I’ve been wanting to write this episode, or something like this episode, for quite a long time. The idea is best summarized as Star Trek‘s Prime Directive, from the perspective of the “primitive” civilization, and it’s an idea that I’ve really wanted to find a way to explore in a story. So I put it into a plot in my initial outlining of the Blood Magic second season, and have been looking forward to the chance to write it ever since. That’s probably why it ended up being so difficult to write.
Among other reasons why this episode proved a challenge for me is the fact that I had built up this idea in my head, and was very concerned about doing it justice in the story. To do it, I may possibly have tried to bite off a little more than I could chew, at least in short story form. I have five different perspectives included in this episode, which comes in at just over ten thousand words, and three of them are completely new characters who I created just for this story and who probably will never show up again. Most authors would tell you that’s a terrible idea, and having attempted it with this story I’m not entirely convinced their wrong.
Adding to that challenge is that I also was trying to set up the driving conflict of the second season, and add to the building conflict that pervades all of the Blood Magic series. Tying the “Prime Directive” idea in with a story that introduces the Pifechans (who will play a role later in the season – I don’t think that’s too big of a spoiler to give) is on the one hand a natural fit, and on the other hand an enormous undertaking. Before this episode, I hadn’t even addressed if the people of Merolate think the world is round or not. I needed to explain who the Pifechans are, what their culture is like, why they would have this “Prime Directive” sort of rule, what their history is like, and make them come across as both “good” and “bad.” I also needed to give a justification for why a civilization with technology roughly commensurate to nineteenth century Earth would not know if there was land on the other side of the world.
By the way, their rule is not actually Star Trek‘s Prime Directive; it’s just a version of the same principle on which that rule is based, non-interference with less technologically advanced civilizations.
To be honest, I’m not sure how strong this episode ended up being; I will need to come back to it in a few months and read it again to know how well I succeeded or not. Right now, I’m worried that I tried to do too much, but because of how much I worked to make everything fit together and make sense, I at the same time suspect that this might be one of my stronger episodes. I suppose I’ll let you, as the reader, make the final call on that matter.
As excited as I was going into writing this episode, I’m also very relieved to have finished it, and I’m glad that I won’t need to deal further with Pifecha until later in season two. For now, I’m going to start work on the next episode, which will be much smaller in scope than was this one. In fact, as you’re reading this one, you may want to have the Blood Magic world map up for reference, since I name-drop a lot of places that have not previously been mentioned.
I don’t know if you’ll find the ideas behind this episode as fascinating as I do, but I do know that you should read it, so I am very pleased to present Strange Lands.
When the evening had finished and all had retired, Kiluron went to bed feeling that, for the first time since his official investment ceremony, he might actually be starting to understand how to be a good Prime, and he slept more contentedly that night than he had in a long time.
Then, of course, he was awoken at a distinctly unbalanced time of the night by Doil shaking his shoulder urgently. It was still entirely dark outside. Trying to blink away the clinging aura of sleep, Kiluron shielded his eyes from Doil’s candle, and batted numbly at him.
“Go ‘way,” he mumbled, trying to reach for a pillow to pull over his head.
Doil produced an aggrieved sigh. “My lord, I wouldn’t be waking you if it weren’t urgent.”
Waking Kiluron acknowledged that this was true, and also acknowledged that his role as Prime never stopped, even when he slept. However, sleeping Kiluron was not interested in what waking Kiluron thought. “Whatever it is, it can wait until morning.”
“This can’t wait until morning,” Doil insisted. “Please?” Kiluron made an exaggerated snoring noise with the pillow over his head, and Doil sighed again.
“Fine, fine.” Kiluron swatted vaguely at Doil and removed the warding pillow from his face. “I’m getting up. Wait for me in the sitting room.”
With a nod, Doil retreated, and Kiluron swung his legs out of bed. Doubtless Doil would be listening to make sure that he didn’t go back to sleep, so he made certain to make plenty of noise as he rustled his way into a thick robe and shuffled out into the sitting room, giving an exaggerated yawn and stretching dramatically as he entered. That was at least as much for Doil’s benefit as it was for his; he was rapidly finding himself awake now that he was up and moving about, but it wouldn’t do to let Doil get off too easily for awakening him in the middle of the night.
“So? What’s going on?” Kiluron asked, once he had settled himself in a chair across from Doil. “What’s so urgent that you felt you needed to interrupt the peaceful slumber of the Prime of all of Merolate?”
If it had been Kiluron, he would rolled his eyes, but of course Doil was far too polite for that. Still, Kiluron thought he could hear the same sentiment in his voice. “A ship is making its way up Merolate’s harbor.”
Kiluron squinted. “Doil, that happens literally all the time.”
Doil shook his head. “Not this kind of ship.”
“Then what kind of ship is it?” Kiluron asked. “Another from the Hiblanicho Isles?”
“I – I don’t think so, my lord.” Doil sounded increasingly nervous. “It’s difficult to explain. It would be easier if you just saw it for yourself.”
“Sure, that sounds great,” Kiluron agreed. “If only there were light outside to see anything with…oh wait.” He looked pointedly at his Advisor, who flushed.
“My lord, the entire ship seems to be made of metal. That shouldn’t even be possible. And Admiral Ferl says that one of the observation posts reported that when the ship reached the mouth of the bay, they summoned thunder without lightning. But from what we can tell, with how strangely the ship is configured, we think it might be badly damaged. We need you to decide if we should allow it to dock or not,” Doil explained.
“Because you think they might have some kind of Blood Magic practitioners on board.” Kiluron sat back, thinking. Clearly his advisors thought that the ship might be dangerous. Yet turning it away might be even more dangerous. Plus, it seemed an evil thing to turn away a ship in need, if that was truly what was happening in this case. “I say we let them dock,” Kiluron decided. Besides, the idea of some strange people with a strange ship from strange and unknown lands was exciting. Maybe this time, he would actually get to be involved with whoever they were.
Doil looked relieved. Perhaps he had been expecting Kiluron to be more recalcitrant. “Thank you. I’ll pass the word along to the dockmasters.” He got up, but hesitated at the door. “Will you be going back to sleep?”
With a sigh, Kiluron also got up from his chair and stretched again, this time for his own benefit. “I’m up now. Might as well get ready to greet these foreigners.”
Something close to a smile played with Doil’s lips. “Very good, my lord. I’ll see you soon.” Then he left the room.
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