The Sword and the Dagger

The Sword and the Dagger.jpg
The Sword and the Dagger
Product information
Type Novel
Author Ardath Mayhar
Pages 288
Cover artwork David R. Deitrick
Interior artwork Dana Knutson (maps)
Illustrations Duane Loose
Publication information
Publisher FASA
First published April 1987
ISBN-10 0931787777
Content
Era Succession Wars era
Timeline 3025

The Sword and the Dagger, by Ardath Mayhar, was the second BattleTech novel to be published. It is often erroneously listed as the first.

Since it is one of the earliest books ever written for the setting, some details are unusual, such as Aerospace Fighters moving from the jump point to the planet under their own power using large external fuel tanks. The novel is also notable for featuring the Swamp people, one of only two instances of (possibly) intelligent alien life in the entire BattleTech universe.

The book includes a map of the Highland peninsula on Stein's Folly.

No exact dates are given in the book. According to the prologue, the story takes place in 3025. In Warrior: En Garde, Ardan Sortek refers to the Capellan assault on Stein's Folly as eighteen months ago, placing it in July of 3025.

Mayhar wrote a short essay called Writing BattleTech: The Sword and the Dagger twenty years later about writing the novel.

From the back cover[edit]

MechWarriors believe that the only way to kill a BattleMech is with another 'Mech... But Generals know that the best way to kill an army of 'Mechs is with a well-placed dagger.

The five houses of the Successor States employ both warfare and treachery in their efforts to gain control of the interstellar empire once known as the Star League. Huge, man-like, walking tanks called BattleMechs rule the battlefields, but intrigues and plots rule the imperial courts.

Hanse Davion is Prince of the Federated Suns, the largest of the five warring Houses... an idealistic man who has had to learn that politics is neither honorable nor straightforward.

Ardan Sortek is the commander of Hanse Davion's personal guard. Although a long-time friend of Hanse's, he has not yet learned the lessons of power. Through a chance series of events he stumbles upon a plot of such magnitude, that it threatens the balance of power of Inner Sphere. Unfortunately, no one will believe him... Indeed, they think he is quite mad.

Is Ardan crazy or is someone trying to kill Hanse Davion?

Plot Summary[edit]

Ever since the recent fall of the Redfield system to the Capellan Confederation, the Federated Suns have been expecting the Capellans to attack the Stein's Folly system next. The attack comes unexpectedly swift, however. By destroying the radio transmitter aboard the zenith recharge station, Capellan forces disable the early warning system, then proceed to capture two valuable Invader-class JumpShips and launch an assault on the planet. Capellan space ace Uchita Tucker spearheads the fighter attack, and on the ground the defenders are soon overrun by Capellan 'Mechs.

Meanwhile on New Avalon, Ardan Sortek is disenchanted by court life and politics, which turned out quite different from how he and his childhood friend Hanse Davion expected them to be when Hanse unexpectedly became First Prince of the Federated Suns. Ardan, currently serving in the Davion Brigade of Guards, now yearns to get back to frontline soldiering. In a personal talk with Hanse, the embittered Ardan requests a transfer from the Royal Guards to the combat units bound to retake Stein's Folly. His request is granted.

Maximilian Liao, the Capellan Chancellor, is plotting Davion's downfall, and proves well informed about the enemy troop movements. Expecting the counter-attack, he plans to turn Stein's Folly into a trap for the Davion forces with the help of Hanse Davion's traitorous brother-in-law, Michael Hasek-Davion. When Colonel Pavel Ridzik reports that Liao forces on Stein's Folly are still facing heavy guerilla resistance and are suffering substantial losses of men and material, Liao orders him in a fit of rage to return there and take matters into his own hands.

Before leaving for Dragon's Field, where the Davion troops are drawn together for the counter-attack under the cover of the world's clouds, Ardan visits his family who run a farm on New Avalon to discuss his misgivings about war and politics with them, irritated that Hanse Davion would meddle in the affairs of other Successor States. (Hanse has secretly been supporting uprisings in House Marik's Free Worlds League, which Ardan finds dishonorable and backhanded.)

