Trope-a-Day: Undying Loyalty

Undying Loyalty: What a personally-focused estxíjir is (see: Blue and Orange Morality); not common – although more frequently emulated through I Gave My Word – but a recognized trait of the greatest leaders.

Also, the reason why the bandal, or dog, is the symbolic animal and avatar associated with Tárvalén, the Binder of Obligations, eikone of loyalty, vows, oath-contracts, promises and agreements and the social order.

Trope-a-Day: Precious Puppies

Precious Puppies: As a guide to just how straight the eldrae play this particular trope, even where their giant wardogs are concerned, it should be noted that under the list of special cases that is the Ungentlemanly Behavior Act (47, As Subsequently Revised), the consequences of literally kicking the dog are legally recognized as a type of suicide in every single Imperial jurisdiction.

(While there are some people who in private would admit that this constitutes Disproportionate Retribution even by the Empire’s, ah, generous standards for such, there is absolutely no-one willing to court the plummeting reputation score that would attach to anyone who suggested removing this provision, the puppy-hating bastard.  It’s a mélith thing; dogs give essentially infinite loyalty, so that’s what they get in return.)

((And, of course, this is also pretty much what started people off on the Immortagens For Everyone crusade in the first place…))

Trope-a-Day: Horse of a Different Color

Horse of a Different Color: The cerrúr is a four-horned, hexapedal, browsing animal, but it fills much the same niche as the horse, as historically early basic transportation/power and later prestige transportation.

Despite much wishful thinking and a few attempts, no-one ever managed to breed a bandal large enough to create an actual riding dog.  There have, however, been some attempts to engineer flying mounts, mostly limited to gas giants and low-gravity moons.

Do Not Ask About The Bear Cavalry.

Trope-a-Day: Hellhound

Hellhound: Some of the larger and more militant breeds of bandal are thought to fit this trope, like the Ancyr warhound, but really, they’re just particularly intelligent Big Friendly Dogs.  (Unless severely provoked.)

Now, in the modern era, when the Imperial military fields entire legions made up of sapient (uplifted) dire wolves in power armor, you might have a point…

Domestic Animals

So, regarding those “Ethnographical Questionnaire” chunks I have posted occasionally – I conclude that I’m going to start posting smaller chunks, on the grounds that (a) it takes me so damn long to finish a section, and (b) smaller and more often is better than giant and occasional.  So, that said, here’s a new piece:

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

This, of course, varies quite radically by planet – so here’s the original most common domesticated animals of Eliéra, the eldraeic homeworld:

  • The adhaïc [honeybee] – hive insects, greenlife, kept for their honey, wax, and pollination services.
  • The bandal – a canid greenlife species, or more accurately, another subspecies of Canis lupus, differentiated from the Earth dog by virtue of having spent its domestication mostly being bred for smart, rather than obedient, being expected to operate more as junior partners in civilization than tools (including, say, the ability to operate clockwork automata in at least a limited fashion) in many and varied roles; distinguished by a higher forehead and more manipulative forepaws. Also associated with Tárvalén, the Binder, Eikone of Loyalty (see myth).
  • The cerrúr – a four-horned hexapedal browsing bluelife animal, used for riding.
  • The certárúr – a four-horned (with stunted horns) hexapedal browsing bluelife animal, used for riding and as a draft animal; also for leather.
  • The chiashaïc [silk-spider] – a bluelife pseudo-arachnid, used for fiber.
  • The ékaláman – a hexapedal flying carnivorous bluelife reptile with a mid-wing, used for hunting, as we do raptors.
  • The élirúr [dormouse] – a greenlife rodent, used for meat.
  • The fírastal – a slightly larger greenlife relative of the Earth cat, kept for pest control and occasional hunting.
  • The hasérúr – a hexapedal browsing bluelife animal used for meat and milk.
  • The kuléra – a four-winged bluelife bird, used as a scout and messenger.
  • The líhasúr – a quadrupedal rooting greenlife animal, used for meat; a close relative of the Earth pig.
  • The nekhalyef – a quadrupedal grazing greenlife animal, used for meat, milk, and fiber; a close relative of the Earth sheep.
  • The pengál – a bluelife pseudoserpent, kept for pest control.
  • The reshkef – a hexapedal browsing bluelife animal, used for meat, milk, and fiber.
  • The quebérúr – a quadrupedal grazing greenlife animal, used for meat and milk; a close relative of the Earth bison.
  • The sevesúr – a two-winged greenlife game bird, used for meat and eggs.
  • The tiryef – a large flightless bluelife bird, used for meat.
  • Underwater, the ííche [dolphins – well, technically, it means “cetaceans”, but in this specific case; greenlife] and cúlnó [octopodes; greenlife], which occupy a similar niche Below as the bandal do on the surface.  Also, various farmed fish.

