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Itafar is a Slunai village located on a marshy system of hot springs and cold lakes northeast of Tifanaro and south of Tifranir. In pre-contact times, the area was a thriving tourist hotspot. Now it's a shadow of its former self, largely depopulated, with the remaining residents having retreated from dry land entirely and moved to the middle of the lakes for protection from the banditry that is rampant in the area.
Itafar is the Empire's official name. The locals, especially the older ones, stubbornly cling to the old Slunai name, Ruriianar.
Before the barriers fell around the Slunai shard (Shard 3) in 1445, about 75 years before the present day, the climate in the northern part of the shard was generally mild and temperate, with the shard's long north-to-south orientation and proximity to the coast moderating the weather.
The fall of the barriers had a devastating effect on the climate of the northern region. In the initial years, the weather was stormy and unpredictable, eventually settling into a much colder climate with more severe temperature extremes than had previously been the norm. Agriculture became difficult; many of the old crops would not grow, and new strains had to be developed or imported from neighboring shards.
This, combined with a certain amount of pressure from the Empire for rural people to migrate closer to population centers for ease of administration, led to a virtual depopulating of the northern hinterlands. A lot of people moved south looking for work or better living conditions; others went to nearby cities like Tifiranir or Tifanaro. Today, most of the population is concentrated in these cities and the small towns surrounding them. The more distant areas are mainly wilderness, punctuated by nearly-depopulated holdout villages, rural independent homesteads, and small towns that have held on and prospered by virtue of proximity to natural resources -- most are mining or timber towns. It is not uncommon to find old, overgrown roads and ghost towns when one explores the area away from the coast. Some of the poverty-stricken and displaced population turned to banditry, making travel difficult and dangerous, and further stressing the holdout towns.
The population crash at Itafar is typical. Prior to the opening of the shard, the lake region enjoyed a thriving economy based on hot springs tourism. They grew a variety of crops and had fairly advanced technology, particularly a complicated system of pipes and canals to control the temperature of the different lakes. The population may have been around 6,000 or so. (The Slunai did not have a central government or census, so there are no official population records dating back to that time.)
Today, the village consists of about 300 people, most of whom live in small clusters of houses on natural and manmade islands in the two biggest lakes. The once-extensive town on the shore -- around and between the lakes -- has fallen into total disrepair. Some of it was burned, and most of the rest is now overgrown with brush and young trees. The area has a disreputable, almost post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Demographically, the town skews slightly older than usual, since some of its young people have left for better-populated areas in search of a better future.
Itafar is located on a low, swampy flat area downstream and to the north of the river that runs through Affamarg, just below where one of its tributaries comes down from the Great Northern Rim. There is rough, hilly country to the east of the village, and to the south, beyond the river, rises the mountain range east of which Affamarg is located. To the west, there is flatter land with gently rolling hills. The old Slunai trade road to the coast, now rarely used and fallen into disrepair, runs this way. (It used to come out at the settlement that is now Tifanaro.)
The landscape was heavily modified over the centuries prior to contact. Originally there were natural hot springs at the base of the hills, and a network of small, marshy, shallow lakes. The Slunai built up the area heavily, draining some of the marsh, enlarging some lakes, and connecting it all with canals. The upper and largest lake is adjacent to the hot springs, and the springs naturally keep the lake warm enough not to freeze. Another, somewhat smaller lake connects to that one in a shape vaguely reminiscent of a figure eight. The two were not originally connected; there is a broad, stone-lined canal between them. Another wide, navigable canal once connected the lower lake to the river, although that whole area is now flooded, marshy, brush-choked, and generally difficult to get through except by a boatman who knows the area.
Prior to the opening of the shard, Ruriianar was a beautiful, peaceful town with little boats plying canals between green fields and neighborhoods of multi-story wooden houses on patches of higher, dryer land. There was an extensive resort complex around the hot springs (wooden construction, rather Japanese-looking). A causeway ran out to a cluster of small islands in the middle of the bigger lake, where Ruriianar's famous Floating Marketplace was located. Not technically floating, it was a network of piers with open-sided roofs to keep the rain off. People could walk on the piers and check out the wares, or pull up alongside and shop, or even sell things directly from their boats.
Today, the bulk of the population lives on these islands. One of the side effects of the local climatic changes is that the area gets more rain and snow than it used to, so the lake's level is higher and the islands are partly flooded. The Slunai dealt with this by building up, so there is now a fairly extensive village with stilt houses and raised boardwalks/hanging walkways between them. The causeway to the mainland has been deliberately destroyed for defensive purposes, though parts of it remain at both ends.
