I'd like to address the question of control of the Shek-P'var, the CoE, White Hand. And this is kind of wrapped up in the question about the Cape Renda disaster too. This is my take on things, and how I've decided things ACTUALLY are. Just thought I'd throw in that disclaimer first.
The vast majority of Shek-P'var are like the secluded monks of our own history; where the monks tucked themselves away in seclusion to study the Bible so as to better understand the nature of God, and thus gain enlightenment and earn a special place in the hereafter. Shek-P'var withdraw from society at large to study the philosophical and escoteric material about the Cosmic All so as to better understand its nature, and thus hopefully learn how to gain enlightenment and learn how to take themselves to a higher plane of consciousness.
There's a one-to-one correlation here:
- nature of God | nature of the Cosmic All
- gain enlightenment | gain enlightenment
- earn special place in heaven | move to a higher plane of existence
Oh, and the Colleges of the Shek-P'var really correspond well with the Orders of the Church; Fyvrian vs. Fransciscans, Peleahns vs. Dominicans, etc.
So in that respect, the White Hand are more like Jesuits; they are the enforcers of the GoAL. Where there is some direction needed, they are the ones to administer it. It's not needed often; how many rogue mages have there been in the last thousand years of history that we know about? Two, maybe? Of course, I don't think these are the only ones, simply the most "famous". Ones that surface into history because the White Hand dropped the ball, or were fundamentally split, or whatever.
Now on to the Council of Eleven; who are they like from our own history? Well, they could be just like any other monarch's advisory board, although the fact that the king himself is an equal member is a bit unusual. When Robin and I discussed this many years ago, he did tell me what he had in mind, but he also said it was written in such a way that the reader could interpret it their way, from secretive group bent on global (or at least Harnic) domination a la the Illuminati, or simply nothing more than the most learned people in Melderyn whose purpose is to guide Melderyni foreign policy. They're just more sophisticated than other kingdoms. Really, it's up to the individual. My personal take is that it's a little bit of both, plus more from in between those extremes.
Anyway, this brings us to Cape Renda...a storm which just happened to blow up out of nowhere and destroy a fleet of invaders bound for Thay, and possibly the precursor to a permanent Ivinian presence on the eastern coast of Harn. Wouldn't you think the CoE would marshall their forces and get the weather mages out to whip up the storm if they learned a bit late that the fleet was on its way? I mean, obviously they were late, otherwise they could have 'influenced' things so the fleet never even sailed, surely!
But what if they DON'T have that power? What if they didn't have any knowledge of the fleet's existance until after it was smashed against the rocks?? Sudden storms do happen at sea and along the coastline of any nation. And even modern ships can founder because of navigation errors, especially one as rugged as around Cape Renda. So what I think is that a naturally occuring storm took the fleet by surprise, the lead ship panicked and made a navigational error which compounded the problem, and the fleet was doomed. And after the event, the CoE decided to leak that the storm may not have been natural (or maybe someone else just made it up, and they didn't deny it). That led to all the rumours and folklore, and suddenly there was this ominous reputation about Melderyn. And the kingdom didn't need to do a thing more than that.
Hope you like my theories.