Friday, 30 May 2008

Introducing... Runk Squallheart!

An early sketch of Runk Squallheart, the Basmoli duck.

I've no idea where this came from, and still less where it's going. No place of any great salubrity or merit, likely.

But I wonder if Runk might yet have a few tales to tell...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Dungeons & Ducks: the Durulz Penal System

(I'd have liked to do this in-character, but have far too much on at the mo' to do it justice. Hopefully some day I can revise this into a little story.)

Male wereducks can possess somewhat peculiar notions in regard to attentiveness to duty. Combine this with their natural affinity for all things wet and muddy, and conjured mental images of their gaols look distinctly unappealing. Sadly, that's about as good as it gets.

For those durulz living along the shores of the Upland Marsh, a typical gaol takes something of the following pattern. Bound wooden cages, made from a variety of (often poorly) treated local woods and usually about four- to six-foot square, are sunk into the dank, swampy waters. The degree to which the cages are submerged varies: anything from six inches to two feet of 'air room' might be allowed, and is usually dependent on such factors as local subsidence, sedimentation and the strange ebbs and flows of that unholy mire.

The end result looks much like those part-submerged prisons in Flash Gordon (1980) and The Deer Hunter (1978). [I never thought I'd mention those two in the same sentence...]. A single hatch in the top allows access, and cages are usually fixed by ropes or stilts (though not a few come adrift). A dungeon may consist of but one cage, or up to half a dozen, spread over an area fifty to a hundred feet in diameter. As wereducks can swim, there is usually no easy land route to the gaols.

As many as a dozen or more individuals can be thrown into these foetid prisons, and they can be quite cramped. Combined with the filthy, freezing water and the Marsh's menagerie of slithering, biting and buzzing pests, this all adds up to a pretty miserable experience. Or so one would think.

Wereducks, however, seem to be able to survive these gaols for long stretches. Their natural affinity with the Water rune, smallish size, buoyancy and the smelly natural oils excreted through days of incarceration, make them better able to weather the conditions. Furthermore, for durulz, there's food aplenty. From grubs and eels to pondweed and subaqueous fungi, there's always plenty to stave of starvation, and usually enough to support a rather adequate diet.

Indeed, this is a problem for incarcerated non-ducks, particularly humans, as the wereducks don't feed their prisoners. At all. As wereducks can subsist (un)happily, they really don't consider anyone else. Of course, in a full cage trolls can dine quite contentedly for a while! The squawks of angry fear as a troll is prodded along to the gaol are deafening, as each cage shouts that it's full and protests that the troll would be much better housed elsewhere. Drinking water is usually provided by the rain, caught by some bowl or bucket given to each cage.

Considering that the inhabitants of these dungeons are banged up in isolated cages, set amid various natural and unnatural dangers, and surrounded by swamp on all sides, they have a remarkable tendency to retain and/or acquire various items of contraband. From a sodden, half-smoked cigar (to be cut into eighths, elevenths or whatever denomination, naturally) to an old bottle of rotgut Lunar gin, it's remarkable what can be found.

The gaolers are rarely seen, except when bringing a new prisoner or (less frequently) dragging one out... dead or alive. The most frequent visitors are zombies, carnivorous giant toads and crocodiles. When the gaolers do come, it's usually to joke at the prisoners' expense and prod them with spears to make sure everyone's requisitely miserable. Or to negotiate various bribes, usually on behalf of the prisoners' acquaintences and nestfolk, who are substantially more liquid than their gaoled friends are.

You've never known hell until you've been stuck in a cold, wet, cramped cage submerged in a swamp, with naught but a posse of murderous, stinking, filth-ridden wereducks--squabbling over grubs, beaking your clothes for lice and fantasizing over naked Dancers of Darkness--for company.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Old King Stoutgild...

An early sketch of King Hoarfoot, being the second of that ilk (aka Old King Stoutgild, r. 1402-1429), for Newt's Hearts in Glorantha. He wears the united crowns of the Durulz Valley, and leaning by his 'throne' is the magical shield Thunderwell.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Keepers and Gabbungs: durulz politics

Those that are fortunate to spend a little time at the court of the durulz kings and queens will hear frequent use made of a couple of strange words in the quarrelsome, warbling argot that constitutes the tongue of that place. (The durulz speak a dialect of Theyalan that is very similar to Heortling, even if at times their enunciation might indicate otherwise.)

These two terms are Keeper and Gabbung, and refer to what we might crudely label political parties at the durulz court. Both appear to date back to the later 1300s S.T., around the time of the so-called Duck Wars, when the Heortling migrations led to conflict between the Durulz Tribe on the one hand, and the Colymar and Lismelder on the other.

