Imperial Palace, Airship, Bruma: Glorious gift!
I had found it difficult to sleep. I had hoped that the trials a few days earlier and the executions yesterday would bring some closure to the nightmare of Evermore.
Forlorn hope as it turned out.
It was about 6:00AM. I headed to the door to tell one of The Sentinel on guard duty to cancel my breakfast. The cries for pity from the Arch Bishop echoed in my head. I did not feel guilty refusing the plea but remembering the long list of his perverted crimes soured my stomach.
I went to open the door and in rushed Rigmor. I had my sword almost completely drawn before I realised I was being attacked by my beloved and not some horrid monster.
I held her tight with her feet dangling from the floor as she attacked my lips. Iona looked at us and laughed as she closed the door.
I finally lowered Rigmor to the ground and asked, “Come to share today’s excitement in the throne room? Half the supplicants will cancel if they know you are attending!”
“No and you are not setting foot in there today either. Your Queen commands it!”
“I can’t just tell Blackwell that neither of us will be in attendance. He works hard to make the list each day and some supplicants have waited a long time and/or travelled a fair distance to get here!”
“I told him more than a week ago. Everything is planned so come along, chop chop.”
Rigmor grabbed my hand and dragged me through the corridors with such enthusiasm and speed The Sentinel struggled to keep up.
Just before we exited the building she told them to shoo and that they would not be needed for the next two days. They wisely knew not to look to me for confirmation of those orders but bowed to the both of us then left in unison for their barracks.
Rigmor dragged me outside and I was temporarily blinded by the bright morning sun. A few seconds later I could see enough to realise Rigmor was standing with her arms crossed impatiently waiting for some response from me. Finally she asked, “Well?”
“Well what my dearest?”
She stepped forward, grabbed my chin and forced me to look up. There was the most magnificent airship. Much larger than the ones we had seen in Elsweyr. “Whose is that?” I asked.
“It is ours and a belated wedding present from Baa’Ren-Dar on behalf of Elsweyr. So the official story will go. I will meet you on board!”
With that she started climbing a fairly lengthy ladder. I knew not to ask her what she was doing in ‘her condition’. She was just over two months pregnant. So far it had not slowed her down apart from the occasional monumental projectile vomit and many visits to the privy. The priestesses of Mara had assured us that rigorous exercise presented no danger to the growing Kintyra and would actually help with the childbirth. When Rigmor asked if that included vigorous bed exercises she was delighted at the positive answer. So much so that we spent most nights in her apartment rather than our room in Bruma Castle. I was kind of embarrassed at the tittering of the female staff and the knowing looks and grins of the male staff when we would emerge for breakfast. If we emerged that is. Thank goodness The Sentinel were considerate enough to keep a straight face each day. The workload was starting to build so our time together in Bruma seems like it will become less and less. The Imperial Castle did not feel like home. Not yet.
She was halfway up the ladder when she paused, looked down at me and asked, “Well? Do you like it?”
“Absolutely gorgeous but I prefer white with the lace trim more than those pink ones.”
“I am talking about the airship, not my bottom and underwear you pervert!”
“Oh look an airship! I had forgotten all about it. Keep climbing but a bit slower and put more of a wiggle into it.”
Rigmor giggled and proceed to do exactly as requested. My entertainment was interrupted by a loud “Ahem!”
It did not come from neither Borgakh nor Derkeethus who were professionally looking everywhere else but up.
“Majesty, if you please?”
I turned and saw J’Zargo standing next to some sort of beacon emitting a white light connected to the airship. I approached him and he said, “Let me explain this most wonderful of ancient magicka!”
“Please do. It seems to be more advanced than those we saw in Elsweyr.”
“Yes, this one the Thalmor have not seen. Mulan piloted it to the College of Winterhold not long after you and Queen Rigmor returned from your trip to my homeland. He said it was a gift to The Empire but some work was needed to get it fully functional.”
“I assume some Dwemer machinery that confused even the great minds of the Khajiit?”
“The mechanics, the cogs and wheels and such things, Khajiit easily figured out. Unlike the smaller airships you saw, this one is capable of ethereal travel. But that requires great amounts of magicka and the equipment to provide this was beyond my kin’s knowledge. So Mulan assumed the College could assist. Alas we could not.”
“Did you fly it all the way from Winterhold then?”
“No, we did finally figure it out but needed ancient Dwemer texts to do so. They were provided by a Telvanni wizard-lord called Neloth from Solstheim.”
“How did you discover he had such texts and why would he give them to the College?”
“Do you not remember Brelyna is of House Telvanni? And is not one of your Sentinel, Talvas, an ex-apprentice of Neloth? Both of them volunteered to ask Neloth for help. Apparently he was happy to do so for you as he said you are family?”