During a planning session on Dragon's Field, Ardan's farming background allows him to recognize a potential trap on Stein's Folly: The highland peninsula holding the capital city of Steinsdown is precariously dependant on food imports and could easily be cut off and besieged. Ardan suggests a radically altered assault strategy that will turn the tables on the would-be ambushers. Commanders Lees Hamman and Ran Felsner hint at the possibility that the trap was designed with knowledge of the previous battle plan; they agree with the change because they prefer being unpredictable. Last-minute changes are implemented against the resistance of Fleet Admiral Bertholi, who has to recalculate approach vectors and new drop points for his entire DropShip fleet. Duke Michael Hasek-Davion is angry when confronted with the altered plans and tries to convince them to return to the original plan calling for a direct attack on Steinsdown. To appease the Duke, Felsner pretends to give in and leaves the Duke with the (false) impression that the proposed changes would not be implemented after all.

The Federated Suns DropShips approach Stein's Folly almost unopposed, but as they prepare to move into orbit, a large force of Capellan Aerospace fighters scrambles on a course that would have been the intercept course against DropShips heading for Steinsdown, proving Ardan's hunch correct. In the evolving space battle, Ardan in his Victor is combat-dropped from the DropShip Exeter. He misses his dropzone by some two kilometers and drops into a swamp where his 'Mech is stuck until a friendly Crusader piloted by MechWarrior Donald Fitzgerald pulls him out with a cable. It turns out that the Davion troops were badly scattered in the drop. Ardan and Fitzgerald move to rejoin friendly lines, fighting past a Thunderbolt and a Warhammer and wrecking the Autocannon/20 on Ardan's Victor in the process. After they link up with friendly troops, Fitzgerald is killed in a bombing attack by a lone Thrush fighter (implied to be Uchita Tucker's). Later, in a battle in a heavily wooded area, Ardan is separated from his allies and his 'Mech is destroyed by an enemy Zeus. Ardan ejects, but is injured in the process and ends up stranded in the Ordolo swamp with a broken arm, a sprained leg and no supplies besides a knife.

Reporting on the failed ambush to Chancellor Liao, Pavel Ridzik acknowledges that the overmatched Liao forces will have to withdraw to Redfield. When Liao mentions that Ardan Sortek, a personal friend of Hanse Davion, was known to be among the attackers, Ridzik recalls a report about a Victor being destroyed and deducts that it was Sortek who ejected into the swamps. A search and rescue mission is ordered to find him. Ardan meanwhile tries to leave the hostile swamp, but his injuries and feverish sickness render him barely conscious. Strange alien swamp creatures kidnap him and tie him to a tree, then leave; he notes to his horror that other nearby trees have human skeletons tied to them. Calling for help, he is eventually rescued by a Capellan infantry squad even while the Capellan forces are withdrawing from the planet. Obviously unfit for space transport, the captive Ardan has to be hospitalized.

He awakes in a hospital and recognizes the Liao crest on his medication packs, but curiously he is not restrained or guarded. Dizzily exploring the largely deserted complex, he finds an unconscious man in a cryochamber in one of the rooms who looks exactly like Hanse Davion. Somewhat later, Davion troops storm the base and rescue Ardan. When found he is in a very bad shape and delirious, and cannot give a coherent report on what he saw. When Hanse Davion receives a report about his friend, he is worried about his state of mind and decides against bringing a possibly mentally ill Ardan Sortek back to New Avalon; instead, he is to be evacuated to Tharkad aboard a med-evac ship from the allied Lyran Commonwealth that brought supplies to Stein's Folly.

Recuperating on Tharkad as a guest of House Steiner, Ardan insists on having seen a Doppelgänger of Hanse Davion. He also discusses his friend Hanse with 15-year-old Melissa Steiner at length, being among the few people to know that Hanse was promised her hand in marriage in the FedCom Accords. Finally, after deliberating the Doppelgänger issue at length, the Steiners lend Ardan the Atlan, a small JumpShip, to investigate the matter himself. He sends a secret message to his friends on New Avalon, namely to Candent "Sep" Septarian, Ref Handrikan and Jarlik, and with Hanse Davion's consent the group of friends take leave from the Royal Guards and arrange for a ship to take them to Stein's Folly to meet Ardan there. Together, they revisit the deserted hospital on the planet. Ardan discovers a large collection of pictures and holovids of Hanse Davion, revealing him as the focus of intensive study, but before the evidence can be retrieved, demolition charges reduce the building and everything inside to rubble and they barely escape, saving only a few holodiscs that Ardan had on him. The events convince Ardan's friends that the Doppelgänger ploy is more than mere hallucination. Concerned for the Prince's safety, Ardan then secretly travels to the Davion summer palace on Argyle alone with his friends' JumpShip, and breaks into the residence to meet Hanse Davion. Just as they meet, they are confronted by the double. Cleery, the palace's Maître de maison, and adjudant Ekkles support the double, and Ardan and Hanse end up in the authentic medieval dungeon below the palace. Over the course of many days, Hanse Davion is repeatedly taken away to be drugged. Ardan suspects that he is being questioned about his personal secrets.

