Architecture Preview

I spit at most architectural conventions, especially the modern ones.  Naturally, I am speaking of the aesthetic aspects of architecture, not the practical ones.

Buildings 1

This is a screenshot of the largest and most interesting buildings I have rendered thus far.  Two of them are available in my Shapeways shop, if you want to take a peek at the full 3D views of either the tower on the far right or the airship hangar right next to it.  The models are untested, but I see no reason to hurry up and validate them because they are very expensive and I don’t expect to sell either one ever (I doubt I’ll ever buy them myself, considering that I have no place to put a diorama).  Anyway, I’ll tell you a bit about each of these, going from left to right.

Tower of the Eyes: this ancient monstrosity, the same size as the Empire State Building, was constructed by the black dwarves under the direction of the chuyinka.  It served as their headquarters for plotting their schemes to take over the world (cliché much?).  The yellow bit at the top is a lighthouse, and was added centuries after the original construction to serve as an airship beacon.  Taking inspiration from a documentary I watched years ago called “The Code,” by Carl Munck, several of the characters analyse the mathematical relationships of the positions of certain ancient landmarks and use the formulas they derive to locate the tower.

Castle Holgar: this one I’ve mentioned before.  Originally an inverted motte-and-bailey castle, with four mottes on the outside, and a huge bailey in the middle containing substantial farmland, Holgar was burned to the ground and rebuilt as a huge star-fort of reinforced concrete under the direction of the chuyinka.  Though called a castle, Holgar is actually a citadel (see this video), given that this was the central government building of ancient Skhara, as well as the residence of the Skharnov family and the fortress for their military.  Castle Holgar is immense, much larger than most castles in our world, and also one of the largest fortifications on Rossbera.  Each of those turrets is the same size as the keep of Rochester Castle in England.  Castle Holgar was eventually destroyed from the inside, but the outer walls, including the bastions, still stand.

The White Keep: a fortified palace, and the central building of the Skharnograd Kremlin.  It’s difficult to see in this picture, but I’ve used the same style as most kremlins built during the 15th century (“kremlin” is capitalised only when referring to a specific example, such as the Moscow Kremlin, which is the most famous of the lot by far).  The Skharnograd Kremlin was way ahead of its time, and built of red brick during a time that nearly all other castles were built of stone.  Alexandra Skharnova ordered its construction in the fashion of Skharan fortresses, choosing red brick in lieu of the Skharan concrete that she no longer had access to.  Years later, Drokar Skharnov II, a.k.a. Drokar the Pious, ordered the whole thing whitewashed.  His successor, Viskar I, had the outer walls painted black, but left the keep alone.

Airship Hangar: a hangar designed to hold one of the black triremes.  The corner towers are topped with angular versions of onion domes with spikes protruding from them.  This is a feature I use quite a lot.

Hub Tower: another secret facility the chuyinka have at their disposal is the Hub, which is quite new.  Six cranes protrude from the tower, moving things between the many causeways below ground level and the platforms on the upper levels, connected to the upper research lab.  Like the airship hangar, this tower has an angular, bizarrely-decorated onion dome.

So, there you have it, for now.  I’ll post some better entries with more pictures in the near future, showing exactly what is so weird (not necessarily unique, but definitely unusual) about my buildings.


A Point About Funnels

Smokestacks on ships are called “funnels,” for those who don’t know.  During the early days of steamships, the number of funnels correlated directly to the number of boilers.  However, that didn’t remain the case for long.  Multiple exhaust flues could connect into a single funnel.  In fact, that quickly became standard design practise.  Show me a ship with thirty boilers… easy.  Show me a ship with thirty funnels… I won’t hold my breath.  I’ve never seen any ship with more than six.

River cruisers

On the left is the second of the river cruisers.  This one focuses more on offense and less on stealth.  I brought up the funnels because it is standard practise to build river cruisers with a single funnel, so that, from a distance, they resemble harmless ferries.  Up close, the mistake is unlikely to be made, but over a distance of a kilometre or so, through trees and thick fog, one might not know if the approaching steamship was just another cargo steamer or a deadly river cruiser.

So, what’s the logic behind multiple funnels?  Well, a more efficient exhaust system makes for a more efficient ship (more funnels, less coal burned, to a point).  The ram adds to that as well, which is why so many large ships have them.  In addition, there was no need to disguise ships deployed to the eastern border, only those that remained well within the mainland territory to fight rebel factions.

I plan to make one more river cruiser design before moving on the river dreadnoughts, of which there will be at least two.

River Cruisers

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts, mainland Sondor is more water than dirt.  There are so many waterways that it makes more sense to get around by boat than by any other means.  In addition, most towns are built as a network of crannogs or pole-buildings (think Venice).  Every building is something new for construction crews, so owning a building is absurdly expensive.  Most people live on their boats, and keep them moored close to where they work.  For centuries, the marsh kingdoms and river kingdoms did battle entirely on the water.  After the economic collapse following the War of Karadenian Succession, the islands of Nala and Toruck, as well as the coastal kingdoms, submitted to the Crown of Qells and the Sondorian Empire was born.  As time passed and the empire expanded inland, the ships evolved from river galleys and gun-barges to monitors, casemate ironclads, and eventually the famed river dreadnoughts.

I’m not making the river warships in any particular order, but this is the first I’ve done.

Sondor river cruiser 1 bowSondor river cruiser 1 stern

This is a river cruiser, the intermediate of her contemporaries (river monitors and river dreadnoughts) in terms of size.  The river cruiser is much smaller than an oceangoing cruiser; at 78 metres long, this particular example is actually smaller than the CSS Virginia.  That being said, river cruisers are nothing to scoff at in terms of firepower.  While other major powers largely abandoned the casemate ironclad in favour of ships with turrets, Sondor chose to keep this design and update it because it possessed several advantages in river combat.

