Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

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Ahriman238
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-03-21 01:53am

And this one is really short because the computer ate my previous version, and I wanted to get something else up tonight.

Each exploration company used its own internal, private codes, known only to its Voices and the Authority, to register its claim to any new portal. The Authority kept copies of each company's master codes, and any Authority code-clerk who broke the rigid rules governing access to them found himself—or herself—in jail faster than thought could fly.


Portal Authority cryptography. They're really serious about security, but the sheer volume of message traffic is enough to tell everyone who cares to know that something big is going on.


Limana had spent twenty years in the Portal Authority Director's chair, making sure everyone lived by those rules, because he believed in them. He was both respected and feared, and because he believed in the rules, he kept track of which players were dirty, and which played fair. Which ones took care of their people, and which ones found ways to cheat, denying benefits or manufacturing excuses to fire an employee unlucky enough to be disabled on company time. Orem Limana had shut down two exploration companies during his tenure—shut them down lock, stock, and barrel—for shady dealings and egregious violations of employee protection compacts filed with the Authority.


Meet Orem Limana, PA bigwig. It seems the PA board of directors includes a directior from each major nation and/or corporation involved in multiversal exploration, but someone has to be in charge.


He'd had their attention before. The mention of Hayth had turned it into rapt attention, and he smiled as he pulled down a rollup map at the front of the room, showing the beads-on-strings tracery of the forty-odd universes Sharona had explored. Most of those beads were threaded onto only a single string, indicating only a single entry and exit portal. Others, like Hayth, had three portals, although only one—Reyshar—had four. Wherever a triplet occurred, it gave its name to the new transit chain splitting off from its second exit portal, and Hayth—four portals, and almost fifteen thousand miles, from Sharona—was shown as the head of an eight-universe chain. The Hayth Chain split again at Traisum, with the primary chain continuing through Kelsayr and Lashai while a new secondary chain split off to Karys.


Partial map of the multiverse. Good to see not everything is New Sharona or New Uromathia. 40 worlds charted by Sharona.

Image


No institution as powerful as the Portal Authority could be uniformly beloved, however rigidly honest and scrupulously fair its management might be. And while the Authority was supposedly above politics, no one with the intelligence of a rock believed that. Given the realities of human ambition, greed, and the hunger for power, it had no choice but to pick its course through waters frequently troubled by political tempests, and that required a constant—if subtle—battle for public opinion and support. Its First Director had to have the honesty of a saint, the fortitude of an Arpathian warrior-priest, the showmanship of a patent-medicine salesman, and the political instincts of a rattlesnake.


More on both Orem Limana's unique qualifications, and the delicate relationship the PA has with governments and exploration corporations. The PA has considerable power, yes, but only so long as they are seen as a neutral party, and can continually demonstrate their relevance.


Shaylar Nargra-Kolmayr had become, in many ways, the human face of the Authority, and not just for the Kingdom of Shurkhal, either. Hers was one of the half-dozen or so most widely recognized faces in the entire multiverse (thanks in no small part to the efforts of one Orem Limana's PR flacks), and even Sharona's colony worlds adored her.


Extent of Shaylar's celebrity, which is sort of a problem now. She was already a household name, and now a decent chunk of Sharona is going to watch her and her husband die fighting soldiers with terrible fire/lightning weapons.


Anzeti's eyes blazed, and Limana had little doubt that the Arpathian's memo would be extremely enlightening. He'd heard enough grapevine rumbles to have him itching to open a formal investigation of Isseth-Liada's practices, but no one to date had found the courage to make a formal complaint. He also knew why the Septentrion had remained silent. Of all Sharona's cultures, the Septs were—by choice—the least technologically sophisticated, which made them the brunt of unpleasant jokes, on one hand, and victims of outright prejudice, on the other.

Unfortunately, all too many septmen had learned that justice sometimes went to the party with the most money and political clout. Limana found that situation intolerable, which was why he'd insisted—forcefully—that a new directorship be established to represent the Septentrion.


The Septentrion is the nearest thing Arpathians have to a government. A loose confederation council of the most powerful tribal leaders, or their chosen representatives. Again we see how their reputation and reliance on tradition alienates them from mainstream Sharonan cultures.


Isseth-Liada's corporate officials weren't going to thank Breasal for the outburst of spleen which had provoked Anzeti, and that was another source of considerable pleasure for Orem Limana. Of course, he knew very well that those same corporate officials did nothing without the express permission of Isseth's rulers. That made the whole ball of nails political, as well, and he expected the looming conflict to be a nasty one. But he had, by all the gods, had enough. He was more than ready to tackle Isseth-Liada and its political masters.


Isseth-Liada is a corporation well-known for their sabotage, intimidation tactics, and general skullduggery. It's managed by the Kingdom of Isseth, geographically Pakistan plus some bits, like undisputed control of Kashmir. They actually have very little impact on the story going forwards.


Kinshe wasn't financially involved in the consortium, but Chalgyn was a Shurkhali company, which left a warm glow in his heart as he contemplated its achievements. It was like watching the child of his heart and spirit finally prove his worth. Chalgyn had just shot to the very pinnacle of a business dominated by Ternathians and Uromathians from the outset, and the consortium had outmaneuvered companies with far more capital and experience to do it. After centuries in Ternathia's shadow, Shurkhal was finally shining in her own light again, and it was a glorious feeling.


National pride, Chalgyn is a Shurkali (Indian, former Ternathian member-state) company. And Ternathia and Uromathia have sort of dominated the portal-claiming game from the very start.

Naturally this is when the Head Voice enters with word of Fallen Timber.


"We have to call a Conclave. Now. This afternoon."

"Conclave?" Kinshe's head spun. "The Conclave? No one's called for a Conclave since the Authority was formed!"

-snip-

. "Head Voice, I'm formally invoking a Conclave. Please activate the EVN to inform all heads of state. Use government-bonded Voices only. First meeting to take place via the Voicenet in—"

He thought rapidly, making mental calculations about time zones, reactions to the message, and the slow grinding of bureaucratic wheels. Then he gave a mental shrug.

"The first meeting will take place in four hours," he said crisply. The other people in the office looked at him, and he snorted. "Yes, I said four hours—three-thirty, our time. Let 'em piss and scream all they want; it'll get their attention, and that's what I want. Their full, undivided attention."


The Conclave. The PA charter gives Limana the authority, on issues concerning all Sharona, to summon all world leaders to a meeting. Face-to-face, later, but for the first meeting they'll use the EVN (Emergency Voice Network) for a conference call.


"In the meantime, we need to take some immediate steps of our own. We'll have to put all our portal forts on maximum alert and move PAAF troops toward the contact zone, and we have to get it done as quickly as possible. I can order all of that on my authority as First Director, then let the Conclave worry about what to do next."


Moving whatever troops he can, on his authority, out towards Hell's Gate.


The Emergency Transportation System was normally reserved for the use of heads of state and diplomats on time-critical missions. The ETS consisted of an interlocked matrix of teleportation platforms, located in the capitals of most of Sharona's nation states. The platforms themselves were restricted to a size of not more than eight square feet, and a maximum load no more than six or seven hundred pounds, and the telekinetic Talent required to power the system was rare. It could also lead to potentially fatal health consequences for those who possessed it, if it was overstrained, so the system was used only very sparingly.


So Sharona has teleportation, but it requires a really rare Talent (and, I suspect several people with this Talent working together) and is really sensitive to strain, causing serious harm with overuse. So they maintain emergency teleportation between capital cities for VIPs. In this case, they're using it to inform Shaylar's family before the entire world hears what happened.


"I'll do my best, Orem, within the confines of my own honor. But it may not be enough. It's worse than just our normal sense of honor, you realize? The Shurkhali people, from King Fyysel down to the lowest stable boy, have invested tremendous national pride in Shaylar. Even those who don't approve of her doing a man's job have taken pride in the fact that a Shurkhali woman was first. The king isn't the only Shurkhali male we'll have swearing vendetta. Trust me on that."

"You give me such cause for hope," Orem muttered.

"It won't be pretty." Kinshe's eyes narrowed as another thought occurred to him. "Not anywhere. You realize Uromath will cause trouble? And what happens when the Arpathian Septenates get word—" He shook his head. "It'll take some fast talking to keep them from sending every warrior above the age of fourteen through the portals for the chance to ride in the battle against the godsless heathen."

"You think I don't know that?" Limana growled. "Gods and demons, this is going to be an unholy mess!" He blew out a deep breath and added, "From where I'm standing, Ternathia looks to be our best bet. And you know how that will play in certain quarters."


Various Sharonan nations and their probable reactions.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-03-21 08:20am

National pride, Chalgyn is a Shurkali (Indian, former Ternathian member-state) company. And Ternathia and Uromathia have sort of dominated the portal-claiming game from the very start.


Shurkhal is located in Arabia, not India (Harkala, in Sharona), though its culture is strongly influenced by the latter.

I wonder if vos Hoven is supposed to be the one who dropped the spell accumulator Arthag's party found while tracking Charlie Company from Fallen Timbers. Soral Hilovar, the Tracer, said that the man who dropped it had a shoulder wound, as did vos Hoven, and it would make sense for him to be carrying an accumulator.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-03-23 03:34am

Ahriman238 wrote:
"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.
Yeah. The Arcanan military really is cartoonishly fucked up; I didn't quite realize how bad it was until I read these analyses.

The Mythalans are such lunatic Nazi-magocrats that if it weren't for the greater skill of their elite magicians, they probably wouldn't be able to even defend themselves against foreign conquest.

And the Andarans, while at least capable of organizing a broadly functional military, are so stuck in feudalism that it impedes their efficiency.

Ahriman238 wrote:The Conclave. The PA charter gives Limana the authority, on issues concerning all Sharona, to summon all world leaders to a meeting. Face-to-face, later, but for the first meeting they'll use the EVN (Emergency Voice Network) for a conference call.
This is actually quite sensible, because there is always the possibility of running into evil aliens through the portal network- and the Sharonans haven't been exploring portals for long enough to develop such complacency about the risk of encountering another civilization through one of them yet.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-04-01 11:30pm

Sort of a micro-update, again owing to computer issues.

The Talent of the Caliraths was . . . different. Unique. Precognition wasn't actually that uncommon. It wasn't one of the more common Talents, but it wasn't as rare as, say, the full telempathic Healing Talent.

But precognition was limited primarily to physical events and processes. A weather Precog could predict sunshine and rain for a given locale with virtually one hundred percent accuracy for a period of perhaps two weeks. Longer-range forecasts of up to two months could also be extremely accurate, although reliability tended to begin falling off after the first month or so, and the level of accuracy degraded rapidly thereafter. Other Precogs worked for forestry services, predicting fires. And along the so-called "crown of fire" around the Great Western Ocean, they watched for volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. They'd saved countless lives over the centuries with their warnings, like the one they'd issued before the island of Juhali in the Hinorean Empire—and its analog in every explored universe, for that matter—had blown up so devastatingly thirty-seven years ago.

Yet those events were all the results of physical processes. Of the movement of unthinking masses of air and water, the random strike of lightning bolts, the seething movement of magma and the bones of the earth. The Glimpses of the House of Calirath dealt with people. Quite often, they also dealt with natural disaster, because people were trapped in them. But those disasters would have happened whether there'd been anyone there to witness them, or not. What Andrin and her father and their endless ancestors before them had seen in those cases was the human cost of the disaster. The impact on the lives of those trapped in its path.


Precognition is middling rare, unlike the rarest of Talents, the Calirath Dynasty's bullshit OP precog, and the "full" Healing Talent, implying there are degrees of healing, or perhaps a variety of healing Talents and only a few have the full suite. There are distinct weather precogs with 100% accuracy over a fortnight. Bronze Age generals must have really loved all these Talents. Seriously, mappers, weather precogs, voices, and distance viewers take so much of the guesswork out of waging war.

Anyways, the difference is that most precogs see the end state of natural processes. Fires, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions. The Calirath version deals with people, their actions and their anguish. It's also rather long-range. The sort of power you wouldn't mind having in a leader. Granted, it's also not the sort of power that would let one effortlessly seize the throne, they mostly see large disasters and their own demise. Though one of the legends surrounding the dynasty is that it's founder was the first man to have a Talent at all.


There had been times when a Calirath Glimpse had been enough to divert or at least ameliorate the consequences of cataclysm. Andrin was grateful for that. She herself had saved possibly thousands of lives with her Glimpse of the Kilrayen National Forest fire in Reyshar before high winds had sent it sweeping over the town of Halthoma like a tidal bore of flame. She'd Seen the flames leaping the firebreaks, cutting the roads, consuming the town, burning women and children to death. It had been that human element—the terror and pain and despair of the people involved—which had generated her Glimpse . . . and her father's frantic EVN message had warned the Reyshar government in time to evacuate and thwart that very Glimpse. She treasured that memory, despite the nightmares of the disaster only she had Seen, which still came back to her some nights. And she was only too well aware from her history lessons of how often in Ternathia's past it had been a Glimpse, the Talent of the imperial house, which had plucked victory from defeat, or turned mere survival into triumph.


If you know the future, you can change it. This is apparently a common feature of Ternathian history.


Glimpses could be of events from next week, or next month, or next year. Some had actually been of events which had not occurred until the person who had Glimpsed them was long dead. Sometimes, they never came to pass at all, but usually they turned out to have been terrifyingly accurate . . . once they were actually upon you. And one thing the Caliraths had learned over the millennia was that the closer the event came, the stronger the Glimpse grew.


And remember that range? Glimpses can take place months, years, even decades down the line. The only indicator of timing they have is how strong/clear the visions are. Which makes one wonder how they knew to "frantically call" the Reysharans that one time.


Nearly five thousand people lived and worked in Hawkwing Palace, which ambled across twenty acres of land, including the stables, kennels, and formal gardens. If one added the vegetable gardens and greenhouses, the palace and its grounds ate up nearly thirty acres in the heart of Ternathia's capital city, which boasted the most expensive real estate on the island. Or, for that matter, in the entire sprawling Empire as a whole. She'd never seen all of it, and probably never would. Those who governed—or were related to those who did—had no need to visit the vast kitchens, or the hothouses where vegetables were grown in winter and fruit trees were coaxed to produce fruit year round.


Scale of the Imperial Palace.


The mantle was simple, compared with other fireplaces in the palace, and served mostly as a place to put clocks. At first, she thought it was an echo of her mother's love for bric-a-brac. But then she tipped her head to examine them more closely, and discovered one clock for each of the time zones within the Empire.

Andrin forgot the tension of the moment as she stared in delight at the simple but effective way to determine at a glance what time it was in any given city of the Empire. Each clock was labeled with the names of the major cities within its zone, and she even found clocks at the far end of the mantle that showed time zones in the rest of Sharona.


Common sense, really, once you can make the clocks and understand how time zones work.

This starts a long interlude of Andrin studying the world map and musing on geography and history.


The only land north of the Mbisi Sea that Ternathia didn't govern was the far northern strip that bordered the icy Polar Ocean, surrounding the north pole. The fjord-riddled coastline of the huge, vaguely spoon-shaped promontory of Farnalia formed the western boundary of the Farnalian Empire. That empire stretched from the North Vandor Ocean, lapping and slapping its way into those deep fjords, right across the top of the vast Chairifonian supra-continent that stretched clear to the Scurlis Sea, five thousand miles to the east. The Farnalian Empire was very narrow, viewed north to south, but so long it wrapped a quarter of the way around the world. And though it was sparsely inhabited, thanks for the most part to its climate, the people who lived there were as impressive as their land.

Farnalians were even taller than Ternathians, tending towards big, robust men with blond and red hair, and statuesque women who were as comfortable in the saddle or behind the plow as their menfolk—and just as capable of wielding a sword (or, these days, a rifle) in defense of their own homes. Once upon a time, the sea rovers of Farnalia had been noted for their fondness for axes, other people's possessions, and their own boisterous, brawling independence. That, Andrin supposed, might have been one reason her ancestors had established treaties with Farnalia, rather than attempting a more . . . energetic approach.


The Mbisi is the Mediterranean. The Sea of Commerce, or the Sea of Money, depending on how one translates the original language. Farnalia (Scandinavia) again retained independence throughout as valued trading partners of Ternath. And I guess control the northernmost parts of all Eurasia? Not really sure how that came about.


Sometimes the sheer depth of history behind something as simple as that map took Andrin's breath away. It was difficult to comprehend the vast gulf of time which had passed since Ternathia had signed its first treaties of alliance with Farnalia, more than four thousand years previously. Trade between the two empires had been brisk and lucrative throughout that immense stretch of time, and the Farnalians themselves joked about how Ternathian influence had finally civilized their ancestors. Of course, that was partly because so many of those ancestors had been Ternathians themselves. Along the borders of the western half of Farnalia, intermarriage with Ternathians was so common that it had long ago become impossible to distinguish a person's nationality on the basis of physical appearance.

There were those—particularly in Uromathia—who muttered occasionally about "mongrels," but absorption had been the true key to Ternathia's successful expansion of its borders. Those borders had been extended primarily because of the Empire's need to protect its trade routes from the brigandage and unrest which always seemed to be simmering away just on the other side. Yet as each troubled region was acquired and pacified, the traders—and their rulers—found themselves facing yet another new area of unrest, where ship-based pirates and land-based brigands harassed Ternathian merchants from the other side of the new border. Which, inevitably, provided fresh impetus to expand still further.


