Honu Beach

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Honu is a chain of tropical islands located on a vast, warm sea.  Sandy beaches and excellent weather make Honu the ultimate tourist destination for the City.  Honu's native population are a friendly people who welcome all visitors to their island paradise, so long as they pay respect to the (very real) spirits of the islands.

Sun, Sand, and Surf

Honu consists of more than a dozen islands of various sizes, formed by volcanic activity over millions of years.  The islands are characterized by gorgeous white sand beaches, where tourists can be found sunbathing, swimming, and playing year round.  Beyond the beach the warm waters are home to a plethora of sea life and a vast system of coral reefs, perfect for divers to explore.  The interior regions of the islands are occupied by dense jungle and wide shield volcano mountains, some still active and growing.

While Honu has an abundance of wildlife, it has almost no large predators or venomous animals, and even the deep jungle is remarkably safe for most travellers.  The ocean is slightly more dangerous, with a few venomous fish and carnivorous sharks, but these mostly avoid or ignore people when they can.  Particularly fuzzy rodents and radiant, brightly-coloured birds are more characteristic beasts of Honu.  As well as mild-mannered wild pigs and, of course, turtles.

Since making contact with the City, the people of Honu have turned most of their economy over to tourism.  Hotels, bars, and restaurants are the most common businesses in Honu, along with professional guides, hired boats, and SCUBA instructors.  Virtually all modern amenities are available in Honu.

The Honu People

The Honu people are the native inhabitants of Honu.  They share their name with both their world and their primary deity, which is sometimes confusing to outsiders.  This is amusing to the Honu, and they rarely make any attempt to clarify.

The Honu most closely resemble anthrophomorphic ring-tailed lemurs, though with sleeker fur, larger ears, and slightly different markings.  They are a short people, typically no more than five feet tall, with little height difference between men and women.  They have large, expressive ears and even larger, more expressive eyes, and they are usually smiling.  Honu are covered in sleek fur, more like a cat or otter than a lemur, though their tails are very fluffy and they may have poofy tufts of fur at their ear tips, shoulders, and chest.  Some have distinct hair seperate from their fur while others do not.  A Honu's tail, which is fully prehensile, can be nearly as long as the Honu is tall, and sometimes longer.

Honu faces are their most lemur-like quality.  They share the same markings as ring-tailed lemurs, with triangular black patches around their eyes and dark muzzles, with lighter fur on their cheeks, neck, and chest.  Most have black hands and feet, or at least fingers, and Honu usually have a pattern of dark stripes down their back (more like a meerkat than a lemur) and dark bands down the length of their tail.  Honu differ radically from lemurs in their colouration, however.  Honu are often a mix of reds and oranges, greens and blues, or other bright combinations one would expect to see on a tropical parrot rather than a mammal.  Some are quite brilliantly coloured, but they usually do not directly clash with themselves.  The eye patches, hands, stripes and rings are almost always black, regardless of his other colours.  The lighter parts of a Honu's fur - on the cheeks, neck, and chest - are often white, but commonly are just lighter shades of the more brightly coloured fur on his back, arms, and shoulders.  Sometimes the lighter fur is another colour entirely, but it is almost never as bright or brighter than the "primary" colour.  As Honu age, the colour slowly drains from their fur.  The eldest Honu are pure black and white.

Honu tend to be in good physical shape.  The spirits make sure they eat right and get lots of exercise.  Honu almost never get sick (so long as they are on their own world) or suffer conditions of poor health.  Among older Honu getting fat is sometimes seen as a status symbol, demonstrating that one has lived a good life and is taking it easy now.  Younger Honu, especially those who have yet to chose a lifemate, typically derive status from athletic and intellectual competition.  Swimming and concocting riddles are among the chief pursuits of younger Honu (elders prefer floating and concocting bad puns).

When first encountered, Honu did not wear anything except decorative jewelery.  In order to make their new friends more comfortable, they have taken to wearing at least some clothing, usually brightly coloured bermuda shorts or loose flowing skirts.  Women usually wear some form of loose blouse or bikini top, and it's extremely rare to see men wearing any kind of top at all.  Both genders freely wear jewelery, usually necklaces and bracelets made of natural materials like shell and coral.  They like shiny stones, but do not find gems specifically valuable beyond their shinyness.  Tattoos are common among both genders, but piercings less so.

Honu are friendly and entertaining people.  They are welcoming of strangers and quick to make friends.  The Honu have lived a truly idyllic existence for generations under the protection of their guardian spirits, and are almost reckless with their trust and affection as a result.  They are not quick to forgive any serious betrayal, and a Honu's friendship may be permanently revoked over what seems like a minor infraction, but they will not let previous betrayal prejudice their ability to trust new strangers.

The leader of the Honu is called the Master of Ceremonies, and is elected yearly.  She doesn't have much in the way of special powers or responsibilities beyond making a few public speeches, but she does get to wear a special hat and a shiny sea-shell medallion.

Island Spirits

The people of Honu believe their islands are occupied by guardian spirits, non-corporeal beings of incredible power who protect and provide for the people, making their paradisiacal existence possible.  There are thousands of these spirits, each representing a different aspect of nature or Honu society.  A spirit of mice, a spirit of volcanoes, a spirit of dance, a spirit of liquor... and so on.  The Honu people dedicate nearly everything they do to the spirits, with short prayers and acknowledgements littered all through their every day language and idioms.  There are statues and carvings dedicated to the spirits on all the islands, and smaller ones are sold as souvenirs to tourists in the thousands.

