Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-02-11 09:07am

Simon_Jester wrote:
Ahriman238 wrote:Horse-drawn carriage with rubber tires, and steamship. One of those legs where a Voice needs to take a fast dispatch ship over the water to pass on the message.
This is one way in which the Voice network is at a disadvantage compared to, say, telegraph cables: messages cannot cross a major water gap faster than the speed of transport.

Laying undersea telegraph cable is straightforward given 1900-era technology, although it'd be hard to do it in the wilderness on the portal frontier, because you'd have to build a big ship in order to lay the cable.


What puzzles me is that it's, what, 500 miles? If the Voice doesn't have the range to make the call, why is she even there (okay, in text she's a substitute for their primary Voice who was sick, but shouldn't even the backup have the range to be useful?)


This ability of magic crystal-cybernetics is a good third of the reason I think their dragons use antigravity.
That would actually explain a fair bit. Although when you shoot a dragon they fall out of the sky, in a fashion that apparently doesn't look counterintuitive to Sharonan observers. So while they may be using antigravity implants, it almost has to be limited to 'weight reduction,' with the dragons still having respectable weight.

That, or the cybernetics have an on/off switch and spontaneously switch 'off' whenever a dragon is seriously hurt, which is frankly the opposite of how I'd do it given the choice.


Well, dragons are bigger than elephants, yet fly. Sometimes while carrying 40 men. Other writers would handwave or ignore this, but David Weber? They can implant wafer-thing crystal devices into animals, and one thing we see the crystals do is create antigrav. Also, the Sharonans (mostly Jathmar and Shaylar) comment a couple times on the striking, tattoo-like patterns on a dragons' wings.

I do think they just reduce the weight to something the dragons' wings can lift. Otherwise, why would a dragon ever need a rest stop?


Varena is a more conventional sort of precog. And it seems Ternathian law require the royals marry someone Talented, presumably to increase the odds of children inheriting the signature family super-precog Talent.
Honestly, I suspect that various social factors almost have to be in play encouraging selective breeding for Talent in Sharonan societies.


Quite likely. Makes you wonder if Shaylar and Jathmar's kids would get his Mapping, her Voice, both, neither or some other Talent altogether.


Remind me again how Sharona eliminated all gender bias back in the freaking Iron Age? Because women can be Talented and a nightmare in a fight just as easily as men?
Clearly they didn't. Although there's a divide between "women have actual rights, aren't property, and can pursue a variety of fulfilling careers" and "women have full equality."


Granted.


Another note: interestingly, very few Talents seem to have much direct combat application in terms of making you personally dangerous. We've seen a variety of Talents that real life military commanders would maim to get access to, but none of them are for blowing people up or moving with superhuman speed or anything like that.


Janaki? Granted, not really seeing many of the 'light things on fire with my mind' sort of direct effect, though they could well exist. But a precog in the right place can turn a battle around, as could a Tracker.


Defused that one but seriously, stop doing this.
Unfortunately impossible.

Frankly, the Arcanans just plain seem to have a severe lack of... empathy, I guess? It's not that they don't care about other people or want to treat them right. It's that they just don't seem to have any real knack for understanding how other people think or feel until someone hits them over the head with it.


Well, the Andarans have this whole military culture, stiff upper lip, stop-your-whining-and-walk-it-off attitude towards emotional distress. The Mythalans will care about your feelings only if you're Mythalan, and of the right caste. Ransar we don't know too much about, Gadriel as our token Ransaran character seems pretty considerate of others. But this is a very new situation with someone who doesn't speak any of their languages, doesn't understand their technology, doesn't have any good reason to trust them (she knows they don't mean further harm through touch-telepathy, but the Arcanans have no way of knowing that) and plenty of reason to hate them, and is rather emotionally fragile on top of it all.

Under the circumstances, this particular blowup could have been far, far worse. Despite the language barrier, they understood the problem within seconds and corrected it with a visual demonstration Shaylar could understand. It's very easy to imagine another such incident where they had no idea what set her off, and couldn't calm her down. Because it's not obvious or intuitive to them to think of how what they're doing looks from an outside perspective, ignorant of their basic taken-for-granted magic-tech.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-02-11 01:26pm

Ahriman238 wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:
Ahriman238 wrote:Horse-drawn carriage with rubber tires, and steamship. One of those legs where a Voice needs to take a fast dispatch ship over the water to pass on the message.
This is one way in which the Voice network is at a disadvantage compared to, say, telegraph cables: messages cannot cross a major water gap faster than the speed of transport.

Laying undersea telegraph cable is straightforward given 1900-era technology, although it'd be hard to do it in the wilderness on the portal frontier, because you'd have to build a big ship in order to lay the cable.
What puzzles me is that it's, what, 500 miles? If the Voice doesn't have the range to make the call, why is she even there (okay, in text she's a substitute for their primary Voice who was sick, but shouldn't even the backup have the range to be useful?)
Well, if you're talking about a water route, then having your backup Voice go just means that a message takes several more hours' sailing time to arrive when it was already going to take days anyway. The shorter-range Voice just has to get closer to the destination port before sending the message, that's all.

Or maybe the backup Voice is an apprentice who's still in training; they have to put the trainees on the job somehow

Anyway. I'm a little confused. Could you detail precisely what distance this woman is travleing by water, from where to where?

Well, dragons are bigger than elephants, yet fly. Sometimes while carrying 40 men. Other writers would handwave or ignore this, but David Weber? They can implant wafer-thing crystal devices into animals, and one thing we see the crystals do is create antigrav. Also, the Sharonans (mostly Jathmar and Shaylar) comment a couple times on the striking, tattoo-like patterns on a dragons' wings.

I do think they just reduce the weight to something the dragons' wings can lift. Otherwise, why would a dragon ever need a rest stop?
Alternatively the tattoo patterns are some kind of runic magic. But yes, I think that's right. The key point here is that whatever magic is in play needs to stop working when a dragon is "shot down." Otherwise dragons would not 'crash' under normal conditions. They would 'leisurely tumble downward and get there eventually.'

Another note: interestingly, very few Talents seem to have much direct combat application in terms of making you personally dangerous. We've seen a variety of Talents that real life military commanders would maim to get access to, but none of them are for blowing people up or moving with superhuman speed or anything like that.
Janaki? Granted, not really seeing many of the 'light things on fire with my mind' sort of direct effect, though they could well exist. But a precog in the right place can turn a battle around, as could a Tracker.
Janaki is very few Talents. To wit, one of them.

Precognitives and Trackers... uh what do Trackers do again? Anyway, yes there are a number of Talents that are very dangerous in large scale battle. For example, any naval admiral from Togo to Yamamoto would literally give his right arm to have a few of those "Predictive Distance-Finders" referenced in the next book. One of those takes a World War One dreadnought and makes it at least two or three times more dangerous than it would otherwise be.

My point is simply that there are few or none that personally make individual combatants more dangerous to the enemies they face directly.

Defused that one but seriously, stop doing this.
Unfortunately impossible.

Frankly, the Arcanans just plain seem to have a severe lack of... empathy, I guess? It's not that they don't care about other people or want to treat them right. It's that they just don't seem to have any real knack for understanding how other people think or feel until someone hits them over the head with it.
Well, the Andarans have this whole military culture, stiff upper lip, stop-your-whining-and-walk-it-off attitude towards emotional distress. The Mythalans will care about your feelings only if you're Mythalan, and of the right caste. Ransar we don't know too much about, Gadriel as our token Ransaran character seems pretty considerate of others. But this is a very new situation with someone who doesn't speak any of their languages, doesn't understand their technology, doesn't have any good reason to trust them (she knows they don't mean further harm through touch-telepathy, but the Arcanans have no way of knowing that) and plenty of reason to hate them, and is rather emotionally fragile on top of it all.
Good point about the differences; the only person on the scene who is culturally capable of thinking clearly about this is probably Gadriel.

Under the circumstances, this particular blowup could have been far, far worse. Despite the language barrier, they understood the problem within seconds and corrected it with a visual demonstration Shaylar could understand. It's very easy to imagine another such incident where they had no idea what set her off, and couldn't calm her down. Because it's not obvious or intuitive to them to think of how what they're doing looks from an outside perspective, ignorant of their basic taken-for-granted magic-tech.
That's true.

I was speaking more generally. Everything from the first few books- the Arcanan counterattack that leads them to Fort Salby, the treatment of prisoners... it is to me all of a piece. The Arcanans are very methodically incompetent when it comes to handling first contact, basically. And even at convincing anyone that they are anything other than villains.

For purposes of a versus comparison this matters because it makes it very likely that the Arcanans will provoke a shooting war and handle it evilly. So if Arcanans suddenly materialize in the middle of... I don't know, the Fire Nation from Avatar or whatever random versus you want to try... you can be confident that the Arcanans will screw up first contact.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Mr Bean » 2015-02-11 01:43pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
I was speaking more generally. Everything from the first few books- the Arcanan counterattack that leads them to Fort Salby, the treatment of prisoners... it is to me all of a piece. The Arcanans are very methodically incompetent when it comes to handling first contact, basically. And even at convincing anyone that they are anything other than villains.

For purposes of a versus comparison this matters because it makes it very likely that the Arcanans will provoke a shooting war and handle it evilly. So if Arcanans suddenly materialize in the middle of... I don't know, the Fire Nation from Avatar or whatever random versus you want to try... you can be confident that the Arcanans will screw up first contact.

The blindspot that the Arcanans have, the fundamental blind spot they have is their first contact procedures are not the method of RUTHLESS GERMAN EFFICIENCY. Or American, or Russia or Chinese. Their first contact plans are very much amateur hour without the typical exhaustive planning something like NASA does or your average modern government agency with case studies, what if's, planning sessions and the like. It comes from the fact that despite their technology there is a lot of feudal held over thinking in their governments.

They don't have an If then what in any of their first contact plan. Any modern plans would have had multiple stages, an If then stage, a what happens next stage. All sorts of things to do if something else happens. A theoretical UN Plan would say if initial contact was hostile to instantly retreat to the nearest portal then fortify while drawing an obvious line in the sand to see if second contact was hostile. Word would go back up the chain and the next portal back would be heavily reinforced while the first portal would be a sort of tripwire. Either way pursuing hostiles into unknown territory before the homeworld even knows what's going on would be right at the top of WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU IDIOT list of things NOT to do.

To put it simply Arcanan Duke's still wield the power of a Duke, the resultant attitudes and preconceptions there of. The other two goverments appear to be a religious cast based nutjob society and a primitive democracy setup without one large country to force efficient government to be the required default.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-02-11 03:55pm

Interesting point. Whereas the Sharonans have a fairly modernish governmental structure; sure there are lots of constitutional monarchies but they seem about as organizationally modern as, oh, European nations during the World Wars.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-02-12 04:59pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Anyway. I'm a little confused. Could you detail precisely what distance this woman is travleing by water, from where to where?


From the Rock of al'Tariq, Gibraltar, to Barcelona. Both in the Iberian Peninsula on our world, even if only one is technically Spanish.


Another note: interestingly, very few Talents seem to have much direct combat application in terms of making you personally dangerous. We've seen a variety of Talents that real life military commanders would maim to get access to, but none of them are for blowing people up or moving with superhuman speed or anything like that.
Janaki? Granted, not really seeing many of the 'light things on fire with my mind' sort of direct effect, though they could well exist. But a precog in the right place can turn a battle around, as could a Tracker.
Janaki is very few Talents. To wit, one of them.

Precognitives and Trackers... uh what do Trackers do again? Anyway, yes there are a number of Talents that are very dangerous in large scale battle. For example, any naval admiral from Togo to Yamamoto would literally give his right arm to have a few of those "Predictive Distance-Finders" referenced in the next book. One of those takes a World War One dreadnought and makes it at least two or three times more dangerous than it would otherwise be.


They're the Mapping subtype we actually see, only a mile range, but their mental map includes the precise location and movements of all animal life within that mile.


My point is simply that there are few or none that personally make individual combatants more dangerous to the enemies they face directly.


Yes. Easy to see how the first people to develop them conquered the world, but it's not like I'd be terrified of getting into a fistfight with someone because he was Talented. Not unless he's got something we haven't seen.


"I—" He swallowed again. "I threw up twice receiving the message, Sir," he admitted. "It was . . . ugly."

-snip-

"I never imagined anything like it, Sir," he said, his voice a bit hoarse around the edges. "It was—It was like Hell come to life. Fireballs, explosions, lightning bolts, for the gods' sake! And Shaylar Nargra-Kolmayr and her husband caught right in the middle of it."


Something of what it's like for Voices to relive the attack. Even people who can't see it themselves will inevitably know someone who watched it and was traumatized.


Chan Tesh felt his own face turn pale. He was Ternathian, himself, not Harkalan, but Nargra-Kolmayr was virtually a Sharona-wide icon. The first woman to win the battle for a place on a temporal survey crew; one of the most powerful Voices Sharona had ever produced; daughter of one of Sharona's most renowned cetacean ambassadors; half of one of Sharona's storybook, larger than life romantic sagas. The fact that she was beautiful enough to be cast to play herself in any of the (inevitable) dramatizations of her own life had simply been icing on the cake.


And Shaylar is already a celebrity on Sharona.


"He met someone from another universe and attacked? Has Hundred Olderhan lost his blue-blooded mind?"


That moment when a superior reads your report of unbelievable events.


The dragon launched quickly, as if he'd caught his pilot's urgency, and he probably had. Windclaw was a fine old beast, a century old last month, and as smart as a transport ever got. Of course, that wasn't much compared to a battle dragon, but Windclaw was no mental midget, and his experience made him doubly valuable in the field, particularly in an emergency. A canny old beast like Windclaw knew every trick in the book for coaxing extra speed during an emergency flight.

Salmeer wished bitterly that they'd had even one more dragon available to send with Windclaw, but this universe was at the ass-end of nowhere, almost ninety thousand miles from Old Arcana. Worse, it was over twenty-six thousand miles back to the nearest sliderhead at the Green Haven portal, and almost ten thousand of those miles were over-water. A transport dragon like Windclaw could cover prodigious distances—up to a thousand miles, or possibly a bit more in a single day's flight—but then he had to rest. That meant landing on something, and the water gaps between Fort Rycharn and Green Haven were all wider than a dragon could manage in a single leg.


Medevac on it's way. Also 90,000 miles from the portal to the Arcanan homeworld, 2600 miles to the nearest magic railroad station. Dragons can fly about a thousand miles before needing to rest.


The Arcanan military—and the UTTTA civilian infrastructure, for that matter—were notoriously casual about extending the slide rails out into the boondocks. It was hard to fault their sense of priorities, Salmeer supposed in his more charitable moments. After all, even Green Haven boasted a total population of considerably less than eight hundred thousand. That wasn't a lot of people, spread over the surface of an entire virgin planet the size of Arcana itself, and it wasn't as if other portals, much closer to Arcana, couldn't supply anything the home world really needed. Exploration and expansion were worthwhile in their own right, of course, and there were always homesteaders, eager to stake claims to places of their own. But simple economic realities meant the inner portals were far more heavily developed and populated and invariably received a far greater proportion of the Transit Authority's maintenance resources as a result.


Like Sharona, for basically the same reasons, Arcana is far more developed and densely populated the closer you get to Old Arcana.


He supposed it was inevitable, but every bureaucrat, whether uniformed or civilian, seemed to assume there would always be a transport dragon around when he needed one. The sheer range a dragon made possible was addictive, despite the fact that even a big, powerful, fully mature beast like Windclaw could carry only a fraction of the load a slider car could manage. Most of the freight that needed moving on the frontiers was relatively light, after all. But the demands placed upon the Air Force's Transport Command were still brutal.


There was supposed to be a second dragon, but it hurt it's wing and had to be shipped back slowly by barge towards a competent vet. Dragon carry capacity less than a rail car.


He glanced back, craning around in the saddle which ran securely around the base of Windclaw's neck, to be sure his passengers were still with him. Straps passed behind the dragon's forelegs, as well, to keep the saddle from slipping sideways. It put Salmeer in the best position to see where Windclaw was going and to communicate his orders to the dragon. Behind the saddle, Windclaw's back supported the emergency medical lift platform—a low-slung, aerodynamically streamlined lozenge made of canvas, leather, and steel tubing.

The platform was broad enough to accommodate two people lying flat beside one another, and deep enough to allow for a bottom shelf and top shelf for the storage of reasonably small items of cargo. It also ran most of the way down Windclaw's spine, which made it long enough to permit the transport of up to twenty critically injured people on stretchers laid end-to-end. A turtle-backed windbreak of taut canvas was stretched over the front two thirds of the framework to keep the slipstream off the medical casualties during transport.