Just a reminder, the Ternathian Empire has a recorded history going back four thousand years, and ruled an empire dwarfing any from our history. Also, at one point the Talents were confined to the blood of Ternathia, but after four thousand years and a strong tradition of intermarriage to peacefully absorb their gains, everyone's just a little bit Ternathian. The line really blurs with Farnalians.

Also, the world-spanning empire was just a byproduct of their growing trade network, and the need to protect it. Now why does that sound familiar...
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-04-08 03:05pm

Yet the world had turned and changed, until, eventually, the vast territory under direct Ternathian rule could no longer be administered at an affordable cost. Ultimately, a Ternathian emperor had made the decision to set free those provinces the Empire could no longer afford to govern. Andrin had always been glad Ternathia's borders had shrunk not from the fire of rebellion, or the crumbling of internal decay, but because her ancestors had been wise enough to return control of its far-flung provinces to the people who lived there.

That was the reason the wealthy Kingdom of Shurkhal and the many smaller kingdoms which shared its cultural heritage were once again Shurkhal and her sister states, just as the Harkalan states were once again sovereign, with legal bonds to no one but themselves. It was better that way. Andrin knew that. Not only because her tutors—including her father and mother—had taught her so, but because she could see it for herself.

It was worse than folly to grip something one could no longer afford to keep, simply for the perverse joy of possession. It was cruel to do so, and cruel to hold people in bondage. Had they wanted to remain Ternathian, she thought, they would doubtless have found a way to make it profitable for Ternathia to keep them. But only a few kingdoms or republics or principalities had refused their freedom when it was offered.

Ternathia's empire had shrunk steadily, and for the most part gracefully, and those who ruled the Ternathian Empire had retained their humanity in the process.


That's kind of vague for what was probably a major turning point in their history. It just became economically unfeasible to rule a global empire, so they just stopped? When territory is pretty much the ultimate generator of wealth? The Empire isn't in decline for other reasons, they've just been voluntarily shedding members for generations?

At least they have pretty good relations with the majority of their former holdings.


After Ternathia and Farnalia, the next largest "empires," if the term could be used, were the Arpathians of the Septentrion, famous for furs, amber, vast herds of horses, and nomadic warriors, and Uromathia.

In reality, there was no such thing as an "Arpathian Empire"—the Septs were far too fiercely independent for anything that centralized—but the Septentrion formed a recognizable union of cultures, religion, and political interests. It gave all the Septs representation, enforced the peace between them, and dominated the immense sweep of land from the Ibral Sea to the Scurlis Sea, four thousand miles to the east. Even more importantly, it gave the Septs a unified voice in trade protecting the Septs from outside unscrupulous trade practices.


The Arpathian Septendrion expanded on somewhat.


South of Arpathia lay the tangled kingdoms of the Uromathian culture. Those kingdoms included Eniath, whose fierce deserts had given rise to a people with a love of horses and hawks that rivaled Andrin's own, as well as to genuine empires and several smaller independent states.


Eniath (big chunk of Mongolia) is noted a couple times for their people being basically half Uromathian, half Arpathian.


The larger of the two empires was the Uromathian Empire itself, which had given the entire culture its name and rivaled modern Ternathia in size.


Basically China. Maybe a touch larger for swallowing surrounding lands.


The smaller Hinorean Empire was no welterweight, but it couldn't match its larger neighbor, Uromathia, in size or wealth. Uromathians tended to produce enormous population densities, far greater than Ternathia's or, indeed, than the rest of Sharona in general. There were so many Uromathians, in fact, that large numbers of them had migrated to the new universes discovered beyond the portals.


Hinorea, culturally and linguistically Uromathian. Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and just a bit of India's east coast.


Then her gaze reached the portion of the map north of Shurkhal, along the Mbisi's eastern shore, where the nation of Othmaliz lay between the peoples of the west and the peoples of the east. Like Shurkhal and Harkala, Othmaliz had once been part of Ternathia's empire. Also like Shurkhal and Harkala, Othmaliz had returned to native rule when Ternathia withdrew from the eastern half of its empire.

Andrin's gaze stopped there, for in Othmaliz, lay Tajvana.


Othmaliz is half of Turkey, large chunk of Bulgaria. And the control the former capitol of the Ternathian Empire (for 2300 years) Tajvana, built where we have Istanbul. Not a bad spot for a capitol.


Historically, whoever controlled the Ylani Straits had controlled the rich trade routes between Ricathia and Ternathia in the west, and Arpathia and Uromathia in the east. The importance of that trade had begun to fade as colonization had spread from Chairifon across the globe of Sharona, opening new markets, new sources of raw materials and goods, but only until the Larakesh Portal had suddenly appeared in the mountains just west of the sleepy little Ylani Sea seaport of the same name some eighty years ago. The only way for shipping to reach Larakesh from the rest of the world was through the Ibral and Ylani Straits, which meant—once again—through Tajvana.


And Othmaliz also holds the Sharonan portal, making Tajvana a necessary stopover if coming to it from anywhere but the north.


Such clear memories of a place she'd never seen would have been disturbing, had she not been Calirath. But the blood in her veins was the same blood which had flowed through the veins of Tajvana's rulers for centuries, and her family's Talent often manifested odd little secondary Talents no one could quite explain. She had visited Tajvana in her dreams, walked its narrow streets through the memories carried in her blood and, quite possibly, her Talent, and she longed to actually go to Tajvana, just to see how accurate those whispers of memory really were.


The Caliraths have some weird secondary Talents, like a sort of genetic memory?


"I pray from the bottom of my heart that war is not inevitable. I would give literally anything, for reasons of which you cannot even dream at this moment, for that to be true. But," his expression was grim, his eyes dark, "for the last week—since, in fact, shortly before this message was sent upon its way to us—both Princess Andrin and I have been experiencing a major Glimpse."


Don't you think you should have mentioned that a bit earlier? If only to your Privy Council?


"Yes, Nanthee, we do. But look at the population distribution. Most of the universes we've discovered are still virtually empty, and we've been exploring for eighty years. If we put every fighting man from every military organization on Sharona into the field tomorrow, shipped them all out by rail and troop ship, we still wouldn't have the manpower to guard all those universes, let alone mass the strength needed to hold them in a sustained, pitched battle."

-snip-

"Second, even if that weren't true, if we put every single man of military age into uniform, we still wouldn't have even a fraction of the men we would need to garrison every universe against attack."

"You're right, Thalyar," the emperor said. "And it's also true that the sheer distances involved in getting from here to the frontier, or the other way round, mean there's not much realistic possibility of either side scoring some sort of lightning-fast breakthrough. Not unless, as you say, it turns out that one of us has a decisive advantage over the other when it comes to our soldiers' weapons.

"At the same time, we don't know yet who these people are. Worse, we don't know how many of them there are, how many universes they hold, how much population density to expect in their colonized worlds. We could be facing a civilization two or three or even ten times the size of our own." Zindel shook his head. "Shamir is absolutely right in at least one respect. If this does turn into a real war, it's going to be a potentially long and nasty one, and I doubt very much that our existing military is going to be large enough for the job."


Well reasoned considering how much nothing they know.


Snipping the major Voice News Network, SUNN twigging onto the story.


One moment, Halidar Kinshe was looking at the console where the ETS Porter sat, eyes closed in fierce concentration as she prepared to teleport them from Tajvana to the ETS station in Sethdona, fourteen hundred-odd miles away. And then there was a moment of overwhelming dizziness, wrenching nausea, and an indescribable sensation—as if he'd slipped between the empty spaces between one thought and the next.


So a teleporting Talent is a Porter? At least 1400 miles for ETS.


Alimar wasn't as skilled or powerful, in a purely physical sense, as some of the truly outstanding telempathic Healers. But she had an adept way with the normal bumps and scrapes that school children managed to acquire on a playground, and her sensitivity to emotional nuances made her exceptionally valuable working with children, who were seldom able to fully articulate their feelings.


So Healing is linked to Empathy, but there are degrees of both.


"For four cars?" Danith chuckled, and waved one graceful hand at the maroon-and-black painted, steam-breathing behemoth. "This is a 4-10-4, Halidar. Eighty-inch drivers and something like six thousand horsepower. On reasonably flat ground—which describes a lot of Shurkhal, when you think about it—a Paladin is capable of sustained speeds well above a hundred miles an hour with complete passenger trains! Assuming, of course, that the rails are up to it."


The TTE Paladin, the very latest in Sharonan locomotive technology. Shame I know next to nothing about steam engines.


"My father and I have already spoken about the most important aspect of Shurkhal's participation in this Conclave, Representative Kinshe," the crown prince said, as if he'd read Kinshe's mind, and his tone was as formal as his choice of titles. "He specifically instructed me to share our thoughts with you, since you are both a senior member of Parliament and a Portal Authority director. Both of us know Sharona must have a world government. At the same time, Father has already sworn on blood-honor that we will never tolerate a government run by Uromathia. His exact words were, ah, 'death before Uromathia,' I believe."

"That certainly sounds like your father, Your Highness. Rather mild for him, actually," Kinshe observed with a grimace, and the crown prince's lips twitched.

"You know him well. What I want to say, however, before this matter even comes to vote, is that I support Father's position absolutely. I hold the survival of Sharona far higher than any petty desire to sit on a fancy chair in Sethdona. We can't afford that kind of nonsense."


Which is also what the news guys concluded, and Limana. They're going to need a world government to conduct this war, to make the hard choices without bickering between member nations. One which is probably going to be dominated by the two largest empires Ternathia and Uromathia.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-04-08 03:56pm

Ahriman238 wrote:That's kind of vague for what was probably a major turning point in their history. It just became economically unfeasible to rule a global empire, so they just stopped? When territory is pretty much the ultimate generator of wealth? The Empire isn't in decline for other reasons, they've just been voluntarily shedding members for generations?
Um, hello, psychic emperors who can see the future?

If you can foresee that trying to keep a province in your empire will involve three generations of bloody wars of occupation which you're going to lose, you might very well decide it's safer to just grant that province independence right now rather endanger the overall health of your empire by getting bogged down in such wars.

Othmaliz is half of Turkey, large chunk of Bulgaria. And the control the former capitol of the Ternathian Empire (for 2300 years) Tajvana, built where we have Istanbul. Not a bad spot for a capitol.
It's a major strategic chokepoint, highly defensible, and it was (and remains) a major crossroads for lines of transportation between Asia and Europe, and/or between Russia and the Mediterranean.

The Caliraths have some weird secondary Talents, like a sort of genetic memory?
Strictly, 'genetic' might not be the correct term, but basically yes.

"I pray from the bottom of my heart that war is not inevitable. I would give literally anything, for reasons of which you cannot even dream at this moment, for that to be true. But," his expression was grim, his eyes dark, "for the last week—since, in fact, shortly before this message was sent upon its way to us—both Princess Andrin and I have been experiencing a major Glimpse."
Don't you think you should have mentioned that a bit earlier? If only to your Privy Council?
Given how weird and incredible the Glimpse is, it may well have taken them three or four successive nights to refine their understanding of what the Glimpse means.

I mean, even if you're a Calirath, if you go to bed and dream of fire-breathing dragons rampaging across a frontier fort or something, you might well go "wow, I should NOT have had the shellfish last night."

Given that they mostly take the form of prophetic dreams, turning these precognitive Glimpses into actionable intelligence and policy decisions is going to be an imprecise art at best.

"For four cars?" Danith chuckled, and waved one graceful hand at the maroon-and-black painted, steam-breathing behemoth. "This is a 4-10-4, Halidar. Eighty-inch drivers and something like six thousand horsepower. On reasonably flat ground—which describes a lot of Shurkhal, when you think about it—a Paladin is capable of sustained speeds well above a hundred miles an hour with complete passenger trains! Assuming, of course, that the rails are up to it."
The TTE Paladin, the very latest in Sharonan locomotive technology. Shame I know next to nothing about steam engines.
Suffice to say that this is a big damn locomotive, one of the big express locomotives of the types built only in the early twentieth century, not one of the relatively feeble choo-choos of the mid-nineteenth.

Picture something roughly 100 to 120 feet long when the tender is included, tipping the scales at around 200 to 250 tons. With, as noted, enough horsepower to haul several hundred tons of freight at a very impressive speed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldwin_60000
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-12-2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Pacific_Challenger

These are some examples of locomotives in the right general tonnage range.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-04-22 09:53pm

She listened to the side conversations and realized how little she truly understood about what the Councilors were saying. It quickly became clear to her that she simply lacked the critical building blocks of known facts to tie the other conversations together in any comprehensible fashion. Unfortunately, she couldn't exactly break into the discussions and request explanations and definitions—certainly not under this sort of emergency time pressure. Yet if she didn't ask now, how would she be able to remember the proper questions later?

She pondered the problem for a moment, then asked one of the servants—a girl perhaps three years older than she was—to find her a notebook and a pen. She also asked for a filled inkwell, in case the pen's internal reservoir ran dry.


Sharonan pens. Also, it just now occurs to Andrin (admittedly, the spare rather than the heir to Ternathia) that she should probably be taking some kind of notes, several hours into the discussion. At least she gets it before the main event, the Conclave.


The arrangements and coordination required for Voices to relay over truly lengthy distances could be unbelievably complicated, especially at a time like this, when individual, totally secure links had to be maintained between the Portal Authority in Tajvana and every national capital on Sharona. Not even the EVN could maintain a real-time link to the various colonial governments, since no Voice could communicate with another through a portal. But Andrin knew that there were other chains of Voices, stretching down the transit chains between universes, to provide the fastest message turnaround humanly possible.


EVN. There will be some delays transmitting to the first colonies, but only a few seconds, minutes at the most.


Her voice shifted suddenly. It took on not simply a different timbre, but a different rhythm and accent as she repeated the words of a man a quarter of the world away. That was remarkable enough, but what stunned Andrin was the projection that abruptly appeared at the far end of the room. It was a three-dimensional image of a man standing at a podium in a room she'd never seen. There were others present, seated between themselves and the speaker, and a map of the newly discovered portals hung behind him. The man at the podium was looking right at them, even though he couldn't possibly have actually seen them.

Andrin had always known Voices could receive and transmit detailed images of actual events, but less than one Voice in ten thousand could actually project those images for nontelepaths to see. Despite her birth rank, she herself had seen that particular Talent used exactly once, when the universe-famed Projective Falgayn Harwal had visited the Imperial House of Music here in Estafel. She still shivered inside when she remembered how Harwal and his dozen highly trained, powerful assistant Voices, had filled the entire Opera House with a projection of the New Tajvana Choir's eight thousand singers and voices.

But Harwal was unique, the sort of Talent who arose perhaps once every two hundred years. Although Andrin had always known there were others with the same ability, if only on a far smaller scale, she'd never actually seen it done. Not this closely and intimately. No wonder Alazon Yanamar was her father's Privy Voice! Her Talent must be indispensable to a man who governed an empire that covered several major islands and most of a continent.


About one in ten thousand Voices can project images (in the form of holograms) for the viewing of non-Voices. So, effectively all of Sharona can see the Fallen Timbers Massacre firsthand if they really want.


She uncapped her pen once more and made her first note of the Conclave: Memorize the names of every head of state on Sharona and our colonies. She looked down at it, and, after a moment's consideration, added, And their heirs, if they're monarchies, and their seconds in command, regardless of what form of government they have.


The hell? Seriously, how does the second-in-line not already know who the other world leaders are?


First order of business is to set up the Second Conclave, naturally at Tajvana. That they will need to set up a world government in a very short timeframe. Bringing people up to speed and figuring out the best course of action until the face-to-face Conclave. I'll be skipping that since the first clause (we need a world government now, and will meet at Tajvana to make the arrangements) passes pretty much without discussion, and most of the rest is repeating things we've seen.


"In addition, the entry portal here—" he tapped the bland circle of a still-unnamed universe from which no less than six additional, question-mark-tipped transit lines extended "—is enormous. According to Chalgyn's measurements, it is thirty-seven miles in diameter."

Andrin inhaled sharply in surprise. That wasn't simply "enormous"—it was stupendous!


Portals are pretty much always at least 4 miles across, but 37 is easily the biggest they've ever seen.


"Moreover, the lack of rail communications means troop movement will be slow as our personnel approach the contact universe, so I've also contacted Gahlreen Taymish at the TTE. He's been brought fully up to speed, and I've activated the emergency clauses of the Trans-Temporal Express's right-of-way agreement. As of this moment, the TTE is under the direct control of the Portal Authority, and will remain so until released. Director Taymish has already sent out instructions to redeploy all available TTE construction crews to the Hayth Chain, but it will take some weeks for him to get additional equipment and workers into place."


They've essentially nationalized the largest rail company, and reordered things a bit. The rail to Hell's Gate is now their top priority, but moving around all the men and equipment will still take time. And Limana can do that, I guess.


