Constant high temperatures leave most of the land mass as dry, barren desert or thick, dense jungle known as the Emerald Belt. If it weren’t for the few but wide, winding rivers across the landscape the vast majority of the country would be completely inhospitable. However, what the land lacks in hospitality, the Olvians make up for in opulence.
~ Olvany ~
The Garden City of Orissa is built as a lattice of floating streets above the river Jaita, one of the largest waterways in the world of Erda. Huge marble towers house the elaborate gardens which Olvany is known for. The world’s best medicinal compounds are created here and are traded across the world via trading routes on sea, and land based caravans to Hythe in Albia. The Marble Towers are not just part of Orissa but are present all over Olvany. At their peak, they support huge bowls of burning oil and it’s said that on a clear night, if they’re all ablaze, you can see the trail of beacons across The Glass Wastes.
In order to master the flora of Erda, Olvians have had to master the insect population of their lands. Fine silks are created from silk worms and bees are kept not only to pollinate the many gardens of Olvany but to supply honey for export, preservation and general consumption.
The people of Olvany are well known for their brightly coloured, embroidered fabrics. Silks, satins and velvets are used to create stunning, layered garments to match their warm, outgoing personalities.
Of the seven gods, the ever-lavish Sothaal is their patron. Sumptuous feasts are thrown regularly in his name dedicating not only food and wine in offerings, but men and women as wives and husbands. These men and women focus on beautification, sculpture and tapestry as well as creating gourmet dishes and fine wines all in his name. They believe that those who are chosen by Sothaal as a suitable bride or groom will be blessed with the presence of one of Sothaal's illuminated Muses.
Above: Olvian attire and accessories.
The Marble Towers
There are many Marble Towers all over Olvany, extending even into the Emerald belt and some into the sea. For travellers on both land and water, the towers act as vital landmarks by which they navigate.
Over the many hundreds of years, vast cities have extended around the marble structures. The Tower-City of Lys is on the border of the Glass Wastes and the Emerald Belt and is one of the biggest cities and acts as a second capital city. Orissa, the floating capital city of Olvany, has two marble towers, both situated in the centre of the river Jaita which Orissa has built itself over. Other Tower-cities include; Bijar – a city situated on the west coast, Japaipura – nestled in the heart of the Emerald Belt, Khavarti – a northern city close to the mountains and Vendi – the city around a ruined tower to the south.
The Marble Towers are not only a source of earthly goods for the Olvians but are also religious and spiritual icons. Within the walls of the gardens, water is created from seemingly nothing and life flourishes in the safe havens of their walls. This display is attributed to Sothaal’s love of his people and is thus regarded as highly sacred.
Sothaal is outwardly very protective over the towers, allowing no one but trusted individuals even close to the highest upper floors.
Above: Olvian refugees in Albia.
The political structures of Tower-cities can vary slightly from place to place, but the Grand Parliament of Orissa rules over all of the Tower-Cities collectively. A representative from each is called to attend monthly meetings, usually from the head of the family in charge of taking care of the Marble Tower and its gardens; how representatives are chosen, however, can vary. Some choose their greatest and most skilled Artisan as head of the family or tower, some simply choose the eldest.
The physical structure of the Marble Towers also can vary from tower to tower, and none of them are ever the same. In each tower, there are layers upon layers of floors, each full of flora and fauna. The gardens provide not only food but provide pasture for animals, like chicken and goats. The upper levels produce some of the more delicate herbal plants which provide medicine for those living in the city’s vicinity. The highest floors are completely off limits to everyone but the head of the family.
Bijar, Pescara Cove and Sea Salt
Not every tower is the same. The tower at Bijar has an especially bright beacon which can even be seen during the day and because of this, coupled with its coastal location, Bijar acts as a lighthouse for any incoming vessels and guides them through the various natural and human-made mazes in Pescara Cove and the nearby Ivrea islands. The city of Bijar is, like Orissa, a main port of the country. Floating ports cluster around the islands surrounding Bijar’s coves and play host to various merchants, fishermen and pirates.
Bijar is also known for the salt gardens. Vast tidal platforms have been created to harvest salt from the ocean with the help of the beating sun. The rising tide covers the platforms, spilling in and as it recedes, allows the trapped water to dry and evaporate, leaving behind the fresh sea salt.
Japaipura, by contrast, rises above the dense jungle growth of the Emerald belt. It is amongst the tallest of all of the Marble Towers and one of the most difficult to maintain with the native flora consistently swallowing more and more of its ivory surface. Japaipura’s position allows for the breeding of many exotic insect species including that of several types of silk worms. Japaipura’s silk industry is unrivalled, using the abundant natural resources around to create stunningly vivid dye. Using wooden dye stamps carved by the Japaipura artisans, all manners of beautiful fabrics are coloured and cut. It is said Sothaal will only accept clothes created from Japaipura’s tower silk.