Notice the small squares atop the raised platform in the middle.  These are viewports, very similar to the viewports one might see on a tank.  The Sondorians discovered very quickly, during the early days of ironclad warfare, that low-profile ships could slip past enemies on the banks, taking advantage of the hull-down position.  Obviously, the only thing that gives away the ship’s position is the funnel.  Such a low-profile ship can also unleash a devastating barrage while the enemy’s guard is down, then slip away during the confusion, especially at night.  Furthermore, the low profile and sloped armour makes the ship a rather frustrating target.

The casemate guns and turret guns are all the same calibre, 152mm in the case of this ship, which makes it unusually well-armed for a cruiser of the period.  However, the casemate guns are almost always howitzers, strictly for the purpose of firing relatively high-angled shots over the riverbanks.  The turret guns are proper cannons, and are capable of the necessary muzzle velocity for armour-piercing ammunition to do its job.  Smaller guns may also be mounted on the top decks, such as machine guns.  Many times, mantlets will be added to protect top deck gunners.  Most river cruisers are also equipped with a sturdy ram, to be used as a last resort.

During the ongoing war against Taressim, Sondor used the comparatively stealthy river monitors and river cruisers to strike hard and fast at enemy encampments wherever they could, while the towering river dreadnoughts acted as a blockade.  With so many large rivers in such close proximity, there was nowhere along Sondor’s eastern border that was not within the firing range of the dreadnoughts’ guns.  That being said, the river cruisers saw most of the action during the war, both against the Taressimians and against various factions of Sondorian rebels.  Along with the monitors, these ships were to Sondor what tanks were to the rest of the continent.

This model will be available in my Shapeways shop, as well as variations on it (round casemate, octagonal casemate, etc.) very soon.  The monitors and river dreadnoughts will follow.

A Point About Armoured Cruisers

The picture below shows the three ships I’ve made with a Tiamarda hull.

Tiamarda three ships

As you may have noticed, the one at the bottom is laid out as an armoured cruiser.  In my description of this ship, the Oermida, on the product page of my Shapeways shop, I refer to this ship as both an “armoured cruiser” and as a “heavy cruiser.”  Normally, these are two different types of ships, and in our own world, they are actually from two different time periods (the first armoured cruiser was launched in 1870, and the last was built in 1911, while the term “heavy cruiser” didn’t appear until 1930).  Within the Karadenian navy, however, the two terms are interchangeable.  The reason is that, after the launch of the Invictus, seventeen more hulls were allocated for the same class.  However, Emperor Plutus Milaius, who ordered this in the first place, changed his mind shortly before the ships were to be launched.  He came to the realisation that having eighteen “dreadnought-killers” would likely have invited hostility from countries with substantial navies.  Since Karaden was already struggling in an on-and-off war against Taressim, a land-locked country, Emperor Plutus decided that he would be better off with a navy that focused on defense, rather than offense.  Thus, twelve of the planned Invictus-class battleships were equipped with smaller guns and thinner armour on both the superstructure and belt.  The resulting ships qualified as armoured cruisers, however such ships already existed in the Karadenian navy: they were sailing steamers (like the Selsequenter), but were not built with Tiamarda hulls, and were lighter still.  Therefore, the Oermida and her sisters became known as the heavy cruisers, while the existing armoured cruisers became known as medium cruisers.

Around the rest of the continent, the term “heavy cruiser” was not used.  The vast majority of cruisers were either armoured cruisers or the lighter protected cruisers.  A few of them were large enough to qualify as battlecruisers, though most countries interested in such large vessels simply went the extra mile and built them as dreadnoughts.  There is one country where this gets even more confusing: Sondor.  Sondor has multiple classes of river warships, which are every bit as powerful as their oceangoing counterparts, but with hulls designed specifically for navigating the prolific waterways of the mainland.  These are the river monitors, river cruisers, and river dreadnoughts.  Yes, you read that last part correctly.  I bring this up because I will likely start work on the Sondorian river fleet next.

Too Much Gun for Such a Little Ship?

Tiamarda ships

Another Karadenian warship, specifically an Invictus-class battleship, sitting next to the Selsequenter.  The Invictus is a much more modern-looking design, but these two ships were contemporaries (and built from the exact same Tiamarda hull), and simply filled different roles.  Thanks to her sails, Selsequenter was faster, and she was armed with a large number of medium-sized guns, thus was optimised for sieges.  The Invictus-class, on the other hand, relied on additional boilers (hence the extra funnel) to power the two engines, and still could not match the Selsequenter for speed or range.

Just as, in past centuries, the Karadenians had used sixty-something-gun galleons to obliterate first-rate ships-of-the-line through the use of explosive shells, the Invictus-class battleships were used as dreadnought-killers, armed with four massive 380-mm (15-in) guns.  The main turrets were offset from centre, mainly to make more room to move around them both above and below decks.  This was unusual, but by no means unique.  In fact, the famous pre-dreadnought USS Maine had the same configuration, but with a much more pronounced offset, as did the HMS Inflexible and many Italian battleships of the same era.  However, among Rossberan navies, this is exclusively a Karadenian practise.  The offset turrets were not as much of a concern, of course, as the guns in them.  The Tiamarda hull lacks a keel (which is not unusual), and relies on a combination of the deep draught and low position of the ballast to remain stable.  However, there were concerns that the recoil from all four guns firing at once to the same side of the ship might cause it to list enough for water to pour into the open gunports (which is an awful lot, look at how high they are).  Thus, the magazines were loaded with half-charges, meaning that the canisters had to be modified and loaded in tandem in order to make use of the guns’ full power.