The Honu people are very serious about their belief, and entirely correct.

The spirits of Honu are loving, doting gods who take joy in every happiness of their people.  They control the natural order with absolute attention, carefully managing the weather, the food and resources of the islands, and responding to the needs of the Honu people.  Each has a name and a role to play in maintaining the islands and ensuring the people thrive.

The leader of the spirits, and head of the Honu pantheon, is a being called Honu.  His animal is the sea turtle, and this beast is held in special reverence by the Honu people.  Honu himself is a peaceful, unambitious god, content to relax and take care of his people in peace.  Those few powerful shamans and mystics he has deigned to make contact with report that he is astonishingly mellow in comparison to most godheads.  Other spirits include Pueo the Owl, Puhi the Eel, Mighty Mauna the Mountain, Manu the Shark (one of the few spirits of Honu that is not entirely benevolent) and Ai'enono, a sort of onion used throughout Honu cuisine.

The spirits of Honu are, for the most part, as friendly and welcoming as their followers, and perfectly happy to host the off-world visitors from the City and other worlds.  The Honu people believe that the portal to the City was opened by their spirits, in response to a request to "meet new people."  The spirits still favour their own people, however, and will act to defend the Honu people or the islands.  Visitors to Honu who offend the spirits in some way are likely to experience a rash of bad luck, but not anything really dangerous until they do something quite serious.  A pickpocket or litterbug might find themselves dropping things, tripping comically, and having amusing-but-harmless allergic reactions until they make amends.  A murderer, on the other hand, will  likely receive justice-in-kind from Manu the Shark before he can escape the islands.

According to the legends of the Honu people, they were created as servants of beings too dark and terrible to name.  After a thousand years of service to these nightmarish tyrants, the spirits discovered the Honu people, and whisked them away from their masters to live lives of peace and luxury in this island paradise.  The few mystics who have made contact with the Honu spirits have not been able to verify this myth.  Apparently the spirits don't like to talk about it, and would prefer not to be asked.

Respect for the Spirits

The Honu people impose some restrictions on visitors, though they do so quite politely, and with the provision of alternatives.  Of primary importance to the Honu is environmental protection, which they consider a sacred duty to their spirits.  Littering is a serious offence in Honu culture, an insult to the spirits, the islands, and all the Honu people.  They understand that most off-worlders are not intentionally insulting them however, and will calmly explain why they must not litter the first few times it happens.  The Honu know that off-worlders are not very bright, after all.  Chronic litterers who continue to ignore warnings and instructions will soon find the spirits of Honu punishing their infractions, and can eventually expect to be ejected back to the City and banned from Honu.

Honu environmental protection extends beyond litterbugs, of course.  The island is fully wired for electricity, but it has no power plant, instead depending on the ultimate in green energy, the will of the spirits (specifically Uila the Lightning Bolt).  Gas-powered vehicles are only allowed on the islands if there are no alternatives, and those who need powered transportation in Honu must rent electrical vehicles or stick to electric public transit.  Other people are expected to use any of the freely available public bicycles.  They don't even like toilet paper, preferring their guests wash with bidet-style sink.  Toilet paper can be made available by special request, but will be returned (in a sealed container) when the guest leaves for disposal on their own world, a rather disgusting souvenir.

The Honu allow only moderate fishing and agricultural development on their world, and completely reject any attempts to build factories or polluting industries.  Anyone caught dumping toxic or industrial waste would most likely not return from Honu alive, despite the patience and benevolence of the spirits.

Portal

Honu is accessible by at least three portals, which migrate constantly through reconfigurations but can usually be found in the Sun, Night, and Swift Cantons.  When it moves the location is always well advertized with biodegradable posters and fliers distributed throughout the City.

The Honu portals are identical.  Each is a carved stone arch set into an otherwise ordinary wall, just large enough to admit a small car (though strangely, anyone bigger than a small car who wants to go to Honu will find it impossibly easy to squeeze through).  The arch is always decorated with fresh flowers and palm fronds, and there is often a pair of attractive Honu touts loitering by the portal, inviting passers-by to take a vacation and offering directions and last-minute information to tourists.

The Honu portals are cyclical.  Each is active for one hour, then goes dark for two hours while the portal cycles through the other two arches.  The touts found at each archway can always tell an inquiring visitor precisely how long the wait for the portal will be.

An inactive portal is just a decorated archway, the wall behind it clearly visible.  When active, the archway is filled with a field of translucent, wobbling blue energy.  It looks for all the world like a pool of fresh tropical water, complete with phantom rays of sunlight playing on the wall behind it.  Anyone nearby can hear and smell the ocean.

Anyone who steps through the active portal instantly arrives on the other side, stepping out of an identical portal in an open plaza (or under a quickly-raised canopy if it's raining in Honu).  The visitor will immediately be greeted by a team of professional Honu welcomers, day or night, who will give the newcomer a garland of flowers and something fruity to drink, and make sure they have a place to stay and know where they are going, and what services are available during their visit.

When a visitor is ready to leave Honu, there is a second portal located in the same plaza, where a team of professional farewellers sees off every visitor, making sure they had a good time and telling them they are always welcome back.  The exit portal deposits the visitor back at any of the three City portals.  Some oddity of timing prevents those coming from bumping into those going.

When someone is barred from Honu, the portals simply don't work for them.  They can try to step into them, but they'll just step right through the energy field and bang their nose on the wall.  This must amuse the spirits, because sometimes the portal will work on the second attempt, if the crime that resulted in the barring was relatively minor.