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won’t be?

The most commonly kept as pets – but for values of pets which usually involves working (which, in their terms, includes “for companionship”), rather than simple ornamentation, since the eldrae have ideas about dignity and what they shouldn’t expect any animal smart enough to be a pet to do – would be the bandal, the firastal, and the kuléra; underwater, and to a lesser degree in space, some species of cúlnó are also popular.

As for which won’t – anything that’s too dangerous or insanitary, as usual, plus anything not smart enough to hold the interest of their keepers.  With the possible exceptions of aviary birds, aquarium fish, and butterflies – but then, they are ornamental.

Alliances

The half-grown hasérúr dashed through the threadbare forest, and Hanych followed, stumbling in the dim light of the storm-wracked sky.  His breath was loud in his ears, the pain in his side nearly quieting the acid burn in his belly.  Snow and old ash scattered at their passage, he and Daeych at his shoulder, the promise of food more than – yesterday’s? two days gone’s? – meager meal of scavenged argor tubers, half-rotted.

Howls rose from left and right. Bancrach. His fist clenched on the haft of the axe he carried, a priceless relic of the time before this endless winter. It is not yours!

The howls again, closer now on the left. The hasérúr jerked and turned aside, sending them stumbling up the remnant of an old pathway, stones breaking apart and sinking into the mud, sliding underfoot. Bones crunched too beneath his tread, and Hanych hissed Elmir’s curse upon the azg-darath, as quickly renounced. They had no more choice than any when the star fell, and if the stonefolk hadn’t learned to eat rock down Below, they’d be as starving as any by now, too.

A cliff loomed before them, rocks and earth spilt down its length over the old azg door; the hasérúr turned to scramble up the precarious slope. Daeych’s knife flew from behind him, skimmed past head, and struck stone. It started in alarm; a moment’s hesitation only, but enough for Hanych to sink his axe into its neck.

A moment of triumph only, for the howls now came again, closer, and Hanych beheld the bancrach for the first time; an older male, still half-man-height for all his ragged, hungry look, perched on a low cliff-ledge, and two smaller shapes hidden in the shadows of the path. Hanych turned at bay, gripping his axe – three bancrach and two el-daratha was a hard fight always, but all half-starved, long-ran, and desperate… but without food, would they even last the night?

They are as hungry as you, as kin-loyal as you.

If they had not turned the hasérúr, you’d have lost it at forest-edge.

And still they have not attacked us.

A favor for a favor; that is the law.

Hanych’s axe rose and fell, once, twice, severing two haunches from the dead hasérúr, and a last effort thrust the remaining meat toward the shapes in the darkness; stiffly, the old bancrach jumped down from his ledge and dragged it away to his pack.

Triumphant howls rang in the darkness. A moment later, Hanych and Daeych’s yells joined them.

Trope-a-Day: Dogs Are Dumb

Dogs Are Dumb: Averted – partly because it’s not universally true in non-fiction anyway, and partly because one thing that differentiates the Elieran bandal from the Earth dog is that, being in need of assistance in many areas due to the relatively small, relatively slowly growing population that tends to be the case among the very-long-lived, the Eldraeic breeding masters concentrated very hard on breeding for increased intelligence.  (And, key point, by which they meant the kind of intelligence that includes understanding and creative problem-solving, not just the ability to follow orders.  Basically, they wanted co-workers, not tools.)  Essentially, even the non-uplifted examples are appallingly clever, probably on a par with Dragon Age‘s mabari.