As for the Invictus herself (by the way, I must digress here – I do not always refer to ships as female, but rather as they would be within their respective navies, e.g. ships are neuter in Rhûn and Kantossa, just as they are in Russia), she struck a mine, and the resulting explosion blew off the forward main turret.  Were it not for the way that turrets are held in place on battleships (they’re not, by the way, they fall right off ships that capsize), the incident could have blown the entire ship apart.  The Karadenian navy balked at the prospect of repairing the ship, as the damage was quite extensive.  The Invictus spent the next ten months sitting in drydock before the navy figured out what to do with her.  Fortunately, they needed a salvage ship, and so the Invictus was repurposed.  In the very first book of The Nine Empires, which I have fully outlined and a few chapters written, one of my point-of-view characters, Agent Bedalia Crassus, is assigned to take the ship on a critical recovery mission.

Like the Selsequenter, the Invictus, both before and after her modifications, will be available in my Shapeways shop in the near future.



The Tiamarda Ironclad

I’ve been looking for drawings of the HMS Warrior, an armoured frigate built in 1860, as well as the French ships Valmy and Napoléon, but locating decent ones to work with hasn’t been easy.  So, in the mean time, I decided to design my own ironclad.

TiamardaTiamarda stern

This is the Karadenian battleship Selsequenter.  It is a shining example of a Tiamarda-type ironclad, so-named because of its hull.  The Tiamarda hull is a Bulmutian invention, and was the first purpose-built iron warship hull.  Prior to that, ironclads were all built as iron-plated wooden ships, or as larger, iron versions of conventional wooden designs.  By the time that Karaden adopted the design, however, the rest of the continent had already stopped building them, and phased out sails on military vessels entirely.  Of course, this was completely in line with Karadenian naval practise.  Speaking of sails, the reason that the main course is furled on this model is simply because of how rarely it is used; sails could catch fire if exposed to hot exhaust, and the main course is not needed unless the engines stop working.

Karaden was never known for being an innovator when it came to ship design.  However, they were the first major power to use explosives in war since Skhara.  At a time when the rest of the continent was switching over to large frigates, Karaden was still using smaller galleons, using the logic that a large magazine is not required if one or two explosive shells are sufficient to blow apart a wooden ship-of-the-line.  The trend continues to this day, so Karadenian ships tend to have very outdated designs.  However, thanks to some of the best explosive shells available, Karadenian warships are nothing to scoff at.

The Selsequenter is armed with 120 guns: 2 180-lb breach-loaders (fore and aft turrets), 28 110-lb breach-loaders on the decks, and 90 “casemate guns,” which were originally 68-lb muzzle-loaders, but have been switched out with 270-lb naval howitzers.  The model depicted here is a full-hull model, but I will be offering a waterline model in my Shapeways shop, once I have it validated.

From Minkut to Sondor

This is going to be a long one, so grab a drink and make yourself comfortable.  I’m afraid that the TL;DR version of the information below would not be that helpful in understanding the origin of some of the Nine Empires.  See, the events over several centuries are quite interconnected.  So, if you don’t like reading fictional history, turn back now, because reading only part of this will raise more questions that it answers.

One of the first empires on Rossbera was Minkut (Min-kut, as there is no mink in the country).  It included all of the modern-day Karadenian Empire, and also stretched as far north as the Vastochniszbrje (from the Slavic word for “east” and the Skharan word for “desert”), a cold desert in what is now eastern Drachania.  Minkut also stretched very far in-land, as the Kraichis Desert (the larger of the two hot deserts on Rossbera) was not quite as large during the Rossberan Bronze Age.  The capital of Minkut was the fabled mountain-city of Sing-Yat-San, so-dubbed because the entire city covered a lone mountain at the edge of the desert (at the time, the ruins of the city are currently well inside the desert).  The mountain springs continued to provide ample water even when the desert grew during the Iron Age.  The wealth of Sing-Yat-San, in the form of gold, silks, dyes, and spices, flowed throughout the Minkutian lands and beyond, south to the Koltoskis Empire (which eventually became part of Arcadia), and farther south still to the city-states of Arcadis, Pharos, and Maledirna, and all the way to Talgea on the west coast.  The northernmost regions of Minkut were sparse border colonies in a wild land, and relied mostly on trade.  The colonists could get food on their own, but the land yielded nothing of value, especially once the colonists reached the Vastochniszbrje.  That cold desert would be the undoing of the entire Minkutian Empire, though not directly.

The colonists travelled around the desert, through the huge, old-growth forest on the west side, and along the coast on the east side.  In both cases, at the borders of Karmisha, the mountain kingdom in the forest, and in the many coastal towns, the natives warned the Minkutians not to go any farther north, for a dark terror dwelled in those lands and preyed upon anyone who had anything of value.  The civilised Minkutians believed that such barbaric primitves would pose no threat to them.  Little did they know that the “terror” to the north was quite advanced, and in fact saw the Minkutian colonists as primitive.

Around the same time that the Minkutian Empire first came to be, a loose conglomerate of northern tribes called Durkuz flourished under the guidance of the chuyinka.  In such ancient times, the chuyinka were worshipped as gods, but the situation in Durkuz was unique.  Since chuyinka tend to be the most active (and most aggressive) in colder climates, the religious leaders of Durkuz went to great lengths to assure that they would be met in peace when they most needed guidance.  This meant providing an adequate sacrifice prior to approaching the sanctum of Derekaz.  Thus, sinners were stripped of their clothes and marked with the symbol of their tribe on their chest, and the glyph of their sin on their back, both in the blood of a goat.  Sinners were then marched into the depths of the Blackwood, in numbers no less than the number of chuyinka voices the priests happened to hear that week.  The numbers were to assure that no chuyinka would go hungry, otherwise the priests themselves would end up being eaten.  Horrid though this may seem, it kept the peace for several centuries.  Unfortunately, Clan Ferestek ruined this all by implementing their own system of laws, growing powerful, and eventually taking over all of Durkuz.  The cooling climate shortened the growing season, and food became scarce quite quickly, leading to the clan wars.  After Ferestek’s victory in the clan wars, they decided to attack Derekaz itself.  This attack ended in disaster, with the chuyinka tearing apart their forces.  The remainder of Ferestek’s army retreated to Motte Holgar, where they thought they were safe, only to be surprised by an army under Clan Skharnov.  The Skharnovs burned the wooden walls to the ground, and stormed the island in boats.  Though the ensuing battle cost both sides their armies, it kept Clan Ferestek busy long enough for the chuyinka to swoop in and finish them off.  Thus ended the days of Durkuz.

