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Atlantis-esque Expansion?

Discussion in 'Archipelago Archive' started by Devor, Oct 24, 2011.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I haven't yet had time to read through a lot of what's already compiled, so I hope you'll forgive me if I'm too far offbase.

    I understand all the islands are accounted for with a moderator, and also that the moderator is only organizing the contributions, not building the whole island themselves. But I was wondering if there would be room for an idea to expand on the Archipelago in a way that was out of left-field.

    The most obvious example would be an Atlantis-type underwater city, and another might be a civilization built on something akin to a giant oil platform. Another might be a vanishing nation on the back of a giant Lion Turtle (if you get the obvious references), or roaming pirates who don't call any specific island their home. I'd love to spit out ideas for any of these options, especially after I've read more of what's already here, but I'd like to know what people are interested in before I info-dump and have them rejected.

    Also when I started the post I had only thought of the underwater city, so just posting this helps my own brainstorming process. Now I'm thinking about evil pirates who control the world's only oil platform, which is also where they build large submersible dens on the backs of trained giant sea turtle ships and use their booty to conduct warfare on the underwater merpeople. So thanks for that.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2011
  2. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Well, I think I can confidently say that we aren't going to to with that last one, at least. ;)

    As for the others–taking them individually, that is–who knows? I'm more interested in seeing development of the existing lands at the moment: we seem to have hit a slow spot. (If you're wondering why my contributions are limited, you obviously haven't looked at the other shared-world subforum.…) But there's also no reason many of those ideas couldn't be fitted into what we already have… there's no reason there can't be a "pirate culture" lurking about on one of the existing islands (in point of fact, there already has been at least one mentioned, and approximately positioned); there could be "micro-islands" sitting off the shores of the mapped ones (which would approximate the "oil-platform" idea); there could be "islands" that existed only as a few jagged rocks except during low tide; cavern bases that are only accessible at low tide; et cetera.

    You could easily enough develop a "culture" of pirates, freebooters, marginal traders, etc. that operates from numerous minor bases on several islands, the majority of whom spend most of their time on the water, moving about from place to place, rather than in a fixed location; they might also have some version of "floating cities," at least temporarily when large numbers of them come together. (Think Waterworld. No, on second thought, don't: nobody should have to think that. But you get the idea.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm of course just trying to get an idea of how, well, "random" or "creative" a contribution could be, and whether there is open space for building a community that isn't firmly attached to one of the existing island nations. I don't even think Pirates would really be my first choice, but I was trying to think of something that was sea based.

    What about a small city of people who lived inside a mountain, which as you've suggested can only be accessed at low tide. Inside the mountain they are capable of secretly producing a rare alchemical mineral which... (TBD). They produce and trade this mineral across the archipelago, in ships which constantly change flags and might behave as elusively as pirates to keep the location of their city a secret?

    There could be a number of intricacies to how these people live. For instance, to let in light they've drilled through the top of the mountain like a volcano, and because they can only grow a limited number of crops, they have to develop better ways to store food - in fact, perhaps the rare mineral they produce is simply that, an item which can be used instead of salt to preserve food.

    Again, to be clear I'm just trying to get a feel for what might fly.
     
  4. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Well, since what you're describing already sounds like a mix of ideas two other people have said they're working on, I can't see how the main part at least would be too far out there. (In fact, it's already somewhat better thought out than at least one of those others.)

    We're largely agreed that we don't want to get too "fantastic," especially where magic is concerned, since that's difficult to keep under control. Things that could happen, allowing for minor changes in the makeup of the universe, are fine–or perhaps even some major ones, though it would probably depend on what you define as "major." The alchemical compound, for instance: if we're talking something that wasn't familiar to pre-technological Earth society, no big deal… aluminum, for instance. If we're talking something that involves elements not found on the periodic table, but which otherwise behaves in ways that can reasonably be predicted from familiar physics and chemistry, I see no problem: a unique isotope of aluminum that is so strongly resistant to oxidation that it exists in metallic form in nature and doesn't require massive amounts of electricity to separate from its oxide. (We tend to think of aluminum as rust-resistant, but that's the reason it came along so late in history: a pre-industrial society wouldn't stand a chance of discovering it accidentally, let alone extracting it profitably.) If we're talking about something that's harder than diamond, has greater tensile strength than steel, weighs less than lithium ,is malleable enough you can make sails out of it, is a perfect electrical capacitor and heat insulator, and is only found in one place (right next to the special breed of balsa wood that happens to be the only thing that can actually shape it–and at room temperature, to boot)… maybe not so much.

