Monday, 30 May 2011

Characters who can Drive the Story #2

Image - Aeon-lux and Vipiteno Castle

When attempting to solve a murder mystery, see who gains.

Sector Dukes of the RimWorlds

House Venuraski of Raelmar/Thurgandarn
Kolin I 540 – 550†
Metch 550 – 552†
Kolin II 552 – 557†
Dentian I 557 – 594 Abdicated

Kolin’s son and successor, Metch, inherited both the Sector Duchy and the war in Gazolan Subsector following his father’s death in 550. Given that Kolin was 72 when he died, Metch was probably in his 40’s or 50’s when he succeeded his father, assuming Kolin married and had issue in his 20’s or 30’s. Metch held the Sector Duchy for two years, dying on campaign in Gazolan Subsector in 552. Metch was succeeded as Sector Duke by Kolin II who finished the Gazolan War, and pushed Imperial expansion Rimward as far as Kasimir in Gazul Subsector before his death at the conclusion of the 1st Rimward War in 557.

Apart from the suddenly truncated timeline – three Sector Dukes within seven years, a war in Gazolan Subsector and a Rimward War, and a 15 parsec advance of the Imperial border after years of little or no progress – we also have the interesting question of the Ducal Succession. This is interesting in light of the question of who killed Sector Duke Kolin I.

My original Sector Ducal list is a sequence of Houses, names and reigns. The actual relationship between the various holders of the title and office was left rather vague, though hints of various relationships are evident in the accompanying initial draft of the Imperial History of the RimWorlds. While some Houses might still practise primogeniture, I reasoned that the council of elders of most Houses Major would collectively nominate the House’s most able member to fill such roles as might be granted to the House by the Emperor. And while such councils would have their own internal politics, as a clan or corporate body, the seniors of the House would strive to maintain the honour and status of the House above all else.

In the case of House Venuraski, Kolin I was such a dominant, and domineering force, that, unexpected death or not, his will dominated the political thinking of his time. In the middle of a conflict to pacify a subsector, a sudden change of leadership, or leadership policy, could be catastrophic to the war effort. Given his age, it is more than likely that Kolin’s son Metch was already an experienced Ground or Space Commander and serving in that conflict. It would not take much, when Kolin’s death was announced, for the military to rally behind Metch, and for the politicians to then submit to the fait accompli.

Then two years later, the war in Gazolan was almost over and Metch was dead. If Metch had murdered his father, or had his father murdered, then he had gained little from that heinous crime that he would not have received in due time and in the usual fashion, given that his father had, in effect, already secured the Sector Duchy for him. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Metch was involved in the death of his father.

This leaves the last two Venuraski Sector Dukes – Kolin II and Dentian I – as possible suspects. While turning over in my mind the relationship between these two and Kolin I, I recalled that Kolin I was initially described as “the head of a cadet branch of the House of Deneb”. My initial assumption had been that Kolin II, at least, and perhaps Dentian I, were younger sons of Kolin I. Now, I wondered if Kolin II and Dentian I were not in fact nephews, fostered in Kolin I’s Sector Ducal court to advance their careers.

Almost nothing is written about Kolin II directly; even his age and birthdate are not recorded. I picture him being of a similar age to his cousin Metch – in his mid-to-late fifties. He is active in command roles in the middle years of the 6th Century, both in the expansion of Imperial territory (more on this in my next post) in the Trailing Subsectors, the conclusion of the conflict in Gazolan Subsector and the 1st Rimward War – which costs him his life. Metch’s sudden death in 552 thrust Kolin II into the role of Sector Duke, which while unexpected, did not find him completely unprepared.

The character of Dentian I is drawn in slightly more detail, more for the latter part of his reign and his enforced abdication. He was a strong-willed individual, standing very much upon the points of the original charter of Kolin I’s Private Equity Company. Described by his opponents as more concerned with his own power and prestige than ruling justly, he sounds both vainglorious and tyrannical.

Could Dentian I be our murderer? I have decided that he is Kolin II’s younger brother. If Kolin II was in his 50’s when he died, perhaps Dentian I was five or six years younger. Having been in Kolin I’s Sector Ducal court for a decade, plus in his Vice-Regal court for at least a further 15 years, Dentian I had spent over half his life as a dependant of his uncle. As Kolin I manoeuvred his way between political hazards, did Dentian come to resent him and his real politik? And did he resent him enough to have him murdered?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Characters who can Drive the Story #1

Garden of Ilyuan, Heavenly City, Gourth/GazolanAt the end of my previous post, I briefly discussed the death of Sector Duke Kolin I Venuraski in 550. As you may recall, his brief biography in the Library Data ends Kolin’s driving ambition led to his downfall when he was killed on campaign in the Gazolan Subsector, killed, it is said, by a disgruntled gardener. I concluded that Kolin’s death at the hands of a gardener had the hallmarks of a historical myth – the mighty brought low by the humble – and left it at that.

A day or so later, I read a post on the Fire Broadside Blog about Oniwaban – ninja attached to the Court of the Tokugawa Shoguns who acted as intelligence agents and bodyguards. Martin at Fire Broadside had pretty much cribbed the fluff from the Infinity game site (as he’s busy painting up Infinity figures) but a quick Google on Wikipedia uncovered further information about these special agents that got me thinking.

