This is the continuation of a story I’ve been working on for the Splintered Lands project. Previous entries can be found here
“Náhte, why is there a net on your head?”
“I needed a hat.”
“Náhte, it’s a net. It lets the sun shine through. And doesn’t keep off the mosquitoes either. Also, it smells of fish. Dead fish.”
“I know. I’m hoping fish will jump into the net and I can eat them. I’m hungry.”
Butan just sighed.
They’d been in Át?san a week now, and had, for once in their lives, honest employment. Neither of them liked it very much.
“Kagdor didn’t bring any food, did he?”
“He brought me more nets to wear. Draped them over my head when he left.”
“That was probably because he doesn’t like you. You cut up one of his nets and used it as a fishing line.”
“He wasn’t using it!”
“Náhte, we’re supposed to be repairing the nets, not breaking them.”
“Oh, is that what this job is? I thought I was just a clothes rack.”
“You just might be.”
“Do I get more money as a clothes rack?”
“Then I don’t want to be a clothes rack.” Náhte thought for a moment. It was a long moment. “I don’t want to be honest any more, Butan. Honesty is kind of dull.”
“You mean there’s nobody shooting arrows at you? Or trying to sell you into slavery?”
“You want people to shoot at you.”
“I think so. I like the sound that arrows make as they whiz by.”
Butan started crying.
“Why are we here?”
“Because I was bored of being honest as well.”
“But this is the Knights of the Broken Wheel mission. We can’t join them, they’re honest!”
“I don’t want to join them, I want to rob them.”
“Doesn’t that mean they’ll poke us with pointy things?”
“Given everything else we’ve met tried to do that, what’s the difference?”
“They have bigger pointy things?”
“On that, you’re probably right. Ready to go over the wall?”
“Why not swim up the little creek into their complex that no one ever guards?” Náhte pointed.
Butan clapped a hand over his eyes. “Náhte, that’s an open air sewer.”
“Oh, that means I’ll smell foetid. I’ll have all the pretty flowers again, and I can paint them.”
“Fine. Náhte, you can swim in, and I’ll climb over the wall.”
They went their separate ways.
Butan dropped over the wall, huddled in the darkness behind a crate, and looked around. There wasn’t any movement he could see, so he crept towards the storehouse against the back wall of the complex. A Knight stepped out from the barracks, heading to the outhouse, and Butan froze, posing himself like a tree. And then almost fell over.
When the Knight had gone, he made it the rest of the way to the storehouse and slipped inside. Oddly, the door had been unlocked.
“Butan, you’re slow.” Náhte was sitting on a chest, munching on some flatbread.
“How in the name of all the gods did you get in here so quickly?”
“I followed the stream. I knew it came here, after all.”
“You knew the stream came straight into the storehouse, and you didn’t tell me.”
“I’d swum in it before, Butan. I like swimming. Lets me be closer to the fish.”
“I thought the fish tried to bite your fingers and you didn’t like them.”
“We’re on better terms now.”
Butan shook his head, and started hunting through the stacks. Most of what was there was either sealed barrels of food, or military equipment that would be difficult to sell.
“I don’t suppose you’ve worked out a perfect way to sneak stuff out of here, Náhte?”
“I usually swim with it in my shirt. It gets a bit smelly though. And damp.”
“Selling urine-soaked bread is probably not going to go down well. Next idea?”
Well, we could weight a barrel down with some rocks so it floats just below the surface, push it along, and then pop it out of the stream when we’re outside.”
Butan stared at his friend. “Did you just have a smart idea?”
“I’m not sure. What makes ideas smart?”
Butan puzzled on that one. “You’ll have to ask a philosopher.”
“A man who thinks about the big questions.”
“You mean like ‘To surrender, or not to surrender’?”
“No, more like whether we perceive reality, or if what we perceive is only a shadow cast by the true reality.” He stopped. “Incidentally, why’d you bring up surrender?”
“Because there’s five Knights outside.”
They both dove for the open sewer.