Upon the destruction of Clan Ferestek, Clan Skharnov was rewarded with Motte Holgar, and under the direction of the chuyinka, a great star-fort of reinforced concrete was built over the ruins of the old motte-and-bailey.  The chuyinka decided that a strict hierarchy needed to be implemented, otherwise upstart clans such as Ferestek would rise again and disturb the peace.  Therefore, it was agreed that only druorns (which the Skharnovs were, but the Feresteks were not) would be allowed to own land, reside permanently in fortified dwellings, and collect “any amount of trading token greater than what is required to obtain basic necessities.”  “Trading token,” was the closest phrase in Kiralessan to the word “money,” which the chuyinka do not believe in.  With many clans, druorn and otherwise, scattered to the wind, the lands once of Durkuz basically consisted of large expanses punctuated by isolated clusters of houses inside wooden holdfasts.  Under the orders of House Skharnov, holdfasts of druorns were to be built up into concrete star-forts, of similar design to Castle Holgar.  Naturally, with the Skharnovs travelling far and wide, helping out fellow druorns while beating other races into the dirt, wars began to rage again.  Since all the armies had been wiped out during Ferestek’s insurrection, the scale of these wars was quite small, but the time was greatly increased.  For the next two centuries, the Skharnovs played cat-and-mouse with their enemies, who would lead them on, go into hiding, then come out again to raid loyalist villages and tear down their incomplete fortifications.  Much of old Durkuz was lost, as the druorns occupied a fairly small area.  When the Skharnovs finally ended their campaign, the new nation became known as Skhara.

Skhara was an advanced society, in some ways more so than Minkut by the time the two encountered each other.  For one, the Skharans had concrete, though that was never relevent in the case of the Minkutians, who never had a chance to attack any Skharan castles.  The people of Karmisha knew of Skhara, though the Skharans never raided in the area, much less did they attack any Karmishan border forts.  Not far from Karmisha’s border was a conglomeration of iron mines and mining towns, all under Skhara’s control.  The Rhûnnish Empire eventually took over the area, and named it Zhelezograd (“Iron City”).  On the coast, not far from Kharnopol, the northernmost Minkutian colony, was Renissa, the southernmost Skharan city.  With the Minkutian colonists having not heeded the warnings of the locals, it was only a matter of time before the Skharans learned of a wealthy land to the south of their own, ripe for the taking.

The people of Minkut were totally unprepared for an attack from the north, by land and sea.  The northern area of Minkut fell quickly, and the surviving Minkutians were forced to both build and pull oars on galleys.  Huge numbers of slave galleys smashed against Minkutian warships in the bay to the south, clearing the way for Skharan warships to deliver troops completely unopposed.  Troops in central Minkut were not accustomed to fighting actual armies, and were scattered to the wind by a much smaller Skharan force.  Central Minkut was quickly overrun, and the Skharan forces yet again used slave galleys to cross the bay to southern Minkut.  When the Skharans themselves landed, the Minkutians pulled back from the western border, leaving it to bandits, while they all retreated to their last main fortress.  Southern troops were accustomed to protracted sieges, and eventually defeated the Skharan forces at the fortified city that would later become known as Hero’s Hall.  However, the devastation was so widespread that Minkut never recovered.  Skhara had suffered a heavy blow, but kept dominion over the north for the time being.  Having lost half their soldiers, the Skharan nobles had to contend with quite a few uprisings, but their actual downfall would take another two centuries.

Part of what drew Skhara to attack Minkut was the promise of riches within the fabled city of Sing-Yat-San.  Sadly, the economic loss to Skhara was devastating, and in spite of the massive amounts of gold that they plundered from the city, the losses they suffered seizing it simply could not be repaid with any amount of money.  To make matters worse, this was before Skharan forces had even crossed the second bay to attack southern Minkut.  When it was all said and done, there were not enough ships to carry all the plunder back to Skhara, much less men to crew the ships.  Not wanting to simply leave it for someone else to take, many ships were deliberately overloaded and sent to drift out into the open ocean.  Once far enough from land, the raging storms would claim the ships, and the treasure would never be seen again.  Meanwhile, the Skharan forces returned home with an empty victory.  If anything was to be gained, it was that word would spread far and wide that the great kingdom of Minkut fell to this savage force from a land that, aside from the Minkutians themselves, southerners believed to be beyond the world’s end.

The destruction of Minkut inspired King Druck of Marbregg to build a great wall to close off the only mountain pass in his kingdom.  Since the pass was at a fairly high altitude, he and most of his subjects assumed that all land north of the pass was shrouded in a never-ending winter.  Even in modern times, this can be forgiven, since there is a vast plateau that stretches all the way to the horizon, even from the top of Druck’s Wall.  The Skharans never once reached the wall during Druck’s lifetime, and since his subjects, noble and common alike, were tired of his fear-mongering, they decided to dismantle the wall and use the construction materials for other things.  Once an opening appeared at ground level, however, a small northern tribe approached the wall, begging for asylum south.  Word had spread like wildfire of the Skharan raids westward from their own territory, particularly because of a new battle-cry they had adopted (“who owns the north”).  Marbregg took in many refugees, but only on the condition that they help re-build the wall and defend it against Skhara.  It was not until the reign of Druck’s great-grandson that the Skharans finally did attack the wall, which they did only because the chuyinka told them to.  Reya Bloodwing, who would eventually become the mother of Veya Blackwing, saw the destruction of the wall, and of Marbregg, as necessary to keep the northern and southern halves of Rossbera divided.  Future generations would see the ruins of the wall, hear tales of the savages who came from the north and brought death, only to vanish back into the north.  Reya knew that nothing else would seal the fear of the north in the southerners, and told the Skharnovs such.  Skharan forces attacked Druck’s Wall, tore down the weak centre, then stormed the towers on either side, allowing the main force to pour through the pass and lay waste to Marbregg.

