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Recap / A Thing Of Vikings Chapter 80 Alea Iacta Est

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Book III, Chapter 12

In the study of ecology, there is the concept of 'carrying capacity'—the amount of a given population that a given region or ecosystem can support. Various factors limit carrying capacity, typically basic needs like food, water or shelter, but exceeding carrying capacity means that the population can no longer support itself on the resources that were available and will undergo a dieback to below the capacity limit.

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A common misconception is that humanity managed to escape the carrying capacity of the environment by shifting from hunter-gatherer to agricultural, but in truth, we only managed to shift the nature of the carrying capacity limit. Instead of escape, we had just begun to manipulate the environment to increase the carrying capacity in our favor (and to the general detriment of other species in the environment).

But the process of that manipulation was and is incremental, and there were and are still diebacks in the form of famine, disease, and other mass fatality events. Excess capacity for the support of populations and the related productivity surplus rarely kept complete pace with population growth, and was frequently taken from one group by another for their own support (either in the form of external raids/conquest or internal taxation). The investment of surplus resources into continued growth and environmental manipulation—as well as increased infrastructure designed to help promote per-individual efficiency—was primarily the domain of large empires, many of which fueled their own internal growth by taking resources from conquered populations and regions, and even then, much of these resources were wasted (wars, upper-class lifestyles, etc).

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One of the single largest bursts of surplus and productivity in all of human history occurred with the human-dragon species alliance. This singular event allowed the two species—similar in social structures and temperaments—to benefit from each other's strengths. Prior to their alliance with humanity, dragon society was based around small, autocratic hunter-gatherer chiefdoms centered around nesting sites and food sources. These societies faced horrendously high mortality rates, due to famine and conflict with humans. Even with several nests having begun a tentative shift to agriculture and fish-farming in the decades before Hiccup Haddock meeting and sparing Toothless, those early farms were limited in output and generally primitive in design (and, according to modern analysis of their design, would have resulted in a population explosion followed by a crash when the new carrying capacity was exceeded and the farms failed from the strain). It was only a general alliance with humanity that allowed both species to thrive in a true positive-sum manner. Dragons gained the benefit of humanity's experience with food production, processing and, most importantly, preservation, along with medical care, prenatal care, and more, while humans gained access to dragon labor to help with the construction of infrastructure that would benefit both. Together, the two species became more than the sum of their parts, and it took decades for the subsequent 'hiccup' of productivity to fully unfold and be integrated by population growth and social development.

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What occurred as a result was an explosion of social upheaval. In the countless generations beforehand, both human and dragon societies had evolved strong traditions designed to maximize the chances of survival, of the individual and of the society as a whole, identifying limits to the environment and behaviors that would result in negative outcomes, resulting in fairly rigid/conservative social expectations and behaviors across politics, economics and military activity. And, suddenly, much of that traditional wisdom was in doubt—if not outright obsolete—because of the new capacities that abruptly existed. It took most of a century for new norms to establish themselves, and in that chaotic gap as the carrying capacity increased for both species, truly extraordinary events occurred.

The Dragon Millennium, Manna-hata University Press, Ltd.

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The empress doesn’t respect Hiccup solely because he has a concubine, which she see's as him being unfaithful to his wife, not knowing Berk's version of concubinage is very different from what she knows.
    Besides, I do not respect a man who proudly parades around the proof of his infidelity.
  • The Exile: Hiccup declared Snotlout to be exiled in response to Snotlout providing Rome with a fleet of dragon-riders.
  • For Want of a Nail: Stoick ponders the fact that it is almost two years to the day since Hiccup claimed to have shot down a Night Fury, and wonders at how much has changed since then and what would not have taken place if he had believed his son and simply killed the Night Fury on that day.
  • Loophole Abuse: Stoick discovers that many people are taking advantage of one in regards to the law that only members of the tribe can get dragons.
    He saw now, as he looked over the list. Nearly every unattached Hooligan over the age of twenty from both the Old Clans and New was getting married to one of the Eirish immigrants, or taking them as concubines, or both—and at least some of the younger men would need to have an eye kept on them, Stoick noted. Bladewit and Clodgall's law had a loophole that was blindingly obvious in hindsight, but the implications made Stoick's gut feel queasy. Dragon training was restricted to the "allied clans"—but becoming a spouse or concubine to a member of those clans granted one status in those clans, automatically.
  • The Oathbreaker: Hiccup regards Snotlout as an oathbreaker for providing Rome with dragon-riders and using them to attack alleged enemies of Rome.
  • Rising Empire: How the Roman envoy describes Berk.
    They are a small but growing power, with might beyond what the Empire could muster. Thankfully they are strongly disinterested in conquest, but fools that attack them do not get to make the same mistake twice, and their lands now belong to the Dragon Riders.
  • That Man Is Dead: Snotlout insists that he is Sigurd now. After being exiled from Berk by Hiccup and offered Roman citizenship by the empress he has embraced his new life as a Roman soldier.


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