Elven Airships Edit
Inspired by vessel designs and proposed combinations of various branches of magic discussed among the Arcanum with the human, David of Earth, elven researchers have built a few successful airship prototypes. Their success will likely lead to future leaps in the field as more of the Academy of Rauni and its students work with practical casters and crafters.
The airship itself uses dragon stones to gather, store, and then redistribute ley line energy through the ships systems, allowing attuned crew members to direct the spells woven into the vessel. One mage links to a dragon stone attuned to levitation, and another mage links to a dragon stone attuned to thrust. Because both mages linked to the dragon stone must devote almost all of their energy to maintaining their connection, they enter a trance similar to psychic projection, and remain unaware of the outside world. Another mage, typically the captain, sets up a mental link between herself and the other two mages in order to coordinate the ships lift and thrust.
Crew Requirements Edit
So far, each of the prototype airships have required:
- A lift mage, called a leijai, who manages the airship's altitude
- A propulsion mage, called a tuuli, who manages the airship's thrust and directional control
- A captain, who telepathically coordinates the Leijai and the Tuuli's efforts
- A mechanic, who adjusts the ships mechanical systems and monitors the ship for strain
The captain, leijai and tuuli all must be veteran spellcasters, and so far have all been arcanists of the wizard discipline. The leijai must have mastered a spell of levitation, and the tuuli must have mastered a spell of wind. The captain must be able to operate a magical rod in the ship's command console which forges a temporary telepathic bond between the crew.
So far, the Arcanum airship project has created three prototypes. The first of these, the Haastaja, is a cramped, haphazzard thing that has been taken apart, rebuilt and refined many times in the six months of the project. It is surprisingly ugly by elven standards, but generates a great deal of excitement within the project because of the relative ease of integrating new systems into it. It is essentially a floating dingy with tubes, metal, and small magical gizmos all over it.
The second prototype, the Ponnistus, is more in line with elven standards, and is used to test elements that have passed muster on the Haastaja out on long-range ley lines, rather than within the Arcanum's labs and development hangar. The Ponnistus team is currently testing concepts for improving acceleration and top speed of the ship. It is the size of a small yacht (~25') with a shallow draft and a long, sweeping deck.
The Yritys is the most refined of the three prototypes, and was commissioned after its sponsor, the duke Valdemar Lindqvist of the great house Hopea watched a few test flights of the Ponnistus. He has contributed a considerable part of his vast fortune to the project as well as the magical resources of his own estate.
The Yritys is the largest of the prototypes and designed as a functional passenger ship. It is quite beautiful and Duke Valdemar hopes that it will serve as inspiration among the population and lead to a network of airship travel that connects the continent and revitalizes the elven spirit. He gets fairly emotional when speaking on the matter.
The Arcanum Airship R&D crew is continually trying new ideas and technology, and so they've moved from a wobbly tub that could barely get off the ground to a sleek passenger ship prototype in just six months. The technology is clearly dangerous and with its integration with dragon stones is likely to have unforeseen side effects down the road. However, the promise of the technology and the excitement of wealthy patrons like Duke Valdemar drive the project ever onward.
There are two main limitations that the R&D teams are trying to get around.
- The first is speed. The airship prototypes are currently only able to ascend and descend at a rate of 100 feet per minute. When not under sail, the ships accelerate and decelerate laterally quite slowly, reaching their top speed in about three minutes, and slowing to a full stop in about two minutes. When not under sail, the top speed of the prototypes range from about 4 miles per hour (for the Haastaja) to about 8.5 miles per hour (for the Yritys). Under sail and optimal wind conditions, the Yritys has reached a top speed of 18 miles per hour. Something about the ley line and dragon stone link seems to act as a drag effect on the vessels.
- The second problem is range. Operating the airships puts a tremendous strain on the crew (see below), and the ship must set down every 16 hours of travel to keep from harming the crew. A faster ship might be able to travel farther in those 16 hours, but that still puts intercontinental travel well out of reach unless the airship also remains seaworthy, which is difficult with the current ring propulsion and lower foresail designs.
Other limitations seem baked into the design:
- Airships must travel along ley lines, and need to keep on the central two to ten feet where the ley current is strongest.
- Travel is limited by the strength of the ley line. On strong and medium ley lines, the airships travel at full speed and can reach a maximum altitude of about a quarter mile above the ground. Weak ley lines see airship speed reduced to about 75%, and the maximum altitude is only about 300 feet above the ground. That's just barely enough to get over most of the trees in the Thunderglade rain forest.
- The prototypes can levitate without a connection to a ley line, but only at a height of about 5-20 feet, and for five minutes at most before magical reserves are depleted and the leijai is in danger of falling unconscious.
- Likewise, the prototype can only manage about 3 miles per hour under magical propulsion without a connection to a ley line, and only for about five minutes without threatening the tuuli's well being.
Crew Complications Edit
Because of the great strain of remaining in focused concentration on their spells far longer than is normal, the leijai and tuuli must both demonstrate exemplary mental and physical endurance. The effort of keeping the ship aloft and flying is exhausting and crews have found that they can travel for a maximum of 16 hours without putting the leijai and tuuli in danger.
The original Leijai of the airship project spent a fortnight of magical recovery after nearly burning himself out magically on an endurance run. Two Leijai have already washed out of the program after experiencing hypothermia and temporary (3 days) mental/physical disassociation after about 18 hours of consecutive travel. No Tuuli has yet experienced physical or mental complications from their efforts, but no one in the program will be surprised when one does.