"Fort Raylthar is the closest properly manned portal fort, although even its garrison is more than a little understrength thanks to the sudden expansion along this chain. As you can see, Fort Raylthar is within two universes, and about eighteen hundred miles, of the point at which our crew was attacked. The regiment-captain has already sent some reinforcements forward, and—"


Position of Fort Raylthar relative to Hell's Gate. Universes are really not a useful measure of distance.


"Send someone for brandy!" he snapped over one shoulder.

"It's already on the way," Taje said, just as the door crashed open. The serving girl who'd brought Andrin the pen and notebook skidded through the doorway and rushed forward, brandy decanter in one hand, cut-crystal tumbler in the other. Her eyes were huge with fear.


Andrin has a Glimpse of unspecific fire and screaming. First thing they do? Send for hard liquor and demand that she recount everything she saw.


"A question from Emperor Chava Busar of Uromathia," she said. "He says, 'We have a large force of cavalry in the field for defense of our colony in Camryn, which is only four universes from Traisum. We could divert a thousand men—possibly as many as fifteen hundred—for duty at some of the new portal forts without leaving our colony unacceptably vulnerable. I would be honored to make those men available in this emergency, and my General Staff would be prepared to work with the Portal Authority in an advisory capacity to make most effective use of them.' "

Shamir Taje swore aloud. Andrin didn't believe she'd ever heard the First Councilor use profanity before, and the sizzling intensity of the one short, pungent phrase he permitted himself was an eye-opener. Then he glanced quickly at her, blushed, and shook his head in mute apology before he looked back at his older colleagues.

"I'll just bet Chava would be willing!" he said sourly. "Give that man a foot through the door, and he'll put an army in your bedroom!"


The Uromathians are pretty much the designated slimy political villains for all the Sharonan politics scenes. But another 1500 men could be pretty useful right now.


"under the provisions of the Founding Charter, no head of state may assume direct command of the Portal Authority's military forces without an authorizing majority vote by the rest of the Conclave's members. Do you really think Uromathia is popular enough to win that particular contest?"


Lines of authority. The PAF is calling the shots, at least until the second Conclave.


"Thank you, Papa. But may I ask why everyone distrusts Uromathia so intensely?"

Chan Gristhane barked a humorless laugh.

"Give me about twenty years, Your Grand Highness, and I ought to be able to give you a fair basis for it."

"Now, now, Thalyar," her father said mildly, "just because Chava VII has violated every treaty he's ever signed, attempted to confiscate Ternathian shipping while trying to enforce illegal import duties and outrageously inflated harbor fees, been caught red-handed trying to bribe Portal Authority officials, and been linked repeatedly to shady business practices by Uromathian survey crews in half the universes so far discovered, is no reason to threaten suicide. You have my word that Ternathia will decline to sign any treaty on world governance if the nations of Sharona are temporarily insane enough to elect Emperor Chava as Sharona's military or political commander during this—or any other—crisis."

Someone snickered farther down the table. Captain of the Army chan Gristhane glowered for a moment, then relented and gave his emperor a sour grin.

"Oh, very well, since you put it that way, Your Majesty." He met Andrin's wide-eyed gaze. "Young lady, if Chava Busar ever offers you a gift, do whatever it takes to politely decline it. His gifts have a way of attempting to destroy their recipients."


Why the Uromathians are the heavies here. Though they do also stress that the average blue-collar Uromathian is almost certainly an honest, decent sort. And that Uromathian banks tend to be scrupulously fair, and are a major source of financing for exploration and expansion through the portals.


"Even the society that slaughtered our survey crew?" she asked quietly, and her father frowned.

"That remains to be seen. Sharona's own past includes societies that were guilty of rabid xenophobia, which led them to commit what we would consider atrocities by today's standards. I regret to say that some of the worst examples of that xenophobia occurred long after the emergence of the Talents, too.

"We won't know what we're dealing with out there until we learn more. I've always tried to keep an open mind, but I have to admit things look pretty damning at the moment. Whether they remain so is a question only time and additional contact with them can answer."

His face tightened for just an instant with what she knew was an echo of the Glimpses of war and slaughter both of them had Seen. Then he inhaled deeply, harshly.

"My personal gut reaction is to wade into them, guns blazing in retribution." His voice was iron, yet he shook his head at the same time. "But that's precisely why I distrust that reaction. A ruler responsible for hundreds of millions of lives who indulges a personal desire for revenge is a disaster. That sort of response is a surefire recipe for killing a lot of our own people, and frankly squandering the lives of courageous men—and women—selfishly, often for no good or justifiable reason, makes you a mass murderer."

Someone down the table hissed through his teeth.

"If, on the other hand, I believed, really believed, Andrin, and had the hard evidence to prove to my total satisfaction that the only way to ensure the survival of Ternathia—or Sharona—was to wage genocide, I would do exactly that. It would rip my soul to shreds, but I would, by all the gods, do it. Just as I would fight to the death to stop others from committing genocide, if I believed them to be wrong morally and politically. That is what it means to rule. Don't ever forget it, Andrin."


Andrin hasn't previously trained or studied with an eye towards being a world leader, so Zindel helpfully provides the CLiffs Notes version.


Part embassy, but mostly research station, the Institute had been founded by Dr. Shalassar Kolmayr-Brintal. Although Shalassar was not a native-born daughter of Shurkhal, she had built a legacy in which the entire kingdom could take pride.

Thanks to her work, the dolphins had led Shurkhali divers to rich pearl beds which might have lain undiscovered for centuries, otherwise. Shurkhali pearls fetched excellent prices on the world market, famous for their size and luster, and Shurkhali explorers had laid claim to those same pearl beds in other universes, as well, increasing the kingdom's prestige while providing income to establish Shurkhali colonies.


Cetecean Institute for those who can talk to whales and dolphins. And have dolphins guide them to pearls.


When he mentioned the high probability that Sharona's military would be drastically expanded, Shaylar's parents went pale again. He wasn't surprised. He knew very well that Shaylar's military-age brothers would shortly discover a burning reason to volunteer for combat.

"I'm sorry," he said gently. "I could introduce legislation barring enlistment of every single son from one family. It might well pass . . . but even that might not deter them from enlisting under false names."


Funny story, in WWII there were four brothers in the navy who all died, more or less on the same day. IIRC, they were on a single ship, which is why the US Navy doesn't let family serve together so much anymore. It's not a terrible idea to keep a family from wiping itself out in the service, but it does open a huge can of worms in regards to personal freedom and the right to choose to enlist. Especially as Shurkal still seems to run very much on an honor society.


A sudden scream ripped into his awareness, and not from Shaylar's parents. It came from outside—from beyond the window. From the sea . . .

Kinshe whipped around to stare out the window. The sea inside the floating ropes that marked the cetacean's embassy had gone mad. The dolphins surged from the water, fifty or sixty of them rising on their tail flukes, and the sound that broke from them turned his blood to ice. Then a deeper bellow broke across the chittering snarls, and a whale broached. Larger than the crown prince's train car, it roared out of the water, standing for just an instant on its own tail fluke, a mountain of glistening flesh spearing straight toward the desert sky. Sound exploded into the air, a shockwave of sound that struck Kinshe's bones through the open window like a fist. Water crashed outward from its massive weight as it came down again, and the dock and bell splintered under the impact.


And on receiving that last, frantic Voice call, watching Jathmar goe flying, wreathed in flame and Shaylar's blacking out, her mom unintentionally retransmits to all the dolphins and whales. Who seem to have understood events rather well, but it's not really important going forwards.


"I-I ran, Chief." Shame hovered in the javelin's voice. "I grabbed the hummers, like Regs said, and ran with 'em. I ran, Chief!"

Tears hovered in Shulthan's voice, and Threbuch released his hand to grip both of the younger man's shoulders hard.

"Son, you did exactly the right thing," he said. "Don't you ever doubt that! Those regulations were written for damned good reasons. You're the Company's link with the rest of the Army. When the shit hits the fan, and the bottom falls out, somebody's got to get word back. The hummer handler's the only man who can do it."


Our scouting Chief Sword, helpless witness to the battle for the swamp portal, meets up with the hummer handler and is able to get his limited intel off.


The coal-black creature Gadrial had just informed her was called a "unicorn" was unlike anything either of them had ever seen before, yet it was close enough to familiar to make it even more disturbing than something as totally alien as a dragon. The beast was roughly horse-sized and shaped, except for the legs, which were proportionately too long, and the improbably powerful looking hindquarters. But no horse had ever had those long, furry, bobcatlike ears, or that short, powerful neck, or the long, deadly-looking tusks—like something from some huge, wild boar—and obviously carnivorous teeth. Or the long, ivory horn which must have been close to a yard in length. And then there were the eyes. Huge green eyes with purple irises and catlike slitted pupils.


Arcanan unicorn. Also language lessons, as Gadriel retrieves pictures from her crystal's memory (actually, a Beginner's Ransaran program) and they play "my word, your word." Right now, Gadriel is learning that they don't have unicorns on Sharona.

This actually turns into a lengthy rant on Arcanan languages I'll summarize here. Ransaran is pretty much like English: highly idiosyncratic (irregular spelling, odd exceptions to every rule of grammar), looting from many different tongues, flexible and pretty difficult to learn. Andaran is very direct, simple, and easy. Perfectly phonetic, few irregular words, and even less homonyms. Mythalan.... there are a dozen major dialects of Mythalan and countless lesser ones. It is an ancient tongue, incredibly steeped in tradition and subtle nuance.

Naturally, she's teaching Shaylar and Jathmar Andaran. Albeit with pictures from a Ransaran program.


And it was the official language of the Arcanan Army. Not surprisingly, she supposed, given that seventy to eighty percent of the Arcanan military was also Andaran.


Percentage of Andarans in the UA forces.


Gadrial had expected the teaching process to be clumsy and time-consuming, at least at first. Shaylar, however, had an almost uncanny gift for languages. Her accent was odd, lending the sonorous Arcanan words and phrases a musical overtone that was as pleasant to the ear as it was unusual, but her ability to pick up the language was astounding. She was clearly much better at it than Jathmar, and although it was still going to be some time before she started building complex sentences and using compound verb forms, her basic ability to communicate was growing by leaps and bounds.

In fact, Gadrial had come to the conclusion that there was more than a mere natural ear for language involved in the process. It had become abundantly clear to her that Magister Halathyn had been correct in his initial assessment that Shaylar and Jathmar's people had never even heard of anything remotely like magic. And yet there was something about Shaylar . . .


I wonder if that's part of the Voice package?


She hadn't even known her Ransaran teachers had sent her exam results to the Academy, hadn't guessed how truly outstanding those scores had been. Not until the message crystal had arrived with Halathyn's personal invitation recorded in it. And then, impossibility piled on top of impossibility, he'd personally met her that first day, taken the unknown, timid teenaged girl from Ransar—the only non-Mythalan student in the renowned academy's entire student body, and one of the three youngest students ever admitted to it—under his wing. And he'd taken her out to the Falls themselves, shown them to her, and spoken quietly about the reason her body had buzzed so strangely there.

"Magic," he'd said in that almost childlike way of his, filled with wonder at the unending delights the universes—all of them—had to offer. "Magic gathers in places like these." He'd waved a dark-skinned, elegant hand at the roaring cataract below their feet. "Or, rather, magic bursts free at such places. There are other locations where the forces we call 'magic' well up in great concentrations: all great waterfalls, certain mountains, some deep caverns, places where lines of force cross. But this place, where the Mythal River plunges into this great chasm, where the entire continent is slowly pulling apart along the Rift—this is the most potent place in all Arcana."


Remembering Halathyn, quoted for the behavior of magic in certain places. Halathyn personally discovered tectonic motion, and it seems to be well-known in magic/academic circles, but generally not publicized.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-04-23 01:13pm

Ahriman238 wrote:Sharonan pens. Also, it just now occurs to Andrin (admittedly, the spare rather than the heir to Ternathia) that she should probably be taking some kind of notes, several hours into the discussion. At least she gets it before the main event, the Conclave.
Honestly she should have been tutored better than this...

She uncapped her pen once more and made her first note of the Conclave: Memorize the names of every head of state on Sharona and our colonies. She looked down at it, and, after a moment's consideration, added, And their heirs, if they're monarchies, and their seconds in command, regardless of what form of government they have.
The hell? Seriously, how does the second-in-line not already know who the other world leaders are?
I agree with this. I would fondly hope she would at least know the leaders of major nations. An error on par with, say, forgetting who the president of Paraguay is might be excusable for her, but there's being undereducated and there's dangerous ignorance.

Andrin has a Glimpse of unspecific fire and screaming. First thing they do? Send for hard liquor and demand that she recount everything she saw.
It's 1900, what can I say?

[Also, since Glimpses are really important and urgent sometimes, people may be excused for a certain sense of... urgency.

The Uromathians are pretty much the designated slimy political villains for all the Sharonan politics scenes. But another 1500 men could be pretty useful right now.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Mr Bean » 2015-04-23 02:39pm

Ahriman238 wrote:I wonder if that's part of the Voice package?

Perfect recall, Voices as part of being Voices have perfect or near perfect memory.

It's a heck of a lot easier to pick up on languages when you can remember the vocabulary word for word. And when you can "feel" someone wincing when you start messing up the pronunciation.

OAN:Uromathia, it's noted that they (Uromathia) copied their style of functional government from Ternathia because of how efficient it was even if they use a different top end leadership. Kind of like if the Chinese had a word for word copy of the FBI but instead of Director of FBI the guy in charge was Lord something of Uromathia. I'm guessing Emperor Chava even has similar types of lower government functions like city councils and the like. The difference being his Ternathia Congress is there for show and you add a secret police to monitor everything to ensure things don't get out of hand.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-05-08 10:10pm

Shaylar and Jathmar are removed from the fort, most of this is description of an Arcanan ship and how it compares with a Sharonan steamer.


"Gadrial's in a state of shock," she said very quietly into Jathmar's ear. "She's lost someone—someone precious to her."

Jathmar glanced at her sharply, then his nostrils flared.

"That man at the camp," he said softly. "The one who looked Ricathian."


Bit of a problem with Weber's later writing, a lot of it consists of characters figuring out things that we the audience, through the omniscient narrator, have already known for some time. Or analyzing previous events. It kind of works with the later Honorverse books, because it shows how similar the various governments are in their approach and attitudes, but mostly it just drags out the story.


His lip curled in the way she'd seen occasional aristocrats sneer back home, particularly those from Othmaliz, who felt they were superior to pretty much everyone else on Sharona simply because their ancestors had retained possession of Tajvana. She'd had to deal with one or two of that sort, and she'd never enjoyed the experience, although not even the most haughty Othmalizi noble had wanted to cross swords with a fully accredited Voice of her stature.


Apparently a Voice of Shayler's talents commands as much respect as a noble.


This ship was somewhat smaller than the standard Voyager-class ships the Trans-Temporal Express had developed to cross the water gaps in its inter-universal transportation system, but not by very much. The Voyagers were about four hundred feet long and had a beam of about fifty-five feet, and Shaylar, like everyone who'd ever served in a portal survey crew, was thoroughly familiar with them. They were certainly serviceable craft, if not especially speedy, but they'd been designed primarily as cargo vessels, and their passenger accommodations left much to be desired. On the other hand, in the Voyager, the TTE had produced a design which lent itself to modular construction and mass production. The freighters were literally shipped across intervening stretches of dry land in pieces, carried on huge, special freight cars, and assembled once they reached their destinations.


A steam-ship the TTE can ship overland by rail. "About" 400x55 ft.


First, it appeared to be built of wood. That wasn't really all that surprising, in a lot of ways. Wooden hulls were more common than steel hulls for locally produced Sharonian shipping, after all. The TTE's modular designs were one thing, but for most people, it was far simpler to import a gang of shipwrights and the men needed to fell timber to build ships than it was to import enough infrastructure to build steel-hulled vessels in barely explored universes.

But the fact that this one was built of wood did seem odd considering the second obvious difference between it and the Sharonian ships with which she was familiar, because it was a far sleeker design. Whereas a Voyager had a straight, almost vertical stem, this ship's bow was sharply raked, and the hull flared gracefully as it approached deck level. Shaylar was no sailor, but she'd had the opportunity—or misfortune, depending upon one's viewpoint—to experience heavy weather aboard more than one of the TTE ships, and she suspected that this vessel would have provided much more comfortable transport under the same circumstances. It looked far more . . . modern, for want of a better word, which made its wooden construction one more of the endless anachronisms she'd observed since her capture.

The third thing she noticed was the size of the superstructure, and the fourth was the absence of anything remotely resembling a Sharonian ship's smokestacks. It had only a single mast, which carried no sails, so it had to have some sort of propulsive system, but she couldn't imagine what it might be.


Though a lot of wooden shipbuilding still happens, because the survey corporations can more easily build them on-site out of pocket. We later see some of the construction process for Arcanan ships, and it's very impressive, felled trees levitating in the air and simply peeling together into planks that slot together.


But the fifth thing she noticed was a row of three-foot-wide ports which ran down the entire length of the superstructure right at deck level. At the moment, those ports were closed by hatches, but she didn't think they were access ways for ventilation or trash chutes. There were eight of them on the side of the ship closest to the wharf, and she assumed there was a matching row on the ship's outboard side.


Gun ports. 8 to a broadside, presumably something like the field dragons. Also, the TTE and Sharonan exploration corporations don't, as a rule, arm their ocean-going vessels.


