Eldraeic Word of the Day: méshválar

méshválar: (from mésh, a tile or plaque, and válaras, name, itself from val, personal pronoun, and laras, word); a name-tile.

The origin of the name-tile is in the simple courtesy of not bringing moisture or road-dust into the home. Imperial houses are normally constructed with a caráhan, an entry room, which serves the purpose of containing outside dirt and providing space for visitors to prepare themselves to enter the house proper, as well as for requesting permission to enter the house proper from its hearthmistress or her proxy. Such a room therefore often contains amenities such as a small fountain for personal refreshment and cupboards or chests for visitors’ shoes, travel clothing, etc., that they do not wish to bring with them into the home, as well as the traditional welcoming display.

The méshválar, a thin porcelain tile bearing its owners name and sigil, serves two purposes connected with this room:

For visitors, the méshválar is placed upon the cupboard or chest in which they have placed their effects, signifying their ownership of the contents. In some caráhan, associated with commercial buildings rather than homes, these containers lock, and once the key has been withdrawn, the méshválar is placed specifically over the lock, but this would not be seen in a private home. The strength of the custom is more than sufficient to guarantee privacy; indeed, should a guest depart without being able to collect their effects, it is usual to ship the entire chest, unopened, to their home.

Meanwhile, when at home, it is customary to place one’s méshválar on a rack located within the caráhan, thus allowing arriving visitors to know who is currently at home before requesting entrance.

Time Bomb


REPORT: MERI-11-5122


DESCRIPTION: The following comprises a transcript of conversation occurring in the forward (open) hold of the Magpie-class debris recovery vehicle CMS Comber’s Bounty, in the minutes immediately preceding its destruction. The transcript was recovered from a surviving buffer memory of the local voice command system node and as such is of limited quality and records only local sounds.


FLTCOM: — you brought this thing onto my ship without checking, you —

[silence, approximately 6s]

FLTCOM: Because you did not bother to check what this “marvelously intact” piece of wreckage was before you brought it aboard. In contravention of procedure, good sense, and every other consideration but the chime of coin behind your eyeballs.

[silence, approximately 14s]

FLTCOM: Oh, yes. It’s an antique. As I profoundly hope did not occur to you, the VI-4 libration point is most famous for the Battle of Meridian VI-4. What we have here – is your camera on? – is a Type 95 Deep Javelin, one of the most ridiculously deadly torpedoes the Bureau ever came up with. Yes, it’s centuries obsolete, but that doesn’t make it any less deadly.

[silence, approximately 7s]

FLTCOM: Let’s start with the drive. See these nice, shiny nozzles? There’s your first clue. They’re as pristine and unsullied by use as your cerebrum. The nuclear salt-water drive on this never fired. That means these tanks are still full of highly enriched uranium tetrabromide, which is unlikely to have decayed enough to help us. If any of the valves marinating in the corrosive nuke-juice decide to fail, we get a nuclear drive plume in here. And if the damn stuff has crystallized on the baffles by now, we could get a critical assembly by poking it too hard.

[silence, approximately 2s]

FLTCOM: The warhead? That’s just a nice, safe, nucleonic shaped-charge driving a plasmated beryllium filler through whatever’s in front of it. That would be Mechanical Switching Three, Auxiliary Avionics, and most of the rest of the ship, if you weren’t clear on that. That uses the X-rays. The gamma rays, meanwhile, they tickle the off-axis lasing rods to give it some extra punch. And that little thing on the nose that’s less than a foot from the bulkhead? That would be the proximity fuse set for a couple of miles. Arms as it leaves the tube, and yes, it is armed.

[silence, approximately 15s]

FLTCOM: Do? What I am going to do is return to the bridge and put out a distress call for the Orbit Guard and the best EOD tech in the system. What you are going to do [sigh] Much as I would like to strap something with the apparent density of your skull to the nose of this catastrophe as improvised shielding, you – assuming you wish to board any starship in the future as something other than ballast – are going to return to your cabin, stay there until instructed otherwise, and while you are contemplating the number of different ways in which you have probably killed us all, you can memorize every single damned illustration in the Dangerous Debris Diges —


On Preextant Properties

Little more need be said on the matter of thoughts and chattelry; in truth, the Word is the thing and the whole of the thing:

All the works of your hands:
Stone and metal, wood and water, fire and wind.
All that your will creates.
These things are forged in your Flame;
That which you create is yours.

The Word of the Flame, Truths : 9

This is sufficient for ideas alone, or for the works of the artisan, the crops of the farmer, and the wares of the merchant.

But what of properties which had already existed in their components, such as volumes of land, including within them the passing airs and the still waters? Or what of the initial claim upon the fruits of stone, the development of which inevitably removes them from their source?

