by T.A. Saunders ©2009, revision v1.7, 6.23.05
The History of the Airship
There are few relics of Imarel’s grand past that have affected the stage of warfare as heavily as the Shar’Vairian Airship. The creation and perfection of this vessel of seas and skies is single-handedly responsible for the total genocide of two civilizations and nearly destroying two more. The airship has made the Shar’Vaire Empire, in its heyday, the single most dominant force to reckon with in the entire world.
Typically, the Shar’Vaire would move a convoy of these vessels over the skies of an enemy city, blocking out the sun. This shadow they cast remained for a single day, before an envoy would present the terms of surrender. So effective this tactic was, the Shar’Vaire Empire swept aside city after city without so much as firing a shot many times.
In the cases of the Zissah and the Van`Su however (the two now nearly extinct races of Imarel), the intimidation only served to rally these once strong and proud peoples to their doom. If they resisted, the Shar’Vaire proved to be unrelenting and took no prisoners. The airships made the totality of such destruction wholesale. While there are but a handful of Van`Su and a very small population of Zissah left, the devastation these sea and sky vessels brought to their people cannot be disputed.
In modern Imarel, the airship is still the predominant force. They have become stronger, faster and able to leap Planes of Existence. While most airships of the modern era are actually military vessels such as the ones in the Anthalaen armada, their smaller and wooden civilian style vessels can be outfitted with weapons to promote a small military, or in some cases piracy.
Initially, these vessels started out as nothing more than sorcerously reinforced galleons that could skim above ground and water. Largely used for trade and troop movement at that time, little is known how the Shar’Vaire jumped from these simple craft to the sky-dominating leviathans of the beginning part of the Imperial Era. Many believe magic learned from the Dragons is responsible for this technomagical advancement. The Dragons were very wise about how the elements effected the world and how to harness that power to one’s own ends. This knowledge is believed to been the basis of the Windfire engine that resides at the heart of every airship.
The irony of this theory is that the airships, along with the discovery of the Radiance, were largely responsible for the near destruction of Dragons on the face of Imarel. To this day, dragons despise airships (even the ones allied with the Quar’Vess are treated with apprehension). Rogue dragons and those of the Draconic Empire will go out of their way to engage and possibly destroy one.
How the Airship Works
The process of the Chaos Engine establishes the basic power source of almost all airships. A core of pure chaos is summoned within a specialized boromandite cage that has a containment ring, marked with several powerful runes. The energy created by pure chaos is drawn into the containment ring where Chaos is turned to Mana. That Mana then travels through connection points on the cage and powers the entire vessel. While this source of magical power is vast, it is highly unstable. It cannot be used to fuel a single person’s magic, or even several people; every attempt to do so has resulted in a very violent death for the individuals who have attempted it. The only way this much raw Mana can be harvested safely is through the containment ring.
The cages for the Chaos Engine are highly durable and able to withstand airship crashes most of the time. However, if the cage is damaged during a fight or a collision of some sort, it is entirely possible for the Chaos Sphere to slip out of the containment ring and detonate. Such explosions are always memorable and have let their mark.
Simple civilian vessels will have Ether-Drive engines, which while smaller and less powerful than Chaos Engines, they are also safer. The statement of these engines being less powerful is something of a misnomer; because they usually push smaller craft than the massive warships the Asyndi and other nations favor, the power to weight ratio is high, making Ether-Driven vessels, providing they aren’t burdened down, to be extremely swift.
The helm of an airship consists of a wheel and rudder levers that handle pitch and yaw. Airships are not supremely agile however…like their seafaring ancestors they are limited in how fast they can come about, dive or rise depending on air conditions, mass of the vessel and so forth.
Most airships encountered will have sorcerously reinforced wood and some boromandite bracing in the frame to assist flight. Up until very recently, the Shar`Vaire and the Quar`Vess were the only ones to have airships with boromandite hulls. With the opening of the Sundown Shipyards in the early part of 1321 AC, this has changed. While Sundown has not yielded many of its own vessels yet, the Republic hopes to see more in the years to come.
