MotF 246: The Beacons Are Lit!

MotF 246: The Beacons Are Lit!

The Challenge

Make a map showing a long-range communications system.

The Restrictions

There are no restrictions on when the PoD of your map should be. Fantasy, sci-fi, and future maps are allowed.

If you're not sure whether your idea meets the criteria of this challenge, please feel free to PM me or comment in the main thread.
Entries will end for this round when the voting thread is posted on Monday, November 15, 2021.
Any discussion must take place in the main thread. If you post anything other than a map entry (or a description accompanying a map entry) in this thread, you will be asked to delete the post.

Don't forget to vote on MotF 245!

The Mariner's Valley is the longest-inhabited and most densely-populated region of Mars. Before the Earth Origin theory gained favor among modern historians, it was thought to be the cradle of humanity. Its steep cliffs retain a thick, oxygen-rich atmosphere in the rich valleys below, while shielding them from the brutal dust storms which once constrained the inhabitants of Xanthe and Araby to cling to life in craters and caves.

While the continual growth of cyanobacteric algae in the northern ocean has gradually thickened the atmosphere and made life feasible at higher and higher altitudes, the Valley remained the economic center of the northwestern Martian world up through the 11th century. This made control of the Straits of Capri - the sole conventional entrance to the Valley - the most valuable geopolitical prize on the planet.

In the late 7th century, the Province of Xanthe had led the western coalition to a smashing victory on the fields of Osuga against the County of Fadoua, ending its Governor's attempt to unify the province of South Margaritifer and seize control of the Straits. Xanthe's continued aggressive expansion in the decades which followed, both into the crater confederations of West Xanthe and the coastal lands along the Straits raised fear across Western Mars that it, too, would make a play to become a regional hegemon.

The peripheral powers which formed the Copratian League to oppose Xanthe's ambitions - the canyon confederation of Ius and the newly-unified and rapidy-growing Province of Kasei - faced a critical geographic problem. Separated from each other by Xanthe, they faced the fear that a Xanthean fleet which could cut communication through Da Vinci Bay could strike a critical blow to one of the allies before the other even learned that a war had begun.

A solution came from an unlikely source - the then-desolate county of Echus, which had recently turned to Kasei for protection against the steppe hetmans which plagued its river settlements. Towns in its southern periphery had contact and limited trade with the hermit kingdom of Hebes, from which it was separated by 12 kilometers of the highland 'Death Zone' - lands so high that the air was too thin for life to survive permanently. Specially-acclimated people who were reared at extreme heights could climb up the Echus cliffs and survive the passage to the other side. Hebes folk legends claimed ancient heroes had once done the same across the 70 kilometer gap between southern Hebes and the Marinerian county of Ophir.

This hope, thin as it was, was enough for Kasei to try. Countless bold and hardy highlanders perished in subsequent attempts to recreate legend - but eventually, it was done, with the help of sealed goatskins full of low-altitude air and the discovery of a midway chasm deep enough to allow rest. Using similar methods, adventurers were later able to find a second, shorter route through the county of Nia via the uninhabited Hydrae Chasm to the source of the Maja river in the isolated county of Juventae. The now-famous Hebesian and Hydrean Runs were open.

For the first generation of the 8th century, mail runners regularly carried secret dispatches across both routes, keeping the allies connected during several brutal wars with the Xanthean Caprisian League. After the 724 defeat of the Copratian fleet at Batoka Bay, these paths became the only form of communication between the Valley and the outside world.

Ultimately, they were not enough. Caprisian forces finally subdued Ius in the bloody battle of Calyport, while Kasei was first forced to cede the rich craterlands which had once been its heartland, then collapsed under invasion from the province of Tempe and the resurgent plains hetmanates. For its part, Xanthe was able to enjoy the fruits of victory for only thirty-odd years before a disputed gubernatorial succession led to civil war and conflict with the new leading Marinerian power of Melas.

Knowledge of the Highland Runs was lost for generations until evidence was rediscovered by archivists in the mid-12th century. Today, with a much thicker atmosphere than existed in the 7th century, the two Runs are popular among hikers and marathoners who see them as an opportunity to relive history - providing a much-needed boon to the struggling economies of Hebes and the north Marinerian states.
Vega Highway.png

The Vega Highway and the Knotted Network

“…the discovery of the Stapledon Swarm made Vega a prime target for colonization actions, but for a civilization that had only made it to Toliman, the technical difficulties seemed insurmountable. For one, Vega was five times further from Sol than Toliman, and reliable communication would be all-but impossible given the limitations imposed by general relativity. A work around was needed, and in our most desperate hour one last gift of the Progenitors was uncovered in low orbit of Proxima Toliman…”

“…the Knotted Network, as it is known, is still not quite understood, but it has allowed for quick communication between our most far-flung colonies in the stars. Stations of the Network are anchored close to the surface of suitable red dwarfs, and through quantum entanglement fueled likely through gravitic tunnelling, communiques can be sent well in advance of even the most daring light-jumpers…”

“…the main waystations of the Knotted Network run in a general line outwards from Sol, beginning at Barnard’s Star. Most assume the Network begins at Proxima Toliman, but the waystation discovered there was too fragmentary to be of use beyond reverse-engineering. From there it runs to Merlin then Dorpat, before breaking into three tracks. If a message needs to be sent to Guniibuu or Sikun, then it is relayed on to Lira’s Star. If a message needs to be sent to Altair or Bessel’s Star, then it goes to Evan’s Star. If a message needs to go to further afield, then it is sent to Wayland. There, there is again a choice; relaying is needed to send a message to Alsafi or Caladan, relayed through Biesbroeck; otherwise, it is straight on to Vega and the Swarm…”

