Rossberan Religion: The Church of Rhûn

The Rhûnnish lands cover roughly half of the Rossberan continent, and as one might expect, the cultures of those lands vary widely. Religion is but one aspect of culture, and while there is some consistency in the mythology, as discussed in the previous post about the rise and fall of Gobb Kilrog the Goblin King, there was no unifying religion until the rise of the Rhûnnish Empire.

In order to explain the religious transformation of the Rhûnnish lands, it is necessary to begin with the oldest of all Rossberan religions. Its “deities” are known as the primordial powers, but the religion itself is more commonly known as Chaos. From the Great Void that was everything and nothing, the universe emerged untold eons ago. While, for the most part, the activities of the natural world progress without influence from that which still remains in the Great Void, every now and then, the void spits out something new, or otherwise influences the natural world. Generally speaking, chaos worship is the archetype for all religions of “that which has no natural explanation can be explained by the supernatural.” In the most ancient times, sometimes referred to as Rossbera’s Golden Age, nearly all of the continent’s inhabitants adhered to one form of chaos worship or another, and the religion’s clergy were winged creatures called chuyinka. Though the chuyinka were mortals, they did not evolve naturally, and also possessed remarkable abilities, leading many, including the chuyinka themselves, to speculate that their creators made a dark deal with the primordial powers.

Disorder and the great unknown are so deeply feared in the mammalian psyche, that once the chuyinka were no longer around, knowledge of chaos disappeared almost entirely. The few traditions that may have persisted had long since lost any meaning by the time that the Church of Rhun arose. Only in the farthest reaches of the northeastern part of the country, a land once known as Durkuz, did any remnant chaos cults remain. Throughout most of the Rhûnnish lands, ancestor worship, shamanic traditions, and nymph worship were the norm. These were eventually replaced by a more consistent and cohesive religion known as the Faith in the Crystals. While there were already some beliefs in the power of crystals in the shamanic traditions, no true “crystals of power” were ever used. The initial discovery of a bizarre crystal called neticine was what eventually gave rise to a new religion. Unlike quartz, opal, or corundum, one could not claim that neticine was “just a pretty rock.” Neticine did not heal, in fact it some claimed it had only the power to destroy. Wearing it as everyday jewellery would make a person ill, sometimes even driving them mad. Other than that, however, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what the crystal did. Chaos worshippers, of which a few remained, proclaimed that neticine was not natural, and was one of those strange things spat out by the Great Void, perhaps because the primordial powers were getting bored with the natural world, and wanted to make things interesting. Others, however, believed that all crystals inherently held divine power, and that neticine crystals must be the shards of a particularly powerful deity. Since ice is a crystal, albeit one that melts easily, the ice-nymphs, which were once abhorred, became deified, whereas the worship of other nymphs (water, wood, and snow) declined. Regarding the wood nymphs, for instance, while it still remained a tradition among hunters to leave offerings of arrowheads to the forest, within a few generations, most did not know where that practise came from.

For adherents to the Faith in the Crystals, the size and type of one’s “sacred” crystal, their most prized heirloom, was their main status symbol. Neticine, for example, was a royal crystal, such that anyone who possessed a substantially-sized crystal probably bore the title of “tsar” or “tsaritsa.” Many of them had their crystals mounted to their sceptres, and a few even carried them into battle. Since neticine was sensitive to certain sound frequencies, it would glow, sing, or even levitate if exposed to the proper notes. The tsars’ war chants would activate the crystals, and frighten most enemies into a rout, fearing what powers the tsar might manifest if he could not be silenced then and there. There was one faction, however, that remained entirely undaunted by these displays – Skhara.

Though the Rhûnnish people were connected by both folklore and grain (rye, specifically, which is where the name “Rhûn” comes from), they were divided into two main ethnic groups, the slavs and the easterlings. The easterlings, as the name suggests, are those who lived in the eastern Rhûnnish lands. Unlike the slavs in the west, the easterlings were not strangers to raiders from the far east, a land called Skhara. Following a period of great decadence in Skhara, the country fell into decay, and in order to sustain their lavish lifestyle, the Skharans turned to raiding the surrounding lands, travelling farther and farther in search of riches. One warlord even proclaimed that he “would scour all the lands of Rhûn to find the next Sing-Yat-San, and become the next Kazímir,” an obvious reference to General Kazímir Skharnov, who famously sacked the capital of the Minkutian Empire. However, no such treasure trove of gold and jewels existed anywhere in Rhûn. The fanciest baubles that the Skharans ever stole were the sacred crystals. Deprived of their idols, the easterlings were not nearly as strong in the faith as the slavs. This history had ramifications that reached all the way to the very end of the Rhûnnish Empire.

After the fall of Skhara, the woman who was once destined to rule the country, Alexandra Skharnova, fled west with a handful of warriors. They knew that they would be recognised among the easterlings, and there would be no safe refuge there. The slavs, on the other hand, may have heard tales about Skharan raiders, but would not have known what they looked like. The short, rounded ears and long, prehensile tale that all druorns possessed may have drawn odd gazes in a land where everyone had pointed ears and short tails, but Alexandra was confident that she would be able to live in peace among the slavs – at least, until she made her move to forge her own empire. She was most certainly a “my destiny is to rule” type. Her first move, while tactically sound, drew far too much unwanted attention. She captured the town of Vyskie Rodniki, or High Springs, which, while very easy to fortify and defend, was a site that was sacred to the Faith in the Crystals. It was there, or, more specifically, in the caves in the mountains behind the town, that neticine was first discovered in Rhûn.

Alexandra’s conquest is a subject for another day, but the ultimate result was that many crystals of power were taken from those she had defeated, either given as an act of surrender or plucked from the corpses of their owners. As a sign of her power, Alexandra had a throne fashioned out of all the crystals that she had collected, most of which weren’t neticine, but it made no difference, as the point of the Crystal Throne was entirely symbolic. Many crystal priests proclaimed this act an affront to the gods, and that the self-proclaimed Empress of Rhûn would be struck down as soon as she sat upon the throne. When she didn’t, those same priests then proclaimed her to be a divine being, a proclamation that ran counter to the Faith’s idea that gods do not interact directly with mortals. The idea that the Empress was divine created a rift, one which Alexandra took advantage of.

As a Skharan, Alexandra held to a totally different belief system. She never once believed that she was divine, merely favoured by divine beings. Unlike most druorns of Skhara, she was extremely devout, primarily because she had regular interactions with a being she believed was a god – the chuyinka Veyra Blackwing, better known as Jenůfa Nószimål. When the crystal priests bowed before her and proclaimed her divinity, Alexandra could have easily corrected them, but it would have potentially undone her entire conquest. Instead, she chose a more shrewd approach, and allowed the priests who believed this proclamation to create a new sect of the Faith, one which had the full support of all imperial organisations. The Empress created three high offices, and each high officer would answer directly to the monarch. Those offices were those of the Grand Marshal, First Minister, and Grand Inquisitor. Their functions would be to oversee the military, general civil matters, and political dissent, respectively. At least, this was the original intent. Shortly after the foundation of the Church of Rhûn, it became clear that if the Empress were to be the empire’s spiritual leader, both de jure and de facto, then she would have to spend all of her time attending to religious matters, rather than dividing her attention evenly among all matters of governance that concerned her. Therefore, she appointed a fourth high officer, the Ecclesiarch. The Ecclesiarch would be the head of the church, and before anyone could object, the Empress declared “the object of a religion’s worship cannot lead the religion itself, it is for the most devout leader among you to do instead.” In this way, the Empress absolved herself of having to micro-manage the inevitable religious tension that would result from this schism.

The imperial sect of the Faith in the Crystals thus became the official religion of the Rhûnnish Empire. While it was the only organised and unified incarnation of the religion, it wasn’t particularly popular. The idea of erecting a temple with a roof and gathering inside to listen to stories in a solemn fashion was completely foreign to the Rhûnnish people. Churches, which were paid for with taxes, were regularly vandalised, as the people viewed their construction as theft from their communities. Church attendance was also quite low, and rituals that the Church strictly forbade were regularly practised out in the open, in some cases just to spite the clergy. The members of the imperial clergy were too few to enforce the imperial religion, and initially, the Church begged the Imperial Inquisition to lend aid to enforcing the religious doctrine. The Grand Inquisitor said that he had enough to worry about with purely secular dissent, and would have no time to investigate legitimate political threats if the inquisitors were busy enforcing religious doctrine. In time, the Church had to find new and inventive ways of recruiting its own religious enforcers, eventually leading to a parallel inquisition. The Ecclesiarchy operated in a nearly identical manner to the Imperial Inquisition, but concerned itself entirely with spiritual loyalty to the monarch, rather than secular political loyalty.

The Ecclesiarchy was something of a shortened table leg in the Rhûnnish government. The Ecclesiarch was never held in the same regard as the Grand Marshal, First Minister, or Grand Inquisitor. In common parlance, most Rhûnnish people referred to the “three high offices” beneath the Emperor (or Empress), and never the “four high offices.” Throughout the Rhûnnish lands, organised religion was always seen as something of a joke, and compliance with the dictatorial Ecclesiarchy was simply a path of least resistance necessary for a peaceful existence. In truth, the Church of Rhûn was doomed from the start, as its de facto deity never even believed in it to begin with, she simply saw the creation of the Church as politically expedient.

As the Rhûnnish Empire expanded over the next five centuries, the Ecclesiarchy spent most of its time attempting to evangelise conquered lands, neglecting to enforce religious orthodoxy in the regions that were already brought fully into the imperial fold in all other ways. Their ability to propagate the doctrine was stretched far too thin to be effective, and few emperors were devout enough in their religion to consider providing the Church with the same resources as the Inquisition. As far as most were concerned, as long as political compliance was achieved, religious compliance was unnecessary. Furthermore, among the devout emperors, most did not believe that they were divine beings, nor did they wish to propagate such a belief. The very founding principle of the Church of Rhûn was thus tossed aside at the whim of the monarch.

When the Rhûnnish Empire broke in half, the Imperial Inquisition was disbanded. Naturally, if the Inquisition couldn’t survive that event, then the Ecclesiarchy stood no chance of survival. Churches were still built, monasteries continued to operate, and the religion continued to spread, but with no central organisation, and little to no help from either the Karamzov or Votavko families.

Россберская Мифология: Гобб Килрог

Легенда о Гоббе Килроге, Несущем Кости, многогранная эпическая сказка из ржуннского фольклора, и несколько раз эта сказка рассказывается полностью.  Вместо этого его фрагменты служат отдельными баснями, и уроки иногда сомнительны.  Самое начало рассказа, например, легко является самой скандальной его частью.

Легенда начинается не даже с самого Килрога, а с его родителей – его отец лавкин, а его мать вотрель.  Их имена различаются в зависимости от региона, в котором рассказывается эта сказка, а иногда, иногда родители даже меняли имена, чтобы соответствовать именам своих собственных детей, чтобы сделать урок как можно ближе к дому.  Лавкин безумно влюбился в вотрель, который относился к нему с состраданием, но не чувствовал к нему влечения, ибо, хотя он и был благороден, по сравнению с ней он был тупым гигантом.  Она упала в обморок, когда её представили мужчине, за которого она должна была выйти замуж, однако, когда лавкин умолял её не выходить за него замуж, она умоляла отца отложить свадьбу и позволить ей уладить дела со своим лавкиным-другом.  Она попыталась объяснить, что настоящая любовь не обязательно означает физическое влечение, но он не мог постичь эту концепцию.  Как она могла любить его, но не желать выходить за него замуж?  Трижды свадьба откладывалась, и с каждым разом вотрель тратила все больше времени на утешение своего лавкина-друга, два с каждым разом становятся все ближе.  Её семья предупреждала её, что её сострадание предаст её, что она не должна так сильно пытаться утешить его, потому что он не хотел отпускать.  В четвертый раз она подпустила его слишком близко, и он изнасиловал её.  Она была изгнана своей собственной семьей за то, что не вняла их предупреждению, и родила в одиночестве в лесу ужасно изуродованного сына.  Этот ребёнок стал известен как Гобб Килрог.  Мораль этой сказки изначально заключалась в том, что лавкины и вотрели не должны смешиваться, но этот общественный идеал был быстро отвергнут во время Завоевания Александры, так как лавкины и вотрели регулярно вступали в смешанные браки в Старой Схаре, и обычай быстро стал гораздо более распространенным в ржуннских землях.  Мораль этой сказки затем изменилась, вместо этого она сосредоточилась на том, чтобы быть правдивой и послушной своей семье, и что сострадание должно быть зарезервировано только для самых достойных. Поскольку договорные браки стали менее распространёнными, эта часть сказки полностью утратила свою мораль, и первой правдивой басней стала вторая часть сказки, мораль которой заключалась в том, что мать в одиночку не может воспитывать сына.

