In Teleleli and the lands around, it is believed that shooting or falling stars are dragons. It is said that when a dragon’s life is at an end they fall to the earth, but in their pride they disdain to touch the ground and so use their baleful breath to set fire to themselves.
Eunuchs are largely unknown in Teleleli, save as refugees from other lands, since they are a product of strong and united governments or churches, and indeed only those which have grown old in power and wickedness, and no such thing is found in the city. The exception to this rule is certain men who choose to castrate themselves and serve a god who is neither male nor female. But they do not call themselves eunuchs.
Eunuchs are valued because they are said to lack ambition, since they cannot have children who they wish to find positions for, nor wives to urge them to greater efforts, nor women they wish to impress. Thus, it is said, they may make good advisors, and also may be entrusted with tasks such as trimming the king’s beard or preparing his food. For if an empire is of sufficient antiquity to produce eunuchs, it is certain that the ruler must constantly guard against assassination.
Those eunuchs who come to Teleleli may make their living as singers, since eunuchs may sing low like men or high like women. Further, if they were castrated before puberty their voices may retain the clear tone of a boy.
Some mystics of Teleleli claim to worship not the gods, but “the unborn within the gods.”
It is said in Teleleli and the lands around that parrots only learn the speech of humans because they are terrified that a language may die out. They are said to prefer to speak in truly dead languages. Alas, this means that they often unintentionally recite the lost knowledge of sorcerers long since perished from their wickedness, with terrible results.
For this reason it is forbidden in most places for wizards to own parrots, but they often do, their love of their own voice extending even to hearing it spoken by another.
Many Telelelenes choose to go to their grave nude. Indeed, it is common for anyone who would be buried clothed, or for temples that would permit such a thing, to be suspected of low moral character. This opinion is justified by a story that once, in the far past, it was common for people to be buried clothed. But thieves would steal the clothes (sometimes the blame is placed on temples, or relatives of the deceased) and sell them. The fluids used in embalming would soak into the clothes, and the new owners would often get sick or die.
There are no gelded horses in Teleleli or the islands around. When the local horses’ manes are cut they lose all desire to copulate, or perhaps become too ashamed to make advances to mares.
The Telelelenes believe that all riding beasts (but not their talking equivalents) can predict the weather. It is said that the camel has a bad temper because, living in desert regions, it has little opportunity to make use of this skill.
Telelelenes believe that physical appearance is the least important element of an individual. For this reason they augment their ‘wanted’ posters with interpretive dancers, who are said to be able to give an insight into the real essence of a person.
Elephants are fairly common in Teleleli, being used to carry heavy loads. There are three guilds of mahoots, or elephant-handlers, in Teleleli, and they are bitter rivals. Each has their own method of training elephants, which their members also follow in their daily lives. One advocates Kindness; another Violence; and a third Trickery. Each guild is said to have been founded by one of three sisters, who were all named Aspasia.
The method of catching elephants is a closely-guarded secret, kept especially from the mahoots. But it is said that the hunters find a tree near a water-hole or other place where elephants congregate. They then saw part of the way through the tree. When an elephant leans against it, to scratch an itch or to rest, both tree and elephant will fall down. Elephants are said to be graceful and agile in all things save in picking themselves up once they have fallen.
Elephants are said to make love back-to-back, due to their extreme shyness.
In Teleleli it is said that anyone may escape a tiger by throwing a glass ball to the ground. If it does not shatter then the tiger, seeing its own reflection within, will believe it to be one of its cubs, and will attempt to pick it up to bring it back home. Others say that this will only be successful for mother tigers.
Since tigers are not known in the city this belief is entirely theoretical and untested. Indeed it occurs to me that it may be based on observing the fascination that cats (both talking and mute) have with their own reflections.