Khavarti and The Quarries
Khavarti is based in the Pavia mountain range in the north of Olvany. This Tower-City is very close to several of the bigger salt, sandstone and limestone quarries in the Glass Wastes. There are many quarries scattered all over the country and many traders exist outside of the Tower-Cities in small clustered groups.
These small homesteads still rely heavily on the abundance of the Marble Towers, usually congregating around small man-made channels and wells created from the overflow from the nearest Tower-City. These small villages are usually made from quarried sandstone, a vast contrast to the gleaming green and white metropolis of the Tower-city.
Not all towers remain in good repair, however. Vendi is a fallen tower which, 500 years ago, suddenly crumbled. Only the base of the tower remains and a small city has congregated to salvage the last of it by reinforcing the structure with huge timber supports from as far away as the Emerald Belt. Even though the hallowed tower remains in massive disrepair, gardens still manage to thrive around the fallen structure.
It is said that upon hearing of its collapse, Sothaal ran across the glass wastes for 18 days and 18 nights to reach the tower and when he arrived, wept for 18 more days upon seeing its crumpled state. His tears formed the oasis bubbling from beneath the ruins today, sustaining the present populace.
Marriage ceremonies are highly personal and are vastly customised by those who are engaged. It’s full of dancing, colour, music and many flowers, especially fragrant roses.
There are a few staples of the Ceremony:
Firstly, an imperative for a marriage ceremony is the weaving of a tapestry by the two merging families. Members of the families weave together strips of coloured fabric to make some form of textile. It normally goes on to be a wall hanging, mat or throw for the married couple in their marital dwelling.
Secondly, both the bride and groom dress in white and once the ceremony is over the guests at the wedding shower the bride and groom in brightly coloured pigments to represent all the blessings they are to have. Then both bride and groom are showered, and dunked in water. It is considered especially lucky to still be coated with colour after the shower. It is also lucky to be kind to the new bride and groom; Sellers in the markets have been known to hand a give freely a flower or sweet to a new bride and groom on their wedding day as they travel through the city.
Thirdly, Pujari facilitate not only anointment with White Sunana but also hears the vows of the bride and groom to each other.
Birth of a Child
The birth of a child is celebrated with much joy and love. Instead of wearing the bright colours normally associated with Olvany, family members dress in white and often wear woven bracelets with bells attached. The mother and father are expected to make a woven bracelet for the baby as their first present to the child. Pujari are called with the midwife and brings for the baby some sea salt – to aid in the purification of water when the child needs to be cleaned – and a little bell for the bracelet so that Sothaal may hear him whenever the child needs him. Flower garlands are also brought to decorate the baby’s room.
Death and Funeral Rites
There are two popular sets of funeral rites in Olvany: being burnt upon a floating pyre on water or being burnt and buried inside the grounds of the Marble Towers. Each is presided over by Pujari if the deceased’s family did not want a Nasnian burial.
The floating pyre is covered with herbs and flowers as well as personal treasures from their lifetime, set alight and pushed out into the water. The closest family members often lead the procession playing drums and small percussion instruments. They are silenced the moment that the lit pyre is pushed out onto the water.
The second set of funeral rites were created after the Blighting ended in 1590c. Now the fungi had been identified, the Botanists petitioned the Pujari for a new way of burial without endangering lives all over Olvany. They decided that all bodies were to be burnt, but if someone insisted on being buried inside a Marble Tower, or any sacred garden, they were to be burned amongst salt fragrant herb and the ashes must be anointed with Sunana and placed into a box made from folded paper. The box would then be buried within the garden safely.
Pujari always ask for not only Sothaal’s blessings upon the deceased, but Nasni’s. The two gods are honoured together as they are from the same pantheon.
The souls of the departed are not collected by Nasni instantly. They're said to hang around and cause problems, turning into Djinn, if they are not properly honoured.
No matter which type of burial is made, a Mukhauta (mask) is made by those suffering the loss though sometimes it is created by the dying themselves. The Mukhauta are brightly coloured and must represent the individual in life and in death. The mask is worn to the funeral of the departed in order to 'collect' the soul of the deceased.
After the funeral, it is given to the Pujari for the next Maut-Mukhauta.