    I'm more the sort of person to burst other people's bubbles when they start getting too far out there, or at least to tell them when they're doing things that are totally unnecessary or unmotivated, than I am the sort who could tell you what might be possible. For instance, the first thing I thought of when I read your last post was "How did they even figure out this stuff could be used instead of salt to preserve food? They live next to the sea!" Well, actually, that was the second thing. The first thing was that it takes a lot more than reflagging ships for pirates–or anyone else on the high seas–to be "elusive." And the third was that there's no reason for them to have to drill holes in a volcano when you could more easily just put them inside the caldera of a long-dead one.

    On the other hand, I'm also the person who figured out how to steal one of our planet's moons, so.… ;)

    That help any?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Okay. Like I tried to say before that was more of a mockup than a real thought-out proposal. Top-of-my-head, five minutes to type kinda thing. If the idea seems okay I'll put together a post that's more flushed out.

    Could you point me to the two similar ideas you mentioned? I've looked around the forum but haven't gone too deeply into many of the threads.
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Okay, here's a brief but more concrete writeup. I'm not going for style at the moment, just content, but here's a real proposal.

    -----

    Hundreds upon hundreds of years ago, a merchant from the cave-dwelling, ship-building people of Faigheal du Niel, of West Emperor Island, had discovered deposits of iron and gold in a small, lone mountain jutting up from the ocean. Hoping to keep his discovery a secret, he quietly employed hundreds of workers from all different nations and shipped them and their entire families into a mining colony within the mountain, through caverns which opened only for a few hours of the day when the world's two moons pulled open the oceans from opposite ends of the world. For a few years the merchant stockpiled the ore deposits inside the mine, knowing that when he began to sell his secret would be spoiled.

    And then, three hundred and eleven years ago, the goddess of the mountain decided to claim the colony for herself. The caverns and the lower crevices of the mines became flooded, the merchant was murdered by teh sea and his ships were wrecked within the caverns. The colony was thrust into anarchy, and driven by isolation, darkness, the saltwater beneath them and the dreams of the gold and wealth all around them, they produced a generation of lunacy, infighting and famine.

    Finally the colonists punched their way through the top of the mountain and hollowed out its insides, delusional and protective of their treasure. They were able to repair a vessel that was shipwrecked on the coast with salvage scraps from the ones buried in the caverns, and they sent out a merchant vessel to sell some of their gold for supplies. But they learned, soon, that more valuable than the gold was the techniques and minerals they had developed to survive beneath the mountain - methods of filtering saltwater into freshwater, breaking hard rock and filtering its elements to create viable soil, and a special kind of salt that would keep meat nearly fresh for almost a year - which they had used on fish, rodents, seagulls and, in a gruesome moment of their survival, on their own corpses to survive.

    Now, having lived a hundred years of wealth within their hollowed out mountain, they have departed from the madness of their past and established a firm and unique culture within their mountain home. They have carved out new caverns of their own which will close at high tide, and can be blocked easily with a vast heavy door of boulders and barnacles and moss. They employ their wealth lucratively in order to keep their location a secret, often changing flags and trading off vessels at port. On occasion they resort to sinking ships which seem to follow their merchants into waters near the mountain, sometimes taking prisoners and slaves.

    They have become wealthy, fat, diverse and arrogant, believing that their history of torment entitles them to prosperity. But they have kept the survival instinct and ingenuity of their tortured grandfathers and have thus far successfully deployed every mechanism at hand to keep safe their heritage.
     
  7. Donny Bruso

    Donny Bruso Sage

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    I'm not saying this is impossible, but cave-dwelling and ship-building to me seem mutually exclusive. What with the lack of trees inside caves and all. Aside from that... I don't mean to be rude, but I find some elements of your proposal to be unlikely. A large influx of people into a small area such as that is going to be noticed. Ships anchored around a mountain in the middle of the ocean are going to be noticed. On top of that, people are notoriously greedy and untrustworthy. All of this combined makes it extremely unlikely that a vast deposit of gold would go unheard of. Look at the gold rushes in US history. The news spreads like wildfire.

    My second point, is that the island I've created has more iron than it knows what to do with, so it's a massive export for that culture. Other large deposits of iron being stockpiled and eventually sold would only depress the market for it further, making iron essentially not worth the cost of shipping it.

    Next, in the amount of time it would take to mine through a mountain, a generation, as you said, any ships wrecked on the beach would be rotted beyond the point where they would even be worth cannibalizing for timbers to build a new ship. Wood and canvas rots away surprisingly quickly without maintenance. I think you need to find an alternate way of getting your people off the mountain.

    Cave-dwelling people are not likely to be particularly susceptible to isolation and darkness, being used to living underground in somewhat small communities, when compared to above ground communities.

    I'll grant you the desalination process would be valuable, and there could be something particular to that process which would produce the special salt you mentioned, but turning hard rock into soil is probably stretching it a bit for a low tech culture, even bringing in things like alchemy. That, I think, falls into the realm more of magic.