Before we consider Arlannath’s answer to this, the postulate of indisseverability, we will first describe these properties in a state of nature. That is, we shall discuss the ore lying hidden within the earth, the path unwalked, the land unimproved, and so forth.

The consensus of our philosophers is that such things are simply unowned, and belong to none. Challenges were raised to this position in the past, by such philosophers as Milentios of Inisvaen, Lanqin of Sar Andael, or Moréteyr of Ildathach, asserting rather that such things are jointly owned by all. This view has largely been repudiated as korásan arrogance, for who can rightly claim even partial title to an infinity of whose nature – indeed, of whose existence – he is largely unaware, over which he can assert no dominion, and to which he has committed no binding act? Moreover, such theories cavil at the conclusion that if all such things are jointly owned, they are jointly owned by all thinking beings, those dwelling around the farthest star as much as by those nearby who might have an interest, leading inevitably to the inability for anyone to set their hand to the smallest pebble without the consent of all unbounded creation.

Thus to Arlannath and indisseverability. This postulate arises from the simple observation that a creation cannot be separated from its prerequisites. That which exists must necessarily exist in a place; that which is made must be made of something. One cannot build a house without building its foundation upon land; nor can one mine and bring to market copper without removing copper ore from beneath the earth. The one is indisseverable from the other. In the absence of any barrier to the use or acquisition of the unowned – for the benefit of any individual or group which seeks to use it in an act of creation – resting upon prior title, this indisseverability necessarily implies that an act of creation from the unowned, a binding act, confers proper title to that which is created and that which exists to support it. Such binding acts are the basis for all homesteading, roadsteading, minesteading, commonsteading, and other mechanisms by which the wild unowned is brought within the aegis of civilization.

Arlannath did observe, nonetheless, that such acts of creation incurred a hypothetical opportunity cost, insofar as such a binding act necessarily diminishes the unowned. This matter, in his day and for generations thereafter, was considered a self-resolving trifle, since the lands of Eliéra were wide and little-peopled, and under such circumstances the advantage to the community near, far, and yonder of the improvement of land and availability of resources presented an opportunity profit to all believed to far outweigh that opportunity cost.

(The larger opportunity profit redounding to the appropriator is merely the proper reward for foresight and entrepreneurship. Anyone can seize an opportunity, but the rewards rightfully go to those who do.)

Philosophers and economists of later millennia have had occasion to consider this matter in more detail as time has passed, reaching its culmination in Períne Cyprium-ith-Elethandrion’s seminal publication On Externality and Incorporation. The original-appropriation and resource-extraction surcharges applied by the Protectorate of Balance, Externality, and the Commons, discussed in the next chapter, are the legacy of his work.

from an introductory Imperial economics textbook, circa 3000

A Cure As Epidemic

A shadow fell over the city.

That was, of course, perfectly normal. It was fourteen minutes before the Wakening hour, and four million people’s deliveries were here, packed into a vast warehouse wrapped in an inconceivable volume of vacuum, wrapped in turn in shimmering white fabric bearing the moé winged parcel and hexrunic letters proclaiming its name and ownership for all to see.

Desire Causes Satisfaction, the All Good Things, ICC fulfilment zeppelin, had arrived on its morning rounds.

Perhaps the dark cloud cascading from its vomitories, dense enough to deepen the shadow to true shade to fight in¹ rather than a dissipating gray wisp, was unusual but it was no matter for concern. This was the Empire, such airships did not fail, and the people below could go about their business assured that whatever had caused this alteration of normal routine would become apparent in due course.

From Rectifier Gaelin Septimiel-ith-Septimiel to Citizen-Shareholder Eimil Isilviere-ith-Inviere, greetings.

In response to the ongoing Level 3 (Epidemic) Contagious Disease Warning posted for the Greater Cestia & Proximal regions as of 2049 Cálith 20, the Emergency Management Authority is pleased to provide all citizen-shareholders, citizen-intendants, and metic residents within the affected region and other strongly connected regions a dose of the vaccine to cytomegalovirus VVAR-1472-B and related strains developed under the aegis of the Office of Disease and Toxin Control, Prevention, and Elimination.

For further details of the vaccine and its development process, please see here. Should it prove the case that the information you desire is not available via this link, please contact the office of the Procurator of Transparency.

The provided dose has been packaged in a self-refrigerating autoinjector coded for individual use, which can be operated by pressing the uncapped tip against the body over a muscle mass; an upper arm is recommended.

Should the vaccine payload have exceeded the permitted temperature range, expired, or otherwise degraded, the blue status light on the autoinjector will have turned red and the autoinjector will not function. In this case, please contact the nearest Imperial Services office for a replacement.

Please wait five days for vaccine to take full effect before discontinuing high-level infection control precautions. We request that low-level infection control precautions be continued until the epidemic disease warning is rescinded as a courtesy to your fellow citizen-shareholders.

