Government and Law
Nonil government is headed by a series of councils which make legal decisions based on a majority vote. There are always two superior councilmembers, who are responsible for executive decisions regarding certain major issues, such as declaration of war. These people always lead in pairs, sometimes mates together. It is believed that if power is more spread out, then there is less risk of corruption. Thus, even though the Nonil have a hierarchical government, they always install heads of council in pairs. These two people must share power equally between them, and come to agreements on their own regarding government and legal decisions. This is thought to encourage temperance and consideration, and thus more ethical behavior in politics and leadership.
Legal code based on ethical standard was originally written by a group of philosophers, which is updated every thirty years. The Nonil philosopher Isnesias, who lived around ten thousand years ago, urged the ideal that law should be based directly on ethics, which had not been the case for some time amongst the Nonil. Isnesias herself was a member of the highest council, so she had some influence over the legal processions of the state. Over time, her treatises on ethics and law became increasingly popular, until at last the councils came together and commissioned a group of philosophers to expand upon her ideas and create the vasshassis, which translates literally as “thought formation”. Though the code continues to be altered as needed according to the ethical standards of the times, the basic outline has changed very little since the origin writing. This is in part due to the long lives, and thus the slow-changing culture of the Bayë, but there is also speculation that the existence of the code itself has influenced the moral beliefs of many Nonil. Those who study the works of Isnesias have indeed formed what could be called a school of philosophy. These scholars seek to interpret the exact meaning behind some of Isnesias’ more ambiguous phrases, but they also often serve as civil servants, searching for the best and most practical ways in which to apply Isnesias’ ideas.
Much of the effectiveness of her code is due to the consistency and temperance of her language—objectivity and justice are stressed, but room is left for the application of mercy, which Isnesias considered an inevitable, and often necessary, aspect of a legal or penal system that was ultimately controlled by individuals.
Nonil culture emphasizes practicality, material success, and stability, which are fairly uncommon social values for Bayë. For these reasons, many Nonil who do have dealings with other Bayë and non-Bayë do so for commercial reasons, creating trade alliances far abroad, even into Elta. The Nonil were the first Bayë to successfully establish a peaceful trade agreement with the Tosi. The Nonil are considered to be one of the most valuable trade partners in Aeniith because of their resources in gold, rubies, and copper, and well as rare and specific types of wood and perfumes from special flowers, the recipes for which are closely guarded secrets.
The main and oldest trade relationships that the Nonil have are with the Mei and the Gotevians. The Mei they have always been allies with, and they also share the cultural value of financial success and practicality, and both peoples have a history of a strong trade system. The Nonil have been more secretive about the sources of their exports, but this has not apparently been a major source of concern for their trading partners, considering the long tradition of Nonil trustworthiness in the international market.
Nonil have long traded precious stones to the Gotevians, which the Gotevians have been using as a form of currency, especially rubies, which are the highest form of currency currently in Gotevi and its territories. Perfume is also heavily exported to Gotevi, especially destined for the upper-middle-classes, for whom Nonil perfumes have became a certain fashion.
Nonil currency basically comes in three forms: stone, metal, and paper. Stone is used for the highest form of currency, called the klisstin. Different types of semi-precious stone may be used for this, including rubies, lapis lazuli, and a black Aeniithian stone called the gapim by the Bayë. The klisstin is used by all Bayë as a common form of currency. The Nonil-specific monies are their coins and paper money, called sukka and nineθ, respectively. Six sukka are worth one nineθ and six nineθ are usually worth one klisstin, depending on inflation. sukka are made of an alloy of copper and silver and are engraved on both sides with an image of a feather pen, one of the symbols of the Nonil. They have smooth edges, are perfectly round, and have a standardized weight. These attributes are somewhat rare throughout Aeniithian currency, especially amongst the Bayë, so they are considered to have skill in minting. The engravings are also extremely detailed in a very specific way that makes it quite difficult for anyone not trained in the governmental mints to make forgeries. nineθ are made from a combination of reed paper and tree paper, which is fortified with silk and cotton. They are greenish blue in color and decorated with various designs of the Nonil, including the feather pen, the red star, and the black ivy.
Culture and Society
It is customary for extended families to live together in large communal buildings called fulisteθ. Living alone either indicates that one has either been exiled and disowned from one’s family, that one is searching for a mate, or both. In recent years, there has been a movement of individuals and also of couples who wish to live apart from their families, who call themselves noimeθ, or “those alone”.