The ruins of Druck’s Wall survived the centuries, and eventually became the foundations for a wall that Taressim built on its northern border to defend against Drachania.  However, the propaganda artists changed the story, fabricating a war hero named General Druck who fought off the Drachanians while building this wall from scratch, never mind that no-one named Druck had been alive for centuries by the time that Drachania even existed.

As time passed since the destruction of Minkut, the Skharnovs became much more distant from the chuyinka, preferring to avoid Derekaz as much as possible.  Though the chuyinka reached out from time to time, they could see that Skhara was regressing, falling back on raiding and abandoning nearly all other methods of supporting the economy.  Even bartering was abandoned, as markets became the sites of frequent brawls that would escalate into blood feuds over things as mundane as the price of fruit.  When a druorn of House Barinyev killed a lavkin serf owned by House Permetan for no apparent reason other than amusement, it nearly resulted in civil war.  The only thing that kept the peace was the Skharnovs’ intervention – by lobbing casks filled with dark fire over the walls of the Barinyev and Permetan castles, incinerating everyone within.  And so, two noble houses of Skhara died because somebody had to try out his sword on a peasant.  Within the ruins of the two castles, a rebellion began to brew.  Small bands of votrels gathered what wayward lavkins they could, and began training a small army in the art of siege, for the purpose of overthrowing the druorns.  It took another two generations before the plan was finally executed, one by one, the castles were destroyed, with Holgar being saved for last.  Shortly after the downfall of House Skharnov, a great plague spread from within the fortress, purging the Blackwood of all civilised life (and all animal life, for a time), as well as severely affecting the other regions of Skhara.  The coastal lords that took control after the fall of Holgar did not last long before the plague consumed them as well.  In the end, Skhara disappeared, the coastal cities became largely democratic and formed a league known as Kantossa, and Alexandra Skharnova, the only remaining member of House Skharnov, fled so far west that no-one could possibly know her name, much less the wickedness attached to it.

While Alexandra Skharnova was busy sacking tsardoms in the northwest and building her own empire, people from all over the south began migrating into the Minkutian lands.  The regions with the predominantly Minkutian population formed the Karadenian Empire, under the rule of an exiled Arcadian prince, Luminius Kaesus, known as Luminius the Bright, or simply, “The Bright Light of Karaden.”  Though Rossberan historians typically paint Alexandra as a brutal conqueror and Luminius as a peaceful nation-builder, the two were actually a bit of both, each bringing the philosophy of an advanced yet lost society to a group of comparitively primitive people.  Sometimes the people accepted it, and sometimes they resisted.  Whatever the case, both Alexandra and Luminius achieved similar results.

Since I’ve already written a lot about Rhûn, I’ll save the story of Alexandra’s Conquest for another day.  For now, let’s skip ahead 400 cycles to the War of Karadenian Succession.  In my post about the continent of Rossbera itself, I mention that, were it not for this war, the Sondorian Empire would not even exist.  This is because, at the time, wars were like horse races.  Noble families would effectively bet on the outcome of the wars by pouring resources into supporting one side or another, while not officially allying themselves with one cause or another (this kept the nations themselves neutral in the conflict, and allowed two noble families from the same country to bet on opposing factions).  Some families lost everything, and some gained enormous wealth from the practise.  When the War of Karadenian Succession began, all bets were on the houses of Argeas and Rontus, yet there was a third contender.  Against all odds, House Milaius ended up winning the war, which benefitted no-one.

The outcome of the war was yet more consolidation of power.  A number of Arcadian houses went bankrupt.  The Pristen Dynasty had failed to keep things together, and sold a huge amount of territory to Karaden in order to cut some of their vassals’ losses.  However, the various steward families in the capital region saw the issue as poorly handled, and exiled the Imperial Family.  They then “drew straws” to see who would get to rule next, and that ultimately fell to House Rodilos.  However, after a three-year investigation into the activities of a number of other noble families, so many of them were sent into exile that Rodilos ended up with only one steward house, Draes.  During all of this, the Republic of Breace broke away, and enlisted the help of the Kantossi merchant fleet to build up defenses and keep the meagre Arcadian forces from taking back the territory.

Meanwhile in the west, many kingdoms in the marshlands went bankrupt.  Each of the Sondorian Isles; from south to north, Nala, Qells, Toruck and Baigal; was an independent kingdom, at least until the Rhûnnish Empire took Baigal.  The marsh kingdoms were also independent, but when the war was finished, their economies all collapsed.  Only Qells was still in decent shape, and quickly annexed the other isles.  The isles joined without resistance, but the mainland militias fought fiercely.  With the royal families having all gone bankrupt in the marshes, there was no organised military to keep the Sondorian Empire at bay (literally).  The only thing slowing down the imperial invaders was the land itself.  Mainland Sondor is a nice place, if you’re a duck.  In never stops raining and there is very little solid ground.  Even less of that ground can be built on.  When the marsh kingdoms had gone to war with each other, they did so entirely with boats.  Some of these boats were the size of warships used on the open water.  Imperial forces used the same tactic to push farther inland and carve out the territory that Sondor has today.  Around the same time that the conquest of the mainland was finished, the War of Rhûnnish Succession began.  Sondor took this opportunity to seize the southern half of Baigal, which the Rhûnnish Empire had largely abandoned by this point.  The idea was to create a buffer zone if Rhûn ever decided to invade Sondor.  Of course, this never happened.