    Now, as you seem hell-bent on creating your own culture, as is just about everyone else, which is rather taking the cooperation out of this cooperative world building exercise, I have a counter-proposal for you. You mentioned Atlantis in one of your earlier posts in this thread. I think a more believable alternative would be for that island to be sunk/destroyed/ swamped/whatever in the cataclysm that Ravana has engineered for us. Your culture comes from those who were off the island at the time. The Atlantian Remnant, as it were. They can be all bitter and arrogant about how badly they've suffered since their island sunk, and so on and so forth, and they take it out on the rest of the world by way of piracy. Atlantis was supposedly super-advanced, so maybe some of them know this fancy desalination process, and perhaps some are in possession of bits and pieces of some rare element that can only be found on the now destroyed island. Perhaps jewelry. Rings, pendants, chains, all made out of this metal. Maybe it provides benefits depending on how it's worked. Long life, good health, prolonged youth, etc.

    Anyway, that's the bare bones of my proposal in response to your ideas. I'm certainly not saying that Fantasy has to be completely realistic, as it doesn't, but the trick is balancing your unbelievability, and while I'm certainly biased towards my own idea, I feel that it has less holes to be poked in it than your mining mountain did. If you like my idea, feel free to run with it. If not, well I tried.

    Cheers,
    -D
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  8. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    I agree with Donny here. To take it a step further perhaps after their island sunk they didn't not relocate but instead became an entirely nautical society, like the A'athan Miere from the Wheel of Time series.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Errr, I really don't mind fair criticism, but you seem to have missed the key point here.

    I'm drawing pretty clearly from established elements and making the effort to build upon them. While there is the establishment of a new community, I've drawn as much from the existing contributors as I would - for instance - if I were to write about a university or a specific village on an island elsewhere. That includes the community of underground shipbuilders and the effects of the world's lost moon on the tides. In fact, building upon this idea further would promote more cooperative efforts since the miners are drawn from all of the other nations.


    Probably it could be clearer, but the ships were obscurely anchored and wrecked inside the caverns, not the oceans. Also I cut a paragraph about life inside the mountain and how they salvaged the shipwrecks to support their air vents, the details started to seem unnecessary. Their new ship is of course a fresh wreck.

    Also, while the merchant was from the cave-dwellers of West Emperor Island, the miners were from all over, making them highly susceptible to isolation, darkness, entrapment and madness. And being from multiple islands makes their organized disappearance far less likely to go noticed, especially as they are poor and lured by wealth into leaving freely.

    It's also worth noting that the gold rushes in US history were widely promoted by the government, and they appealed to the poor. I think anyone powerful enough to be personally interested in a mine in a mountain in the ocean would need to see evidence first.

    I can work on turning rock into soil - or I'll probably just scrap it. I did a writeup on it before the post, but it was so high fantasy and out of place in this world that I kept the details out and left just the notion, which you've noticed doesn't fit.

    I'm sorry I missed your iron-makers, I can change that pretty simply to copper or another element.


    I also mentioned pirates on the back of sea turtles. I was just being silly to test the waters and get a feel for how people would react.

    But as you seem a little Hell-bent on tearing down a fairly cooperative piece with plot-holes that were mostly pretty well taken care of before your post, I think it's pretty safe to say why people prefer something they can control to cooperation.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  10. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Well, you already found the one idea. I happen to agree with Donny and myrddin that Telcontar's cave-dwelling ocean-farers are a pretty improbable culture, and have mentioned this to him. The other was desertrunner's land (which featured a unique resource of alchemical nature, though he doesn't use that word to describe it).

    I was going to suggest the new shipwreck myself–that one's easy enough–but you already got there.

    I'm not terribly sanguine about the idea of converting rock to soil, so that's probably best left aside–though they could have found ways to supplement their soil: read on. Far easier would be for them to have adapted to a pure sea-product diet… at least until they'd accumulated sufficient waste products to be able to get a few simple things to grow: perhaps from carefully-hoarded stores, though more likely from a few seeds/spores that were lost beneath the sands of the interior, since they'd probably consumed everything they knew they had before they began eating one another. This is where supplementing their agricultural means comes in: they could be breaking rocks for some elements, and mixing it in with organic waste. Just keep in mind that soil is almost entirely composed of "organic waste," the product of thousands or millions of years of growth, rotting and regrowth. Yes, it had to start somewhere, but going from algae capable of extracting nutrients dissolved in water to something that will sustain grass–let alone anything more complex–in just three centuries is probably not what you had in mind. You'd still have the problem of coming up with things that could grow in a lightless environment–which is why I mentioned spores: they could be mushroom farmers. There could also be plants that grew in such environments: Telcontar's people ought to have at least some such, though he doesn't mention any specifically.