Types of Airships
Below is a listing of the various types of airships throughout Imarel history. This list is not exhaustive and does not include special types (like The Nemesis, The Sea Sprite or The Vindication).
Anthalaen Yhir-Slin (Wind-Cutters)
These were the very first airships. They do not have Windfire engines and rely on Starweave Sails to power its flight. Starweave is a special fabric that can gather magical energies from the air. They were susceptible to magic-dead areas and were little more than flying galleons, running about one hundred feet, end to end. All airships use Starweave masts to this day, in the event something should shut down the Windfire engine…falling from the sky isn’t fun for anybody on board.
Anthalaen Rhai Taron (Storm Riders)
These were the first vessels to employ the Windfire engine. These vessels are significant in that they were the first vessels made out of the old Anthalas shipyards that were made to be wartime air-frigates against the Dragons. Outfitted with a single Lightning Thrower ballista and twenty sorcerously enhanced six pound gunpowder guns, these vessels chased down and harrowed the Dragons fleeing from the Battle of D’Mir. While the Dragons that remained proved to be a match for these vessels, it wasn’t long before improvements were made. These vessels are roughly one hundred and seventy feet long and carried three sets of sails.
Anthalaen K’Vor (Dreadnaught)
These were the main vessels of the Imperial Era, with three Windfire engines, eight decks, two hundred and fifty heavy tuned Witchfire Cannons and the first Radiance-Charged main guns (Dreadnaughts sport four of these devastating weapons). Nicknamed ‘city-burners,’ the typical tactic employed was sending a convoy of these vessels placing them around an enemy city. A Shar’Vaire representative (or a sorcerously projected image later after many such representatives were slain) would be sent down to politely request the surrender of the city. Refusal meant annihilation for any who dared, compliance came to mean capture, torture for secrets and eventual freedom, only to face the same doom in another city. In this way, the Van`Su and the Zissah were for all intents and purposes, utterly wiped off the face of Imarel, save for a few surviving tribes. These were also the first vessels to incorporate boromandite hulls.
The Dreadnaught class has been improved over the centuries and still remains in service to this day, though in lesser numbers due to a favoring of smaller, faster vessels for combat purposes. Still, few things can inspire terror like a Dreadnaught parking itself over one’s city. These vessels are a whopping three hundred feet long, have seven sets of sails and were rumored to be able to block out the sun as they amassed over enemy territory. Newer Dreadnaughts also have special bays to deploy Ether Charges and are armed with a weapon the Shar`Vaire merely call the Black Flash. This weapon is rumored to simply drain all energy from anything within 100 feet of the vessel and impart it to the Dreadnaught’s energy needs.
Anthalaen J’Ryn (Viper)
The Viper class airship is the mainstay of the present-day Shar’Vaire armada. A healthy two hundred and ten feet in length and five decks, most carry roughly sixty heavy tuned Witchfire cannons, Ether Charge bays and one Radiance-Charged main gun. Quite maneuverable for their size, the Vipers have been known to out-dance smaller and reputedly more agile vessels in conflicts involving pirates outfitted with Sky Frigates or the more rare Storm Riders. These vessels are also known for their incredible adaptability as far as carrying different armaments and for surviving harsh weather conditions. These vessels also have the ability to sorcerously cloak themselves, nearly on the fly which not only hides the vessel, but any sign of a magical signature in which one might otherwise trace it.
Tallis-Shei Lisiru-Ahir (Sky Frigate)
The Moon Elves were given the knowledge to create their own airships to foster trade between the two cultures before the War of the Eternals. These vessels look and handle much like the Shar’Vaire Storm Rider vessels, with some changes to suit the Elvish sensibilities. There are very few of these vessels that survive to this day and those that do are in the hands of private owners or pirates.