Meanwhile, Melissa Steiner uncovers that Erl Karn, the medical doctor who treated Ardan Sortek since his evacuation from Stein's Folly, has highly conspicious contacts. At the same time, Sep, Ref and Jarlik discover that they inexplicably seem to be unable to acquire transportation from Stein's Folly to Argyle, as if someone wanted to hold them Stein's Folly. Alerted, they make for Argyle in all haste, bribing or hijacking ships on the way. When they arrive on Argyle they learn that nothing unusual has allegedly happened on the world. Hanse Davion recently returned from a meeting with Katrina Steiner on Terra infuriated, and reportedly plans to abandond the Davion-Steiner-Alliance. Later they find out that a disguised Ardan Sortek secretly entered the palace shortly before Prince Davion unexpectedly left for New Avalon. They deduct that Ardan and the real Prince must be secretly held captive, and successfully stage a rescue raid in their heavy BattleMechs (a Warhammer, a Crusader and a BattleMaster), then escape to New Avalon. Next, they hide with the help of Maylor Efflinger, the Steiner ambassador on New Avalon who was instructed accordingly by Archon Katrina Steiner following the strange recent behaviour of "Hanse Davion". At the Efflinger refuge they keep a low profile while tensions between the Davion and Steiner realms mount.

Ultimately, a showdown between the two Hanse Davions is arranged on the eve of a public address by the First Prince where the double presumably plans to denounce the alliance with House Steiner. The real Hanse Davion proves his identity through being able to pilot his private BattleMaster, including activating the weapon systems with a code his enemies were unaware of. Thus, the conspiracy is uncovered and terminated and a network of spies is purged from the Federated Suns.

The Doppelgänger, a man with no recollection of his old identity, is acknowledged as another victim of the Liao plan and is given a pension and comfortable retirement. It is revealed that Ardan, one of the few persons capable of reliably identifying the true Hanse Davion, was set up by the Liao troops to undermine his credibility. In the aftermath, Ardan receives a new Victor and joins the troops that recapture Redfield.

Featured characters[edit]

Featured places[edit]

Featured units[edit]

Featured BattleTech[edit]

'Mechs[edit]

Aerospace Fighters[edit]

DropShips[edit]

JumpShips[edit]

  • Invader
  • Star Lord (Sword of Davion)
  • Atlan, a "small" JumpShip of unspecified type; circumstantial evidence suggests Scout class
  • unspecified Capellan JumpShip, referred to as a freighter and carrying at least four DropShips (presumably Star Lord class)
  • unspecified Capellan vessels, implied to be jump-capable and described as specially modified cargo ships, carrying large numbers of aerospace fighters (presumably Quetzalcoatl class)

Other[edit]

  • unspecified jump station at Stein's Folly's zenith jump point

Writing BattleTech: The Sword and the Dagger[edit]

Ardath Mayhar wrote a very short essay about writing the novel that was published via BattleCorps on 12 February 2006 as Writing BattleTech: The Sword and the Dagger. According to the essay, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis had originally been contracted by FASA to write the novel and had created a ten-page synopsis of their suggestion for the story, but backed out of the deal when they found a better deal elsewhere. Ardath Mayhar's publisher arranged for their contract to be transferred to her in 1986. Mayhar then received a boardgame package to provide her with details on the universe background. She also got the earlier story synopsis but felt it would not work well as written. She then rewrote it, keeping only the basic idea—the substitution of a Successor Lord for a body double by his enemies.

According to her, "Walter Keith {sic}, author of the first novel" (apparently referring to William H. Keith, Jr.), was brought in to help her out in writing combat scenes that did not involve 'Mechs, because personal weapons were not covered in the available background material.

Notes[edit]

The novel mentions a number of worlds or star systems that were not mentioned anywhere else (Dragon's Field, Ral, Hamlin, New Cleveland, Vincent). In the German translation for the book, these were all altered into known Federated Suns systems.

Covers[edit]