Без отца, который воспитывал бы его, Гобб Килрог был испорченным ребёнком, который не проявлял никакого интереса к тому, чтобы помогать своей матери собирать еду и содержать их хижину в лесу.  Вместо этого он проводил большую часть своего времени, мучая животных, используя свои огромные размеры и силу, чтобы разорвать их на части.  Килрог был чрезвычайно неряшлив, но очень тщательно очищал кости животных им убитых.  Ему нравилось собирать кости, вырезать их, и строить вещи из них.  Когда его мать состарилась, и у неё больше не было сил выходить в лес и рубить дрова, чтобы починить хижину, она использовала кости, которые собрал Килрог, и в конце концов хижина была полностью сделана из костей.  Забор снаружи был сделан из костей ног и ребер и украшен черепами, защёлка сделана из острых зубьев, а для дополнительной защиты, сама хижина стояла на паре гигантских ног, принадлежащих либо дракону, либо гигантской птице.  Чтобы Килрог казался ещё более устрашающим, иногда говорят, что ноги “похожи на ноги гигантского орла, но с пятью пальцами на каждой”, что указывало бы на то, что они принадлежали только одному существу: Ночному Дракону, но, как вы увидите позже, в этой версии сказки есть проблема преемственности.  Обычно вместо этого просто говорят, что ноги у гигантской курицы.

Когда мать Килрога наконец умерла, Килрог решил покинуть лес.  По пути он собрал последователей, которые были очарованы всеми безделушками, которыми он себя украшал, в основном сделанными из костей, но было также несколько драгоценных камней и кусочков золота.  Килрог даже смастерил корону из острых осколков кости и золотых кусочков, и когда его спросили, чем он был королем, он ответил: “я не знаю сейчас, моё королевство всё ещё ждёт”.  Последователей Гобба Килрога стало довольно много, и в конце концов они начали называть себя “гоблинами”.  Гобб Килрог, Несущий Кости, отныне был известен как Король Гоблинов.

Гобб Килрог, Король Гоблинов: “склонитесь передо мной, паразиты, ваш король говорит!”

Король Гоблинов был воплощение гедонизма.  Он и все его гоблины возьмут все, что пожелают, либо обманом, либо силой, и проводили большую часть своего времени, предаваясь материальным удовольствиям: золоту, драгоценностям, еде и питью.  В остальное время они либо спали, либо воровали вещи.  Гоблины не гнушались воровать друг у друга, и это привело к тому, что многие гоблины дрались между собой.  Король гоблинов нашёл это невероятно забавным, и у него даже был набор правил, которым гоблины должны были следовать всякий раз, когда у них возникал спор.  Но без каких-либо ограничений на то, каким удовольствиям могли предаваться гоблины, настоящие осложнения начались, когда гоблины начали красть детей.  Эти дети стали рабами гоблинов, а после того, как они выросли, не подвергаясь ничему, кроме гедонизма, и увидели, как гоблины улаживают дела между собой, те, кто вырос с гоблинами, в конечном итоге сами стали гоблинами.  Мораль этой части сказки заключается в том, что гедонизм на всю жизнь превратит человека в монстра.

Во многих деревнях дети исчезали без следа, но гоблины не всегда были достаточно подлыми.  Иногда их ловили, и когда жители поняли, что у них проблема с гоблинами, они позвали на помощь и организовали охоту за логовом гоблинов.  Многие богатыри героически возглавляли атаку разъяренных крестьян, которые хотели вернуть своих детей, а иногда нападение для них заканчивалось очень плохо.  Гоблины любили собирать кости, и черепа их самых ценных достояниям.  Гоблин, который крадет трофейный череп другого гоблина, может ожидать, что его собственный череп станет трофеем в ответ.  Когда на них напали, гоблины дали отпор, и когда они поняли, как сильно им нравится бороться, они решили, что перестанут прятаться и начнут совершать набеги.  Так Король Гоблинов отправился на войну.

Многие богатыри пытались и не смогли свергнуть Короля Гоблинов, включая самого легендарного Бронзового Богатыря, что привело к последним строкам эпической поэмы “Баллада Бронзовом Богатыре”.  Узнав, что Бронзовый Богатырь пал в битве против Короля Гоблинов, что все люди, которых он поклялся защищать, были убиты, а их дети превратились в гоблинов, ледяная нимфа Тиамарда Охотница решила убить Гобба Килрога сама.  Однако для этого ей нужно было поймать его на открытом месте, где она могла бы застрелить его на глазах у гоблинов.  Гоблины передвигались через горам, обычно прячась в пещерах, спускаясь в деревни внизу, когда приходило время совершать набеги.  Чтобы вывести гоблинов на открытое место достаточно надолго, Тиамарде нужно было заставить их выбрать дорогу по своему выбору.

Тиамарда Охотница: “никогда не посылай смертного выполнять работу нимфы.”

Когда гоблины начали маршировать через горы, она вызвала лавину, которая перекрыла горный перевал, вынудив гоблинов пройти через населенную долину.  Когда гоблины были заняты тем, что убивали всех в первой попавшейся деревне, Тиамарда будет воспользовалась возможностью застрелить Короля Гоблинов, но Солханна появилась и прогнала гоблинов прежде чем Тиамарда успела выстрелить.

Солханна, Молчаливая Воительница Света

Когда гоблины были изгнаны, а жители смогли спокойно позаботиться о своих мертвых и раненых, Тиамарда ушла, задаваясь вопросом, была ли какая-то причина продолжать эту задачу.  В конце концов, репутация Солханны была широко известна, и если она могла защитить деревни от гоблинов, то не было причин выслеживать Короля Гоблинов.  Однако Тиамарда получила некоторую ободрению из неожиданного источника: Чуйинка, демонская птица, редко упоминаемая по имени, если вообще упоминаемая, в ржуннском фольклоре.  На самом деле, это единственная ржуннская сказка, в которой Чуйинка изображена умной и красноречивой.  Чуйинка предупредила Тиамарду, что Король Гоблинов продолжит набирать силу, только если его оставят в покое, и что Солханна не сможет остановить его навсегда.  Тиамарде было любопытно, зачем Чуйинка рассказала ей все это, и Чуйинка ответила просто: “не спрашивайте, почему тёмные силы работают друг против друга, просто радуйтесь, что они это делают”.  Эта цитата сама по себе является особенно мощным посланием и пословицей надежды, призванной напомнить людям, что благо торжествует над злом, потому что благие работают сообща, а злые самообслуживанные.

Гоблины прошли через лес к следующей деревне, где их изводили дриады, прекраснейшая из детей Леши и Кикиморы, но Тиамарда, которая знала, что ей не рады в этих лесах, просто прокрался сквозь так быстро, как только смогла, прибыв в следующую деревню раньше гоблинов.  Она нашла место, откуда можно было стрелять, и стала ждать Короля Гоблинов.  Снова гоблины убили многих в деревне, но снова Солханна прогнала их, прежде чем Тиамарда смогла убить Короля Гоблинов.  Снова гоблины прошли через лес, где их снова изводили дриады.  На этот раз другие лешёнки, непримиримые соперники дриад, объединили свои силы с гоблинами и привел с собой их домашних волков и медведей, а также других зверей, на которых дриады любили охотиться.  Гоблины и звери прибыли в другую деревню, где Тиамарда уже ждала их.  Она наслаждалась возможностью убить много страшных зверей наряду с Королем Гоблинов, но снова появилась Солханна, и прогнала гоблинов прежде чем Тиамарда смогла убить Короля Гоблинов.  Снова гоблины прошли через лес, на этот раз к ним присоединились сами Леший и Кикимора, прежде чем они пришли в следующую деревню.  Снова гоблины и звери убили много людей, и снова многие гоблины и звери убиты стрелами Тиамарды прежде чем Солханна появилась.  Огры не боялись молчаливой воительницы, несмотря на то, что ни у кого из них не было ни единого шанса против неё.  Однако вместе со своим отцом они оказались слишком сильны для воительницы света.  У Тиамарды осталась только одна стрелка, когда она оказалась перёд ужасным выбором – застрелить Лешего, как раз когда он собирался сразить Солханну, дав ей шанс сбежать, или застрелить Короля Гоблинов.  Тиамарда решила застрелить Леши, и они с Солханной убежали в следующую деревню, чтобы дождаться прибытия Короля Гоблинов.  Кикимора пришла в ярость от этого и изрыгнула целую литанию проклятий в Тиамарде, пообещав, что всё её дети будут вечно охотиться на ледяную нимфу.

Когда Король Гоблинов прибыл, с ним были ещё более страшные звери.  На этот раз звери распространились по всей деревне так быстро, что Король Гоблинов сразу же оказался на открытом месте. 

“Наконец-то, встреться со своей смертью, Килрог!”

Тиамарда всадила стрелку прямо между глаз Килрога, тем самым выполнив свое задание.   

Король Гоблинов лежит мёртвый

Гоблины разбежались, но огры и звери всё ещё убивали жителей. Тиамарда израсходовала все свои стрелки прежде чем вытащить меч и сразиться с ними в ближнем бою, но она сочла это тщетной попыткой и решила схватить Солханну и бежать, пока у них ещё был шанс. 

Солханна, однако, была нема, но она не была глухой.  Она слышала литанию проклятий Кикиморы и знала, что куда бы ни пошла Тиамарда, монстры последуют за ней, но что, если бы монстрам пришлось выбирать между местью за своего отца и местью за свою мать?  Чтобы отвлечь некоторых монстров как от Тиамарды, так и от немногих оставшихся в живых жителей, Солханна напала на Кикимору.  В отличие от Леши, Кикимора не могла сравниться с воительницей света, который взывал к Чуйинке, чтобы спасти её.  Чуйинка ни разу не присоединилась к бойне, вместо этого все время наблюдая издалека.  Но даже сейчас Чуйинка отказалась присоединиться, и Кикимора прокляла своего ребёнка, прежде чем её сразили, обрекая существо на вечную жизнь в тёмноте, и так Чуйинка стала известна как Ночной Дракон.  Затем монстры начали атаковать Солханну, как и планировалось.  Она жестом велела Тиамарде бежать, если та пожелает, но показала, что останется.  Когда Тиамарда уходила от разрушенной деревни, оттуда, где стояла Солханна, вырвалась мощная вспышка света.  Звери и огры выбежали из разрушенной деревни во всех направлениях, большинство из них были явно ослеплены.  Тиамарда шла по безмолвным развалинам деревни, и не было никаких признаков Солханны, она просто исчезла, как делала всегда.  “Я увижу тебя снова, не так ли?” – прошептала Тиамарда, выходя из деревни и направляясь к следующей в долине.  По пути в следующую деревню Тиамарда спасла охотника, который поскользнулся на льду и оказался зажатым под оленем, которого он пытался принести домой.  Она рассказала ему свою историю, и охотник рассказал её своей семье, когда наконец добрался до дома, который находился на окраине деревни под названием Выские Родники.