Another communal aspect of Nonil culture is the frequent adoption and “sharing” of children. Children are often raised for the most part in large groups under the supervision of a few adults. They may also have several “mothers” and “fathers” to whom they are either unrelated genetically or who are distant cousins, aunts, or uncles. As such, children frequently form close familial relationships with many people in the community. Close friends, too, are often called siblings and treated by each other’s families as relatives. Thus, the line between friend and family is very indistinct in Nonil culture, and one might say that blood relation has little or no social relevance.
The Wedding Ceremony
Another notable aspect of Nonil tradition is their very long and drawn out wedding ceremonies. Even in comparison to other Bayë, whose rituals are often lengthy, the Nonil stand out. At times their weddings can last for six months or more, being composed of several symbolic stages. The initial stage is called vesirle, meaning roughly “celebration” or “enjoyment”. The couple to be married gathers a group of as many people that they are acquainted with and there is a period of feasting and music, which usually lasts one to two months. Usually the guests will go home at night to sleep, though many may sleep at the family house where the wedding is being held. They must return to their work or duties periodically, but remain at the celebration as much as they can. This stage of the wedding is meant to familiarize the two spouses with socialization with each other in the context of a large group. There are several traditions concerning dress in this stage: the females historically wear red and purple, and the males white and green. These colors are symbolic and relate to luck and good fortune for the marriage in the future. Red symbolizes power and purple contentment, while white and green signify bravery and vitality, respectively.
The second stage of the wedding is called the novassle, or the solitary contemplation. During this period, which lasts one to two months, the couple must separate from each other completely and remain in isolated meditation, during which time they often take days of fasting. This is said to increase their endurance of being separated and also their ability to remain independent in thought despite their close psychological connection to each other. They are also denied close contact with other people, and must avoid as much as possible what are called monflinixeθ, or mental distractions. These can include loud sounds, strong scents or tastes, or even a form of entertainment like dancing or singing.
The third and final stage of the marriage ritual is called the matsita, or “togetherness”. During this period, the two spouses must stay together as constantly as possible with minimal contact with others. This is traditionally done so that the two people can come to bond yet more closely, but also so they can learn to tolerate each other’s faults. This stage is usually the longest of the three, lasting two and a half months on average.
After all three stages of the wedding, the marriage is completed by both parties writing their names together in their respective families’ books of marriage, thereby sealing their oaths to one another. These oaths are always unique, often something decided upon during the meditations of novassle.
The Nonil have ancient literary traditions that have been passed down throughout tens of thousands of years. These traditions generally fall into one of three literary categories, as defined by the Nonil. The first category is that of the myth saga, which is usually a standardized adaptation of an oral tradition dating back to pre-historic eras. These myths often revolve around a theme if the Nonil ideas about the origin of the world, which are remarkably unique to the Nonil.
Second is the historical legend, which is based in a true historical context but which has so many additions added that it can no longer be called a history. Often there are two parallel stories, one which is the unaltered history and one which is the “dramatically augmented” legend. The Nonil seem to make a game of further adapting these legends for their own amusement, whilst still retaining the real version.
The third variety of literature is simply the history. Unadapted, unaltered, these pieces would defy the label of literature if not for the very specific and stylized language used to write them, making their recording an art. The Nonil are precise about preserving a “clean” version of their history, even though they keep a creatively altered version as a fable. They also keep meticulous archives of all sorts of events, both large and minute. As a result, Nonil libraries are some of the most massive in Aeniith.
Religion and Philosophy
The word “religion” must be loosely interpreted when dealing with the Nonil and their ideas about the universe. Their “religion” is thought of as a series of theories, and has no absolute dogma in the most widespread sects. There is very little worship of or prayer to the higher creator beings that might be called gods, for they are not seen as intrinsically superior, merely different and far more powerful than any inhabitant of Aeniith. Thus the mythos surrounding the creation of Aeniith is not homage to the creators, but an account of ideas that are assumed most likely to be true, by virtue of tradition.
There are several sects which interpret the ancient mythological traditions differently. The most widespread by far is the vaislemma, which views the creator beings not as gods but as fallible but generally benefactive entities that gave consciousness to the Nonil of Aeniith. They are seen as things to be studied and contemplated. It is also believed by some of this sect that the Peleri have the ability to intervene and come to the aid of the Nonil whenever they see fit, and that the fact that they have not yet is proof that the Nonil’s situation on Aeniith has not yet come to catastrophe.
