Map of the nZhiktar Basin

The nZhiktar Basin

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To the average person of Kassidor who knows of this basin, it is 'the winter basin' and in fact its name meant 'dead winter' in the language it was named with. The people who live there know this better than anyone else on the planet. At least half of the people of Kassidor do not know this basin exists. Of course half the population knows only half the basins, the ones nearest and the major ones.


Climate and Topography

For the average person on Kassidor, winter is barely noticeable, the temperature changes more with the time of the week. For many in the polar basins this is not true and none more true than nZhiktar. Most of the basin is deep enough that the weekly change is not too important, ten or twenty degrees like most of Earth or Centorin. The basin is not deep enough in the atmosphere or close enough to the equator to escape the effects of the seasons. The large tundra to the north helps create an annual tipping point just before the solstice so that the effect of the season is magnified to what it is on that tundra.

The summer is absolutely delightful, hardly ever above 90F (32C) and hardly ever below 60F (16C). There is rain almost every dark but the light days are sunny and bright. The sky is a light pastel blue. Puffball clouds are common in late Afternoonday.

In winter it may remain below freezing most of the week. Deep snow piles up from dark to dark. Lakes and ponds freeze but the jT'doan never freezes over, though it may carry dangerous icebergs that take out any attempt at bridging it.

There are exceptions to the rule. The nZhiktar Ridge has a climate where the seasonal difference is the same, but an 80F weekly variation may be added on top of that. South of the pass to the Vesh Basin, the effect of the air from the tundra is felt much less and the seasons are nowhere near as pronounced. At the headwaters of the jT'doan there is an equatorial highland climate. Residents of the area are nearly as close to Ydlontrostl as nZhiktar and some may disagree as to which basin they are in.

The jT'doan river, at 13,761 miles, is one of the twenty five longest rivers on the planet. It's basin is every square mile of this basin, including the polar tundra, a quarter of the Yondure and an area of the Ydlontrostl as large as France and the low countries. The river is extensively used for irrigation and human action over thousands of years has transformed the climate to one much more moist that was here in antiquity. They have helped drain the great sea of the Yondure Basin in the process.

The central hills are the most scenic part of the basin. Travel in them can be very challenging in the winter, but they are beautiful even then. In the summer they get the most tourist traffic in the basin, but the darks are as cold in the summer as they are in the Yakhan. In the winter the darks are more like Siberia.


History

The basin has been known to Yondurian people since prehistoric times, but those that traveled the area were nomadic tribes. The closest place permanent settlement was possible was the lowlands of the Ydlontrostl basin. It is presumed Yondurian people must have settled there for some time before crossing the sea to Kshoned, but no remains prove it.

The earliest historical settlements were made between 6000bc and 4000bc by explorers from The Realm, a great empire in the Yondure basin. A permanent post was established and enough onions were wintered over indoors to allow a small castle to develop.

One of the things taken by the people in that camp once the Energy Age occurred was the fast onion. They were little more than chives, but would grow in a single summer. That allowed permanent settlement of the basin and the city of nZhiktar.

The great dust cloud from The Fall wasn't as dense this far north, and tallgrains were never grown this far north, so the people were not dependent on them. The deeps of Yondure were affected and communication was all but lost between the basins thru most of the Troubled Times.

During the Troubled Times, Nordics and Trolls entered the basin. This was more or less peaceful, there were some muttered words and a few fist fights at the inns, but there was never enough strife in the basin to bring writers of sword and sorcerer tales. Those immigrants that came, came in peace to escape all that.

Most energy of the time went to canal building and the basin floor today is laced with the lines of irrigation across dry prairie. The people of Yondure forgot the jT'doan ever flowed for over a thousand years because all its flow was used.

