You reach sometimes for lost worlds you know, but cannot find.
~from Finding Calais.
'At a very proper 9:00 we set out on the collapsible, Emgi pulling hard on the oars against the swells. It seemed the closer we got to shore, the harder he fought; as we knew he had the strength of five Peas and four Fausts and a half, I set the oars aside and saw to the stores, that the violent lurching would not tip them overboard; it having been so calm moments before that neither Pea nor I had thought to apply the fine schooling we had received on the twenty types. We made landfall without incident, and the site had been as Paths described yester-day. Pea and I stared at the VAST dark trees, and the fog churning from behind them, and the organick light flashes, until Emgi got bored and sat down, and pulled a sprig of mint from a bulging pocket to chew. Pea had decided to forget his killing jar, and we spent the rest of the morning doing the ‘preliminary usual’, as he called it - walking up to the treeline, spreading canvas, then beating (gingerly) at the branches above it with a hiking stick. Some of our quarry dropped like stones and sat there as if sulking. Others leapt right off, crashing audibly back into the undergrowth. Most dispersed in an airborne cloud.. Pea got bolder quickly enough, and dove gamely after the sturdier, angrier ones. We detained them in a shallow cloth bin with a lid of fine mesh — we really, really tried to pick out the predatory ones as quickly as we could, but it warn’t always easy to tell, and we ended up losing a fair few of the smaller...'
(~ More material attributed to the natural history locus aboard the CR Hollander. The content is amateur but nonetheless earnest and reliable public education.~)
CG-registered guildships like the Hollander were mandated to discuss their surveys with the great Iaran societies. Though scoffedly amateur by the standards of Federate academies, the most engaged natural historians aboard the itinerant airships brought back stacks of earnest and largely reliable observation. This page is from the cache of the Hollander herself, retrieved years after her crash. It is attributed to Adrian Faust, who studied under resident amateur Conrad Peabody.
Travel writer Munse Egbert wrote, ‘The prow of a mighty, steep-sided plateau rose from a gently curling sea of cloud. It spread like a Fakhlan rug before a noble crag that stood between it and the glowering banks of brume that threatened to brim and wash down over it all. But covering the rug itself, another carpet: a gleaming one of construction, bristling with proud spires. From this distance one already sees how each was tall and stately as it was massive. Each met the sun in warm hues of bronze, copper, and gold, from immersed feet to tapering tips — a half-mile high, the greater ones were, yet none made more than a trifling contribution to the scale of the Gilded City. The skyscrapers of Malendar had always reached up, up out of the welter of brick, limestone and glass, reached to outdo their neighbours for a greater share of the sun’s grandeur. And around that shimmer of countless buildings – from the shoaling, darting specks that were planes to the quiet drifting leviathans that were unmistakeably the great dirigibles – aircraft, scores of aircraft once you looked close enough, the planes jostling and diving into the mass of construction, the airships – some trailing vivid billboards that would’ve covered a city block – lounging among the spires, circling lazily in clear skies, clustering to mast wherever city dropped off into cloud.
That plateau – properly a ‘mesa’ to the thriving geographical societies operating from it – that was Calenbar. Upon it, Malendar: capital of Federate Iara. When the sun slants into golden hour on a clear day, Malendar resembles a sheer-sided isle of jewels in the heavens. Sunlight, sparing nothing from the splendour of its touch, glances not only off the city, but in shades of brilliant ochre off the exposed plateau walls.
Other times the cloudsea rises to engulf the city, and all its souls with it. For full days at end one might be shrouded in wet, gray, chill murk too thick to drive a cart in. There will be little colour to speak of. No plane will fly, and such airships as can will have to grab and be dragged around dim urban fissures by straining locomotives. Malendar’s legion foglights will be roused to do battle with the murk, and in the white veil that follows, pilferers and misfits will in some districts outnumber the regular publick. One must be doughty to walk the streets then; most will quite sensibly prefer not to descend at all, but to strike for as many sky bridges as one needs to board the nearest el…’
So much has been and can yet be written of the gilded city; Egbert’s is but one account. This seemingly impossible place has grown over the centuries around foundations that have had to be reworked and strengthened with each generation passed. The plateau Calenbar’s largely rocky interior, in places brittle and porous, is now a fifth steel and concrete by volume, an amount which must surely increase until less than half of the original substrate remains. Five elevators the size of ocean liners shuttle goods and sundry to and from docks a mile and a half below; there steamers ply a maze of rivers and lakes lapping wanly through the gorges and caverns that radiate wildly across and under otherwise dry, barren tracts of land. A trip on an elevator is quite the experience. You leave the chill draughts and (often enough, at least) dazzling clarity of Malendar, plunge into the mile-thick, shifting innards of beleaguering clouds, and emerge in the span of a few minutes into a dusty, yellowed, stifling warm underworld. Few people care to live or work here; it is called ‘Wastes’ or ‘Lifeless Plains’ for good reason, and is littered with dead factories, dead towns, derelict engines, and the occassional shanty. Anyhow, one cannot go very far on the waters that snake furtively about this land. Excepting the one tributary that manages only just to reach the next state Eadar, they serve only the far towns of the metropolitan region before vanishing underground.
No, Malendar’s panCarigian interests are better served by rail and, better yet, by air…
The Thresher is an excursion support ship, usually present in a cluster at the centre of any shoaled venture beyond planar Iara. They have decent payload capacity, and a concourse well stretching a good third of the envelope's length. Sundry logistics like tents and rations thus fall often within their purview. They are by no means specialised freighters, though, for they lack dedicated, reinforced floor space for true heavy lifting.
Pipe dreams on a cool night at the edge of town. Functioning pipe organs dot the Calaisian landscape. Only the largest have true defensive utility; the rest play important civic and cultural roles.
Ta Cephalion is a sentinel carved out of a rocky outcrop. Note the organ console; the pipes are too 'small' to scramble Morgaff sensibilities, but are nonetheless an effective deterrent.
A drawing of the Tanistroph Organ in Tallia, Calais. Note the paired guns in the side of the landward facade. Though seldom operational, they continue to look out each night over the lake. Follow me for more steampunk belle epoque (: