The Road Of Danger – Snippet 01

The Road Of Danger – Snippet 01



by David Drake





          I use both English and Metric weights and measures in the RCN series to suggest the range of diversity which I believe would exist in a galaxy-spanning civilization. I do not, however, expect either actual system to be in use in three thousand years. Kilogram and inch (etcetera) should be taken as translations of future measurement systems, just as I’ve translated the spoken language.


          Occasionally I think that I don’t really have to say that in every RCN book. It’s obvious, after all, isn’t it? But there’s a certain number of people to whom it isn’t obvious. They’ll write to “correct” me, and that gets on my nerves.


          The plots of my RCN novels often come from classical history. Ordinarily that means something I’ve found in a Greek historian whom I’ve been reading in translation. In the present case, however, I resumed reading the Roman historian Livy in the original. I found my situation in the disruption which followed the Battle of Zama and the surrender of Carthage to end the 2nd Punic War.


          One of the advantages in going back to primary–or at least ancient–sources is that the ancient historians mention things which modern histories ignore as trivial. They weren’t trivial to the people living them, and to me they often do more to illuminate the life of the times than do ambassadors’ speeches and the movements of armies.


          Northern Italy at the end of the 3d century ad was a patchwork of Roman colonies and allies; Celtic tribes recently conquered by Rome; and independent tribes, mostly Celtic. A man calling himself Hamilcar and claiming to be a Carthaginian raised a rebellion against Rome. In the course of it he sacked cities and destroyed a Roman army sent against him.


          Nobody was really sure where Hamilcar came from. Supposedly he was a straggler from one of the Carthaginian armies which passed through the region, but there was no agreement as to which army.


          There are two perfectly believable accounts of his defeat and death. They can’t both be true, which leads to the possibility that neither is true. All we know for certain is that Hamilcar disappears from the record and from history more generally.


          The point that particularly interested me was that the Roman Senate reacted by sending an embassy to Carthage, demanding that the Carthaginians withdraw their citizen under terms of the peace treaty. This makes perfect legal sense, though appears absurd in any practical fashion.


          Livy’s account got me thinking about the problems that the envoys would have had. The Romans were going to Carthage with demands which weren’t going to be greeted by their listeners with any enthusiasm.


          They had it easier, however, than the Carthaginians who were presumably tasked to proceed to the chaos in Northern Italy and corral Hamilcar. Whatever the Carthaginian people thought of the situation, they were in no position in 200 bc to blow off a Roman ultimatum. There’s no record of the Carthaginian response, but I believe they made at least some attempt to comply. Otherwise there would be more in the record.


          I decided that I could find a story in that. This is the story I found.


Dave Drake


But if you come to a road where danger

          Or guilt or anguish or shame’s to share,

Be good to the lad that loves you true

And the soul that was born to die for you,

          And whistle and I’ll be there.

A E Housman

More Poems, XXX


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16 Responses to The Road Of Danger – Snippet 01

  1. Mike says:

    Hey, this sounds good.

    Is Leary the envoy, or is he the guy being sent at the behest of the envoy?

  2. PeterZ says:

    Perhaps Leary is the agent sent to reign in the rogue hooligan?

    Boy was this snippet a tease!

  3. Robert H. Woodman says:

    From the snippet:
    Northern Italy at the end of the 3d century ad was a patchwork of Roman colonies and allies.

    I’m pretty sure he meant B.C. or B.C.E., since he is discussing Hamilcar.

    @1 – Mike
    Yes, it does sound good.

    @2 – PeterZ
    Agree. Quite the teaser of a snippet.

  4. KenE says:

    Not to mention that he read it in Livy who died in 17 CE (AD).

  5. Doug Lampert says:

    One way or another Leary gets to end up fighting the Hamilcar character. Otherwise the actual situation in Northern Italy is irrelevant as are the problems of those agents.

    It seems to me that maximum opportunity for action comes if he’s the envoy, and then accompanies the agent to assure that the business is actually done. So that’s what I’m betting on. For the forward to really forshadow what’s coming the envoy’s problems should be relevant, and so should the chaos in “northern Italy”, and so should the agent’s problems. Having Leary as both the envoy and part of the agent’s expedition covers all the bases.