Passengers who weren't incapacitated could ride in one of three saddles strapped in front of the lozenge, and both surgeons and the Gifted healer had opted to do so. All three wore helmets with full-length visors to keep the wind—and insects—out of their faces during flight. The herbalists, the most junior members of the medical team, rode inside the transport lozenge itself.


Saddle(s) and the patient platform. Guess that makes a transport capacity of 24, counting the pilot. Probably more when the bulk of them aren't wounded and lying flat.


"Send another hummer back to camp, Iggy," he said. "Tell Krankark to send the medical evacuation team through the portal the instant it reaches camp. Have them meet us at the stream where Osmuna was mur—"

He paused, glancing at the litters where Jathmar and Shaylar lay crumpled and broken, and the verb he'd been about to use died in his throat.

"At the stream where Osmuna died," he said instead, looking back at Shulthan. "A transport dragon should have the wing room to take off if he flies down the streambed. Tell Krankark to send a reply hummer, homed in on these coordinates, to confirm receipt of our message. Stay here until it returns, then catch up to us at the stream. It's less than ten minutes from here to the portal for a hummer, so you shouldn't have to wait too long."


The plan, since there are places where a dragon could land, but not take off, is to use the streambed as a runway.


Jasak winced inside every time one of his wounded men stumbled, or cursed under his breath, or blanched, flinching as an unexpected, leaf-hidden foot-trap jarred his ripped and torn flesh. As a first combat experience, it—and he—had been a dismal failure, he thought. Too many good men were wounded or dead, and he still had no answers. He hadn't prayed—really prayed, and meant it—in years, but he did now. He prayed no one else would die out here; that no one else would pay for his errors in judgment. And while he prayed, he moved among his men as they struggled forward, pausing to murmur an encouragement here, to jolly someone into a painful smile there, anything to keep them on their feet and moving forward.


Jasak both blaming himself, and being a good officer.


Lance Inkar Jaboth got busy cobbling together a hot meal from trail rations, local wild plants, and what Jasak had always suspected was a dollop of magic. Something made the concoctions Jaboth whipped up for special occasions—and emergencies—not just edible, but actually palatable. Whatever it was, it would be a gift from the gods themselves, under conditions like these.


Is that a thing? It might be a thing, or just an unusual skill.


He took great care with the long, tubular weapons every man—and woman—had carried. There seemed to be several different types or varieties of them, and he rapidly discovered that they were intricate mechanical marvels, far more complex than any war staff his own people had built. Of course, war staffs—including the infantry and field-dragons which had been developed from them—were actually quite simple, mechanically speaking. They merely provided a place to store battle spells, and a sarkolis-crystal guide tube, down which the destructive spells were channeled on their way to the target.

Jasak had no idea what mysterious properties these tubular weapons operated upon. Nor could he figure out what many of the parts did, but he recognized precision engineering when he saw it.


Apparently dragons are devolpedments of war-staves, which presumably also carry destructive spells. Probably a combat mage's version, somewhere between an infantry dragon and a daggerstone. Jasak examines the weapons and gear of the survey crew, having settled down his men to wait for pickup.


A dragoon arbalest, like the one Otwal Threbuch favored, used a ten-round magazine and a spell-enhanced cocking lever. The augmented lever required a force of no more than twenty pounds to operate, and an arbalestier could fire all ten rounds as quickly as he could work the lever. It had almost as much punch—albeit over a shorter range—as the standard, single-shot infantry weapon, and a vastly higher rate of fire, but no man ever born was strong enough to throw the cocking lever once the enhancing spell was exhausted. Infantry weapons were much heavier, as well as bigger, and used a carefully designed mechanical advantage. They might be difficult to span without enhancement, but it could be done—which could be a decided advantage when the magic ran out—and they were considerably longer ranged.


Arcanan arbalests, the standard infantry version has one shot but can be spanned (set) by hand in extremis. Normally, a magic assist reduces the force required to span the arbalest to about 20 lbs (despite arbalests frequently haveing a 400-450 lbs. draw) applied via lever. The dragoon (people who ride a horse to the fight, but dismount and fight on foot) version sacrifices range, stopping power and that redundant capability in favor of speed, firing off a 10 quarrel magazine pretty much as fast as they can work the lever, aim and fire.


The tube through which those small, deadly projectiles passed was shorter—only about twenty-four inches long—and it carried what he recognized as at least a distant cousin of the ring-and-post battle sights mounted on an arbalest. But the rear sight on this weapon was set in an odd metal block mounted on a sturdy, rectangular steel frame about one inch across. The sides of the rectangle were no more than a thirty-second of an inch across, as nearly as his pocket rule could measure, and its frame could either lie flat or be flipped up into a vertical position.

When it was flipped into the upright position, a second rear sight, set into the same metal block as the first, but at right angles, rotated up for the shooter's use. But the supporting steel rectangle was notched, and etched with tiny lines with some sort of symbols which (he suspected) were probably numbers, and the sight could be slid up and down the frame, locked into place at any one of those tiny, engraved lines by a spring-loaded catch that engaged in the side's notches.

Jasak had spent enough time on the arbalest range to know all about elevating his point of aim to allow for the drop in the bolt's trajectory at longer ranges. Unless he missed his guess, that was the function of this weapon's peculiar rear sight, as well. If so, it was an ingenious device, which was simultaneously simple in concept and very sophisticated in execution. But what frightened him about it was how high the rear sight could be set and the degree of elevation that would impose. Without a better idea of the projectiles' velocity and trajectory, he couldn't be certain, of course, but judging from the damage they'd inflicted, this weapon's projectiles must move at truly terrifying velocities. Which, in turn, suggested they would have a much flatter trajectory.


And thus much longer range. I know this one, ladder sight, right?


The metal tube itself was made from high-grade steel, and when he peered—very cautiously—into it, adjusting it to get a little firelight into the hollow bore, he saw what looked like spiraling grooves cut into the metal. Interesting. The Arcanan Army understood the principle of spinning a crossbow bolt in flight to give it greater stability and accuracy. He couldn't quite imagine how it might work, but was it possible that those spiraling grooves could do the same thing to the deadly little leaden projectiles this thing threw?


The Sharonans have rifling, which Jasak figures out pretty much immediately. The Arcanans are familiar with the concept of spinning a projectile, but I'm not really sure how they'd make it work with a crossbow.


Other items ranged from the obvious—camp shovels, hatchets, backpacks—to the completely mysterious, and he gradually realized that what wasn't there was as interesting as what was. Although Jasak searched diligently, he found no trace of maps or charts anywhere in their gear. He found notebooks, with detailed botanical drawings and startlingly accurate sketches of wildlife, but no trace of a single chart.

The implication was clear; they'd realized—or, feared, at least—that their position was hopeless, so they'd destroyed the evidence of where they'd been. If they were, indeed, a civilian version of Jasak's Scouts, working to survey new universes and map new portals, they would have carried detailed charts that showed the route back to their home universe. From a military standpoint, losing those maps was a major disaster for Arcana. From a political standpoint . . .

Jasak thought about the reaction news of this battle was bound to trigger—particularly in places like rabidly xenophobic Mythal, whose politicians trusted no one, not even themselves. Especially not themselves. As he thought about them and their probable response, Jasak Olderhan was abruptly glad these people had destroyed their maps, even as the Andaran officer in him recoiled from such blatant heresy.


Mythalans are particularly xenophobic, Jasak spots the lack of maps and charts and is a bit glad in spite of himself. Also, the Arcanans use and recognize the most basic tools, like shovels and hatchets.


The object was made of metal, rolled or cast to form a strong metal casing. After fiddling with it for a couple of moments, he determined that the top section was a lid that unscrewed. He removed it . . . and stared.

Inside were two . . . machines, he decided, not knowing what else to call them. In the lid section, there was a glass cover that sealed off a thin metallic needle, flat and dark against a white background. Tiny hatchmarks were spaced evenly around the circular "face" with neat, almost military precision. More alien symbols—letters or numbers, he was certain—marked off eight points around the perimeter.

Someone moved beside the casualty tent, and Jasak glanced up, automatically checking to see if it had been Gadrial. It hadn't, and when he turned back to the device in his hand, his gaze snapped back to the needle. He'd moved the case with the rest of his body, but the needle—which appeared to be floating on a post, able to spin freely—hadn't moved with the rest of the case. Or, rather, it had moved, swinging stubbornly around to point in the same direction as before despite the case's movement.

The discovery startled him, so he experimented, and found that no matter how he turned the case around, the needle swung doggedly to point in the exact same direction: north.

Understanding dawned like a thunderclap. It was a navigation device. But this was no spell-powered personal crystal that oriented its owner to the cardinal directions, as every Arcanan compass ever built did. It was nothing but a flat needle on a post, an incredibly simple mechanical device, powered by nothing he could see. How the devil did it work?


Magnets. How do they even work? But yeah, I think we can take this as confirmation the Arcanans have zero clue about electricity. Jasak, again being no dummy figures out fairly quickly what the compass is, even if not how it works. Arcanans have a personal crystal program that gives them all four directions, plus grid coordinates.


The bottom section of the metal case was much heavier than the lid, providing most of the heft he'd noticed when he first picked it up. Clearly, it housed something dense, and this object, too, had a flat glass face, under which lay another dial with hatchmarks, and another series of letters or numbers of some kind, beside each of the twelve longest hatch lines. There were three needles on this device: a short one which scarcely seemed to move at all; a long one which moved slowly; and a very thin one that moved continuously, sweeping around the dial in endless circles.

Its purpose, too, came in a flash of understanding as the slow, audible click-click of the long needle reminded him of the changing numbers in his personal crystal's digital time display. Yet this was no spell-powered device, either. Or, he didn't think so, at any rate. He discovered a small knob at one side which could be pulled out slightly to change the positions of the needles, or simply turned in place. Turning it without pulling it out resulted in a slight clicking sound inside the device, and a gradually stiffening resistance which increased the pressure needed to turn the knob. He stopped before it got too stiff to turn at all, lest he damage it by trying to force it.


And a pocketwatch. Arcanans use digital, but again Jasak is very quick to intuit the device's purpose.


He laid the two halves of the case in his lap, gazing down at them in the firelight, and frowned in unhappy contemplation. He was no magister, but his touch of Gift should have been enough to at least recognize the presence of any sort of spellware. Yet he hadn't detected even the slightest twitch of magic. He would have liked to believe that that meant the weapons he'd examined had exhausted whatever powered them, but he knew that wasn't the case.

Instead, what he had was a weapon which had amply proved its deadly efficiency; a navigation device which, for all its simplicity, looked damnably effective; and another device which obviously kept very precise track of time, indeed.

And none of them—not one of them—depended on spellware or a Gift. Which meant they would work for anyone, anytime, anywhere.

The night wind blew suddenly chill, indeed.


It's not that they have a clock and a compass. The Arcanans have clocks and compasses, even ones that are arguably superior.

The problem is, they've never seen a clock or compass that just anyone could pick up and use. Arcana is a magic society and, as we've covered, less a quarter of the population is Gifted enough to use magic devices. This limitation underpins everything. Maybe the Andarans and Ransarans aren't eager to make mages god-kings the way Mythal does, but they still have to deal with the hard limit that only a relatively small group can produce the vast majority of their technology and only a larger, but still limited percentage of the population can use them. Not for nothing, I suspect is the Andaran Confederacy an aristocracy, I'd be surprised to learn that most officers and aristocrats didn't have just that tiny spark. It'd be downright embarrassing to have an officer who couldn't use those video-recorders on the hummers, store his reports on a personal crystal, or even tell the time without help. Assuming it wasn't a prerequisite for military service in the first place.

And yes, they have some machines, clearly, that don't need magic. Like shovels and pick-axes. But try spanning an arbalest without magic assistance.

This is alien. This is revolutionary. This simple idea of complex devices everyone can use is o damn contrary to their entire cultural experience. It's going to be so much fun when he finally bears these things back to Arcana.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-02-13 11:11pm

Ahriman238 wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:Anyway. I'm a little confused. Could you detail precisely what distance this woman is travleing by water, from where to where?
From the Rock of al'Tariq, Gibraltar, to Barcelona. Both in the Iberian Peninsula on our world, even if only one is technically Spanish.
Hm, that's really not far, such that it really is inconvenient if the ship has to travel a few hundred miles extra because your telepath lacks the projective range to send from shipboard.

Although really, they're less than 500 miles apart as the hummer flies. It might be more convenient to move by sea from one site to the other (sea travel is usually more efficient than rail, although normally you don't have to build an entirely new shipyard infrastructure for each ocean you have to cross). But 500 miles is within the range of what Voices can normally do.

They're the Mapping subtype we actually see, only a mile range, but their mental map includes the precise location and movements of all animal life within that mile.
OK yeah, that's tactically significant, and potentially very dangerous in personal combat, especially in close quarters where ambushes are a real possibility.

Medevac on it's way. Also 90,000 miles from the portal to the Arcanan homeworld, 2600 miles to the nearest magic railroad station. Dragons can fly about a thousand miles before needing to rest.
26000 not 2600. Also, wow, that implies that the Arcanans have managed to explore something like 10-20 worlds deep past their equivalent of a railhead. Even with airlift that's impressive, given that they have to do exhaustive aerial searches with a very limited airlift capacity in order to find portals at all.

[It has occurred to me that one way to explain why distances between portals are usually shorter than chance would indicate is that all worlds are portal 'clusters,' it's just that in most cases the cluster only contains two portals. The clustering causes them all to appear within a few thousand miles of each other... most of the time.]

The Arcanan military—and the UTTTA civilian infrastructure, for that matter—were notoriously casual about extending the slide rails out into the boondocks. It was hard to fault their sense of priorities, Salmeer supposed in his more charitable moments. After all, even Green Haven boasted a total population of considerably less than eight hundred thousand. That wasn't a lot of people, spread over the surface of an entire virgin planet the size of Arcana itself, and it wasn't as if other portals, much closer to Arcana, couldn't supply anything the home world really needed. Exploration and expansion were worthwhile in their own right, of course, and there were always homesteaders, eager to stake claims to places of their own. But simple economic realities meant the inner portals were far more heavily developed and populated and invariably received a far greater proportion of the Transit Authority's maintenance resources as a result.
Like Sharona, for basically the same reasons, Arcana is far more developed and densely populated the closer you get to Old Arcana.
Although honestly, if there's less than a million people on the whole planet the odds are that they cluster a lot. It just doesn't make sense to stake out a highly isolated outpost or farmstead fifty miles from your nearest neighbor if you don't absolutely have to. Especially when the means for communication and transport over extreme distances are as... limited as those Arcana has.

Lance Inkar Jaboth got busy cobbling together a hot meal from trail rations, local wild plants, and what Jasak had always suspected was a dollop of magic. Something made the concoctions Jaboth whipped up for special occasions—and emergencies—not just edible, but actually palatable. Whatever it was, it would be a gift from the gods themselves, under conditions like these.
Is that a thing? It might be a thing, or just an unusual skill.
Reminds me of a universe where superpowers had just started appearing and one guy was detected as having a superpower to great fanfare... only it turned out his power was to take whatever food he was looking at, however unpalatable, and turn it into chicken-fried steak with his mind.

And thus much longer range. I know this one, ladder sight, right?
Ayup.

The Sharonans have rifling, which Jasak figures out pretty much immediately. The Arcanans are familiar with the concept of spinning a projectile, but I'm not really sure how they'd make it work with a crossbow.
In principle, angle the fletching?

Magnets. How do they even work? But yeah, I think we can take this as confirmation the Arcanans have zero clue about electricity. Jasak, again being no dummy figures out fairly quickly what the compass is, even if not how it works. Arcanans have a personal crystal program that gives them all four directions, plus grid coordinates.
To be fair, lots of young people today use GPS constantly and would think compasses are magic if they didn't take them for granted. And have no idea how to read a map... :roll:

And yes, they have some machines, clearly, that don't need magic. Like shovels and pick-axes. But try spanning an arbalest without magic assistance.
Well, I suspect that some magical artifacts are things you don't need magical powers to use. Like a magic spring that automatically compresses when you poke it the right way (i.e. the drawing mechanism of those arbalests). There are probably others too. But personal crystals and so on, not so much.