Once the basin became as moist as it is today, the river began flowing again and commerce with the Yondure basin began again. This wasn't till nearly the time of the Trojan War on Earth. The Yondure basin and Hbanan, that basin's main power at the time, were busy fighting the Bordzvek Republic, and the contact with nZhiktar brought little notice. The nZhiktar basin still had a very small population at the time. The original camp had spawned many other city-states but most of the countryside was sovereign villages. There was a very frontier-like attitude during those ages. Only the cities were free of it.

nZhiktar slid easily into the modern age. There had never been big or strong governments. The peace plague made little difference to anyone. During the 40's, the time between the start of eternal youth and the Instinct, population began to grow rapidly. The sterility plague came late, the cure came early and there was a steady stream of immigration from the Yondure basin.


Culture

By the end of the Troubled Times, the basin had developed it's own ethnic type. They have dark hair, wavy or loosely curled, very thick and heavy. They have a slight gold to their coloring, especially when placed near someone typical of Yondure. They are larger than Yondurians but have the fine features and delicate facial structure of the Yondurians. They are relatively husky and are very resistant to cold.

The land is governed by the seasons. People have big gardens, usually well over an acre, and they work hard at them all summer, usually both light days of the week. During the winter there is no garden work at all and people have plenty of time off. Many migrate to the cities and towns for the winter where there are things to do. Some are snowed in most of the winter living off the supplies they built up over the summer.

The cuisine is as seasonal as the climate. During late summer and early fall everything is fresh. No one bakes or cooks things from jars. In the fall everything goes into the jars and all thru the winter people eat lots of breads, nutbreads and meats and vegetables from jars. Once the winter really sets in, refrigeration is easy and most hunting is done at that time. More meat is eaten in the later part of winter than any other time of the year.

Most people in the basin live as couples, country or city. Some are between, but they all seek variety at some frequency, but usually don't spend the whole sleep. You see couples out together everywhere on Kassidor, but nowhere more than here. Even when they go out for variety, they often go together and help and choose for each other. Every couple has a formula for dividing the chores of life and they all work it out for themselves without a society-wide 'role model'. Dimorphism in the population is moderately low and the women take to heavy work nearly as well as the men.

There is a complicated, though informal formula for 'interest in the house and property' among couples. When someone lives with the original owner for a length of time, so that most everything has been rebuilt while they were there, that person is thought to have earned an interest in the property. How much interest is decided among their mutual friends when they break up. They are not present when their mutual friends decide and almost always abide by the decision. It usually includes housing them till they find someplace to go, and additional compensation appropriate to the person's means. This is not to say that some long and heated arguments don't occur, especially if the cohabitation has been long. This is why most other cultures on the planet think the property belongs with the original owner and whatever help the other put in was part of the cost of living.

In the summer, Nightday is the only day in the countryside when there will be any cultural events open. Only at the inn will you even find a meal served. In the cities there are things open all the time, but the Nightday crowds are larger. In the winter Nightday is the only day everything is closed. It is probably snowing. In the villages nobody clears snow except from an outdoor vestibule to change from snowshoes and boots. In the town the paths in the business district are usually cleared, sometimes not till Afternoonday. You'll need snowshoes to go outside the towns in winter, but they'll cost you about seven credits. That's something a native saves up for.

The cultural events that are open are pretty interesting. The suntower (network) now brings music and movies from all over the world, and places have lots of rooms with a screen and/or speakers and a few couches with lots of long hallways full of artwork in the winter or flowers in the summer when the roof is removed. There are taps all over the place and the local yaag and ale are pretty decent and all the leading yaags and psychedelics from Yondure are available in every city of 15,000 or more. In the winter the beer is cold, in the summer it is not.

There is plenty of live music and a place might have two or three of the largest rooms devoted to it. It's usually pretty mellow, acoustic yandrille and lshi or lween, unamplified voice. In spite of that the harmony and emotion is such that the goose bumps per song might be higher than even in Zhlindu. A common theme is the beauty and grandeur of the wilds.

