Here is yet another piece that I had previously written. Enjoy!
All over the planet Varanganska, rocks containing precious stones are also known to contain small amounts of crystalline neticine. Neticine is a bizarre substance that exhibits a wide array of behaviours depending on the chemical isomer. All of these behaviours seem to defy the laws of physics, and many were put to good use. The most widely used application, however, was the use of the levitating crystals to power heavy flying machines. The development of a self-contained flying machine using neticine crystals began an arms race between the various empires on the continent of Rossbera that ended in a devastating war.
A self-contained unit called a glossarion levitator was developed in Karaden and used as the main source of lift for a heavy airship called a galleon. The galleon was then used as the powerhouse of Karaden’s military campaigns until a larger vessel was developed. As for the glossarion levitator, its design was copied and spread all over the continent, powering airships of varying size and power. The only limitation to those who built such vessels was how much neticine they could obtain. For instance, the technology was kept hidden from Taressim, which was widely considered to be the alchemical powerhouse of Rossbera. The network of arms dealers who controlled glossarion levitator technology believed that Taressim would have little trouble manufacturing vast quantities of neticine necessary to build a huge airship fleet. After all, Taressim was the place to be if one’s field was chemistry. In truth, the powers that be forbade Taressim from possessing this technology because the empire had managed to grow to incredible size in a fairly short time without the use of aircraft of any kind (for most of its history, as Taressim had dirigibles at the time that the first glossarian airship was built). In order for such a threat to be neutralised, any new weapons technology had to go to Taressim’s enemies.
Above: a Karadenian flying galleon. Click here to see a full 3D view of the model, or if you are interested in buying one.
The second military power to get its hands on glossarion levitator technology was Sondor. The Sondorian Empire had made use of its wide rivers and many lakes in the past to defend its borders. Since the empire was far more proficient in shipbuilding than Karaden, they very quickly produced a larger glossarian airship. The first prototype was actually smaller than the galleon, but the second used twice as many levitators, which were arrayed in two rows on each side of the ship, prompting it to be dubbed the bireme, after the surface vessel with two rows of oars. The Sondorian bireme outclassed the Karadenian galleon in every way, as it was larger, faster, carried more downward-pointing mortars for siege against ground forces and cities, and more upper deck guns for use against airships. Shortly after Sondor built a fleet of glossarian airships, the technology spread to Arcadia, one of the two largest empires on Rossbera. Since Arcadia did not have much in the way of aeroplanes, Arcadian high command decided to compensate by building large numbers of very small glossarian gunboats and low-flying, mobile anti-aircraft battery platforms as well as capital ships. Even with huge amounts of neticine at its disposal, Arcadia was still unable to build a sufficient air force to counter nuisance invasions from Karaden and Sondor, which were cutting deeper into Arcadian territory for the sole purpose of outflanking Taressim.
Thanks to the fighting over Arcadian soil, it was not long before glossarian airships went down in the area. Though every effort was made on the parts of Karaden and Sondor to recover their lost levitators, a few did end up in Arcadian hands. It did not take long for the Arcadians to begin building their own glossarian airships. Initially, high command ordered the production of small, fast patrol ships, which could be made in large numbers for seeking out invading forces in the north. However, a fleet of much larger vessels was scheduled for construction and testing in secret, so that once Arcadian forces had put a stop to the invasions from the northern empires, they could move in and destroy the nuisance nations in one fell swoop.
At the same time that Arcadia began building glossarian gunships, the technology moved north, from Sondor to Bulmut, and from Karaden to Kantossa. The Kantossi could not afford to build glossarian airships in order to counter the recent rise in piracy that had devastated their merchant fleet, but they could at least recover their losses if they sold the technology to a wealthy power. Kveta Vamaruchenko, an arms dealer to Tsarina Belëna Karamazova II of Alexandria, ended up buying all three intact levitators that the Kantossi had to offer – then turned around and had the sellers shipped off to Karaden, trussed and hooded, in order to collect the bounty on their heads. She also collected the bounty for returning two of the levitators, but had to make up a story for the third. In any case, she wound up getting her hands on a glossarion levitator for a net cost of nothing. The Kantossi got their money back, the Karadenians got their traitors and two of their missing levitators back, and none of them were wise to who Kveta Vamaruchenko really was or what she was up to.
Fearing what the Tsarina was up to, the Empress Regent of Sondor decided to sell the technology to Bulmut, hoping to forge an alliance that would diminish the likelihood of an Alexandrian attack on either nation. However, the Emperor did not approve of this, and sentenced his regent mother to house arrest, with the additional decree that she was no longer permitted to make any decision even remotely related to the military without his written approval. This caused considerable strife within the imperial court, and the Sondorian government began to fall apart. Fortunately, the government did not collapse completely, and by the time that full-scale war came to Sondor, the military was as strong as ever.
The Empress Regent of Sondor was right to fear Alexandria, as they already had a contract with Bulmutian electric companies to produce the generators for a new breed of glossarian airship. Both Bulmut and Alexandria began building new airships at the same time, but Alexandria deployed them first – for the ambitious project of re-uniting the old Rhûnnish Empire. This was accomplished by means of Operation Royal Twins, the construction and deployment of two glossarian triremes – the largest ships of the type at the time – against Krivs, the capital of Drachania. The royal twins were the ships Argo and Talos, which had thirty levitators each, and enough firepower between them to subdue an entire city. The royal twins were designed like older ships, with transom sterns for luxurious accommodations of royalty, nobility, and high-ranking officers. The Tsarina herself was aboard the Talos for much of the operation, and saw first-hand how powerful the new ships were. Some say that the experience made her drunk with power, and drove her mad. Whatever the case, it led directly to the schism within the imperial family known as the Karamazov Conflict.