“So he finally filled in the paper work. Yes, he did adopt me into House Telvanni long before I became Emperor. He is a most remarkable wizard J’Zargo. But like most of his House, his arrogance makes a Thalmor look humble. He probably thinks he is superior to Khajiit!”
“Don’t the Dunmer worship Azurah? Surely she has told him of his error!”
“He has collected many items in his centuries of getting lackeys to explore old ruins and so on at his direction. He does not seek them for their monetary value, he is already a very rich individual, but for the knowledge they contain. So the documents he provided were easily deciphered?”
“Oh no, they were, what is the term you use, gobblygook to all but Calcelmo. Tolfdir asked him to transcribe the material and he refused saying he was too busy with his very important work under Markarth. Urag gro-Shub visited him and threatened to break his bones one at a time till he agreed to help. He was still refusing when the Jarl’s Housecarl heard the yelling and came to investigate. When Urag explained the problem she whispered something in Calcelmo’s ear and his simply said, ‘Yes Dear. I will do it straight away!’ and within days had produced a good enough transcription that we could figure it out from there.”
“Faleen and Calcelmo are lovers thanks to some work I did for Lady Mara. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely couple.”
“Many say the same for Kharjo and Iona.”
“True. Anyway so what is the source of magicka?”
“An Altmeri Malondo Stone which are very rarely found outside of the Summerset Isles. J’Zargo just happened to know a cousin who could sell such an item for a reasonable price.”
“Like you I suppose he was clumsy and such items would fall into his pocket by accident.”
“She not he and yes it is a terrible family affliction that I have been unfairly punished for on several occasions.”
“The last item you pilfered required you to make an extra-large pocket inside your robes J’Zargo. Just be aware that if you visit my soon to be opened museum they will carve you into tiny pieces if you do not control your terrible family affliction. I would not want that to happen, I have paid a fortune for the carpets.”
“Still jealous of my superior skills I see.”
“So the Malondo Stone needs recharging how often?”
“Many moons as far as I can tell. Then you just need to leave it out under starlight for a night.”
“I had heard the Altmer had managed to replicate the Welkynd Stones. That is quite an accomplishment.”
“I have heard it cost many lives as the Welkynd stones did not divulge their secrets easily.”
“But surely the Dwemer did not have access to Malondo Stones. They had vanished by the time the Altmer had managed to make them!”
“Yes, they used Welkynd Stones but as you know they are now virtually non-existent.”
“So it can travel normally, flying like the airships in Elsweyr, or via the ether?”
“The ethereal travel is instantaneous, like many of your Dov friends can do and some of the teleport devices we have studied, but the preparation time is two hours. This is because the airship is large and its contents can vary greatly. A Dovah is large but it does naturally what we are forcing a machine to do. So when you tell the airship to move via the ether everything is frozen in place while its contents and shape are slowly scanned. When ready all is transported instantly to the set co-ordinates.”
“Yes, you can’t tell it go somewhere via the ether unless there is a permanent or temporary beacon. We have set up permanent beacons around Skyrim at the cities and other places. The thing beside me is a temporary beacon. It is very portable and you simply drop it and activate it. We can now make them fairly easily from commonly found Dwemer components.”
“Can you summon the airship from a beacon?”
“Yes. But if people are not aboard they will see the airship vanish without warning, stranding them.”
“Do we know from where the airship originated if we call it from a beacon?”
“Yes, it is shown on the map you will see inside.”
“What do the passengers experience during the ethereal travel?”
“To those inside the cabin time is normal and two hours will pass in linear speed. To those on deck the world will fade out and in and the travel seems like it was instant but they will also find two hours have passed. Needless to say you cannot open the hatch from either side during this period.”
“At least the time differentials are constant. Not like my time in Oblivion in Evermore.”
“Oh yes, Serana said that was a worry for all. Nobody knew when you would reappear.”
“Is there a warning at the destination beacon that the airship will soon arrive via the ether.”
“If you wish there to be you tell it so when setting the course. We think you can change the period between the alarm at the other end and arrival but are yet to figure out the process. At the moment it will give them a two hour warning.”
“Okay, I am sure I will have more questions. I had better join my Queen before she starts throwing things at us.”
J’Zargo, The Sentinel and I climbed the ladder. When I touched a piece of metal the ladder retracted. On the other side of the airship a ramp could be automatically lowered which many of the permanent beacon locations used in preference to the ladder.
Rigmor was waiting for me and asked, “Well? Amazing isn’t it!”
“From what I have seen so far, yes it is. I am impressed by how much co-operation was involved to get it up and running. Did you know what was happening?”
