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General Climate and Resources: This is the time shard containing the Riilass Swamps; it was faster than the Empire (more years passed), hot, and damp. It was a very metal-poor area, but food was rich and plentiful. So were alligators, poisonous snakes, stinging insects, and quicksand. Outside the swamps there were still poisonous snakes and stinging insects, but the alligators were replaced by roving packs of wild dogs. Humans needed their wits about them to survive.
Population and Technology: The Raalyan lived primarily in tree houses on the mainland and houseboats in the swamps. They were skilled at clever uses of the natural resources of the area, but were seen as barbarians by the Empire, especially after early negotiators were repeatedly subjected to Raaliya contests (see Culture), and interpreted them as attacks. Eventually the custom was explained to the Empire politicians, but by then they had sent the army in. As soon as the Empire conquered the area, the practice of Raaliya was banned.
Genetic Features: The Raalyan were tall and slender, with long arms and legs. They were strong and unusually flexible. They have a high resistance to fungal diseases. The flexibility and resistance to fungal diseases is genetically dominant. They have black eyes and very black hair, but pale skin that sunburns easily, then peels without tanning significantly. They also have a high incidence of a type of dyslexia that inconsistently makes them see letters or digits out of order, for instance, they may see 623 instead of 632. This is associated with a high prevalence of ambidexterity and a lifetime of confusing left and right. This was no problem in a society without written language, and where windward and leeward or north, south, east, and west (not right and left) were used for directions.
Cultural Features: Although illiterate (probably due to the deleterious effects of unrelenting humidity on paper) the Raalyan were avid storytellers who highly valued cleverness in word and deed. (Skycat originated with the Raalyan.) They had a tradition of challenges which somewhat resembled practical jokes, called Raaliya. It was the national sport. Whoever set up the challenge had to ensure that a person using shrewd observation and clever action could escape the trap. For instance, you might booby-trap someone’s houseboat while they were cutting wood. If they spotted and avoided or defeated the trap, they won; otherwise you won. Then they would set a trap for you. The whole time, your neighbors would be watching, enjoying the show. (Sometimes your first clue that there was a trap set for you was unexpected company.) Traps were very rarely fatal; they were set up to be embarrassing and amusing for observers, not deadly. However the traps could require considerable athletic ability to escape, once you’d figured out the trick of it. The most skilled at Raaliya became cultural heroes and respected community leaders. Also, an exchange of Raaliya contests was an important part of any serious negotiations, including courtship.
The first Skycat stories originated with the Raalyan, as did stories of their cultural hero, Yan. Stories of Yan always involved lengthy and detailed descriptions of Raaliya challenges, and most civilians find them dull. Nonetheless, the Empire will not license any written or theatrical depiction of the Yan stories, as they glorify an illegal activity. They have been preserved in a military archive, however, and military personnel operating undercover are required to study them.
Purist Remnants: The Raalyan were discovered in 1386. There was a rocky start to their communication due to misunderstandings about the Raaliya traps, followed by a short and brutal assimilation, which was quickly reined in as the Empire realized the misunderstanding. There are purists who live on houseboats in the Riilass Swamps to this day, though the genetic stock has become mixed. The swamps are prized as a wetland “cushion” that bears the brunt of the storms that blow in from the high seas before they hit valuable lands. Because they choose to live in an area the Empire finds inappropriate for settlement, but useful as is, these purists are mostly ignored by the Empire. Although it is illicit, and discovery would result in substantial fines, the licensed trappers in the area are willing to trade for exotic plants and animals since it increases their profits and leaves them with more free time. If the swamp dwellers still practice Raaliya, they are careful to do so out of sight of Empire citizens.
Due to the amount of paperwork even the most ordinary Empire citizen must manage, the dyslexia inherited from the Raalyan can be a significant challenge. The severity of the condition varies widely, from a mere annoyance to a disability that prevents accurate arithmetic and/or literacy. However, the ambidexterity is a boon for someone who wants to go into the arts, the building trades, or some other physical profession. In the area near the Riilass Swamps, there is a licensed professional similar to an accountant who works as a consultant to artists and businesses such as carpentry or plumbing, to assist with paperwork, licensing, and the like. This professional relies on the business of people with the handicap, but is also hired by people who simply find the whole process boring.
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