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Urban Legend

A ɦúlêr, lit. "hunting story", is the Stenza term for an urban legend. The name comes from the fact that the most common subject matter of these stories by far is some crisis involving the Stenza food supply.  
If I had to pick a quintessential Stenza urban legend, it would... it would probably be the spores in the brain thing. Like, we all know parasitic fungi exist. That's a known fact. And you hear "oh this herd of Basket Horns died because of spores in their brains" that makes perfect sense. Now, that specific scenario has never happened, but many have died of parasites, fungi and otherwise. I found spores in the heart and lungs, and in my tongue meat once, but I think those were put there posthumously to mess with me.
— Ta'zhen


The most common Stenza urban legend is about some variety of food contamination or mass dying off of prey animals, such as Basket Horns, Kʉrdeneχ, and others. The killer varies from instance to instance, including an invading alien warship, parasitic fungi in various organs, prions, and even the will of the gods, most specifically Iradae.   Another common urban legend involves a ship stranding (or "beaching") itself in the void of space, after members of a Ship's Technician team detect some hideous, indescribable monster. Usually this monster is linked to the Stone Menace in captivity, but other varieties have been described as "pup-like", "shadowy", or "Oh stars it was awful!"   In a noteworthy bit of exchange, the Stenza have also borrowed the idea of The Symmetrical Tree from the Sandibari, who fear the spot immensely and have told the story of a cursed clearing in their forests to their Stenza visitors. Some say that the first Stenza who went to investigate are still wandering around that spot to this very day, and anyone who goes after them is also lost.

Historical Basis

In the case of mass illnesses in prey animals, there is a solid basis in scientific fact for these tales. Many specimens have been found over the years having died due to a host of causes: lightning strikes, prion diseases, and the odd parasitic fungus. The most common parasites are worms, amoebae, or other microorganisms, however, and viral and bacterial pathogens have also caused epidemics.   Additionally, there is such a place as The Symmetrical Tree. Only the bravest of Sandibari even approach the edge of the clearing which contains it, however, and in their oral histories it is known as a site where birds and large fauna simply vanish without a trace.   Besides these, it is rare for urban legends to be based in any kind of historical or scientific fact. More often they serve as reasons to pay attention on your appointed rounds (such as for the tales about ships), or to clean and check your food.


Many Stenza have heard at least one urban legend at least once in their lives. Some are childlore which help reinforce religious and social principles as taught by the adults who care for them. Some are told for entertainment value, falling under storytelling traditions more broadly. However, sometimes these tales are told in complete seriousness by someone who earnestly believes what they are saying. These variants gain a lot of traction until, or despite, the revelation of evidence to dispute the claims.

Variations & Mutation

Many urban myths are likely distortions of real events or what was, at the time of first telling, perceived as real events, only to change and pick up details over time. As on Earth, who the story is "about" changes with each telling, as well, always happening to someone the speaker knows or knows of, even though the person this may have originally happened to is long dead.   Urban myths also adapt to changing fears, often in the realm of scientific discovery. A new species of microbe may spark a story about what it could do to the environment, for example. (Akin to this, older stories about why one must follow the rules of being in or interacting with the Frozen Wastes, such as for Funerary Rites or Hunting Season, have been adapted with modern victims with each telling and generation, to keep the sense of the threat fresh.)
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