Back in the day, I used to be a fan of Cerebus the Aardvark. At one point Cerebus, while working as Head of Security for Lord Julius, was given the title of Kitchen Staff Supervisor. Lord Julius was a great believer in impenetrable bureaucracy and miss-direction by mislabelling. He had a theory that a job title did not define the job and, in fact, it was better from a security point of view if a person’s job title actually had no relation to their actual job.

So, an interesting scenario presents itself. Sector Duke Kolin I is on active service in Gazolan when he his killed, not in battle, but by someone in his entourage. This person becomes known to history as a disgruntled gardener, in effect written out of history even though they have just killed a Sector Duke. When examined with a slightly suspicious mind, this could hint at a deliberate blurring of events to protect … whom?

Like double cream, the plot suddenly thickens.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

History of the RimWorlds #10 – Missing Years

Traveller funny found on the Internet and created by Christian for a RPGnet threadA chronology is a series of date pegs that one hangs events from. A history takes these date pegs and attempts to construct a narrative that carries the reader along with it. The problem with the latter approach is that without enough of the former, the story moves in fits and starts, just like a jerky piece of film. And, just like a jerky piece of film, when you look closely, you realise that there are pictures missing.

When we last left Viceroy Kolin Venuraski, the Treaty of Choraptur, settled in 530, had reduced tensions with the Klarthur Confederacy along the Spinward Frontier of the Imperial RimWorld Territories. This enabled Kolin’s exploratory missions to begin to move Rimward again.

“Following the path of least resistance, Imperial colonisation moved Rimward from Berimar’s Sceptre Subsector into Thurgandarn, and then into Nolgor Subsector.”
- The Origins of the Rimworlds Sector 497 - 557

What is interesting, here, is that the Chronology states:

History of the RimWorlds

497First Imperial presence in the RimWorlds in Kaorin and Berimar’s Sceptre subsectors.
525Lord Kolin Venuraski is created Viceroy of the RimWorlds by Imperial Patent.
526First Imperial contact with the Klarthur Confederacy in Riinu Subsector.
530Treaty of Choraptur defines the border between the Klarthur Confederacy and the Imperial RimWorld Territories.
540Sector Duchy of the RimWorlds established with its capital on Raelmar/Thurgandarn. Kolin I Venuraski is first Sector Duke.
552 - 5571st Rimward War. Sector Duke Kolin II extends Imperial Rule into the Gazul Subsector against the opposition of the Rimward Coalition.

Whoa! In 540, Kolin Venuraski becomes Duke Kolin I of the RimWorlds Sector, and twelve years later Sector Duke Kolin II is fighting the 1st Rimward War in Gazul Subsector. Besides taking twelve years to move the frontier 14 parsecs, what happened to Kolin I whose career has played such a part in the Imperial narrative of RimWorlds history for the last 55 years?

The Origins of the Rimworlds Sector 497 – 557, quoted above, is part of a longer essay, entitled The RimWorlds Sector: An Imperial Overview, which I wrote to bring together all my notes into some sort of coherent form. It is still a work in progress as I add to it. It picks up the narrative thusly:

In 540, the years of planning and effort paid off. The Sector Duchy of the Rimworlds was formerly established with its initial capital on Raelamr/Thurgandarn and Kolin Venuraski was invested as its first Sector Duke.

Great mineral resources were discovered in the Gazolan subsector and these fuelled the rapid expansion of the Duchy. This expansion was not unopposed. Ten years into his reign, Sector Duke Kolin I’s driving ambition led his downfall when he was killed on campaign.

Gazolan subsector was to claim the life of his son and successor, Metch (reigned 550 – 552), before being finally pacified.

The Perrsherrik Rift in Nolgor Subsector halted the march to the Rim for a few years, but by 552 Imperial forces under Sector Duke Kolin II Venuraski had penetrated the Coreward end of the Gazul Subsector.

So, we learn a little more about Duke Kolin’s fate, but not much.

At some stage I wrote a brief biography of him for my Library Data:

Kolin I Venuraski
Kolin Venuraski (478 - 550†), Sector Duke of the Rimworlds 540 - 550. Head of a cadet branch of the House of Deneb, Kolin saw, early on, the possibilities for expansion into the Rimworlds. Through deft manoeuvring, Kolin succeeded in having himself appointed to head the Imperial Commission that considered the Scout Service reports on the Kaorin and Berimar’s Sceptre Subsectors. Shamelessly exploiting his position, Kolin was made Viceroy of the Rimworlds in 525. Pooling the resources of his immediate family, and tapping the fortunes of his cousins, Kolin organised the massed settlement of the Thurgandarn Subsector. Part of his success lay in his ability to recruit talented younger members of the other Houses Major of the Greater Deneb Sector and skilfully exploit their skills and resources to achieve his own great aim. In 540, the years of planning and toil paid off with the creation of the Sector Duchy of the Rimworlds and the investiture of Kolin Venuraski as its first Duke. Ten years later, Kolin’s driving ambition led to his downfall when he was killed on campaign in the Gazolan Subsector, killed, it is said, by a disgruntled gardener.

Hmmm, death by gardener. Sounds a bit like a myth, especially with the “it is said” qualifier, but still a suitably delightful end to such a colourful character.

Having drawn together such threads as exist, I feel the urge to flesh out the narrative a little as there was obviously a major conflict in the Gazolan Subsector which I want to learn more about, and I want to develop Kolin's relationship with Kolin II. But, that’s a project for another day.