Boarding the ship, Shaylar has a touch-telepathy experience, letting her share the pain and guilt of Gadriel and Jasak.


A half-dozen men who were obviously members of the ship's crew sorted out the new arrivals as they reached the deck. Like Jasak and the other soldiers, the sailors were uniformed, although their uniforms—composed of red jerseys for most of them, although one wore a red tunic with gold braid, over white trousers—were quite different from Jasak's. The one in the tunic was obviously a junior officer or petty officer of some sort.


Arcanan naval uniform.


An instant later, the gangway began to rise. The sailors didn't haul it up. They didn't use a winch or a crane to lift it. It simply rose, detaching itself smoothly from both the side of the ship and the wharf below, turning until it was parallel with the centerline of the ship, and then rising still higher. It lifted until it was a good ten feet higher than even Jasak's head, and then nestled itself neatly into what were obviously waiting mounting brackets on the side of the ship's superstructure, one deck level above them.

-snip-

"I suppose if you can levitate stretchers, there's no reason you couldn't levitate gangplanks, as well, at that," he admitted. Then he snorted with a grimace. "Probably explains why they don't have any cargo derricks on this ship of theirs, for that matter. Why bother with cranes when you can just stick a little glass bead on your cargo pallets and fly them to where you want them?"


Leviation is a generally used spellware.


The youngster looked exhausted, as well he might after what had to have been an even longer forced march than chan Tesh's own, but he was also the spitting image of his father. Even if he hadn't been, the blue-gray peregrine falcon on the far-from-regulation leather pad covering the left shoulder of his uniform tunic would have been a powerful clue. The bird was huge even for a peregrine—easily over twenty inches long, with a wingspan which must have been well over four feet—and it was neither hooded nor jessed, which was . . . unusual, to say the very least.


The falcon is the symbol of the Calirath dynasty, of Ternathia, and sometimes, in odd ways, of the Talented. Voices, for instance, receive a falcon-head pin upon their official accredidation. But it also gives Weber a chance to stretch himself and try something he's never written, a hyper-competent military officer with an unusual animal companion.


"We've got prisoners, Platoon-Captain," chan Tesh said much more grimly. "Several of them were pretty badly wounded in the fighting. Our Healers have done what they can for them, of course, and they're all at least stabilized now, but we need to get them transferred to the rear and better medical facilities. Even if that weren't the case, we'd need to get all of them—wounded and unwounded alike—moved to the rear for proper interrogation as quickly as possible. The only officer we took alive appears to have been their commander—he's one of the wounded I mentioned, and it doesn't look like he'll ever walk again—but we've captured several men who seem to have been senior noncoms. They're our best, and only, source of information, and we need to get them into the hands of someone who can at least start figuring out how to talk to them. Not to mention the fact that we need to move them farther back as a security measure against escapes or rescue attempts."


It also lets chan Tesh get rid off the Crown Prince he'd otherwise fret over getting killed. Given that Ternathia keeps the tradition that their children serve in the military or diplomatic corps, like the English, it seems even weirder that Andrin is so ill-informed. Chan Tesh also gives Janaki the job of convincing Darcel Kinlafia to go home and tell his story, because he's leaking aggression and driving "anyone even slightly telepathic" nuts.


"Sir, my Talent's strength lies more in repairing physical damage than emotional or psychological damage," Yar said frankly. "That's one reason I'm forward deployed, where physical trauma is more likely, and usually more immediately life-threatening when it turns up. But it's going to take someone with a lot more strength on the nonphysical side to get through to this man and keep him from simply withdrawing deeper and deeper into himself until he finally just goes out like a light. I don't think you're going to get him to that kind of care in time if we don't shut him down for the trip."

Janaki nodded yet again, his expression somber. The techniques for disengaging a patient's consciousness from his body and surroundings were fairly straightforward, but it was a major breach of medical ethics to apply them without the patient's informed consent. Unfortunately, there was no way this man could even have understood the question, far less make an informed decision. Yar's Healer's oath required him to seek the patient's agreement, and forbade him to apply the techniques without that agreement from a conscious patient. Yet the same oath required him to keep his patient alive.


Physical versus emotional Healing Talents, seems a lot of Healers have degrees of both. They can also do a psychically-induced coma, though they hate to do so without consent. The Whiffer tells them that the Arcanan healers are way more advanced, but still can't see if they had Shaylar. The Sharonan medics pooh-pooh the idea that any kind of healing could have saved Shaylar.
"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-06-04 11:16am

Andrin had forced herself to See the SUNN Voicenet report. She had only an extremely limited telepathic Talent, but it was more than enough to follow Voicenet transmissions. After witnessing that report, however, she found herself wishing passionately that she'd had no telepathic Talent at all. Not even the nightmares she'd experienced in her own Glimpses had been enough to prepare her for the sheer horror of what Shaylar Nargra-Kolmayr had endured before her own death.

The events themselves had been horrible enough, but the sheer power and clarity of Shaylar's Voice had stunned a universe. Everyone had known that she'd been one of Sharona's top Voices, but the intensity of her link with Darcel Kinlafia had been staggering. Every nuance of her emotions, her suspicions, her observations—every spike of terror, every gut-wrenching spasm of grief, every glorious, white-fire instant of courage—had hit every telepath on Sharona squarely between the eyes.


I promise, this is the last time I'll harp on it. But a wide segment of the population being able to experience the Massacre firsthand has made the release of this information so much worse, and definitely ignited war-fever.


IMS Prince of Ternathia was an armored cruiser—twelve thousand tons of sickle-prowed armor plate, with four twin nine-inch turrets, two each fore and aft, and a broadside of fourteen six-inch guns. Her sister ship, IMS Duke Ihtrial cruised watchfully to port of the liner, interposed between her and any threat, and Andrin wondered just how anxious Master-Captain Farsal chan Morthain, the escort commander, was feeling this fine morning as she stood here, enjoying the exuberant wind. It wasn't often, after all, that the emperor, the heir-secondary, the entire Privy Council, the speakers of all three of the Ternathian Houses of Parliament, a sizable chunk of the most senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the most senior lords justicar of the Emperor's Bench, over seventy members of Parliament, and the Imperial chiefs of staff were all packed aboard a single ship.

Officially, chan Morthain and his cruisers were out there to guard Windtreader against "pirates," but there hadn't been a single pirate operating in the waters between Ternath Island and Tajvana in centuries. The possibility of some lunatic in a fast boat loaded with explosives probably figured far more prominently in chan Morthain's thinking. Personally, Andrin felt quite certain that the cruisers were intended much more as a precaution—and possibly a somewhat pointed hint—designed to get the attention of some of Ternathia's less scrupulous "allies" than as a defense against any sort of criminals.


Oh yeah, Andrin, family and the bulk of ther Ternathian government are on a cruise liner bound for Tajvana, and escorted by two armored cruisers. Eight 9-inch guns on a Ternathian armored cruiser. Also, does Andrin want a cookie for realizing part of the reason they have protectors and bodyguards?


Like Janaki's Taleena, Finena was an imperial Ternathian peregrine, but she looked like no other hawk which had ever broken shell in the imperial aviary. She'd hatched from the final clutch of Emperor Zindel's beloved falcon Charaeil, and though she wasn't quite a true albino—her eyes were as dark as any other peregrine's—she showed none of the bold bluish-gray plumage of male peregrines, nor even the browner tones of the females of the species. Her plumage was a dazzling white, and she showed mere shadows of gray where other peregrines' underparts would have been marked with sharply visible black bars. And while she wasn't a true sentient, like the dolphins and whales or the great apes, she came very, very close. Unlike any other longwings in the world, imperial Ternathian peregrines were never hooded, even after the completion of their training. Like other falcons, their natural prey was other birds, not ground game, but imperial Ternathian hawks like Finena were intelligent enough to know when it was time to fly. They required no blindfolds to prevent them from seeing other birds passing overhead, nor did they require jesses to keep them from leaving their human companion's fists without permission. Finena might not be a true sentient by most people's standards, but she was an extremely smart bird—one Andrin had hand-raised from an eyas.


And the Ternathians have been selectively breeding falcons (royal symbol, remember) for size and intelligence for so long, they've created a near-sapient sub-species to serve as their animal mascots. So smart and well-trained that their handlers need none of the traditional gear of falconry.


Uromathian kings and princes carried falcons as status symbols; that much of the traditional Ternathian practice they'd adopted. But unlike the Ternathian imperial house, they left their birds' routine daily care to hawk handlers and were always careful to fasten the birds securely to their wrists when they carried them—and to hood them, whenever they weren't actively hunting. It was true that none of their birds were Finena's intellectual equal, and Andrin was prepared to admit—if pressed—that carrying other, lesser breeds bareheaded under all circumstances might be . . . less than prudent. But she still considered hooding them simply for the falconer's convenience a barbaric and cruel practice, and her lip-curl of disdain turned into a sinful smile as she anticipated the expressions of the Uromathians when they caught their first glimpse of a Ternathian grand princess with a white Ternathian imperial peregrine.


The Ternathian royals are big on falconry, so the Ternathian court follows, then lesser nobles, then the rest of the world until a gentleman at a formal event is considered half-dressed without a bird on his arm or shoulder. Even in Uromathia. I like this bit of depth to the Sharonan culture. It reminds me of a story I heard (which I cannot speak to the veracity of) that Europe's generations-long love affair with powdered wigs began with a single balding French king.


Finena preened on Andrin's arm as she caught her companion's emotions. They didn't share true telepathy, the way a cetacean or a chimpanzee shared with a translator, but their bond was very real, nonetheless, and Andrin felt it glowing between them as she turned and started for the external stair—which the sailors insisted on calling a "ladder"—from the promenade deck to the boat deck, above.


And of course they have a mysterious bond no one can adequately explain. Like no David Weber character before.


"My dear Grand Princess! How you've grown!"

Andrin could never decide later whether it was his patronizing tone or the ironic, languidly malicious look he swept up her tall, admittedly sturdy figure as he straightened his spine which did the most to leave her white-faced with fury. Not that it really mattered, she eventually concluded. Either one would have been more than enough, and if they hadn't done it, the lazy, mocking glitter in his light-colored eyes—the self-congratulating amusement of an adult making clever remarks which would sail right over a mere child's head—would have accomplished the same thing anyway.

-snip-

"My dear Earl," she said, in tones fit to freeze lava, looking down her nose at him from her towering inches, "how nice to see someone of your . . . imposing stature this morning."

He blinked, and his face went blank. She wondered whether his confusion stemmed more from the evidence that she hadn't missed his mockery after all, or from the sheer disbelief that any snip of a schoolgirl would dare to cut him off at the knees.

"Ah, ahem, well—"

She turned her back on him in mid-stammer and whistled sharply. Finena wheeled high above her, then came hurtling down with the speed of a striking snake. Peregrines could attain velocities of over two hundred miles per hour in a stoop, and the smack of talon against leather as the hawk flared her wings at the last moment sounded shockingly loud above the wind. The white falcon turned a baleful eye on Earl Ilforth and hissed. Andrin had never heard such a sound from any hawk, let alone Finena, and Ilforth actually stumbled backward a step as she turned back to survey him through icy eyes.

"You were saying, My Lord?"

-snip-

"I just wanted to say what an honor it is, to share a voyage of such importance with His Imperial Majesty and Your Grand Highness."

"I see. I was rather looking forward to the voyage myself."

She didn't actually emphasize the verb all that strongly, but it was enough to bring an angry scarlet stain to his cheeks.


How to Make Friends and Influence People.

I'm just going to throw manners, diplomacy and getting along with people even if they're unpleasant on the heap of things Andrin's parents really should have taught her a long time ago. Or at least before bringing her to an international conference on an existential threat.

Oh, and context. Earl Ilforth is the Speaker for the Hourse of Lords in the Ternathian Parliament, making him a political figure of no small importance, and this is the first time they've ever spoken face-to-face. In fact, the book establishes that literally everything she knows about this guy before htis conversation is a.) his position b.) his towering reputation as a fop and a dandy and c.) her mother doesn't like him and goes out of her way to avoid him. That's it.

Really, I'm powerfully reminded of a similar scene in the Honorverse, SVW, where Honor makes a point to antagonize and shut up a junior officer for daring to introduce himself and reference a shared history (she'd once punched a cousin of his.) though Andrin can be excused some for at least being a teenager.


Unlike Uromathia, Ternathia had outlawed the custom of dueling generations ago—which, she found herself reflecting, was a pity. Or perhaps not. Chan Zindico, who hewed to the millennia-old tradition of Calirath guardsmen, had begun her tutoring in self-defense when she was twelve, and seven words from the Earl of Ilforth left her with a sudden, passionate longing to see him on the firing range with his pasty face centered—briefly—in the sights of her favorite Halanch and Welnahr revolver.


Firearms, falconry and presumably hand-to-hand, though, are totally necessary skills in a royal. As is shooting people who seem a little too smug in your presence. Apparently pistol duels are legal in Uromathia, illegal in Ternathia. Anyone want to take bets on the odds of there being a pistol duel before the series ends?

Of course, Ilforth is a Designated Political Antagonist, and so a moron who will doubtlessly further provoke her into-


"Your Grand Highness, I humbly beg your pardon." His voice was suddenly different as well. Lower, more hurried, without the polished confidence which had sneered through his tone before. "I . . . seem to have made hash of this conversation, and it was never my intention to be offensive. If I have caused you grief in some fashion, I sincerely beg your forgiveness."


Or he could remember that one of the people in this conversation is an adult and apologize, even if he did nothing wrong. Got to admit, did not see that one coming, and I'm curious to see where it goes.


And then, as she watched his face lose even more color, she realized with an insight like a thunderclap that it wasn't so much because of what she'd done or said, as because of who she was. Who she might yet become. He truly had expected his nasty little barbed comment to go right past a "mere girl." He'd never anticipated that it wouldn't, and it was the sudden realization of the truly colossal blunder he'd made which had rattled him so thoroughly. Ridiculing the physical size of a person who might one day occupy the imperial throne wasn't the very wisest political move a man could make.


What "nasty little barbed comment"? He'd complimented her on how much she'd grown! Even if he'd said it around the most blatant sneer, with all the emphasis he could muster, it would barely count as an insult on a children's playground. Admittedly. mocking royalty for their appearance is hardly politic.


Part of her was childishly delighted by his terror. She'd never before experienced anything like this sudden, visceral understanding that she could reduce grown men to quivering protoplasm merely by displaying her displeasure, and it was a heady sensation. But if part of her was delighted, the rest was quite abruptly shaken to the core. She had a sudden vision of just what sort of disaster she could unleash if she succumbed to the habit of using that power to gratify her own petty emotions, and it terrified her.

One corner of her lips tried to quirk as she contemplated this oaf's probable reaction if she thanked him for his unwitting assistance in her imperial education. She was sorely tempted to do just that, but decided to settle for a slight nod, instead.


Right now, I am not liking Andrin very much. Can the rest of the political stuff be from Ilforth's perspective?


"You're probably wondering what instructions I carry from the House of Lords," he said with a last heavy sigh for his damaged headgear.

Andrin blinked mentally. She hadn't wondered anything of the sort, actually, but she suddenly—and belatedly—realized that she probably should have.

-snip-

"Yes. Well. The Lords have made it quite clear that under no circumstances shall we yield so much as a fingertip's worth of Ternathian sovereignty over this business!"

"I see." Andrin pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I should imagine most of the other governments on Sharona share exactly the same sentiments, shouldn't you, My Lord? That wouldn't appear to leave a great deal of room for progress toward a practical governing system to deal with the crisis, would it?"

He blinked.

"I beg your pardon, Your Grand Highness?"

"Clearly, something must be done, administratively, to meet the crisis, or all Sharona could be at risk of attack, My Lord. Possibly even destruction. It seems to me that refusing to yield a fingertip's worth of anything at this particular moment is an exceedingly poor way to handle the worst international crisis in Sharonian history."


And naturally he wilts right before her very basic and obvious point. Naturally, despite leaving her home to the largest international Conclave in recorded history. Andrin hasn't spared a moment's thought for what her government's position might be once they get there.


"Ah, well, ahem. There may be a great deal of merit in your argument, Your Grand Highness. Which I must say is remarkably cogent for a girl barely out of the schoolroom, if you'll pardon me for speaking bluntly."

She wanted to shout her irritation to the sky, or else—preferably—hit him over the head with something large and heavy. Instead, she favored him with a frosty gaze.

"My schoolroom is hardly noted for its incompetent schoolmasters," she observed, and Ilforth reddened.


Oh, please. At this point, I'd not be amazed to learn that your parents decided, with heavy heart and sober mind, to spare you the harsh truths of arithmetic and basic literacy. I'm only certain the latter didn't happen because you were taking notes earlier, when it finally occurred to you to do so during a meeting of literally global importance.


"No, of course not. I hardly meant to imply—"

"Then perhaps you will be so good as to consider my argument's merit, regardless of the chronological age of its source."

She left him standing, hat in hand, gaping after her as she stalked clear across the broad, windswept deck to the opposite rail.


This man is entirely too easily rendered speechless by a clueless kid. I refuse to believe he's actually a political power to be reckoned with.