The wilds are prairie, but it is not a flat plain of ribbonleaves like Zhlindu or southern Hrrst. There are rock formations, meadows and hills, tiny wooded valleys and lost little brooks trying to find their way out of it thru wondrous carvings only two to four feet deep but striped labyrinths of beauty, peppered with fossils.

The countryside does not lend itself to thundering herds. There are nyobbas hunting lentwittles, long and thin relatives of the lent. There are dart-hoppers big enough to make you think stryders aren't extinct. They are just as inedible as a dactyl, about as nutritious as eating a tire boiled in benzene. If you stay on the level, there are some lent and some gleeps after them. But if you are armed, alert, level headed, and a good shot, and will take the shot, you do stand a chance of taking a day-hike thru this prairie and surviving. We are not advising you to do so however, but if you picked up a girl and she has a crossbow, you'll probably be fine.

The above is not true of the polar plains and tundra, or the Horigoaten Plain in the middle of the basin. In each of those you need to be with professionals. There are things out there that will eat you. On the Horigoaten there is a larger relative of the quibarta. It is not as determined, but much more deadly and much faster. You need a large party and appropriate weapons to enter that area safely.

Much of the ground is covered with ribbonleaves and those areas extend close enough to settlement that you may have to hike to the end of the street and climb over a fence. If she has a crossbow and doesn't look worried, go ahead. Most rock formations you'll find will be big enough to climb or sit on and not so dense that you can't see what's around you. Check the horizon carefully before you indulge in that nice soft patch of ribbonleaves you found behind the rock outcropping.

You'll meet this girl in one of those rooms in town with a few couches. She'll be sitting by herself watching romance or news and have a large bag with her. Keep looking till you find her unless you just want a quicky. The girl with the bag is probably taking a vacation from her current partner of some time, you'll hear more about why than you want to, but it'll be worth it. You have an immense advantage in that you can offer to take her in for this whole walkabout and she won't have to sit here every evening waiting for someone to chat her up.

In a few days you may wonder who's captured whom but you'll probably have a pretty good time doing it, unless she just sits and loops on why she's on a walkabout. If that happens, you have the right to evict her from your room. Many will try to make up for the boredom their bed had become and you will begin to feel sorry for the poor shlub who is missing out. When you start to take the guy's side, she will probably go back to him. She may drive you to take his side when she is ready to go back. Only in the Traguzars, Zil and Hrrst are you likely to get so deeply ensnared in the lives of those you meet.

The facilities in the basin range from Kassidorian standard to a bit dicey. Some bathrooms require you to get the water down the hall. There's a hot tub near the fireplace in the main room to wash up in. It doesn't hurt to look at the plumbing before making a decision on where to stay if the place looks a little run down.

Only in the large cities is anything vertical. It's all shaftwood and not as big as those of Yclel-vi or even Korsto. Some are half-planks.

In this basin, most windows have glass. For a standard month the interior space will be heated, so in most cases it is insulated, heat-trapping glass. It is not just used in houses but in cold frames and the roofs of sunken greenhouses keeping produce going thru the winter.

Most of the fuel is bean oil, there are not a lot of forests for cordwood. There is some firestick, enough methane for cooking, and some alcohol for lanterns. Few people heat the whole house, but carry a bean-oil heater to the room they are in. They are small and portable, about the size of a bowling ball on a stand. The oil burns clean enough that no chimney is required.

The winter is short enough that 'cabin fever' is generally not a problem for even the most remote people snowed in for the whole of it in the far north. In the towns and villages people can get out easily enough. Three Centorins have reported on 'wintering over' in the nZhiktar basin. Only the one on a hunting expedition on the polar tundra thought he was in any danger and that was more from the wooly korthops than the cold. The others say it is nothing compared to the winters in the upper Navorken valley or Saskatchewan.


The City

If the climate really were appalling it is doubtful that forty six million people would be permanent residents of the largest city in the basin. In spite of it's location, it is between Dos and Yclel-vi in size. Of course that is in the winter. Nearly seventeen million of its residents have a country place for the summer.