As disorder fell upon most of Rossbera and gave way to total continental war, the various powers all sought larger and more powerful weapons. Larger and faster glossarian airships were built, some for the exclusive purpose of combating the mysterious triremes known as the black ships. They were the largest and fastest of the type, and had been rarely seen. Bulmut’s answer was the battle-cruiser, which had thirty six levitators just like the black triremes, but arranged in a bireme configuration. The battle-cruiser was much longer and more heavily armed, but much slower. Meanwhile, the Arcadian Empire began construction of the largest surface battleship yet, but high command realised almost immediately after it was laid down that a flying battleship would be much more useful. Therefore, the super-dreadnought was equipped with one hundred glossarion levitators in a quadrireme arrangement. Though no ship on water or in the air was nearly as large or as heavily-armed, the quadrireme was quite slow, owing to two of the four banks of levitators being dedicated to lifting the ship, and providing no forward movement. Arcadia suffered its greatest blow when the ship suffered a power failure, and upon the auxiliary system coming online, bridge controls to the rear half of the ship were still unresponsive. Without manual control at the levitators themselves being coordinated, the front half of the ship began to lift up, while the rear half continued to fall, tearing the hull in half. Had the ship been built with a dedicated aircraft structure to begin with, the accident might not have happened. Nonetheless, it was a huge military and financial loss which turned the tide against Arcadia.
Above: one of the black ships, the flying trireme Zaphnora. Click here to see a full 3D view of the model, or if you are interested in buying one.
Glossarian airships are heavy – usually weighing as much as surface ships with similar hulls. There are many factors involved, including construction methods and on-board machinery, but estimating the weight of a glossarian airship is actually quite easy. The Zaphnora and her sisters all weighed 9000 tonnes each, which was the same as armoured cruisers with identically-sized hulls. There are two downsides to this weight – not only do they require a lot of power to get off the ground, but auxiliary lift systems do not work, and will barely even slow the ship’s descent in the event of a power failure.
In spite of their appearance, the hulls are constructed less like ship hulls and more like aeroplane wings. They are far stronger, and are designed to retain structural integrity with far less support. Structural failure due to excessive hogging and sagging is not a concern with the extremely rigid framework of such ships. However, this limits their size. Though they can be made much longer than any wooden hull, they cannot be made as long as steel-hulled surface ships or light metal-framed dirigibles. Of course, since the latter has very little carrying capacity in relation to their size, this is actually seen as an advantage.
Glossarian airships are expensive to build. A single glossarion levitator costs 250 000 ducats to construct. Depending on the type, a whole ship could be built for that price. An Arcadian gunship, the smallest glossarian airship, has four levitators. With the necessary machinery to power the levitators, as well as the hull itself, a single gunship costs almost one and-a-half million ducats to build. The Zaphnora, on the other hand, cost four million to build and arm, plus another nine million to get off the ground, for a total cost of thirteen million. At the time, only the largest and most powerful surface warships cost that much to build. Granted, no other type was nearly as expensive to build, but it was for this reason glossarian airships remained with the military.
Glossarian airships are fast; up to twice as fast as other types. The Zaphnora boasted a cruising speed of 120 knots in level flight, which was as fast as most aeroplanes at the time the ship first took flight. Since faster aeroplanes were short-range, the Zaphnora was the fastest means of travel across the continent – for the select few who ever got to board her.
Glossarian airships are built with ship-shaped hulls so they can land on water. Low openings, such as the muzzles of the Zaphnora’s 205mm guns, or the siege gunports on flying galleons and biremes, can be sealed easily. The purpose of landing on water is to re-stock supplies. Supplies include boiler feedwater, which is drawn from the landing water, as well as food and coal, both of which are carried on surface ships.
Another reason for glossarian airships being a military prerogative is the noise: glossarion levitators are loud. They’re not pleasant to listen to, even from a distance. They whine with a slightly dissonant oscillation (a bad trill). Others have described the noise as an eerie, pulsating shepard tone. Since no ship has just one, and they are never perfectly synchronised, the dissonance is multiplied – as is the nuisance. No-one wants a pleasure vessel that makes a loud, irritating noise that can’t be avoided.
Those damn baffles… what are they for?! Well, in ancient naval battles, the rams of biremes and triremes were used for breaking off oars and disabling ships far more frequently than for puncturing the hulls and sinking them. Obviously, puncturing the hull of a glossarian airship does little to its performance in battle, but a ram from the right direction can shear off several levitators and force the ship to make an emergency landing, or worse. The baffles are designed to impede attempts to shear off levitators. Some early ships, such as the Karadenian flying galleon, do not have such baffles. However, after the first incidence of airship ramming, adding baffles to the design became standard practise. The Arcadian gunship possesses only one pair of baffles, which is located between the levitators, as the hull wraps around the front and rear.
Above: a comparison of Frehr Falko’s plane-balloon, a Karadenian flying galleon, and the Zaphnora, all in 1/700 scale. I will eventually post a list of all the different types of glossarian airships, but that will most likely not be until I have at least a rendering, if not a printed model, of every single one. Right now my shop has the airships pictured, as well as the Alexandrian trireme, the Sondorian siege bireme, and the Zaphnora‘s sisters, Khrodanau, Pherazmil, and Grugnula. Here’s a challenge: tell me what those four names have in common. One more thing before I let you go: some of the airships in my shop are either old versions or untested, so let me know if you’re interested before buying one. As of this writing, I haven’t gotten around to making sure every model is the current version and validated.
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