The contribution to population immunity provided by individual vaccination has been assessed as a positive externality valued at Es. 192.41 by the Protectorate of Balance, Externality, and the Commons. As such, this will be credited to your Active Credit Account upon verified autoinjector operation.

The Empire thanks you for your cooperation and forbearance in these troubled times.

Given under my hand and seal this day 2049 Telenith 9,

Gaelin Septimiel-ith-Septimiel
by appointment to the situation, rectifier
Emergency Management Authority

  1. This somewhat anachronic definition of “shade to fight in” gained currency late in the Consolidation, when Imperial forces were clashing with those of the Alliance over mining and energy production facilities on tide-locked Eurymir and during the long day on Toramir, the innermost planets of the Lumenna system. On such battlefields as the Plains of Glass, one has the choice of fighting in the shade, or of being boiled to death before ever engaging the enemy.

Let’s Break It Down

liquidator (sovereign): As a member of a satrap’s retinue, primarily in cases of annexation, it is the function of the sovereign liquidator to trim down the newly acquired governance to something approximating the Imperial standard. Since the majority of barbarian governances have arrogated to themselves a certain number of necessary and useful functions – outwith the legitimate functions of governance – and do not exist solely as mechanisms for the application of high-handed interference, presumptuous regulation, and arbitrary brutality, this is unfortunately not something that can be achieved merely by dispatching writs of abolishment to all and sundry.

To further dismay, neither is this as simple as centuries of ham-handed “privatization” attempts might make it seem, were one to ignore their results. A typical necessary and useful organization to be broken up by a liquidator is nonetheless ossified; uninnovative; risk-avoidant; accustomed to a position of legal monopoly; in the habit of answering to political masters rather than its nominal customers; derives its revenues in ways separated, to one degree or many, from the satisfaction of said customers’ requests; burdened with a thousand mandates outside its core competency; and whose staff frequently have a variety of unhelpful attitudes including apathy, grim resentment, petty-korásan syndrome, office politicking, political officing¹, cog functionalism², contraproject activism³, and either blind ignorance of or pig-headed indifference to the coquetries of economic reality.

The task of the liquidator is to abolish these slow-motion disasters without allowing them to become fast-motion disasters.

When chopping up an interdependent monolith, making your incisions in the wrong place may produce a mere private monopoly, or a cartel – doomed to eventually topple without a legal monopoly, assuredly, but while fulfilling the liquidatorial mandate in the most technical sense, this is hardly a result to be desired. Worse, it may produce organizations incapable of surviving independently in the short run, meaning in this case before alternate organizations can take up their function. Remember, due to the tendency of these governances to monopolize any field in which they engage, such functions will not be available on the local market to take up the slack.

Of the greatest difficulty, of course, is finding people to direct the new organizations. The nature of the old is unlikely to have created a dynamic organizational culture ready and willing to adapt to the marketplace, let alone thrive there. One may be fortunate enough to find some potential leadership within the old organization not yet stultified by its internal sociodynamics – which may, in some cases, be as simple as eliminating the old hierarchical management structure and replacing it with a bottom-up cooperative structure⁴ – but often one is compelled to resort to such means as bringing entrepreneurial talent in from outside⁵, strapping on appropriate floating initiatives and trusting that the organization will pay attention to them, or as a last resort⁶, transferring core staff and assets to an Imperial organization with local interests, similar purpose, and a willingness to take on the job.

These difficulties, together, make it all-important that the sovereign liquidator be a soph of great patience, calm temperament, and stout of both heart and liver.

– Offices of the Imperial Service, 143rd ed.

For those not familiar with synarchist jargon for various types of dysfunction, the following helpful footnotes are appended:

  1. political officing: the practice of subordinating the function of the organization to one’s own ends, usually unconnected to the stated purpose of the organization; when not practiced by the Directorate or its equivalent, it does not constitute entelechical fraud, but is nonetheless inappropriate and may constitute a subversive breach of contract.

  2. cog functionalism: also known as “jobsworth syndrome”, from the oft-repeated cry of the advanced sufferer that exercising any creativity or stretching beyond the bounds of normal routine is “more than my job’s worth”; the unwillingness or actual inability to do anything beyond the boundaries of existing procedure. Sufferers could, in theory, be replaced by a small automation script, and in practice, often are.

  3. contraproject activism: unlike political officing, which is merely diversionary, contraproject activism subverts the function of the organization to work against its own entelechy. Hard as it is to believe, when you find an education provider deleting advanced courses, a transport service encouraging people to stay at home, or an energy supplier promoting restrictions on energy use, you’ve found contraproject activism.