Выские Родники были родиной Веры в Кристаллы, и вся сказка взлета и падения Гобба Килрога метафора трансформации религиозных верований во всех ржуннских землях.  Леший и Кикимора оба умерли, как и большинство их детей, и оставшиеся сверхъестественные существа после этого всегда враждовали друг с другом.  И Тиамарда, и Солханна страшились, что слишком долгое пребывание в какой-либо деревне обречет эту деревню на уничтожение Лешёнками.  Поскольку их редко видели снова, ржуннский народ перешёл от поклонения природе и животным духам к поклонению нематериальным духам, которые направляли свою силу через кристаллы.  Пятнадцать веков спустя священное место было переименовано в Залые Родники, когда Александра Схарнова захватила контроль над городом и построила на его вершине огромную крепость, откуда она начинёт свое завоевание ржуннских земль.  Как ни странно, старые традиции пережили некоторое возрождение в имперский период, поскольку религия Старой Схары была гораздо больше похожа на древние традиции поклонения нимфам, чем на Веру в Кристаллы, но последнее всё ещё поддерживалось Династией Схарновых как способ удержания власти.  В конце концов, именно лишив мелких царей их священных кристаллов и построив трон из них, Александра Схарнова укрепила свое господство над ржуннскими землями в первую очередь.  Более того, именно в имперский период многие из этих сказаний были, наконец, впервые записаны и собраны в длинные эпические рассказы и стихи, а не в короткие сказки и песни, которые передавались через устные традиции на протяжении веков.

Rossberan Mythology: Gobb Kilrog

The Legend of Gobb Kilrog the Bone Bearer is a multi-faceted epic tale from Rhûnnish folklore, and few times is the story told in its entirety.  Instead, pieces of it serve as individual fables, and the lessons are sometimes questionable.  The very beginning of the tale, for instance, is easily the most controversial part of it.

The legend doesn’t even begin with Kilrog himself, but with his parents, a lavkin father and a votrel mother.  Their names vary depending on the region the tale is told in, and sometimes, parents would even change the names to match those of their own children to drive home the lesson.  The lavkin fell madly in love with the votrel, who treated him with compassion, but felt no attraction to him, for while he was honourable, he was a dopey giant compared to her.  She swooned when presented with the man she was to marry, however, but when the lavkin begged her not to marry him, she begged her father to delay the wedding and let her set things straight with her lavkin friend.  She tried to explain that real love did not necessarily mean physical attraction, but he could not grasp the concept.  How could she love him, but not wish to marry him?  Three times the wedding was delayed, and each time the votrel spent more time comforting her lavkin friend, the two getting closer each time.  Her family warned her that her compassion would betray her, that she should not try to comfort him so much, because he would not let go.  The fourth time, she let him get too close, and he raped her.  She was exiled by her own family for not heeding their warning, and gave birth alone in the forest to a hideously disfigured son.  This child would come to be known as Gobb Kilrog.  The moral of the story was originally that lavkins and votrels shouldn’t mix, but this societal ideal was quickly discarded during Alexandra’s Conquest, as lavkins and votrels regularly intermarried in Old Skhara, and the custom quickly became much more widely accepted in the Rhunnish lands.  The moral of the story then shifted, instead focusing on being true and obedient to one’s family, and that compassion should be reserved only for those most worthy.  As arranged marriages became less common, this part of the story dropped its moral entirely, and the first true fable was the second part of the story, with the moral being that a mother alone cannot raise a son.

Without a father to raise him, Gobb Kilrog was a rotten child who showed no interest in helping his mother gather food and maintain their hut in the forest.  Instead, he spent most of his time tormenting animals, taking advantage of his enormous size and strength to tear them apart.  Kilrog was extremely slovenly, but took great care in cleaning the bones of the animals he killed.  He liked collecting bones, carving them, and building things out of them.  As his mother grew old, and she no longer had the strength to go out into the woods and chop wood to fix the hut, she used the bones that Kilrog collected, and eventually, the hut was made entirely out of bones.  The fence around the outside was made of leg bones and ribs and decorated with skulls, the lock was a set of sharp teeth, and for extra protection, the hut itself was perched on a pair of giant feet belonging to either a dragon or giant bird.  To make Kilrog seem extra terrifying, sometimes the feet are said to be “like those of a giant eagle, but with five toes each,” which would indicate that they belonged to only one creature: the Night’s Dragon, but as you will see later, there is a continuity problem with this version of the tale. Usually, instead, the feet are simply said to be those of a giant chicken.

When Kilrog’s mother finally died, Kilrog decided to leave the forest.  On the way out, he gathered followers who were entranced by all the trinkets that he adorned himself with, mostly made from bones, but there were a few precious stones and bits of gold as well.  Kilrog had even fashioned a crown out of sharp bone fragments and gold pieces, and when asked what he was king of, he replied “I don’t know yet, my kingdom still awaits.”  Gobb Kilrog’s followers grew quite numerous, and eventually started calling themselves “goblins.”  Gobb Kilrog the Bone Bearer was henceforth known as the Goblin King.

Gobb Kilrog the Goblin King: “bow before me vermin, your king speaks!”

The Goblin King was a personification of hedonism.  He and all his goblins would take whatever they desired, either by deception or force, and spent much of their time indulging in material pleasures: gold, jewels, food, and drink.  The rest of the time, they were either sleeping or stealing stuff.  Goblins were not above stealing from each other, and this led to many goblins fighting amongst themselves.  The Goblin King found this incredibly amusing, and even had a set of rules for goblins to fight by whenever they had a dispute.  But with no limits on what sort of pleasures that the goblins could indulge in, real trouble started when goblins started stealing children.  These children became slaves of the goblins, but after growing up exposed to nothing but hedonism, and seeing how goblins settled matters amongst themselves, those who grew up with the goblins ended up becoming goblins themselves. The moral of this part of the story is that a lifetime of hedonism will turn a person into a monster.

Many a village had children vanish without a trace, but goblins were not always sneaky enough.  Sometimes they got caught, and when villagers realised that they had a goblin problem, they called for help and organised hunts for the goblins’ hideout.  Many a bogatyr heroically led a charge of angry peasants who wanted their children back, and sometimes, the attack went very badly for them.  Goblins love to collect bones, and skulls are among their most prized possessions.  A goblin who steals another goblin’s trophy skull can expect his own skull to become a trophy in return.  When they were attacked, the goblins fought back, and when they realised how much they enjoyed battle, they decided that they were going to stop sneaking, and start raiding.  Thus the Goblin King went to war.

Many a bogatyr had tried and failed to bring down the Goblin King, including the legendary Bronze Bogatyr himself, leading to the final lines of the epic poem, Ballad of the Bronze Bogatyr. Upon learning that the Bronze Bogatyr fell in battle against the Goblin King, that the people he had sworn to protect had all been killed, and their children turned into goblins, the ice nymph Tiamarda the Huntress decided to kill Gobb Kilrog herself.  In order to do this, however, she needed to get him out in the open, where she could shoot him in front of the goblins.  The goblins moved through the mountains, usually hiding in caves, descending onto villages below when it was time to raid.  In order to get the goblins out into the open for long enough, Tiamarda needed to force them to take a road of her choosing.

Tiamarda the Huntress: “never send a mortal to do a nymph’s job.”

When the goblins began to march through the mountains, she started an avalanche that blocked off a mountain pass, forcing the goblins to march through a populated valley.  When the goblins were busy killing everyone in the first village that they came to, Tiamarda would take the opportunity to shoot the Goblin King, but Solhanna appeared and drove off the goblins before Tiamarda could take the shot. 

Solhanna, Silent Warrior of Light

With the goblins driven off, and the villagers able to tend to their dead and wounded in peace, Tiamarda left, wondering if there was any reason to continue on this quest. After all, Solhanna’s reputation was widely known, and if she could protect villages from the goblins, there was no reason to hunt down the Goblin King. However, Tiamarda received some encouragement from an unexpected source: Chuyinka, a daemon bird seldom mentioned by name, if at all, in Rhûnnish folklore. In fact, this is the only Rhûnnish tale in which Chuyinka is portrayed as intelligent and eloquent. Chuyinka warned Tiamarda that the Goblin King would only continue to gain power if left alone, and that Solhanna would not be able to stop him forever. Tiamarda was curious about why Chuyinka would tell her any of this, and Chuyinka replied simply “don’t ask why the dark powers work against one another, just be glad they do.” This quote alone is particularly powerful message, and an adage of hope, intending to remind people that good triumphs over evil because the good work together, and the evil are self-serving.

The goblins marched through the forest toward the next village, where they were harried by dryads, the fairest of Leshy and Kikimora’s children, but Tiamarda, who knew that she was not welcome in those woods, simply passed through as quickly as she could, arriving in the next village before the goblins did.  She found a place to shoot from, and waited for the Goblin King.  Again the goblins slaughtered many in the village, but again Solhanna drove them off before Tiamarda could kill the Goblin King.  Again the goblins marched through the woods, where they were again harried by dryads.  This time, the other children of the forest, bitter rivals of the dryads, joined forces with the goblins, and brought along their pet wolves and bears, as well as other beasts that the dryads liked to hunt.  The goblins and beasts arrived in another village, where Tiamarda was already waiting for them.  She relished the opportunity to kill many fearsome beasts along with the Goblin King, but again, Solhanna appeared, driving off the goblins before Tiamarda could kill the Goblin King.  Again the goblins marched through the woods, this time joined by Leshy and Kikimora themselves, before they came to the next village.  Again, the goblins and beasts slaughtered many people, and again, many goblins and beasts were felled by Tiamarda’s arrows before Solhanna appeared.  Ogres were unafraid of the silent warrior, despite the fact that none of them alone stood a chance against her.  Together with their father, however, they proved to be too much for the warrior of light.  Tiamarda had only one arrow left when she was faced with a terrible choice – to shoot Leshy, just as he was about to strike Solhanna down, giving her a chance to escape, or to shoot the Goblin King.  Tiamarda chose to shoot Leshy, and she and Solhanna fled to the next village to await the Goblin King’s arrival.  Kikimora was enraged at this, and spewed a litany of curses at Tiamarda, promising that all her children would forever hunt the ice-nymph.

When the Goblin King arrived, he had yet more fearsome beasts with him.  This time, the beasts spread throughout the village so quickly, the Goblin King was out in the open right away. 

“At last, meet your death, Kilrog!”

Tiamarda put an arrow right between Kilrog’s eyes, thus fulfilling her quest. 

The Goblin King lies dead

The goblins scattered, but the ogres and beasts were still slaughtering the villagers.  Tiamarda used up all her arrows before drawing her sword and fighting them up close, but she saw it as a futile endeavour, and decided to grab Solhanna and flee while they still had a chance. 

Solhanna, however, was mute, but she wasn’t deaf. She had heard Kikimora’s litany of curses, and knew that wherever Tiamarda went, monsters would follow, but what if the monsters had to choose between avenging their father and avenging their mother? In order to draw some of the monsters away from both Tiamarda and the few villagers that still lived, Solhanna attacked Kikimora. Unlike Leshy, Kikimora was no match for the warrior of light, who cried out to Chuyinka to save her. Chuyinka had never once joined in on the slaughter, instead watching from a distance the whole time. Yet even now, Chuyinka refused to join in, and Kikimora cursed her child before she was struck down, damning the creature to a life forever in the darkness, and thus Chuyinka became known as the Night’s Dragon. The monsters then began attacking Solhanna, just as planned. She gestured for Tiamarda to flee if she wished, but indicated that she was staying behind.  As Tiamarda walked away from the ruined village, a massive burst of light radiated out from where Solhanna had stood.  Beasts and ogres ran out of the ruined village in all directions, most of them clearly blinded.  Tiamarda walked through the silent remains of the village, and there was no sign of Solhanna.  She had simply vanished, as she always did.  “I’ll see you again, won’t I?”  Tiamarda whispered as she walked out of the village, toward the next one in the valley.  On her way to the next village, Tiamarda rescued a hunter who had slipped on some ice and become pinned underneath the stag he was trying to bring home.  She told him her story, and the hunter told his family when he finally reached home, which was on the outskirts of a village called High Springs.

High Springs was the birthplace of the Faith in the Crystals, and the entire story about the rise and fall of the Gobb Kilrog is a metaphor for the transformation of religious beliefs throughout the Rhûnnish lands. Leshy and Kikimora both died, as did most of their children, and the remaining supernatural creatures were ever all at odds with each other afterward. Both Tiamarda and Solhanna feared that lingering too long at any village would doom said village to destruction by the Leshënki (children of the forest). As they were rarely seen again, the Rhûnnish people moved away from worshipping nature and animalistic spirits to worshipping immaterial spirits that channelled their power through crystals. Fifteen centuries later, the sacred site was renamed Fell Springs when Alexandra Skharnova seized control of the town and built a massive fortress on top of it, from whence she would begin her conquest of the Rhûnnish lands. Oddly enough, the old lore enjoyed a bit of a revival during the imperial period, since the religion of Old Skhara was much more similar to the ancient traditions of nymph worship than to the Faith in the Crystals, but the latter was still propped up by the Skharnov Dynasty as a way of holding on to power. After all, it was by stripping the petty tsars of their sacred crystals and building a throne out of them that Alexandra Skharnova cemented her dominion over the Rhûnnish lands in the first place. Furthermore, it was during the imperial period that many of these tales were finally written down for the first time, and compiled into long epic stories and poems, rather than the short tales and songs that had been passed down via oral traditions through the ages.