"He's the Speaker because he's the most senior earl in the House of Lords, and because he has sufficient money, and therefore political influence, to sway an unfortunate—one might almost say unholy—alliance of extreme conservatives, status-conscious popinjays, and ambitious men who know better but find his money exceedingly useful. Never, ever underestimate the damage Ilforth can do in—or from—the House of Lords. Thank Marnilay Herself that the power of the imperial purse rests in the Commons, Your Highness, or that blue-blooded, damnfool-tongued disaster would be able to sit back on his undeserved laurels and dictate to the Throne whenever he felt like it. Which would be every minute of the day."


And if we hold to pattern he has tremendous blackmail on half of Parliament. The Ternathian Commons control the budget, as in HH they struggled for years to achieve.


Andrin stared at the man who held, on a daily basis, more power than anyone in the Empire except her father. She'd never heard such venom from the eternally unflappable First Councilor in her life. Nor, she realized a moment later, had anyone—including her father—ever given her such a crystal-clear glimpse into the machinations of governance.

"My father has tremendous faith in your judgment, First Councilor," she said quietly after a moment. "I would be honored if you would teach me what you can in the limited time you have available."

-snip-

"You are your father's daughter in so many ways it takes the breath away," he said quietly. Then he drew a deep breath. "Very well, Your Grand Highness. Shall we begin with an analysis of the political situation in the House of Lords?"

"I would be most grateful for anything you could say to clarify that for me."

"In that case," he said, his voice dry as desert sand, "perhaps it's fortunate I hadn't made any specific plans for the balance of the morning."


And I am totally unsurprised to learn Andrin's towering ignorance of things she can't really afford to be ignorant of includes domestic politics as well as international.

Let me posit something. Janaki dies touring the multiverse, say he runs into an enraged buffalo. On receiving word of his son's death, Zindel chan Calirath suffers a fatal heart attack. Now Andrin rules, for the day or two it takes the political machine to chew her up and spit her out because she knows nothing of anything, and can't even get along with people who aren't pleasant to her. What the hell are her parents doing?


She couldn't even finish. The vision was too unrelentingly horrifying for that. She'd never forgotten the earthquake which had rocked her family when her grandfather had been killed in a completely avoidable accident in the middle of an utterly ordinary afternoon in the center of his own capital city. She'd been just five years old, but that memory would be with her until the day she died.


Uh, point of order. We will establish later that Calirath bullshit precog extends to seeing their own deaths and the effect their death will have on others. So how does one die of an easily avoidable accident?


It was almost sunset of the third day of their voyage when Andrin spotted the sight she'd been waiting for all day and discovered that her breathless anticipation had been more than worth the wait. With Finena on her arm, her father beside her on the left, and Shamir Taje standing on her right, Andrin stared out at her first sight of the massive rock that guarded the narrow Bolakini Strait.


Three days from Ireland to Gibraltar on a cruise liner. Feels a little slow for period to me, but most of what I know about steamships I learned from the Big Broadcast of 1936, and it's not like they have any reason to try and set speed records with an entire government onboard and plenty of time until the most distant member states' delegations can reach the Conclave.


The Queens of Bolakin, watching the Empire's expansion across the continent north of the Fist had accurately predicted Ternathia's intention—its need—to expand its naval presence into the Mbisi Sea to secure the southern shores of its new acquisitions. Aware that Ternathia would want control of the Fist, and that the Empire would tolerate no piracy, the Queens of Bolakin had approached the Emperor of Ternathia with a proposition: a joint garrison and shared sovereignty for the Fist, duty-free passage for both Ternathian and Bolakini vessels past the Fist, and the equal division of all duties collected on non-allied shipping through the Straits and bound for Ternathian or Farnalian ports of call, coupled with an ironclad guarantee that no Bolakini shore-runner would harass Ternathian shipping. In exchange, Bolakin offered to open her ports to Ternathian ships, giving Ternathia access to the vast wealth being carried north from the Ricathian interior, both by overland caravan across the vast Sarthan Desert and by Bolakini merchant ships plying the long western shore of Ricathia.


Bolakin is apparently a collection of ten North African city-states, which used to have sole control over Gibraltar but millennia ago worked out an arrangement to share with Ternathia. Also, they apparently also have had continuity of government for 4,500 years or so.


Two flags snapped and cracked in the wind above that mighty fortress, representing the two nations who shared sovereignty over it to this day. One was the black field and golden lion of Bolakin, rippling and wavering as it streamed out from its staff. The other was the eight-rayed golden sunburst of Ternathia on its deep green field, and as Andrin watched, both of them started down their staffs in perfect unison.


Flags of Bolakin and Ternathia. Apparently the Ternathian banner is a gold eight-point star on a green field. Now who else uses an eight-point star?


Rest of the chapter is Andrin's realization that there are armed men who will fight and die at her command, feeling overwhelmed, getting a headache and going to lie down then learning that he new serving girl (named Renatha, but you can call her "minor character we'll never see again") is a Healer too humble to get tested for potential training, which Andrin encourages her to do.
"Any plan which requires the direct intervention of any deity to work can be assumed to be a very poor one."- Newbiespud

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-06-04 11:17am

Andrin had forced herself to See the SUNN Voicenet report. She had only an extremely limited telepathic Talent, but it was more than enough to follow Voicenet transmissions. After witnessing that report, however, she found herself wishing passionately that she'd had no telepathic Talent at all. Not even the nightmares she'd experienced in her own Glimpses had been enough to prepare her for the sheer horror of what Shaylar Nargra-Kolmayr had endured before her own death.

The events themselves had been horrible enough, but the sheer power and clarity of Shaylar's Voice had stunned a universe. Everyone had known that she'd been one of Sharona's top Voices, but the intensity of her link with Darcel Kinlafia had been staggering. Every nuance of her emotions, her suspicions, her observations—every spike of terror, every gut-wrenching spasm of grief, every glorious, white-fire instant of courage—had hit every telepath on Sharona squarely between the eyes.


I promise, this is the last time I'll harp on it. But a wide segment of the population being able to experience the Massacre firsthand has made the release of this information so much worse, and definitely ignited war-fever.


IMS Prince of Ternathia was an armored cruiser—twelve thousand tons of sickle-prowed armor plate, with four twin nine-inch turrets, two each fore and aft, and a broadside of fourteen six-inch guns. Her sister ship, IMS Duke Ihtrial cruised watchfully to port of the liner, interposed between her and any threat, and Andrin wondered just how anxious Master-Captain Farsal chan Morthain, the escort commander, was feeling this fine morning as she stood here, enjoying the exuberant wind. It wasn't often, after all, that the emperor, the heir-secondary, the entire Privy Council, the speakers of all three of the Ternathian Houses of Parliament, a sizable chunk of the most senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the most senior lords justicar of the Emperor's Bench, over seventy members of Parliament, and the Imperial chiefs of staff were all packed aboard a single ship.

Officially, chan Morthain and his cruisers were out there to guard Windtreader against "pirates," but there hadn't been a single pirate operating in the waters between Ternath Island and Tajvana in centuries. The possibility of some lunatic in a fast boat loaded with explosives probably figured far more prominently in chan Morthain's thinking. Personally, Andrin felt quite certain that the cruisers were intended much more as a precaution—and possibly a somewhat pointed hint—designed to get the attention of some of Ternathia's less scrupulous "allies" than as a defense against any sort of criminals.


Oh yeah, Andrin, family and the bulk of ther Ternathian government are on a cruise liner bound for Tajvana, and escorted by two armored cruisers. Eight 9-inch guns on a Ternathian armored cruiser. Also, does Andrin want a cookie for realizing part of the reason they have protectors and bodyguards?


Like Janaki's Taleena, Finena was an imperial Ternathian peregrine, but she looked like no other hawk which had ever broken shell in the imperial aviary. She'd hatched from the final clutch of Emperor Zindel's beloved falcon Charaeil, and though she wasn't quite a true albino—her eyes were as dark as any other peregrine's—she showed none of the bold bluish-gray plumage of male peregrines, nor even the browner tones of the females of the species. Her plumage was a dazzling white, and she showed mere shadows of gray where other peregrines' underparts would have been marked with sharply visible black bars. And while she wasn't a true sentient, like the dolphins and whales or the great apes, she came very, very close. Unlike any other longwings in the world, imperial Ternathian peregrines were never hooded, even after the completion of their training. Like other falcons, their natural prey was other birds, not ground game, but imperial Ternathian hawks like Finena were intelligent enough to know when it was time to fly. They required no blindfolds to prevent them from seeing other birds passing overhead, nor did they require jesses to keep them from leaving their human companion's fists without permission. Finena might not be a true sentient by most people's standards, but she was an extremely smart bird—one Andrin had hand-raised from an eyas.


And the Ternathians have been selectively breeding falcons (royal symbol, remember) for size and intelligence for so long, they've created a near-sapient sub-species to serve as their animal mascots. So smart and well-trained that their handlers need none of the traditional gear of falconry.


Uromathian kings and princes carried falcons as status symbols; that much of the traditional Ternathian practice they'd adopted. But unlike the Ternathian imperial house, they left their birds' routine daily care to hawk handlers and were always careful to fasten the birds securely to their wrists when they carried them—and to hood them, whenever they weren't actively hunting. It was true that none of their birds were Finena's intellectual equal, and Andrin was prepared to admit—if pressed—that carrying other, lesser breeds bareheaded under all circumstances might be . . . less than prudent. But she still considered hooding them simply for the falconer's convenience a barbaric and cruel practice, and her lip-curl of disdain turned into a sinful smile as she anticipated the expressions of the Uromathians when they caught their first glimpse of a Ternathian grand princess with a white Ternathian imperial peregrine.


The Ternathian royals are big on falconry, so the Ternathian court follows, then lesser nobles, then the rest of the world until a gentleman at a formal event is considered half-dressed without a bird on his arm or shoulder. Even in Uromathia. I like this bit of depth to the Sharonan culture. It reminds me of a story I heard (which I cannot speak to the veracity of) that Europe's generations-long love affair with powdered wigs began with a single balding French king.


Finena preened on Andrin's arm as she caught her companion's emotions. They didn't share true telepathy, the way a cetacean or a chimpanzee shared with a translator, but their bond was very real, nonetheless, and Andrin felt it glowing between them as she turned and started for the external stair—which the sailors insisted on calling a "ladder"—from the promenade deck to the boat deck, above.


And of course they have a mysterious bond no one can adequately explain. Like no David Weber character before.


"My dear Grand Princess! How you've grown!"

Andrin could never decide later whether it was his patronizing tone or the ironic, languidly malicious look he swept up her tall, admittedly sturdy figure as he straightened his spine which did the most to leave her white-faced with fury. Not that it really mattered, she eventually concluded. Either one would have been more than enough, and if they hadn't done it, the lazy, mocking glitter in his light-colored eyes—the self-congratulating amusement of an adult making clever remarks which would sail right over a mere child's head—would have accomplished the same thing anyway.

-snip-

"My dear Earl," she said, in tones fit to freeze lava, looking down her nose at him from her towering inches, "how nice to see someone of your . . . imposing stature this morning."

He blinked, and his face went blank. She wondered whether his confusion stemmed more from the evidence that she hadn't missed his mockery after all, or from the sheer disbelief that any snip of a schoolgirl would dare to cut him off at the knees.

"Ah, ahem, well—"

She turned her back on him in mid-stammer and whistled sharply. Finena wheeled high above her, then came hurtling down with the speed of a striking snake. Peregrines could attain velocities of over two hundred miles per hour in a stoop, and the smack of talon against leather as the hawk flared her wings at the last moment sounded shockingly loud above the wind. The white falcon turned a baleful eye on Earl Ilforth and hissed. Andrin had never heard such a sound from any hawk, let alone Finena, and Ilforth actually stumbled backward a step as she turned back to survey him through icy eyes.

"You were saying, My Lord?"

-snip-

"I just wanted to say what an honor it is, to share a voyage of such importance with His Imperial Majesty and Your Grand Highness."

"I see. I was rather looking forward to the voyage myself."

She didn't actually emphasize the verb all that strongly, but it was enough to bring an angry scarlet stain to his cheeks.


How to Make Friends and Influence People.

I'm just going to throw manners, diplomacy and getting along with people even if they're unpleasant on the heap of things Andrin's parents really should have taught her a long time ago. Or at least before bringing her to an international conference on an existential threat.

Oh, and context. Earl Ilforth is the Speaker for the Hourse of Lords in the Ternathian Parliament, making him a political figure of no small importance, and this is the first time they've ever spoken face-to-face. In fact, the book establishes that literally everything she knows about this guy before htis conversation is a.) his position b.) his towering reputation as a fop and a dandy and c.) her mother doesn't like him and goes out of her way to avoid him. That's it.

Really, I'm powerfully reminded of a similar scene in the Honorverse, SVW, where Honor makes a point to antagonize and shut up a junior officer for daring to introduce himself and reference a shared history (she'd once punched a cousin of his.) though Andrin can be excused some for at least being a teenager.


Unlike Uromathia, Ternathia had outlawed the custom of dueling generations ago—which, she found herself reflecting, was a pity. Or perhaps not. Chan Zindico, who hewed to the millennia-old tradition of Calirath guardsmen, had begun her tutoring in self-defense when she was twelve, and seven words from the Earl of Ilforth left her with a sudden, passionate longing to see him on the firing range with his pasty face centered—briefly—in the sights of her favorite Halanch and Welnahr revolver.


Firearms, falconry and presumably hand-to-hand, though, are totally necessary skills in a royal. As is shooting people who seem a little too smug in your presence. Apparently pistol duels are legal in Uromathia, illegal in Ternathia. Anyone want to take bets on the odds of there being a pistol duel before the series ends?

Of course, Ilforth is a Designated Political Antagonist, and so a moron who will doubtlessly further provoke her into-


"Your Grand Highness, I humbly beg your pardon." His voice was suddenly different as well. Lower, more hurried, without the polished confidence which had sneered through his tone before. "I . . . seem to have made hash of this conversation, and it was never my intention to be offensive. If I have caused you grief in some fashion, I sincerely beg your forgiveness."


Or he could remember that one of the people in this conversation is an adult and apologize, even if he did nothing wrong. Got to admit, did not see that one coming, and I'm curious to see where it goes.


And then, as she watched his face lose even more color, she realized with an insight like a thunderclap that it wasn't so much because of what she'd done or said, as because of who she was. Who she might yet become. He truly had expected his nasty little barbed comment to go right past a "mere girl." He'd never anticipated that it wouldn't, and it was the sudden realization of the truly colossal blunder he'd made which had rattled him so thoroughly. Ridiculing the physical size of a person who might one day occupy the imperial throne wasn't the very wisest political move a man could make.


What "nasty little barbed comment"? He'd complimented her on how much she'd grown! Even if he'd said it around the most blatant sneer, with all the emphasis he could muster, it would barely count as an insult on a children's playground. Admittedly. mocking royalty for their appearance is hardly politic.


Part of her was childishly delighted by his terror. She'd never before experienced anything like this sudden, visceral understanding that she could reduce grown men to quivering protoplasm merely by displaying her displeasure, and it was a heady sensation. But if part of her was delighted, the rest was quite abruptly shaken to the core. She had a sudden vision of just what sort of disaster she could unleash if she succumbed to the habit of using that power to gratify her own petty emotions, and it terrified her.

One corner of her lips tried to quirk as she contemplated this oaf's probable reaction if she thanked him for his unwitting assistance in her imperial education. She was sorely tempted to do just that, but decided to settle for a slight nod, instead.


Right now, I am not liking Andrin very much. Can the rest of the political stuff be from Ilforth's perspective?


"You're probably wondering what instructions I carry from the House of Lords," he said with a last heavy sigh for his damaged headgear.

Andrin blinked mentally. She hadn't wondered anything of the sort, actually, but she suddenly—and belatedly—realized that she probably should have.

-snip-

"Yes. Well. The Lords have made it quite clear that under no circumstances shall we yield so much as a fingertip's worth of Ternathian sovereignty over this business!"

"I see." Andrin pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I should imagine most of the other governments on Sharona share exactly the same sentiments, shouldn't you, My Lord? That wouldn't appear to leave a great deal of room for progress toward a practical governing system to deal with the crisis, would it?"

He blinked.

"I beg your pardon, Your Grand Highness?"

"Clearly, something must be done, administratively, to meet the crisis, or all Sharona could be at risk of attack, My Lord. Possibly even destruction. It seems to me that refusing to yield a fingertip's worth of anything at this particular moment is an exceedingly poor way to handle the worst international crisis in Sharonian history."


And naturally he wilts right before her very basic and obvious point. Naturally, despite leaving her home to the largest international Conclave in recorded history. Andrin hasn't spared a moment's thought for what her government's position might be once they get there.


"Ah, well, ahem. There may be a great deal of merit in your argument, Your Grand Highness. Which I must say is remarkably cogent for a girl barely out of the schoolroom, if you'll pardon me for speaking bluntly."

She wanted to shout her irritation to the sky, or else—preferably—hit him over the head with something large and heavy. Instead, she favored him with a frosty gaze.

"My schoolroom is hardly noted for its incompetent schoolmasters," she observed, and Ilforth reddened.