    If you have desalination, you have salt, pretty much by necessity (far more than you could possibly use, in fact), so I still don't see any motivation for them to use anything else… though I suppose this could have been an accidental discovery, and one that's only of any real use to them now that trade has been restored. On the other hand, if they were down to eating each other (at one point), any need to keep meat fresh for such long periods of time ought to have been long since obviated, so it's still unlikely to have been noticed. Not impossible, however.

    Actually, the only major problems I had with your scenario were one already mentioned, which Donny also caught–it's almost impossible to keep something like that hidden, though again this is only "almost," and I can think of ways to at least skirt it (some of which you've already brought up)–and them tunneling out of the mountain, which I consider to be pretty substantial. Three hundred years may seem like a long time, but mountains are big, and your population sounds like it should have taken a huge hit in that first post-cataclysm generation. They would have had to be awfully close to the surface to begin with in order to do this. Though on the other hand, they may not have to do it at all–if they already have air vents (and they'd better, or they're dead in a lot less than one generation… though if these were natural, they might not have allowed people to pass through them at first). Also remember that tools wear out, especially when used on rock… and they aren't going to be making any more for a while. (Why in a minute.) Of course, getting to the outside of a barren rock is only of so much value by itself.

    Now I'm going to fix most of these problems. :D

    One possibility I already mentioned: put them in a long-dead volcano with a fertile caldera. No one would know the caldera was there unless they climbed the mountain or found their way up from the inside through vents; it could accumulate at least small amounts of fresh water from rainfall (which may percolate down through the rock, creating those air vents and providing a very minimal amount of fresh water–whole drops of it a day–as well as leaching out certain soluble chemicals: combine the two and you have your recipe for accidentally discovering that salt); it would allow most things to grow in the open. The caldera could still be small, creating a highly limited resource situation, and almost certainly would lack wood, or at least wood useful for shipbuilding; it would probably also lack textile crops, apart from anything that could be woven from grasses or leaves (and would be even more likely to lack them once the place was replanted by people desperate for food). The culture could still use artificial caverns for most of their living space (they may have to), and the exterior of the mountain could still be craggy enough to provide no good anchorage for passing ships.

    It isn't a necessary solution: you could still have the island completely inhospitable on the outside, and the inhabitants reliant almost entirely on seafood, seaweed, and seawhateverelse, supplemented by what little they can grow in the caverns (and, more recently, by imports). This would also avoid one of the problems of remaining undetected: birds. If there is any external fertile area, there will be birds (which is how whatever's growing there got there in the first place, most cases). For that matter, there will be birds even if there isn't, they'd just be the kind that nests on cliffs and eats fish. But that kind isn't as likely to inspire people to try figuring out how they're surviving someplace it looks like they shouldn't be able to. The island, fertile or not, would still receive rainfall, which could still leach down in minuscule amounts to the caverns, which could still reveal the minerals, if you like that part of things.

    I'd modify their trading somewhat: techniques can only be sold a few times, before someone you've sold them to decides he can make more by re-selling it than by keeping a monopoly on it. Or else they simply get stolen, like paper- and silk-making were. About the only way to prevent this is for products to be traded, not the techniques. Which works for the (special) salt; it also would work for soil supplements, as long as the supplements were good enough, and no one else could figure out how to make them. (Then again, people still strip remote Pacific islands for bird crap, which gives you some idea of just how valuable nitrates and phosphates can be. Imagine if they could be mined, and only needed to be shipped a minute fraction of the distance.) It's hard to see either of these being "more valuable" than gold–consider the end products they contribute to: something would have to have one heck of a return on mass invested in order to make cropland produce enough to make it outvalue everybody's favorite shiny-but-otherwise-useless metal. Which doesn't mean they couldn't get rich selling it; all it means is it has to be worth more to them to sell it than it is to dig the equivalent price in gold out themselves. (Though I could see, after three centuries of chopping up a mountain, where it might not take much to convince them to kick back and relax a bit.) As for desalination tech: it could rely on something that's common enough in its natural form, but which only they knew how to convert to make it useful this way… I'm thinking something along the lines of activated charcoal with an affinity for salt, though that precise substance would present problems for this culture; some variation on zeolite might work. In fact, desalination is perfectly simple–as long as one can start a fire. Therein lies the difficulty here. And that's why they can't replace their tools: no matter how much ore they have, they can't smelt it.

    One worry that would probably remain for me is that most geological formations only contain a limited variety of minerals, rocks, ores, etc. Put these people in a volcano, and they may have gems–possibly in both large quantity and variety–but they wouldn't have gold, silver, or copper (aren't likely to have any free metals, really, and even few bound ones), nor anything that forms organically, apart from what might have accumulated since it went dormant. A mountain could have whatever the rocks it formed from had, but those rocks themselves are still going to represent a fairly limited range of what's possible. Also, it's difficult to explain a single mountain. A single volcano is easy, but mountains form in chains.