  6. PeterZ says:

    robert, anything in the Aubrey/Maturin stories to guide us here?

  7. robert says:

    @6 PeterZ, the short answer is “no” or I really do not think so. O’Brian did his research among the dusty old handwritten documents in old files of the Navy and the British bureaucrats who kept the records. That is where he found accounts of battles written by the naval officers who fought them and of the enclosure acts and other civil matters that played a part in his books.

    I think that O’Leary is not the envoy but rather the envoy’s military escort. The envoy will be either a diplomat, new to the series, or a (well-known to us) INTELLIGENCE OPERATIVE (guess who, anyone?).

  8. robert says:

    I wonder why Drake thinks that “All we know for certain is that Hamilcar disappears from the record and from history more generally.”

    While Wikipedia is not considered an authoritative source, the article on Hamilcar has a decent bibliography and it seems as though his retirement and death dates are known.

    But so what. I am sure the book will be fun, as usual.

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, I suspect that the Hamilcar David mentions was a different person than Hamilcar Barca.

  10. Doug Lampert says:

    @7, He could be the military escort for a new character, but there’s no way he’s an escort and Adele the envoy.

    (a) Why go out of your way to CALL ATTENTION to an intelligence operative?
    (b) Adele’s official rank is MUCH lower than Leary’s. She isn’t a commissioned officer and holds no significant civil rank.
    (c) Leary is a former Speaker’s son and a probable future speaker’s brother, Adele’s family was executed for treason, every culture we’ve seen in this series uses at least some nepotism, who he is will matter to other people even if Leary doesn’t care.

    Sending Adele as a emissary would be an insult to whoever you sent her too unless you promoted her about 4 grades.
    Sending Leary is fine.

    There may be a diplomat along for the ride, but 50/50 if there is he or she is Leary’s advisor and Leary is the emissary; if not then Leary will most likely still be part of the embassy as it’s senior military officer. No way Adele is the emisary unless Drake has gone insane (he’ll be in town tomorrow for a Con, I can ask if he’s gone totally nuts in the last year, but I suspect doing so would be rude).

  11. robert says:

    Well here is the blurb from the S&S website:
    Master and Commander in space! Brilliant and brave starship captain Daniel Leary and ace spy Adele Mundy confront a pirate plot and once again save the Republic of Cinnabar despite itself.

    Says it all, huh?

  12. robert says:

    Oh, wait! There was more:
    Captain Daniel Leary with his friend–and spy–Officer Adele Mundy are sent to a quiet sector to carry out an easy task: helping the local admiral put down a coup before it takes place. But then the jealous admiral gets rid of them by sending them off on a wild goose chase to a sector where commerce is king and business is carried out by extortion and gunfights.

    With anarchy and rebellion in the air, a rogue intelligence officer plots the war that will destroy civilization and enlists the help of a brute whom even torturers couldn’t stomach.

    And, of course, it’s up to Leary and Mundy to put a stop to the madness.

    Oh my goodness! I sure hope they succeed. What fun!

  13. Mike says:

    @8, Hamilcar was a quite popular name for people from Carthage. And Hamilcar Barca was long dead by the time the Second Punic war ended.

  14. Maggie says:

    Shake hands, we shall never be friends, all’s over;
    I only vex you the more I try.
    All’s wrong that ever I’ve done or said,
    And nought to help it in this dull head:
    Shake hands, here’s luck, good-bye.

    But if you come to a road where danger
    Or guilt or anguish or shame’s to share,
    Be good to the lad that loves you true
    And the soul that was born to die for you,
    And whistle and I’ll be there.

    Are we going to see some conflict between our two adventurers??

  15. summertime says:

    In the next to last O’Leary book by Drake I believe he went as military escort to an ousted Senator-turned-diplomat to a supposedly safe sector where the young new potentate was treating with the enemy. After the usual dastardly devilment O’Leary, Mundy and the Senator emerged triumphant and the Senator got back in good with the politicians, as well as our heroes being praised. Maybe this Senator eill be sent on another diplomatic mission.

  16. Fritz says:

    The mentioned chapter of Livy’s history can be found here:
    Tattersall seems to be Placentia, nowadays called Piacenza.

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