So, there you have it, the origins of three more of the Nine Empires.  I’m done with writing about lore for now.  My next post will most likely be about the warships that these empires use.

The War of Rhûnnish Succession, Part 2

I didn’t name my previous post on this subject “Part 1,” but that’s mainly because I thought “that was that.”  I have since decided that this next conflict is essentially a continuation, much as some history buffs (though not actual historians) insist that World War II is a continuation of World War I.  Then again, come cynics like to say that “peace is merely that brief period between wars when both sides are busy re-arming.”

There have many attempts since its split to revive the Rhûnnish Empire.  In fact, that is part of the plot of The Nine Empires to begin with.  The first attempt, in fact, took place shortly after the mighty empire initially split in half.  Upon Fëdor Karamazov’s death, he was survived by his third wife, the tsarina, and three sons, all from different wives.  In his will, he left the throne to his middle surviving son, Ivan.  However, his widow had been grooming his youngest surviving son, Alexei, to inherit the throne.  Meanwhile, his eldest son, Dmitri, assumed that he would get the throne the whole time.  No-one saw Dmitri as fit to rule, not even his own father, who was not a particularly good ruler himself.  Nonetheless, he managed to get the support of Sergei Dondarovski, who became patriarch of the family after Boris’s death.

Every noble house had ulterior motives for supporting one of the half-brothers Karamazov.  The Dondarovskis believed that they could easily wrest power from Dmitri, were he to win the Crystal Throne.  Since the tsarina was of noble blood, unlike the mothers of the other two half-brothers, her claim was taken most seriously.  Ivan, meanwhile, fled to Fell Springs and began gathering an army.  Most of the noble houses believed that he was already out of the picture.  Meanwhile, Arkady Annastashchenko decided that he could once again seize power from the up-jumped Karamazov family.

Nikolai Votavko’s daughter, Empress Anastasia, proposed to marry Alexei Karamazov and re-unite the Rhûnnish Empire.  However, the tsarina did not trust her, and kept delaying her response.  After the third letter came to the White Keep, Alexei finally found out, and agreed to the match, but his mother told him that her mind was not yet made up.  Furthermore, she argued that a formal alliance was no longer needed, since Drachanian forces had already been sent to their aid and solidly stopped the Annastashchenkos’ advance toward Skharnograd.

Following the major setback that he suffered because of Alexei Karamazov, Arkady Annastashchenko finally swallowed his pride and contacted Ivan, proposing to join the loyalists.  Ivan agreed, but told his commanders to keep the two armies as far away from each other as possible.  Ivan knew that he could not trust his new ally, and needed to secure a trustworthy one as soon as possible.  He immediately thought of the dwarves, though he knew that his father’s will meant nothing to King Tuhur.  Therefore, Ivan Karamazov would have to be victorious in battle first.  He had his opportunity when he learned that Arkady Annastashchenko had already betrayed him and sent his daughter, Arzhafena, to Skharnograd to propose marriage to Alexei.  Ivan’s forces descended upon the party and slaughtered them all, then sent their heads to Trenatia, with a warning that treason would not go unpunished under his rule.  Word of the brutal deed travelled far, and the dwarves soon joined forces with Ivan Karamazov.

Seeing that Ivan was the real threat, rather than Dmitri or even Empress Anastasia Votavko, the tsarina sent her son with a massive army to crush the loyalist forces and dwarven legions.  After that, they were to continue south and deal with the troublesome Arkady Annastashchenko, who seemed to be throwing alliance proposals around as if he were playing darts while blindfolded.  Drachanian forces moved toward Trenatia as well, though Empress Anastasia’s orders simply were to sack the city and dispose of “those treasonous, yellow-haired shitheads.”  The plan changed, however, after Alexei was killed in battle and his forces lost to the loyalists, who then turned north.

Empress Anastasia visited the tsarina on her deathbed, declaring that it was her own damned fault that her son was killed, and that she should have agreed to the wedding much sooner.  Not taking kindly to the Empress’s discourteous behaviour, the palace guards seized her.  They decided to hold her hostage and keep the tsarina’s death a secret until they could agree on another claimant.  Knowing what they did about Dmitri Karamazov, they proposed that the Empress marry him instead.  On the positive side, he was already on his way to the capital.  On the negative, he had a Dondarovski army with him, and they might not agree to this arrangement.  Even worse, Ivan Karamazov was also closing in, and it seemed unlikely that the capital would stand long enough for the Annastashchenkos to attack him from behind.  As it so happened, Dmitri got there first, and Sergei Dondarovski conspired with Empress Anastasia to wed the two, kill Dmitri, and then wed her himself.  Thus both houses would get the Crystal Throne and the Rhûnnish Empire would be re-united.  However, ambitious though she was, Empress Anastasia had the sense to flee once Ivan Karamazov attacked.  She knew, from his brutal treatment of House Annastashchenko, that he would not agree to an alliance with her.  She returned to Krivs, and ordered all of her forces to return home.

During the final showdown, the Battle of Skharnograd, Ivan’s forces laid siege to the city, the Dondarovskis brought in reinforcements to outflank them, which were quickly intercepted by the advancing Annastashchenko army.  Though the dwarves were already with Ivan’s forces, King Tuhur sent yet more reinforcements.  The Dondarovskis, Annastashchenkos, and dwarves continued fighting outside the city, even once Ivan’s forces had prevailed and taken the Skharnograd Kremlin.  Fearing execution, Dmitri agreed to go into exile, and the war ended.  Though Arkady Annastashchenko had been served humble pie thrice since Ildar Skharnov’s death, his house still did not accept the rule of “might makes right,” and made a number of attempts to usurp the throne over the next three centuries.  Their reasoning was the silly sentiment that they were once monarchs themselves, while both the Karamazovs and Dondarovskis were mere kulaks that been up-jumped far above their station by the Skharnovs.