Airships of the Nine Empires, Part 5

Consider this a first draft of a revised history, covering – in greater detail – some conventional airships, as well as the entire first generation of armoured airships, and the beginning of the second generation. Unlike the first time round, I have lots of pictures to go along with my descriptions. This is going to be a bit long, so I suggest grabbing your favourite beverage and making yourself comfortable. There are hyperlinks to Hive posts scattered throughout this article. Most of those Hive posts are bilingual, because I can create bilingual posts on Hive with a nice side-by-side format using the following seven command lines:

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Which is something I can’t do on WordPress. I would have to carefully format such an article in Microsoft Word, which gets wonky when going from one page to the next, then copy the whole thing, and then hope that the formatting doesn’t get messed up. And with that gripe out of the way, it’s time for more steampunk nonsense!

Three “conventional” airships, a dirigible flanked by two caravels

The conventional nomenclature for all Rossberan aircraft is based around the now antiquated terms “aerostat” and “aerodyne.” An aerostat is any aircraft whose altitude is controlled strictly by its own weight, brought aloft by the low density of a lifting gas. An aerodyne is any aircraft whose altitude is controlled strictly by mechanical means, and usually relies on propellers to provide lift either directly (as in the case of a helicopter) or indirectly (as in the case of an aeroplane). A hybridyne is an aircraft that combines the function of an aerostat and an aerodyne. Of the three airships pictured above, only the dirigible in the middle is an actual aerostat. A flying caravel, which combines the mechanisms of a dirigible and a tiltrotor aircraft, is a hybridyne. Most hybridynes are based on the dirigible, an aerostat with a rigid frame, but there are a few that are based on a partially rigid or non-rigid balloon. For this reason, most conventional airships resemble dirigibles at first glance, though the presence of lift rotors will identify it as a hybridyne, and the configuration of the rotors will identify whether it is a caravel or a carrack. As a reminder, a caravel is a hybridyne with tilting rotors that provide both lift and forward or rearward movement, and tilting one bank of rotors forward while tilting the other bank rearward will cause the airship to turn in place, like a surface ship with side paddle wheels or a land vehicle with caterpillar tracks. A carrack has all of its engines fixed in place, with some dedicated to lift, and others dedicated to thrust. Turning the ship is achieved with conventional control surfaces, such as rudders.

Many Rossberan airship builders were hopelessly attached to one particular design, and there was a great rivalry between those who built different types of airships. Each had it own purpose, and its own unique set of advantages. For example, the caravel was the most manoeuvrable and had the highest rate of climb, but was extremely slow in level flight. The carrack could carry the most weight, and the dirigible was the quietest. This meant that, at least in the context of air travel, the caravel was the best for short-distance cargo transport, the carrack was the best for long-distance cargo transport, and the dirigible was the best for passenger transport. Outside of the context of air travel, however, there was no competition, as railroads were the most popular for all three, except in areas where it was impossible to build them, such as certain mountainous regions, or in mainland Sondor, where most of the terrain is far too soft to support any significant weight, and where travel by boat eclipses everything else by a very wide margin. Nevertheless, for decades there was a competition among airship builders to demonstrate supremacy of their design. Six decades before the Great Rossberan War began, it appeared that the carrack would reign supreme, when the Iron Rose was built.

The Iron Rose in its original configuration
Rear view of the Iron Rose
The refitted Iron Rose with the drive engines moved to the top and the docking arms added

At 240 metres long, the Iron Rose was the largest airship ever built at the time, and continued to hold that distinction for nearly seven decades, though far heavier ships were built much sooner. As you can see, the Iron Rose has eight pairs of coaxial lift rotors and three pairs of drive propellers. Unlike most airships of its time, the Iron Rose was built almost entirely out of metal. However, because of the limitations of the alloys available at the time, it simply wasn’t possible to make any construction of that size lightweight enough to be lifted by hydrogen alone. Sixteen eight-metre rotors, however, could lift the massive frame and the 116-metre gondola with all its contents high into the air. While the Iron Rose was certainly an impressive feat of engineering, that did not stop critics of the carrack from claiming that the design wasn’t economical. First of all, the cost of building a dirigible frame increased exponentially with size, so most airship builders found it cost-effective to add more lift rotors, rather than increasing the size of the balloon. Dirigibles and other aerostats remained the least popular type of airship outside of Taressim, ironically because the Taressimians could make dirigibles cheaply.

The Taressimian “Flying Fish” 100-metre gunship

The most common airship in the Taressimian fleet, by far, was a 100-metre long dirigible gunship called the Flying Fish, for reasons that ought to be obvious. Filled with hydrogen and powered by a single steam engine driving two contra-rotating propellers, this airship was very cheap to build. It was also an effective weapon of psychological warfare during most of the Martial State’s expansion, since most of the smaller nations that were gobbled up in the process had little aeronautical capability, so few soldiers would have ever even seen a flying machine of this size, much less known that shooting one down would be relatively easy. As time passed, the Taressimian Air Force developed larger dirigibles and even hybridynes, carrying bigger guns and even bombs. The Air Force became such an important part of Taressimian expansion that, for a time, it seemed that people would immediately surrender because of the sheer number of huge balloons blotting out the sun. At least, that was the case until Taressim went up against two other major Rossberan powers.

Taressimian forces advanced deep enough into Sondorian territory that they were able to capture the city of Turro, but not before the Sondorian River Fleet arrived and began bombarding the besieging army. Taressimian aircraft descended and began attacking the river ships, but were quickly repulsed, as the Sondorian sailors were undaunted, and their guns were more than enough to deal with anything the Taressimians could throw at them. Nevertheless, the River Fleet’s arrival was too little, too late, and the Sondorians were unable to keep the Taressimians from overtaking the city. Taressimian expansion westward was halted in its tracks, so the Martial State turned its attention to the east. Karadenian forces defending Xiamazdu (also spelled Shiamazdu) peformed quite poorly in combat, but it was a single nasty surprise on the Karadenian side that routed the Taressimian invaders. The flying galleon, armed with guns loaded with incendiary weapons, set the sky on fire when it attacked the Taressimian airships, bringing down thirty of them in just under an hour. Unaccustomed to such a rapid loss of fighting strength, the Taressimian forces retreated, despite the fact that they were actually winning by a significant margin; not only were Taressimian fighter aeroplanes far superior to Karadenian fighters, they could have brought down the galleon as well, clearing the path for a decisive Taressimian victory. Had that been the case, the question would have been if the Taressimian forces could hold Xiamazdu and fortify it against a Karadenian counterattack.

The Karadenian flying galleon
Rear view of the galleon, showing the airscrews, quarter gallery, and funnels

The appearance of the Karadenian flying galleon and the role it played in repulsing the Taressimian invasion kicked off a new race in airship development, immediately shifting the focus from civilian to military use. At the time, there was a novel type of airship called a galley, which was a pure aerodyne, not a hybridyne as caravels and carracks were. Galleys made use of newer technology, usually being built of aluminium and driven by internal combustion engines, to perform the same functions as caravels and carracks, but without a balloon taking up the majority of aircraft’s volume. Incidentally, they are still called airships, as are all large or vaguely boat-shaped flying machines in this world, whether they have a balloon or not. However, this is only in English. In Russian, they are called by a different name, as I explain here (get rekt, English speakers). However, the bell-shaped diamagnetic drive called a glossarion levitator quickly made all other lift systems obsolete, so interest in the galley disappeared almost overnight. Conventional airships retained popularity only where high cost and/or noise were unwanted, such as with passenger aircraft. There were some aeronautical engineers who insisted upon using the term “magnedyne” to refer to glossarian airships, though that wasn’t widely adopted for two reasons. The first is that diamagnetism wasn’t the only force at work with these devices, in fact, no-one knew precisely what phenomena were responsible for the levitator’s function, even though the math required to build and operate them was no mystery. Some superstitious folk insisted that fell sorcery was at play, what with the age-old tales surrounding the crystals that were used in the levitators’ construction, as well as the strange things that the levitators did, such as the occasional discharge of sickly green lightning (usually when the ship was on the ground), or the eerie, dissonant whine that drove weak-willed aeronauts to utter madness and even suicide. The second reason that the term “magnedyne” never became commonplace is because another did instead, as you’ll see two paragraphs down.

The first Rossberan power to get its hands on glossarion levitator technology, after the Karadenians developed it, was Arcadia, but the first to actually build an airship using it was Sondor. The Sondorians immediately developed a larger, more aerodynamic, and more heavily-armed version of the galleon, with the levitators staggered in two rows. The ship was called a bireme, after the ancient surface ship with two rows of oars on each side. The siege bireme, the first of its type, was designed primarily for bombarding ground targets, with twelve 300mm siege mortars pointing down, double the galleon’s bombardment capability. For defense against fighter aircraft, the bireme also had 32 machine guns on the upper deck.

The first flying bireme

The flying galleon was a strange combination of old and new technology. Karaden was the last place, other than perhaps Okseetia, that anyone would expect new technology to be developed. That being said, other than the levitators themselves, most of the technology on the novel airship was decades behind everything else on the continent. The airframe was in two parts: the cage, which included the buttresses that the levitators were mounted to, and the internal structure of the wings. These were the only structural components made of steel. The rest of the airship was made of wood, like an old sailing galleon, a type of ship that the Karadenians still used, though many of them had modern frigate rigs, and sometimes even steam engines. The thick timbers of the flying galleon’s hull protected the crew and the internal machinery from most anti-aircraft fire, but the deck gunners and pilothouse were still vulnerable to attacks from fighters. The Sondorians sought to remedy all of these problems with their design, and chose to build the entire ship out of steel. This was the first “armoured airship,” a classification that nearly all glossarian airships fell into, and so it became popularised. The large pilothouse was still vulnerable, and multiple solutions to this problem were proposed and implemented over time. For the time being, thick glass (enough for each pane to stop one or two stray bullets) was considered sufficient, as long as enough guns covered the bow of the ship to keep fighters at bay. However, as different types of armoured airships were developed, new problems arose, and new solutions were proposed to counter them.

An Arcadian flying gunboat

Initially, the Arcadians chose to go smaller, rather than larger, and focus on speed, more than firepower. The Sondorians had need of a ship with massive amounts of firepower to take back Turro, but the Arcadians needed only to defend their borders, and they did not wish to expend tremendous resources on ships that were vulnerable to fighter aeroplanes. Therefore, the Arcadians chose to develop a small gunboat. With only four levitators, the ship was much easier to control, and the pilots could make use of the ship’s full range of motion quickly, eliminating the need for supplemental airscrews. The gunboat has a top speed of 100 knots, making it extremely difficult to target, though this wasn’t enough of an advantage during the jungle incursion that the Taressimians made into northern Arcadia. Arcadian patrols were extremely thin, and the situation was the complete reverse of the one at Xiamazdu. At Xiamazdu, the Taressimians were outnumbered, and the flying galleon was able to get into position to strike the decisive blow, only because of the tremendous number of Karadenian fighters and anti-aircraft guns that the Taressimians had to get through. In the jungles of northern Arcadia, each gunboat encountered was able to make multiple passes and blast holes in the Taressimian positions before either retreating (usually from running low on fuel or ammunition) or being brought down by an extremely lucky hit. The loss of men and materiel on the Arcadian side was a fraction of that on the Taressimian side, meanwhile the latter advanced further into the jungle, and began suffering heavy losses from the natural environment, be that crocodiles, disease, sinkholes, or simply getting lost. The forces of Taressimian Southern Command ended up simply scattering and disappearing, never to be heard from again.