Also, uploading/reinstantiation technology works exactly as well on dogs as it does on anyone else, and you can just imagine how a lot of people, immortal as they were, felt about regularly losing their beloved pets/junior family members, so… well, there are more than a few very old dogs out there.  And they know all the tricks.

(And if you remember what we said back in Brain Uploading about the afterlife… all dogs around those parts really do go to Heaven.)

Fetch!

“Are you sure this will work?”

“Well, no, it’s an experiment.” Brandel held up his hands, warding off the glare thus produced. “But the theory is sound. We’re never going to find out more unless we move it in vivo.”

“The theory is barely formed.” Soléä gestured at the triboard with her half-eaten sandwich, before noticing and setting it down on the lab bench. “The kinesis effectors were designed to work with a specific neural architecture, and a fully sophont one, at that, and we only barely understand how they work. You think they’re self-modifying to optimize for the specific host brain, but this is a whole other order of difference. Do you really think they’ll be able to adapt to that?”

“Their neural architecture isn’t so different from ours.  And I think the effectors might, yes. They’ve proven remarkably versatile in the past.”

She snorted. “You’ll be lucky if they just don’t work.” Her hand fell to the bench, came up empty. “Where’s –?”

On the other side of the lab, the first of the test subjects swallowed, flipped his ears, favored the researchers with a canine grin, and went searching for any remaining sandwich crumbs as the photon-discharge corona faded around him.

“…I withdraw my objections.”

Unelected Dogcatchers

“Gentlesophs of the Plurality, on behalf of the Bandal Home/Care Provision Citizen Oversight Group, we move that our statement of intent, critical path, budget and disbursals as modified in our attachment for estimated population variance be accepted as read, being invariant from our presentation of the last fiscal year.”

“We have a single addendum to make, in response to a question-tree forwarded to us on behalf of the Assertive Benevolence Association, which wishes us to define, by way of justification of our proposal and the expenditure of social money contributions on our intent, the concrete benefits provided to the Imperial citizen-shareholder by our COG.”

“It is tempting to merely reply that we do not acknowledge that anyone who does not consider our primary argument, presented in terms of one’s proper moral obligations to one’s dependent creations, sufficient justification in itself has standing or stature enough to question anyone else’s motivations.”

“But if one insists on a pragmatic reason for our care for and rehoming of stray bandal, consider that your typical watchhound these days has diamond teeth that can shear through light armor, fur with the same sort of protective characteristics as an arachnoweave vest, and can leap twenty feet in the air from a standing start, all of which traits breed true.  We stipulate that the absence of a large feral population of such capable animals is an obvious external benefit of our work.”

“This tree then asks the secondary question: why does this argument not apply equally to people?”

“The answer here is simple. Sophs can’t revert to a wild state.  By definition, they’ve got ethical competence, so if one starts acting in an uncivilized manner, that’s criminal, not feral.  There are other instrumentalities to deal with that, with which the Empire is amply supplied, in both the public and private realms.”

“This concludes our proposal to the Plurality.”

– from the Plurality opening session, 3411

Why the Dar-Bandal?

We are asked, quite regularly, why the bandal was chosen as the first candidate for uplift.

The simple answer, of course, is that as a domesticated animal that had, unlike every other, been bred selectively for millennia for higher intelligence and more, which is profoundly social, the bandal was one of the easiest candidates available for uplift.

But that, while true, is not the whole story.

The bandal is also the avatar of Tárvalén, eikone of loyalty, promises, contracts, and agreements, and part of His protectorate; this for their nature, for a bandal is loyalty made flesh. More even than ourselves, we trusted them to guard us while we slept.

They have long been partners in our civilization – from the years when their wild ancestors and ours helped each other survive, hunting together in the Winter of Nightmares, to the modern day when their work in our homes and offices is all but indispensable. And this work they chose to do; when offered a life of indolence, as some have come to know, they look for ways to do their part.

Loyalty, labor, and an unfailing comfort in times of trouble; our helpers, friends, and exemplars of virtue for as long as civilization has existed.  If we hope to find minds compatible, yet different, through uplift – where else should we look?

And if we seek to give the gift of sophonce, the greatest gift we have to offer – why, to whom could we owe it more?

– A History of Uplift, Chapter One