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Recap / A Thing of Vikings Chapter 39 "Unwelcome Messages"

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Book II, Chapter 8

...when discussing the size of a state, it is important to remember that the effective limits of the size of any nation is based on four primary factors: the communications response loop, the information/decision-making effectiveness, law enforcement effectiveness, and social viewpoints on society size.

All of the large empires prior to the domestication of dragons were limited primarily by the communications loop factor; an empire's size is restricted by the distance a messenger can travel from the decision center to the periphery with orders and get back in a reasonable period of time. Various pre-dragon empires tried various means of extending this range; for example, Rome made use of its famous roads and Persia had the first post office, while China worked by decentralizing the provinces, but this did cause several civil wars over the course of their history as rebellious provinces attempted to break away.

The coming of the dragon courier, though, changed all of that, by significantly increasing the speed at which messages could travel; a horse courier on well-paved roads can travel at an average of 15-25 kilometers per hour, if they have ready remounts at waystations along the route. However, average speeds of 10-16 km/hour for horse couriers were more typical, especially away from main routes and their waystations. A dragon courier, in contrast, when flying one of the breeds used for courier duty, can reliably expect average speeds of 100-160 km/hour, potentially faster for shorter sprints, and needs no roads or waystations, with the primary limiting factor being the provisions needed to feed the dragon.

As a direct result of that event, the effective range at which a nation could be managed and organized, in the absence of the other factors, had effectively increased by an order of magnitude, and this had tremendous influence into shaping the world of today.

Changes in decision making, however...

Nationbuilding: How People Move, Talk, Think, Organize, & Structure Themselves, 1888, Amsterdam University Press

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • Berserk Button: Being reminded of her training is one for Heather.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Cami tries to convince Heather to teach her some spy skills not realizing just how traumatizing her training was (see Berserk Button above).
    Cami: But point is, I'm already trained up! And look at you! No scars, no missin' bits! It can't have been that bad if you got through it with your skin intact!
  • Sand Necktie: Mentioned by Heather as one possible method which Alvin used to dispose of the hostages of washouts from his Spy Training.
  • The Stations of the Canon: The avalanche from "Animal House" is given a nod, but instead of being a few seconds of Ship Tease like it was in the show, it instead is treated as a life-threatening incident that eats up most of the chapter with search and rescue efforts.


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