    The biggest problem is still keeping their location a secret–and the more valuable you make their contributions, the more people will try to track them down. Make it too valuable, and it becomes likely someone will send an entire fleet to track them down… which they might be able to shut out, but only at the risk of starving themselves if their pursuer is willing to sustain a blockade. (Again, I can think of ways around this, the simplest being to be more valuable as an independent than as a dependent–in short: bribe people, or at least the people with the wherewithal to mount large expeditions.) Also, the tide isn't likely to completely close off any cavern useful to a seafaring culture, only make it impossible to enter and leave easily, as well as making the cavern less obvious when the tide is high. I can certainly think of ways to make the doors you mention: similar things have been essential to canal construction for millennia, so those present little difficulty. (Keeping them in good working order against sea-salt is another story, but if it can be built, it can be maintained.) Which does return us to the cavern-seafarer question: how do they get the ships in and out? Unless they're relying exclusively on oared vessels, the caverns would need to be far taller than what you seem to be suggesting.

    As far as the iron supply goes: I wouldn't worry about it until Donny's king alters his economic policies.… ;)
     
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  11. Donny Bruso

    Donny Bruso Sage

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    Devor-

    I'm not hell bent on destroying or tearing down anything. I'm pointing out holes that occurred to me in the process of reading your post, some of which were taken care of before hand, some of which were not. Adding material to an explanation, or saying that it was in material you didn't post doesn't qualify as taken care of before hand. If you don't tell the reader, then it's a plot hole. I'm not attacking you personally, I'm trying to help you to achieve what you want: a society in this exercise. If you choose to see that as tearing down your idea, then I apologize. Nothing is perfect to begin with. People poke holes in my writing all the time. It's not an attack, it's constructive criticism. You roll with it and move on.
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Well, I mean let's be honest, your post wasn't constructive criticism. Your post was based on a sloppy reading of the text and a hostility towards a preconceived and untrue notion about my motives. My goal really was to come out of left-field in terms of creativity, and I didn't think I could do that without starting a new community - it would step on too many toes. You came at my post thinking I was trying to avoid all cooperative efforts, and you read through the post looking for ways to tear it down - if you weren't trying to tear it down, you wouldn't have given me a counter proposal.

    It might be worth pointing out that the only "defensive" or "offended" -sounding line in my post was to echo your own line of "Hell-bent" motives. I addressed all of your actual complaints pretty fairly and will incorporate a few of them into the next draft.


    Thanks for the post Ravena, I will get to the rest soon.

    It's interesting that you say this because I had two problem-points with the piece myself, and they were slightly askew from the ones you've pointed out. But the issue in my mind isn't that it would be impossible to keep secret but that the Merchant has to be a little loony to actual bother doing what it would take to keep it secret. If he's wealthy enough to establish a mine with people from around the world, surely he could hire some mercenaries. And the other question wasn't that it would take too long to tunnel through the top of the mountain - I have no idea how long it would take, though in some ways, the longer they are insane the better - but that their madness has to be pretty strong to keep them from just tunneling out the sides of the mountain (edit: or maybe they do simply dig out the side and cut through the top later on).

    What I mean to say is, in my mind the concept holds together or falls apart based on the Merchant's character, which needs to be a strongly defined semi-madness, and he has to "sell" some portion of that lunacy to the people he recruits like a cult. To me that's much trickier than keeping an obscure underground mine a secret, which the authors of pirate-fantasy are able to sell readers on fairly often.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011
  13. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Actually, I was pretty much assuming they'd go out through a side… they'd have to be not only loony, but to have lost all sense of reality, to try going straight up. They'd pick the shortest, or what appeared to be the easiest, route available. (In fact, going straight up would have been impossible, since they lack sufficient materials to build ever-rising scaffolding, ladders, etc.; they'd have to either tunnel along a slope, or in a spiral… which would roughly triple the amount of time it took, and require such fantastic engineering sense to make it work that anybody who could do it wouldn't try: he'd tunnel out a side.)

    Keeping the colony secret in the first generation isn't a problem, since it is the first generation, and it isn't exporting anything prior to the cataclysm. There could be any number of reasons no one had made the discovery before him: everybody knew the mountain was there, but nobody had discovered its potential value. (Which could be explained by something as simple as a rockslide opening up a cavern that wasn't visible to anyone who'd sailed past previously.) It's once they go into business that it becomes a problem. At that point, they begin attracting attention to themselves, no matter what it is they're selling… and if what they're selling is unique, it won't take long for word spread by other seafarers to allow people to cross-check, realize all this stuff must be coming from one spot (and that it can't be attributed to any known player), and close in on possibilities.