Another popular sect is the timplasske, which believes that the traditional mythological stories should be interpreted in a supremely metaphorical way, the “Peleri” being symbolic figures representing inanimate forces in the universe. This is not considered heretical by adherents of vaislemma per se, since there is no dogma surrounding the Peleri for them, rather the timplasske is considered absurd and unnecessary by most vaislemma followers. timplasske in its current form was largely developed by the philosopher Ipehia, who interpreted the ancient myths as metaphor used by the ancestors of the Nonil to describe forces in the universe that were at that time unknowable to the Bayë, and that these metaphors made them more accessible and understandable as ideas. During Ipehia’s lifetime, her ideas were not largely accepted, but around three hundred fifty years after her death, they began to grow in popularity, eventually evolving into the second largest sect of Nonil religion.
Beside vaislemma and timplasske, there are several other lesser but well-known sects, the most notable of which are ɸimass and tlexai. ɸimass holds to the idea that since the Peleri created the Nonil, they should be given regular praise, but worship is considered unnecessary. tlexai assumes that if the Peleri created the Nonil, they are worthy of worship and are to be treated as gods. tlexai is where the Nonil come closest religion in the strictest sense of the word. Follows of tlexai also believe that there are certain wishes or ordinances that the Peleri gave to the Nonil that must be carried out to please them.
Myths of the Nonil
Below are several of the major myth stories of the Nonil concerning the Peleri:
“Before the existence of this world, there were the beings we call the Peleri. They had neither face nor voice nor scent, and there were none who perceived them at all. They had existed for as long as their memories told. Time to them was as a block of stone, clear to them as three dimensions of depth, height, and width. Their understanding of time was ambiguous even to them, yet limitless. Their endurance in the universe, too, was indefinite.
“The Peleri existed in stasis, unchanging, despite their ability to know time as they did, they were unable to change it except by their deeds, as we are. And despite their power, they were not omnipotent, and had to experiment as anyone does with their universe.
“They were bored. Their minds had absorbed all that they could and now had begun to stand still, and they did not like this. They had gathered knowledge of so many things that were—stars, nebulae, skies, planets, light, and matter, but they wished for something with consciousness that was similar to their own, a consciousness that they might watch evolve and act on its own will. They wished to see the purposeful mind of another being.
“The first of the Peleri who sought to give life to this idea was called Moika by the Nonil who came to be later. Moika communicated the plans it had conceived for the creations of other sentients, but the Peleri were uncertain about their ability to do such a thing. One of the others, called by us Vekka, said, ‘This feat is beyond us; none in our history has accomplished what you have posed. And indeed, it may not be possible at all in principle—we are the only things aware we know. Perhaps we are the only that can be.’ But Moika was not convinced and replied that this assumption was baseless. There were others too who believed in the possibility that Peleri could be able to create a being that had consciousness.
“So in the end it was decided that several of the Peleri who were the most skilled in forming and manipulating matter would come together and make an attempt to create something that was aware of itself. Moika was the foremost who set about gathering material that would serve as the tangible vessel for this new mind, and four others, whom we call the Four Conjurers, aided Moika: Tsitai, Vraimmi, Aixa, and Teltekka. They began with the elements of living things as they had observed before, but they modified it so that it might contain the mind they desired.
“And this form seemed to all of them sufficient, as they had put in it all the necessary parts that would support it corporally. But Moika wondered now about how they would create the very mind they especially sought, and it remained still a long while in thought, searching through its ancient memories for clues to this predicament. At last it grew weary of this, and instead came to its comrade Teltekka, for Teltekka understood better than any the nature of the mind and heart. And Teltekka said that this problem was the very fundament of this feat they were trying to accomplish; to make matter was simple enough, but consciousness was higher, something different entirely in nature. Teltekka at last said that it would have to find the answer to this not in waking thought, but in dream, for in dream, it said, pieces converge, and the window becomes free of fog. So Teltekka put itself into a profound dream, in which it perceived nothing but what existed in its own mind, and in this dream it remained.
“At length, it began the process of awakening, though many of the other Peleri had believed it would still sleep for longer. Nonetheless, Teltekka was awake, and it came to Moika in great excitement, for it had, it said, discovered the answer they sought. ‘The only way to make another mind is out of the only source of consciousness we know: ourselves. I have determined that we must use our own mind seed and create this new child out of Peleri thought itself.’ But Moika was uneasy, for the mind seed was the center of the Peleri mind, and without such a thing, many Peleri believed they would cease to exist. ‘Surely we cannot do this,’ said Moika. ‘It is the only way,’ answered Teltekka. And they withdrew to themselves, but at last, Moika made its decision, and reached deep into its mind and extracted this seed, preserving its pattern behind a veil of dust so as not to kill it. And Teltekka was on edge, as it expected Moika’s cessation, but Moika did not cease, but hurried to instill the seed in matter that would be the new being’s body.”