The largest island has a hot spring of its own, which used to be the site of a very exclusive private resort, and is now used to heat greenhouses.
There is a smaller satellite settlement (~50 people) in the middle of the lower lake. With less of an island base to build on, this one is all stilt houses and floating, makeshift houseboats. There is some amount of land, which is used primarily for agriculture and grazing animals. These are not really considered separate villages by the locals, more like neighborhoods of a single settlement. (Even back in the old days, Ruriianar was scattered and spread out, but administratively unified.)
Both villages also farm and herd their animals along the banks of the lakes, in the ruins of the old town and in the former fields -- those that are still accessible; many of the fields are now flooded or else too far away from the lakes to still be utilized now that the farmers no longer live away from the main part of the town. They fish in the lakes and surrounding streams.
There are a few other villages in the area, the nearest about a day's walk away, most of them very small (~30-50 people). Itafar is the largest settlement in the area by far. Intermarriage between villages is common, and most people have relatives all over the surrounding countryside.
Red or blond hair is common among the Itafar lake village population, along with heavy freckling; most people in the village are at least somewhat freckled. Those who aren't blonds or redheads usually have medium to dark brown hair. Their eyes are typically dark, though a few may have blue, gray, green, or hazel eyes, and some have epicanthic folds. Most villagers are of medium height (average around 5'8" for men, 5'4" for women) and sturdily built.
These qualities do not necessarily apply to other groups of Slunai.
Because pre-contact Slunai had no central government, they were culturally diverse and, due to their remoteness, remain incompletely assimilated, so Slunai in different places still do things differently, with varying levels of adaptation to the Empire's culture. Therefore, local cultural attributes should not be assumed to apply to other groups of Slunai.
The Itafar Slunai travel to a local administrative center to get the legal licenses when they have to (they usually do when marrying, for example) but due to their isolation, they have little contact with the Empire's bureaucracy and still live according to their traditional ways as much as possible. They aren't really Purists; they have no ideological objection to the Empire, and don't particularly mind adding a few new ways of doing things to their old ways, but for the most part, they simply want to go on about their lives without being interfered with. For now, they're able to do so because the Empire isn't interested in their swampy piece of the frontier. The network of rail lines currently under construction is probably going to change this, although at the moment, none of the lines go particularly close to the village.
They are an egalitarian people who traditionally used to elect their leaders, generally older male or female heads of households, to a town council. With the population collapse, this process has become more informal and takes the form of a town meeting once a year when they vote in a new council of about 5 people to settle local disputes, deal with the Empire as necessary, and whatever else needs doing. Voting is done in the traditional way, by dropping stones into baskets in front of each candidate which are then tallied.
Local occupations include farmers, herders, hunters, and various craftspersons. The population is big enough to support a couple of blacksmiths, a gristmill, some brewers and bakers, a few people who specialize in weaving, and that sort of thing. Most people, even those who have a craft specialty on the side, are subsistence farmers or herders.
Men and women are treated similarly, and there is no particular expectation of gender in any occupation.
They do not have anything like an inn (the infrequent visitors just stay with local families). There's a little bit of informal trading with other small settlements in the area, but nothing like an organized trade network. The village is occasionally served by traveling peddlers bringing big-city goods, and sometimes local craftspeople go to the larger towns to sell their wares. The risk of bandit attacks tends to cut down on travel.
Medical care is provided by local midwives and people with a little herbal knowledge. There may have been professional healers or doctors before the population collapse, but they don't have them now. In cases of severe illness or injury, they will try to take the person to the nearest large town, or send for a doctor.
They are strictly monogamous with a strong infidelity taboo. A little bit of promiscuity is accepted as a natural part of being young (that is, there's no expectation of virginity at marriage) but it's considered a passing phase of youth. Homosexuality is similarly tolerated as a youthful phase but seen as something that responsible adults put aside in order to get down to the business of getting married, raising a family, and being a responsible adult member of the community.
Because of their remote location, there is no local school. The village is served by traveling frontier schoolteachers whenever one is in the area. See the Traveling Schools article for more on that. A few parents with particularly high hopes may send one or two of their children away to boarding schools in bigger population centers.
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Characters currently at this location: Berrieff (born: 1460)Gliiathei (born: 1462)Ethruu (born: 1464)Abroloff (born: 1483)Yinriith (born: 1491)Minyuu (born: 1493)Brilaq (born: 1495)
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