The Vrkhazhians

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The Vrkhazhians are a group of people that live in the land known as Yat-Vrkhazh.


Yat-Vṛḵaž Ethnographical Questionnaire

Questions of Place

Describe the geography of where your society calls home.

Vrkhazh is closed in by two mountains, one residing north-west, above Vrkhazh's west coast, and one residing north-east. The mountain in the north-east is Vrkhazh's tallest mountain and is named ṛ-Kašmer-Yat-Vṛḵaž or "The Wall of Yat-Vrkhazh", while the smaller one in the north-west is named ṛ-ʾAṭmu-Yat-Vṛḵaž or "The Horn of Yat-Vrkhazh", due to its horn-like appearance. There are two large depressions that can be 40-100m below the surrounding land and in many places they are bordered by steep ridges. The largest depression lies northernmost and is approximately 300-400km in diameter while the smaller one lies southwest of the larger one and is 100-200km in diameter.

There are 5 large lakes spread throughout Vrkhazh, and most of the population of Vrkhazh live near these lakes and along the rivers that lead to them, as well as the west coast. In Vrkhazh's arid regions, especially in Vrkhazh's largest desert called Maziyu-Yudkiśun or "The Sea of Ghosts", winds create prolific sand dunes that can be as high as 300m. The Sea of Ghosts also contains several large ergs.

Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?

The very south of Vrkhazh is a tropical region with soil suitable for farming, while the majority of the north of Vrkhazh consists of arid and semi-arid climates, with steppe and savannah climates forming a narrow belt between the tropical and arid/semi-arid regions. Due to the presence of Yat-Vrkhazh's mountains, most of Vrkhazh experiences very little rainfall annually, while only the south is unaffected by the mountains, receiving lots of annual rainfall.

What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?

In Vrkhazh, there are annual sandstorms that occur throughout the arid regions of Vrkhazh, especially in the cold, dry winter season of Pasmi, and occasionally the hot, dry summer of Pannuš. The settlements near the rivers sometimes face unexpected flooding of the rivers, especially in the depressions.

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

In the arid regions of Vrkhazh, only the most drought-resistant plants can survive, thus the most commonly grown crops are wheat and sorghum. In the semi-arid and savannah regions, the most common crop is millet. Those who live in the tropical regions of Vrkhazh cultivate various fruits as well, such as bananas, while those who live in arid and semi-arid regions cultivate olives and dates.

Those who live near lakes and rivers commonly consume cattails as a part of their diet. Wattleseeds from acacia trees and purslanes are also commonly eaten as well.

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

Lamb, goat, and beef are the staple meats in Vrkhazh, though camel is also eaten to a lesser extent. Those living near rivers and lakes often incorporate fish, such as salmon, in their diet as well. The Vrkhazh do not eat chicken, for they believe birds to be sacred and thus should not be killed. However, they do eat their eggs.

The Vrkhazh also consume various insects like locusts, which are considered a delicacy as well as an important food source during times of famine.

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

The Vrkhazhians often drink wine made of olives infused with honey as well as beer made from sorghum.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

Most of the population of Vrkhazh situate themselves either near the coast, near rivers, or near the lakes. Thus, the Vrkhazhians have plenty of water for drinking, bathing, growing crops, and raising livestock. Additionally, those that live in the tropical regions get a lot of rainfall and collect it in large containers for storage and sending to places where water is more scarce.

What is this place's most abundant resource?

Vrkhazh is most abundant in iron, which are mined from its two mountains. Most Vrkhazhian settlements also locate near rivers and lakes and thus water is also abundant.

What is its most valuable resource?

Water is the most valuable resource in Vrkhazh. Other valuable resources are iron, coal, turquoise, onyx, gold and silver.

What resource is it most lacking?

How do people travel from one place to another?

People near rivers sail boats along them to travel to other cities along that river while people living in the arid and semi-arid region travel the vast deserts by camel. People living in the tropical regions often travel by horse, though some make journeys by foot.

The Vrkhazhians also built a network of roads across many regions of the empire, so that it eases the travel of pack animals and soldiers. These roads are constructed with a layer of crushed rock with carved limestone laid over them.

Are the borders secure? In what way?


How many people live here?

The population of Vrkhazh is approximately 40-50 million.

Where in this place do they congregate?

The majority of Vrkhazhian settlements are along the many rivers, along the west coast, around the five lakes, and in the rain forests of the south. There are a few villages closer to the heart of the desert in order to mine for valuable materials. Water is supplied to these villages from underground sources or from oases that villages may be built around.

The highest population densities are found in seven cities known as the "Pillar Cities".

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

Vrkhazhians generally avoid traveling through the Sea of Ghosts because the desert, in combination with a lack of having water sources, is extremely hot and packed with tall sand dunes that make traversing it nearly impossible. The locations of six of the Pillar Cities marks a rough border around the Sea of Ghosts.

