The following information is indirectly based on a manuscript by “Elseo Outledge, World(s) Traveler, Chef, and Exotic Stamp Collector”.
Abridged copies of this manuscript have been circulating around Charity for several years. No one is very sure about its origins. It is notable for the use of the strange word “Halfling” to refer to the Strongfeet, several uses of the words “foot”/“feet” as a measure of length, and lack of familiarity with basic astronomy (e.g. that stars are masses of incandescent gasses, that galaxies are collections of stars, and that planets revolve in orbits around stars).
The Outledge manuscript (referred to as Outledge’s) is often handed to newcomers as a stand-in for an official visitor’s guide, which the Charity Committee on Tourism has claimed to be too busy to produce.
The manuscript was found with a somewhat crudely lettered map of the region that is nonetheless remarkably accurate. The original map is black and white. Since it came with clear coloring instructions, reproductions are somewhat more popular than the various versions of the manuscript as a basic paint or color-by-numbers exercise for schoolchildren and leisure-folk.
There are some rumors that Outledge’s was written by a “wanderer”, since it is written from a seemingly outside perspective. There are other rumors that it was intended as satire, even though it fails to satirize anything. The most common assumption was that it is a marketing promotion for the color-by-numbers map by Electrum Associates.
Charity is a major autonomous city on the world of Tabtu. It is a major tourist destination for its large, seasonal festivals. The Charity region is famous for its honey.
Colored version of a rough, hand-drawn map found with Outledge’s, depicting the Charity/Lake Nomi area, major mountain ranges, forests, bodies of water, and nearby towns.[Click here for a larger version.]
Charity is a city built on the Northeast shores of Lake Nomi where it feeds the River Azda, at an elevation of about 400m (~1300 feet). The Azda flows SW to NE, through a valley between two mountain ranges—the Takla to the west and the Yakyo to the east—whose foothills surround the long, talon-like Lake Nomi on all sides. The area around the lake is generally rocky and forested. The grassy valley along Azda, meanwhile, is the site of most of the open farmland in the Charity region.
The climate in Charity is humid continental, with four distinct seasons.
Lake Nomi is fed by the river Orne and numerous, smaller streams that flow down from the glaciers of the nearby Takla and Yakyo. The largest of these streams are Puru, Fowbe, and Humhumberto. The area on the southern shores of the lake is a continuation of the alpine forests that cover the foothills of the mountains.
Charity lies well within the mountainous inland of the continent, about 300 klicks south of the nearest ocean.
The nearest large cities are:
- Ladefa, to the Northeast along the Azda and the Northern Road
- Locasy to the Southwest, past the Orne Forest, about 120 Klicks along the West Road from Dwarven Town.
To the south, beyond the Yakyo Mountains, lie the glacial plains of Big Province.
To the Southwest of Charity, over the South Takla is the smaller Lake Basha and Basha Town. Basha Town used to be an important trade hub, but has since become a resort and spot for visitors.
Regional Attractions & Notable Places
There are small shrines all around Charity, though the most famous ones are near the pine-covered shores surrounding Lake Nomi. A large clearing along the north shore of the lake, about an hour’s yak cart ride from the city walls, is the main site for the festival. They are owned by the Duke but are regularly used for public events. There are smaller events around nearly every shrine, and certain visitors prefer the quieter locales.
The walled city of Charity is about 7 klicks at its widest, containing over 51 square klicks. The walls, which form a hexagon around the city, are about six metres tall. Most are not generally used as protection, and many serve as a commercial area, with markets on top of the walls and offices and workshops inside. The walls are made of smooth gray stone, with high arches and plentiful ornamentation.
Charity is a large trading city with a diverse population of about 150,000. Unlike other cities on Tabtu, it is not majority Sellibu, although the the Sellibu make up a significant plurality of the population.
