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ID: 3108


September 22, 2007, 11:23 pm

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The Airship Firedrake


Few cities could stand long before the invincible "Firedrake", the Hegemon’s mightiest vessel of war.

(Written with my complements to Maestro Leonardo da Vinci, whose inventions should arm every fantasy airship.)

At dawn, the massive airship Firedrake attacked Veirmargen, rising up from among the nearby hills like the remorseless rage of an avenging god.  Its massive flapping wings, rank by rank, flashed scarlet and gold in the dim light as it closed in on the sleeping town.  The vessels sleek main balloon cut through the air, its silken material glowing with the diabolical fires at its heart.

The guards on the walls ran to their stations, knowing little could be done to stop the juggernaut bearing down upon them.  Shouts and the ringing of alarm bells filled the morning air as the sleeping town awakened to its peril.  Men and women fled in panic as they realized the doom that had come to their city.  Some raced to gather their families; others prayed that they would reach the towns great gates in time.

As the airship drifted over the city, ceramic flasks of liquid fire belched forth from its projectors, blanketing entire streets in flame and death.  Rallying militiamen found themselves cut off from their units, frantically fighting the fires that threatened to engulf the city.  Beyond the roiling columns of smoke, they could catch glimpses of the merciless raiders sliding down ropes onto roofs and into the streets.  Troops drifted to the ground, suspended from fragile-looking pyramids of silk and wood; they quickly moved to seize control of the nobles’ quarter.  A few of the citys elite Ducal Guard were in position to reach the invaders.  They flung themselves into battle with the fury of desperate men, hoping only to delay the attackers long enough for their wards to escape.  Their resistance only lasted long enough for the diabolical engines of the airship to come to bear; then leaden grapeshot rained down on them, lethally bursting forth from the ships ballistae. Others, cut off from reinforcements or escape, threw down their arms and begged for the chance to fight the fires destroying their homes.

In less than an hour, the city had fallen, its proud noblemen hostage to the invaders.  Only then did the vessels master, the arrogant captain known as Tariq Squinteye, descend to treat with them.  The short man strutted before the kneeling line of prisoners, his loud voice barking questions in a commanding tone, Who speaks for you lot?  Who is the head man here?  Irritated by the smoke that still filled the air, his eyes squinted and watered, making the reasons for his cognomen obvious.

A fat aristocrat tried to rise, anger filling his features.  I am the Duke here!  The Free Cities have made peace with the Hegemony!  We have a treaty!

The short corsair considered the mans words carefully, Unfortunately, I am no longer under the command of my former liege lord, so your treaty means little to me.  Furthermore, I mislike your attitude and prefer to treat with someone more courteous.  Drawing his sword, the sanguine captain calmly ran the man through.  He gestured with the bloodied blade to a timorous looking man.  Perhaps this fine fellow is more accommodating?  Once we have the supplies that we require, some few souvenirs for my crew, and a number of hostages against future reprisals, we can be on our way.  Surely, you wouldnt want to delay our departure, would you? 

A Spirit of Air and Fire
The Airship Firedrake was one of the Hegemonys most amazing achievements during its war with the dukes of the free cities.  A full 340 feet long and crewed by over 290 men, the magics to enchant it and bind the demon of Elemental Fire at its heart cost the lives of five veteran thaumaturges and the souls of several others.  Even at that tremendous cost, the Lords of the Hegemony felt that they had crafted a weapon that would bring the trade-dependent dukes to their knees.  Faced with aerial bombardment leveling their cities, the dukes had no choice but to accede to the Hegemons demands.

What none had counted on was the influence that the ships bound demon would have on the men aboard her.  The fire demon Narricharidek was an awesome power unto itself, and even bound by the Untiring Imprisonment of Carcerus and the Infallible Pattern of the Crimson Monarch, it plotted its escape.  With the cunning and guile its kind is known for, the creature the men called Narri started advising the crews leaders whenever they were within earshot.  Hiding its natural arrogance and assuming a humble demeanor, it rapidly beguiled the ships captain and officers.  The demon soon turned them against their liege lord, the Hegemon.  Its words made the Hegemons directions seem to be filled with implied threats and criticism.  Soon, the instructions they received from their homeland were filled with genuine anger, as the captain became increasingly insubordinate and reckless.  It was not long before he told the Hegemon that he would not be returning to his homeland and shattered the magical glass that allowed them to communicate.  Narricharidek hid its gloating well; it knew that, cut off from the advice of the Hegemons master enchanters, the captain could soon be manipulated to weaken its binding enchantments and it would be free.

The ship itself was a marvel.  Eight massive wings beat alternately, powered by a diabolical engine that harnessed steam boiled by Narricharideks energies.  Additional lift was provided by a massive balloon, filled with hot air.  The balloon was brilliant golden hue, with labrynthine arabesque designs winding and twisting across its surface.  The ships underside was protected by hundreds of bronze plates, each brilliant with graven decoration and ensorcelled to be virtually weightless. From each side of the vessel, four intricate booms projected like the legs of a titantic insect to provide support if the craft were to land on the ground and to give crewmen a solid footing for repairs made to the delicate crimson cloth wings or their golden bronze frames.  Massive rods and turning shafts showed on either side of the balloon, pumping the wings in their endless rhythm.                      

