Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Marque & Reprisal

Letters of Marque are a staple of historical adventure and pirate-oriented fiction: be it in the Spanish Main or at large into the stardust-strewn Orion’s Arm, no matter if you command a sailing ship or motor launch or a starship, a Letter of Marque is what you need to be on the safe side. At least, on one safe side, at least.

Commodore Walkers Action by Brooking

The handbook definition is as follows:

Letters of marque and reprisal are commissions or warrants issued to someone to commit what would otherwise be acts of piracy. They will normally contain the following first three elements, unless they imply or refer to a declaration of war to define the enemies, and may optionally contain the remainder:

  • Names person, authorizes him to pass beyond borders with forces under his command.
  • Specifies nationality of targets for action.
  • Authorizes seizure or destruction of assets or personnel of target nationality.
  • Describes offense for which commission is issued as reprisal.
  • Restriction on time, manner, place, or amount of reprisal.

And that’s what I’ve been doing this afternoon, contrary to my plans – no, I don’t mean committing what would otherwise be acts of piracy(although it would be fun). I mean I spent part of the afternoon putting together a Letter of Marque issued by the Honourable East India Company to characters and players in my Hope & Glory roleplaying game – as in my universe John Company has become a sort of corporate state, they have a right to issue such documents.
To airships.
Because we like sky privateers.

The letter is part of a special treat for some of our fans, and part of the current Kickstarter to release an Italian language edition of the game.
And who knows, might turn into a hook for future adventures. It was also a nice opportunity to do the sort of research that makes this writing thing quite fun.


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Accountants, Soldiers and Nurses

Accountants are dangerous. And no, I am not going to entertain you with my adventures in mortgage and banking. The fact is, while doing a bit of research both for The Ministry of Lightning and for a short article I am about to write, I chanced on something that will not go in the article – being only tangentially connected with the topic – and will certainly get into the novel. And it’s all about accountants.
One accountant in particular.
His name was Andrea Compatangelo, and he was an Italian, from Benevento.

Let’s bactrack a little – during the Great War, a number of Italians fought in the Austro-Hungarian forces, simply because the territories from which they came, while being ethnically Italy, were part of the Hapsburg Empire. Many of these men were taken prisoner on the Eastern Front, and deported to Russia.

After the war, an Italian military mission took care of extracting the “talianski” from the Russian working camps, and bring them back to Italy. This is the subject of the article I am writing.
But there were others. And here we go down a wholly different rabbit hole. This is a strange story…

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The Real Hawk of Outremere: al-Markis

“He was a devil incarnate in his ability to govern and defend a town, and a man of extraordinary courage”

This, according to Ibn al-Athir, Arab chronicler of the Crusades, was Conrad of Monferrat.
But then of course Sir Walter Scott got to work and gave the upstart Italian that had defeated Saladin and (more importantly, for Scott) opposed Richard Lionheart his just desserts.
And I, that I am sitting right now smack in the middle of Montferrat, never heard about the guy. Weird, considering this should be part of our History curriculum in school, right?
Looks like it’s time to set the record straight.

This is a story that will feature intrigue, politics, swordfights, courage and a mysterious death, the lot in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade.
Perfect for Karavansara.

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Ancient Greek Insults – a primer

Greek was the language of phylosophy (and of commerce) to the ancient Romans, and therefore it was sort of a lingua franca in the Mediterranean.
As I have often explained, it is likely that Aculeo and Amunet speak in Greek to each other – and indeed Amunet tends to use Greek swearwords wjhen she goes over the top, reserving Latin profanities only to those she is sure can understand them.

dirtywords-300x217So, after yesterday’s roundup of Latin dirty words, here’s a quick list of Ancient Greek terms that are absolutely not safe for works, especially if you are a citizen of the Empire… Continue reading