Oh, please. At this point, I'd not be amazed to learn that your parents decided, with heavy heart and sober mind, to spare you the harsh truths of arithmetic and basic literacy. I'm only certain the latter didn't happen because you were taking notes earlier, when it finally occurred to you to do so during a meeting of literally global importance.


"No, of course not. I hardly meant to imply—"

"Then perhaps you will be so good as to consider my argument's merit, regardless of the chronological age of its source."

She left him standing, hat in hand, gaping after her as she stalked clear across the broad, windswept deck to the opposite rail.


This man is entirely too easily rendered speechless by a clueless kid. I refuse to believe he's actually a political power to be reckoned with.


"He's the Speaker because he's the most senior earl in the House of Lords, and because he has sufficient money, and therefore political influence, to sway an unfortunate—one might almost say unholy—alliance of extreme conservatives, status-conscious popinjays, and ambitious men who know better but find his money exceedingly useful. Never, ever underestimate the damage Ilforth can do in—or from—the House of Lords. Thank Marnilay Herself that the power of the imperial purse rests in the Commons, Your Highness, or that blue-blooded, damnfool-tongued disaster would be able to sit back on his undeserved laurels and dictate to the Throne whenever he felt like it. Which would be every minute of the day."


And if we hold to pattern he has tremendous blackmail on half of Parliament. The Ternathian Commons control the budget, as in HH they struggled for years to achieve.


Andrin stared at the man who held, on a daily basis, more power than anyone in the Empire except her father. She'd never heard such venom from the eternally unflappable First Councilor in her life. Nor, she realized a moment later, had anyone—including her father—ever given her such a crystal-clear glimpse into the machinations of governance.

"My father has tremendous faith in your judgment, First Councilor," she said quietly after a moment. "I would be honored if you would teach me what you can in the limited time you have available."

-snip-

"You are your father's daughter in so many ways it takes the breath away," he said quietly. Then he drew a deep breath. "Very well, Your Grand Highness. Shall we begin with an analysis of the political situation in the House of Lords?"

"I would be most grateful for anything you could say to clarify that for me."

"In that case," he said, his voice dry as desert sand, "perhaps it's fortunate I hadn't made any specific plans for the balance of the morning."


And I am totally unsurprised to learn Andrin's towering ignorance of things she can't really afford to be ignorant of includes domestic politics as well as international.

Let me posit something. Janaki dies touring the multiverse, say he runs into an enraged buffalo. On receiving word of his son's death, Zindel chan Calirath suffers a fatal heart attack. Now Andrin rules, for the day or two it takes the political machine to chew her up and spit her out because she knows nothing of anything, and can't even get along with people who aren't pleasant to her. What the hell are her parents doing?


She couldn't even finish. The vision was too unrelentingly horrifying for that. She'd never forgotten the earthquake which had rocked her family when her grandfather had been killed in a completely avoidable accident in the middle of an utterly ordinary afternoon in the center of his own capital city. She'd been just five years old, but that memory would be with her until the day she died.


Uh, point of order. We will establish later that Calirath bullshit precog extends to seeing their own deaths and the effect their death will have on others. So how does one die of an easily avoidable accident?


It was almost sunset of the third day of their voyage when Andrin spotted the sight she'd been waiting for all day and discovered that her breathless anticipation had been more than worth the wait. With Finena on her arm, her father beside her on the left, and Shamir Taje standing on her right, Andrin stared out at her first sight of the massive rock that guarded the narrow Bolakini Strait.


Three days from Ireland to Gibraltar on a cruise liner. Feels a little slow for period to me, but most of what I know about steamships I learned from the Big Broadcast of 1936, and it's not like they have any reason to try and set speed records with an entire government onboard and plenty of time until the most distant member states' delegations can reach the Conclave.


The Queens of Bolakin, watching the Empire's expansion across the continent north of the Fist had accurately predicted Ternathia's intention—its need—to expand its naval presence into the Mbisi Sea to secure the southern shores of its new acquisitions. Aware that Ternathia would want control of the Fist, and that the Empire would tolerate no piracy, the Queens of Bolakin had approached the Emperor of Ternathia with a proposition: a joint garrison and shared sovereignty for the Fist, duty-free passage for both Ternathian and Bolakini vessels past the Fist, and the equal division of all duties collected on non-allied shipping through the Straits and bound for Ternathian or Farnalian ports of call, coupled with an ironclad guarantee that no Bolakini shore-runner would harass Ternathian shipping. In exchange, Bolakin offered to open her ports to Ternathian ships, giving Ternathia access to the vast wealth being carried north from the Ricathian interior, both by overland caravan across the vast Sarthan Desert and by Bolakini merchant ships plying the long western shore of Ricathia.


Bolakin is apparently a collection of ten North African city-states, which used to have sole control over Gibraltar but millennia ago worked out an arrangement to share with Ternathia. Also, they apparently also have had continuity of government for 4,500 years or so.


Two flags snapped and cracked in the wind above that mighty fortress, representing the two nations who shared sovereignty over it to this day. One was the black field and golden lion of Bolakin, rippling and wavering as it streamed out from its staff. The other was the eight-rayed golden sunburst of Ternathia on its deep green field, and as Andrin watched, both of them started down their staffs in perfect unison.


Flags of Bolakin and Ternathia. Apparently the Ternathian banner is a gold eight-point star on a green field. Now who else uses an eight-point star?


Rest of the chapter is Andrin's realization that there are armed men who will fight and die at her command, feeling overwhelmed, getting a headache and going to lie down then learning that he new serving girl (named Renatha, but you can call her "minor character we'll never see again") is a Healer too humble to get tested for potential training, which Andrin encourages her to do.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-06-04 12:27pm

Ahriman238 wrote:Or he could remember that one of the people in this conversation is an adult and apologize, even if he did nothing wrong.


If by 'did nothing wrong' you mean 'made a snide, passive-aggressive remark about the physical appearance of a teenage girl he had just met'.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ahriman238 » 2015-06-04 01:02pm

While that's probably true (a lot rests on delivery) he still behaved far less abominably than Andrin here.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Mr Bean » 2015-06-04 01:32pm

Re:Granpa Emperor's death
Remember the Ternathian talent requires lots of death and devastation. Falling down a flight of stairs or something similar is likely not enough to trigger it. Someone shooting a cannon at your carriage would be or you getting shot in the middle of an opera.

So if we accept they can only see big giant sources of human suffering then Kennedy style gunmen assignations are impossible, but perhaps a knife at midnight or poison in your drink might be.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-06-04 02:18pm

Ahriman238 wrote:While that's probably true (a lot rests on delivery) he still behaved far less abominably than Andrin here.


I don't see how Andrin's behaviour here is much worse than Ilforth's, but we'll just have to disagree on that.
Just a couple of small things that I missed earlier:

Ahriman238 wrote:
She couldn't even finish. The vision was too unrelentingly horrifying for that. She'd never forgotten the earthquake which had rocked her family when her grandfather had been killed in a completely avoidable accident in the middle of an utterly ordinary afternoon in the center of his own capital city. She'd been just five years old, but that memory would be with her until the day she died.


Uh, point of order. We will establish later that Calirath bullshit precog extends to seeing their own deaths and the effect their death will have on others. So how does one die of an easily avoidable accident?


We don't know for sure that it was her Calirath grandfather, though the phrase 'his own capital city' could be read as implying he was the emperor. Alternatively, he may have had a relatively weak Talent, making any Glimpses he had of his death unclear enough to make preventing them difficult.


Ahriman238 wrote:
Two flags snapped and cracked in the wind above that mighty fortress, representing the two nations who shared sovereignty over it to this day. One was the black field and golden lion of Bolakin, rippling and wavering as it streamed out from its staff. The other was the eight-rayed golden sunburst of Ternathia on its deep green field, and as Andrin watched, both of them started down their staffs in perfect unison.



Flags of Bolakin and Ternathia. Apparently the Ternathian banner is a gold eight-point star on a green field. Now who else uses an eight-point star?


The text says 'sunburst' rather than 'star'. Presumably it looks something like this, but with a dark green background rather than red:
Image

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-04 08:28pm

Ahriman238 wrote:Bit of a problem with Weber's later writing, a lot of it consists of characters figuring out things that we the audience, through the omniscient narrator, have already known for some time. Or analyzing previous events. It kind of works with the later Honorverse books, because it shows how similar the various governments are in their approach and attitudes, but mostly it just drags out the story.
It's arguably counterproductive even in the Weber series because it tends to do things like choke out the parts where you realize that, for instance, the Alignment is fucking evil, worse than the Nazis arguably, because they just seem so gosh-darn reasonable in their "analysis sitting in an office" scenes.

Plus, of course, the part where it turns one fat novel worth of content into- not two thin novels- but two fat novels.

Apparently a Voice of Shaylar's talents commands as much respect as a noble.
Plus they can telepathically blacklist you to 20% of the population of the planet- the most important 20% of the population- and you can't ever be entirely sure you'd know if it happened... :D

A steam-ship the TTE can ship overland by rail. "About" 400x55 ft.
This is a shipbuilding technology that's very advanced by standards of what existed historically circa 1900 AD. It actually requires a lot of work to build a modular ship out of steel and ship the modules long distances overland before assembling them in place. Because if you get it slightly wrong, the parts won't fit together properly and the hull will leak all over the place.

You could DO it, it'd just be very difficult and probably more cost-effective to build composite hulls out of wood while shipping in only a relative handful of steel parts that don't have to fit together so well.

A friend who knows about seventeen times more about ships than I do mentioned the "Hog Islander" modular freighters from World War One.

The falcon is the symbol of the Calirath dynasty, of Ternathia, and sometimes, in odd ways, of the Talented. Voices, for instance, receive a falcon-head pin upon their official accredidation. But it also gives Weber a chance to stretch himself and try something he's never written, a hyper-competent military officer with an unusual animal companion.
:D !!!

To be fair, I'm not sure the prince actually shows any signs of being unusually competent, except for the precognition which doesn't really reflect on his military abilities.

Ahriman238 wrote:Oh yeah, Andrin, family and the bulk of ther Ternathian government are on a cruise liner bound for Tajvana, and escorted by two armored cruisers. Eight 9-inch guns on a Ternathian armored cruiser. Also, does Andrin want a cookie for realizing part of the reason they have protectors and bodyguards?
That's a fairly typical armored cruiser from shortly before WWI, although the combination of heavy turret armament (four double 9") and broadside casemate guns (fourteen 6") is a bit unusual. On consultation with that friend, it was noted that it would be more normal to have one twin heavy turret at each end of the armored citadel that houses the broadside guns; this is the design that almost all pre-dreadnought battleships used, and an armored cruiser was basically a small battleship.

And the Ternathians have been selectively breeding falcons (royal symbol, remember) for size and intelligence for so long, they've created a near-sapient sub-species to serve as their animal mascots. So smart and well-trained that their handlers need none of the traditional gear of falconry.
Being mildly telepathic might help too.

I'm just going to throw manners, diplomacy and getting along with people even if they're unpleasant on the heap of things Andrin's parents really should have taught her a long time ago. Or at least before bringing her to an international conference on an existential threat.
Yeah. On reading the book I didn't realize that she was a spoiled princess, but it's a little more apparent that there's reason to portray her that way now.

Really, I'm powerfully reminded of a similar scene in the Honorverse, SVW, where Honor makes a point to antagonize and shut up a junior officer for daring to introduce himself and reference a shared history (she'd once punched a cousin of his.) though Andrin can be excused some for at least being a teenager.
Hm. Good point.

Honor at least had established anger management issues at the time even if they disappeared later.

What "nasty little barbed comment"? He'd complimented her on how much she'd grown! Even if he'd said it around the most blatant sneer, with all the emphasis he could muster, it would barely count as an insult on a children's playground. Admittedly. mocking royalty for their appearance is hardly politic.
You know, as I think few others I talk to regularly, just how easily teenagers can decide they've been insulted... :banghead:

Right now, I am not liking Andrin very much. Can the rest of the political stuff be from Ilforth's perspective?
Wish it could. :(

Also, to Andrin's credit she at least grasps that being a spoiled princess for the rest of her life could make everyone's life hell. That's... something?

And naturally he wilts right before her very basic and obvious point. Naturally, despite leaving her home to the largest international Conclave in recorded history. Andrin hasn't spared a moment's thought for what her government's position might be once they get there.
Mm. I submit that this observation that if no one is willing to yield sovereignty they will all fall separately... Well. It's unoriginal, perhaps, to say "if we don't hang together we will all hang separately." But that kind of thinking might be a tad bit less obvious to 1900-era people (the kind who, on the Earth we know, were about to charge merrily into World War One) than it is to you.

We've had two world wars to hammer into our heads the idea that nationalism isn't the be-all and end-all of political ideology. They haven't; as far as I can tell they haven't fought a major war on Sharona since the Industrial Revolution.

Oh, please. At this point, I'd not be amazed to learn that your parents decided, with heavy heart and sober mind, to spare you the harsh truths of arithmetic and basic literacy. I'm only certain the latter didn't happen because you were taking notes earlier, when it finally occurred to you to do so during a meeting of literally global importance.
Heh.

I like the image of Andrin as the princess too thick to really listen to her tutors, with some natural talent but starting way the hellandgone "below grade level" in world geopolitics.

Although it's hard to imagine her parents actually allowing that to happen since they are supposed to not be brick-stupid themselves.

This man is entirely too easily rendered speechless by a clueless kid. I refuse to believe he's actually a political power to be reckoned with.
To be fair he may be having problems figuring out how to cope with an easily-offended princess very amused with the first real idea she's had in her life, and have concluded that just not saying anything is the easiest way to get her to leave him alone so he can go find a grownup to talk to.

And I am totally unsurprised to learn Andrin's towering ignorance of things she can't really afford to be ignorant of includes domestic politics as well as international.
Heh.

I'm not sure how much of this Weber wrote, versus how much Evans wrote, but it's clearly a problem. Andrin's being used as our sole viewpoint onto Sharonan politics, and they've played up the "provide exposition to the reader through the eyes of a child learning it for the first time" angle. That works in some settings, but generally you have to make the child someone who shouldn't already know all that shit. Or someone who does know at least some of it themselves, and thinks about it consciously while worrying about how to not screw up.

Let me posit something. Janaki dies touring the multiverse, say he runs into an enraged buffalo. On receiving word of his son's death, Zindel chan Calirath suffers a fatal heart attack. Now Andrin rules, for the day or two it takes the political machine to chew her up and spit her out because she knows nothing of anything, and can't even get along with people who aren't pleasant to her. What the hell are her parents doing?
I KNOW, RIGHT!?

Uh, point of order. We will establish later that Calirath bullshit precog extends to seeing their own deaths and the effect their death will have on others. So how does one die of an easily avoidable accident?
...Maybe this precognition is not always reliable? Maybe her grandfather knew he was going to die that way and didn't tell anyone about it for reasons of his own? Maybe Caliraths have problems with predestination paradoxes sometimes?

Bolakin is apparently a collection of ten North African city-states, which used to have sole control over Gibraltar but millennia ago worked out an arrangement to share with Ternathia. Also, they apparently also have had continuity of government for 4,500 years or so.
Well, they've had female monarchs for that long, at any rate.

I mean, the Ternathians were a world-spanning empire for most of that time, and probably had the de facto power to twist the arms of any new up-and-coming rulers in the Bolakin city-states into sticking to the old agreement. Also the de facto power to prevent any invader from seriously troubling those city-states. Having them as an ally/puppet/client state is probably working out rather well for Ternathia, since they would otherwise probably have had to garrison and colonize that coastline themselves, which didn't work out well historically for people like the Spanish and the French.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-05 09:05am

I hope this won't throw you off your rhythm, but I'm going to tackle a chapter...

Weber and Evans wrote:Shaylar had come to realize that the speed with which she was mastering Andaran had aroused Gadrial's and Jasak's suspicions. No Sharonian, accustomed to telepaths' "ear" for languages, would have been surprised, but she wasn't in Sharona any more. Unfortunately, by the time she realized Gadrial had never seen anyone from Arcana... learn a completely foreign language so quickly, she'd already demonstrated her abilities. The best she'd been able to do was to appear to slow down, to stop and obviously fumble for a word more frequently and emphasize her "foreign accent." She had no idea whether or not it had done any good. For that matter, she wasn't even certain that trying to hide her language-learning ability was a good thing in the first place! It was so frustrating trying to envision what a civilization which apparently had never heard of the Talents would expect... or find frightening or threatening.
Sharonan telepaths pick up language with superhuman speed and acquire full fluency fast enough to surprise 'normals' that haven't encountered telepathy before. Shaylar, not surprisingly, doesn't have enough of a spy's tradecraft to conceal her faculty for language. Also, we note that the Arcanan inability to grasp how a civilization that lacks its particular brand of magitech can be mirrored by the Sharonan inability to grasp how a civilization that lacks its particular brand of technomagic. Although on the whole, the Sharonans seem to understand the Arcanans a lot better than the Arcanans understand the Sharonans, as we've seen.

