Guide to Gamlock 7
We first encounter Gamlock 7 in Book 3 of the Lilean Chronicles series – Changing Faces and it is here that Vincent and his friends gain valuable information that helps them to destroy an evil so ancient that it is thought to be no more than myth and legend.
The Gamlock system contains twelve planets but only the seventh is able to sustain life as it is the only one at the right distance from its star. Planets 1 to 6 are all far too close to the Gamlock star and therefore too hot, whilst planets 8 to 12 are too far away and therefore too cold.
The Natural Environment
Gamlock 7 is a rugged world where hardiness is necessary for survival. There are a total of 16 landmasses on the planet which together make up 72% of the total surface area of the planet. The orbit of Gamlock 7 around its star makes its days 26 hours long. The landmasses have many mountainous regions with deep valleys between which contain deep jungles. On the flatter plains are the ruins of the great cities in which the all the Gamlock people used to live. The axis of Gamlock 7 is such that its northern pole is permanently tilted towards its star. This means that the weather on the planet is cool and wet in summer and extremely cold in winter. The oceans are very cold and the northern pole is permanently covered in ice on which no life exists at all.
There are 2 small moons in orbit around Gamlock 7 which affect its ocean tides. One is used as a long range communications booster station and the other as a deep space refuelling station.
There are two main seasons on Gamlock 7, summer and winter with a fairly swift blend from one into the other.
Gamlocks (as the planets inhabitents are called) are fairly primitive. This is a conscious lifestyle choice they make and because of this, and the rugged nature of the landscape, there is much flora and fauna that is still unknown. The jungles and deeper regions of the oceans are still unexplored, so the following list is by no means comprehensive.
Krombeen – The main domesticated source of meat for Gamlocks. This vegetarian mammal looks like a rather sturdily built Earth Goat. It has a grey mottled coat of thick fur and a pair of short straight horns that reach up to 12 inches in length. They are dependably docile but easily spooked and are kept in communal herds for use by the whole community. Their meat is rich but rather stringy unless cooked well but its protein content is extremely high and is a valuable source of nutrition. The thick fur is used by the Gamlocks for winter garments.
Allensbunt – This small rodent like creature resembles a cross between a small Earth Rabbit and a rather large Earth Guinea Pig. They range in colour from black to white and all shades of brown, both solid coloured and spotted. Their fur is short but thick and is prized for decorative purposes. They proliferate in large numbers in the high mountain communities and can become something of a nuisance, due to their vegetarian diet and their habit of eating crops planted by the Gamlocks. They are edible and are mainly cooked into stews or pies where plenty of spices or herbs are added as their meat lacks flavour. They can bite if cornered and such bites are usually extremely painful as they can easily bite down to the bone.
Mondagle – A large bird of prey that roams the higher mountainous regions. Its main prey is the Allensbunt and other similar creatures but it has also been seen picking at rotting fruit and gathering berries from the Telbinmora bush. They can be dangerous if cornered but if left alone they won’t bother people. The native Gamlok people love them as they help keep vermin from their crops and animal enclosures. Their tail feathers are used in ceremonial headdresses.
Liffenak – A large winged insect rather like an Earth Moth that inhabits the higher mountainous slopes. It is seen at dusk, when it feeds on nectar from flowers and trees. They can grow to six inches from wing tip to wing tip and a fully grown specimen is an impressive sight. They have dust on their wings, as Earth Moths and Butterflies do, but the dust from the Liffenak is an irritant to the skin and causes an itchy rash. Colouration of the males is a grey brown with darker brown stripes diagonally across the wings while females don’t have the stripes.
Sloffa – A dangerous reptile with a stinging barb hidden behind each of it’s hind legs. Adult males can grow to a couple of feet from head to tail with females seldom reaching more than a foot or so in length. They have fairly thick skin which has the ability to change its colouration to help camoflage the animal. Sloffas inhabit almost all areas on Gamlok 7 with the exception of the permanently snow covered northern polar region and when moving to a different area, within a couple of days the skin will adapt its colouration to fit in with its new environment. They are not aggressive by nature, but will defend themselves when threatened by using a poisonous barb hidden behind each of the back legs. The poison is a powerful neurotoxin and a fully grown and healthy male can deliver enough poison to easily kill a fully grown man. There is no known cure and death is always the result of such unfortunate encounters.
The Gamlok People
The people of Gamlok are solidly built, rather coarse looking individuals. Their bodies have a thickish fat layer beneath the skin, to help them survive the cold temperatures and their musculature is heavy and strong. Their skin has a slightly reddish hue and a weather beaten appearance, with large open pores. They have slightly pronounced brow ridges and large noses with flared nostrils. Their hair is dark brown, thick and wavy. They live a fairly primitive lifestyle, raising their own crops and animals and they seem to prefer living at fairly high altitudes where the weather is usually cold, wet and windy.
