It's generally contended that war is bad. There are, of course, occasions where going to war is good, but only when the other side is forcing you by being bad, in which case avoiding the war by them not being bad would be better--which is to say that war is bad even when fighting in one is the right thing to do. Some people have trouble with this concept, but it is a good concept, at heart.

From time to time, in an attempt to be crass or stupid (or perhaps in an accidental fit of stupidity), a person will claim that war is good because it reduces the population, and we're overpopulated. This too is a misconception, as war tends to be an exceptionally inefficient and environmentally unsound way of reducing the populations involved, and very rarely results in a higher standard of living even for the survivors. Still, people will be people, and people who will be people will typically say, think, and do stupid things.

What it all comes down to, though, is that war is almost always a bad thing, despite the absurd claims of absurd people (mostly teenagers, I should note). However, there was one war which was altogether good, this being the war between the Tanenbaums and the Pesce. This should be considered a good war because no one was seriously injured, they all had a real blast fighting, and it resulted in a long era of peace and instability, making for safe yet exciting living for generations to come.


The Tanenbaums were a family of fishermen-kings who ruled the coastal state of, well, Tanenbaum Region. It was originally called something else and a part of something larger, but the Tanenbaums had gradually increased their power until the entire region was under their rule. Tanenbaum Region was a multi-tiered society. First, there were the Royal Tanenbaums. These were the largely pureblood Tanenbaums who lived at Tanenbaum Estate and ruled over the region. Then there were the Tanenbaumians. These were bourgeois folk who made up the bulk of the citizenry. They could trace their lineage back to the Tanenbaum family some way or another, and were all very proud of their ancestry. Though only the city planners really understood precisely how it all worked, the location of your home was based on your lineage, and someone with enough knowledge and a good map could determine a great deal of your family tree simply from your address. Even without any expertise, everyone knew your closeness to the royals genetically was paralleled by your closeness to the ocean side of town, with the exception of the city of Whitefish, next to Tanenbaum Estate, where the sides towards the Royal Tanenbaums derived inordinately high status, matching those of the oceansides.

This set-up actually led to a very hodgepodged black market for bootleg houses. If you felt daring, you could try to acquire a house closer to the ocean than your family ties warranted. This meant more respect, better prices when haggling, and fresher fish. It also meant the housing police would likely be knocking on your door to beat the snot out of you, so most people just made due with that they had. After all, they were very proud of their family ties, no matter how faint they were. By faking closer ties, you were betraying your own as not good enough. And, hey, at least you weren't a Prawn.

Prawns were the third tier of society. They had no discernible Tanenbaum blood in their veins, so they had little status. Some were fishing net weavers, others ship debarnaclers, the kids street urchins, the old folk fish scalers, and the truly unfortunate didn't get to work with fish at all. They lived on the inland end of the town and did land work: some even farmed, which brought them decent money, but absolutely no respect.

Tanenbaum Region was on the west coast of the continent, somewhere near the middle, but north of the Pesce, so they were sometimes called northerners. There were people farther up the coast, but no one paid them much heed.

Tanenbaum Estate itself was on a peninsula jutting out towards the island of the gods, where no one lived save for a few monks. This meant firstly that Tanenbaum Estate had water on three sides and a fair bit on the forth as well. On top of this, however, the island of the gods protected it from the worst of the weather, so their harbour was safer than one might expect, and fish harvests were bountiful.


The Pesce were completely different from the Tanenbaums, as any Pesce (or Tanenbaum, for that matter) will readily attest. Unlike those land-loving faux fishermen the Tanenbaums, the Pesce loved fish. While Tanenbaumers had the occasional fish display, they were always dead, viciously murdered by the very same Tanenbaumers who claimed to love the ocean and fishing. The Pesce, on the other hand, only caught live fish, which were then cared for in ginourmous aquariums, where they were admired by a regular stream of visitors.

The Pesce ate only red meat and grain, all of which was acquired from their eastern principalities of Silves and Bale in exchange for not killing them. Silves and Bale themselves were very agrarian and could easily have taken Pesce if they'd only realised it. Pesce's military consisted entirely of a navy--not much use in the dry fields of Silves and Bale.