Farwindian Alantia (Traveler)
The Alantia class airship is the most common airship in use today. They are most often used as merchant freighters for those that can afford them and are also converted into pleasure cruising ships for those private owners that want nothing but the best for themselves. These vessels are eighty five to one hundred feet in length, have four decks, an ample cargo hold and a four sail configuration. Because of the threat of piracy, all Alantia vessels carry at least twelve six pound guns, or can be made to carry Witchfire cannons if the buyer can afford such armaments.
Farwindian Jirai (Lancer)
The Lancer class airship is exclusively built in Farwind for the kingdom’s defense. Not sold to any other nation, these large vessels act as heavy support for the Farwind Dragonriders. Boasting a two hundred and eighty feet in length and six decks, these vessels are armed with 70 Radiance-Charged deck cannons and a unique Sunstrike Main Gun.The Sunstrike Main Gun gathers sunlight through a series of sorcerously modified M`aati crystals situated around the base of the barrel. When fired, the Sunstrike Main Gun unleashes a focused blast of flame as hot as the sun. This gigantic fireball is capable of knocking another airship out of the sky in a single shot, if the vessel isn’t properly protected.
These vessels also sport special landing decks for a pair of average sized-dragons should there be a need to recoup and recover from a battle. While rather handy, this does make the mighty vessel suffer a bit in the cause of maneuverability. With the sort of firepower these vessels carry, being agile isn’t much of a concern.
With Sundown only recently entering the airship construction business, the Dawnfire class is a solid and reliable first attempt at crafting such vessels. With a great deal of help from the Quar`Vess of Farwind, the Humans of Sundown have constructed a two hundred foot vessel with four decks. Not quite as agile as the Shar`Vaire Viper Class, the Dawnfire makes up for it in survivability and firepower.
Sporting fifty heavy Witchfire cannons, thirty twelve pound rifled cannons and a Radiance Main Gun, this vessel doesn’t need to move; it makes its enemies move instead. Coupled with a special enchantment referred to as the Recursive Mana Enchantment, placed upon their boromandite hulls that takes some of the damage of sorcerous energy attacks and redirects it into the vessel’s own sorcerous energy needs, a Dawnfire is a vessel certainly to be reckoned with.
Sporting a Trio of Radiance Main Guns, one hundred and twenty heavy Witchfire Cannons and another fifty twelve pound rifled cannons, this vessel addresses the role of heavy support for the Windsong Republic Navy. At three hundred feet long and seven decks, they are also utilized as supply and troop-moving vessels for the Republic in difficult-to-land places. For all this room and firepower, however the Nova class has the maneuverability of a thrown brick. They are equipped with two Chaos-Energy engines but they are slow to get up to speed and nearly impossible to slow down once they get moving. Like the Dawnfire, these vessels don’t need to dance; with the heavy plated boromandite hulls, with a similar Recursive Mana enchantment, the punishment they can withstand is considerable.
Tallis-Vyssian Tazyri (Saber)
The smaller and maneuverable Saber class airship is the mainstay of both the Grand Duchy of Brookshire and the Kingdom of Vyss. Manufactured by the Shadow Elves, the Saber class vessels are armed with eighty rifled twelve pound guns that shoot Fireseed shot and sport a pair of Lightning Ballista that can be rotated to fire at enemy targets, giving a full range of coverage against flying enemies, such as Xannti dragons. To protect the underside of the ship, there are a pair of stationary Lava Cannons. These sorcerous cannons are drawn into the vessel while on the water but are deployed when the vessel enters combat, though the process takes several minutes, via crank and winches to pull the bay doors open and to roll out the cannon.
These vessels are made out of sorcerously reinforced wood, with special enchantments to make them highly resistant to frost damage. While plenty durable against the Xannti Dragons, one of these vessels probably wouldn’t last long against the more heavily armed and fortified vessels from Tal`Rah. They are still quite serviceable as airships and moreover, they are easier to maintain.