“I had no idea. It was only a few days ago it appeared over Bruma and lucky we had the semaphores and it approached slowly otherwise the guards might have started firing arrows at it. When they alerted me to it I went outside and recognised it immediately.”
“So are we free to use it for the rest of the day?”
“We have an itinerary for today but tomorrow we can do what we want. It is about time we visited Skyrim don’t you think?”
“Okay my beautiful Queen, what are we doing?”
“They have finished your museum and have stocked it well enough to open it to the public. We are to meet High Queen Elisif and her advisor there as well as the Curator. No pomp or ceremony. We shall just have a quick look around and if you are satisfied they will wait for us to leave then open the doors to the public.”
“Good, I hate giving speeches!”
“Then we will travel to Whiterun and pick up Jarl Balgruuf. Not far from Whiterun is a new design for Imperial Forts that General Tullius wants us to inspect. Apparently they are more compact and quicker and easier to make than current designs. I thought they might be something we can utilise in preparation for the Akaviri.”
“I thought that Quintus’ camp and those I saw during the Civil War were too large for the amount of men they contained. Hopefully this is a solution.”
“We had a request from the Greybeards for an audience so that is our third stop for the day.”
“Did we now? It should be interesting to see what they have to say. Of course we will speak to them but also travel to The Throat of the World to ‘tinvaak’ with their leader, Paarthurnax.”
“I know what he did for us from your journal entries. I would personally like to thank him.”
“Be aware he is much larger than Odahviing. His sheer size can be intimidating at first.”
“I know Queen Elisif has never spoken to a Dovah. It will be she who may need new underwear after!”
I took my beloved’s hand and we made our way inside the airship.
Rigmor excused herself for the umpteenth toilet visit of the day. J’Zargo joined me as I looked around the vessel.
I asked him, “Is this bigger inside than out?”
“Yes, you would have seen Dwemer magicka like this before. For example it is the same inside their lock boxes.”
“But it is not a pocket plane?”
“In a way it is but still within Mundus. The insides seem to be independent of the outside. So if a hole was to be made in the hull it would not appear inside the cabin.”
“So what would you encounter if you crawled through such a hole?”
“Instant death as you would enter The Void.”
“The Dwemer never played it safe did they?”
“On the contrary, that makes this vessel very safe. If the most unlikely scenario were to occur and it plummeted to the ground the outside may be turned into tiny splinters but there would not even be a tiny bump felt inside.”
“Why do you say ‘most unlikely’?”
“Follow me downstairs and I will show you.”
At the rear of the vessel was what J’Zargo called ‘turbines’. They forced highly compressed hot air through vents which supplied not just forward and backward momentum but enough lift to keep the airship hovering even if the gasbag was destroyed. The lift being provided by the gasbag ensured a smoother ride. The nature of the vents provided a far rougher ride and lots of vibrations so their full power was only utilised for climbing and in an emergency. This was for the benefit of those on the deck of course as no vibrations disturbed those within the cabin.
There was a generous amount of storage space, all of the crafting stations and several armouries.
Instead of beds there were eight hammocks for sleeping.
I asked J’Zargo, “The insides are dampened against storms so why have these?”
“We think it may be a weight reduction thing. They are quite comfortable once you learn how to get into them. You and our Queen do not have to worry. You have a normal bed.”
We approached the engine of the craft and in its centre I could see the yellow glow of the Malondo Stone. I asked J’Zargo, “So the captured starlight also provides heat for the steam boiler?”
“Even the boilers within the other airships you saw are far more efficient at converting fuel to heat than anything else we have seen. So yes, a tiny part of the energy within the stone is used to heat the water. We rarely have to top up the water as very little steam is needed and somehow the machinery condenses water from the air like dew on a leaf early in the morning. We can use wood to feed the boiler if needed so piles are kept nearby.
We headed for the map room where J’Zargo explained, “As you can see on the map the current location is in yellow, the selected ether travel is in red and the previous position before the last ether travel in black. Temporary beacons are not marked. You have to remember where they are and like the other airships, think of them as the destination and it acts the same as if you selected one of the permanent beacons.”
“It simply looks like a normal map. I assume the selection, as with the temporary beacons, is just a mental process that the apparatus detects.”
“Correct and that is why only mages expert at alteration or illusion can pilot these airships. As you learnt in Elsweyr, you must train your mind to think of a sequence of steps to go from point to point. It is like casting a silent spell.”
“I assume this cabin is isolated from outside interference? Such maps could be hosted outside but thought processes could be simulated or altered.”