This is alien. This is revolutionary. This simple idea of complex devices everyone can use is o damn contrary to their entire cultural experience. It's going to be so much fun when he finally bears these things back to Arcana.
Yaaay! :D
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby CaptainChewbacca » 2015-02-15 03:17am

I seem to remember rumblings that the third book would see the two human nations find themselves both under attack by a higher-tech NONHUMAN dimensional civilization. Would be interesting if there's a world with bloodthirsty Neanderthals.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-02-15 10:59pm

Windclaw took a running start, snapped his great wings wide, and lifted slowly, rumbling into the air across the open campsite. Windclaw needed nearly a hundred yards just to reach treetop height, because he was big, even for a transport dragon. That gave him lots of lifting power, but he was simply too large and too slow to lift off on his tail, the way some of the smaller fighting dragons could. The fighters—especially the ones bred to go after enemy gryphons—had to be fast and agile, since gryphons were small, swift, and brutally difficult to catch in midair.


Most dragons take off a lot faster, particularly combat dragons, but Windclaw takes a hundred yards to clear the treetops.


He and Windclaw didn't share any sort of special bond, like the ones bred into some of the more spectacularly expensive pets wealthy Arcanans sometimes commissioned. No pilot or dragon did. But he'd come to know his beast's moods and temperament. They'd come to . . . respect one another, and Windclaw was fond enough of him—in a dragonish sort of way—to make their working relationship satisfying on both sides, and tonight, Windclaw's decades of experience might just make up for his lack of nimbleness.


Some kind of engineered familiar bond is possible for Arcanans, but it's ludicrously expensive. Too much so even for the dragon air force.


Starlight and moonlight burnished his wings with a metallic shimmer, glittering as they touched the elaborate wing patterns that represented Windclaw's pedigree, as well as his current unit assignment.


I still think draogns use some kind of antigrav, but it seems the wing patterns actually recount dragon pedigree and assignment.


Salmeer tapped his personal crystal with the spell-powered stylus that allowed him to plug in Hundred Olderhan's grid coordinates, even though Salmeer himself had no Gift at all, and the crystal obediently displayed a standard navigational grid, with the familiar compass points in a sphere around the circle that represented Windclaw. A blinking green arrow pointed the direction to fly, giving Salmeer a beautifully clear, easy-to-read three-dimensional display to follow. When they reached the target zone, a steady red circle would appear, directly at the grid coordinates Hundred Olderhan had sent.


More personal crystal GPS, and I guess you can use one without any magic, as long as you have the proper tool or a specialist to configure it for you.


Someone spoke practically into her ear, and she gasped in surprise, skittered sideways—

—and promptly rolled off the edge of whatever she'd been lying on. She bit off a scream, but the fall to the ground was only about ten inches. Which was still more than enough to knock the wind out of her and jar her painfully, especially with her previous injuries.

Whoever had spoken leaned over her almost before she landed, making worried sounds that quickly turned soothing. Gentle hands straightened her bent limbs and tested her pulse, and Shaylar whimpered, cursing the pain that exploded through her with every movement.

Her eyes opened, and she looked up.

She couldn't remember his name, but she knew his face: the enemy commander. He was speaking softly to her, his gaze worried and intense. She hissed aloud and flinched back when he touched the bruises along her jaw with a gentle finger, and his face drained white at the pain sound. What was obviously a stuttering apology broke from him, and she wanted to reassure him. But the unending pain and fear and the silence in her mind left her weak, and far too susceptible to new shocks. She was horrified to discover that all she could do was lie on the cold ground and weep large, silent tears that stung her eyes and clogged her nose.


I suppose there really was no way to keep her from startling when she woke. Again, they have a fairly impressive ability to communicate basic ideas regardless of language. She knows that he's apologizing, for instance.


So she lay still on her strange, floating bed, and wondered in a distant, abstracted sort of way, how these people made their stretchers float. There was no logical explanation for it, any more than there were logical explanations for the other mysteries she'd already witnessed: glassy tubes that threw fireballs with no visible source of flame. Seemingly identical tubes that hurled lightning, instead of fire. The odd little cubes that had somehow packed enough explosive force to immolate an entire human body—yet did so without any actual explosion, just a sudden and inexplicable burst of flame.

Sorcery, the back of her wounded brain whispered, and Shaylar was so befuddled, so lost in this unending bad dream, that she didn't even quibble with her own choice of words. Whatever these people used for technology, it looked, sounded, and even smelled like magic. At least, it did to her admittedly addled senses.


I imagine if not for the shock and head injury, she'd be freaking out a lot more over this. I would.


A huge, black shadow swooped suddenly between Olderhan and the stars, then an overpressure of air blasted across the camp. The bonfires flared wildly as sparks, ash, and scattered autumn leaves flew before the whirlwind, and she jerked her gaze upward.

Scales, like a crocodile's armored hide in glowing, iridescent colors like shoaling fish. Immense wings, so thin the firelight glowed through them. Bats' wings the size of the sails on a ninety-foot twin-masted schooner. Claws, a foot long and razor-sharp, glittering bronze as they reached down to grasp boulders in the stream when it landed. A long, sinuous neck, like a serpent twenty feet long, still as thick as her own torso where it met the triangular, adder-shaped head. Spikes, immense spikes, jutting out over eyes of crimson flame, and an eagle's beak of metallic bronze, sparkling in the wildly flaring firelight.

Its mouth opened, revealing rows of sickle-bladed teeth, and it was looking directly at her. Shaylar's wounded mind shrieked at her to run, even as she sensed an alien, inhuman presence behind those fiery eyes, malevolent and barely under control.

The nightmare apparition hissed. The sound was an angry steam-engine shriek, and Shaylar flinched back, drew breath to scream—

—and the man strapped to its neck spoke sharply. He emphasized his words with a jab from an implement that looked part-cattle prod and part-harpoon. It would have to be sharp, she realized through waves of unreasoning terror, to make itself—and its owner's displeasure—felt through hide that tough.

Wings rattled angrily, like agitated snakes, and the prod came down again, sharper and harder than before. The beast reared skyward and let out a shriek of rage that battered Shaylar's bleeding senses. She did scream, this time, and cowered down with both arms over her head—not to keep the creature's teeth off her neck, but to keep its fury out of her mind.


A Motherfucking Dragon. And Windclaw seems as bothered by Shaylar as she is by him. And the giant stick used by a dragon-rider to control his mount.


Humanity hadn't pitted dragons against one another in almost two centuries, and no one living had ever heard that pre-battle steam-kettle sound. Not in earnest, at any rate. But it had been too frequently described in the history books and the aerial training volumes—even in those silly romances his younger sister mooned over—for him to mistake what he was hearing now.


Dragon hissing. I assume something about Shaylar's Talent is setting off the dragon. We establish a bit later that dragons are "smarter than any dog" though a long way short of sapience.


Morikan was a North Shalomarian—one of the towering variety. A big, rawboned man, nearly six-foot-seven in his bare feet, he still managed to move so quietly, almost noiselessly, that Jasak had sometimes wondered if it was a part of his Gift. The healer had huge shoulders, enormous physical strength, and a Gift for healing which made the hulking giant one of the gentlest souls Jasak had ever known. He'd never pursued the research necessary to earn the formal title of magistron, the healer's equivalent of Gadrial's magister's rank, so he was technically only a journeyman, which also explained why he wasn't a commissioned officer in the Healer's Corps, himself. But Jasak wasn't about to complain about that today. Not when it meant having a healer as powerfully Gifted as Morikan out at the sharp end when the remnants of First Platoon needed one so desperately.


Naf Morikan, Jasak's head Healer. It seems Magistron is a specific rank of medicine/life sciences-focused mage. As a Healer, Morikan outranks a surgeon, who outranks a herbalist, but would still be subordinate to a magistron.


"And for Rahil's sake, do whatever it takes to save him. I'm convinced he's this girl's husband." She tightened her embrace around Shaylar, who was watching them, her hazy eyes wide and frightened. "She's hurt, herself, and she's in a fragile state. If she loses him—"

The magister broke off, her mouth tight, and Morikan nodded in comprehension.

"Their last names are the same," Jasak added. "I found that out when she woke up. They're either married or brother and sister, and I'm inclined to agree with Magister Gadrial's theory that they're married."


Communicating impressive amounts despite the language barrier. Be a touch awkward later if it turned out their surnames indicated profession or homeland, huh?


The newcomer had lifted the blanket off Jathmar's burnt back and hissed aloud at the damage he'd found. But he didn't appear to be doing anything else at all. He was just kneeling there, hands extended over Jathmar's stretcher, eyes unfocused, staring at nothing. . . .

And then, suddenly, Jathmar began to glow.

Shaylar gasped. Light poured from the big man's hands, enveloping Jathmar's entire body. Then, despite the whirling black pain in her head, the marriage bond roared wide. Shaylar flinched violently in Gadrial's arms as Jathmar's pain blasted through her. She sensed Gadrial's sudden twitch of hurt as her fingers sank deep into the other woman's upper arms, but she couldn't help it. Her back was a mass of fire, her chest a broken heap of agony wrapped around ribs shattered like china someone had dropped to the floor, and her insides were bleeding.

Then she felt an odd presence, like a tide of warm syrup flowing over her—into her—and there was intelligence in the syrup. There were thoughts and emotions, a sense of awe that she was alive at all, and a determination to keep her among the living.

A soothing wave of light and energy she could sense but couldn't see sank down into her blistered back. The sensations were soul-shaking. She could literally feel her skin growing as blisters popped, drained, vanished. The damage ran deep . . . and so did whatever was sinking into her, repairing the deep layers of skin and tissue damaged in the hellish vortex of the enemy's fire.

It sank deeper still, down into her bleeding abdomen. She felt half-glued wounds knitting themselves together as new tissue closed the gaps and fissures in blood vessels, intestinal walls, muscles and organs. Pain flashed through her, bright and terrible, as ribs shifted, moving on their own, grating back into proper alignment. She writhed, whimpering, and the pain in her chest burst free in an agonized cry.


What proper magical healing looks and feels like.


Now that Jathmar was semi-conscious, the healer took care to stimulate the centers of the brain and spinal cord that produced natural pain killers. The patient's body flooded with his own internally produced pain-fighting serum in moments, which quickly put an end to his semi-aware thrashing about, and Morikan was dimly aware that his wife's cries had faded as well.


Seems there's a degree of control over the subject's biology, and not just wishing problems away.


The healthy, pink skin visible beneath his scorched shirt was a soul-deep shock. She'd felt it healing, but the very idea of such an uncanny miracle had been so alien that she'd more than half-feared it was no more than an illusion brought about by her own head injury. Something she'd wanted so badly, so desperately, that she had imagined it entirely.


To be perfectly clear, Jathmar's injuries would have been fatal, even with the best healing Talents and mundane medicine Sharona had. With magic, he'll be fine. Of course, every Voice will have seen Jathmar take undeniably fatal injuries....


The dragon crouched low, muscles bunching in a smooth ripple. Then they catapulted forward as the dragon's huge feet gripped tight on the stream's boulders and its powerful legs hurled them almost straight upward. The force of the sudden movement clacked her teeth together with bone-jarring force, but before she could even groan, the wide wings snapped open. The sheer breadth of the dragon's wingspan came as a distinct shock, despite its size, for they were even larger than she'd initially thought. They beat strongly, far more rapidly than she would have believed possible, and she felt the creature climbing in elevatorlike bursts with each downstroke.

They flew parallel to the stream, barely clearing the water and the brush-filled banks to either side at first, for more than a hundred yards. Then the creek turned south, forcing the dragon to follow the curve of its bed. Another hundred-yard straight stretch gave it the room it apparently needed to get fully airborne.

Each massive sweep of its wings, loud as thunder cracks in her ears, lifted them steadily higher. By the time they reached the end of the second straightaway, the immense dragon had finally cleared the treetops. They flashed past a rustling canopy of leaves, argent and ebony in the moonlight, then sailed into clear air above the forest.

Shaylar discovered that she'd been holding her breath and her fingers had dug into the straps holding her securely in place. She glanced back and saw a brilliant spot of light in the darkness, where the bonfires in the camp they'd left burned like jewels against velvet. Moonlight poured across the treetops with an unearthly beauty, creating a billowing silver leaf-sea which stretched for miles in all directions. Wind set the silver sea in motion, with a constant ripple and swirl that was dizzying, exhilarating, like nothing Shaylar had ever experienced before. The windbreak shielded her from about mid-torso down, but the skin of her face was cold, except where the goggles shielded it, in the icy wind buffeting past its upper edge.


Flight, Shaylar's first time. Took him longer to clear the trees this time, but then there's 20+ people riding now.


Given the dragon's tough armor, not to mention its sheer size, Shaylar wondered if a rifle shot could be effective against it. There were hunters who took big game, of course, especially in sparsely settled universes where elephants, rhinos, immense—and aggressive—cape buffalo, thirty-foot crocodiles, and even vast herds of bison were a serious danger to colonists. There were some pretty heavy guns and cartridges for that kind of shooting, but Shaylar wondered if even those weapons could be effective at much greater ranges than point-blank into a dragon's belly or throat.


I seem to recall them going down from machine guns later on.


A massive, metal-bending screech tore the air.

The dragon slewed sideways in midair. It actually bucked, and Shaylar's eyes flew open as her teeth jolted together and the whole platform creaked against the violent motion of the beast under it. Her head jerked, and she felt herself bounced backward against her safety straps as a raging red fury lashed at her mind.


Shaylar tries again to Voice-call Darcel and Windclaw shrieks and tries to buck her (and incidentally the other riders) while actually attacking her telepathically until she passes out. Well, Gadriel knocks her out with healing magic. But when you start clutching your head and screaming about getting it out of your mind, that's probably the best outcome you can expect.


No Talent could do something like that. Even the most Talented Healers were limited mostly to healing minds which had been shattered, or encouraging the body to heal itself more effectively. They could work wonders enough, but none that came close to this.


Limits of Sharonan healing. If most of the Talent is just making things repair faster, their healers really need that conventional medical training. On the other hand, as Shaylar observes, their healers can spam healing all day while Arcanan healers run into some hard limits on their energy use.


It was painfully evident they were prisoners, but how did their captors treat prisoners of war? They must have some sort of procedures to deal with captured enemy personnel, and a further thought chilled him. Would these people think he and Shaylar were soldiers? Even he knew soldiers and civilians received different treatment from the military during armed conflicts. It had been a long time since any major Sharonian nation had gone to war, but even on Sharona there was the occasional border dispute, the "incident" when a patrol from one side wandered across the other side's frontier, the "brushfire" conflict between ancient and implacable enemies. And there'd been more than enough violent conflict in Sharona's pre-portal history to make such procedures necessary.


War isn't exactly dead on Sharona, but major wars haven't happened in a good long time.


His heart twisted, and the look he turned on the enemy commander who'd ordered their massacre could have frozen the marrow of a star.

There's not enough blood in your veins to make up for what you've done to her, his icy eyes told the other man.

The officer looked back, meeting that hate-filled glare squarely. Whatever else he might be, this wasn't a weak man, Jathmar realized. His regret for what had happened appeared to be genuine, but he met Jathmar's steely hatred unflinchingly. They shared no words, couldn't speak one another's language, but they didn't need to in that moment. They looked deep into one another's enemy eyes, and Jathmar could actually taste the other man's determination to do his duty.


Again with all this understanding, without a common language or anything like common culture or history from which to assume gestures or expressions.


"I intend to abandon this camp," he said. "Withdraw completely from this portal and evacuate everyone to the coast. There's no way anyone can track us if we evac by air, and that's critical, because the armed confrontation has to stop here. None of us are trained diplomats, and that's what we need. If we get a diplomatic mission out here, there's at least a chance we can keep anyone else from getting killed. At this point, it doesn't matter whether Osmuna shot their man first, or whether he shot Osmuna first. What's going to matter to them is that we slaughtered their entire crew; what's going to matter to us are the casualties we took, and the weapons capability they revealed inflicting them. We didn't mean for any of this to happen, but they're going to have trouble buying that, and there's going to be a lot of pressure on our side for a panic reaction when people higher up the military and political food chains hear about what's happened. Especially if the other side sends in some sort of rescue mission that leads to additional shooting."


Jasak's plan going forwards. Fall back, learn what they can of Sharonan language and customs from the prisoners, let the next contact be made by diplomats.


Gifts dealing directly with living things—like healers and the other magistrons and journeymen involved in things like the dragon breeding and improvement programs, the hummer breeding program, and even the agronomists who were constantly seeking to improve food crops and sources of textiles—were quite different from Gadrial's own major arcanas. Those Gifted in such areas required special training, and no one had yet succeeded in figuring out how to store a major healing spell, although Gadrial was confident that the coveted vos Lipkin Prize waited for whoever finally did.

Actually getting the spellware loaded into the sarkolis didn't seem to be the problem. It wasn't one to which Gadrial had devoted a great deal of her own attention—her major Gifts lay in other areas—but she suspected that the difficulty lay in the inherent differences between each illness or injury. The sort of blanket spells involved in most preloaded spellware were frequently a brute force kind of approach. That was acceptable for inanimate objects, but even small glitches could have major—even fatal—consequences for living things. So each healer was forced to deal with an unending series of unique problems, each demanding its own unique solution.