The Interdictor
Rear view of the Interdictor

Despite their excellent performance, the gunboats were too few to have decisively stopped the Taressimian invasion. Instead, they slowed it down and dispersed it, leaving nature to stop the Taressimian forces. With their short range, light armour, and relatively feeble weapons, there was no way that gunboats would be sufficient for a counterattack to send the Taressimians a message. After the Taressimian forces under Western Command were lost, the Karadenian Campaign was handed over to Southern Command, which chose to invade Karaden from the southwest, hence the invasion of Arcadia. Had the target of the invasion actually been Arcadia, Southern Command would have sent its forces farther west, so the the army would cross northern Arcadia through scrub in the much drier eastern half of the country. Central Command had, so far, wisely tried to avoid starting a war with a third nation, but that failed. Arcadia was now at war with Taressim, and the Arcadians intended to strike back hard, demonstrating to their rival southern powers that they could give the Martial State what for, just like Sondor or Karaden. To this end, they developed the largest and heaviest armoured airship yet, the 110-metre, 6000-tonne Interdictor, designed specifically for a long-range strategic attack across the Kraichis desert into Taressimian territory. The target was Southern Command itself.

The Interdictor was designed with the strange goal of bringing ancient Arcadian naval combat into the sky, hence the addition of a ram on the ship’s bow. Naturally, this meant that the pilothouse had to located elsewhere. The ship’s bridge, located atop the stern, was where the ship was commanded from in combat, but most of the pilots operating the controls to the levitators were in the rear-facing pilothouse. Since this section of the ship was still vulnerable, there were duplicate controls on a lower deck, which had thicker armour, and sliding hatches inside to close off the narrow windows. When the ship was under heavy attack, most of the pilots would be flying blind, relying on orders from the bridge. When not under attack, the pilots would relocate to the upper pilothouse, with larger windows for greater visibility. This meant also, that the ship had to approach its landing site while flying backwards. The only pilots would could see forward were those who controlled the airscrews, rudders, and first two pairs of levitators, which were used in conjunction with the rudders to control the position of the ship’s bow. A ramming manoeuvre was a rather complicated task to carry out, and the ship’s top speed of only 60 knots, or only 45 with a full load, meant that even most dirigibles would be able to evade the Interdictor in close combat. Still, a single successful ramming manoeuvre set a precedent for the second generation of armoured airships.

When the first armoured ships appeared, there was no armour-piercing ammunition with which to defeat them. Therefore, shipbuilders began putting rams on their ironclads, hoping that ramming manoeuvres would work against other armoured ships. Success was limited, but because of the increase in fuel efficiency, sometimes as high as 15% (I didn’t just make that up, by the way), the rams stayed, even after armour-piercing ammunition became commonplace. Likewise, when the first armoured airships appeared, they were too fast to be targeted with guns powerful enough to destroy them, so other means had to be employed. Fighter aeroplanes were sometimes armed with incendiary “balloon-buster” rockets to set dirigibles on fire, so the first thought was to develop shaped charges that could be fitted to small wing-mounted rockets or to large, fuselage-mounted “aerial torpedoes.” These met with extremely limited success, owing mostly to the fact that punching a hole in the hull of an armoured airship will not cause it to lose any buoyancy whatsoever. In order to bring down an armoured airship, a weapon must be able to penetrate deep into the hull and cause massive internal damage, knocking out the power generators, or otherwise disconnect the levitators from their power supply. The obvious solution, at least to the Arcadians and Sondorians, was to ram an enemy ship at an oblique angle, thus sheering off the levitators, much as how, in ancient naval combat, rams were used to break off the oars of enemy ships, rather than to puncture the hull. To prevent this, the Arcadians made the bows of their ships wider, shielding their buttresses from frontal attack. The Sondorians, on the other hand, added baffles between the buttresses, each of which offered little protection on its own, but together would be enough of an impediment that any ramming attempt would be only half as effective as in the case of an unmodified ship. Immediately after the appearance of the Interdictor, the Sondorians began adding baffles to their armoured airships, beginning with a modified version of the original siege bireme.

Siege bireme with baffles

The new siege bireme also had a flying bridge on top of the gun deck, with enough room for four pilots. During heavy combat, the main pilothouse would be evacuated, and each of the pilots would be stationed deep inside the ship, maintaining control of the levitators, but flying blind, relying on orders from the flying bridge. In the event that the flying bridge was knocked out and the lead pilots killed, then the main pilothouse would be reoccupied, and the ship would retreat to relative safety if no further orders were received. This procedure ran counter to most military culture of the day, in which retreating without being specifically ordered to do so was punishable by death, but when it came to armoured airships, the machine was considered too valuable to sacrifice. The Arcadians in particular knew than they were making an extremely dangerous gambit by sending their most powerful armoured airship all the way to Southern Command with only one ship to escort it, but the alternative was to send a fleet of dirigibles that would be destroyed before being able to accomplish anything; doing nothing at all would have been preferable. Nevertheless, the gambit paid off, beginning the second stage of the armoured airship arms race. Shortly after the Sondorians built their first airship that was marginally better defended, they built two dedicated escort airships, Guardian and Interceptor, “ram biremes,” that eschewed bombardment weapons for greater speed, agility, and anti-aircraft firepower.

Sondorian ram bireme
Rear view of a ram bireme

The ram bireme was the first “second-generation” armoured airship, and the first to introduce more complex electrical control systems, allowing fewer pilots to have full control over the ship’s levitators. The ram bireme still had 22 pilots (one for each levitator), like the earlier siege bireme, but most of those pilots sat in the hull, simply monitoring the levitators, remaining in contact with the lead pilots at all times, to make sure that all the levitators were doing as they were supposed to. It wasn’t as idle as it sounds, given that the control systems were so wonky that they rarely functioned precisely as intended, and there was still a great deal of coordination between all 22 pilots to get the ship to execute complicate manoeuvres. Ultimately, the intent was to build a fleet of armoured airships centred about the old siege biremes, with the modified siege biremes forming a perimeter about them, and the ram biremes forming a perimeter about all the siege biremes. A formation consisting of seven siege biremes and six ram biremes would have enough firepower to destroy anything in its path. The formation’s only vulnerability would be from above, and even that would be fairly tenuous, at least until the Interdictor was finally dethroned as the most powerful armoured airship in the sky. That, however, is a story for another time, when the northern powers finally enter the fold.

There are Two Types of People

Right, call this click-bait if you wish, for I don’t know what you thought you might find: a refutation, a collection of “two types of people” memes, satire, or some rather mid-witted diatribe. What follows is probably closest to the latter.

I shall begin by immediately refuting my own title, because the conclusion I’ve come to involves a sliding scale, not some false dichotomy. At each end of that scale, however, are two properties: naturalism and egotism. In other words, the two types of people are naturalists and egotists, though rarely is an individual purely one or the other. Now, I must confess that my working definition of the term “naturalist” is not entirely in line with its traditional meaning, that is “one who studies nature.” In this context, I am referring to one who reveres nature and all its aspects, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I made no such alteration to the definition of the term “egotist,” though you may see me use it interchangeably with the word “narcissist.”

As the dog days of summer have arrived, I have very little energy. I have already mentioned this in a recent Hive post, as well as providing a bit of a primer to what I plan to discuss in this post. Connecting the dots, as it were, regarding all the nonsense being peddled in our increasingly unrecognisable society, it should come as no surprise that most of it is the result of narcissism. The devolution of human society into backwards, upside-down, reality-denying totalitarianism, is entirely predictable, based solely on the inner workings of the egotistical mind. On the opposite side of totalitarianism is nature, in all its beauty, ugliness, tranquility, and horror… in other words, CHAOS, the egotist’s worst nightmare.

Nature isn’t good, contrary to what tree-hugging hippies like to say, but neither is nature evil. Nature isn’t orderly, either. Nature is extremely unpredictable, and the mathematical equations required to merely describe nature in terms that humans can comprehend are incredibly complex. Just when humans believe that they are so close to understanding everything, it becomes painfully apparent that naturalists have barely scratched the surface. The complexity in nature cannot, therefore, be the result of any consciousness creating it – what is seen is the result of spontaneity. Nature is not merely chaotic, it is so much more than that; nature is the physical manifestation of chaos itself (I am sounding more and more the Word Bearer, am I not?)! To merely survive in nature requires an individual organism to be able to adapt to ever-changing surroundings. That is not to say that one cannot possibly plan ahead, for it is clear that certain strategies for survival work, while certain others are a sure path to extinction. The naturalist understands this truth, and accepts that most things are beyond one’s control. The naturalist understands that one has no control of anything beyond one’s own life, and even that grasp is fairly tenuous.

The previous paragraph is not one that an egotist would enjoy reading, possibly finding it downright painful. The egotist desires control, to bend nature to their own will, because they refuse to adapt themselves to nature. To an extent, almost everyone does this. Digging a hole in the ground and planting a tree where it wouldn’t normally grow is an act of altering the natural world. Digging up stones and cutting down trees to built a house is another. Any act of creation from a conscious mind is an alteration of the natural world. The more egotistical the mind, the more the creation will deviate from what would be produced naturally. The modern city, devoid of plants and animals, and whose buildings are plain, devoid of any decorations even remotely reminiscent of anything found in nature, is the ultimate monument to egotism. However, the ultimate manifestation of egotism is not found in architecture, but in trans-humanism.

Egotists hate nature, because its existence is a reminder that they lack the control over reality that they desperately desire. When the egotist has removed the plants, animals, microbes, and natural rock formations, there is only one reminder of nature left to remove: the rotting meat-suit that they are stuck lugging around with them everywhere they go. Self-mutilation is just another act of altering the natural world. That is not to say that there is anything necessarily wrong with some minor alternation for the sake of adornment (though there is everything wrong with doing it to newborn children), but trans-humanists take it way too far. Trans-humanism, incidentally, is nothing new. The idea that some metaphysical essence of self can transcend the natural world and survive the death of the physical body has been around for millennia. The modern incarnation of “uploading” the human consciousness to a digital world is simply a secular adaptation of a concept that was previously explored only in religion. Nor, for that matter, is the latest wave of trans-humanism even a particularly new idea, it simply enjoys much more mainstream attention than it used to. Personally, I hope this current craze goes the exact same way as Heaven’s Gate, but that’s just my own seething hatred of egotists trying to control my life. Let them destroy themselves, as long as they stop trying to take the rest of us with them.

On its own, complaining about egotistical thinking is not going to solve any of the problems that it causes. In fact, egotistical thinking is almost impossible to fight against, because the more egotistical the mind, the more it denies reality. The pure egotist doesn’t exist in the natural world, but in their own twisted reality, in which everything is according to their own desires. Unfortunately for the ego, the physical senses exist in the natural world, constantly reminding them that their “reality” isn’t real, so most egotists live in a state of perpetual cognitive dissonance. However, a solution does indeed exist. Egotism – more precisely, Narcissistic Personality Disorder – cannot be cured, and I will explain why in a later post. The only way to solve the problems caused by egotistical thinking is to disengage from the egotists. Simply walk away, and don’t give them what they want. Despite the constant calls for unity, the solution is the exact opposite. Dis-unity is required for people to co-exist peacefully, with both nature and other people. People need space, they need to be free to be away from each other, not forcibly packed together like sardines. Problems caused by collectivism cannot be solved by more collectivism.

I know I promised no more opinion pieces a long time ago, a promise that I keep breaking, but with so little going on in my life at the moment, and so many thoughts in my head, I needed to share this. The current incarnation of the Great Authoritarian Grift (GAG) is slowly being exposed by various internet personalities, but there are many pieces to this bizarre puzzle. My plan is to explore the origins of the GAG, how it is continuously altered, the ever-present motivation to perpetuate and expand it, and, hopefully, open people’s eyes to what is slowly happening, so that they know what to avoid, if they don’t want to go along with it, and why, despite the comforts promised, no-one should want to go along with it. I’ve already done this to an extent, albeit in an extremely disorganised fashion.

Something is Rotten in the Hive…

I hate e-drama, but, as anyone who has ever been in abusive relationship will tell you, you don’t choose drama, it chooses you. Recently, a rather abusive trend in Hive has been getting exposed, and as much as I like the platform, I may have to resume sharing my artistic content here on WordPress instead.