Yet, thankfully, the farmers didn't know much of military matters, so this arrangement lasted for many hundreds of years, preventing the Pesce from starving and the farming regions from becoming fat and happy with excess food and free time.

The Pesce also differed from the Tanenbaums in that they had long rejected the concept of bloodlines. As far as they were concerned, relation by marriage, adoption, or friendship was what mattered. One acquired status by being liked by someone with status. If you pissed off His Lordship, you may as well be commonborn. It didn't matter if you were his nephew, or third cousin twice removed, or Timothy McCloud, inventor of the steam-powered aquarium cleaner: you'd best go find another group of nobles to hang out with.

This system, of course, was much more civilised than the primitive Tanenbaum system of bloodlines and heredity. Genetics means nothing to me. My liking you does. It also makes life more interesting, as I might like you today and hate you a week from now, whereas we'll always be third half-cousins twice removed. People in Pesce were always very formal and very polite, even to the lowliest of men, as any one of them could be a nobleman in disguise for who knows what reason. Every child in Pesce knows the cautionary tale of Lord Elm and how he banished his niece DeRayla following an off-hand remark made to the Lord-in-disguise during a game of hide-and-go-seek. 'Be polite or you'll be DeRaylad' was sort of an unofficial creed of the Pesce.

Contact between the Tanenbaums up north and the Pesce down south consisted chiefly of insults shouted across the gap between the border towns of Barra and Mundi. Each town had a high stone wall facing the other, with walkways along the top. Between the walls, far below, was a large ravine containing a small stream. Above there was a lot of hot air as the guards baited each other with calls of 'Fisheater!' and 'Flake!' or 'Bottom-feeding scumsucker!' Then a pause as the guards floundered for another insult to throw across the gap. The northern wall of Mundi was pretty much the only place Pesce got to practice their insults, so the Tanenbaums had the advantage in these shouting matches. Still, it was mostly guards who interacted, and from such a distance that they probably wouldn't have recognised each other if they'd met close up. For the most part, the two cultures only knew each other as 'our uncivilised neighbours', and with plenty of tales of the savagery of their sworn enemies they'd never really met.


Leath stood atop the northern wall and peered across the chasm to the Tanenbaum wall. Their guards were over there still, though not shouting any more insults just now. It must take a lot of effort to be as uncouth as the northerners. Even now they were probably silent because they were busy devouring an innocent fish. Leath sent a contemptuous sniff across the way and then continued his silent pacing.

The border wall was staffed around the clock with sentinels at irregular intervals and soldiers pacing along to prevent anyone from sneaking in between. Tanenbaumers were sticky-fingered leaches who could probably scale walls as easily as they could stink up the town with their breath. Constantly watching was the only way to ensure no one could breach the walls.

A sentinel snapped upright as Leath approached. Slouching wasn't against the rules, but always looking sharp in the presence of others was another virtue the Pesce had over their norther neighbours. 'Most humble and respectful greetings, honoured sir!' recited the sentinel, a common greeting among passing acquintences. 'All is well for you this fine night, I pray. My assistance is yours if you would have it.'

'And mine yours as well, kind and generous sir. All is quite satisfactory in my quarter, at present. The sea breeze blows straight.' A straight sea breeze meant ships would be arriving earling inthe morning bringing new curiosities and wonders. For the guard in Mundi, it had the additional meaning that no stink was being blown down from Tanenbaum Region. Even the trifling annoyances of life were at rest.

'Indeed it does. I wish you a most fortuitous watch.'

'And you the same,' threw back Leath, already past the sentinel. Formality and politeness was always in order, but that didn't mean you stopped walking just to talk. Wasting time is not polite.

A glance north revealed some movement, but nothing out of the ordinary. Just those other guards keeping their town safe. As if an Pesce would ever go near a fish-hating town like Barra. Leath scuffed some dirt and gravel off the path where it quietly fell to the ground. Somehow there was always gravel up here.