Why they don't have healing crystals.


They'd come to the conclusion that the difference between a magister, trained in the "hard sorcery" dealing with inanimate forces and objects, and a magistron, trained in the "life sorcery" someone like Naf Morikan practiced, was the difference between a symphonic composer and a brilliant sight-reading improvisationist. Neither was really qualified to do the other's job, or even to adequately explain the inherent differences between their specializations to each other.


Magister/Magistron distinction.


People capable of murdering an entire civilian survey crew were capable of anything, and torture could be undeniably effective. No Sharonian nation had used it—openly, at least; there were persistent grim rumors about the current Uromathian emperor and his secret police—in centuries. But in Sharona's dim, grim past, torture had been an approved and often frighteningly effective method of extracting detailed information from captives.


Sharonans don't torture. Except maybe the Uromathian Secret Police. Oh, and there are Uromathian Secret Police.


He gave them a curiously formal bow, then folded his long, lean body down to sit beside them. His voice was strangely gentle as he said something, then indicated himself and said slowly and carefully, "Halathyn. Halathyn vos Dulainah."

Shaylar glanced at Jathmar, then touched her own chest.

"Shaylar," she said, then indicated her husband. "Jathmar."

Halathyn's face blossomed in a beatific smile. He moved his hands in an intricate fashion, murmuring almost under his breath, and the air began to shimmer. Shaylar gasped, and Jathmar stiffened in shock as a flower of pure light formed in the air between the silver-haired man's palms. It was a rose, scintillating with all the dancing colors of the rainbow.

Halathyn moved his hand, and the rose of light drifted toward Shaylar. The older man took her hand, lifted her palm, and the impossible rose drifted down to rest against her fingertips. It shimmered there, ghostlike and lovely, for several seconds, then sparkled once and faded away.

Shaylar sat entranced for several heartbeats, staring at her empty palm, then turned to stare at the aged man beside them. Halathyn was grinning like a schoolboy, and she felt herself smiling back, unable to resist. Despite the pain in her head, she could feel the clean, gentle radiance of the black-skinned man's soul, and it washed over her like a comforting caress.


Halathyn being his charming self. Hologram or illusion or whatever of a rose.


Whatever Halathyn was doing with the stylus, the squiggles of light shifted rapidly inside the crystal. It certainly looked like writing of some sort, and it did, indeed, look as if Halathyn were storing the words inside that water-clear rock. He glanced up, eyes twinkling, then he whispered something else, and the light faded.

He handed it to Shaylar, who took it with a deeply dubious expression. Then he spoke one word and tapped the crystal with his stylus, and the glowing text sprang back to life. It glowed deep inside, scrolling past at what would probably have been a comfortable reading speed, if they could have read it at all.

Shaylar stared, openmouthed, then looked up to meet Jathmar's amazed gaze, and Halathyn chuckled. He looked inordinately pleased with himself as he retrieved his crystal, and the look he gave Gadrial was just short of impish. She responded by rolling her eyes, and handed over the mugs she carried.


And Halathyn showing off his personal crystal.


Both of them slewed around in time to see another dragon come winging in from the east. Translucent leathery wings vaned and twisted, altering its flightpath and slowing its airspeed. There seemed to be something indefinably wrong about the way it braked, how quickly it lost velocity, but Jathmar reminded himself that he was scarcely in mental condition to make reliable hard and fast judgments about mythological beasts who couldn't possibly exist anyway.


Still thinking antigrav.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-02-16 01:54am

Ahriman238 wrote:
Starlight and moonlight burnished his wings with a metallic shimmer, glittering as they touched the elaborate wing patterns that represented Windclaw's pedigree, as well as his current unit assignment.
I still think draogns use some kind of antigrav, but it seems the wing patterns actually recount dragon pedigree and assignment.
Well, that brings us back to the idea of magic levitator crystals surgically implanted up against the dragon's ribcage or whatever.

More personal crystal GPS, and I guess you can use one without any magic, as long as you have the proper tool or a specialist to configure it for you.
True, but imagine a computer that you can't download anything for unless you are one of the 10-20% of the populace magically gifted with the secret of Programming.

It may not make the technology unusable but it imposes sharp limits on the way you use it.

Communicating impressive amounts despite the language barrier. Be a touch awkward later if it turned out their surnames indicated profession or homeland, huh?
Only a bit- no harm done, literally. And better safe than sorry, given that Shaylar's clearly very distressed and protective of him. Even if they're not husband and wife, they're clearly important to each other somehow.

To be perfectly clear, Jathmar's injuries would have been fatal, even with the best healing Talents and mundane medicine Sharona had.
Of course, Sharonan mundane medical science is probably limited to World War One levels. If so, they have antiseptic surgery, but abdominal surgery is extremely risky- even the perforated intestines would be very likely to kill a man from sepsis all by themselves. And there's no equivalent of a heart-lung machine, so you can't shut down a person's heart while doing surgery on it- given the extent of Jathmar's chest injuries, damage to his heart can't be ruled out although it obviously can't be that extensive or he'd already be dead. Also no antibiotics, so any substantial surgery at all can be deadly if infection sets in.

And I don't recall what if any things Sharonan Talents can do for medical cases.

I seem to recall them going down from machine guns later on.
True, but the machine guns in question are mostly the equivalent of a .50 caliber weapon. So yes, it's fair to say that individual rounds from big game rifle-caliber weapons are marginal against a dragon. Lots of such rounds is another matter, but Shaylar probably doesn't know much about Sharonan heavy weapons.

Again with all this understanding, without a common language or anything like common culture or history from which to assume gestures or expressions.
I think Weber tends to dramatize and upscale that kind of mutual understanding because he doesn't actually like writing catastrophic misunderstandings. He may also underestimate how different two different cultures' body language can be.

[qutoe]
People capable of murdering an entire civilian survey crew were capable of anything, and torture could be undeniably effective. No Sharonian nation had used it—openly, at least; there were persistent grim rumors about the current Uromathian emperor and his secret police—in centuries. But in Sharona's dim, grim past, torture had been an approved and often frighteningly effective method of extracting detailed information from captives.
Sharonans don't torture. Except maybe the Uromathian Secret Police. Oh, and there are Uromathian Secret Police.[/quote]Having a mind reader handy can make torture actually work, or at least I assume Weber realizes it's normally very unreliable without them.

Also, there are Uromathian secret police, but the Czars had them too, so that's not out of character for Sharona's general 1900-level technical and social organization.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-02-27 12:03am

Largely skipping through this chapter. Jasak's relief, Hundred Thalmayr, arrives and assumes command, while Jasak is heading back upchain towards New Arcana. He was due some R&R and someone has to report what happened, and see the captured technologies and prisoners reach home.

Thalmayr pretty much ignores Jasak's plan to fall back, instead fortifying the swamp portal to Hell's Gate on their side. He has three reasons, in order of descending reasonableness: this portal is the most defensible one in three worlds, the only one he could hope to hold with available resources. The Hell's Gate supercluster is too valuable to simply abandon. And he will not cede one inch of sacred Arcanan soil to the enemy without a fight. For some reason, he makes this last one his primary argument.

Just to establish further that Thalmayr isn't too bright, he freaks out when he sees that Shaylar and Jathmar, though under guard, are not restrained. Despite their being hundreds of miles in an unknown direction from friendly forces. He orders them chained up and we learn a new Andaran concept, shardoni, "shieldlings." Because his command basically killed their friends and almost killed them, wrongfully, Jathmar has effectively adopted the couple and they are under his explicit protection. There's apparently more to it than that, a vast body of obligations he owes to Shaylar and Jathmar, but these are the basics and the only part explained. This shardoni concept is so rooted in the Andaran culture that Jasak can apparently legally disembowel Thalamayr, a slightly superior officer, for trying to harm or even restrain his shardonai. Thalmayr decides to back down.

Thalmayr does one thing right in giving a very well-deserved "what the hell?" to Jasak regarding a first contact that makes all their worst-case scenarios look painfully optimistic.


An actually interesting conversation between Jasak and Halathyn gets completely skipped (Jathmar hears shouting, but doesn't speak the language) in which Jasak tries to convince Halathyn to go home with him, away from the imminent warzone.


"I'm the only obvious civilian in this camp," she said in a deliberately patient voice, "since even Magister Halathyn looks more 'official and military' than I do, in their eyes. I'm the only person they're likely to even halfway trust. I've also seen virtually everything that happened out here. What I know, what I've already seen and done, make my inclusion in whatever happens to them imperative."

"That's the official position of the Guild?" he asked, knowing full well that the Guild didn't know anything about this situation as yet. Gadrial knew it, too, but she looked him squarely in the eye.

"It is," she said flatly, and it would be, as soon as the news broke. She'd see to that personally, if she had to. Meanwhile, the closer she stayed to them, the less likely it was that anyone in the Army—or in the halls of political power, for that matter—would be able to spirit them off under a veil of secrecy and do whatever they deemed "necessary" to extract information. Not even politicians and commanders of legions wanted to take on the Guild of Sorcerers, and the Guild would certainly back her. Especially with Magister Halathyn's guaranteed support.


The Magisters/Magistrons, at least, operate as part of a guild, which is a considerable force in Arcanan politics in it's own right. As the only guild members for thousands of miles, Gadriel and Halathyn can pretty much make up guild policy on the spot, confident that their brethren back home will back them.


Then again, Hulmok Arthag mistrusted most things in life, including people. Not without reason; Arpathians learned the meaning of prejudice the instant they set foot outside Arpathia.

The other races of Sharona made Arpathians the butt of jokes and viewed them—some tolerantly, some nastily—as barbarians. But no one made jokes about Hulmok Arthag, and if he was considered an unlettered barbarian, no one said so within his earshot.


Arpathians are Sharonan Mongols, and while they'll cheerfully use the same technology and Talents as everyone else, they remain very much nomads of the steppes. The stereotypes and prejudices about them are not entirely divorced from reality. But that just makes them more problematic.


What Arthag did trust were his own strong hands, his own determination, and the hearts of those under his command. Not their minds, for no man's—or woman's—mind could be guaranteed, let alone trusted. But a heart could be measured, if one looked into its depths with the sort of Talent that laid its innermost secrets bare, and Hulmok Arthag had that Talent. He didn't misuse it, as some might have, but when it came to assessing the men under his command, he used it ruthlessly, indeed, and he'd come up with many ways to get rid of any man who failed to meet his own rigorous standards.


Some kind of telepathic talent that lets him assess character. Likely has other uses, since he mentions that others abuse it.


His ancient forebears had halted the eastward Ternathian advance in its tracks. Able to live off the land, fade into the velvet night, and strike supply trains and columns on the march at will, the Arpathian Septs had destroyed so many Ternathian armies that the emperor had finally stopped sending them.

But the Septs had learned from the violent conflict, as well, and where Ternathian armies had failed, merchants and diplomats had succeeded. The Septs had ceased raiding their unwanted neighbors, learning to trade with them, instead. That had led to greater prosperity than they had ever before known, yet no septman or septwoman had ever adopted Ternathian ways. Sons and daughters of the plains felt smothered and suffocated by walls and ceilings of wood or stone.


Ternathian/Arpathian history. Seems the Realm of Ternath never extended into their version of China OR Mongolia. But they did pacify the Mongol Arpathian hordes.


The Portal Authority had adopted the Ternathian Model 10 rifle for its cavalry, as well as its infantry. Arthag wasn't positive he agreed with the idea, but he had to admit that if they were going to issue a compromise weapon to cavalry and infantry alike, the Model 10 was about as good as it was going to get. The Ternathian Bureau of Weapons had designed the Model 10 for use by infantry, Marines, and cavalry from the outset. It was a bolt-action, chambered in .40 caliber, with a twelve-round box magazine. Its semi-bullpup design gave it a twenty-six-inch barrel, but with an overall length that was short enough to be convenient in close quarters—like in small boats, or on horseback.


Description of standard Ternathian rifle.


Under the Portal Authority's accords, any trooper had the right to bring his own horse with him, if he chose, and if the horse in question met the Authority's minimum standards. Less than a third of them took advantage of that offer, but Arthag had never met an Arpathian who hadn't, and his own mount was the envy of many a general officer.


Never really thought about it before, but this seems a very reasonable and pragmatic policy for any army that uses cavalry.


Hulmok's cavalry has two Talented specialists attached, a Whiffer and a Tracer. Their abilities are shown well before they're discussed, so the basics. The Whiffer can see past events from psychic traces left by people on places and objects. These psychic traces apparently have a pretty short shelf life, a few days tops, though violence lingers best of all, and can be erased by rainfall or too much human traffic. The Tracer can tell how many people have handled an object and get a precise compass bearing to these individuals, though like the Portal Hound there's no distance indicator, and like the Voice it doesn't work through portals. Or on the dead.


Both of them, despite their relatively junior noncommissioned ranks, were the sort of critically important specialists the Authority was always eager to get its hands on. And as critically needed specialists often did, they had a tendency to write their own tickets—often without actually realizing they'd even done it. Which, when it came right down to it, was just fine with Hulmok Arthag. He suspected that both of them would be just about useless in a firefight, but they knew that as well as he did. If it came to it, both of them were smart enough to stay out of the line of fire (if they could), and that, too, suited Arthag just fine, because they were also far too valuable to risk in a firefight. As it happened, and despite their lack of horsemanship or military polish, he liked what he'd seen of both of them—a lot. And if they could tell him anything about what had happened here, he would forgive them any military faux pas they might ever commit.


I wonder how generally this represents military Talent specialists.


There'd been no rain and little wind, which was a godsend for Parcanthi. Even so, the residual energy had already begun to dissipate. A sense of horror and pain would doubtless linger for years, but raw emotion wasn't what Parcanthi—and the rest of Sharona—sought.


Apparently details fade quickly, but emotions last a while.


"They mean to learn all they can from our gear," he said flatly, then inhaled and grimaced at the Tracer. "Nolis says they cremated the dead. I know it won't be pleasant, but try reading the ash piles."


I guess that's a thing. Jasak's platoon was very thorough in seizing the survey crew's gear and in leaving nothing of theirs behind.


The ash pits, while macabre, were less horrifying to a former homicide Tracer than they would have been to a civilian. Not that they didn't bother Hilovar anyway, of course. But that was because he could already tell they were tainted with something not quite right, something profoundly disturbing. Whatever it was, he'd already encountered it when he Traced the survey crew's actual death sites.


Both Whiffer and Tracer agree that magic residue feels wrong. The word they keep using is 'unnatural.'


"I kept getting a Whiff of something really odd in this clearing. It was pretty strong where our people died, but it was even stronger over there." He pointed into the standing trees opposite the clearing where the crew had made its fatal last stand. "I got the strongest sense of it where I caught the flashes of those weird, shiny tubes Kinlafia described."

"That's interesting." Arthag rubbed his chin thoughtfully, looking from one spot to the other. "You sensed it at the point of impact, and at the point of origin. But not between? Shouldn't there be a parabola of residue between them, along the trajectory?"


He can sense the dragon's effects at the point of origin and impact, but nothing along the path. If that's significant somehow, it hasn't come up yet, but it is unusual enough to bear mentioning. Especially since we see dragons in use and there's definitely a fireball or lightning bolt that moves from weapon to target.


Every living creature generated its own energy field, created by that mysterious, poorly understood force that animated a physical body. Inanimate objects had their own strange energies, as well, and all objects vibrated at a specific rhythm. A person sensitive to those rhythms could detect them, focus on them, separate them from one another and wrest information from them. Could discern what forces had worked upon them, could draw visions—the famous "flashes" of the Whiffer—of past events out of the energy flowing about them.

Someone like Soral Hilovar, on the other hand, could touch an object and trace the major events in its history. If a living creature handled or came into contact with an object, some of that creature's life energy remained behind. The residue was like a static charge, except that it never entirely dissipated. Details would fade eventually, yet for the most part, the energy patterns left behind endured for a long time. But where a Whiffer might use those patterns to determine what had happened, a Tracer, like Hilovar, was sensitive to the connection between the object and whoever had touched it. Unlike a Whiffer, a Tracer couldn't see the general vicinity of those events, couldn't pick up flashes of what else had happened in its vicinity. But in many ways, what a Tracer did see was considerably more detailed. He could frequently tell whether or not the person involved in an event was dead or still alive. And, somewhat like Darcel's own sensitivity to portals, a Tracer could determine a directional bearing to the person in question.