Because she speaks Arcanan pretty well, she knows that Andara is divided up into multiple kingdoms with a strong military tradition. She knows Ransarans exist and are... more like Sharonans... than the Andarans and the Mythalans. "But for some reason, neither Gadrial nor Jasak seemed to want to talk about them."

Gadrial fires up her PC and shows it to Shaylar, who looks it over...

...It was heavier than she'd expected. It still looked like nothing so much as absolutely clear quartz, yet it was clearly denser than quartz from the way it weighed in her hand. The squiggles showing in its depth shifted slightly as the crystal settled into her palm. The unintelligible words moved, as if to present themselves to her for easier reading.

"What do you mean, powered it up for me?" she asked.

"I mean I've... turned it on for you. Activated its spellware in non-Gifted mode and released my password so that you can enter and retrieve data if you want to."

"But how?" Shaylar demanded in frustration. "This isn't a machine! It's just a lump of rock!"

"Of course it's a machine," Gadrial replied.

"No, it isn't. It's not..." Shaylar shook her head, searching for the Andaran word for 'mechanical.' Unfortunately, that wasn't one she'd learned yet. "There are no switches," she said instead. "Nothing to provide power."

[Gadrial shrugs]

"I provided the power," she said.

"By saying the proper words. Here, try this..."

[Gadrial gives Shaylar a stylus (also magic sarkolis rock) and lets Shaylar write her name on the tablet crystal.]

"I don't understand!"

"That's because you don't have a Gift," Gadrial explained. A non-Gifted person can use most of our machines if the spellware is set up that way and someone who is Gifted charges them first. But if you don't have a Gift yourself, your completely dependent on someone else to write the spellware and power the system."
Description of how Arcanan magic items work. So specific 'apps' can be magically imbued into the sarkolis crystal and operated by normals, including non-Arcanan normals. But any attempt to program new apps into a given crystal, or to recharge the crystal, has to be done by a Gifted individual.

"...but what does Gifted mean? What is it you can do, that someone without a Gift can't, that makes hunks of rock light up this way?"

"I can tap the field," Gadrial said, exactly as if that actually explained something.

"What field?"

"Gadrial used the same word that had started this conversation, and Shaylar let out an exasperated howl."

"Why are you so upset, Shaylar?" Gadrial asked, starting to frown.

"Because your words make no sense! Shaylar pointed to the ominously glowing rock in her own hand. "This piece of stone makes no sense! This ship makes no sense! Nothing about you people makes any sense!"
Shaylar has a freakout. Gadrial has some difficulty grasping that Shaylar's people really have NOTHING like this... which from our perspective has to be a leeeetle ironic since Shaylar is already one of her own civilization's version of 'Gifted.'

The only real difference is that Arcanans 'Gifts' are more flexible, more powerful, and can be embedded into inanimate objects for anyone to use. Which I suppose MIGHT be the core cause of Shaylar's freakout, because the idea of a "Talent" being in any way transferable, being a tool rather than a unique special personal ability intimately tied to one's consciousness, is foreign to her civilization's experience.

Gadrial explains that the Gift allows people to touch an 'energy field' that pervades the universe, "a sea of energy that lies between all things..."

[familiar, eh?]

...And that some people have Gifts of differing strength. Shaylar is frustrated and confused and realizes that Gadrial is "attempting to explain color to a blind person," which bothers Shaylar because she's a telepath and isn't used to having trouble communicating with people.

Shaylar also realizes at this point how much Gadrial misses Magister Halathyn terribly because he was her great teacher, end on emotional note, next chapter.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-05 01:14pm

OK, NOT the next chapter...

"This field can be tapped, manipulated, harnessed... Someone with a Gift speaks the proper formula to tap the field, which allows them to channel that power into the ship's storage cells. When that energy is released, it drives the ship forward through the water. It also powers other machines, all kinds of machines..."

[Gadrial fishes out the portal-sniffing magic item she and Halathyn had been working on and shows it to Shaylar]

Shaylar nodded slowly, but deep inside she was stunned. This single small device in Gadrial's hand was more effective- and efficient- than any Portal Hound she'd ever heard of! If they could do this, what else could they do? Then she realized that Gadriel was still talking...

[They exchange some words about the first shooting incident between the Arcanan Osmuna and the Sharonan Falsan, swapping traumas and confusions. Shaylar, with reason, pointed out...]

"Controlling the situation?" Shaylar barked a harsh, ugly laugh. "Is that what you call it? You were only 'controlling the situation' when Ghartoun tried to talk to you, without even a weapon in his hands, and you shot him?!"

"Garlath shot him," Gadrial snarled...
Gadrial cusses out Ghartoun. In the following passage, we note in passing that Shaylar has a "perfect Voice's memory;" I'm not sure it's been mentioned before that they all have eidetic (or better) memory but it appears to be the case. That could matter.

Shaylar is very much shaken by the realization that the whole thing started over a mistake rather than because Arcanans are complete monsters...

In the process of communicating the results of this conversation to her husband, Shaylar accidentally gives away the fact that they are telepathically bonded. Gadrial gets curious.

"But how did he know?"... Shaylar gave her a crooked little smile.

"You said you have a Gift. Something you were born with. On Sharona, our home world, we have... not the same thing. We don't have your... magic." She wasn't sure she was using Gadrial's word properly, but it was as close as she could come at the moment. "Not anything like it. But some people are born with something other people don't have. We call it..."

[snip hunting for words]

"Yes. A talent. Some people in my world have special Talents. They're... they're in the mind." She tapped her temple. "Jathmar and I are married. We both have a small Talent, nothing very special, really," she said as smoothly as she could, grateful that Gadrial was no telepath to sense her departure from the truth. "But when two people with Talents marry, a bond forms. A bond of the mind. The emotions. Jathmar always knows when I'm afraid or upset. And I always know when he's worried or angry. It's stronger when we're closer together, but we don't have to be in the same room to feel it. Don't your people have anything like this? A mother who just knows when her child's been injured, for example?"

"No." Gadrial shook her head... Jathmar and Shaylar exchanged startled glances.

[snip]

"Well," Gadrial finally said, "it's clear we come from very different people. Very different."

"Yes," Shaylar gulped. "Even more different than we'd realized."
Gadrial promptly questions them on what their talents are. Shaylar more or less correctly explains what Jathmar's Talent is good for, but greatly understates the effectiveness of her own telepathy as 'I just sense what Jathmar is up to,' to paraphrase. Jathmar's ability is enough to shock Gadrial.

Gadrial is smart enough to know they might have gotten a message out.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-05 01:48pm

Shaylar has some time to reflect, realizing that her efforts to conceal (for instance) the fact that she SENT A MESSAGE to the Sharonan armed forces can cause her serious problems given that she is a prisoner.

Then Jasak shows up. He looks mad.

He knows, Shaylar realized with a jolt of pure terror. He already knows...

The cold anger in Jasak's eyes was bad enough, but what lay under that anger had Jathmar moving abruptly, thrusting her behind him, facing Jasak with nothing in his hands but courage.

"If you hurt her," Jathmar said softly, each word enunciated precisely, carefully, "I will do my best to kill you."

Something lethal stirred in Jasak Olderhan's eyes. Then he drew a long, slow breath through his nostrils and let it out again, just as slowly. The glittering threat left his eyes. He was still angry- deeply angry, with a cold, controlled fury- but homicide no longer stared them in the face. Jathmar stayed where he was, anyway.

"Gadrial," Jasak said heavily, "please stay in the passage. I don't want you walking into this cabin."

Shaylar wanted to tell him Gadrial wasn't at risk, but what she felt from Jathmar held her silent. If anything threatened her, Jathmar would use whatever was at hand to keep Jasak away from her. Even Gadrial, the closest thing either of them had to a friend in this entire universe...

[Jasak enters the cabin and closes the door, taking a moment longer to calm down]

"Gadrial tells me you want to know your status as my prisoners?"

"That's right."

"Well, I'd like to know how you sent a message to your soldiers..."

[a pause]

"Do you have any idea," Jasak asked softly, "what your people did to my men?"

"From what I've gathered, about the same thing they did to my crew," Jathmar said in a flat voice.

Jasak's eyes flashed. That murderous look glittered in them again for a moment, but then his nostrils flared.

"All right, I suppose there's a certain justice in that view." He very carefully unknotted his hands, then scrubbed his eyes in a gesture that combined weariness, frustration, and almost unbearable tension in one.
Jasak explains to them what happened- that Hadrign Thalmayr dug his troops in, that no one would listen to him about the wisdom of falling back, because they didn't think there was any way that the survey crew could have notified any Sharonan soldiers.

Jasak had already deduced something strange was going on, noting:

"...think about this. I've been adding things up. Puzzling things. We've been holding you for barely two weeks, yet you speak Andaran astonishingly well. How? Nobody learns languages that fast, not in Arcana. Then there's your wife's ability to know things about people. She's a very sensitive creature, your wife. Always touching someone. Always concerned. Always so understanding. She understands too much, Jathmar. It's almost like she knows what you're thinking."

[Jasak gives Shaylar a rather intense stare]

"Then there's the dragon." Jasak added softly.

"The dragon?" Jathmar echoed, genuinely baffled this time.

"Oh, yes. The dragon. You were still unconscious, but Shaylar remembers. Don't you?" The glance he flicked into her eyes felt like a lance driven through her. Then he clicked that glance back onto Jathmar. "We had to airlift you out to save your life. When the transport dragon arrived, we loaded you on with no trouble. But when we tried to load Shaylar, the dragon went berserk. He hated her on sight, and I want to know why. What did the dragon sense about you that we couldn't?

"Stranger still, the dragon's rage seemed to hurt her. Not just terrify her, hurt her. She clutched at her head, and she screamed. Not just once, either. Not just the first time we tried to put her on the dragon's back. It happened again, right after we got airborne. The dragon actually tried to buck us off in midair, tried to reach her with his teeth. But your wife didn't even see that, because she was clutching her head again, screaming in pain. Gadrial had to put her to sleep, knock her unconscious with her healing Gift, just to stop the pain she was in. And to- how did Shaylar put it- to get the dragon out of her mind."

This time, Shaylar flinched. She couldn't help it. Her memory of that dreadful night was too chaotic, too confused, for detailed recollection, even for a Voice. But she remembered that moment. Remembered her desperate plea to Gadrial. Yet she'd never suspected Gadrial might have actually understood her. The deadly implications of that revelation stabbed through her and she felt the same awareneess resonating through the marriage bond with Jathmar.

"Would you care to explain all of that, Jathmar?" Jasak said. "If I hadn't known such things were impossible, I'd have said she was doing something with her mind- something that enraged our dragon, and that the dragon's rage was somehow spilling over into her mind. But that was impossible. Absurd. Except that it isn't impossible, after all, is it? You people have these Talents." He spat the word out like poison. "You do things with your minds. Just what kind of game are the two of you playing with our minds?"
Jasak puts two and two together and gets four and a half.

Of course, it's understandable that he's massively suspicious... because...

He's scared, Shaylar realized abruptly. [i]He's scared to death of something he doesn't understand...

He's terrified that we'll put thoughts into their minds, control them somehow. What else could he think, if they don't have anything like telepathy? And he feels responsible. He's not just afraid for himself. It's not that simple for him. He's a military officer, responsible for others, for making certani we don't do something to them.
Shaylar attempts to persuade Jasak that telepathy doesn't work that way. Jathmar gets all angry-protective, Jasak gets bristly about how he doesn't hurt women when he knows they're there.

Jasak manages the Glare of Doom again to the extent that Shaylar starts speculating that maybe HE has some kind of Talent (although if so, he doesn't know how to use it, so nothing happens; this is pure speculation).

Shaylar explains further, there's more explaining about "well, how do you think it looked to US" on both sides, more stuff we already know about how the Arcanans saw the Sharonans, and vice versa. No new revelations relevant to a versus. An interesting remark from Shaylar, to Jasak, about how angry she felt at him after the massacre at Fallen Timbers:

"...and because I'm Talented, I knew you hadn't wanted it to happen. I knew how terribly you regretted it... I couldn't keep hating you. I couldn't. I'm a Voice- I was born to understand people. I can't help understanding people. Even," she sobbed in rage, "when I don't want to!"

"I wanted to hate you, and my Talent wouldn't let me. I'm not a weapon! I'm a Voice. A bridge between people. A living tool to help people communicate and understand one another. It's in my blood, my bones, my very skin. If you would just stop holding onto your suspicion with both fists and all your teeth, you'd see the truth, Jasak Olderhan."
After some more talking, Jasak offers Shaylar and Jathmar parole, and explains to them that they have rather extensive rights and privileges as his "shardonai" (believe we talked about that earlier), and that he will exert considerable his family's political muscle on their behalf if they are threatened.

Lucky for him that they JUST HAPPENED to be captured by the son of one of the most important Andarans now living, eh?

However, Jasak also goes on to demand to know what Shaylar's effective range is, noting that if she doesn't tell him or if he thinks she's lying, he will, firstly, ask Gadrial and other mages to try and work out "spellware which will permanently shut down Shaylar's 'Voice,' " although he doesn't know if that's even possible, and if he CAN'T do that, then he'll keep her in close confinement to prevent her learning anything about Arcana that could be telepathically transmitted to Sharonan lines.

It is revealed that in similar situations the Sharonans have Voice Protocols by which a telepath's Voice can be temporarily disabled, but obviously the Arcanans have no telepaths of their own and can't do that.

Shaylar reveals that her range is about eight hundred miles or a little over, that no Voice can transmit through a portal... and more or less resigns herself to a lifetime in captivity.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-06-05 06:28pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Gadrial cusses out Ghartoun


I think you meant Garlath here.

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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-08 08:22am

Chapter 34 begins with Darcel Kinlafia's view of Prince Janaki as a heroic Man on a White Horse. Well, okay, not a white horse, but something like that...

...With that new sense of awareness, that self-image of himself as a possible political animal, Janaki's suggestions had awakened within him, Kinlafia had come to realize that Janaki chain Calirath was an imperial publicist's dream come true.

Of course, the prince's horse had never come from a standard PAAF string of mounts, the Voice thought. No doubt the crown prince's sheer size would have made him difficult to mount under any circumstances, but the House of Calirath had been dealing with that particular problem for centuries. Janaki's blue roan- one of a matched pair whose full sibling was trotting along with the column's remounts- was a Ternathian Shikowr, a breed that had been carefully, lovingly developed in the lush, green paddocks and meadows of Ternathia in a breeding program whose stud book had been opened well over two thousand years ago.
So basically, the Caliraths have been breeding really good warhorses for a looong time. They're big, about the size of a draft horse. They're fast, they've got lots of endurance. Call them, what, very mildly super-equine?

Also, Caliraths are big. We knew that, right?

Anyway, Janaki suggested that Kinlafia could go into politics, and they talk about that for a while. Janaki actually even recommends that Kinlafia ride ahead of the column to get home faster. Kinlafia asks why...

Janaki didn't reply immediately. Instead, he turned in his saddle and looked back down the trail behind them. For a wonder, it wasn't raining for once here in New Uromath, not that anyone expected that to last. Fortunately, Sharonians in general and the PAAF in particular had amassed an enormous amount of experience in how to move people and material through even highly unprepossessing terrain.

Each party which had passed through on its way to Company-Captain Halifu's fort and the portal which had acquired the so-far informal name of Hell's Gate had done at least a little to improve the going for whoever might come after. Company-Captain chan Tesh's main column had done the lion's share of the work, in no small part because it had been accompanied by freight wagons (which had to get through somehow). No one in his right mind would call the trail a "road," but at least the worst of the ravines and gullies had been crudely bridged, the worst of the unavoidable swampy bits had been corduroyed with felled trees, and a right-of-way of sorts had been hacked out, just wide enough for two of the standard Authority freight wagons- or one of its ambulances to pass abreast.
The terrain on the way to Hell's Gate, from the Arcanans' point of view. As we've seen, the Arcanans can simply fly above such difficulties with their dragons, although that clearly limits the size of the forces they can deploy into battle.

The Sharonans, on the other hand, have to hack their way through the mud and bushes.

We also learn that Sharonan ambulance wagons have pneumatic tires and at least semi-competent shock absorbers; it really does look like Sharona has all the technology it'd need to build good cars and trucks (at least in the 1910s and 1920s sense of the word), except for the internal combustion engine.

It turns out the reason Prince Janaki is urging this on Kinlafia is that he thinks it'll be good for his sister Andrin... except that he only knows that through a Glimpse.

They could see the broad arc of a portal well inland, beyond the river that meandered down out of the hills to the raw-looking town clustered against the fort's eastern face. It was hard even for Jathmar to judge distances, but it looked as if the portal was perhaps fifteen miles inland, in which case it must have measured about ten miles across. It was easy enough to see the portal's boundaries, though. The sky on this side was a cloudless, scorchingly hot tropical blue; on the other side, it was night … with a violent thunderstorm raging. Even as she watched, she could see the crackling flare of lightning lashing the stormy bellies of the clouds on the far side, and an outrider of thunderheads thrust through the portal to this side. Where she stood, the sun was hot and warm, the breeze gentle; along the fringe of the portal, powerful gusts of wind swept treetops into dancing fury on a tempest's breath, and rain born in an entirely different universe came down in sheets.
More wacky portal weather. God only knows what that kind of thing does to climate patterns.