    While I go into extensive real-world detail in order to maintain as much plausibility as possible (or, more frequently, to eliminate unnecessary implausibility by coming up with perfectly mundane ways to do the same thing–and why not? fantasy doesn't become better simply by multiplying the number of unfamiliar names, species, etc. one uses), I also delight in finding ways around these. One thing I almost never mess with, though: human nature. Given that the physical setting is an archipelago, there are a lot of seafarers constantly going about in a (relatively) limited area, so anything that's permanently above water would have long since gotten charted; and while, as I pointed out, new discoveries can be made on lands previously considered worthless, once they are made, they'll attract attention… especially if they're profitable. Basically, your proposed culture could be relatively isolated and poor, and no one would care; they could be completely isolated and rich, and no one would know; they might be able to sink any individual ships that tracked them down, and buy off anyone who might send a larger force; but eventually, they'd be found, no matter what tricks they used. Even some of those tricks could backfire–it's that cross-indexing thing again: once people started realizing that ships following a certain heading consistently failed to return, they know there's something there that's either being protected, or is a threat to the rest of them, or both. (And most nations take a very dim view toward anyone who practices "false-flagging"–particularly if one of the flags is theirs–so while that might baffle in the short term, it would also increase the chances of someone wanting to send a large expedition to discuss proper protocols with them.) So mostly it's a question of time, after which, greed will out.

    Even after they're located, they would likely be able to withstand attack for considerable time, as long as their supplies were secure–in fact, they should be able to withstand it forever, as long as they could still eat and drink. Marine assaults are notoriously difficult under the best of circumstances… and landing on a body with no place to actually land is the worst of circumstances. It wouldn't take a dozen men to hold one of their shafts to the surface against a force trying to climb to it. At that point, it becomes a question of whose staying power is greater: the blockader's, or the islanders'. But even if (when) the blockade gets lifted, the islanders would find themselves in very poor repute among their former trading partners; and, again, if they are trading in something unique, everyone will know who they're dealing with, no matter what subterfuges they practice.

    Now: ways around that.

    (1) You were thinking about putting this somewhere along the eastern edge of the map, yes? (If not, adjust names accordingly.) Your culture has cut a deal with the nearby larger states (Emperor Island East and Indaeos): it leaves their ships alone (and possibly pays protection money to their monarchs… or at least gives them favorable pricing), they suppress attempts to locate the base to the extent they are able; this also removes the two states most likely to pose military threats… and anyone operating over longer distances would be hard-pressed to stay in supply and maintain a blockade.

    (2) There actually already is a "pirate culture" on, and just off, the southern coast of Emperor Island–where the West and "my" area overlap: Telcontar said he planned to put some there (private communication: I don't see it in his description) near what's labeled the "Isle of Gold" on the map on his thread; I spread the idea across the entire central southern coast between the mountain ranges (the "Savage Coast"–Telcontar's suggestion for a name–the region inhabited by the Ahali, thoroughly mixed with a population reminiscent of Mos Eisley, if you subtract civic responsibility and table manners). Put your island somewhere in that vicinity, and it substantially reduces the possibility of anybody tracking it down, as they'd have so much else to deal with as well, so many places to investigate. They'd still face the problem of concerted action from East or West if they annoyed those states too much, but they'd be among a more sympathetic background… especially if the natives found it profitable to be uncooperative with "the authorities." (Note, too, that the inhabitants of the southwest don't have a much greater use for the larger organized states than the free towns do, which is another help.) They might not even trade their goods directly at all: they could ship it short distances, in a much smaller fleet of ships (another advantage, for a group strapped for timber, and which may be limited to oared vessels courtesy of their habit of storing them in caves), and use the accumulated scum of the archipelago as middlemen–who would still eventually be tracked back, but to many different ports and islets in the same vicinity, few of which might have more than a vague idea where their livelihood is coming from. This also avoids the problem of false-flagging (someone else gets in trouble for it) and of ships being lost (ships are regularly lost to pirates in that area to begin with).

    In fact, if you really want your guys to stay hidden, the only people they trade to are certain trusted Ahali merchants, who in turn only trade it to the Agrabali (who, by the way, would find soil supplements quite useful…); and they only sell to the rest of the world at Gathering, outside Kilvikasa on the north coast. For that matter, you could even cut out the Ahali; your culture could have its own sales reps in their towns (everyone else does), and they could deal direct with the Agrabali–at least on the unique stuff: they could sell more commonplace goods to the Ahali, so they don't feel (or perhaps even realize) they're being cut out; the rest of the world thinks the special stuff is coming out of the vast central desert inhabited by belligerent tribesmen… and searching land is far more difficult than searching sea, and attempting to maintain a large force in a desert is synonymous with futility and defeat, even if the natives aren't secretive and inhospitable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Ravana, a few thoughts to run by your head before I try a second draft.