The residue Whiffers and Tracers worked with was even stronger when a complex living creature—like a person—took a specific action. A violent action, or one steeped in powerful emotion—terror, rage, passion—left the strongest residue of all. If someone picked up a rock and bashed somebody else with it, a ghostly imprint remained behind, creating a shadow copy of the action . . . and its results. The shadow copy didn't even need to be tied to a specific object, if the original action had been sufficiently intense. The stronger the emotions, the stronger the copy. Sometimes, the shadow could last for years, particularly indoors—


How the powers work. It seems traces can survive years if undisturbed by people or the elements. Perhaps specifically preserved for forensic examination?


"It's too faint, curse it," he whispered, "and there were too many people crowded into the spot. The energy patterns are all jumbled up, imprinted on top of one another. I can't sort them out."


Parcanthi (the Whiffer) sees Jathmar go down with obviously lethal injuries. But with such heavy traffic of the area, he just can't tell if there were any survivors, besides the people Darcel saw die. He does see that they carried Shaylar off, and that she was still alive but with serious head trauma.


"We've got the same trouble here. There was so much violence the event residues have contaminated the objects caught in the middle of them. Everything I've touched so far has so many echoes clinging to it that I can't get accurate readings. If we had more objects to Trace from, the odds would be better. But with so little evidence, and so many strong residues, it's going to be tough. I'll do my dead level best, I promise you that. And if we can find the place where they took the wounded, if we can isolate something there that she and Jathmar touched, the odds will go up. But even then, it's going to be dicey. And if there's another portal nearby—"


Tracer powers can also be confused by large-scale massacres.

And portals don't block but 'scramble' Voice messages, Mapper impressions and Traces.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-02-28 05:02pm

And portals don't block but 'scramble' Voice messages, Mapper impressions and Traces.


The term 'scramble' is only used to describe what happens to the 'residue' of an object when the person associated with it steps through a portal, and seems to imply that the direct connection between the person and object, that would allow a Tracer to tell if they are alive or dead and which direction they are in, is destroyed. Voice transmissions, Mapping and the actual act of Tracing, along with all other Talents, do seem to be simply blocked by portals.

Also, all the versions I've read use the spelling 'shardonai', rather than 'shardoni'.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-02-28 08:33pm

My compy have it treated pretty consistently as shardoni (singular) shardonai (plural). Occasionally shardon when discussing the status or concept, but more often one of the previous.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-03-01 06:28am

Ahriman238 wrote:My compy have it treated pretty consistently as shardoni (singular) shardonai (plural). Occasionally shardon when discussing the status or concept, but more often one of the previous.


The versions I've seen of both the first book and the sequel use 'shardon' for the status and the singular noun, and 'shardonai' for the plural noun. Maybe there's a difference between editions, or something.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-03-04 12:58pm

Below them, as far as he could see, lay miles and miles of trackless swamp. He'd discovered that his Mapping Talent worked just fine from up here—or would have, if not for the fact that he'd never in his life moved this quickly. Trying to sort out everything his Talent let him See was all but impossible simply because of the speed with which it came at him. He was sure he could have learned to compensate with practice, but for now he couldn't make a great deal of sense out of what he was Seeing. Which was particularly frustrating, since he rather doubted that his captors realized they'd given him the opportunity to chart a perfect escape route . . . if only he'd been up to the challenge.


Jathmar can Map from the air, he just isn't experienced doing it as fast as a dragon can fly. Presumably he’s at least tried it on trains, so there’s a lower limit on a dragon’s limit.


It was a fairly large structure, but scarcely huge, and he nodded inside. Everything he'd seen so far suggested that their captors were operating at the end of an extensive line of relatively unimproved universes, much as the Chalgyn Consortium crew had been doing when they blundered into one another. He'd seen scores of Sharonian forts very much like the one below him. Form followed function, so it was probably a multiversal pattern: an outer stockade, made of thick logs hewn from the clumps of forest dotting the vast swamp, wrapped around a fairly large open courtyard which held several buildings.


Arcanan frontier fort, much like the Sharonan equivalent.


A sturdy, if roughly built, pier ran out into the bay from the seaward face of the fort. That, too, was something he'd seen many times before. What he hadn't ever seen was a ship like the one lying alongside that pier, and his eyes narrowed behind the protective glass shield as he studied it.

It wasn't especially huge—not more than three hundred feet, he estimated, though it could have been a bit more than that—and its sleek lines were unlike those of any ship he'd ever seen before. It was slim, obviously designed for high speed, with sharply flared clipper bows and a graceful sheer. The superstructure seemed enormously top-heavy to Jathmar, far bigger and blockier than any Sharonian ship he'd ever seen, but that might have been partly because there was so little other top hamper. It had only a single mast, whose sole function was clearly to support the lookout pod at its top, and there was no trace of the tall funnels a Sharonian steamer would have boasted. In fact, that was the strangest thing of all, he realized. The ship below him had neither sails nor funnels, so what in the names of all the Uromathian devils made it go?


Magic. No really, there's a big magic crystal at the back that makes the boat go. Arcanan ship.


Olderhan was waiting with grave patience, and when Jathmar turned, he gestured both of them forward with a reassuring smile. They approached him obediently, and he hesitated a moment, then offered Shaylar an arm. It was a gallant gesture, as well as a pragmatic one, given her unsteadiness. And it might just be Jasak's way of sending an important message to the people waiting across the beach, Jathmar thought. He looked down at Shaylar, nodded reluctantly, and watched her lean against the officer's forearm. She looked up at her towering captor and actually produced a smile, despite the bruises and swelling that turned it into a pathetic, lopsided expression that clearly caused her pain.

Jathmar saw a few widened eyes, and more than one look of sudden uncertainty that bordered on . . . guilt as Shaylar's tiny size and brutally battered appearance registered. He blinked in surprise when he identified that particular emotion. Then his eyes narrowed as he realized Jasak Olderhan clearly knew what he was doing . . . and that he appeared to be swaying at least a few opinions.


First impressions are important.


For one thing, there were cages along the far side of the open courtyard. There weren't many of them, but they were big enough to hold a really massive wolf or a small pony, and they obviously contained something which was violently alive. The cages were too far away to determine what kind of creature was penned inside, but he could see—and hear—enough to know they were unlike anything which had ever walked Sharonian soil or flapped through Sharonian skies.

They gave off metallic glints, for starters, rather like the dragons did. They also produced a noise like a steam whistle in a crowded railway station, and the breeze carried the smell of them across the courtyard to Jathmar. He wriggled his nose, trying to come up with something—anything—familiar he could compare it to. Nothing came to mind, though.


Those'll be Griffins, I believe.


Other cages and pens were reassuringly normal looking. He could see chickens in coops and a pigpen with a number of live swine lolling in the mud, and he could hear the distinctive bleating of goats. What he didn't see was any trace of horses, or any similar draft animals.

Given the dragons' size, they certainly had to be housed outside the fort, but he hadn't seen any sign of external corrals for more mundane transport animals as they overflew the fort, which struck him as a little odd. All Sharonian portal forts stocked horses and mules. They were necessary for rapid deployment in the field against border bandits, portal pirates, or other serious threats to civilian lives in a frontier settlement. They were equally essential for the pursuit of armed desperadoes, the transport of supplies and equipment, rescue work in the face of natural disaster, or hauling supply wagons or the field artillery held at most of the larger portal forts.


Some more differences between Arcanan and Sharonan forts. On the other hand, while hundreds of miles from Hell's Gate, still in swampland. Maybe they have horses in other forts. Or magic jeeps.


He couldn't tell how many men were housed here, but he had the distinct impression that the fort had been designed to hold a much larger garrison.

That was interesting . . . and worrisome. From what he could see, Grafin Halifu probably had almost as many men as these people did, despite the fact that his company was understrength. But even if that were true, it was clear this fort was intended as the base for a force much larger than Halifu's. So, was that larger garrison simply out in the field on exercises? That was certainly possible, and if true, it meant the enemy had sufficient reinforcements in close proximity to easily handle anything Halifu might throw at them.

On the other hand, if Jathmar was right that this was an end-of-the-line installation, built primarily to service the swamp portal, then it might very well still be awaiting the rest of its garrison. Gods knew that was common enough for the Portal Authority's forts! And if that were the case here, then that gray-eyed man on the beach might just find himself very hard pressed to hold off a prompt Sharonian strike.


IIRC it's a little of both. There are forces Jathmar isn't seeing, but they're still below establishment. For a while longer.


The gray-haired man spoke at length with Jasak Olderhan and Gadrial. Jathmar didn't need to speak the language to recognize a physician at work, and he watched the—doctor? healer?—nodding slowly and jotting what were obviously notes into a small crystal the size of his palm. Like Halathyn's, this man's crystal held squiggles of text that glowed faintly. But he tucked that crystal away in a capacious pocket and pulled out a much slimmer one, long and thin, with a bluntly tapering point at one terminus. The new crystal's other end was rounded, shaped to fit into his palm, and he held it out and murmured something.

A beam of light streamed from the end. Shaylar twitched away in astonishment, but he only smiled reassuringly and allowed the light to play across the back of his other hand, demonstrating its harmlessness. She looked at him just a bit timidly, then smiled back and sat straight and still as he peeled back her eyelids, peered carefully into her pupils, and shined the beam of light right into her eyes to see how the pupils reacted.


Some kind of medical scanner? Or just a light he uses to check eyes and ears? Which is what he does. Seeing this from Shaylar and Jathmar's perspective, we simply don't know. And either would be wondrous to them as they don't really seem to have electric lights.


Something was badly wrong with Shaylar's Voice. That suggested deep damage from the concussion, and whatever this man had sensed from his examination, it had him worried. It had Jathmar worried, too. Head injuries were the darkest fear of most of the Talented, whether they were willing to admit it or not. So little was known about the human brain, even now, and without the services of a Healer specifically trained in treating those with major Talents, the odds of Shaylar's ever recovering her Voice were probably much less than even.


The Sharonans understand that head injuries can mess up your Talents, so they consider them with even more horror.


Jathmar sat down and held Shaylar's hand in his. The healer glanced at him once, then placed his own hands carefully on her temples and began whispering. Something was happening between his hands—an indefinable something that shivered around Shaylar's head. It wasn't quite a glow, so much as an odd thickening of the light, and as it strengthened, her eyes closed.

-snip-

Jathmar's eyes widened. Dark, ugly bruises—purple and black and crimson—paled to the yellows and browns of old trauma . . . then faded completely away. The swelling receded, as well, as some fantastic process he could only gape at sent the pooled liquids under her skin—blood serum and excess water—seeping back into the tissues and blood vessels from which they had come. The man spoke quietly, and Gadrial dampened a cloth and used it to gently cleanse the crusted cuts and abrasions. As she rinsed away the dried blood, Jathmar saw that the skin beneath it had completely healed. All that remained of the ugly cuts and deep abrasions were the faintest traces of fine white scar along her temple, cheekbone and eyebrow. Her face, so fragile against the white hospital sheet pillowcase, bore no further traces of the desperate injuries she had sustained.


What a real, trained healer (no offense, Gadriel) can do.


They fluttered slowly open, and even before she was awake, the marriage bond roared wide open. He felt her confusion and wondering surprise that the pain in her head was gone. Then her eyes focused on Jathmar, and the rush of love and relief and gratitude that overflowed his heart poured into her senses.

She reached up and touched his face with gentle fingers that trembled ever so slightly.

"It's back," she whispered. "The bond . . . I can hear you again. . . ."


Fixed that much, anyway.


"It's hardly standard procedure to bring a captured prisoner to an official debriefing, Hundred Olderhan. I trust you have a good reason?" he said after returning Jasak's salute.

"As a matter of fact, Sir, I have several reasons. Jathmar doesn't understand our language, so there's no risk of a security breach. And there's nothing in this office, Sir that could be even remotely considered classified. But my primary concern is for Jathmar's safety."

"His safety?" Klian echoed.

"My men are badly shaken, Five Hundred. Fifty Garlath's platoon outnumbered Jathmar's survey crew three-to-one, but we took massive casualties. Their weapons are devastatingly effective, and their rate of fire is considerably higher than even a dragoon arbalest's. Quite frankly, some of my survivors fear and hate him. They wouldn't try anything against his wife—they were properly horrified when they found out we'd nearly killed a woman—but I wouldn't care to leave Jathmar in the same room with any of them. Not without an armed guard to see that no one tried anything."


And he doesn't trust Jathmar not to freak out if seperated from the two or three Arcanans whose names he knows. Jathmar continues to impress with his ability to think things through, and has mostly made up the ground he lost with his containment plan and showing Shaylar the cremations.


"You realize, Olderhan, that your career may end over this?" Klian said almost gently, and Jasak met his eyes steadily.

"I do, Sir."

"Yes, I'm sure you do. Not all officers would."


Yeah, it may have been Garlath who shot an unarmed man and started this thing, but Jasak was in command and he's the one who gets to live to report a probable war with another multidimensional civilization.


"Were they soldiers?"

Klian looked at Jasak intently, and the younger officer paused before he answered.

"I'm almost certain they weren't, Sir," he said. "A survey crew, obviously, but a civilian one. They weren't in uniform, didn't even all have the same sorts of boots or trousers. They had the kind of gear you'd expect portal surveyors to have, but none of it was stamped or painted or embroidered with unit insignia, or any sort of military identification marks. And they had an awfully broad assortment of weapons, too. Most of them carried the same sort of hand weapon, but their shoulder arms differed a lot. I don't think any military unit would have accepted something as unstandardized as that. Spare parts and ammunition differences would play hell with the Quartermaster Corps, if nothing else." He shrugged most unhappily. "When you mix all of that together, I can only come up with one answer, Sir. Yes, they were civilians."


It's an important question to ask, and Jasak's reasoning is pretty sound considering how much nothing they know about the other side and their culture.


The last thing this boy needed, duke's son or no, was to throw himself into the sort of catfight this was going to be. Klian didn't like to think about what was going to happen to Shaylar and Jathmar once higher authority got its hands on them. The military was going to be bad enough; the politicians and the internal security forces were going to be a nightmare. Given what was already hanging over Jasak's head, not to mention the inevitable tribunal, throwing himself between his prisoners and the entire Arcanan military and political establishment would be suicidal for his career. The five hundred couldn't conceive of any other possible consequence for his actions.

But when he looked into Jasak Olderhan's eyes, he knew the hundred didn't need him to explain that.


Just because the son of a major Andaran Grand Duke and one of the most famous living Magisters are against Shaylar and Jathmar being vanished into a dark dungeon to have everything they know about Sharona pulled out of them, doesn't necessarily mean it won't happen. They'll have a serious fight on their hands however it turns out.


Five Hundred Klian gives Jasak his travel orders for home, including a warning about his shardonai. He leaves Jasak's company on the swamp portal, forwarding 6 heavier field dragons, and issuing strict orders that they stay on their side of the portal, so if another incident happens, it must happen when Sharonans try and cross over. Again, mostly because they have no idea if military reinforcements might be close, and the Hell's Gate/swamp portal is really defensible.


The column halted, and the man riding at its head beside the standard-bearer with the dove-tailed company guidon, embroidered with the three copper-colored cavalry sabers which denoted its place within its parent battalion, looked around. Kinlafia had never actually met him, but he recognized Company-Captain chan Tesh without any trouble, and the dark-skinned petty-captain beside him had to be Rokam Traygan. The fact that Darcel had seen chan Tesh's face through Traygan's eyes without ever seeing Traygan's was one of those oddities Voices quickly became accustomed to.


I guess that would be jarring. Serious reinforcements catch up with Arthag's cavalry platoon.


He and his column had been just over twenty miles from the entry portal to New Uromath when the stunning news reached them. Chan Tesh was willing to admit privately that he hadn't been pushing the pace at that point, since he'd expected to relieve Company-Captain Halifu on routine garrison duty and hadn't really been looking forward to taking over Halifu's rain-soaked portal fort. The Uromathian company-captain's reports had made it abundantly clear just how soggy chan Tesh's new duty post was likely to be.

But word of the mysterious strangers who'd slaughtered the Chalgyn Consortium survey crew had changed all of that. Chan Tesh had quickly reorganized the transport column, leaving the infantry and the majority of the support troops, including his half-dozen field guns, with his executive officer while chan Tesh himself took a hard core of mounted troops ahead as quickly as he could. Over the last five days, he and his relief force had covered almost three hundred miles, most of it through dense, rainy forest. If it hadn't been the worst five-day ride of Balkan chan Tesh's life, it had to come close.


How the reinforcements came to be here.


Chan Tesh's own cavalry company—Copper Company, First Battalion, Ninth Regiment, Portal Authority Armed Forces—led the column. He'd left one of his three platoons with his XO, and Copper Company had been a bit understrength to begin with, but he still had eighty-five experienced, hardened troopers. Then there were the two platoons of Imperial Ternathian Marines.


