The Summer Heroes
Skroz is an island-city in the Levant Ocean off the eastern coast of Orem. It lies about 700 miles east of Darrova and 400 miles southwest of the Saltstones. Skroz was originally settled by Darrovans in prehistoric times, as evidenced by the indigenous language of the island, which is similar to Da’Nor. However, the island does not appear to have ever paid tribute or been politically tied to Darrova.
Skroz is a relatively egalitarian society, in the sense that there is no noble class. Some professions, like accounting, are more highly regarded than others, but the class structure is neither institutionalized nor hereditary.
Today Skroz is a bustling trading city, as well as a center of learning. Major industries include the manufacture of paper, vellum, books, inks, dyes, and textiles.
Geography & Climate
Skroz is an island in the Levant Ocean. The area of the island is approximately 170 square miles. The city of Skroz is located on a large, deep natural harbor on the northwestern shore of the island. Land outside the city walls is reserved for agriculture.
Skroz enjoys a subtropical climate, with warm temperatures year-round. It receives most of its rainfall in the winter months. The island is poor in natural resources: rocky and not terribly fertile. Areas not carefully maintained for agriculture are scrubby, but adequate for grazing flocks. The island used to be home to small, hardy trees, but these were felled for timber long ago.
The first settlers of Skroz came from Darrova in prehistoric times, but the exact time period is unclear. Archaeological evidence shows that the island was home to several small settlements, but artifacts derived from elsewhere in Illuviѐn are evidence of ongoing trade and suggest that the populace never attained full self-sufficiency.
At some point the early Skrozi had the foresight to condense the population into one major settlement and dedicate the rest of the island to agriculture to sustain the urban populace. This settlement, about 60 miles square, was walled off with piled rocks and a pattern of gridded streets was laid. The settlement must have been very sparsely populated at the time, but today it has filled out into a moderately dense city which retains the early grid system.
As the city became denser, catacombs were created by quarrying for stone for building from beneath the city itself. Today these subterranean spaces are bought, sold, and rented just like any other real estate, though they tend to be cheaper than surface spaces. Nobody lives in the catacombs if they can afford not to, since living on the surface is much more pleasant, but some people do.
The city of Skroz was already well-established by the time of the first written records in Illuviѐn. As traders, the Skrozi kept meticulous records of financial transactions using the Da’Nor glyph system. Early written accounts of Skroz indicate that the island had already gained a reputation for processing imported raw materials – one of the first recorded jokes is “What happens when you sell a Skrozi a sheep?” “He paints it purple and sells it back to you for double.”
Skroz has happily continued as a trading center for many centuries, with few momentous events occurring. This is largely due to the city’s political stability; like Darrova, it has had an elected government since prehistoric times. The Skrozi have never attempted to wage war with other polities, and the resource-poor island is not attractive to would-be invaders (such as the Sorian Empire, which never attempted to annex Skroz).
Skroz is governed by the Board of Directors, a body of fifty individuals. Directors are elected to ten-year terms by a popular vote, with five Director seats voted on each year. Anyone over the age of 30 is eligible to run for office, although most Directors come from the most respected professions: accountants, merchants, and intellectuals.
The island does not maintain a standing military, only a city police force and coast guard, although by law in an emergency all civilian vessels and crews could be conscripted to form a navy.
Skroz’s largest industries involve processing raw or lightly improved materials that have been imported from elsewhere. Imported lumber is converted into paper; hides are made into vellum; dried plants are converted into inks and dyes; cloth is dyed, and yarns are dyed and woven into tapestries and carpets. Some of these products stay in Skroz, but most are exported.
Due to the fact that Skroz produces paper and inks, a lively book publishing industry has arisen in Skroz, as well as a service industry of accounting professionals. The best scribes and accountants in Illuviѐn are educated at the University of Skroz.
Skrozi cuisine is based on fresh seafood. While over half the island is dedicated to agriculture, most of its output is grain that is stored for emergencies. Seaweed is the only fresh vegetation consumed by most Skrozi. Fresh meat and eggs are available but expensive, and usually reserved for special occasions. Due to the scarcity and high price of milk, most native Skrozi are lactose intolerant, so dairy products such as butter and cheese are largely absent from the local cuisine.
Dried, salted, canned, or pickled meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables are imported. Skrozi cuisine is heavy on imported spices, which renders the seafood- and preserved-food-centric diet less monotonous. Skrozi consume a lot of bread, as flour is easy to transport.
Regional specialty dishes include seafood stews, raw fish wrapped in seaweed and rice, and specialty breads made from exotic grains or studded with dried fruits.
Skrozi traditionally spoke a dialect of Da’Nor, the language early settlers brought from Darrova, and wrote in Da’Nor Glyphs. However, Imperial Common, the language of trade, has been widely adopted and is now the language used for government documents. Skrozi schoolchildren still learn Da’Nor and the glyph system alongside Common, but few of them speak it at home.
Skrozi tend not to dedicate themselves to one god, but worship them all equally for maximum profit. The Great Hall of the Church of All Deities of the World (colloquially known as the All Hall) is a temple for all the gods of Illuviѐn. It is a large round structure with an Upper Hall slightly above street level and a crypt-level Lower Hall below. The Upper Hall is a domed space with nine radiating chapels for the nine Primals and an oculus representing Ahn. The dome is painted with frescoes depicting scenes from the Jewelsong. The Lower Hall is a riot of shrines to the various regional and ethnic deities of the world. Many Skrozi take advantage of the ambulatory format of the All Hall to worship at the shrine of each of the Primals on the same trip.
The last day of each month is a public holiday and feast day dedicated to one of the nine Primals or four Archon. Each holiday has attendant rituals and associated foods.
Arts and Architecture
Because Skroz is poor in resources, all building materials must be imported or recycled from existing structures. For this reason the Skrozi prefer to build with stone, which doesn’t wear out the way wood and brick do. Skrozi buildings tend to be constructed from a patchwork of different stone types, with columns and other decorative features frequently mismatched.
Skrozi artists tend to produce decorative textiles, such as tapestries and rugs, rather than works on paper or canvas. Virtually no sculpture is produced, as that would tie us materials (like wood and stone) that could be used in construction.
Like most large trading cities, Skroz has a strong criminal element. In the past there were multiple organized crime syndicates, but in recent years one crime boss has risen over the rest and is acknowledged to run the city from the shadows. Nobody knows his true identity; he is known only as Uncle. There are no reports of anyone having met Uncle directly; even his top lieutenants communicate only with Sahra, his Mouthpiece. Rumors about Uncle’s identity abound; it is popularly believed that he is a major merchant in the city, and about ten individuals are widely considered the best candidate to be Uncle, although they all deny it.