    1) Tides before the second moon was lost could in some places be almost twice as strong as those in the world after the moon was lost, and as the moons probably weren't in sync, they would also be erratic and inconsistent as the years progressed. The cavern could be completely hidden before the moons came into opposite alignment around the location enough to open the cavern up for a small ship a few hours each day until the moons eventually get out of sync again.

    2) The merchants ship was probably ... too lazy too look up the word, but the medieval ship that can move from sailing to rowing pretty easily. As the masts in most vessels were built in sections could that be lowered into the hull, the ship can probably fit easily into the cavern.

    3) A mountain can be as short as a thousand feet, while the actual mountain range could even be submerged. So the description could be expanded to include shallows and banks and reefs that might demonstrate this, as well as make it a hazardous sailing area that other ships might intuitively avoid. Also I think there's an "optimal" size of the mountain needed for the story to be believable, but I'm not sure how big that would be.

    4) The water that they're desalinating isn't, in fact, straight from the ocean. It's from the flooded cavern, so it's completely contaminated with the minerals available in the mountain. Let's say the mineral reacts with the salt in a way that makes desalination possible (which defies the real world definition of salt, but whatever), and in turn results in a compound that is similar in many ways to salt but also has other marketable properties to boot. So they are selling a mineral that will desalinate your water, and a related compound that's better than salt.

    5) The purpose of using gold is that people believe, readily, that madness might follow gold. I think that could be extended to gemstones (all of the "shinies"), but I'd still rather avoid the volcano. I want them to be trapped, it better defines their character, and I also think a colonized volcano has probably been done before. The iron has no point to the story, and if I were more serious about the piece I would look up gold mining to find better details about how it's done and what other minerals might harvested along side gold. But I think I'm giving this enough time as it is (edit: I'm prone to getting lost and spending hours upon hours in research, I don't mean to complain about having to flush out the idea in terms of creative thought and posts).

    6) The community, as you mentioned, would have been completely decimated after the flooding, to the point that their entire civilization could probably fit on a single ship if they had wanted. As they've come to survive somewhat under the mountain, they actually need very few ships to bring in enough supplies as the community grows, and the mineral they're selling would need little cargo space to make them wealthy. The idea isn't that the community goes on hidden forever, but that they're hidden "thus far," and that the next phase of their history would focus around the problems of being discovered. Given the minimal number of export ships that they would actually be needing - they may only send out a ship once a year or sometimes less, taking the precautions of buying and returning on a different vessel - as well as their obscure location, I think they could easily go undiscovered for very long time.

    7) (added in edit) I'm going to assume that the techniques used to survive inside the caves are the same or similar to those used by the Niel people and I won't go into many details. If I ever see a post on the Niel I will comment on the legitimacy and needs of ship-building cave-dwellers, but at the moment they are still the most appropriate starting choice for the society. And I will point out, the validity of ship-building cavedwelling people isn't something I need to justify; the people on this mountain don't build ships but buy them.

    Did I miss anything? Let me get a response to those points and I'll start a second draft.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I believe you. I just don't understand you, and I don't think readers would either. And like I said above, very few ships, very obscure location, and any story involving them would probably open with their discovery. I think that's easier to follow. I also have trouble believing they'd be so far advanced in playing politics. I'd sooner believe that they're paranoid, untrusting recluses who don't like interacting with others and only do so very sparingly. There may be only one guy who's actually even willing to conduct trades, and everyone else on the ship forces him to take obsessive precautions. I find that more believable and easy to understand.
     
  16. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Not sure which part this is in response to; like I said, having it remain unnoticed until your guy got there is the easiest part to handle. In any event, the old tides wouldn't be twice as strong: at most, they'd be half again as strong (remember, the sun constitutes a third body in the system), and in fact, they wouldn't even differ by that much, since the effect of gravity drops off with distance, and the outer moon was also smaller.

    Also, tides depend on more than just gravitation: they critically depend on topography. Water piles up in a bay; it goes around an island. So a location like the one you have in mind is actually going to be affected by tides far less than, say, the west coast of the bay on the southeast of Emperor Island.

    I'd originally been thinking along those lines myself, but I found it difficult to locate references. To the extent I've been able to determine, sectional masts were never actually taken down (except for replacement of damage)… because no one built sectional masts in the first place until they started getting so tall a single tree wouldn't do it. In any event, taking one down wouldn't be something that could be done rapidly… and putting it up again would take a whole lot longer. And when you consider the stresses put on a mast, you wouldn't want it to easily come apart into pieces anyway… or it would do it on its own, generally at the least convenient times.