My next few posts will be on the subject of Rossberan politics and wars as well, though in an earlier period, and outside of Rhûn.  Hopefully I will be able to provide a background on each of the Nine Empires before going into detail about the oddities of daily life and all the interesting technology that they use.  In other words, it will be some time before I introduce more models.

History Repeats Itself, and There is NOTHING Anyone Can Do About It

Well, here I go, yet another obscure post riding on that blur between fantasy and reality in my mind.  This all starts with the lore of the Nine Empires, going back to much earlier Varanganskan history, before the chuyinka were even created.  Now that I think about it, I’ve used that term twice on this blog already, but unless you’ve read the full description of my Shapeways shop, you probably don’t know what “chuyinka” even means.  I’ll get to that later.  But first, a bit about ancient Varanganskan history.  I have several slightly different versions of this in my notes, as I’ve made changes every time I write it down for different purposes.  This is a brief version, from memory, not copied and pasted.

The elves did not have the first known civilisation, but the third.  It was through their archaeology that we know of the existence of earlier civilisations, namely the skeridians (cephalopods) and occludites (insects), each of whom left a written language behind that has yet to be deciphered.  In fact, occludite structures were so well-built that the elves were able to study and duplicate the architecture, though the occludites themselves had been extinct for untold centuries.  It has been argued that the elves were responsible for bringing civilisations to the other races, such as the dwarves and pectopods (a modern name for the common ancestor of lavkins, votrels, and druorns).

Break for a moment.  This sounds rather like it came out of The Silmarillion, doesn’t it?  Don’t worry, I don’t rely too much on Tolkien-esque literary clichés.  In fact, if you read on, you’ll notice that I’m actually drawing inspiration from one of Tolkien’s own sources, namely Norse mythology.

Civilisation thrived under the guidance of the elves, though not without conflict.  The exact course it took is unknown, but it is widely suspected that even the elves suffered at least one major collapse, given that they eventually split into the light elves and dark elves.  “Light” and “dark” in this context refer more to culture than anything else, with each race taking a fanatical approach to a different aspects of traditional elven teachings.  Specifically, the light elves became pondering pacifists, and the dark elves became brutish warmongers.  How the dark elves came to dominate the planet, no-one is quite sure, but it is suspected that other races placing too much faith in the idea of “peace and tolerance” that the light elves pushed with such zeal was the cause.

Does this sound familiar?  Like, to anyone unfortunate enough to live in Western Europe right about now?  Keep reading, it gets even better…

The technologically advanced civilisation, responsible for colonising the readily habitable Prime Moon and setting the New Global Varanganskan Calendar to Year 0 – Month 0 in honour of the event, had slowly been consumed.  Were it not for such an emphasis on sustainability in its beginning, the lunar colonists would have perished, as they became cut off from the homeworld.  Today, their descendents flourish, as Bulmutian astronomers noticed as early as the waning days of the Rhûnnish Empire.  At the time, such observations were shrugged off as nonsense, but after the empire split, the dwarves made a gift of a great telescope to be placed on top of the central tower of Tendlund Grand Castle.  Observations through the great telescope vindicated the supposedly crazy notion that people lived on the Prime Moon.  What struggles they went through, we know very little.  But on our homeworld, we do know that the world endured some dark times.  One tyranny gave way to another, when the dark elves invaded Svench.  The people of Svench had been genetically engineering themselves for generations, and made formidable adversaries.  It is said that the hordes of dark elves bearing down on the small nation was like pouring petrol on a fire.  As they fought to the last, each warrior of Svench stood atop a pile of a hundred dark elf corpses.  For such brutal resistence, the people paid with their lives, all save seven genetic engineers in an isolated lab.  They alone escaped the slaughter, and spent the next few years cultivating the instrument of their vengeance.  They unleashed sixteen of these creatures upon the world, each one capable of slaughtering a thousand dark elves with little effort.  The creatures slew, feasted, and bred.  Before long, 16 became 16 000, and the elves, both light and dark, became nothing more than meals and bad memories.  These creatures, the chuyinka, became the new masters of Varanganska – at least until climate change almost wiped them out.

This is not the first instance of climate change or some other grand yet strangely unimpressive event affecting the lore of my fictional world.  Likewise, there have been many such collapses of civilisation in Earth’s history, and we may be faced with yet another one soon.  But don’t despair!  Life goes on, and in the grand scheme of things, this will proably be just another bump in the road, not the end of the world, as some fear.  See, I came up with this lore long before I started paying attention to the sorry state that western civilisation is currently in.  I have come to realise that this sort of strife is inevitable.  There have been two collapses of western civilisation already.  That’s right, not one (480 AD), but two.  The other one was in 1177 BC.  I can’t say exactly what caused it, as I haven’t finished the book yet, but I wanted to post my thoughts on this subject while they are still fresh in my mind.  The book I’m speaking of is 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.  I haven’t gotten very far in it yet, but I have already noticed that the situation of cultures meeting, mixing, and clashing, all in the pursuit of greater wealth, seems to have been the same in the Bronze Age as today.  Speaking of which, the book mentions that the British used the exact same strategy during the Battle of Megiddo in World War I that the Egyptians had used over 3000 years earlier – deliberately.  I wonder what other deliberate duplications of history I will find as I keep reading.  That is the reason for my title.