The Firedrake’s armaments were equally impressive; each side of the vessel was fitted with five ballistae, each able to fire deadly flasks of self-igniting fire, harpoon-like grapnels, bags of lead shot that burst open when fired, and massive stones for leveling fortifications.  The ballistae were set on rotating platforms that belled out from the sides of the ship, sheltered by more of the plates of enamelled bronze.

The fighting force that made up Firedrake’s contingent of ground troops were an elite band of the Hegemon’s best soldiers, named "The Talons" by the Hegemon himself.  Each of them had been chosen for service on the ship after proving their mettle in the Hegemony’s previous campaigns and each one was known for his ferocity and heroism.  Hidden beneath the protective visors of their helms, each of the Talons bore a brand above his left eye:  The sign of a firedrake; a sign that there was no turning back for those joining the ship’s elite crew.

The bold troops manning the vessel were well armed, equipped with strange, cumbersome crossbows; weapons universally despised by the men bcause of their many fragile, intricate parts.  Each of these devices held several bolts and could be cocked by use of a lever.  Despite the mechanical advantage offered by the lever, all but the strongest men attached it to a hook on their belt and cocked their crossbows by placing their foot in a stirrup at the end of the weapon.  Because of the fragility of these bizarre armaments, most troops habitually kept other weapons such as swords and axes handy.  The men’s armor was half-plate of a strangely archaic style, often adorned with engraved designs depicting wragons or wyverns.

When the ship’s ground troops went into battle, the boldest among them would glide to the ground, suspended from devices of wicker-framed silk shaped much like kites.  Additionally, over 120 of the Talon soldiers could be rapidly deployed down rope and pulley arrangements that allowed a speedy descent.  A similar device utilizing counterweighted ropes could be lowered to facilitate the troops’ quick return to the ship.  If needed, soldiers could attach the ropes to rings attached to their armor; with a signal to the ship, the sandbag counterweight would be lowered, allowing the soldiers to be hauled up rapidly.  This proved not to be needed often, as few forces could organize a meaningful counterattack in the chaos spread by Firedrake in battle.

Adventure Ideas
Escape From Viermargen:  The heroes could find themselves in an unsuspecting city when an attack is launched.  They may have to rescue innocent civilians or some of the nobles that Captain Tariq wants so badly as hostages.

What Comes Up:  A craft like the Firedrake has a limited range of operations, so it is sure to have a base of sorts set up in some strong location.  While a military unit would have no chance of surprising such a camp, a band of stealthy adventurers may be able to successfully move against the stronghold and put an end to the air pirate.

Loyal Hearts:  The Hegemon would be very interested in sponsoring a band of loyal adventurers to replace the treacherous Tariq Squinteye as Captain of the vessel.  Also within the Hegemony are others, perhaps less loyal, that would prefer to see one of their partisans controlling such an awesome weapon or would like to see it eliminated entirely.  Others in the ship’s company might also be contacted and ordered to seize control of the Firedrake.

Hell in the Skies:  If the demon, Narricharidek, wins his freedom, he may seize the vessel himself.  Manning it with lesser flame demons and the burnt-out undead husks of the ship’s crew and officers, he would wreak a terrible vengeance against those who enslaved him.

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Comments ( 13 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
September 18, 2006, 20:51
5/5 What happens if the demon breaks free?
Voted CaptainPenguin
September 18, 2006, 22:04
Only voted
Voted manfred
September 19, 2006, 5:10
Ahh, nasty... much to my liking in fact. Another lesson why you shouldn't play with fire. Good work!
Voted Dozus
September 19, 2006, 10:40
A demon powered engine. Not bad at all.
Voted valadaar
September 19, 2006, 11:12
Actually, these would be cooler if they weren't unique - a massive air battle between fleets of these things would be a sight to behold! Shades of spelljammer, but not enough to affect my vote.

I was actually thinking about flying ships as well, but yours is far cooler then what I was thinking about...
Voted Scrasamax
September 19, 2006, 14:12
Only voted
September 19, 2006, 18:15
I like it, it's a bit "high fantasy" for me, in that everything is ensorcelled (and that magic seems to be pretty common).
ON the other hand, I love the setting details... It seems almost steampunk in a way, and I like the details about the free cities and the Hegemony, and the spell names are great.

However, the description seems a bit short.. I'm not sure what other details you could put into it, besides perhaps a more detailed description of the thing, and perhaps notes about its crew, but it ends quite abruptly.

In any case, it's a good submission.
Voted Murometz
September 19, 2006, 19:45
I would suggest italics in lieu of bolding. Other than that, its terrific!
September 20, 2006, 2:40
Updated: The entry was expanded and changed to incorporate the suggestions that I received from Cheka Man, Captain Penguin and Murometz. Thanks, guys!
September 20, 2006, 17:54
It was my pleasure.
Cheka Man
September 20, 2006, 20:34
I'm pleased that you valued what I had to say.
Voted MoonHunter
September 21, 2006, 11:20
Good text, nice flavor elements, good explantions, and some nice dramatic areas. It is a bit high magic, but I love it. I like the bound demon corrupting the crew and the existing powerful "airship" ruling the skys. Truly a great submission.
Voted Morningstar
August 2, 2015, 4:22
Pretty cool. An adventure hook could also be about a coalition of governments seeking ways to take the damn thing out, given that it'd be a menace to all civilization.


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