I read The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau in one day, almost in a single sitting. My husband got kind of boggle-eyed when I told him that, and yeah, I guess that’s a bit quick, even for me. I mean, it usually takes me at least a whole day, maybe two, to plow through a several hundred page book. It was quite a satisfying read…I’ve seen the movie, probably a year ago now, and it was pretty faithful to the book. That sort of conciseness, common to the young adult genre in particular, is something I admire when I see it and something I need to do more. I have a tendency to write epically.
Right now I’m working on Inkheart, another book that I’ve seen the movie of. Pretty good so far.
I have a ridiculous weakness for M&Ms. In case the blog itself doesn’t give that away.
You might notice that I’ve tweaked the sidebar a little bit. That picture (and yes, that is me) is one the hubby took while we were in North Carolina. It was a nice foggy day, which made for some very neat photo opportunities. I also finally figured out how to eliminate the search thingy at the top. I never liked it there. I’ll probably put it somewhere else in the sidebar, so the blog is still easily searchable.
I’ve been thinking about the logistics of the coup Raphel is planning for the city of Aschera. I’d only given it so much thought the first time around, and I’m realizing that I really need to know how it’s going to work. I need to know how the government functions. I need to know how Cowls occupy the cities they conquer. I need to know what they do with the cowan citizenry of conqured places. I need to decide what they will do with the majahel students at the school who don’t escape. I need to decide how many cabals it would take to occupy a large city like Aschera, and how Raphel is going to contact these cabals. I need to figure out all the complications that will arise when Raphel basically bails on his cabal right after they’ve captured the city.
Aschamon’s professors are also the governing body of Aschera. The High Priestess is the High Priestess of that entire region; her role as headmistress of the school is really more of a side job for her. As commander-in-chief of the forces from the Aschera region, she is occasionally called out into the field, and thus absent from the school for days at a time. Donnevan, the Angelic Studies professor, acts as head of the school in her stead. A group of nine or ten professors make the larger decisions for the city as a whole, and each has a number of guild heads and craftmasters that report to them.
Students pay a tuition to attend Aschamon, but those who can’t afford it are generally taken on scholarship anyway. (This only applies to local students…student from outside cities like Chisge pay tuition, and it tends to be a little higher). The city tithes to the school, and provides for scholarship students and generally what tuition doesn’t cover. Aschamon students are encouraged to work in the city, offering services only majahel can provide. The more a business or trade donates to the school, the cheaper majahel services become for them. In the last couple of decades, Aschamon also began demanding a tax on top of the tithe, to better fund the war. After the capture of Iadnah, the last really big Cowl stronghold, the war turned in the Mantles’ favor. Thus they stepped up their efforts, hoping to finish it in a few short years. However, the tax began to really hurt some Aschera businesses, which led to closures and the price of certain items rising. Fewer families could afford to pay for their young majahel to attend Aschamon, but since the war was “almost over”, Aschamon felt they really couldn’t turn any aspiring student away. Thus, Aschamon began to have a surplus of scholarship students, which then put more pressure on the city to provide for the school’s needs…and thus more business and families began to hurt, financially. It’s a vicious cycle that Aschamon’s professors are aware of, but choose to ignore…because they are still hoping that if the Mantles can just push a little longer, the Cowls will be defeated once and for all.
I need to decide how many people live in Aschera. Luckily I had already sat down at some point and worked out all the logistics of Cowl raider culture. A typical cabal of raiders has anywhere from 15-40 members, average being 20 or so. Raphel’s cabal has 17-18, but these are very, very good, because Raphel has the reputation to be selective in who he allows to join. I’m deciding that Geris’ cabal has closer to 40, but he tends to attract the scum of Cowl society and as such, his crew is more of a rabble or mob than an trim fighting unit.
When Cowl cabals join together to accomplish a bigger mission, the operation is called a raid. Yes, I totally stole that from Warcraft. The term works. The ras from each cabal get together and decide who is going to lead the raid, by duel if necessary. The other ras in the raid function like suras to the ras in charge of the whole operation, but maintain control of their own cabals.
I think there needs to be two, possibly three more cabals involved to effectively occupy Aschera. When both Raphel and Mora disappear through Saeli’s portal, Raphel’s cabal is probably going to be taken over by a fellow named Jaime. (If the ras of a cabal dies/abdicates/is captured/etc., command of the cabal goes to the suras. In the unlikely event that both the ras and suras are killed/abducted/whatever at the same time, command goes to whomever is strong enough to take charge.) The fifteen of them will probably be nominally in charge of the whole occupation effort…until Raphel returns, that is. Thus, Jaime will be ras of the Aschera raid.
We’ll have Geris’ cabal still there, under the command of Egan, their suras. However, Egan is going to be killed by the student resistance, and I think after that the whole cabal is going to fall apart. Some of them might migrate to the other cabals, but on the whole, they’ll probably just take what they can and slink out of the city in the night.
We’ll have Teja’s cabal. I didn’t introduce her until the third book in the first draft, and I may still save her for then. Teja has a relatively large cabal, let’s say 30 or so, and she’s reasonably competent. After Egan is killed and the remnant of Raphel’s cabal abandons Aschera when Raphel returns, Teja will claim leadership of the occupation and become ras of the Aschera raid.
So we need at least one additional cabal, possibly two. Maybe two smaller ones of about 15-20. These are probably going to be Cowls that Raphel or possibly Mora knows, and trusts. I haven’t decided which of them knew Teja.
Now, the occupation itself. As a rule, majahel don’t kill cowans if they don’t have to. It’s kind of like the soldier/civilian dynamic…you don’t kill civilians if you can help it, and you certainly don’t target them. Killing cowans is bad form. Using cowans as cover is cowardly. Etc. Thus, the Aschera raid isn’t going to kill everyone in the city. Also, Prof Micah and Prof Lo do manage to get a sizable chunk of Aschera’s citizenry away from the city before the other cabals get there, so probably large parts of the city are going to be empty.
The students are somewhat of a gray area. On one hand, they are all majahel. On the other hand, a lot of them are not trained enough to really be a threat. The senior red cords and the Anjahel students are obvious threats. Probably any student sixteen or older will be treated as a threat, though the Cowls might decide to imprison them instead of executing them. The younger Mantle students would be treated like cowans. The gray students may be given the opportunity to take the Cowl.
Aschera’s going to get looted and torched pretty bad. Cowls are more accepting of looting than Mantles. (Not that Mantles don’t loot. They do. They just pretend they don’t, or they call it something else.) Aside from Geris’ mob, many of whom are thieves anyway…every Cowl that enters the city is going to take stuff. Plus, taking Aschera is the ultimate payback for Iadnah, and I’m sure the raid is going to destroy everything they don’t need, simply for revenge.
Aschamon is going to become the staging ground for the raid, and as such, the dormitories are probably going to be where they all sleep.
This is what Saeli is going to come back to. Not to mention a very pissed roommate who blames her for it all.
Alas, it is late, so I must give off my brainstorming for the night.