157 men, mostly Ternathian Marines acting as dragoons, a dedicated cavalry company, and a machine gun squad.


Most nations' marines were straight leg-infantry—not surprisingly, since marines were supposed to spend most of their time in shipboard service. Ternathian Marines were a rather special case, however. They prided themselves on their ability to go anywhere and do anything their orders required, and they'd been a mainstay of the Portal Authority's multinational forces for over half a century. There were those in the Ternathian Army who were firmly convinced that what had really happened was that the Marines had hijacked a lion's share of the Ternathian commitment to the Portal Authority purely as a means of preventing the Imperial Marine Corps' demise, and chan Tesh rather suspected that those critics had at least a semi-valid point. Certainly there'd been an ongoing struggle for the military budget between the Imperial Marines and Imperial Army for as long as anyone could remember. The Navy, of course, had always stood by and watched the squabble with a sort of amused tolerance. No one was going to suggest funding land troops at the expense of the Imperial Navy, after all.


Inter-service rivalries among the Ternathian military. Ternathian Marines make up most of the Portal Authority forces.


He didn't doubt for a moment that at least some of the rear-area wonders were going to criticize Halifu for allowing his precious Voice to accompany the rescue force to the wrong side of this universe's entry portal. But, as he'd just said, chan Tesh felt the Uromathian officer had made exactly the right decision. And at least Halifu had two good Flickers of his own. They might not be Voices, but they were capable of teleporting—or "Flicking"—relatively small objects, like dispatch cases, for distances of up to thirty or forty miles. Some Flickers had managed as much as fifty miles, and they were prized by Sharonian military organizations. They might not have the reach or the flexibility of Voices, but they were a damned good substitute over their effective ranges, and there were often decided advantages to transmitting physical messages.

Junior-Armsman Tairsal chan Synarch, chan Tesh's senior Flicker, had managed to get word to Halifu less than twenty-four hours ago, and Petty-Armsman Bantha, Halifu's senior Flicker, had relayed that information to Arthag, in turn. Since chan Tesh and his column had crossed over into this universe, Traygan and Kinlafia had been in close communication, homing chan Tesh unerringly in on Arthag's position and bringing the company-captain fully up to date on everything Arthag's scouts had discovered.


Wait, wait wait. Full stop.

The Sharonans have a Talent, apparently relatively common, for teleporting small objects with pinpoint accuracy over distances of 30-50 miles. And they primarily use this.. to pass notes in dispatch cases. How about using it as a delivery system for mortar rounds? Grenades? Heck, if telefragging is a thing, just give one a handful of pebbles and whatever breathes within his range does so on sufferance.

And for the life of me I can't think of a better way for a moving cavalry unit to coordinate via Flicker that's better than: rest stop, send "We are at map coordinates XY. our status. Your status?"


Plotters were highly valued in the military. Unlike Mappers, they could provide only limited information on terrain, or what lay under the surface of the ground, but—also unlike Mappers—they were sensitive to the presence and location of living creatures. Like Mappers, they were range-limited, and usually to much shorter ranges than a Mapper. Indeed, it was the rare Plotter who could reach beyond four or five miles. But they were still extremely useful as scouts, since it was impossible for any sentry or picket within their range to conceal himself from them.


Huh, I was wrong. It's Plotter, not Tracker. Also, five miles is about Jathmar's range too, so I'm not seeing a problem with range. And if I were given the choice between seeing underground water and mineral deposits or finding people and other living creatures, that's something of a no-brainer.


The enemy had thrown up fieldworks—palisades, with what were obviously firing loopholes, protected with shallow earthen berms—to cover both aspects of his side of the portal. Because the portal itself separated them, he'd been forced to dig in two totally separate forces which were hopelessly out of visual contact and support range of one another, despite the fact that they were less than a hundred yards "apart." That much chan Tesh could readily understand, since every portal defender faced the same problem.

But the earthworks themselves puzzled him. They looked like something left over from the days of muzzleloading muskets and smoothbore cannon, he thought, except that they seemed a bit flimsy even for that. He didn't see a single bunker, and it was obvious from chan Hathas' sketch that there were no dugouts, either. In fact, chan Tesh didn't see any overhead cover.


Because the Arcanan's entire experience with artillery is that it is both direct-fire and can't actually punch through even a relatively flimsy palisade. Though clearly they could penetrate some of the cover at Fallen Timbers. Mind, you'd think the standard fiel fortifications would include some sort of shelter in case of dragon attack.


"They seem to rely entirely on the direct effect of the heat or lightning they generate. The 'fireballs,' in particular have a pronounced blast effect, but I think it's actually secondary. And they seem to . . . detonate the instant they encounter any sort of target or resistance, even if it's only a tree limb or a screen of brush."

"Obviously, none of us—" Arthag's micrometric nod indicated the troopers of his platoon "—actually saw the battle, Company-Captain. But after examining the damage patterns out there, I'd have to say I think Voice Kinlafia's on to something. There's no sign anywhere of the sort of punch-through effect you'd get from our own artillery. And no shell splinters or shrapnel, either. Their artillery seems to be spectacular as hell, and it's certainly devastating to anyone actually caught in what Voice Kinlafia calls its 'zone of effect,' but that zone is smaller than we originally thought, and I don't believe their 'guns' are going to be able to punch through very much in the way of serious cover."


Like that. Fire-dragon's fireballs detonate on the first significant resistance, even if it's just a small tree branch.


"I think they're going to have a little problem here, Platoon-Captain Arthag," chan Tesh said after a few seconds. He looked up with a thin smile. "I've brought along a mortar company."

Arthag's eyes narrowed. Kinlafia's, on the other hand, began to glitter with fierce satisfaction, and chan Tesh nodded.

"There's a spot right here, Sir," Arthag said, indicating a point on the sketch map. "There's a nice little ravine on our side of the portal, deep enough to give cover to a standing man. It doesn't have a direct line of sight to the portal, but I think it would do just fine for mortars."


Advantage Sharona. And I guess a mortar company also came on the rapid ride to the front.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-03-09 02:19am

Ahriman238 wrote:Ternathian/Arpathian history. Seems the Realm of Ternath never extended into their version of China OR Mongolia. But they did pacify the Mongol Arpathian hordes.
Honestly, I'd expect the 'Arpathians' to extend across much of our world's Central Asia. The differences among the Turkic and Mongolian people of that region were usually more a difference of degree than a difference in kind.

Ahriman238 wrote:Jathmar can Map from the air, he just isn't experienced doing it as fast as a dragon can fly. Presumably he’s at least tried it on trains, so there’s a lower limit on a dragon’s limit.
Not sure what this means, but yeah. 100 miles an hour would be incredible record-setting speed for an express train in Jathmar's frame of reference, and 'normal' speeds are going to be anywhere from, oh, 25 to 60 miles an hour. Dragons are repeated established as being able to cover hundreds of miles in an hour.

It wasn't especially huge—not more than three hundred feet, he estimated, though it could have been a bit more than that—and its sleek lines were unlike those of any ship he'd ever seen before. It was slim, obviously designed for high speed, with sharply flared clipper bows and a graceful sheer. The superstructure seemed enormously top-heavy to Jathmar, far bigger and blockier than any Sharonian ship he'd ever seen, but that might have been partly because there was so little other top hamper. It had only a single mast, whose sole function was clearly to support the lookout pod at its top, and there was no trace of the tall funnels a Sharonian steamer would have boasted. In fact, that was the strangest thing of all, he realized. The ship below him had neither sails nor funnels, so what in the names of all the Uromathian devils made it go?
Magic. No really, there's a big magic crystal at the back that makes the boat go. Arcanan ship.
Rationally designed given the circumstances. Honestly might well look like a scaled-down, slimmed-down version of a modern cruise liner- which is also very, very top-heavy compared to the ships of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Some more differences between Arcanan and Sharonan forts. On the other hand, while hundreds of miles from Hell's Gate, still in swampland. Maybe they have horses in other forts. Or magic jeeps.
Given the ready availability of hoverboard-like things to allow human beings to haul heavy loads, dragons for long range cargo transport, and the fact that it's probably easier for them to build "glideway" tracks than for the Sharonans to build railroads... they might have managed to make beasts of burden largely obsolete for this kind of operation.

We DO see Arcanan horses, possibly two kinds of them, later. However, they're generally pretty wonky and mutated creatures heavily enhanced by magic, and might actually not be viable without ongoing spellcaster support.

Just because the son of a major Andaran Grand Duke and one of the most famous living Magisters are against Shaylar and Jathmar being vanished into a dark dungeon to have everything they know about Sharona pulled out of them, doesn't necessarily mean it won't happen. They'll have a serious fight on their hands however it turns out.

There were those in the Ternathian Army who were firmly convinced that what had really happened was that the Marines had hijacked a lion's share of the Ternathian commitment to the Portal Authority purely as a means of preventing the Imperial Marine Corps' demise, and chan Tesh rather suspected that those critics had at least a semi-valid point. Certainly there'd been an ongoing struggle for the military budget between the Imperial Marines and Imperial Army for as long as anyone could remember. The Navy, of course, had always stood by and watched the squabble with a sort of amused tolerance. No one was going to suggest funding land troops at the expense of the Imperial Navy, after all.
Inter-service rivalries among the Ternathian military. Ternathian Marines make up most of the Portal Authority forces.
There is a comparable squabble in real life within the US military; the Army basically views the Marines as having sneakily transformed themselves into 'lightly equipped version of the Army with lunatic warrior hagiography' as a defense mechanism against the fact that realistically we're never going to need to capture dozens of Pacific islands in a single war again.

Wait, wait wait. Full stop.

The Sharonans have a Talent, apparently relatively common, for teleporting small objects with pinpoint accuracy over distances of 30-50 miles. And they primarily use this.. to pass notes in dispatch cases. How about using it as a delivery system for mortar rounds? Grenades? Heck, if telefragging is a thing, just give one a handful of pebbles and whatever breathes within his range does so on sufferance.
I'm pretty sure telefragging isn't a thing in this setting, although I might be wrong about that.

Flicking hand grenades sounds like something the Sharonans should DEFINITELY have thought of. If the opportunity to try it hasn't arisen in their own history, they're making a serious mistake not using it against the Arcanans.

And for the life of me I can't think of a better way for a moving cavalry unit to coordinate via Flicker that's better than: rest stop, send "We are at map coordinates XY. our status. Your status?"
This is actually a pretty helpful way to coordinate large elements of a fighting force if you don't have walkie-talkies. At least, it beats historical methods of communication for 19th century cavalry all hollow.

The only hard part is actually Flicking your messages to a moving target when all you have are map coordinates figured by dead reckoning. So there are drawbacks.

Huh, I was wrong. It's Plotter, not Tracker. Also, five miles is about Jathmar's range too, so I'm not seeing a problem with range. And if I were given the choice between seeing underground water and mineral deposits or finding people and other living creatures, that's something of a no-brainer.
It depends.

I mean, which is more important- knowing the enemy soldiers are there, or knowing that if you try to walk along a straight path from 'here' to 'there,' you will be ludicrously exposed and walk into a massive ambush? Knowledge of the terrain and the ability to pick a path through it is valuable for military applications even if you can't find people on that terrain... and vice versa.

Because the Arcanan's entire experience with artillery is that it is both direct-fire and can't actually punch through even a relatively flimsy palisade. Though clearly they could penetrate some of the cover at Fallen Timbers. Mind, you'd think the standard fiel fortifications would include some sort of shelter in case of dragon attack.
Since the Sharonans apparently have no magic whatsoever, the Arcanans may (correctly) assume they have no dragons. In general, dragons would be exotic and expensive weapons fielded only by nation-states or comparably powerful actors, so frontier units more worried about banditry wouldn't need to be prepared to fight them.

As to the penetrating cover thing, it honestly seems like the only way they punched through cover was either fireballs just bursting around it (flame jetting out in all directions from the point of impact) or lightning bolts punching through it. If the field fortifications are designed to shrug off multiple hits from an infantry-dragon's lightning bolt (which can have a very different kind of damage profile than an exploding shell or a large caliber bullet), they're 'safe' from Arcanan weapons.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-03-13 09:13am

Inter-service rivalries among the Ternathian military. Ternathian Marines make up most of the Portal Authority forces.
There is a comparable squabble in real life within the US military; the Army basically views the Marines as having sneakily transformed themselves into 'lightly equipped version of the Army with lunatic warrior hagiography' as a defense mechanism against the fact that realistically we're never going to need to capture dozens of Pacific islands in a single war again.


This sounds like a fair and reasonable description of what happened.


Wait, wait wait. Full stop.

The Sharonans have a Talent, apparently relatively common, for teleporting small objects with pinpoint accuracy over distances of 30-50 miles. And they primarily use this.. to pass notes in dispatch cases. How about using it as a delivery system for mortar rounds? Grenades? Heck, if telefragging is a thing, just give one a handful of pebbles and whatever breathes within his range does so on sufferance.
I'm pretty sure telefragging isn't a thing in this setting, although I might be wrong about that.

Flicking hand grenades sounds like something the Sharonans should DEFINITELY have thought of. If the opportunity to try it hasn't arisen in their own history, they're making a serious mistake not using it against the Arcanans.


As far as I know, telefragging isn't brought up one way or another. If I had the ability to teleport small objects, that's one of the first things I'd try out, if only to reassure myself that I wouldn't be accidentally killing people and wrecking things left and right. The others, naturally, would be to experiment with range, precision, weight limits, recalling teleported objects, teleporting to objects, etc.

The Flickers probably outrange, and definitely out-precision, any artillery available to the Sharonans. We don't know their upper weight limit, dispatch cases can be pretty small. But worst case, scenario, if you had to modify some half-size grenades for them, they should at least be the functional equivalent of snipers. Give them a case of bomblets and tell them to drop these at the feet of anyone looking officerial or otherwise important.


Huh, I was wrong. It's Plotter, not Tracker. Also, five miles is about Jathmar's range too, so I'm not seeing a problem with range. And if I were given the choice between seeing underground water and mineral deposits or finding people and other living creatures, that's something of a no-brainer.
It depends.

I mean, which is more important- knowing the enemy soldiers are there, or knowing that if you try to walk along a straight path from 'here' to 'there,' you will be ludicrously exposed and walk into a massive ambush? Knowledge of the terrain and the ability to pick a path through it is valuable for military applications even if you can't find people on that terrain... and vice versa.


Well, Plotters apparently have the terrain sense, but it's more limited somehow. Possibly just the aforementioned range limit (which is odd because Jathmar operates under the same range limit) and the lack of ground-penetrating sonar sense. Or the terrain detail they get is more basic.

Because the Arcanan's entire experience with artillery is that it is both direct-fire and can't actually punch through even a relatively flimsy palisade. Though clearly they could penetrate some of the cover at Fallen Timbers. Mind, you'd think the standard fiel fortifications would include some sort of shelter in case of dragon attack.
Since the Sharonans apparently have no magic whatsoever, the Arcanans may (correctly) assume they have no dragons. In general, dragons would be exotic and expensive weapons fielded only by nation-states or comparably powerful actors, so frontier units more worried about banditry wouldn't need to be prepared to fight them.

As to the penetrating cover thing, it honestly seems like the only way they punched through cover was either fireballs just bursting around it (flame jetting out in all directions from the point of impact) or lightning bolts punching through it. If the field fortifications are designed to shrug off multiple hits from an infantry-dragon's lightning bolt (which can have a very different kind of damage profile than an exploding shell or a large caliber bullet), they're 'safe' from Arcanan weapons.


Well, that and crossbow bolts, but anything that can tank multiple lightning strikes should be capable enough there.

There's a couple of Arcanans later in the book who literally cannot conceive of civilization without magic, and therefor assume Sharonans are all clueless barbarians they can easily outwit and overcome by main force, despite a small mountain of evidence to the contrary. To their credit, they do get in some wins, entirely because of capabilities the Sharonans have never seen and didn't imagine could exist. Just like the Arcanans here 'know' that artillery is direct fire and can nether fire through a portal nor punch through their palisade.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-03-13 11:14am

Ahriman238 wrote:As far as I know, telefragging isn't brought up one way or another. If I had the ability to teleport small objects, that's one of the first things I'd try out, if only to reassure myself that I wouldn't be accidentally killing people and wrecking things left and right. The others, naturally, would be to experiment with range, precision, weight limits, recalling teleported objects, teleporting to objects, etc.
Given that Flickers routinely transport objects outside their line of sight and we don't see message casings materializing inside of rocks and trees and exploderizing stuff, it's safe to assume that some kind of no-telefrag provision is in place.