It is a compact city reminiscent of Yclel-Vi. A single great lock on the jT'doan enters the city from upstream. Canals ring the central city but do not cross it. A single compressed air monopoly serves the city, mostly run off that one lock. It reaches only the central city. Like Yclel-vi, great shaftwoods are most of the structure, but they are standing on their stumps with some ornate stonework around them for the commercial levels. The main streets are on the third floor and most of them are covered when outdoors. Many are glassed in for the winter.

High in the branches there is a lot of glass catching sunlight and most people only need to run heat in the winter dark. Apartments are small by the standards of those who can afford interstellar tube journeys, but when you compare them to those in similar socioeconomic levels on Centorin, they are as spacious and comfortable.

Most of the seventeen million who migrate in and out of the city have worked two days a week all summer to get a crop in and do not work while in the city. This creates a lot of opportunities for entertainment and they are well filled. The music is similar to what's found in the country but amplified for the larger rooms and with more influence from Yondure. The gear is made by Yondurian companies with production facilities in nZhiktar. Some cinema from Yondure is transmitted here, but people here favor straight-up adventure, often in the wilds. Winter survival is part of life so it's in many movies but is almost never the central plot. There are more than a fair share of romances filmed here, and the leafy bowers high in the shaftwoods are pretty.

The sport of pole blocking is big in the city. Each contestant has a padded pole and one end of a log. The log is fixed in the early rounds and loose in the later. This game has been on television since the presumed introduction of humans from Kassidor to Earth. The top players are celebrities, people are incensed at the exorbitant amount of money they make and trashy bimbos hang on them like Spanish moss.

There are some very fine eaterys with very nice entertainment. Stand-up comedy is big but translates poorly. There is table service with uniformed waiters and waitresses. A lot of the city people work twice a week during the winter and take the summers off. You can have dinner at a music show, a movie, live theater, sporting event or 'fashion show' which is more about the bodies than the clothes and they do cater to couples because there are just as many males taking off just as much clothing on the stage as females. These people are professionals and do not appreciate one trying to meet and woo them. The dining level is usually the floor above, like a balcony, and the tables may be stepped in the bigger places. You can find casual food all over these entertainment arcades. The ones in the city are larger and more numerous than the ones in smaller cities.

The city has a different character winter and summer. It seems more 'up scale' during the winter when the migrant farmers are spending a lot of money. The atmosphere is good times but not really blurry as in Yondure, Trenst or Zhlindu. There are more posters up and they are very professionally done. The pole blocking championships are held just before the migrants leave. They need to leave in late winter if they are two or even three weeks out of the city.

In the summer the atmosphere is lazy and tranquil and laid back. The posters are hand done, the bands play in the parks once the snow piled there melts. People laugh at their friends playing pole-block on a log that washed up on the beach over the winter. There's seventeen million less people in town, but more yaag is consumed in the summer.

A few hundred thousand of those who worked two days a week during the winter spend the summer in the countryside. It's not always the same ones. Most people don't bother. Once you cross the canals, you are only a couple miles from the country and even the poorest can swim across. There are no bridges, but plenty of ferries. Most of the produce comes in from the countryside on the canals that radiate from the city.

The circle of the canals is roughly 15 miles in diameter, so anyone can walk across it in a day, and a streetcar takes only a few hours. Almost the whole population is inside the canals. There are quite a few beach parks on the far side, only a few of which have walls of balconies along the sand. Some have nothing but vegetable fields behind them. The canals are about a quarter to half a mile wide and the current of the jT'doan is not swift in them.

There are many tour boats running up and down the river and as many as a million people a week are on them. They may go for a day, a week, two weeks or even longer. It's a party all the way. There are lots of beaches on the river. Most of the people on them have lots of sex, on some that's all they're for. The scenery on the river is nice but not spectacular. Often the land is cultivated right up to the banks.


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