The word Keeper is a corruption of the older Theyalan form ciepa, or 'merchant'. There is much speculation that the durulz only succeeded in defeating the invading Heortlings through the aid of Delecti, that foul necromancer of the Marsh. In durulz legend, this treaty or 'trade' is pejoratively titled 'Giltwit's Bargain', though many wereducks flat-out refuse to believe that King Giltwit ever made such an enterprise, the idea being abhorrent to them.

Be those charges real or imagined, it is known that Giltwit made and received an embassy with Delecti in 1382 S.T. Those who supported Giltwit's parlay with the Necromancer were called ciepas by their detractors, accused of 'selling out' the durulz to their often-times enemy. It is ironic that the modern form, Keeper, indicates retention, whereas the original intent had been to indicate deprivation.

The opponents of the Keepers were known as the Gabbungs. Gabbung (and the cognate gaffetung, in older dialects) was a contemporary word that meant 'scoffing' or 'mocking'. As durulz then, as now, tended to voice their opposition vocally in very loud, fractious terms, those who opposed Giltwit's counsels gave good return for their moniker.

These two terms have persisted through to the current day, but the events, characters and persuasions they have described over the last two centuries have often been quite different to those that marked the original Keepers and Gabbungs all those years ago. Indeed, the very nomenclature itself can be more problematic than helpful.

In addition to the specific reasoning vis-a-vis Giltwit's Bargain--the association of the Gabbungs with a more rabidly anti-Delectiite stance, relative to the Keepers--Keeper came to mean an associate of the 'court party' of the time, close to the king's confidence and patronage; while Gabbung came to mean a general 'opposition party', typically constituted by those thanes opposed to the king and/or his court, and usually out of favour.

Thus, if a new king came to the throne, those that were once called Gabbungs by some could soon be reconstituted as Keepers, and vice versa. Indeed, after the death of Giltwit, the new king, Hardshins the Leperbeak, was brought in on a tide of Gabbung support. Those Gabbungs that had decried Giltwit and his Keepers now formed the core of the court, and gave the king his counsel.

As might be expected, the terms Keeper and Gabbung enjoyed a renaissance at the time of Sartar's Promise, and more recently with the Lunar invasion and pogroms. In the former case, the term Keeper was used to define those most favourable to Sartar; whilst in the latter, the Gabbungs have constituted that most violent and implacable font of durulz opposition to the Moonmen.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Did you know...

... that we owe several Western and Theyalan words to the wereducks?

Take sordid, for example. There are some that claim this word has a Western etymology, coming via the Seshnegi sordide from some ancient perfect tongue in the Land of Logic, or whatever those weirdos believe. Boulderdash!

As any good Grey Sage will tell you, the wereducks (and their cousins, the keets) tend to describe groupings of themselves using rather colourful collective nouns. Unfortunately, this is particularly true in the case of those given to criminality.

Many of the durulz of Dragon Pass and Maniria are of such bloodlines that they favour the collective noun sord. Originally, the adjective sordid--actually coined by God Learners in Slontan, that meeting ground of Western and Theyalan--just referred to anything connected with such a group and lacked any pejorative sense; sordid and sordide were used simply to mean (of a group of) fowl.

Only later did the the sord became so associated with thievery, brigandage and general purulence, that it took on its current meaning. In some Theyalan dialects this reflected upon the character of the durulz themselves, such that in certain useages fowl degenerated into the present spelling and meaning, foul, likewise embraced in the West.

Another example is the Theyalan noun sluggard, typically used to describe someone or thing that is habitually sluggish--slow, lazy and disinclined to work. There are fanciful ideas that, in Old Heortling, it derived from slug, meaning slow and heavy, and slothfulness personified--and that only later was slug used to define those poor molluscs. This is, unfortunately, incorrect.

Slug (usually pronounced 'szhlugg') is a durulz word and has always been used to define said molluscs. The slow characterisation derived from such, and not vice versa. Sluggard is actually a contraction of 'slug-herd(er)', i.e. that durulz that makes his slow, patient living herding the monstrous slugs that thrive by the Marsh. In durulz, there is the cognate snallard, which naturally derives from 'snail-herd(er)'. Used together, in sluggardly and snallardly, they form a phrase commonly used to indicate considerable slowness of thought or action.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Known durulz bloodlines (c. 1613)

As part of the background for my projects, I was pottering about with a few durulz family names--which I could draw upon as needs be. There are six-dozen names here, which will ultimately be pared down and refined a little (probably to sixty or so, of which only about two-dozen will probably show up in my background).