    On the other hand, it does appear that some single-section masts were designed to be taken down: I've (finally) found a couple references of longship construction being done this way. Unfortunately, none of them are clear on whether this was the intended function, or if this just happened to be the way the Vikings attached their masts to their hulls, and someone interpreted it as being intended for easy removal.

    For the most part, though, masts were so heavily integrated into the ship that removing them without dock facilities would be impossible. (Longboats, unlike most other ship designs, don't have decks, for starters.) So this is a possibility, as far as I can tell: it's something you can work on the details of. (Telcontar doesn't say how large his docking caverns are, so this might not actually be an issue for him.)

    Good enough. One tall peak in a submerged chain. No, I don't have any idea how large it should be, either; a lot may depend on the steepness of the exterior slope.

    Reasonable thinking. Yeah, I was trying to ignore some of the real-world chemistry, too: I suggested zeolite because it has an affinity for sodium and other alkalis, when what you probably need is something with an affinity for the chlorine. Perhaps something that attaches to the salt molecule, and causes it to precipitate out?

    I'd make one modification to the economic side: if the resultant precipitate is the "new" salt, people wouldn't necessarily be buying it from your guys–they'd get it from the desalination. It should require an additional step that only your people know… in fact, they might even buy back the salt-precipitate for processing, then ship out the result.

    Heh. You and me both. But it makes for better stories in the end.

    I'm sure a colonized volcano has been done before… like I said, they're convenient. But a mountain will work. (I don't see why they can't be "trapped" either way, at least at the outset. They may not have worked a good way up to the caldera before they absolutely needed to.) What's found with gold? Silver, sulfides (which, if you can separate them, can provide you with a host of metals, copper in particular, from chalcolite), sometimes copper directly, mercury (generally in association with cinnabar, which is its sulfide)… and above all, quartz. That's usually how people look for gold, in fact: look for good quartz seams.

    Plus a whole lot of rock. Depending on the geological past of whatever it was that got upthrust into the mountains, this could be just about anything else you wanted. The gold would probably occupy a specific stratum–not necessarily a single layer: it could have gotten folded over a few times–and the rest would be… whatever it would be. Probably a fair amount of sedimentary material, if this was a seabed prior to the upthrust. Lots of limestone, most likely. (Which also makes for the simplest route to natural caves.)

    Good enough… both the "thus far," and the limited amount of shipping. Like I said, time is a factor, extent of contact even more so: the more recently they've re-established contact with the rest of the world, and the less they put on the seas, the less likely their location would be known. It's the second of those that will keep them hidden, though–and not active intervention (such as capturing or sinking ships that wander into their area). Remember, too, that during their, ahem, "internal exile," they would have forgotten everything they ever knew about sailing. In fact, you'd probably better leave some survivors on that shipwreck, or else them making it to their first port call would be a matter of sheer luck.

    A lot will still depend on how much attention they draw to themselves–which is why I suggested having a middleman, to further disguise the source of this nifty new stuff. (And if you read the material on the Agrabali, you'll discover they aren't much less paranoid than your folks: kindred spirits, in a way. ;) ) But it isn't necessary. I do think you're underestimating how (comparatively) easy it is to track a boat on the high seas, though. Also, if they're sailing around in a single ship (at a time, at least), they aren't going to be in a good position to protect themselves from (other) pirates… or anyone else who wants to do them dirty. Like any local lord who's willing to send two ships after them, or any merchant combine ditto.

    Again, fair enough: it doesn't fully answer the problem, but at least it leaves you no worse off than the Niel are. (Which is why I didn't mention it initially.)

    In response to your second post: the only problem I see with using one guy to do all the trading is that he'd become recognizable fairly quickly. But again it depends on how often they conduct their trade at all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I actually have the answer to that. The Vikings lowered the mast into the hull as they reached the shore because the oars had better maneuverability than the single square sail. It also made them less visible to their target, giving them less time to prepare. It was the intended function, so there's precedent.

    Also, I'm pretty sure a crew wouldn't have problems removing the upper portions of the mast, only the bottom portion that's secured by the decks. A cavern that is large enough to fit the lower section even in the real world isn't unrealistic, and the Niel probably have lower sections that are much shorter.


    I'll give it some thought.


    Y'know I would have said copper. I did some research on metals for a short story a while back, but I was mostly reading about the Platinum/Nickel connection.


    Noted.

    It'll be a few days before I get to a second draft, maybe as far as Wednesday. But it's coming. Thanks for all the input.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2011
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I haven't forgotten about this, even though I've been distracted by other threads. If anyone has any last minute input, it would be welcome as I work on the next writeup.
     

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