Vrkhazhians also avoid traveling to the ruins of the City of Wise Men because they believe it is cursed with evil energy.

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

Cattle, sheep, aurochs, goats, camels, horses, and chickens are the most common domesticated animals. Cattle and goats are domesticated for their meat, milk, and blood. Sheep are domesticated for their wool and meat. Chickens are not eaten but are domesticated for their eggs, which are eaten. Camels and horses are domesticated mainly as animals used for traveling, though camels are also used to carry heavy loads. Occasionally, they are eaten. Aurochs and Oxen are used as working animals to carry heavy loads and farming implements.

What are the most common wild animals?

The most common wild animals are crows, ibis, and various snakes. Occasionally, there are lions and jackals.

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?

The most common pets are dogs, cats, and some domesticated birds like chickens. Some wild birds like crows and ibis are also likely to be pets. Most primates are never made pets because they are seen as too aggressive. Dangerous animals like lions and snakes are also never made into pets.

Questions of Time

How far back does this society's written history go?

The written history of this language goes as far back as 100-200 years before the founding of the empire.

How far back do its people believe it goes?

What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?

The worst disaster the Vrkhazhians faced was the Great Massacre that occurred when otherworld creatures started appearing a few decades before the founding of the empire. They could not be affected by physical weapons and almost eradicated the people of Yat-Vrkhazh.

What was the best thing that ever happened to them?

What in their past makes them feel ashamed?

What in their past makes them proud?

What are they afraid of happening again?

They are afraid that the next time the otherworld creatures invade their world, it will not only lead to the eradication of the Vrkhazhians, but also the entire human race.

They consider themselves the bulwark against the otherworld creatures and thus they also fear the collapse of their society for this same reason, as the turmoil will leave them exposed and vulnerable.

What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?

What do they assume the future will hold?

How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?

What are the most popular stories about the past?

Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?

The people of Yat-Vrkhazh have several heroes. The most notable hero is Arash-Hijun, who founded the Empire of Yat-Vrkhazh in an effort to create a unified force against the otherworld creatures.

Do people think the present better or worse than the past?

Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?

Questions of Sex and Family

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

Who decides on a marriage?

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?

How are families named?(g) What happens to orphans?

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

Are premarital relations allowed?

How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?

What secret vice actually is practiced?

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foriegners?

How do people react to homosexuality?

How do the genders dress?

Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?

What professions or activities are considered masculine?

What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

What is the biggest sexual taboo?

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?

Questions of Manners

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?

What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?

How do younger adults address their elders?

What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?

If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?

If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?

When is it rude to laugh at something funny?

What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?

How do people demonstrate grief?

What does this society do with their corpses?

What kinds of jewelry do people where? And when?

Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?

What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?

What are the most popular games? How important are they?

What parts of the body are routinely covered?

How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

How do people react to physical deformity?

When and how does someone go from child to adult?

Questions of Faith

Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?

What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?

What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?

Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?

What are the most popular rituals or festivals?

What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?

How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?

What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?

What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?

Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?

How are those who follow different faiths treated?

What relationship do religious and political leaders have?

What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural

events/beings do people fear?

Questions of Government

Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?

What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?

How are new laws created or old ones changed?

Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?

Who has the right to give orders, and why?

What titles do various officials have?

How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?

How do government officials dress?

Is the law written down? Who interprets it?

Once accused, what recourse does someone have?

Is torture allowed? What kinds?

How are people executed?

Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?

Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?

What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?

What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

Questions of War

Who declares war?

Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?

What happens to prisoners taken in battle?

What form of warfare does this society use?

Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?

How does someone get command of troops?

Where do the loyalties of military units lie?

Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?

Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?

Who are their enemies? Who's winning?

What do soldiers do when there's no war?

Questions of Education

Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?

How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?

What form and value are books?

Who teaches others? How do they teach?

Who decides who learns to read or write?(f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?

Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?

How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?

Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?

Questions of Art

What are the favorite artforms?

What are the least-favorite?

How respected are artists?

Do artists require official or unofficial protection?

What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?

How might a very successful artist live?

What forms of theatre does your society have?

How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?

What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?

Which artforms get the most and least respect?

What form does censorship take?

Who may not be an artist?

What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?

What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?

How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?

Questions of sex and marriage

Is sex confined to marriage?

Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?

Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?

Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?

How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?

What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?

Do relationships allow multiple partners?

Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

Questions of death and burial

What is their understanding of death and dying?

Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?

Is the family responsible for the body?

What part do the priests play?

Are there cemeteries at all?

Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?

Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?

Questions of suicide

What do people in this culture think about suicide?

Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?

Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?

Is it worse than murder?

Questions of Law, Justice and Police

Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?

Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?

How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?

What is the extent of their authority? Can they shoot you? Can they use magic? Can they torture or otherwise force a confession? Can they use telepathy?

Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?

Is there a secret police?

What is the role of police informants, if any?