This fort- Fort Wyvern, Jasak had called it- was considerably larger than the one they'd left behind. That didn't make it huge, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was clearly a more substantial, longer established structure. It had to have been here for a while, judging by the size of the town nestled up against its inland perimeter, but there was much less of the sense of bustle and frontier energy which would have clung to most Sharonian settlements.

At first glance, the entire town looked like some primitive farming village, with no sign of the steam- or water-powered local industry which would have sprung up in any Sharonian-explored universe. But as she and Jathmar continued to study it, they quickly realized just how deceiving first appearances could be.

They were close enough to get a decent look at what was obviously the local shipyard, for example. It wasn't very large, and there were only three vessels under construction, but Shaylar felt her eyes opening wide as she studied it. She'd seen enough Sharonian boatyards located in equivalent settlements to know what to look for, but there was no sign here of the steam or water-powered sawmills and forges she would have found in one of them, nor did she hear or see any axes or adzes.

Instead, she saw big timbers levitating themselves effortlessly into the air, hovering there while some unseen force slabbed them into neatly trimmed planks which stacked themselves to one side. Tearing her eyes away from that fascinating sight, she saw workmen engaged on an entire series of equally improbable activities.

Two men were shaping what were obviously framing timbers for the largest of the vessels under construction, but they were doing it without any tools Shaylar could recognize. Instead, each of them held what looked like simple hand grips at either end of a shaft of shining crystal. The grips were mounted at right angles to the shaft, which was about eight feet long and an inch in diameter. It swelled into a thicker cylinder- perhaps a foot long and seven or eight inches across- at its central point, and the workmen were moving that thicker cylinder carefully across the timber they were shaping while chips and sawdust flew away from it in bizarrely silent clouds.

Other pairs and small groups of workmen were dealing with other jobs- jobs which would have been accomplished with snorting steam or raw muscle in Sharona. Here, though, they were done with more of that eerie "magic" of Gadrial's, and the implications were frightening. There couldn't have been more than thirty men working in that shipyard, but the biggest of the three vessels they were constructing was probably three hundred feet long. That was smaller than the ship on which she and Jathmar presently stood, but it was still a substantial hull, and unlike the smaller ships being built beside it, it was not sail powered. Back in Sharona, the construction crews working on a project that size would have been far bigger. If Arcana's "magic" allowed that much greater productivity out of its workforce...
Arcanan light industry at work- at least I assume this passes for 'light' industry. Although given how their equivalent of machine tools work, there's no obvious reason they can't use the same 'spellware' to carve logs into boards in a howling wilderness that they'd use in a factory on the homeworld.

Note the practical effect of this- Arcanans are able to do the work of building their wooden ships with about the same level of automation and ease that we would today, maybe more so. It's hard to say how thoroughly this generalizes to their society at large, though. The great majority of the Arcanan population is non-Gifted, so if this is representative of the level of automation their magic enables, what do all those people do?

There almost has to be some major category of labor that is not automated and that consumes the majority of their work force. The way I figure it, either their agriculture is still about as primitive as in historic medieval times (unlikely for a number of reasons) or they made a transition to a service economy... And 'service economy' seems unlikely on a gut level because it isn't very compatible with Mythalan caste structure OR with Andaran feudalism.

Gadrial and Jasak talk to the prisoners about plans for transporting them further- turns out this will involve a lot of time on dragonback. Shaylar hopes the last dragon's bad reaction had to do with her concussed attempts to communicate telepathically. But even so, understandably, she views the idea of any more dragonriding with trepidation...

"In case it didn't have anything to do with the concussion, though," she offered with a wan smile, "I'd personally vote for traveling on horseback!"

"Oh, no, you wouldn't," Gadrial told her. Shaylar looked at the other woman, standing beside her with the hot breeze stirring her hair, and Gadrial made a face. "Believe me, I've already made this trip, and it's going to be a pain. They haven't extended the slider rail beyond Green Haven, and that's something like twenty thousand of your miles from here. And it's sixty thousand more miles from Green Haven to New Arcana, so even with dragons to get us as far as the sliders, it's going to take something like four months to get to Garth Showma. You don't even want to think about making that trip on horseback!"
O_o

Just to repeat. This world, which is already a few thousand miles from the 'front' of Arcanan exploration, is twenty thousand miles, through an unknown number of universes, from the Arcanan version of 'railhead.' Unknown, but we can estimate something like ten or twenty such universes if the figures we've seen for portal-to-portal distances in a single universe are representative.

And the 'railroad' path leading back to "New Arcana" is sixty thousand miles long. It is explicitly stated that 20000 miles on dragonback, plus 60000 miles by 'slider' is going to take roughly 120 days to travel. Tentatively, I'd figure about forty days at sixty miles an hour (continuously or nearly so) on sliders, plus about one 500-mile hop on dragonback per day for forty days, would be eighty miles, so either the dragons are shorter-ranged than that, the sliders are slower than that, or there are a few water gaps too wide to be crossed on dragonback that add additional time to the trip.

Moreover, that is the distance to New Arcana, not the Arcanan homeworld itself, although going by the name, "New Arcana" would almost have to be one of the first worlds they discovered, and I think we have explicit confirmation of that fact from earlier anyway.

"No, I don't imagine I would," Shaylar replied, trying to hide her shock at what Gadrial had just said. It was less than forty thousand miles from New Uromath to Sharona. She and Jathmar had already realized that the Arcanans had clearly been exploring the multiverse longer than Sharona had, but still …
By contrast, the Sharonan frontier is, as noted, about 40000 miles from home- half that distance. And the railhead is 'only' a few thousand miles behind the frontier of exploration, probably because the Sharonans are limited to horseback travel once they get OFF the railroad.

I'd like to take a moment to mumble about some of the logistics implications of all this, which are fairly staggering. On the Arcanan side, it appears that dragons eat... something that is easily available and not too massive and/or available locally. And slider cars can literally be recharged by an act of will assuming you can find someone with the right kind of willpower. They don't really need fuel. But the sheer amount of work entailed in operating a string of individual outposts eighty thousand miles long is staggering- and yet the Arcanans have done it, probably with branching lines of outposts stretching off whenever they encounter multiple portals on the same planet.

Conversely, the Sharonans don't have the luxury of operating independent of fuel. I don't have figures for the fuel consumption of many coal-fired locomotives, but at some point a train would have to haul so much coal just to reach the destination that it won't have significant reserve capacity left over for actual cargo.

It's sort of a crude and pragmatic version of the rocket equation- the mass of the fuel required to move the rest of the fuel increases exponentially as you need more performance out of the same vehicle.

For the record, the biggest freight engines I can find information on (Union Pacific's "Big Boy" design) was a bit heavier and more powerful than TTE 'Paladins.' They burned something like seven or eight tons of coal an hour and could manage trains weighing up to eight thousand tons.

That translates into, say, 500 hours of operation before you've burned up a mass of fuel roughly equal to half your train's overall cargo load.

The catch is that these locomotives were NOT normally operated at speeds of sixty or higher miles an hour in freight service, and in passenger service would tend to have worse fuel economy or lower horsepower.

At peak horsepower, these trains might well be able to haul eight thousand tons of goods... but only at around 35 miles an hour. In which case 500 hours of operation is only enough to cover about 17500 miles.

We can infer from this that no reasonable coal-fired locomotive can carry enough fuel to manage a trip of tens of thousands of miles without refueling- at least, not without dedicating almost the entire mass of the train it pulls to the coal. Therefore, the TTE must have numerous coaling stations along the route. And it almost certainly has dedicated coal mines (and branch lines to connect the main line TO the coal mines) purely to service the route.

If nothing else, that would be totally necessary because otherwise you'd need to run several trainloads entirely filled with coal out to the frontier just to get back one relatively small load of cargo.
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-08 02:14pm

Division-Captain Arlos chan Geraith broke off his conversation with Division-Captain chan Manthau as the conference room door opened. They turned away from the snowcapped mountains, visible along the northern horizon outside the window, and stood respectfully silent as Corps-Captain Fairlain chan Rowlan, commanding officer of the Fifth Corps of the Imperial Ternathian Army came through the open door, followed by his chief of staff and his senior logistics officer.

chan Rowlan headed directly for his chair at the head of the conference table. The corps-captain was of little more than moderate height for a nativeborn Ternathian, and he normally moved with a certain deliberation, as if to compensate for his lack of height. There was no sign of that today, however. His movements were quick, almost urgent, and his expression was grim.

Which doesn't exactly come as a tremendous surprise, now does it, Arlos? chan Geraith told himself sardonically. There was real, if trenchant, humor in the question, but he was entirely too well aware of his own grim worry?and anger?simmering away beneath it.

"Good morning," chan Rowlan said to chan Geraith and his companions. "I'm glad you were all on the base this afternoon, but time's short. So let's get seated and get to it."

chan Geraith crossed to the table and took his own seat. Fifth Corps' other two division-captains- Yarkowan chan Manthau of the Ninth Infantry and Ustace chan Jassian of the Twenty-First- seated themselves to his left and right respectively, and he reflected (not for the first time) on how different the Ternathian military was from that of its only true rival, Uromathia. Uromathians were much more addicted to flashy uniforms, rank insignia, and salutes?not to mention bowing and scraping properly to one's superiors. Ternathians, by and large, preferred to get on with the job in hand. They'd been doing it for a very long time, after all. There weren't very many current-service units in any army which could trace their battle honors in unbroken line of succession for over four thousand years.

The Third Dragoons was one of them … which made chan Geraith's division substantially older than the entire Uromathian Empire. Or, for that matter, the Uromathian language.

With that sort of history behind them, Ternathian officers felt no particular need to emphasize their own importance and prestige. Even division commanders like chan Geraith, with the next best thing to nine thousand men under his command, normally eschewed dress uniform in favor of the comfortable, practical field uniform he wore at the moment. And while there was no question about chains of authority and military discipline, the Ternathian tradition was for senior officers to discuss military problems and strategy like reasonable adults. Unlike certain other empires whose relative youth caused them- and their senior officers- to act like touchy adolescents whose insecurity had them playing the bully on a playground somewhere.

chan Geraith knew he was being at least a little unfair to the Uromathians, but he didn't really care. The fact was that he didn't like Uromathians. He was always scrupulously polite in his dealings with them and in his public comments about them, but he saw no reason to waste fairness on them in the privacy of his own mind.
[rolls eyes]

I've increasingly come to dislike the way Weber casually allows his characters to be biased, then doesn't present reasonable, human people on the other side to counterbalance this. We have plenty of Ternathians and Ternathian-sympathizer-nationals from Sharona, plenty of Andarans and Andaran-sympathizers in Arcana. But effectively NO interesting, sympathetic, or three-dimensional characters from Uromathia or Mythal. So it's easy to portray them as the heavies of the piece on both sides, and everyone we actually SEE from either country is usually at least a bit filthy. Or more than a bit.

Also, note how unlike virtually ALL historical militaries with very longstanding traditions stretching back over huge spans of time, the Ternathians SOMEHOW avoid traps like "rigid military thinking.

Or "overemphasis on 'spirit' or 'honor' or some other trait they can assume they automatically possess."

Or "being pompous and arrogant because they think their country is invincible."

I mean heck, compare and contrast the Ternathian Empire on Sharona to the Solarian League. You'd think the Ternathians would have a little more in common with Sollies.

Meanwhile the Uromathians are a bunch of arrogant posers just because they have, oh, the exact same kind of elaborate military decoration and decorum that pretty much all historical early 20th century militaries had.
_________________________________

Anyway, a few observations from the subsequent passage.

Corps-Captain (probably a rank roughly equivalent to a lieutenant general, three stars on the shoulders) chan Rowlan is a Voice, and married to a Voice, and is personally outraged by Fallen Timbers like pretty much all other Sharonan psychics.

A division of his Fifth Corps is ordered to deploy 'forward' in the direction of the frontier along the TTE's railway. Reasons:

-"Specifically, Chava Busar has already placed the better part of two cavalry regiments at the Authority's disposal. They're being given absolute priority for transport forward on the basis that they're the closest non-PAAF force available. We don't want to see Chava get his military toe any further into that door than we can avoid, hence the offer of our own troops."

-They are closer and can get to Hell's Gate faster than anyone else, along the railway.

-In particular, Fifth Corps contains an unusual force of steam powered mechanized transport and engineering equipment:

There were those who believed the newfangled "internal combustion engine" was going to be the powerplant of the future because it was so much lighter and more efficient than steam, and chan Geraith wasn't prepared to tell them they were wrong. But those noisy, oil- and gasoline-burning contraptions were still taking the first, hesitant steps of infancy, and out in the field, where the TTE did most of its heavy construction work (and where the army might be called upon to maneuver), refined oil products might not be available. So TTE had specialized in developing ever more efficient steam-powered excavators, bulldozers, and tractors. Designed to burn just about any fuel which could be shoveled into their fire boxes, they'd grown steadily more powerful, lighter, and more reliable for over fifty years now.
So we have confirmation that internal combustion engines are in a primitive state, but that self-propelled steam powered vehicles have been in escalating development on Sharona for fifty years.

Steam powered construction equipment made its debut on a truly large scale in the 1870s or so on Earth, and by the time it had been around for fifty years, internal combustion was already starting to take over.

Also, allegedly, steam vehicles that can run on a variety of fuel. I'm not sure how far to consider this credible.

Anyway, this is the closest the Sharonans come to a mechanized infantry division. It at least gives them some limited ability to supply their forces using something more advanced than a horse-drawn wagon, but trying to operate thousands of miles from their railhead would still, realistically, be impossible.

We are informed that research and construction of steam and internal combustion vehicles is going, ah, full steam ahead, to the extent that "the Navy's already been informed that it won't be getting two of those new battleships it wanted." This is fair, since the Ternathian Navy is utterly useless in an interuniversal war.

We also get a little more information about geography. The current Sharonan railhead is located at Fort Salby, about four thousand overland miles from Hell's Gate. We later learn that work is ongoing to extend the railroad past that point, because some MAJOR construction and excavation had to be done first and it was only recently completed.

The division commander in question, chan Geraith, is ordered to focus on protecting Sharonan civilians. He is also ordered to secure the Hell's Gate cluster because there is reason to believe that it is expanding, that portal formation is still ongoing and that some of its portals are recent ones. This presents the threat that portals might form from Hell's Gate, or the Karys Chain of which it is a part, into other universes Sharona controls.
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Ultonius
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Ultonius » 2015-06-09 07:23am

Simon_Jester wrote:I've increasingly come to dislike the way Weber casually allows his characters to be biased, then doesn't present reasonable, human people on the other side to counterbalance this. We have plenty of Ternathians and Ternathian-sympathizer-nationals from Sharona, plenty of Andarans and Andaran-sympathizers in Arcana. But effectively NO interesting, sympathetic, or three-dimensional characters from Uromathia or Mythal. So it's easy to portray them as the heavies of the piece on both sides, and everyone we actually SEE from either country is usually at least a bit filthy. Or more than a bit.


What about Magister Halathyn? While he could be classified as an 'Andaran-sympathizer' who rejected his birth culture, he was still shakira by birth, and a highly respected magister, who only left Mythal after Gadrial's unfair expulsion from Mythal Falls Academy. As for Uromathians, in a few chapters we'll meet Sunlord Markan, who is fairly three-dimensional and sympathetic.

Simon_Jester wrote:Also, allegedly, steam vehicles that can run on a variety of fuel. I'm not sure how far to consider this credible.


At least some real-world steam locomotives could run on both coal and wood, so it's not completely implausible. If any of the TTE's locomotives have a similar flexibility, or even just run on wood, it could help offset some of the coal logistics problems you were talking about earlier.

Simon_Jester
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Re: Bit of Analysis: Hell's Gate

Postby Simon_Jester » 2015-06-09 04:51pm

Ultonius wrote:What about Magister Halathyn? While he could be classified as an 'Andaran-sympathizer' who rejected his birth culture, he was still shakira by birth, and a highly respected magister, who only left Mythal after Gadrial's unfair expulsion from Mythal Falls Academy. As for Uromathians, in a few chapters we'll meet Sunlord Markan, who is fairly three-dimensional and sympathetic.
Okay, you have a point. My main complaint is that we don't see very much of those characters, compared to the ones who are just wandering around grumbling about how stupid and shitty those scheming posturing Uromathians are. Or how stupid and shitty those caste-ist Mythalans are.

Simon_Jester wrote:Also, allegedly, steam vehicles that can run on a variety of fuel. I'm not sure how far to consider this credible.
At least some real-world steam locomotives could run on both coal and wood, so it's not completely implausible. If any of the TTE's locomotives have a similar flexibility, or even just run on wood, it could help offset some of the coal logistics problems you were talking about earlier.
Well, yes... although there are catches. High-grade coal is a better fuel, pound for pound, than wood is (though not vastly so)... and coal is a lot denser, which means it fits into a smaller space. A tender full of coal would allow the same locomotive to go about twice as far as a tender full of wood, plus a purely coal-fired locomotive would be able to run the boiler hotter, which might well have other advantages.

Plus, if the TTE can locate even a few large dedicated coal mines that are within a few hundred miles of its main right of way its troubles are likely to be solved.
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