The thieves came up spluttering, covered in foul smelling liquid. Unfortunately, the first thing they saw was a pair of boots. Followed by a sword tip, the rest of the sword, and a large angry man.
“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to let us surrender?”
The sword swung.
“Thought not. Knights aren’t known for their mercy.”
Náhte ducked, and Butan grabbed a lump of, well, better not think about it and threw it into the Knight’s face.
With the Knight clawing at the adhesive filth, they ran. Well, Butan ran. Náhte charged into the Knight, knocked him to the ground, and stole his helmet. Then he ran.
After they were a good safe distance away, inside the edge of the swamp, Butan looked at Náhte and gestured at the helmet. “Why?”
“I always wanted a Knight’s helmet.” He plopped it on his head. “I look dashing in it, don’t I?”
A man in rags with the metal helmet of a Knight. Dashing wasn’t exactly the word that sprang to Butan’s mind.
“You look exotic, Náhte.”
“Oh, I like that even more.”
“Yes, I thought you might. That’s why I said it. Now, what are we going to do?”
“Well, there’s a nice sunset I could paint on the tree. With mud, of course.”
Butan shoved Náhte into a puddle.
“No, Náhte, big picture what are we going to do next?”
“Oh, hrmm. Die, probably. At least, I think that’s what comes after living.”
“You aren’t helping. Especially not since I think those Knights are organizing a search party.”
“We could flee?”
“I like your thinking.”
I’ve finished the rewrite. The story now clocks in just a shade under 104,000 words. And it’s a hell of a lot better than it was before this whole process started. For the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to editing it and getting it out the door, because now I think I have a story that’s worth publishing. Of course, I’m sure I’ll turn into a pessimist as soon as I go back for another round of edits, but that’s a long way off.
For now, I’m just going to spend the weekend basking in the fact I’ve ‘finished’ another novel. But before I go, here’s the opening page.
Chloddio’s hammer crashed against the shield of his instructor, a muffled thud as the training weapon impacted solid metal. Chloddio followed with a sweeping strike, coming in high and from the right, aimed at the side of Cavrel’s head. The instructor’s shield rose as he ducked slightly, and the blow glanced away, momentum carrying the warhammer above his helmet. Chloddio threw his strength into reversing the strike, pulling it into a backhand aimed at Cavrel’s skull. A frown spread across the instructor’s features as his weapon came across, the cloth-swathed head slamming into the haft of Chloddio’s weapon, knocking it flying.
“You are a dead man Chloddio. Again. A sweeping side-arm blow with a warhammer? I could have stepped inside and gutted you. I just chose to knock it high and then disarm you. It’s flashier, and it proves a point. Either way, you’re dead. You use great swinging strikes, building from your shoulder. I’m not a rock, and will not meekly stand still while you mine me. Those spikes” Cavrel pointed at the top of Chloddio’s weapon, lying on the dirt. “are not simply for decoration. Use them to thrust or backhand, a change of direction, anything aside from your continual hammering. Subtlety in combat will save your life.”
Cavrel paused, looking at the warhammer on the ground, then back at Chloddio. “Another thing: This is a battle, not a show. You flourish. You wave your weapon above your head as if that will inflict damage. It’s costing you here in the training ring, and it will cost you more when someone doesn’t fight fair and kicks you in the groin. At least you wear armour reasonably well. Means you’ll last a few moments more in a fight, but only a few moments.”
“Gather your gear, put it back in the armoury and go home.” Cavrel sighed. “I’ll get nothing further from you today. Remember to be here by sun-up tomorrow, we’re working on squad tactics and marching.”
“Yes sir. By sun-up.” Picking up his hammer from the ground and shouldering his shield, Chloddio jogged to the armoury, handing the tools of his new trade to the weaponsmith who prepared them each morning. Two assistants helped Chloddio out of the heavy practice armour, thick padding overlaid with metal and stone layers, added weight to make real armour feel light and free.
One of them tapped the cuirass. “You should be more careful with this, you know. It’s getting more costly to repair it or replace it.”
“More costly? Why so?”