For those of you who don’t understand how Hive works, it is a blockchain social media network that generates cryptocurrency. Every vote determines the value of a post, and payout occurs exactly one week after the post was published. The value of a vote is determined by the Hive Power (HP) of the account making the vote, and HP is generated by receiving upvotes in turn. The more upvotes you get, the more one of your own votes will be worth. Downvotes do the opposite, lowering the value of the post. A post’s payout is determined by the added value of the votes, which is why a post with 500 upvotes from low-power accounts could pay out the same as a post with a single upvote from a high-power account. What we have right now is a situation in which a handful of high-power accounts are cancelling out all the upvotes from low-power accounts and thus reducing the payouts of popular posts to near zero, and not for any good reason.

Weaponised voting is nothing new in the internet age. In the information war, the audience is what everyone is competing for. However, when each vote is worth the same amount, popularity is all that matters. On Hive, not all votes are equal, as I have just explained. Weaponised voting on Hive is a form of suppression. This isn’t outright censorship, as the whole point of a blockchain is to prevent anyone from tampering with the content to silence people (the way that Google is known to do), but it’s bloody close. For this reason, the drama about weaponised voting has been well-documented in the Free Speech community, to which I am subscribed, because, as you know, freedom of expression is of paramount importance to me.

I need to go off on a tangent for a bit about who the biggest targets for censorship are. On the Silicon Valley social media Big Three (FaceBook, Twitter, and Google, which owns YouTube), for example, anyone who disagrees with the progressive agenda is a target – this includes people on the socio-political left, because “liberals get the bullet too.” At first, only the far right, whatever the hell “far right” actually means, was targeted. Then, mainstream conservatives became targets. After that, the particularly radical fringes of the far left also became targets, though this was mostly limited to Twitter, and the air was thick with irony that the perpetually offended were unironically making the exact same arguments in favour of free speech that actual liberals have been making for centuries. However, there is a common myth among the free speech defenders that censorship is limited entirely to pundits – it is NOT. I have been saying, albeit in tiny circles, and usually in IRL conversations, rather than online, that anyone who is not on the payroll of the big players is a potential target, and the next biggest threat to authoritarians, right after intellectuals arguing in favour of freedom, is the DIY community. This broad community is best associated with homesteaders, but not limited to them. Anyone sharing their skills online, certainly those who intend to teach others, is part of this broad DIY community. Now then, the reason for this is quite simple: authoritarians do not want people to be able to take care of themselves and live without the system, and actions speak louder than words. It is one thing to extol the virtues of living off the land without having to worry about government interference, but it is quite another to demonstrate how that can be done, and that it’s not as hard as it looks. Contrary to what the double-talking owner of Bracing Views likes to constantly say, there is nothing wrong with “rugged individualism.” Furthermore, Comrade Commissar, if you’re reading this, I’ve basically just debunked your entire narrative that there is a wall of propaganda promoting it – all evidence points to the exact opposite, unless, of course, you consider me to be a propagandist. Incidentally, I’m not the only one who has pointed all of this out; Tarl Warwick has too, on multiple occasions.

Returning to the subject of Hive, by now, the suppression has already gone quite far. We are at the point that pundits are no longer the only ones being suppressed. When I chimed in, commenting on two recent posts by Patriot Reloaded, I twice mentioned someone else who is also being suppressed in the exact same manner – a young Russian artist named Alena Vangozhenka. I hate to draw unnecessary attention to the girl, but she is a perfect example of the utterly nefarious agenda behind censorship. By the way, in order to preempt the otherwise inevitable accusations of “white-knighting,” I should point out that I’m not romantically interested in her; she’s too young, too short, and too girly (and the irony is not lost on me that those are exact same complaints that the last girl I had a crush on made about me), but she is an enormously talented artist, and I like her content. While the superficial justifications for censorship are always difficult (but not impossible) to argue against, such as combating “misinformation” or “plagiarism,” what, precisely, is the justification for censoring a 23-year-old kid who paints cute animal pictures and, as far as I know, makes no content that is remotely controversial? That was a trick question – there is no justification. In the case of Hive payouts, the only reason for downvoting her posts into oblivion is to keep all the blockchain tokens for yourself – which is exactly why Steemit failed, lest we forget!

On principle, I should probably ask to be blacklisted by the curators who are abusing my friends. Unfortunately, those same curators are the only reason that my posts are as popular as they are. As of two weeks ago, I’m making more money on Hive than Alena, despite the fact that she posts far more frequently than I do, and her content is much more popular than mine – this is all because of the malicious downvoting. When it comes to dealing with abusers, some battles simply aren’t worth fighting. Sometimes, it’s best just to keep your head down, and not cause trouble. Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away. I’m not sure what the best course of action is, but for now, I’m just going to keep making my usual content, and if the blockchain’s history is about to repeat itself, at least I will know to jump ship as early as possible – and I’ll make bloody sure to take all of my friends with me. I doubt my countrymen need much encouragement, seeing as all the Russians that I followed on Steemit migrated to Hive before I did. Perhaps this is a cycle that will just keep repeating itself: a new blockchain is created, people move there, it becomes a lucrative endeavour, greedy players scuttle the platform, a new blockchain is created, and the process starts over. Now that we’ve already been through this once, perhaps it’s just a new feature of blockchain social media: moving to a new platform every other year! It’s a lousy feature, more akin to a “bug,” but it’s not utterly unbearable. Of course, getting the curators to stop abusing creators is far preferable, and I’d like to see the damage undone. If this is a fight that we can win, I’ll fight; granted, I’m not sure how much a red fish with a reputation of 62 and only 424 HP would be able to do.

Random Thoughts, Collection 9: Love is the Root of All Conflict

If you wish to avoid conflict, never attempt to damage, defraud, defame, debunk, or deprive a person of that which they hold most dear. Sadly, when two individuals have inherently conflicting desires, conflict is inevitable.

Before I get into this, I must explain what I mean by “love.” The Ancient Greeks had several words for love, specifically, eros, agapé, filia, and sturgé. It is the first of these to which I am referring, partly because it is that which I am most familiar. In addition to being the best known, with the god Eros named for it, the Greek predecessor of Cupid, it is one of only two I have actually experienced (the other being sturgé), and I have dealt with it a great deal more than the other. To lay my proverbial cards on the table (something I always try to do as early as possible, to clear away any misconceptions), I have never been “in love,” unless you count the metaphorical one-way street colloquially known as the “crush.” I have been on both sides of plenty of those, to the point where I can definitely say that I adhere to the female stereotype of “women lust after what they cannot get and hate what’s offered on a plate.” This, by the way, is one of the many contributing factors to an untreated mental illness that I suffer from called gender dysphoria, but that’s a rant for another time.

Eros is not simply a romantic infatuation, it is a powerful obsession, not necessarily directed toward another person. One can be obsessed with an object (men and their cars, for instance), or an idea. A narcissist, for instance, is obsessed with one’s own image, if not in the literal sense as Narcissus was in the old myth, then in the abstract sense, as those who have a habit of moral grand-standing (“virtue signalling” in the modern vernacular). It is this obsession that explains the apparent paradox that narcissists have very high opinions of themselves, yet appear so insecure; it is not that they are thin-skinned, per se, but compulsively defensive. For the same reason one should not insult someone’s lover, one should not insult a narcissist if one wishes to avoid conflict.

There are many common obsessions that are well-documented, and they produce easily observable activity in the brain. Studies have repeatedly shown that the same areas of the brain are active when an individual is consuming drugs, engaging in sexual intercourse, having a spiritual experience, or seeing their content go viral on social media. In every single case, this positive feedback is a large influx of dopamine. Deprive any individual of their favourite substance, sexual partner, religion, or social media account, and the result will be the same – the tell-tale symptoms of withdrawal. The same is true of those who are in love with an idea, i.e. ideologues.

You may have seen me use the phrase “ideological method” in the past. The ideological method is a system of apologetics designed to support an idea that cannot stand on its own merit; it is, in essence, the opposite of the scientific method. At a time when the greatest opponent to science was Christianity, these apologetics were known as the “creationist method,” though the same exact types of fallacious arguments can be used to support nearly any ideology that comes into conflict with science. Calling such apologetics “creationist” is to ignore every conflict between ideology and science other than creationism versus the Theory of Evolution. All ideologues do exactly as creationists do: they start with a conclusion, then look for evidence that supports it, twisting, dismissing, or outright ignoring any data that is inconvenient to their idea. This is the logical fallacy known as cherry-picking, or as I like to call it, “painting bulls-eyes around arrows.” Though it may be the bedrock of the ideological method, it is not the only logical fallacy that the ideological method uses; all of them are employed at one stage of debate or another, usually ending with ad hominem fallacies and even attacks, as a quote commonly attributed to Socrates goes, “when the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”

It is quite common for ideologues to be narcissists, as narcissists are usually obsessed with always being right. To use the scientific method is to accept the possibility that you may be wrong, and may have to change your mind; your own idea may prove to be inferior to someone else’s. To use the ideological method, on the other hand, is to never have to admit to any failings, and to trivialise or simply ignore any mistakes. I would posit that narcissists only ever admit to the tiniest of mistakes for the purpose of feigning humility. The self-flagellation, both literal and metaphorical, that religious zealots frequently engage in, is the reason that religion is sometimes said to be “arrogance masquerading as humility.” To this, I say “there is no greater hypocrisy than to gloat about being humble.” I have, believe it or not, met someone who once boasted to me that he was “very talented and humble.” Such praise, of course, doesn’t work unless it comes from someone else.

On rare occasion, ideologues will find themselves faced with overwhelming evidence that their ideology is completely wrong. This frequently occurs after many attempts to defend it, as failure is virtually inevitable. Like a pair of lovers who keep trying to make their relationship work, despite overwhelming evidence that they are completely incompatible (usually this is a one-way street, rather than a mutual effort), a crisis occurs, and the feeling of infatuation transmogrifies into animosity with remarkable speed. The best ideological example I can think of is the crisis experienced by nearly every YouTube atheist. I have noticed that, with only one or two exceptions, atheist YouTubers were all religious at one point, and the more religious they were in the past, the more anti-religious they are at present, with the two most extreme being a former Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness. In other words, while they may have abandoned their religion, they have not abandoned their religious thinking. Sadly, it is because such vitriolic YouTube personalities are the public face of atheism that many Christians see atheism as a religion itself. It is also for this very reason that I tend to get along with Christians far better than with my fellow atheists; it is a similar sentiment to the reason I mentioned in a previous post about getting along better with conservatives than with fellow “liberals,” most of whom aren’t actually liberal.

It is, perhaps, a roundabout way of returning to the topic of people as the objects of obsession, rather than ideas, but I should mention that one need not experience a romantic attraction toward an individual in order to see that person as “perfect” in one sense or another. Ideologues, quite frequently, consider the founder of their ideology to be infallible. For the religious zealot, that individual is a prophet and/or a deity. For the secular ideologue, that individual is usually the philosopher credited with creating the movement that the ideologue in question is part of. Yet, this worship of another person is not limited to someone in a perceived state of superiority to the individual afflicted with the obsession. Child worship, after all, is a rather similar form of obsession. Once again, there is a great overlap with narcissism in such cases, as narcissistic parents consider their children to be just as infallible as they are (flawed offspring means a flawed progenitor, after all), and their parenting methods to be perfect. This, unfortunately, requires total compliance on the part of the children, as any child who does not act exactly as the narcissistic parent desires cannot be perfect. Children are thus reduced to dolls, playthings for the amusement of the parents, rather than independent individuals to be nurtured into discovering their own character and lot in life. To the parent, the child’s only value is that of pleasing and validating the parent; the child’s true happiness is of no concern, though it can be used as an emotional cudgel to brow-beat children who are defiant in any way. Children who are raised in such an abusive manner usually end up emotionally stunted.