“Yes. For that reason the Dwemer have designed it so beacons can only be targeted within the cabin. You can’t tell the craft to start its journey from within the cabin though. There is a small area near the wheel that allows the mental spell to start the ethereal journey to be actioned. However if you wish to manually steer the airship you can do so from anywhere on the deck once you start the movement via the wheel.”
“The airships in Elsweyr had inertia and could not be instantly accelerated or stopped. I assume the same for this vessel?”
“Yes and you must get used to them if you are to manually dock otherwise damage to airship hull or building is guaranteed!”
“How safe is it on deck?”
“The airship has an invisible barrier to protect against lightening but you will get wet and the wind can be hazardous. It is exhilarating to experience a thunderstorm on deck and many of us have risked it for the experience.”
“And if a Dovah were to attack?”
“Hopefully you are here to call upon Odahviing. However my kin said the Dovah skeleton attached will make it very unlikely such an attack would occur. I suggest you ask a Dovah who it is. He was a hero to my people.”
“I think I know who it may be and if so he was a close friend of my father as well.”
“Please Wulf, you need to see this.”
I followed J’Zargo to a set of schematics for another type of airship.
I said to him, “These plans use black powder weapons. I did not know the Dwemer knew of them. The Redguard are proud of their invention and will be disappointed to know they are not the first.”
“This vessel can be easily converted to carry such weapons. The tricky bit is casting the large weapons so they do not shatter on use.”
“The fact there is no record of the Dwemer using such weapons or even employing them to protect their buildings tells you much. They are a danger to all as skill on the battlefield would be replaced by luck. Random death can be rained upon massed troops by those of little skill. Like those cursed trebuchet but with far more devastation. Wooden palisades suddenly become weapons themselves as the metal projectiles turn them into deadly splinters. As we travel on this craft it will be a symbol for peace and negotiation, not war. I would never be the first to use such black powder weapons and I would never arm this vessel!”
I thanked J’Zargo and he went and joined the others.
I found Rigmor and told her, “This is amazing. It fulfils so many needs till we wait for teleports to be perfected. I want it to be a welcome sight to our citizens. A symbol of hope and evidence of the work we are doing for them. No longer will the Emperor be a remote figure in some distant palace. Their beloved Queen can pop up anytime. It will enable us to really be nobility for the people. It is a priceless gift from the Khajiit “
Rigmor looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I have no doubt Baa’Ren-Dar knew this. A normal airship would have been wonderful but this is ideal for the work we have to do. Just think how things would have been different if you had this in Evermore. Love merely hours away. I could have helped you with the horror you faced. The Sentinel could have been swapped out as they suffered as well. We could have made decisions together instead of hoping we guessed correctly.”
“What Evermore taught me is how well you can do without my advice my dearest. You did exactly the right thing sending the troops to the border and in the numbers you did. I could not think of a better person to be Governor than General Rikke. But yes, just to talk and clarify things together would have been fantastic. To share our quiet together would have made things so much easier for me. Even a few hours amongst my children at one of the orphanages would have healed much. I have no doubt we will need to be separated a lot before and after our daughter’s birth. This will make it easier on us all.”
“Are we heading for Solitude now?”
“I think I will try flying to Bruma first just to get used to the manual controls. Then we will ether to Solitude. I am sure they will not be standing outside waiting for us but will come out when we arrive.”
“They decided to build the Solitude dock for the airship at the museum and not the palace. They have selected sites not attached to palaces in each county and city.”
“That makes perfect sense. Most visits will not involve the local nobility.”
“I shall have a lie down while you fly to Bruma. No need to wake me, I have already seen it from the deck. It is a beautiful sight to see your home from above.”
We had a quick kiss and I made my way onto the deck. I stood at the wheel and thought of sideways movement then gaining height. The airship responded very nimbly and climbed fast. When at a suitable height I turned for Bruma and accelerated to the airship’s maximum speed. What it showed me is that for some shorter trips it will be much quicker to manually fly than travel via the ether. I tried turning as sharp as possible. Stopping, climbing and descending as quickly as possible. I did this as I wandered over the deck and found my footing was sure and stable.
When Bruma came into view I approached quickly and did a full circle.
I saw Sigunn and several Sentinel appear in the centre of town. I halted the airship and used my Thu’um to announce, “Not stopping Countess. I am just getting used to controlling this magnificent airship. We are off to Solitude now. The ship will vanish in about two hours so do not panic as that means we are travelling via the ether. Serana can explain it to you.”
Sigunn nodded to show she understood and I made my way into the cabin. Rigmor was fast asleep so I did not disturb her. I went to the map room and set the course for Solitude with an alarm to be sounded at the other end.
I was eager to experience ethereal travel and made my way back on deck.
TO BE CONTINUED…