Maut-Mukhauta - Soul Collecting Festival
Maut-Mukhauta is the collection of souls ready for the pilgrimage to Thulm and the internment to Nasni. Special anonymous performers wear the masks over great elaborate head-to-toe veils - reminiscent of Nasni's white veil. They dance through the streets, visiting the graveyards and crematoriums, allowing the spirits to possess them and the masks they wear. They are followed closely by the relatives of the deceased, tugging on the veil to beg for some form of message from the inbetween-lands of Yaatana - the land that holds souls till they are delivered to Nasni. After the festival, the masks are given to a pilgrim who travels with the masks carefully wrapped and packaged. They are given to a Weiha, expecting the masks so they can properly return the souls to Nasni.
Once created, Mukhauta must not be destroyed or broken in anyway until the end of Maut-Mukhauta and the following pilgrimage. Even then, if it is broken by anyone other than a Weiha, it is a serious issue and a ritual must be made to re-capture the soul from Yaatana.
Coor Samaaj - The Guild of Thieves
While Olvany is known for the wealth and luxury afforded to it by Sothaal, for the majority of the population, this is far from the case.Outside the sanctuary of the great towers sprawl cities, filled only with those not wealthy or beautiful enough to be granted access inside on anything but the greatest of holy days.
Most in the cities live as their means allow. While not as prosperous or decedent as their tower-dwelling countrymen, the centres of the cities are rival to the capitals of the other nations and a hard-working trader can rise above his means and never fear for going hungry. But not all are so lucky – especially as you move away from the centres and into the outskirts where the houses are replaced with shanties and just keeping your family’s bellies full and mouths wet becomes a full time occupation.
Outside the tower, the phrase “you cannot live on honey alone” is common – in the centres it is a suggestion that sometimes one must put aside luxury for hard work, on the outskirts, however, it is often tinged with ridicule for the denizens of the tower whom, rumor has it, are so coddled they’d believe otherwise. For them honey is something they only get if they manage to cram themselves into the paupers seats of the tower’s temples, on the few days the doors are open to them and even then, it is a passing taste.
Out among the sprawling shanties, the heavily armed trade caravans pass, not slowing until they reach the relative safety of the centre. Their coffers are laden with treasures, sweets and gold. With such a display so boldly out in the open, resentment can grow: What makes those in the tower more deserving of Sothaal’s affections? If Sothaal rewards sacrifice with wealth with which to buy better sacrifice how can they ever hope to compare?
Because of this, Coor Samaaj (pronounced Chore-sam-aj) has flourished.
Coor Samaaj worship Wyk over Sothaal, although the worship of Sothaal tends to be directly proportional to the wealth of the Olvian involved. Most outside the towers would like to prioritize Sothaal, but have higher priorities than luxury such as merely staying alive.
The guilds consist primarily of children – those small enough to hide in cracks adults cannot reach and fast enough to take what they want before anyone notices. Many are orphans or runaways – from families too poor to feed them, many lose their family to ‘false’ congregations of Sothaal, who prey on the desperate and sell “pleasure and luxury” to those who can afford it with little regard to the well being of their flock.
The guild becomes a family to these children, some enforce retirement at 18, but these are rare. Membership of the guild often promises a life more comfortable than running rogue on the streets. In some areas, it is said a child is more likely to be a member than not - the truth of this statement can be contended.
It is said you cannot find Coor Samaaj: if you wish their notice, you must go out and get yourself lost; for all lost things are under Wyk’s purview. Once sufficiently lost, Wyk will guide you to the right place. Critics suggest this is simply because someone wandering aimlessly in the shanties is a prime target for the guild but few adults are welcome.
The Guilds discourage petty theft, especially from locals. Instead, the thieves target caravans heading further into the city, the coffers of the black-markets or brothel-temples or passing travelers.
A tenth of every guild’s haul is given as tribute to Wyk. Generally, it is dropped or discarded through the city for Wyk, or whomever Wyk chooses, to find In areas where the Guild is strong enough that it does not fear the law, they may publicly throw it from rooftops or into crowds: which both means it’s considered lost, and that the general population look on the guild as robin-hood style heroes.
The rest is taken by the guild and a share returned to those who took it. Much goes into bribes and security for shared homes and safe houses, altruistic guilds may spend some of this on feeding the population and trying to improve the area in which they live where as unscrupulous ones look to fill the pockets of the Guild-master.
Many guilds view Wyk as far more dangerous that he is – painting him as a vengeful god of thieves, who protects children and those who have nothing. They’re very picky over which bit’s they demonstrate, a practice many would consider disrespectful.
Feuds between guilds are not unusual as many encourage stealing from neighbors to help locals. It is also not unusual for these to escalate to violence. Most culminate in a single, deciding brawl, but some develop into feuds that last for generations. In all cases however, both will strive to avoid official attention, or draw the eye of the police.