Here is the very rough breakdown:
- Sellibu (Fox) 30%
- Strongfeet (Halfling) 20%
- River Elf 15%
- Human 10%
- Dwarf 10%
- Other 15%
Between Foxes, Strongfeet (Halflings) and Dwarves, more than half of the population of adults in Charity is below 5 feet tall. But, because of the larger proportion of humans and others, the average height is still larger than most of the other major cities on Tabtu.
Although less than 10% of Charity residents are Dwarven, there is a large Dwarven town (simply called Dwarven Town) in the mountains across the lake, to the southeast. There is a constant traffic from Dwarven town along the lake roads.
Relations among the residents of Charity are for the most part friendly and socially integrated, particularly in commerce. The Strongfoot (Halfling) and Fox (Sellibu) communities have an especially strong connection—the Foxes are well known as craftsmen while the Strongfeet are more commonly found as merchants. Dwarves tend to specialize in industry and commerce related to metalworking, and the River Elves in transport and some specialized agriculture. The humans and other races are relatively evenly distributed among the major trades, with some being ordinary farmers and woodsmen.
The diverse population of Charity traces its roots back to ancient times, but there have periodically been an influx of “wanderers”, who appear in the region wearing strange clothing, seemingly without memory of their past. While such groups of people appear on a semi-regular basis, a group turning up once or twice every few months, they contribute only a hundred or less to the population of Charity every year.
The different racial populations of Charity have their own traditional rites, but all of Charity participates in the seasonal festivals. (More of this in Culture.) Locals of all races pay respects at the large shrines scattered throughout the region. Charity is well known for its shrines and festivals and has many visitors that come across the mountains on holiday.
Although residents of different species frequently cohabit, intermarriage is not very common, but is looked at as merely slightly frivolous by even the most judgmental, since there is no way for different species to produce offspring.
The predominant language spoken in Charity is a dialect of Common, spoken by virtually the entire population. Most of the Fox households teach Sellibuano, the ancient language of the Foxes, as a heritage language. Non-Sellibu racial populations have their own distinct slang and colloquial vocabulary, but not their own languages.
Outledge’s notes on Sellibuano:
I find it disturbing that the Elves here do not seem to speak Elvish, and even the Dwarves do not speak Dwarven, but everyone speaks a perfectly comprehensible, somewhat accented version of Common. […]
Sellibuano seems to be related to, or a descendent of Primordial, which is spoken in our home world by elementals and titans and is a predecessor of Giant.
The stellar year on Tabtu is 400 days long, and is divided into twenty months of twenty days, representing a lunar cycle. The year begins the day after the shortest day of the year, the Solstice. Each month is just known by its number. Each day is divided into 24 hours.
There are four major dates that festivals are celebrated on, evenly spaced.
Winter Solstice, or New Year’s Festival
Spring Equinox – 100th day
Summer Solstice – 200th day
Fall Equinox – 300th day
Depending on the festival, celebration may in practice begin a day or two before and end the day after the official festival day.
Certain rare festivals, such as the Bright Comb Festival are formally allocated longer periods of time.
The particular festival celebrated differs from year to year, depending on the complex interactions of the four moons of Tabtu.
Moons of Tabtu
- Disten – (DISten) – large, bluish-silver moon – cycle is 40 days – colloquially referred to as “Big Blue” or “Blue Moon”
- Minsina – (MINsina) – second largest, golden moon – cycle is 20 days – colloquially referred to as “Gold Moon”, “Honey Moon”, or “Gold Minsy”
- Essalas – (ESsalas) reddish minor moon (visible as a point of light, not as a sphere) – cycle is 10 days – colloquially referred to as “Red Moon” or “Red Essa” or “The Red Lass”
- Limmerbee – (LIMmerbee) – white minor moon (visible as a point of light, not as a sphere) orbital period of 10 hours – referred to by its full name, or as “The Bee”
The Bright Comb Festival
The Bright Comb Festival celebrates the autumn alignment of the four major moons in the night sky around the Bright Comb, a luminous band of stars (galaxy) whose bright center is obscured by dark parts in lines, forming a hexagonal pattern, to give an appearance similar to a comb of honeybees. This is a very special festival for the Karribu (non-Foxes), as legend has it that the original travelers made contact with the foxes on such a day, through a mysterious door that opened in the mountains. The Bright Comb festival happens once only every twenty years, so it is a really, really big deal.
