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Introduction

Freehold is the second planet of a K3-class star 21.4 light years from Sol. It has an orbital period of 0.689 Standard Years and a rotational period of 1.124 Standard Days. Its diameter is 9,204 km, its surface gravity 0.62 Standard. Its only satellite is a captured planetoid, 55 km in diameter, in a highly eccentric and retrograde orbit.

Less than a third of Freehold's surface is covered with water, most of it concentrated in two seas in the northern and southern hemispheres. Most of the surface is scattered with uncountable numbers of lakes and marshes; the terrain rather resembles Finland or Manitoba.

Freehold is relatively close to its primary, but because its primary is cooler and dimmer than Sol, its temperate zone is in the tropics. There are three basic climatic zones: a temperate equator and the two frigid poles, with transition zones between them. Because of the planet's small size, there is a relatively high degree of interaction between the zones: the zones being physically closer together, and the light gravity allowing the air to move farther and faster. Furthermore, the tropical zone is unusually wide, because the axial inclination is greater.

The average temperature at the equator is 20 degrees centigrade, with a daily variance range of about five degrees. The temperate zone experiences two cycles of wet and dry seasons each orbit, as the seasonal cycle in either hemisphere spills over into the tropics. As one hemisphere enters summer, the polar icecaps recede: meltwater floods through low or dry riverbeds, while evaporation precipitates in often violent rainstorms.

The population is centered on the isthmus between the northern and southern seas, where the capital city is located. Settlement extended along the shores and isles of these seas, and in two waves spreading eastward and westward, fanning out from the equator and meeting each other again on the opposite side. Major settlements include the planetary capital, Stronghold; the ports of Piraeus and Ostia, on opposite sides of the isthmus; Antipolis, on the far side of the planet; and many towns and small cities in between.

Freehold was settled by the Neuters, a biologically-engineered race of sexless mutants who reproduce by cloning and ectogenesis. They were refugees from Mars, where they had first relocated after escaping the Biotic Wars on Venus. The Neuters are ageless as well as sexless: immortal, barring disease, accident, or violence.

Physiologically, the Neuters are all slender in build, and usually small in stature as well. Between the legs they have only the urethral orifice, invisible except upon close anatomical inspection; they have no nipples, not even the vestigial ones that men have. They are also beardless, and completely lack hair on the body. They have wide eyes, high brows, and small chins. Their coloring ranges along the full spectrum from pinkish skin, blue eyes, and blond hair, to brown skin, dark eyes, and black hair. The hair is wavy and very fine; most let it grow down to the shoulders, covering the ears.

Dha-Patu, 'The Language', was an artificial one, created by a Neuter who adopted the cognomen Sápetni, 'Name-Giver'. It was intended, like so many earlier such schemes, to serve as a simple, logical, perfectly consistent, universal language, superseding all the various complicated and arbitrary parochial languages. As it turned out, all the Neuters, but only the Neuters, were receptive to the scheme. Dha-Patu gradually replaced the local Anglic dialect as the vernacular of the planet, and was eventually adopted as its official language.

Philologists demarcate three stages in the evolution of the language: the original language as it was created, called the Páturuon or Archaic Dha-Patu; Middle Dha-Patu, when the language had become the living vernacular and began to grow and change as a natural language; and Late Dha-Patu, when the language finally diverged into distinct dialects, each with its own literary traditions. The most widespread dialect of Late Dha-Patu was the Páttungafat or Common Speech of the Neuter worlds. Meanwhile, two other languages emerged independently from the archaic language: Freeholder and Thomavmic. This group of languages (the protolanguage and its three derivatives) is called Patic, from the common root -pat- 'language': Dha-Patu, Pattudha, dhapatë-Frijoldë, and dhapat-Thomavm.

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