The Flickers probably outrange, and definitely out-precision, any artillery available to the Sharonans. We don't know their upper weight limit, dispatch cases can be pretty small. But worst case, scenario, if you had to modify some half-size grenades for them, they should at least be the functional equivalent of snipers. Give them a case of bomblets and tell them to drop these at the feet of anyone looking officerial or otherwise important.
This should totally happen.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-03-13 11:20am

That entry portal had turned out to be a monster when they finally found it. Threbuch had never seen—never imagined—one that size. It had to be at least thirty miles across, and as he'd gazed through it at the rain-soaked forest on the far side, he'd mentally apologized to Magister Halathyn and Magister Kelbryan for every doubt he'd cherished about their newfangled portal-finding gadget. If this wasn't a class eight portal, it could only be because it was a class nine.

Its size had been part of the problem. Threbuch had never before been assigned to scout anything that size with only two men. Finding the fort from which the survey party must have come had taken far longer than he'd liked, but the fall of night had prevented them from following the back trail all the way that first day.


The Sharonan/Hell's Gate portal is 30 miles across, the largest the Arcanans have ever seen and they've been exploring the multiverse a lot longer than Sharona. So there's a nice upper bound for portal sizes.


Borkaz had reached into his pack and pulled out his reconnaissance crystal, which looked pretty much like any other PC, except for the bracket designed to allow him to affix it to the front of his helmet. He'd pressed a button on the side of the glassy cube and studied the readout for a moment.

"I've got ninety-six hours, Chief," he'd reported.


Crystal video recorders that fit onto their helmets. Like all sarkolis tech it has a limited battery life and is recharged by mages, in this case it can last at least 4 days.


[/There were four of the ugly, deadly weapons in the ravine, and Platoon-Captain Morek chan Talmarha, the company's commanding officer, was personally overseeing their emplacement. He'd sent the two tubes of the company's third section to set up farther to the east, under Senior-Armsman Quelovak chan Sairath, his senior noncom. The terrain was less suitable there, but the weapons had a range of over six thousand yards, and chan Talmarha had managed to find a suitable spot to emplace chan Sairath's weapons out of sight of anyone on the other side. Chan Tesh would have preferred not to split them up, but he couldn't cover both aspects of the portal from a single firing position.

Arthag had been surprised when he saw the mortars attached to chan Tesh's column. The acting platoon-captain had expected the three-inch weapons which were the norm for mobile units of the PAAF; what chan Tesh had actually brought along was the heavy four-and-a-half-inch version. The three-inch weighed only a tad over eighty pounds in firing position; the four-and-a-half-inch weighed almost three hundred, and it was a pain to pack into position on mule back. Pack animals couldn't carry as many of the far heavier rounds, either, so the bigger weapon was more likely to be used from a fortified position, or when it was possible to move using wheeled transport. In fact, that was the role intended for them when they'd been sent along with chan Tesh in the first place.

There was no question which was the more effective weapon in action, though. Mortar rounds were thinner-walled than conventional artillery shells, which meant a higher percentage of their total weight could be given up to explosive filler. The three-inch mortar's round weighed less than seven pounds, with an explosive filler of only one and a half pounds; the four-and-a-half-inch round weighed twenty-seven pounds, with five and a half pounds of filler. Both were designed to fly apart along prefragmented lines when they exploded, but whereas the three-inch had a lethal radius of about twenty-five feet, the four-and-a-half-inch's lethal radius was forty feet.


Sharonan mortars, of which they have six. Four to cover one side of the portal, two for the other. Light 3 in. mortars fire a 7 pound round with a 25 ft hard kill radius. These are heavier 4 in. versions firing 27 pound rounds with a 40 ft. radius. Also a range a bit north of 3 miles. I'm afraid I'm not positive how that stacks against period mortars.


"This close, the portal energies are playing hell with my Talent." He grimaced. "I could probably actually give you a better Plot from a half-mile back or so. I don't think there's anyone out there, but what I'm Seeing is way too 'foggy' for me to guarantee it. And," he admitted, "I may be feeling that way because there wasn't anyone the last time I Looked."


Portals mess with the Plotter too.


"I take your point, Platoon-Captain," chan Tesh said, speaking a bit more formally. "And if you saw one obvious civilian in there, there may be more we haven't seen. I take that point, as well." He turned so that he could look at both Arthag and chan Dersal. "Pass the word to all of our people that there are probable civilians in that camp. No one is to take any unnecessary chances, but we're also not out here to butcher noncombatants."

"They did," Kinlafia muttered in a barely audible voice, and chan Tesh looked at him sternly.

"Perhaps they did. But we aren't them, and neither the PAAF nor the Ternathian Empire massacres civilians." Kinlafia still looked rebellious, and chan Tesh frowned. "I understand your point, Darcel," he said firmly, "but I also have to point out that your people most definitely were not unarmed. Civilians, yes, but not unarmed, and all the evidence is that they gave at least as good as they got until the artillery opened up. We're not going to do anyone any good if we kill people who are neither armed nor shooting back just for the sake of vengeance. More than that, I'm not going to let my people turn into the very thing I'm out here hunting down. Is that clear?"


Sharonans showing restraint. While the books are trying to be about more than just good guys vs. bad guys, it's kind of hard to escape that, through circumstances, idiocy or malice, the Arcanans are consistently the aggressor whenever the shooting starts again.


Hulmok Arthag asked Bright Wind for an easy trot as he moved forward through the trees. The breeze of their passage was just enough to spread the traditional green banner of parley he carried, and he glanced up at it with a wry snort. He didn't expect the enemy to know what a Sharonian parley banner looked like, but it seemed likely that a lone horseman showing up with any banner in his hand was less likely to draw instant fire than a lone horseman without one.

Besides, as Company-Captain chan Tesh had pointed out, if he went out under a parley banner and they shot at him, anyway, there would be absolutely no question about the legal justification for unlimbering everything chan Tesh was prepared to throw at the people on the other side of that portal. When it came to starting a war—or trying to avoid one—such details mattered, and Arthag admired the way chan Tesh's mind operated.


So they're going to send a single horsemen, under a flag of truce as a sort of controlled test. See if there might be room for peace or if they other side are just crazed murderers. Sharonans use a green flag for peace/parlay.


"Stop!" he called out in a voice trained to carry above the din of battle, lifting his hand in a universal "halt" sign. "Stand right there!"

* * *

Thalmayr stopped as the horseman raised his hand. The other man's voice was authoritative, the words harsh and alien-sounding, and the hundred felt his face darken with anger. He didn't much care for the notion of having a single stranger giving him orders in front of his men! Besides, who the devil did this godsdamned fellow think he was, giving orders to an Arcanan officer!

"What do you want?" he barked back, hands on hips. "This portal is Arcanan territory!"

* * *

Arthag watched the enemy officer stop where he was. Then the other man shouted something that sounded belligerent. That might simply have been the difference in languages, he reminded himself conscientiously, but there was still something about the other man's body language that rubbed Arthag the wrong way.

"You've attacked my people!" Arthag shouted back, sweeping one arm around to point toward the distant battlefield. "And you've taken prisoners." That was still a shot in the dark, of course, but the other man wouldn't understand a word he was saying anyway. "I want to see Shaylar! Shaylar Nargra-Kolmayr!"

* * *

Thalmayr twitched. Most of the words the horseman had spouted were only so much more arrogant-sounding gibberish, but not all of them. He shouldn't really have been surprised—if this was a member of a search party, presumably he would have known who he was searching for, after all—but it still took him off guard. Perhaps the name had taken him by surprise simply because it was the only part of the other man's unintelligible speech he'd been able to recognize.

His mind flashed back to the confrontation with Olderhan, the tiny, beautiful woman with the brutally bruised face standing behind the other hundred, and remembered fury whipped through him. It stiffened his shoulders, and his eyes flashed angrily as his head came up.

* * *

Arthag's breath hissed as the name struck the other man with visible force.

That bastard knows Shaylar's name! He recognized it!


Diplomacy is not off to the best start. But hey, they found something they both understand, and clearly if they recognize Shaylar's name, someone from the survey drew lived to tell it to them. How do you suppose Thalmayr will handle this delicate topic, it can't be easy to communicate "She's hurt and was moved far away for medical attention. She's fine, but I can't produce her, nor lead you to where she is." across the language barrier.


Despite the remembered flare of anger, Thalmayr made himself think. The woman—Shaylar—had been the only woman in the other party. No doubt the search parties would be especially concerned about her, so it made sense for this fellow to mention her name. But the fact that he was sitting out here talking strongly suggested he had no notion there'd already been shooting. He seemed far too calm, too unconcerned over his own safety. So if he didn't know—or even strongly suspect—that this Shaylar had been captured, the thing to do was to bluff, play for time. Besides, Thalmayr couldn't have produced the woman even if that was what the other man had demanded.

The hundred composed his expression into one of confusion, then shook his head and raised his hands, shoulder-high and palms uppermost in a pantomime of helpless incomprehension.

"I'm afraid I don't understand a single word you're saying, you stupid bastard!" he called back.

* * *

"Wrong answer," Arthag growled under his breath as the other officer shouted back something unintelligible. Then he raised his own voice, louder than before.

"Shaylar! Bring me Shaylar right now!"

* * *

Thalmayr's jaw clenched. He still couldn't understand what the other man was saying, but the repeated use of Shaylar's name in what certainly sounded like an increasingly angry tone, worried him. The mounted man wasn't asking general questions, wasn't following the sort of "take me to your leader" approach one might have expected from a first-contact situation. Whatever he was saying, he was being specific—very specific. And he kept using the woman's name.

"I can't understand you!" Thalmayr shouted back. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about!"


Lying to someone across the language barrier is pretty hard too. You chose.... poorly.


Arthag listened not to the words—which wouldn't have meant anything to him, anyway—but to the tone, and his eyes were narrower than ever as he studied the other man's body language.

Whatever this bastard's saying, he's lying out his ass, the Arpathian decided. He was fully aware that he knew nothing at all about the other's cultural template, the gestures his people routinely used among themselves. But Arthag's Talent was at work. Like any Talent, it couldn't penetrate the interface of a portal, but after so many years, so much experience of knowing what was behind a gesture, a shift in expression, a change in tone, he was prepared to back his own ability to read the hearts of others across any imaginable cultural divide.


Ah, so that's how his unnamed Talent works. Reading body language, facial tics, voice tone, micro-expressions etc.


"You're lying!" he shouted. "You know perfectly well who I'm asking for! You bring me Shaylar—Shaylar Nargra-Kolmayr—now! I want to see her here—right here!" His left hand pointed at the ground in front of Bright Wind. "Shaylar, now! Or we come in there, kick your cowardly, murdering ass, and pull her out ourselves!"

* * *

He knows, Hadrign Thalmayr realized abruptly. He knows what happened!

The other man's anger was painfully obvious, and the jabbing of that accusatory index finger could not be mistaken. He wasn't asking if they'd seen the little bitch; he was demanding that they produce her.

The hundred still couldn't imagine how anyone could have gotten word back, but they obviously had. Yet whatever they'd gotten back must've been garbled, or partial, he thought, his mind whizzing along at dizzying speed.

They know something happened, he told himself, fighting to stay calm, but if they really knew what, they'd've come loaded for dragon, and they wouldn't have started out asking questions. And this bastard's here all by himself . . . probably.

Thalmayr's brain hurt as all the possibilities and ramifications spun through it. He didn't know that this single cavalryman really was here on his own. It seemed possible, although it was obviously far from certain. But even if he'd brought friends along, they were all still on the far side of the portal. Those shoulder weapons of theirs might be able to punch through the interface, just as arbalest bolts from Thalmayr's own men could, but artillery would be useless, and not even artillery could knock down his fortifications. So unless there were hundreds of the bastards out there in the woods, Thalmayr's positional advantage was still overwhelming.

I need more information, he told himself. And I need to keep the other side guessing as long as possible. And these people's weapons are supposed to be noisy as hell, whereas our arbalests aren't, and he's well within my people's range. So if they have split up their search parties to cover more ground . . .

The decision made itself. Perhaps, if he hadn't been trying to juggle so many unknowns, so many imponderables, simultaneously, he would have thought it through a bit more clearly, realized just how many optimistic assumptions he was still allowing himself.

But perhaps not, either.

* * *

Arthag watched angrily as the other man shook his head again, forcefully. Then the lying bastard made a mistake.

He snarled something low . . . and the sentries both whipped up their crossbows.

* * *

"All right!" Thalmayr shouted at the other man. "That's enough of this silly shit! You're my prisoner, godsdamn it!"

It was his turn to point at the ground with one hand while the other made a peremptory "get your ass over here!" gesture.

"Get over here now! Or, by all the gods, I'll nail you to that fucking saddle!"

* * *

"You must be as crazy as you are stupid," Hulmok Arthag said conversationally, although there was no way in any of the hells the other man could have heard him. Then he raised his voice.

"I don't think so!" he shouted back, his voice firm but calm, and shook his head.

* * *

"Fine!" Thalmayr snarled.

The horseman had obviously understood the surrender demand, but he didn't even seem to care. He only sat calmly in the saddle, exactly the way he had been, ignoring the arbalests aimed at him, and Hundred Thalmayr's simmering anger—and uncertainty—turned into pure, distilled fury at his failure to impose his will on the situation. And at that single, arrogant prick sitting out there as if he didn't have a care in the world. As if Hadrign Thalmayr were a threat too insignificant for him even to deign to notice.

"Have it your own way!" he shouted at the other man.

* * *

"They've fired on Platoon-Captain Arthag!" Balkar chan Tesh snapped.


And diplomacy breaks down in the stupidest possible way. Thalmayr gets internal cursing and just like that becomes as incompetent as Garlath earlier.

My personal theory for how these people keep winding up here and in positions of authority is simple. There are basically two kinds of people in the Andaran Portal Scouts this far from home. The true-blue explorers who want to escape the confines of civilization (especially if it's as restrictive as Mythal) and the sort of people whose superiors are very happy to find them some unimportant post many thousands of miles away from them. Like people inevitably promoted above their competence.


He closed his eyes for a brief instant, and one of the small metal dispatch cases he wore at his waist, on what looked for all the world like an outsized cartridge belt, disappeared from its loop. An instant later, a second dispatch case vanished as he Flicked it to Senior-Armsman Quelovak chan Sairath covering the eastern aspect of the portal.


Flickers, with big belts of dispatch cases.


Hadrign Thalmayr cursed as the golden horse twisted on its tail and lunged sideways. He'd never imagined an unenhanced animal could move that quickly. Had he been wrong in his original assessment of it?

The question flickered behind his eyes even as both arbalest bolts hissed past its flashing hind quarters. They missed by scant inches as the rider dropped like a stone and vanished behind the horse's side. He simply vanished . . . but he hadn't hit the ground. He was hanging off the side of his saddle, completely hidden by his mount, as the horse took off like a fiend. It whipped back into the trees, and Thalmayr swore again, viciously, as he saw the rider twist himself back up into the saddle.

-snip-

Balkar chan Tesh had his field glasses back to his eyes. He'd breathed a huge sigh of relief as Arthag thundered safely back into cover, but his attention was on the murderous bastard who'd just tried to have the Arpathian murdered.

That pretty well answers the question of whether or not the first massacre was an accident, doesn't it? chan Tesh thought viciously.


It really doesn't, but it's easy to understand how it can look that way when the Arcanans try and shoot an unarmed man in the middle of parlay a second time.


He'd never heard an explosion quite like it. It wasn't the sizzling, hissing crack of an infantry-dragon's lightning bolt, or even the thunderclap of a fireball. This explosion was . . . different, somehow. Deeper-throated, more hollow and yet louder. He heard screams of pain, shock, and terror as it erupted well behind the earthworks, and terror smoked through him.

They can shoot through a portal!

Disbelief warred with his terror as he whipped around, staring at the fountain of fire and dirt and the sudden crater at its foot. Even that was wrong! It was as if the explosion had erupted underground, and that was flatly impossible for any artillery spell!

That was his first thought. But then he realized something else, something almost as terrifying as the fact that these people's artillery spells did work across a portal interface.

That explosion had been behind his parapet. Somehow, they'd projected it through the parapet before it exploded!


A wrongheaded assumption there, but it's easy to see how he arrived at it.


Thalmayr's eyes bulged with horror as he watched the massacre of Charlie Company, Second Andaran Scouts. The "protected" area behind the parapet had become a killing ground, and his men couldn't even see the artillery slaughtering them. It couldn't simply shoot through a portal, or project its effect through solid objects, it was invisible, as well!

But, unfortunately for Charlie Company, its men refused to go down without a fight.