“Well, you hear there’s been a mine collapse or two? Seems that with those mines shut down, the price of ore and the ironstone we use to make the armour is going up. Quite a bit.”
Chloddio knew the mine collapses all too well. He had been the lead safety engineer at the first, tasked with examining the tunnels and caverns for collapse, and shoring them up when there was any danger. And he’d failed. A large fall had sealed the entire mine, and killed everyone in it, despite all that he could do. And only two weeks after that failing, another mine had shut down. Owned by a friend of Joestin Hogof, the man who had once employed Chloddio.
“But that’s only two mines. There’s dozens all around Tri-Hauwcerton.”
“You say that, but it turns out most of those other mines don’t produce consistent enough quality for our blacksmiths to buy from them. There’s only six that the quartermaster approves, and two of those six are closed for months. I’m even hearing rumours one of them would be closed permanently, that the collapse fractured an underground river.”
“Which one is that?”
“Can’t tell you. Rumour doesn’t say.”
The recruit shook his head. “Well, its not me you should be worrying about. It’s all those veterans who take delight in knocking me on my ass.”
“You’re the one with the shield sweetie. Use it.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Kid, I’ve been caring for this armour for twenty years. I know exactly how easy it is. And you just better start learning, otherwise you’ll be going out in armour that’s going to crumble. We’re using up all our repair budget keeping the real suits together. Practice armour’s at the bottom of our list.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll do my best.”
“From the looks of this, you need to do a lot better than that.”
“Enough already. I get ground down by Cavrel as it is.”
“Cavrel, eh? He’ll get you into shape. Either that, or he’ll kill you trying.”
“He can kill me as long as he doesn’t dent the armour, right?”
“You got it, kid.”
In order to spread out a little from just writing about writing and where I am (which can be somewhat boring, even for me), I thought I’d start posting about some of my other hobbies, which includes things like commercial utilization of space. I’ll start by posting a little piece on asteroid mining I wrote for a class assignment on developing innovative businesses. Note that while I did research my numbers, I did not spend a great deal of time double and triple checking them, so take all numbers with a grain of salt. Also, in the past couple years, a few companies have started to tackle this problem, but they’re mostly in the feasibility study stage.
Humans are evolving technologically at a geometric rate, and that technological growth is fuelled by a series of rare earth metals, many of which are currently found only in China. The recent Chinese announcement that it would place a combined cap of 35,000 tonnes upon all rare earth metal exports has sent the price soaring, as manufacturers around the world in the automotive, green tech, and electronics space all rely on these metals for various segments of their equipment. The scarcity of these metals, and their corresponding high price, can be used to pry open other economic avenues that have been closed, as has happened with Canadian oil shale and the recent spike in oil prices.
These metals, while in restricted supply on Earth, are not in short supply off of Earth, and especially not in the asteroid belt, where a single C-class asteroid of one kilometre diametre contains approximately two billion tonnes of material, which, using 2003-2004 numbers, is worth about 2.5 trillion dollars. Also, because of their lower gravity, and other myriad factors, the required delta-v to reach a near-Earth asteroid is lower than that required to reach the moon, Mars, or any other nearby astronomical body. This reduces the levels of recurring costs necessary for transport, and promotes the economic usage of these asteroids.
Economics for this industry are somewhat difficult to ascertain, as it lies within the purview of the NewSpace start-up focused industry. However, in order to reach the moon, it currently costs NASA $50,000 per pound of equipment. When examining business prospects, a smaller number of $25,000 to $10,000 a pound should be used, as new competitors such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and OSC’s Taurus 2 continue to force the price of reaching LEO and GEO downwards. Further cost savings can be created through the use of VASIMR-equipped space tugs, using that engine’s higher efficiency and lack of propellant to create a system where most of the equipment stays at the asteroids, rather than constantly being forced to ship it up from Earth. This creates a situation with very high fixed costs to start, but much lower incremental costs. Investment lag-time from beginning to end is likely on the order of five to ten years before the company begins returning profit, and the initial investment could likely spiral to several billion dollars, although advances from other corporations involved in space industry, such as those focused on space-based solar power, would likely reduce the research and development cost.
