legendary heroes and great tragedies. The number of tales based wholly or partly upon these varied events numbers in the thousands, all of which have their share of drama and wonder. As can be guessed, no one in Selhomarr ever tires of hearing these tales, especially when they are well told. When famous storytellers announce that they will be giving a show, large crowds almost always form in anticipation.
While a good storyteller is free to embellish a certain tale - in some circles, such as those of common citizens, it is expected - there are certain boundaries that nonetheless must not be crossed, or the storyteller will lose credibility. If a legendary hero dies tragically, the storyteller must not tell an alternate tale in which the hero does not die, because this would not only go against tradition; it would also be an insult to that hero to make light of his fate. While most people in Selhomarr prefer to hear their traditional tales, many are also fascinated by stories from other cultures, if only because they are so different.