About two weeks has passed since I wrote everything up to this point. Since that time, I have actually shared a portion of this writing on Hive, and begun a rather deep dive into this topic. What I have learned thus far has been rather interesting, yet now I find myself having to come up for air and returning to my usual work, as it were. I have finished all the components for the airship Iron Rose, and have assembled an early version, representing the original configuration of the ship. I intend to assemble the modern configuration, as it appears at the time of The Nine Empires, in a video similar to the construction video of the Zaphnora that I made a year and a fortnight ago. I had that all ready to go last night, but my recording anxiety got hold of me, as usual, and rather than recording it at about 21:00 and then going to bed, probably about an hour later, I found myself staying up until 2:00 working on translating one of my old articles about steampunk airships into Russian, a task made rather tedious by a number of different factors (and I’m not even done yet). So, why bring this up in an article about narcissism? Well, I may find my endeavour to make the video in question delayed indefinitely, given that, when one lives with a narcissist, taking care of their vacuous needs must be a priority for a tranquil existence, however soul-crushing that tranquility may be. I wish I didn’t, considering that my work-in-progress was rather well-liked, and I’ve already left the Hive hanging for long enough.

Regarding what I have learned, on the other hand, it is important to return to the subject of the ideologue and the notion that an idea can be infallible. I must clarify that, in this context, the term “ideologue” has a much more specific meaning here than usual. Not all who employ the ideological method are ideologues. Most, in fact, have been deceived into believing and defending a bad idea for one reason or another; these are the midwits, narcissistic individuals with an I.Q. somewhere between 110 and 125 (mine is 155, if anyone is curious) who seem to think that they know everything, and yet have no ideas of their own. Midwits are the well-behaved, straight-A students (not that I’m denigrating academic excellence, I had a 4.0 GPA in college) that are able to memorise and regurgitate all the “correct” answers. For those of us who were home-schooled for academic reasons, we like to call such teacher-pleasers “pleasantly gifted.” Midwits are those who can be duped into not only believing a dumb idea, but also into performing admittedly impressive mental gymnastics to defend it. True ideologues, on the other hand, are the ones who propagate and, sometimes, even invent the bad idea to begin with, in either case because they stand to benefit in some way from it. Everything that I have said throughout this article definitely applies to true ideologues, though much of it applies to midwits as well. To reiterate, not all who use the ideological method are ideologues, just as not all who use the scientific method are scientists.

At some point in the near future, I’m going to resume writing opinion pieces. However, in the interest of keeping both my word and the sanctity of this particular blog, I’m going to start yet another blog and post my opinion pieces there. My tactics, however, are going to be vastly different, as I’m no longer interested in trying to appear neutral in the name of persuading other people to calm their tits and examine a nuanced position. I’m doing it already, but my new tactic will be to lay on thick sarcasm in the hope of making all the ideologues and midwits alike look as foolish as possible. At this point, I no longer care about winning hearts and minds, because a narcissist’s heart belongs only to themself. If “peace was never an option,” as the midwits who defend the current Great Authoritarian Grift (GAG) like to say, then unrestricted verbal evisceration shall commence, and perhaps some will find my cathartic criticism to be entertaining.

I find myself at a loss as to how I should conclude this. I have been mulling this idea over in my head for a few days now. Were it not a month ago (as I’m writing the original portion of the article, not necessarily publishing it), I could have made it a “melancholy Valentine’s Day musing.” Then again, my nonexistent love life, which I find myself lamenting with frustratingly increasing frequency (poll: should Kaja sign up for online dating?), is not what inspired this article in the first place. Seriously, I don’t want to have such feelings; for those of us who don’t want children, there is no logical reason to desire a romantic relationship. On the other hand, I’m extremely lonely, and I want a life other than constantly bouncing back and forth between my parents and taking care of them forever, which is my only other option, seeing as they’ve succeeded in cultivating a co-dependent relationship, such that I remain financially shackled. Perhaps, if I enjoyed taking care of them, I wouldn’t mind, but my adoptive mother is a textbook example of an abusive parent (to a lesser extent, an abusive spouse as well), so her company is simply loads of fun, and there is nothing I enjoy more than being her personal chef, landscaper, and pull-string toy, all while listening to her piss and moan about how she’s been oh-so-put-upon since childhood for the millionth time. There is nothing more pathetic than a bitch who can’t move on.

No, I wasn’t drunk when I wrote any of this.

The Order of the Iron Rose

Continuing the conversation that began aboard the airship Zaphnora, Rubina Karamazova segues into discussing secret societies.

“What can you tell me about the Order of the Iron Rose?” Rubina asked smugly, perhaps hoping to find something that Kveta didn’t know. “Permit me to answer your question with another question,” Kveta seemed entirely nonplussed, “what do you already know about the order?” “There was a short entry in a book titled The Incomplete History of Secret Societies, along with one about your own organisiation. It’s supposedly named after the famous airship, but it’s also been around for centuries. I think the airship is a red herring.”

“The Iron Rose is no red herring,” Kveta replied, “it is, in fact, their headquarters. As you know, the airship was built 66 cycles, or ten full years ago, but the order is far older than that. Prior to calling themselves the Stalwart Order of the Iron Rose, its members called themselves Sentinels of the Sacred Relics.” Rubina’s eyes widened. “Judging by the expression on your face,” Kveta continued, “I imagine you can guess what their purpose was.” “They carry knowledge of the lost relics of the Rhûnnish Empire…” Rubina turned and stared off in the distance. “They do not,” Kveta snapped, “they carry the relics themselves. When the Rhûnnish Empire fell, Fëdor Karamazov and Nikolai Votavko both chose to dissolve the Imperial Inquisition, rather than preserve the remnants of the organisation that still existed within their territories. Shortly thereafter, the remaining inquisitors and the relics disappeared simultaneously.” “You think that the Sentinels were the former inquisitors?” Rubina inquired, rather enthusiastically. “I do, given the suspicious timing. However, that’s not really pertinent to the current whereabouts of the relics. That is where the Iron Rose comes in. The order used to be one of the best-kept secrets on Rossbera, until imperial expansion began. There are reliquaries all over the continent, outside of the Rhûnnish lands. I know the precise location of one of them, and I know the vague location of a few others. I know that there were a few located in what is now Taressim, but since the Taressimians are not exactly keen on sharing their activities with the outside world, I have no way of knowing if they’ve raided any reliquaries, much less if they’ve recovered anything. Sondor, on the other hand, is considerably more open about such notable events. Around the time that I hatched, the Sondorian government raided one of the order’s reliquaries, but found nothing of value.” “Perhaps the Sondorians simply didn’t want to return the relic, and kept it for themselves,” Rubina interrupted. “That would have been a diplomatic disaster, though I can see why you might think that,” Kveta continued, “no, I think the order maintains the old reliquaries as divisive distractions, hoping that unfounded accusations of relic-hoarding will fly from Skharnograd and, until your mother conquered it, Krivs as well, thus keeping the Rhûnnish lands isolated. It is part of a three-century-old international conspiracy that is finally starting to unravel.” “The Iron Rose isn’t just the headquarters then,” Rubina at last realised, “it’s their flying reliquary! They would have better off calling themselves the Bloody Magpies, the thieving bastards!”

Rubina knew of what conspiracy Kveta spoke of. Efforts were made by powerful families all over Rossbera to prevent the Rhûnnish Empire from ever rising again after it split in two. Up until the Tsarina made a bold move by attacking Krivs and sending the Votavko family into exile, that conspiracy succeeded. Still, the Rhûnnish people remained divided. It would take a great symbolic gesture, such as the return of the lost relics, to give them hope of a bright future and finally fight together against the outside powers that sought to interfere. What Rubina never knew was how deep this conspiracy ran, to include former Rhûnnish inquisitors, or why they would betray their own country.

“All grand plans eventually fail,” Kveta posited, “by which I mean that Rhûnnish re-unification was, more or less, inevitable. The question was simply a matter of who presided over that process to ensure a smooth transition, which is precisely why I chose you, Rubina.” “Thank you, Kveta. I just have one question: why is the rest of Rossbera so hell-bent on making sure that Rhûn never rises again?” “It’s actually quite simple,” Kveta explained, “fear makes people do terrible things, and powerful families all over Rossbera lived in fear of the Rhûnnish Empire. Every empire has a life cycle, and that cycle is usually complete after three centuries, with the final stage being one of decadence, degeneracy, and decay. The Rhûnnish Empire lasted for five centuries, with no noticeable decline, much less an end, in sight. It simply kept rising, conquering more and more territory, never losing ground. Those royal families who relinquished their crowns and submitted to the rule of the Skharnovs found themselves embroiled in notoriously vicious Rhûnnish politics, unable to simply sit back, as the Skharnovs would regularly purge members of the nobility that they thought had grown too complacent. As such, they kept that stage of decadence at bay for five centuries, and the empire only grew more powerful, terrifying every other sovereign on the continent. When the Skharnovs finally died off and Jenůfa Nószimål disappeared, all the other rival powers saw a moment of weakness and descended upon the Rhûnnish Empire like a flock of vultures. Now, we find ourselves in the exact same situation, only in reverse. Should the Rhûnnish Empire re-unite under your rule, then you could re-shape the empire as a bastion of peace, rather than a military juggernaut. There is another faction that seeks to re-unite all the Rhûnnish lands as well, but if they manage to seize power, then all of Rossbera would burn.” “The communists,” Rubina replied with a sense of dread.

When Kaia Blackwing informed Adya Redmane about the previous conversation, several chapters later in the same book, Adya’s reply was a rather cynical “and she bought that?!”

“She knows you’re trying to start a war, why would she swallow than line?” “Oh, that’s easy,” Kaia explained, “she knows that I’m no friend to the communists, in fact, they hate my kind a lot more than they hate hers.” “Explaaaaaaiiin!” “Social collectivists, communists very much included, think entirely in terms of power dynamics. There are two types of power players: conquerors and dynastic heirs. I am the former, Rubina is the latter. Furthermore, you may have noticed that communists in particular love to whinge about ‘capitalist pigs’ all the time, which is a label one could definitely apply to me, but not to Rubina, seeing as she inherited all her wealth and doesn’t own any ‘means of production,’ another term they like to throw around a lot.” “Soooooo,” Adya posited, “you managed to win over the new Tsarina with a verbose example of a ‘common enemy unites even the oldest of foes’ adage. So then, do you plan to hand over the Iron Rose on a silver platter as well?” “I may not have to.” Adya raised an eyebrow as Kaia continued. “Alya Goldfeather approached me when I was last at the Tower of the Eyes, asking if he could borrow the Zaphnora for that very task. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he couldn’t. Not only was my ship in no fit state at the time, but a black trireme would be overkill for going after a dirigible, even one that large. If either he or the Tsarina pushes the issue, however, I’ll send the White Spider after the Iron Rose.” “How poetic, the spider and the rose. It would be even better if we had the spider defend the rose and eating a bird.” “Well, Rubina thinks that the members of the order would have been better off calling themselves the Bloody Magpies, so you may be on to something there.”

Alya Goldfeather is a character that I came up with very recently, and neither he nor the Iron Rose are mentioned anywhere in my outline. As it is, there are many changes that I need to make to my outline to include new plot threads. Speaking of which, I don’t normally make outlines before writing a story (or anything else for that matter), but this story is such a massive undertaking that the outline alone is 40 pages long and contains almost 24 000 words. What follows is a conversation between Kaia and Alya, and I have no idea where it will show up, but I suspect that it will be later in the same book as the previous conversations.