  4. In some examples of this type of organization (e.g., those which issues with organizational culture have not promoted cog functionalism, apathy, and featherbedding), the staff at the sharp end of the organization care far more about its nominal function and serving its customers’ interests than those in charge, and in those cases, such a structural inversion can work very well.

  5. Carefully screened, of course, since such offers have an appalling appeal to the unscrupulous type of vulture, those more interested in picking apart the wreckage than in building a functional organization.

  6. The Empire generally finds it preferable, from a sociodynamic-development standpoint, for such organizations to be constructed locally by, for, and out of the communities they serve, at least initially. Such convergence as partnerships, mergers, and other arrangements in the future may bring about can then safely be left up to the resulting structure, rather than imposed externally.

When The Guns Fall Silent

The Imperial Military Service has long been considered somewhat unusual among military forces for the degree of respect it offers to those it has fought, and often defeated. This is not entirely accurate as a consideration, since a certain level of courtesy and mutual respect is hardly uncommon between gentlesoph soldiers; it is hardly uncommon to find other military forces which obey the injunction that strength and honor must also act with grace. There are few, admittedly, that afford – indeed encourage – the militaries of conquered nations the opportunity post hoc to award honors and distinctions to those who fought valiantly against them in defense of their homes.

(Since these honors are awarded under the unusual conditions created by the Annexation Act, and necessarily supervised by the appointed satrap, they are considered both foreign and Imperial in nature; for a full list of these unusual Imperial awards, please see Annex B to this book.)

Unique, perhaps, is the Empire’s creation at the Service’s request of three distinctions specifically to be awarded to the enemy after the fact. Displayed as medals carved from blackened osmium, these three are:

The Order of the Valiant Foe: Most frequently awarded of the three, the silver-chased Order of the Valiant Foe is awarded to those who have displayed outstanding acts of gallantry or personal valor on the battlefield while fighting against the Empire.

Since an overwhelming proportion of these distinctions are awarded posthumously, the Order of the Valiant Foe is a stipendiary order; a stipend is paid from the Privy Purse for the support of spouse, children, and other family of the recipient.

The Order of the Noble Enemy: Taking its name from the Jussovian proverb that a noble friend is the greatest of gifts and a noble enemy the next greatest – a sentiment engraved around its perimeter – the sapphire-on-osmium cluster Order of the Noble Enemy is awarded for dedication to the principles of civilized warfare above and beyond the call of duty.

Most famously, the Order of the Noble Enemy was awarded at the end of the Fourth Oceanic Dominance to the captains of the Ildathach destroyers Levinbolt and Thunderblast for their rescue of over a thousand survivors from the Imperial cruiser Dawning Dragon (sunk the previous day in the battle of White Sands Bay) at great hazard to themselves, such operations leaving them vulnerable to prowling submarines and the load of survivors greatly reducing their fighting ability.

The Order of the Worthy Opponent: An award of gold and topaz upon osmium, the Order of the Worthy Opponent recognizes skillful leadership and outstanding generalship, qualities shared by many of those who have most successfully opposed the Imperial will.

In its origins, the Order of the Worthy Opponent, like its counterparts, was a distinction awarded to officers of those nations absorbed by the Empire during its expansion in the Consolidation, but as with them, its use has since expanded. Most famous among these is the Order won by Matron-Admiral Kajiya ihr-Lomas of the rúrathtu, the award of which she declared the greatest honor of her career in her memoirs, and which she wore to her dying day. Her great-granddaughter presented it to the Museum of the Imperial War College during the celebrations of the signing of the Imperial-Rúrathtu Alliance, where it can be viewed today as a reminder that between honorable enemies, enmity need not be eternal.

– Titles, Orders, and Awards of the Imperial Military Service

Invisible Ledger

While in later chapters we will discuss the theory and practice of such formal techniques of social manipulation as the trafidúr an-enlét (blue gift), it is appropriate at this time to offer a cautionary word on the foundation beneath it.

As a civilized people, we esteem the virtues of liberality and generosity. Selecting an appropriate gift to reflect both the appreciated qualities of the recipient and the nature of its giver blended into harmony is a high art; and it moves the heart both to receive such a gift and to give it.

However, even outside the Great Game or other arenas for deliberate social manipulation, one must – when offered gifts many in number, or a gift great in magnitude, be wary – not of the giver, but of one’s own spirit. One and all, we are bound to mélith, and although by all law and custom an appreciation-gift creates no debt, will we, nil we, the spirit keeps its own accounting.

While to account gifts by the esteyn would ill befit a gentlesoph, you may nonetheless find it needful to decline a gift with all due courtesy rather than permitting yourself to bear the weight of such a heart’s-debt, lest it tarnish the relationship that gave rise to it.

– “On Appreciation, and the Tokens Thereof”,
Madame Allatrian’s Guide to Exquisitely Correct Etiquette