* * *

Chan Tesh's eyes widened in astonishment as the enemy's infantry swarmed up and over the parapet. They'd already taken hideous casualties—he knew they had—but they came on anyway. Armed only with crossbows, most of them, they charged straight into the face of concealed riflemen. Here and there he saw one of them carrying one of those strange, glittering weapons which spat fireballs, but his Marines had been briefed on those, and deadly accurate rifle fire brought them down.

Then the machine guns opened up.

The Faraika I was a crank-operated, twin-barreled weapon, firing the same basic .40-caliber round as the Model 10 rifle. The barrels were mounted side-by-side, each with its own breach mechanism. Effectively they were two complete individual rifles, and rotating the crank chambered and fired each of them in rapid alternation.

Firing belted ammunition, the Faraika I had a sustained rate of fire of almost two hundred rounds per minute. It couldn't keep it up indefinitely, of course, without overheating, but there were five of them covering each aspect of the portal.

* * *

"No!" Hadrign Thalmayr screamed as an inconceivable avalanche of fire swept over the Scouts. Blood flew in grisly sprays, and his charging men went down as heads and chests exploded under the impossible sledgehammer blows of the enemy's thunder weapons.

It was too terrible to call a massacre.


"Remember lads, no matter what. We've got the Maxim Faraika gun, and they have not."

The first Sharonan machine gun, there's a heavier .50 cal model II. 200 rpm, double barrel and crank operated. But the Arcanans, who still see crossbows as the height of infantry weapons have never seen anything like a machine gun. So this their first experience with infantry charging machine gun positions over open ground. Too terrible to call a massacre sounds about right.


"Cease-fire! Cease fire!" chan Tesh shouted. "Tairsal, order the mortars to stand down—now!"

The Flicker sent the order as quickly as he could, but the big four-and-a-half-inch projectiles continued to smash down for another several seconds.

The moment they stopped falling, Hulmok Arthag's cavalry, as previously planned, led chan Tesh's own company in a thundering charge through the portal to secure the objective before the enemy could recover.

* * *

Hundred Thalmayr watched sickly as at least a hundred mounted men erupted from the forest. They rode straight over his own men, but even in his agony and despair, the hundred realized they were more intent on getting through the portal and into his camp then they were in massacring his troopers. They completely ignored his wounded, and they seemed almost equally willing to ignore the unwounded, as long as no one offered resistance to their passage.

Here and there, one of the Andaran Scouts, carried away by battle rage, or hatred—or duty—did offer resistance. But every one of those charging cavalrymen had one of their deadly hand thunder weapons in his fist, and Thalmayr groaned as still more of his men went down.


Sharonans move on to the part of the plan where they recover Fallen Timbers survivors and take prisoners.


Then a fresh blur of motion caught his eye. Magister Halathyn crashed backwards through the opening of his tent. He staggered, clutching at one visibly wounded arm, then went heavily to his knees on the muddy ground. An enemy trooper exploded out of the tent on his heels, shouting at him, holding one of those ghastly hand weapons and pointing it directly at the aged magister.

Magister Halathyn was gasping out something, pointing frantically towards the east, then jabbing the same hand at the tents full of wounded. The dismounted cavalryman glared at him for an endless instant, still pointing his weapon at the magister's head. Then he lowered it, holding it by his side, and reached out his free hand to help the wounded Halathyn to his feet.

Thalmayr gasped in relief—only to scream in useless denial a heartbeat later as a lightning bolt lashed out from his own parapet. It caught two more of the enemy horsemen . . . and slammed through them to catch Magister Halathyn and the man helping him to his feet, as well.


And Magister Halathyn, a living legend of Arcana, is killed by friendly fire.


And yeah, that's the First Battle of Hell's Gate. If it seems really one-sided, that's because it was. The Sharonans exploited several weapons the Arcanans had never heard of and couldn't really anticipate or defend themselves adequately against. In Second Hell's Gate, the Arcanans do the same thing by unleashing dragons and chemical warfare, both very new to Sharona.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-03-13 07:55pm

Ahriman238 wrote:Sharonan mortars, of which they have six. Four to cover one side of the portal, two for the other. Light 3 in. mortars fire a 7 pound round with a 25 ft hard kill radius. These are heavier 4 in. versions firing 27 pound rounds with a 40 ft. radius. Also a range a bit north of 3 miles. I'm afraid I'm not positive how that stacks against period mortars.
Favorably; no such mortars existed during the World War One period. Compared to WWII mortars of comparable caliber, such as:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M2_4.2_inch_mortar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granatwerfer_42
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/107mm_M1938_mortar

...about comparable.

Ah, so that's how his unnamed Talent works. Reading body language, facial tics, voice tone, micro-expressions etc.
Well, no. He appears to be legitimately psychic. The thing is, when you know every time anyone ever lies to you, you get pretty good at recognizing all the nonverbal cues associated with a lie, because you are always alerted to those cues by your Talent telling you they're lying.

My personal theory for how these people keep winding up here and in positions of authority is simple. There are basically two kinds of people in the Andaran Portal Scouts this far from home. The true-blue explorers who want to escape the confines of civilization (especially if it's as restrictive as Mythal) and the sort of people whose superiors are very happy to find them some unimportant post many thousands of miles away from them. Like people inevitably promoted above their competence.
Of course by that logic you'd expect the same thing from the Sharonans, and no Sharonan we've seen is as much of a stupid fuckup as these Arcanan officer-bozos. We've seen outright malice from Sharonans, but never gross, aggressive, hamhanded idiocy.

Then again, maybe having Talents for several thousand years has taught the Sharonans a thing or two about how to spot the kind of banally-evil idiot in question and avoid putting them in charge.

That explosion had been behind his parapet. Somehow, they'd projected it through the parapet before it exploded!
A wrongheaded assumption there, but it's easy to see how he arrived at it.
Also, Sharonan artillery could probably actually DO that, unless their fuze technology is still too crude, which is possible.

"Remember lads, no matter what. We've got the Maxim Faraika gun, and they have not."

The first Sharonan machine gun, there's a heavier .50 cal model II. 200 rpm, double barrel and crank operated. But the Arcanans, who still see crossbows as the height of infantry weapons have never seen anything like a machine gun. So this their first experience with infantry charging machine gun positions over open ground. Too terrible to call a massacre sounds about right.
The Faraika is more like the Nordenfelt guns that historically gave way to Maxims- the multiple barrels make them cumbersome, and the crank operation is inherently slower-firing than a true automatic weapon.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Mr Bean » 2015-03-13 08:45pm

This gets pointed out later on that thanks to Talents like Shifters and Arthags heart reading talent (He can literally judge the "worth" of someone per later in the series, tell who are the cowards who the possible heroes) that Sharonan diplomats practice Aes Sedi like truth telling. Every word is true but the omissions and hints can twist even a true statement on it's head.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-03-13 10:17pm

I don't know. The survey crews are civilian volunteers out to strike it rich, so they're not being ordered out there against their will. The Portal Authority troops are though, and you're right, there's no sign anyone sees them as a dumping ground, even if they do wind up in some unpleasant places.

Possibly this is a feature of how much newer the multiverse exploration game is to Sharona. The glamour hasn't worn off, the frontier is not so far off that it won't see settlement for generations.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Mr Bean » 2015-03-14 12:50am

Ahriman238 wrote:I don't know. The survey crews are civilian volunteers out to strike it rich, so they're not being ordered out there against their will. The Portal Authority troops are though, and you're right, there's no sign anyone sees them as a dumping ground, even if they do wind up in some unpleasant places.

Possibly this is a feature of how much newer the multiverse exploration game is to Sharona. The glamour hasn't worn off, the frontier is not so far off that it won't see settlement for generations.

Here's a big point there, the Sharonans out pushing back the borders of civilization are part of a civilian companies looking to acquire valuable land and material because Sharona explores with civilians who get the right to any ore deposits and the like they can find in a new universe. Meanwhile the Andaran Portal Scouts are exploring as part of a government venture. One we can assume has a budget, some agency back home managing everything and the Portal Scouts themselves are military personnel carrying out a duty. If a portal dumps them out in prime beach front real estate the folks back home don't get a bigger paycheck. But that's true for the Sharonans that valuable finds are not property of the government but rather property of the company.

Time is another fact, the Sharonans have just had enough time for those born before portals existed to all die out. The Arcanans have no one alive who remembers the Portal wars and have something like three times the number of universes discovered. They have multiple portals clusters not just Hell's Gate. They have had more than a century to move six universes in and start building. They face a glut of resources meaning further exploration has long since hit dimming opportunity point.

Look at American history for an example, Spindle Top is a famous and at the time massively profitable oil field, getting to Texas crude was so easy half a dozen people could dig a hole and hit thousands of barrels of oil. Likewise there are famous gold mines (Like in California) where mining does not take that much effort. There are dozens of such places for all such resources. Yes Saudi Arabia has millions more barrels than Spindle Top but in Spindle Top it's dead easy to get at... and just a universe over is another Spindle Top, and again and again and add in seventy plus identical universes and you have the Arcanan situation. They already have enough on hand meet all demand with any temporary shortfall only the result of transportation needs not being met. Every time the slider lines extend new boom towns spring up, get everything in range then spread out.

Arcanan has hit the limit, it has everything it needs a dozen times over, but Sharona is an industrial society, the more resources the more wasteful it can be. There's thousands of industrial applications which are cheaper if your wasteful. Heck I bet Sharona won't invest stamped metal gun production until forced to by war circumstances, with a dozen worlds to pick from all guns are likely still made from solid metal stock.

*Edit

Expanding on this point, the Arcanas are a magic based society, they are not an industrial society. Every tool they make the great majority won't be useful for 80% of the population. They have found some work around but not as many as one would expect but I'm guessing once we look at the society breakdown the middle class will be 17th century not 20th.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-03-15 03:23am

I bet the Arcanans' middle class are the ones who can use magic tools, on the whole- plus the most highly skilled of the artisans who do things magic can't easily duplicate.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-03-20 10:38pm

But, like everything else this far out along the frontier, recon gryphons were in short supply, and Commander of Five Hundred Waysal Grantyl, Fort Wyvern's CO, had only four of them. He'd decided—for reasons best known to himself—that it was more important to retain them under his own direct control, and he was senior to Klian.


Two Five Hundreds, but one is clearly senior. Grades within the rank, or date of rank, do you think? The next nearest fort has 4 gryphons for aerial recon/portal finding. At least I assume portal finding is part of their general mission.


Vos Hoven's job had been to recharge the storage units for the platoon's infantry-dragons, and Jasak had been a bit surprised to see his obviously Mythalan name on First Platoon's roster. Shakira were rare—very rare—among the Arcanan army's noncommissioned ranks, aside from a relatively small number who were also multhari, and who were then properly known as "vos and mul," not simply "vos." The fact that vos Hoven wasn't multhari had piqued Jasak's curiosity mildly, but the man had kept largely to himself, and Garlath, his platoon commander, had seemed satisfied with him.


A Gifted combat Engineer, one who does his thing at the ammo packs for dragons to recharge them. Apparently there is some overlap between the Mythalan warrior and wizard-king castes. And despite being a prized specialist from a lofty background, he's only a rather junior NCO (lance.)

Oh, and Jasak just overheard Vos Hoven threatening and beating one of his company, a survivor of Fallen Timber, for the man's wages. Said man is just taking it, apparently the caste-brainwashing is just that strong.

How do you see this ending?


"Administering discipline to the troops, Sir," he said.

The combination of his sneer and the scathing emphasis on the "Sir" told Jasak exactly what was going through vos Hoven's arrogant Mythalan mind. He obviously expected Jasak to be cashiered, and in the society from which vos Hoven sprang, that sort of disgrace would automatically discredit any accusations Jasak might make—especially against someone legally entitled to put that accursed "vos" into his name. But they weren't in Mythal. The shakira might well be right about Jasak's career prospects, but until and unless he was cashiered, Jasak was an officer of the Union of Arcana. And whatever might happen to his career, he was also the son of Thankhar and Sathmin Olderhan.


A little insight into Mythalan culture, though it's pretty common for people to be dismissive of "disgraced officer makes accusations with little or no evidence." Jasak orders Vos Hoven to report himself under arrest, and the first response is to appeal to family influence.


Jasak's lip curled with contempt, and he wondered if vos Hoven actually believed he could deceive the lie-detection spells which were part of any court-martial proceeding.


Reliable lie-detectors are part of Arcanan magitech too.


"I apologize for my initial tone," he continued, "but once I've explained, I'm sure—"

The combat knife seemed to materialize in his right hand even as he lunged forward.


Charged with extortion, coercion, conduct prejudicial to discipline, assault, and insubordination, with a chance of tacking "in time of war" on the last bit, given their circumstances, Hoven decides to try his luck with murdering his superior officer. Brilliance.


Jasak's hand swept down to his own right hip, but it found nothing. He'd left his short sword in his quarters, since he was only headed for the dining hall, and he swore with silent, bitter venom at the memory. The shakira recognized his expression, and his lips drew back in a snarl, baring his teeth as he balanced himself for a second attack. He started forward again, but before he could move, the garthan he'd beaten lashed out.

It was the last thing vos Hoven had expected. His attention was totally focused on Jasak when Sendahli's right hand closed on his knife hand's wrist. The garthan stepped into him, his hand rising and circling to the left, pulling the shakira's wrist up and around the fulcrum of his own forearm. Vos Hoven cried out in pain as the knife was forced up so sharply it almost punctured his own cheek, and then his fingers opened, and he dropped the weapon with another, harsher cry of pain, as Sendahli twisted harder, driving him to his knees.


And Sendahli really could have done this at any time. But when a shakira strikes a garthan, the latter takes the hit and cowers while pleading forgiveness.


The spells stored in the standard army-issue utility crystal were designed to cover a broad spectrum of possible needs, from fire-starting to signaling a reconnaissance flight as it passed overhead. The spell he'd selected to secure vos Hoven was intended as a general binding spell for things like bundles of gear or firewood, without any particular concern for how tightly it might bite. It wouldn't do vos Hoven any permanent damage—not for the brief time it would be needed—but it probably hurt like hell, Jasak reflected with grim satisfaction.


The army has a Swiss Army standard crystal to fill all your needs. Clock, compass, notepad, firestarter, signal mirror, hover and tying things together.


"What sort of problem?" Klian asked, and Jasak explained precisely what the nephew of a caste lord—one of the hundred or so most powerful men in Mythal—had just attempted to do with that knife.


Caste lords are mentioned a few times. It seems they are absurdly powerful and there are around a hundred. One of which is Vos Hoven's uncle. And the icing on the cake? Since 500 Klian can't just execute him and lacks the officers for a formal court martial, Hoven gets to come along with Jasak, Gadriel, Shaylar and Jathmar on the ride back to Arcana. This trip can't possibly turn awkward. Er.


Uh, gonna break here a moment, just because the next part is long without any easy stopping points, being the news of Fallen Timber reaching Sharona. With a lot more exposition on how the Portal Authority and the survery companies operate, then a lengthy interlude with the Ternathian royals and we delve headlong into the history and politics of Sharona.

Another reason it's hard not to see the Sharonans as the "good" guys is that we get nothing like this level of insight into Arcana, since as of the second book's end word of what happened still hasn't reached home. There is no more than a few shallow glimpses at their politics, there are no grand strategy sessions, no viewpoint characters at the top of their society. Or really any sort of look into their day-to-day lives. Add that problem I mentioned of being consistently aggressive, consistently treacherous, the only side to kill civilians, however unintentionally....
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Mr Bean » 2015-03-20 11:14pm

Ahriman238 wrote:
Uh, gonna break here a moment, just because the next part is long without any easy stopping points, being the news of Fallen Timber reaching Sharona. With a lot more exposition on how the Portal Authority and the survery companies operate, then a lengthy interlude with the Ternathian royals and we delve headlong into the history and politics of Sharona.

Another reason it's hard not to see the Sharonans as the "good" guys is that we get nothing like this level of insight into Arcana, since as of the second book's end word of what happened still hasn't reached home. There is no more than a few shallow glimpses at their politics, there are no grand strategy sessions, no viewpoint characters at the top of their society. Or really any sort of look into their day-to-day lives. Add that problem I mentioned of being consistently aggressive, consistently treacherous, the only side to kill civilians, however unintentionally....

Which is why a shame the series had stopped at book 2 with book 3 somewhere because I could expect a Weber narrative flip with book 3 and 4 spent with the Arcanans, heck maybe they meet the Arcanan Mr Roger's and his best buddy Arcanan Charles Darwin. Both sides are now dealing with the news and we the reader like them dealing with everything at second or third hand.

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