“…managing a waystation along the Knotted Network is not a task for the faint of heart. Orbiting very near to red dwarfs, such waystations are often bathed in harmful radiation. This means that the stations are generally highly automated, but live personnel are kept on hand for sensitive matters. However, one positive is that crew rotations are quite frequent, primarily to ensure the mental stability of the live personnel, who more often than not are condemned criminals…”

“…there are a great number of problems present with the Network, namely our use of it. The first waystation we found was in ruins; the Swarm was as well. These are creations and constructs that defy our very understanding of the universe, and yet we’ve taken hold of then wholeheartedly. Yes, they have undeniably aided our expansion into the galaxy, but I cannot help but wonder: how did they get in that ruined state to begin with? The Progenitors were beings that wielded great power, so what could have stopped them so decisively? If it was their use of these technologies and constructs that brought their ruin, then I wouldn’t want to meet whatever did them in. And I most undoubtedly fear that we’re putting out a signal, that here we are, come and get us. We’ve lit a beacon, and who knows what will follow the light…”

I wanted to add a bit more to the map, but Paint stopped letting me edit it, so here it is. Many thanks must be given to the Nearby Star Catalog from the University of Puerto Rico for providing the relative location of our nearest stellar neighbors.
MOTF 246-01.png

From a letter sent by the Acalsha Regent on behalf of the League before negotiations in Xayin began, 1306:
To His Highness the Celestial Emperor, who makes his worldly home in Matfin, He who speaks to the Gods themselves, Climber of Mountains, Conqueror of Countries, that he may recieve our message in peace and in good health, and in a disposition to humor this humble request.
The great armies of the Celestial Empire have taken vast swaths of land from our common rivals in Talitun, and now as I see them preparing in Xayin I must wonder if the great Celestial Emperor would turn on our own humble nation next. Not since the last Acalsha Imperial Pretender fell in the northern slopes of Anxulin in the 1284th year since the revelation have any from Calshan stood against an army from great Matfin, and as these vast armies grow stronger by the minute, with more and more soldiers joining the gods' cause, it would be wise to keep it that way. Calshan and her few satellites have thus deemed it prudent to reaffirm our loyalty to His Highness the Celestial Emperor of Matfin and of all places above the sea. The court stands eager to humble itself before the Celestial Emperor and avoid any of the unnecessary bloodshed that war - especially war with the Celestial Empire, as their armies are so brave and coordinated that all enemies before them are decimated - always causes.

Though rumors should never be trusted, some claim that the gods themselves shine heavenly light from their home in the Shuru upon the great city of Matfin and all those which lie within the Empire, a true proof of her legitimacy. There would be no greater honor than to become another part of the one true Blessed Celestial Empire.

May the Gods grant this letter swift passage along the roads and the seas, that it may find its recipient unharmed.

The Reflector Networks were a perfect example of the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction. After contact was established with the Ashuro, the early experimenters tried to collaborate to bounce messages between the worlds. This was done in the name of science, a field still in its infancy at the time. Soon, permanent retroreflectors were set up to bounce light between cities on the other world; the earliest route went from Xungcin to Matfin. More and more routes were set up on both worlds, for a simple reason; they held complete power over each others' communications. If either planet decided, for any reason, to shut off the retroreflectors, the other could freely knock out all of their own retroreflectors as revenge. Of course, this meant that both had a rather strong incentive not to displease the other. The system was a house of cards at best, and it's frankly a surprise that it lasted as long as it did.

The invention of the Reflector Networks was the biggest factor in ending the Three Empires period. The continent had been split in three for most of a century, but when the Amatfe were the first to develop Reflectors, the balance was tipped. The first major military maneuver coordinated through the reflectors was the Amatfe invasion of the southern Edalito territory. It was a huge success. The communication between Shlikun and Naculayn, located in the only two major passes in that area of the Heavenly Mountains, was instrumental in the entire operation. The Emperor in Matfin continued with the new technology, conquering most of the northeast. It was at this point that the Acalsha joined forces with the Amatfe. Their own throne had been vacant for twenty years, and with their reports of "the gods themselves" flashing "heavenly light" in Matfin, there was little they could do to reclaim legitimacy.

Talitun had an advantage over Calshan in its isolation from Matfin, over the Heavenly Mountains and the great jungle. They even began a small Reflector Network of their own , but too little, too late. The public had already been convinced that the Emperor in Matfin had been chosen by the gods who lived on the Shuru, and that their own was a pretender.

This map was fun! I've had a vague idea for something along these lines for months now, but this MotF gave me the chance to really flesh it out. Some notes:
The Shuru is the twin planet. This is a binary planet. The religion of this area holds that the gods live on the Shuru, so needless to say when somebody figured out they could actually talk to the gods using mirrors, this was important beyond just "oh cool, the telegraph a little bit early".
Speaking of which, this world's tech is early 1600s level (except for optics and astronomy, which is much more advanced).
I think that's it!
Edit: Oh, and Amatfe, Acalsha, and Edalito are the demonyms of Matfin, Calshan, and Talitun, respectively.
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