The lifespan of the Gamlok people isn’t that high, due to their lifestyle and their environment and a man of fifty is considered very elderly. Woman live approximately ten years longer than their male counterparts.
The Gamlok people are a hardy race, built to live in a harsh environment but they do have a few medical problems peculiar to themselves. They treat illness with a mixture of herbal remedies and spiritual healing and death is not something they fear. Their diseases and ailments have common names rather than official names, due to their adopted primitive lifestyle and these names often differ from region to region. I will restrict this list to those most commonly termed by most regions.
The Fever – This ailment, caused by the bite of a parasitic insect is characterised by a high fever, profuse sweating, a bitter smelling odour from the body and seizures. The high temperature will bring on the seizures, whereupon the sufferer will ball the hands into fists, curl the toes under and the whole body will tremble. These seizures usually last for less than a minute before the patient will then lapse into unconsciousness for anything up to an hour before the next seizure grips them. They are treated with Tallen leaves, steeped in boiling water for ten minutes. The resulting bitter brew is fed to the patient constantly until the fever breaks, which usually happens on the third day after the first symptoms appear.
Stunted growth – This is a genetic disorder caused by the gene pool being too small. Babies are born healthy but as they grow and develop, their bodies display symptoms very similar to dwarfism. There is no cure but such afflicted children live completely normal lives, being regarded by the locals as ‘special’ in some way, as though they have been especially spiritually blessed. As such, they often grow up to work in service of the Imshak.
Paling – This ailment is, essentially, anaemia and the symptoms displayed are typical of this common affliction. In the Gamlock people, their normally weather beaten complexion pales significantly, giving rise to its common name. Treatment is usually given in the form of a bitter tasting brew made from certain leaves and roots of common plants, boiled in water and drunk.
Krombeen Sickness – This fatal illness is caused by years of close exposure to the Krombeen, the Gamlock people’s main meat animal. The skin of this animal exudes an oil that helps to maintain the skin and fur but it is poisonous to humanoids over long periods of exposure. This is the reason why this illness always affects older members of the community who have bred and cared for herds of Krombeen for years. The gradual build up of this poison within the humanoid body, which has no means of dealing with it, eventually causes the internal organs to begin shutting down. The Gamlock people have no cure for this illness and it is the main killer of the Gamlock people.
White hair – This is so named because of its one visible symptom, white hair. It is a genetic disorder that afflicts approximately 1 in each 5000 births. People so afflicted tend to be of lighter build than their dark counterparts and their capacity to endure hard labour is also less. On average they will die approximately 10 to 15 years earlier than non affected people. Their skin is a lighter brown than the usual reddish hue and lacks the coarse appearance of their darker counterparts. They are regarded by the Gamlock people as very beautiful and all White Hair people are allowed to take 3 spouses.
The Gamlock people are peaceful, gentle people. They always welcome visitors with a smile and whilst not being overly friendly at first, they accept newcomers quickly and often take them into their homes for food and a bed for the night. Violence is very rare among the Gamlock people and very few of them have weapons of any kind, other than those necessary to ward of dangerous predators who might harm them or their herds of animals. This doesn’t mean they are a pushover though for if bullied or mistreated, their build and strength allows them to defend themselves with ease.
They love life and regard every living thing as an equal life force to themselves. Their capacity for hate has been so forcibly controlled due to events in the distant past that they are, in effect, extremely pacifist in nature. Life is hard on the mountains of Gamlock but the people regard their community as one family and readily help each other out. They are not overly demonstrative emotionally, they show their feelings in actions rather than words.
Despite choosing such a primitive lifestyle, they have great intelligence and those few who leave Gamlock for other worlds have little trouble with education and reach standards equalling those of any other race. They lack that competitive streak, feeling no need to compete with others for anything.
Their life is largely led by the Imshak, the spiritual leader of the community. The Imshak serves the community for 6 years, after which they move to another community for another 6 years and so on. The Gamlock people feel they gain more from regular changes of Imshak, rather than have the same one all the time. The Imshak is first and foremost, an advisor in all things from relationships to crop planting and everything in between. They officiate at Joinings, the Gamlock wedding, at births where they ensure the spirit of the child is unharmed from the birth process and fixes the child’s spirit firmly into the body by means of a brand burned into the soft spot on top of the skull. This happens 20 days after birth, for the Gamlock people believe that the child’s spirit takes 20 days to forget its time in what is called ‘The Before’ and become fully integrated with its physical body. The brand is made by a tiny metal rod, half a centimetre in diameter that is heated red hot in the Imshak’s own sacred fire. The red hot tip of the rod is dabbed onto the soft spot of the baby’s skull for no more than a second and although painful, no lasting damage occurs.