“Of what interest to you is the Iron Rose, anyway?” Kaia knew that Alya had no desire to involve himself with Alexandrian politics, so what possible reason would he have to seize such an airship, knowing what was on it? “There are certain items,” Alya began, “that may prove of great use to my work.” Kaia raised an eyebrow. “The inquisitors had eyes everywhere,” Alya continued, “and some of the relics currently in the order’s possession were stolen from from Rin Baigal itself. As you can probably imagine, these were items containing neticine, and mentioned in Veyra’s notes from researching the great green crystal. Some of these items, such as the gamma star, I can replicate myself, but others are not documented sufficiently for me to be able to manufacture my own. Recovering them is of paramount importance to me. By the way, would you like to know what those strange protrusions on the Iron Rose are?” “Docking arms,” Kaia replied. “How did you know?” “A report from the White Spider,” Kaia explained, “indicated a smaller airship docking with the Iron Rose as the spider retreated.” “Retreated,” Alya jeered, “I thought you said that a gunboat would be enough to handle any dirigible…” “No need to gloat, Alya, I never once claimed to be infallible.” “So then,” Alya continued a bit more sheepishly, “will you let me…” Kaia cut him off. “You are still not borrowing the Zaphnora! Still, you may not have to.” Kaia pulled a piece of paper from a basket on her desk – a telegram she had received earlier that day. “It seems that you have caught the attention of a kindred spirit – another Goldfeather, Urya, inventor of the glossarion levitator – who has decided to re-fit the Pherazmil for the express purpose of towing a less-than-cooperative vessel and to send it here.” Kaia handed the telegram to Alya. “If I may ask,” Kaia continued while Alya was reading, “what else do you know about the Iron Rose?” “The docking arms,” Alya explained, “are for mid-air docking of smaller airships belonging to the order, as you know, of which there are five: the White Rose, Yellow Rose, Red Rose, Blue Rose, and Black Rose. They act as supply ships, bringing food, replacement crew members, fuel, and even airship parts. The order has perfected this mid-air supply system to the point where the Iron Rose may never have to land again. In exchange, each chapter uses its airship to transport individual relics back to its temple to pursue its own rituals. Also, the Iron Rose is actually a carrack, not a dirigible.” “And how, pray tell, did you discover all this?” “I may have infiltrated one of their chapters…” “So that’s why you borrowed my anthology of hermetic philosophy. Just be careful that you aren’t exposed before this little operation of yours,” Kaia warned. “Whatever do you mean?” “If the order practises either blood magic or sex magic, well…” Alya raised an eyebrow. “I think you know where I’m going with this.” “Neither blood magic nor sex magic are real, Kaia.” “The mammals don’t know that. You should see what sort of nonsense they call ‘occult.'”

The Iron Rose will eventually make an appearance, but while I have a vague idea of what the airship is meant to look like, I haven’t made any sketches yet, much less have I started on the model. Perhaps, depending on when I get to it and how complicated it is, the rendering and/or assembly process will show up in a BitChute video.

I Make Jewellery!

It’s official, I can now make jewellery. After some experiments with investment casting in tin, I moved on to bronze, just to see what it’s like. While the results of the first casting run in bronze could have been better, I know exactly what I need to do for future runs to improve metal flow and get better castings. If you are curious about the technical details of this process, keep reading. Much of this article repeats what I had written in my introductory foundry post, but there are proper conclusions this time.

My original intent was to make a video showing off the process of making some miniature pewter chalices, but the first few casting runs in lead-free crown pewter (an alloy which is mostly tin) were disasters. The first time, I made the mistake of using pure plaster for the mould, since plaster is cheap and easy to find. I’ve seen the effects of heat on plaster, so I expected there to be cracks running through the mould; I didn’t expect the plaster to crack to the point of having molten metal going straight through and getting all over the place. Cleaning that up was something of a chore. As I have since been informed, a 1:1:1 mix of plaster, diatomaceous earth, and water is best for diy investment mixtures. After my disastrous first experiment (no injuries, luckily), I decided to wait until getting a delivery of Ransom & Randolph Plasticast before proceeding with the next experiment.

The first run using proper investment didn’t turn out so well, but at least it provided some valuable information. To begin, you know how you can trap air inside a cup if you plunge it upside-down into any liquid? Well, given the orientation of the chalices on my part tree, that was, more or less, unavoidable.

I attempted to alleviate this problem by tilting and rotating the part tree as I lowered it into the liquid investment, but to no avail; I failed to release the trapped air bubbles, as I discovered after pulling the casting out.

There were also lots of little beads all over the surface of the castings, indicating smaller bubbles throughout the liquid investment, creating voids in the mould. This was easily fixed by increasing the de-gassing time from one minute to eight (giving me a full minute to pour the liquid investment into the flask). However, that wasn’t the only fix that needed to be made. You may have noticed that the tiny cups weren’t the only items I attempted to cast; the fifth item, and first on the part tree, is a pattern for a zipper pull that I designed many years ago, and I had two printed at Shapeways, one cast in sterling silver, and the other printed directly in aluminium via SLS. When I attempted to make a third (I’d like to have one for every quarter-zip jumper that I own) myself, however, it acted like a slag trap, and the main body looked absolutely horrid.

Therefore, I made it a point for future part trees to always have a slag trap directly below the pouring cone, though I already had another part tree made, and I didn’t feel like taking it apart. For the next casting run, in which I attempted to make another cup along with a mushroom that I found on Thingiverse back when I was still a novice playing around with FDM printers. This is when I made another critical error, purely out of laxity (fancy synonym for laziness). My kiln is non-programmable, so in order to properly ramp up the temperature in accordance with the burnout schedule for Formlabs castable wax resin, I have to babysit the kiln for hours at a time, increasing the temperature by 40 degrees every ten minutes for the first ramp, then by 36 degrees every ten minutes for the second ramp. When I tried to make the mushroom, I said “screw this,” set the kiln to 700 degrees, left it for two hours, then came back, increased the temperature to 1350 (all these temperatures are in Farenheit, by the way, since that’s the scale used on my kiln), and left it for another two hours before turning it down to 300, and making sure to hold it for about an hour after I saw that the internal temperature had, indeed, reached 300 degrees. As I had feared, the mould had cracked, though not as severely as the pure plaster mould (which I ramped properly, for the record), and I got flash on my castings.

Flash is perfectly normal for moulds with seams, such as two-piece sand moulds or steel dies. However, this isn’t supposed to occur with investment casting. Furthermore, the mushroom came out in two pieces, one of which was an unrecognisable lump with much of it missing. Right then, the burnout cycle is definitely not a corner I can afford to cut! It was some time before I could make another mould then, since I needed to two two-hour periods free in order to manually ramp the kiln. When I finally did, I chose a far better design for the part tree, incorporating a slag trap, as I had printed a batch of five.

I didn’t intend for the cups to tilt, that’s just what ended up happening, thanks to my not-so-steady hands, which I’m trying to fix by practising miniature painting. Regardless, this time, the casting came out quite well; the slag trap worked exactly as intended, and the main sprue below was quite clean.

There is still room for improvement, as I noticed a few beads, indicative of voids in the mould. There were also some voids in the cups themselves, though I suspect that’s simply because the walls are so thin, and tin does some weird things anyway. Perhaps, one day, I’ll perfect this process to the point where I could make miniature chalices that are worthy of selling as dollhouse accessories on Etsy. In the mean time, the result of this particular casting run was satisfactory, so I moved on to bronze. I used an earlier part tree that was lacking a slag trap, so there were some problems with the casting, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I know exactly how to fix the problems that I had.

I ended up having to bend the branches of this part tree in order to fit it into the flask, as you can see in the video. One of the rings did not fully form, and what I pulled from the quenching bucket the morning after casting indicated to me that the sprue became blocked in the middle of the pour, so that particular mould cavity didn’t fill completely. No matter, I managed to get two halfway decent rings out of this casting run. The next time I do this, who knows when, I’ll try a better part tree design with a wider variety of shapes and sizes. If I can get some stones, I’ll be able to complete the two rings that I have now, though finishing the setting is going to be much tougher with bronze than with gold, since the latter is quite soft, but the former is tougher than mild steel. In the mean time, I need ideas; there isn’t a lot of demand for alto clefs and stars of chaos, after all. Perhaps it’s time to revive the Cooperative Artisan’s Guild, as I’ve seen some rather impressive jewellery designs that have never been brought to life. I could fix that; after all, I can do this:

Let me know what you think – especially you, Corinne, if you read this. I hope you find both this post and my video to be informative.

Social Conservatism Defined and in Context

This is not an opinion piece, but as with my last post in that category, I have nowhere else to put it for now. This is merely a set of observations that I have made, and hopefully will serve as a long-overdue explanation of what I mean when I say something along the lines of “I am fiscally conservative, but I am by no means socially conservative.” Incidentally, if the title of this article sounds at all familiar, that is because there exists a book titled Defining Conservatism, which has been disavowed by its own author, and if you are familiar with it, please forget about it for a moment, because it is much narrower in scope than the article you are about to read.

Social conservatism exists at two levels: at the individual level, and at the societal level. Let us first examine what it means to be a socially conservative individual. A social conservative is one who adheres to long-standing social traditions, conforming to social norms as dictated by some authority, rather than one’s peers. It is a common practise of socially conservative parents to tell their children not to give in to peer pressure. Social conservatism at the individual level is entirely about conformity and nothing else. How social conservatism appears varies wildly according to the culture that one examines; a socially conservative Arab, for instance, looks and acts very differently from a socially conservative American.

A socially conservative society has far less innocuous ramifications, though that may not become clear until I define social liberalism for the sake of contrast. A socially conservative society is one in which traditional social norms are enforced, by legal means or otherwise, and social non-conformists are treated as pariahs. In order to maintain a reasonably comfortable existence in such a society, individuals who would not otherwise choose to be socially conservative must wear the trappings of conservatism. To reiterate, social conservatism is entirely about conformity and nothing else.

A social liberal is not the opposite of a social conservative, at least not at the individual level. A social liberal is someone who accepts non-conformists, even if that person chooses to conform to social norms themself. Paradoxically, it is therefore possible to be a social liberal and a social conservative at the same time. A socially liberal society, by extension, is one that does not enforce social norms. In such societies, non-conformists are considerably more visible, as they have most of the same opportunities open to them as conformists. In a socially liberal society, conformists and non-conformists accept each other for their personal choices. However, should new social norms, as dictated by peer pressure, cause conflict between the conformists and non-conformists, the result may be either a reactionary movement by social conservatives, a rise of social degeneracy, or both.

Social degeneracy is social conservatism flipped upside down. A socially degenerate individual is one who rejects conformity for no reason other than spite. A socially degenerate society is one in which those who conform to old social norms are the outcasts, while only non-conformists are accepted. Social degeneracy at the societal level is the first stage of a paradigm shift, as old traditions are eventually replaced with new ones, and subsequent generations end up becoming social conservatives within the context of the new social paradigm. Cultural paradigm shifts like this are not inherently good or bad, only individual behaviours can be evaluated as such. Individuals who support the cultural paradigm shift are called progressives, and it is not uncommon for them to see social conservatives as being an “obstacle to progress.” To put this into simpler terms, progressives are not liberals; social liberals accept the existence of social conservatives, whereas progressives do not.

In the context of most western nations, a social conservative, according to 20th century social norms, is a Christian, a nationalist, and a heterosexual who dresses in only in the prescribed fashion and practises traditional gender roles. For the first half of the century, western society was conservative, as both American and European countries had strong cultural pressure to conform. Beginning in the late 1950s in Europe and the late 1960s in America, society began to become much more liberal in nature. Eschewing the unofficial dress codes became much more acceptable, and society at large started to care less what people looked like. Though there were still plenty of people who adhered to old social traditions, it was entirely a matter of personal choice, rather than a societal ultimatum to conform or live as an outcast. What we are seeing now, however, is that individuals who adhere to the 20th century socially conservative ideal are being dismissed as “backward,” regardless of whether or not those individuals accept non-conformists or not. Whether or not a paradigm shift is actually occurring remains to be seen, as this divisive attitude is not universal among social non-conformists.

Most of my audience, at least on this blog, is in the United States, and is therefore probably aware that the country is not culturally monolithic. Whether the predominant culture is conservative, liberal, or degenerate depends on where you look. Some states are largely conservative, some are liberal, while social degeneracy is limited to a few major cities. To an extent, this cultural division is reflected in every western nation, though perhaps not to the same degree. Furthermore, depending on what cultural norms already exist, what appears to be “conservative,” or “degenerate” will vary, and this may result in two cultures being incompatible (e.g. fundamentalist Muslims in England and France), and I won’t go into this any further, as I’m trying to remain as neutral as possible in this particular article.

To conclude, I shall revisit the paradox of the socially conservative social liberal. Any individual who accepts non-conformity within society is a social liberal. Any individual who does not themselves deviate from social norms is a social conservative. I am the former, but I am not the latter. Anyone who has ever met me knows that, as it is rather apparent from my fashion sense alone. While I don’t choose to adhere to socially conservative norms, I have no issue with those who do, and therefore I’m no progressive. Curiously, I tend to get along much better with social conservatives, as most social non-conformists that I’ve met are progressives, rather than liberals.