Major themes of the Bright Comb Festival:
- stylized hexagonal lanterns
- some bees
- honey, since this is also the time for honey harvesting
Since the Bright Comb Festival occurs only every twenty years, it is celebrated for twenty days total, going from the middle of the 15th month to the middle of the 16th. Bright Comb Day itself is celebrated right in the middle, on the Fall Equinox (300th day of the calendar year).
Economy and Government
The government of the City of Charity consists of a Mayor, a Council, and an Assembly. Elections are held the last three days of the 17th Month. The term in office lasts from New Years’ to the day before New Years’.
The City Council, consists of sixty elected officials, representing the each of sixty districts of the walled city. The term of office is one year. The City Council meets in the auditorium of City Hall. The City Council passes laws, issues edicts, and regulates trade.
The Assembly (often called the “Big House”) is a regional legislature that acts as a chamber of commerce. It otherwise mostly exists to give speeches and pass symbolic measures. The occasionally act to arbitrate intra-regional interests. It consists of three hundred members.
Mayor and Cabinet
The Mayor is elected every three years by popular vote. The Mayor functions as the head of state, and makes important appointments of officials.
Once elected, the Mayor can appoint a special Mayoral cabinet of ten officials. The titles and roles of officials vary from term to term, but always include the following:
- Chief Architect
- Chief Beekeeper
- Chief Librarian
- Chief Bard
- Chief Navigator
Chief Navigator is an honorary cabinet position—always established but always left empty. The term “Navigator” derives from an archaic Sellibuano word of unknown meaning. The original purpose of the role is unknown, as there are no explanations in the historical records. But in keeping with tradition, the Mayor always establishes the Charity Office of Navigation, then leaves the Chief position vacant.
While not formally part of the government of Charity, the Duke of Grammar Castle has a notable influence on the culture and politics of Charity and the larger region.
The Duke himself lives in Castle Grammar, an ancient castle built into the northwestern slopes of Mount Gasho. The Duke is fairly reclusive and rarely leaves his estate. The notable exception is festivals—the Duke always gives a speech at each festival, which a favorite part of the event for many. Rumor has it that he mingles, in disguise, with ordinary folk afterwards. Little is known about the Duke except that he is a good orator and is around normal height (less than four feet tall.)
Visitors are allowed at the estate, which gives regular tours of the castle. The Duke, however, has never been heard to greet visitors personally.
The Duke’s Estate provides equipment for the City Guard and the Lake Watch.
Folks of all different races can be found in the City Guard, though it is one of the larger employers of big people. Guardsman wear a dark green uniform, and hats with a still-fresh pine twig (complete with needles) in the ribbon and are each issued a spadroon (rarely used) and a staff. In practice, they act as a constabulary and animal control.
Lake Watch is mostly composed of River Elves, and serves as maritime enforcement, as well as search and rescue. All members wear the traditional pale green and tan colors of River Elves, as well as a black and gold neckerchief. Otherwise, there is no standard uniform.
Additional roles in this line of work are done by adventurers, most of whom find jobs through job guilds. The largest and most famous of the guilds is the Odds and Ends Guild (abbreviated O&E), located near the river docks in central Charity. Other guilds include Loudharp’s and Electrum Associates (EA).
The currency in Charity are small bars of Electrum and Platinum. Electrum is considered the standard. Gold and silver are traded as a commodity rather than currency, and their values have been known to fluctuate.
Charity’s most notable agricultural export is honey. There are numerous apiaries all over the countryside near Charity, particularly in the Azda valley to the Northeast of Charity. Honey features prominently in the regional cuisine—mead, honey bread, honey kelp loaf, honey scrambled eggs.