The Imshak also officiates at funerals. The Gamlock people believe in an afterlife they call ‘The Everland’ and the Imshak is there to give the deceased spirit the right passwords that will ensure its passage through the 8 gates that block the way between this physical life and The Everland. These gates are, in the order in which the spirit must pass through them – regret, indecision, fear, hate, anger, pride, acceptance and love. The Imshaks give the spirit the right passwords through a complicated series of rituals and prayers that last 11 hours, during which he or she will neither eat nor drink anything.
They believe that all things have a life force and that in order to live in harmony, one must ask for food, water, shelter and so on. Before killing one of their herd for meat, they ask its life force for permission and express gratitude for it afterwards. The same goes for gathering firewood, where they ask the wood spirit to allow them to burn the wood for warmth or to cook and to show their gratitude afterwards, they spread the ash from their fires and dig it into the ground to re-nourish the planet. Everything they take, they ask for and give gratitude afterwards and to be found to not be doing so is regarded as a crime against life and creation.
As has been said above, the Gamlock people live in individual communities of up to 100 or so people, led by an Imshak, their spiritual leader. Their community laws are simple; no stealing, no violence and no journeying to the old cities. If the laws are disobeyed, the person is taken to the Imshak who consults with their advisors in the spiritual realm and prescribes any punishment that may be deemed appropriate. Such punishment is almost always, isolation from the community for a set number of ‘sun cycles’ (months) during which they are not permitted to have any interaction with others in the community. Food is left for them daily, as is firewood and everything necessary for life if they are unable to provide it for themselves but no communication is allowed. This enforced isolation is a very effective punishment for a people used to living in a community that works together for the good of everyone. The person spends hours each day with the Imshak, discussing their crime and the reasons for it. Prayers are said and guidance from the spirit realm is asked for. After their allotted isolation time is up, they are welcomed back into the community and few commit such crimes a second time.
Courtship is usually a rather clinical affair, due to the small size of the average Gamlock community. There simply aren’t that many single males and females to choose from, so the parents usually agree with another couple to ‘promise’ their children to each other when they become of an age to marry. When there are no single males or females, the Imshak can arrange for a discussion with a neighbouring community who may have an abundance of young people of the right age. Such discussions can lead to a valuable input of fresh genes in to the gene pool and sometimes this can lead to the two comunities joining into one larger one. In such cases the two Imshaks will continue to serve the now larger community until whichever of them is first to leave at the end of their 6 year service.
Sex among Gamlok couples seems to universally follow the same procedure. The male will enter the female from behind in a similar fashion to the way animals copulate. The male testicles are rather large and an average ejaculation produces approximately three times the amount from an average Earth male. The sperm cells are unusual in that once they reach the halfway point in their journey to the female’s womb, the sperm breaks into two pieces, the front half of which dies, leaving the rear half to continue the journey.
Child mortality is high, therefore the Gamlok people have large families. A couple will typically have six or seven children and expect two or three to reach adulthood. A couple who have committed to a lifelong union will always be monogamous. Adultery is unheard of in Gamlok society and there isn’t even a word for it in their language. Children attend school from three years of age, where they are taught to read and write and do basic mathematics. The parents teach them to raise crops and keep animals and to obey the tenets of their belief system.
The Gamlock people have chosen their primitive way of life. One of their stories tells of a time they call ‘The Great Downfall’ during which, the highly mechanised and industrial society they lived in, became embroiled in a bitter war which ended in almost total annihilation. This war was caused by lust for power over the only Endium mine on the planet. This mine gave them the raw material for their fusion reactors that powered their cities. The mine was situated within the boundary of the Lognarian tribe, who sold Endium to all the other tribes and consequently became the richest of the Gamlock tribes. Jealousy amongst the other tribes eventually led to an uprising, which became an all out war that only ended when a powerful bomb exploded within the mine. The resulting earthquake caused millions of further deaths and the mine, and their source of great power for their cities, was lost. Having brought themselves to near extinction, the survivors chose to end the time of tribes and abandoned the plains where their great cities once stood and headed for the mountains to live as simple a life as they could. The ruins of the Gamlock cities are still there but journeying there is forbidden. They believe that the bad spirits of those past people are still there unable to pass through the 8 gates to The Everland and that to go there would be to run the risk of having one or more of them possess you.