Amberdrake, Bittersord, Blackscap, Blinkmottle, Bluebeak, Bogwatcher, Boldbladder, Brackblood, Brightfeather, Clearwhistle, Deftwaddle, Drydottle, Duskwort, Fairflanks, Fatleaf, Fierceplume, Fozzlebeak, Giltwit, Glowstalk, Goodshrooms, Greenbeak, Greenface, Grubcatcher, Hardshins, Hoarfoot, Honeyrump, Keenwarble, Longneck, Midgeflower, Mildgizzard, Mistcall, Mizzledown, Mosswig, Mudcrown, Nettlebeak, Palespeck, Pinfeather, Plumshank, Pucewattle, Quagbanter, Quickpaddle, Redcrest, Redmurk, Reedsong, Ringeye, Ruddy Shoveler, Rudepebble, Rushwallow, Rustmantle, Screwpipe, Shagflax, Shrewdbill, Silverhead, Slopbank, Smaltstaff, Spintail, Spleengurgle, Sprypole, Starmolt, Stoutknob, Surefoot, Swiftlore, Tarscaup, Thricepeal, Thunderthroat, Truedive, Wetnape, Whitetail, Wildwheat, Wisemustard, Woadcheek, Yellowbelly.

[Many of these draw upon exisiting Gloranthan sources, particularly Tales of the Reaching Moon.]

A word (or several) on duck names

The following was written up as background for the King List Project--the copy might be a little tangential for Hearts in Glorantha, so I'll put it up here for now.

The wereducks are an expressive folk, and this is especially true in their choice of names. Much like ourselves, they tend to have at two main parts to their name: what some call a hatching name, which is similar to a Western European first or ‘Christian’ name; and a bloodline, family or nest name, which is akin to our own surname. (Of course we’ll pass for now on the frequent suffices like ‘the Big’, ‘the Hard’, ‘the Great’ the ‘Broo-Butcherer’ that tend to attach themselves on a frequent and often scarcely justified basis.)

Hatching names are chosen by the parents, and are typically used by close relations, to distinguish between individuals of the same family—or, indeed, to refer to hatchlings and fledglings before they take a family name (of which curious process, see below). There is a bewildering variety in hatching names, which often vary from clan to clan, and family to family. Popular names include Geoffri, Godfrey, Joseph, Penelope and Walt (all transliterated into the Sartarite dialect of Theyalan, naturally). Such choices are often quite strange and, in great contrast to their surnames, tend to show little connection with suggested etymologies.

Family names, however, tend to be quite apposite. Indeed, once, they were the only names that durulz went by. In ancient times, there weren’t many ducks at all, but those that lived displayed a considerable variety in physical and personal characteristics. Surnames functioned much like Roman cognomina—descriptive nicknames that later became fixed and handed down to subsequent generations. Relative to our own surnames, those of durulz tend to favour personal, physical origins over those derived from their occupation or the landscape. Unlike the Heortlings, the durulz rarely use patro-(and indeed matro-)nymics, except perhaps in Sartarite company.

The peculiar thing with ducks is that they don’t actually possess a family name until they are a couple of years old. A duckwife doesn’t take her drake husband’s family name, nor vice versa. After all, a grey-bellied Blackscap suddenly going by the name Yellowbelly would just be silly. Instead, juvenile durulz tend to take their name after that part of the inheritance that is strongest–which usually becomes quite apparent during fledging.

Now, ducks inherit characterstics from both parents, but it’s usually quite clear if a juvenile duck is a Honeyrump or a Bluebeak, irrespective of where they live, and which parent was of which family—though with family names like Fatleaf and Shagflax, there’s often a little room for interpretation.

Usually the family name is confirmed by a gaggle of relations, friends and elders, not shy of giving their opinions. It’s much like the, “Ooh, he’s got his mother’s eyes!” that we feel the need to indulge in. Well, if that mother is a Ringeye, that settles it! If there is some room for argument, its usually resolved by the interested parties squawking loudly at each other until one side gives in. Double-barrelled names are rare, but occasionally resorted to in situations where it really is difficult to decide. Dominant family traits are remarkably robust, persisting through the centuries. Sure, a few Yellowbellies have underfeathers the colour of dull straw, and some Reedsongs sing a touch flat, but it would be churlish to deny the link.

In addition to using hatching names to refer to ducks of like family, quite a few further descriptive nicknames spring up, much like they did in the earliest times. These bear many similarities to Roman agnomina and just as commonly reference deeds and occupations as physical characteristics. Indeed, such an agnomen can take root and replace an existing bloodline name, often to distinguish between two branches of an existing family, or in response to some feud or social mobility. Most of the ‘less physiological’ family names—such as the Grubcatchers, Sprypoles and Slopbanks—represent cadet branches of older bloodlines.

Durulz usually consider a hatching name to be an informal, family affair—and if used by strangers it can be considered presumptive and rude. Contrastingly, they really don’t mind being called by their family name alone, irrespective of their schooling practices.

Durulz kings and queens are always referred to by their family names, as it is a matter of great import and reflection upon the bloodline. To distinguish between different monarchs of the same bloodline, the suffix being the X of that ilk is usually added, e.g. King Thunderthroat, being the fourth of that ilk. In this scheme, there is no distinction by way of gender: kings and queens alike are accounted on the same roll.