Duality Engine Technology / Science in Rivendom | World Anvil

Duality Engine

The first time that I saw one of those things, automotives I think they called them, it definitely left an impression. I was working patrol at the time, and I got the chance to watch it as it came into town. At first, it was just a cloud of desert dust and sand. It was moving, yeah, but it wasn't so big that it was a concern. But as it got closer, I started getting a bit skittish, because it didn't look like anything I had ever seen before. It was this metal contraption, painted black, gleaming in the desert sun.   As it roared past me, I realized that it looked like a carriage, but it wasn't pulled by horses, and there were people inside it. It was the strangest thing! It could move on its own, so clearly it had to be magic. I was intrigued! No one else seemed to be. I guess we had all seen some pretty fucked up shit by that point, and with the whole Stormcaller crisis thing going on at the time, everyone else probably felt like there were too many things to worry about to pay attention to some strange machine.   But there was just something about it that intrigued me, so I followed it into town. I was responsible, of course, and I left someone at my post to take over for me while I was gone. Eventually the vehicle stopped by the town square, and I saw this khathari come up to it. Two people came out of the vehicle. One was an elledŷnnë, I think. I had only ever heard of them by reputation before. And the other one was a tolvaar. The poor guy looked like he was going to keel over at any moment from the heat.   Anyway, I eavesdropped as they were talking and what they said was really fascinating to me. I was right! The engine was magical. But a lot less magical than I thought initially. The pretty guy said that the only magical parts of the engine were two crystals, a small rainstone — I was familiar with the concept, born and raised in the Pāll-tanír — and a small hearthstone that produced heat to boil the water and produce steam that powered the mechanism. It was incredible! And now I hear that they're going to start selling those things? Can you blame me for not wanting one?
— Excited Prospective Owner of a new-fangled "automotive"
  The Duality Engine is the first scalable instance of working thaumatech, that is, technology partnered with arcane magic, that was approved for use in the wider Dominion. First as a tool to aid in agriculture and the transportation of goods and then, later on, for commercial use as a means of transportation when built into the chassis of an "automotive." The engine runs on the principle of steam power, which had been established as a plausible means of automation in the decades prior to the development of this technology, but instead of using wood, coal, or charcoal, the Duality Engine uses arcane crystals instead as a means of generating the water and heat needed to produce steam.  


As early as the year 298.30 NL, the first prototype of the Duality Engine was produced in the Exiled Realm on Di'Termalttë. It was a large, bulky thing, but it at least showed proof of concept that was enough for the group of individuals financing the research and development to give the research group the green light to go ahead with the concept.   However, the idea of using steam as a source of power was not new at that point in time. Steam had been explored for centuries beforehand, owing to the handiwork of a master tinkerer in the city of IldLaril who created mechanized golems that ran off of steam burners in their chests. At the time, these golems were considered masterpieces of artifice and steam had been hailed as the "next big thing" in scientific advancement. But researchers quickly ran into problems with steam power, such as keeping the water pure enough so as to not gum up delicate pieces of mechanisms, and having enough fuel to continuously run an engine without intervention as the hope was to automate certain things. More than this, an incident in the year 143.30 NL proved that if improperly stored, steam could cause all sorts of devastation.   Ultimately, research into steam power hit a dead end with very few still plugging away at the problem, hoping for a solution that could propel steam into a "golden age" of sorts. The research team behind the Duality Engine determined that the two most vital problems to solve for steam power were finding a fuel that was efficient and safe, as well as producing water that was pure enough to be used over and over and over again with few to no problems. Containment was regarded as a secondary problem, to be solved once the fundamental issues with the reliable production of clean steam were figured out.   There were numerous attempts at different fuels until an eristur on the research team, who had travelled to the Exiled Realm under special dispensation from the Dominion to study at the burgeoning engineering capital of the world deep in the heart of tolvaari territory, came up with the idea of using a hearthstone, an arcane crystal used in the place of wood-burning fireplaces to keep homes warm during the biting southern winters in IldRenn.   Renewable, compact, and tunable to produce just the right amount of heat, this was just the breakthrough that the research team needed, and after an arcane crystal was considered for one side of the equation, the same was considered for the other side and thus, the Duality Engine was born.  

Access & Availability

In the year 329.30 NL the prototype production Duality Engines were being tested along the southern border of the Dominion for agricultural purposes but weren't yet available for the general public. The military was considering the technology for deployment but a consensus hadn't yet been reached between the Lords General and the Prince of Lances at the time. However, the Dominion had approved an outreach mission in one of the most agriculturally disadvantaged areas, the Pāll-tanír, where representatives of the organization that wished to bring the Duality Engine to market were allowed to go around in one of their early model commercial vehicles to show off the technology and see how much demand there was, both in the agricultural and the commercial sectors.   The program was a great success and after a few more decades of testing, during which the scope of the product was gradually expanded to cover the transportation of agricultural goods over long distances, the product was approved in the Dominion in the year 370.30 NL for a limited scope of uses. Primarily, it was approved for use in agriculture and freight, as the company had not yet petitioned to open the product to the civilian market as the prototype was considered "loud and disruptive" according to an independent report published in the year 364.30 NL, recommending that the noise issue be resolved before sale on the open market.   However, in the year 397.30 NL, almost three decades after its initial approval for agricultural and freight uses, the Duality Engine was approved for a gradual introduction to the open market of the Dominion, starting with Di'Termalttë initially, and expanding over time to the Dominion's other territories. This marked the end of a horse industry that had already been in decline due to the decreased demand for horses for the transportation of goods resulting from the overall efficiency of the Duality Engine over horses.  


