Monday, 13 October 2014

Skills

An outback woman on Freehold may be a Mistress of a Skill:

"A special ability, inborn, cultivated, disciplined."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 45.

Mistresses are not bred because outbacker women prefer to become pregnant by landholders. However, female biochemistry is more complex and psychic. A girl with an ability is trained, e.g., drugs might change her body secretions. A woman who either ingests certain trace chemicals or generates them with her glands can use appropriate stimuli to control organisms bred to respond, a practice learned from the Arulians.

(i) A Mistress of War can deliberately induce in herself instant hysteria with heightened perception and recollection.
(ii) Mistresses of Love are called "aphrodites."
(iii) Another kind of Mistress activates signal plants.
(iv) Mistress Jenith controls fire bees.
(v) Mistress Persa's buzzer-wave bugs jam radio.
(vi) Mistress Randa's insects drink and exude dew, thus generating a camouflage fog, but is her chanted spell necessary? (Mistresses keep secrets.)

Men lack Skills but can be trained to use certain animals:

(i) Messenger birds, having heard information or orders spoken in Anglic, repeat them in bird language, which military leaders and scouts can understand.
(ii) Weasel-like intelligencers report what they see: men talking to their wrists must have radiocoms etc.
(iii) The Grand Packmaster leads "...two great hellhounds..." (p.. 2)
(iv) "...monitors..." (p. 21), large and crocodilian, can be given orders and aimed but not redirected or recalled.

A Mistress of War overhears and apprehends an Imperial spy. A landing spaceship and its accompanying aircraft are disabled by strategic use of camouflage fog, buzzer-wave bugs, fire bees, monitors and aphrodites. The Avalonians had lured an Imperial task force to a beachhead where hostile organisms overwhelmed them but, on Freehold, the hostile organisms are controlled by the outbackers.

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