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There were three component scenes upon which A Sanslorian's Tale were built: Annabelle calling to Bimf through the storm (page 14); Bimf's "changed" transformation (p. 22); and Beamer's defiant stance (p. 25) and cautious glance at Bimf after killing one of his Sk'lan overlords. From these three scenes, the rest of the story was pieced together; a tragic tapestry of anger, grief, and compassion. No story in the Hearthstone series may move you more than this one may have -- but then again, perhaps Range Patrol #5 will get ya, too. (wink)
Everyone needs an origin story, and Beamer and Bimf's escape from the Cartel lands served that purpose and a number of others: It explains how the Sanslorian came to serve as peace officers in the East; it gives insight into how the Sk'lan manage their affairs (as well as how they use the Tilkrig to accomplish their own purposes), and it gives us a reason for Beamer's unrelenting (and secret) crush on Sheila. Fear not...the little guy will resolve this issue in the next story, Range Patrol #5, Across the Elapine Line, and it'll pave the way for Jelica to steal his heart instead.
The question might arise among those of more detail-orientation....why is it that a Tilkrig can't have a relationship with a member of another race? When I first put out this story, I had the idea that it had something to do with their size and physical incompatibility on that level. Perhaps also that their bodies were too fragile to be compatible with the heavier, larger races. But readers noted that this explanation caused too many problems, and kudos to a forum denizen "Teallaura" for an answer that satisfies. We'll find out what that answer is in Range Patrol #5.
That said, Beamer's attraction to Sheila is the result of unusual circumstances anyway -- Beamer's tragic family life under the Sk'lan (a bit more of that in RP #5), and his trip to freedom. I don't suspect the average Tilkrig in the free world ever gets interested in one of the members of the larger races; partly because everywhere except Nullabor, interracial relationships aren't too popular and marriages are arranged; but also because, quite frankly, most of the other races could not give a Tilkrig the intellectual fulfillment they need from a marriage partner. Maybe the Drovines and a couple of others, but that's it.
I haven't designed rules for laser fencing (pages 7-9), other than the "five point spread" rule, but I imagine the workings to be something like this: The lasers pass through everything except each other; when you score a "hit" on your opponent, the sword passes through them and a score is registered in the players' glove based on the location and quality of the "hit". You can sort of guess who might be winning, but only when the totals are arrived at in the end can you be sure who won and by how much.
Annabelle and Brett manifest entirely different styles in this sport, which can be seen reflected even in how differently they approached the battle simulation back in Range Patrol #2. Annabelle is a free spirit who jumps into the air and takes risks; Brett is a cautious tactician who tends to stay in one spot and wait for an ideal opening. As with much in the way of their relationship, they're polar opposites; the result, oddly, is that they tend to cancel each other out competetively -- while when they work together, they solve problems more efficiently.
Up until now, Bimf's been pretty quiet. I've made it clear that the Sanslorian CAN talk; they just DON'T. In such circumstances I'd expect speech to be a little rough when it is used again for the first time in a long while, but as we find, once he gets going, Bimf's quite the dramatist. Behind that wall there lies the soul of an afflicted poet, which may explain why he cracked where so many Sanslorian did not.
The pacifist orientation (p. 17) of the Sanslorian is meant to mirror the stance of certain groups in the Christian tradition here, like the Quakers. Readers of my other material can guess that I'll have it so that their pacificism comes from some, well, unwarranted exegesis of the Oracles (hence, Brom Shriker doesn't think they support pacificism, p. 34). By the end of the Cartel cycle I plan to work up Bimf's trial (cf. p. 35) before the village elder, and Brett, my Hearthstone alter ego, will play (surprise!) the role of an apologist on behalf of his Sanslorian friend.
I was asked why the Sk'lan sound like Yoda (hee hee -- p. 18). They're not meant to -- it's just that Yoda sounds like many languages, such as German, where the verb is often put at the end of a sentence. If anything, credit the Sk'lan's grammar to the semester of German I took years ago.
One of the few narratives decisions I had to think on was rather gruesome -- how old should Bimf's son be? I had in mind at first that he would be about six, but in the end I decided on an infant because it would help highlight the inhumane cruelty of the Sk'lan -- as well as make it possible for them to eliminate M'chel and Bimf's son in one effort (p. 22).
One cool thing about the Sk'lan I decided on: When you kill them, their lights go out (p. 24)! Their dark "skins" are obviously some form of the integrated "circuit" panel setup I have regularly used in various places (inlcuding a non-permanent form used by the Ketterlings for laser fencing). As noted in RP #3, the Sk'lan have really gone overboard turning themselves into biological machines, and these permanent "circuit suits" are the most obvious example.
The Tilkrig's ability to lose their tail (p. 27) is perhaps a throwback to my idea of them as lizards, before I decided they should be mammals (eg, Beamer's "turret" eye as it first appeared in Range Patrol #1, but which, in updated pages of that story, I have gotten rid of). They still have some reptilian characteristics (notably, that they come in green and yellow); this one, though, seemed to be an excellent (and funny) way to make a plot point. Now at any rate you know why the Sk'lan think Beamer is dead (Range Patrol #3, page 31).
There was a bit of a decision to make as far as how Beamer would help the Sanslorian escape across the sea (p. 28 on). Three ideas came to mind: a land bridge (rejected as too obvious, and too much like a scenario from Eddings' Belgariad I didn't want to seem to imitate); swimming (maybe with their size and strength, plausible if the sea was small enough, but that would cause tactical problems in terms of the Prycenes being able to go to war with the Sk'lan); and the one that got picked, the "ark of safety". As a bonus this also showed us just how confidently domineering the Sk'lan are over their Tilkrig servants. They hold their Tilkrig in such fear that they don't even think of making an easy escape, and confidently allow them to pilot a ship like that one without supervision. Beamer obviously is a Tilkrig of a different bent (p. 30).
Note that the Prycene king and queen share symbols of power (p. 33). The king sits upon the humble throne (a symbol of the power of the state), but the queen wields the scepter (a symbol of the power of decision). Highly egalitarian system in place here, and we'll get a closer look at it in operation, I suspect, in Shrike Team #7 or so.
So now, too, we know Bimf and Beamer know Brom Shriker well. One can imagine that Brom, with his desire to keep out of the spotlight and his natural compassion, looked upon helping the Sanslorian as a project with a bonus: He got to help a bunch of people who would have no idea he was famous! Perfect! They'll have a reunion in the soon to come crossover story (ST #5/RP #6); you might suspect that the other members of the Range Patrol team have at least heard of Brom Shriker, and you'd be right, they have. But what do they think of him? Ah....wait and see. We'll have all sorts of interesting conflicts and meetings happening. Just ask yourself....
There's going to be more than a few surprises before the crossover story is done....
Bimf in a tux (p. 44)? That's worth the price of admission, eh? Also, look back at Range Patrol #1 in a bit after this (August 2006) where Sheila meets Annabelle for the first time. In the reworking of that older story I've decided to add in another "premonition" like the one Sheila has about the dagger. More mystery added for your enjoyment. By the way, the new wrist-wrap (p. 45) will have something to do with it, too.
The recommended Next Read is Shrike Team #4.