Charity also produces a large amount of timber. Most is harvested from the Orne Forest, which is mostly conifers, and also from Great Minga woods to the Southeast, which is more dominated by blossoming trees. The woods surrounding Lake Nomi are mostly used by local residents or protected by nearby shrines.
Crops are produced mainly for the local population. The most common grain is rice, with some buckwheat. Tubers include sweet potatoes and purple yams. Star carrots and various types of radishes are also grown. Leafy vegetables include many kinds of cabbage bushes and palm lettuce. Flat apples are grown in orchards in the valley, as are nut-oranges and flat bananas and many other common fruits. Giant mushrooms and weaving moss are abundant in underground caverns. Weaving moss is processed and used in textiles, yielding fabrics similar to cotton and hemp.
What are known as eggs are about the size of a large coconut. The shells are very hard and require special tools (which are common in kitchens) or great skill to crack.
The egg-producing birds are called “chickens”, but are large, feathered reptiles about a meter tall. They are descended from similar, common creatures around Tabtu, but have long been domesticated. They shed feathers weekly, and these feathers are often used for decoration. The most common feather colors are gray and black, with blue and red being rare, and violet being among the rarest. Older chickens tend to produce rarer and rarer colors, so ranchers usually attempt to keep their chickens alive and healthy as long as possible.
The main livestock are yaks. They produce yak wool, yak milk, and are used for labor and beasts of burden. They are usually not slaughtered until injured.
Aquaculture in Charity is very active. The lakes and rivers provide plenty of fish, kelp, and jellycubes for the local population. Certain varieties of kelp are made into a substance that is locally called “leather”. Most leather on Tabtu itself is actually made from kelp or Moffel Tree Sap (more common in the regions to South.)
For unknown reasons, Outledge’s includes an appendix that focuses on three “special locations”.
Because of the content in this appendix, The Society for Karribu Homeworlds has vehemently protested the continued distribution of Outledge’s , calling the less than a page or so an “ignorant slander of entirely plausible theories”.
The Society usually blames Electrum Associates as being behind this.
What seems to be a ruined watchtower stands atop a mostly wooded hill in the Southern Takla to the northwest of the city. Only the base of the tower, a hexagon about two meters tall, remains. The construction of the tower is the same exquisitely smooth, extraordinarily hard gray stone similar to the city walls.
The area surrounding the watchtower is heavily overgrown with scorpion bushes and snakethorn vines. A particularly obscure rumor has it that there is a room hidden underground that contains a wall with a stained-glass window seemingly built into the side of the rock. Someone standing in the room looking through the window would simply be staring into the rock of the hill. The window was said to have been made of colored glass, with a design, but different versions of the rumor all give conflicting details.
Legend tells of a remarkably well-preserved abandoned shrine just north of the festival grounds. Hikers who have gotten lost in the woods report stumbling onto old stone steps. Following them up the hill through seven gates, they find themselves at an old wooden shrine in a clearing overlooking the lake. Many have tried, but none have succeeded in actually getting back to the shrine, or spotting it from a distance.
Structure Under the Lake
Deep-lake divers have occasionally reported seeing what looked like a tunnel with some sort of platform underneath the especially sheer northeastern shore of Lake Nomi. Several groups have funded diving expeditions over the years, and only found rock.
This rumor is considered thoroughly debunked, despite some “Lake Tunnel Enthusiasts” (LTEs) suggesting that it is only visible when hit by the light of a certain arrangement of moons from a certain angle.
A particularly devoted group of LTEs think that this might be some kind of docking platform for some kind of extraplanetary vehicle. They link this to the Karribu with missing memories, theorizing that the Karribu must be abducted from their original world, somewhere in the stars. Several books with these theories have been published by the Society of Karribu Homeworlds. They seem popular with house-husbands, but are otherwise considered too nonsensical to be entertainment.