As to competitors, there are currently no companies engaged directly in this market, although many are mining here on Earth, and thus direct competitors at the product level. As mentioned above, many of the rare earth metals are found in such limited location that any returning shipments of them could be charged at the same monopoly prices that are currently enjoyed by the existing sole provider, while other, lesser, minerals, such as gold and platinum, could likely be sold at the existing market prices, as gold currently retails for over $30 million per tonne, while platinum is above $35 million. In order to have the highest return on investment, it is better to ship these metals back to Earth in a processed form. If that is not feasible at the beginning of the project, then the economics become significantly worse, but not so much that the company is no longer viable. It is far easier to drop large masses down into a gravity well than it is to pull them back out, and that significantly reduces the return-to-Earth cost for any ore or processed metals.
When the initial implementation succeeds, another aspect in favour of the company will be (hopefully) a near total domination of access to near-Earth asteroids for mining purposes. It is not assumed that this will last for more than a total of five years, as competitors will enter if the business proves to be viable, piggy-backing on the R&D our company had to conduct. However, during those initial years of monopoly access to the asteroids, it is hoped that the most valuable metals can be recovered in sufficient quantities to greatly increase the value of the company, at a benefit to all investors.
Mankind has long ago proven that given adequate resources, it will find a way to move forward. What the company seeks to provide is those adequate resources, ensuring that the supply of rare earth metals and other precious minerals is maintained, thus allowing progress to continue unfettered. The research that the company undertakes will also be licensed to others seeking to use mining in space, especially those who wish to promote the advancement of human living outside of the single basket within which humanity currently resides.
That, then, is the end goal of the company: not merely to provide extra resources for Earth-based manufacture, but rather to change the way in which mankind lives life, and where that life is located. Given the resources, this is already technically feasible. It merely waits on investment to change the course of human history. Will you join us?
Bloodaxe, my Viking-based fantasy short, is free today only through the magic of Kindle Select. It takes place in a northern fantasy kingdom, and the main character is the deposed former ruler of that land. He’s a villain with a wicked sense of humour, and a mum who’s even more skilled than he is, so Bloodaxe lets her rule while he goes a-conquering.
It’s not often that we get to revel in the villain. Bloodaxe is a delightfully misogynistic cad, whose observations about life and people are surprisingly direct and spot on.
I love reading fantasy but I’ve never encountered anything like this. It’s a quick read, under an hour, but is so full of win!
Bweeheeheehee! This is the best book summary I’ve read in a while. Mr. Tallett, please take my dollar.
And with that I shall leave you with the blurb itself, and a link to download Bloodaxe for free!.
Bloodaxe thought he was in for a nice relax. He was, after all, dead.
And then some jumped up prick of a god told him he had to rescue a kingdom. His own kingdom, in fact. So Bloodaxe grabbed his, well, axe, and leapt back into the fray.
First, though, he had to be born. And learn not to crap his pants. Then he could get to the killing. Lots and lots of killing.
This is his story.
Chloddio has passed over the 100,000 word mark, as of this morning. Or, I should say, passed it again. The first draft of the novel was 106,000 words long, but after a long round of edits, I cut it back to 68,000 and have been writing new material to better flesh out the story.
It’s been a long process getting to this point, but the story feels a lot better for it. Beforehand, there were stretches of writing that described beautiful scenery, and left the plot mired in a sand trap. Those are all gone (or almost all), and the story is now much tighter, and with a lot more action in it.
The changes are going to necessitate another heavy round of edits, this time to make sure the old material merges in well with the new, but there are already readers going through the material to see if they can catch continuity mistakes. Hopefully, I haven’t written in too many.
So, now that I’ve added in over 30,000 in new material, where does the story go from here? Well, it gets an ending. A new one that suits all the new material. That will take another 10-20,000 of new material, but I’m sure I can do it before the end of April. And boy will that be a good feeling. Even if it means I need to start editing again.