As far as the Nine Empires are concerned, the continuously looming threat is not multiculturalism run amok, but the consolidation of power.  When too few people have too much power, stability hangs by a thread.  For the ancient Mongols, that was just a way of life.  But when nine mighty empires are abutting each other on the same continent, with nowhere left to expand (save into the middle of a desert), no external threats, and no internal conflicts to resolve, what do you think happens when the bloke in charge decides to play with steel toys that go “boom?”  Another catastrophic war, another collapse, society rebuilds, and the cycle begins again.  And you know what?  Those who know how power was consolidated in the past are the ones who are most likely to be successful with their own empires.  See, history repeats itself, whether people study it or not!

The Perfect Society?

Recall my god-awful post titled “Nuclear Winter is Coming – Beware of Radioactive Wolves?”  No?  Good, because it was god-awful, and I really should not have left the decision of whether or not to post it up to a bloody coin toss.  Oh well, I’m not one to pretend that I never make mistakes, so up it stays… at least until I figure out what my point was supposed be and find a better way of getting it across.  Anyway, this post might help.

See, part of the premise of The Nine Empires is the ever-present desire to create a perfect society.  Of course, reasonable people all know that there is no such thing as a perfect society.  Fair is unfair, and unfair is fair, because people are not all the same.  Equality is a cute idea, but it’s simply not true.  Karl Marx did not understand people, and that’s why communism doesn’t work.  Had he known a bit more about human psychology, then perhaps his system would have worked better.  Then again, it doesn’t help that the politicians who implemented the system did lousy jobs of it every single time.

I will say it again: there can be no such thing as a perfect society.  There is an entire sub-genre of science fiction dedicated to that very idea, and is responsible for the term “dystopia.”  The story of the Nine Empires does not take place in any semblence of a perfect society, rather the plot is that there are rival factions all trying to create one, republicans, capitalists, communists, imperialists, and… something else entirely.  It is the last one I intend to discuss here, and perhaps I’ll come up with a name for it along the way.

“We are working toward a lassez-faire type of government, but not one so free that new political parties can form and rise to power.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and those who create policy must reflect that.  The populus will not be given a choice of representatives, but of courses of action.  That being said, the populus cannot be allowed to have full control over everything, lest society turn into the self-destructive direct democracy.  We have tried this before, and it does not work.  Voting must also be limited: a citizen may not vote outside of their area of interest.  One who travels the country and whose life is affected by the policies of multiple jurisdictions may vote on matters pertaining to all those areas, but those who never leave their hometown may not vote on issues larger than that town.  National policies will be tailored such that they affect small towns minimally, for that very reason.”

“Furthermore, there can be no economic motivation for the making of policy.  Those at the highest level of government must have no ulterior motive for accepting such power.  Recognition will be granted for such service, certainly, as the populus deserves to know who leads and serves them, but there can be no material payment.  The motive to accept such positions much be purely the benefit of society.”

“Regarding material rewards for labour, we fully intend to abolish money.  We have lived without it for our entire history, and have had no cause to fight amongst ourselves.  Yet money is such an integral part of the mammals’ existing society that it must be replaced with something.  Fortunately, the mammals have invented the stock market, which shall be the measure of a material’s value.  No longer do we need a universal trading token to be exchanged in addition to the traded goods themselves.  Furthermore, basic necessities shall be rationed according to one’s social contributions.  Those who perform the same menial tasks day in and day out will have a fixed income of food, clothing, and soap.  Those who craft unique items for their customers will be able to obtain such items themselves.  Those who provide society with a lasting commodity, such as a new industrial process or scientific breakthrough, shall have whatever they deem necessary in order to live a lifetime of such great service; stagnation will not be permitted.”

“All technical education will be completely free, and individuals will be able to choose any trade that they desire.  However, we will strongly recommend paths for each and every citizen from an early age, and attempt to place them optimally within society.  Those with a wider range of talents should have every right to choose which talent(s) they use for the benefit of society.  Meanwhile, all philosophical education will require a period of public service afterward, as an application of the principles that such philosophy might teach.”

“Those who disrupt society in irreperable ways (e.g. murder, destruction of historical artefacts) do not deserve resources wasted on them.  We shall simply toss them into the wilderness.  Live or die, they are removed from society.  Those found guilty of lesser crimes will pay with a service period of unskilled labour in a job where there is little interest, such as cleaning sewers.  Those found guilty of sexual crimes will be subject to total genital removal, including internal reproductive organs, and set free.  How their own community treats them afterward is not the government’s concern, unless murder is involved.”

“Citizens should be able to defend themselves, as well as some martial arts background in order to call upon should we need to draft them.  Therefore, any citizen can own any weapon that they can afford and are properly trained to use, assuming that a single person can operate it.  A tank, for instance, must be collectively owned by the appropriate crew, as no single person can operate most tanks.  The same applies to warships: the ship is property of its crew, not of any one person, let alone the captain.”

There a few sumptuary laws as well, mainly as backlash against certain absurd fashion trends.  “The wearing of feathers over 6cm in length is prohibited, save in the context of historical reenactment.  It is also punishable by death to pull the feathers from the head of a chuyinka: they are not adorments, they are actually growing from the scalp, forceful removal is extremely painful, and they don’t always grow back.  Finally, in the wake of the recent revival of ‘tights’ or similar garments worn as everyday trousers, and the controversy surrounding them, all citizens must wear some sort of skirted garment, be it a long shirt, coat, or actual skirt, that descends to mid-thigh, at the highest, and loose enough so as not to impede motion of the legs in any way.”

Aside from the last two paragraphs, this probably seems quite reasonable.  The whole reason I added those last two peculiar ones in is, again, because this is my story, a window into my twisted mind, and not only do I like weapons (and I’ve been trained to use them), but the whole premise of the “red carpet” fashion industry bugs me to no end; then again, the whole concept of “celebrity” in and of itself, is lost on me.  There is more to this whole thing, of course, but a nation’s legal code is not a “set it and forget it” type of thing, it must change over time, to account for different technologies and social trends that emerge.