The Autumn Glory
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
It was a nice office, if a little disorganized. On the one hand, the stained and shellacked kossowood floor was kept to a nice polish, the occupant enjoyed the luxury of a bay window overlooking a grassy courtyard, and the walls were an impeccably stark white. On the other hand, books. Books and papers and charts, strewn about every which way, layered upon each other in haphazard fashion, and not a speck of dust on any of them. This was an office that belonged to an important woman, and more specifically, a busy, important woman. So busy and important, in point of fact, that she was not in her office at the moment, although she soon will be.
Judging by her desk, the last thing she was looking at was a set of plans for a skyship, along with a letter.
As requested, I have designed a ship for Your Excellency. It’s the ones we have already with some changes. I regret to inform you that retrofitting the standard Duvencht aerofrigate is inescapable. We don’t have the right kind of whistlewood to create ships-of-the-line, and while it may well be possible to craft a ship entirely of metal as you propose, and I will turn my attention to this task later, I cannot promise they would be ready in time for the inevitable counterattack from the Empire. Fortunately, we can make our aerofrigates better than theirs with a little less than a month’s work.
Your servant, Lady Radcliffe, H.P.
The letter was not for her; as fine as her office was, it was not the sort that was quite fine enough for someone titled 'Your Excellency'. It was, however, something she was privileged to read, for very soon she would have to make some important decisions regarding personnel. Five of them, as far as she knew, but I should let you know now -- there will be six.
Hot air balloons had been around as novelties for centuries after the reclamation of the surface, distant memories of the World Before. However, they did not amount to much; the inability to move swiftly and the poor lifting power made them ill-suited for travel, while the rare individuals that could fly were common enough to make them much more valuable for military purposes.
The skyship thus got its true birth in the year 1789, when the Duvencht philosopher Samantha Langhurst discovered lumite gas. Through a hybrid mundus-caelus process, she was able to reduce certain kinds of quicksilver into a component gas and solid waste. The gas was somewhat luminous and, more importantly, had ten times the lifting power of even the very best hot air balloons, allowing for the installation of propulsion systems. The early skyship was still a wind-powered vessel, but the rapid and parallel development of the steam engine introduced the first skyship with mechanized propulsion by 1815.
Stories of great vehicles of wood and metal that soared through the sky had persisted through the downfall, and the Duvencht Imperial Navy was immediately eager to make use of this discovery to manage their wide-ranging empire. As more and faster ways of synthesizing lumite came to the fore, ship designs quickly grew more expansive in size.
Despite this impressive and growing variety, skyships remained — at their heart — merely seaships attached to a great balloon for many decades. Perhaps it was because Duvencht had no rival in the air until this rebellion.
In the year 1868, within a month of the acquittal of the women responsible for the Glorinton Massacre, the Lanvan Aerie sent a small flotilla of a new kind of Aerofrigate to demand the surrender of the Imperial fortress at Fairwinds. This faster skyship outmaneuvered the patrol boats outside of Fairwinds, leaving the Imperial Colonel with no choice but to surrender.
And that was when the Empire knew it had to take the rebellion seriously.