Initial prototypes of the Duality Engine, even the first production prototype, were incredibly finicky and had a penchant for simply stopping while under load. This was isolated to a problem with the energy capacity of the arcane crystals and was remedied by having a trained technician with the gift of arcane magic present with the Duality Engine at all times to ensure that the crystals remained charged and functioning properly.   This early version of the Duality Engine, which never saw widespread use outside of the Exiled Realm, was known as the "twofer" in reference to there needing to be two "pilots" for one vehicle: one to control the arcane magic and another to steer the vehicle. Later iterations of the engine, the ones tested in the Dominion, for instance, and the iteration that entered civilian use later on, were much more self-sufficient. The energy-capture system, meant to draw in ambient arcane energy to power the crystals was dramatically improved and the manufacturing and enchanting processes for the crystals were also refined in order to maximize efficiency and capacity.   At the peak of their availability and popularity, Duality Engines were simple enough to use that even with only a few minutes of instruction, a person who had never seen one before would be able to run a Duality Engine with no major issues.


Duality Engines are used primarily in the agriculture and freight industries, as they make the upkeep of large fields and the transportation of heavy loads easier. A single duality engine does not tire out like a horse, does not need upkeep like a horse, and can, with the proper care, last for much longer than a horse. This not taking into account later iterations of the Duality Engine which could easily do the work of two or more horses each. The commercial and civil markets for the Duality Engine are minor in comparison to agriculture and freight, but these sectors use it for similar purposes. While initially much more expensive than a horse, the lifetime value of a Duality Engine is proven to be much higher.


Though bronze and brass were the metals initially used for duality engines, later models use iron and steel for the majority of components. A considerably skilled workforce of foundry experts, as well as metalworkers, is needed for the manufacture of a single Duality Engine body, as the parts need to be made to exacting standards in order to comply with Dominion regulations to say nothing of the number of arcanists necessary to grow and enchant the arcane crystals that go into every engine.
The initial proof of concept for the Duality Engine as well as the first production model were all produced by the research and development team led by Kala-tak tor Anaya.

Glossary of Terms

Heartland of the Dominion and ancestral home of the tretâllë
Dominion, the
The greatest and most successful empire in the world, ruled by the tretâllë
The High Elves, rulers of the Silvered Realm and ancient enemies of the tretâllë
Orc. A single orc
Exiled Realm
An independent kingdom built on the back of an ancient covenant between the Dominion and the Silvered Realm. Home to disenfranchised individuals from both empires
City in the northern region of the central desert of IldRenn, home to the best alchemists of the races of man
Home continent of the Races of Man
The Race of Orcs, a shamanic people living in the southern region of IldRenn
Lords General, the
Top brass of the Dominion army
The northern desert continent
Pale Imperator, the
Emperor of the Dominion
Prince of Lances, the
One member of the Dominion's Imperial Trinity. Serves in the capacity of the Pale Imperator on military matters.
Races of Man, the
Collective term for the erinin (dwarves), the erián (humans), the erillen (gnomes), and the eristur (orcs)
Silvered Realm, the
Ancient rival of the Dominion, ruled by the elledŷnnë
The Bone Elves, founders of the Dominion

Cover image: Sandstorm by FlorentLlamas


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Jul 14, 2018 18:08 by Kris Weavill

What an interesting article, I must admit the Glossary of Terms has been extremely helpful while reading it.   "I was familiar with the concept, born and raised in the Pāll-tanír — and a small hearthstone that produced heat to boil the water and produce steam that powered the mechanism. It was incredible! And now I hear that they're going to start selling those things? Can you blame me for not wanting one?"   Great line, sums it up.,

GorgeFodder - Former Forge Father & Former Community Director of World Anvil
Jul 15, 2018 00:28 by Malkuthe Highwind

Thank you! I figured I'd include glossaries with most of my articles since there are a lot of terms that would otherwise be confusing. This way I can keep more realistic to the setting while also making sure that all the information is available for people who get lost/confused. :3.

Jul 14, 2018 20:04 by AmazingChi

Indeed, that glossary was muchly helpful. I am curious at the phrase "at their peak", implying they are no longer the foremost technology and something has replaced them?

Jul 15, 2018 00:00 by Malkuthe Highwind

Yes! They're still used in some applications just because they're still being phased out slowly but it was discovered that it was much easier to generate currents using arcane crystals, enabling the construction of electric engines that were not only cheaper, but were also lighter, more efficient, and more compact.

Jul 14, 2018 23:01

A very detailed description of the advancement of this magical yet familiar technology. I like the initial quote most because it shows how the invention impressed the population in its early days.

Jul 15, 2018 00:27 by Malkuthe Highwind

Thank you so much! :D