After reaching the North Harbor of Lake Rahn, our captain bids us farewell since he only travels the Giranja's Tribute up and down. Shen's gang and I settle down in a beautiful little dock-side inn and get drunk on cobalt blue, a local hard liquor with the most peculiar color and sheen, and play Age of Heroes
late into the night. I loosely recall him crushing me for a week's worth of pay, so there's that. In the morning we make our way towards the great Spire of Rahn, though the Lake is large, and we'll take the scenic route, so I expect we'll have an hour or two I can spend on writing. I'll keep my review of the spire itself until later; there is more than enough interesting things going on right here in this boat.
The boats, ah yes. When we went to the dock, there was a strange pier-shed filled with these large plates. In fact, there were different shacks with different plate dimensions. The tour-guide and skipper we hired to take us by the spire pulls one of the plates onto the water with a hooked pole then readies it with the help of his son: They carry comfortable looking chairs and a table onto it as it floats atop the lake, and a strange black box as well, all locked in a storehouse by the pier. Once everything is on the large, floating plate, the skipper waves us aboard. I am a bit unsure because it looks like it might be wobbly and tilt at any wrong move, but Shen and his men confidently step aboard, so I follow. The skipper moves his feet oddly, and out of Lake Rahn, some water begins to rise and, well, 'constructs' walls for what now looks like an actual boat, one half made from wood, one half from gleaming ice.
Shen and his men sit down by the long table aboard and the ship begins to just move across the water, propelled by an invisible force. Amazingly there is no swaying at all, everything is perfectly steady. I am actually a bit uncomfortable because of it in the beginning.
Going to the skipper to ask some questions, I see that on the floor before him are a number of beautiful drawings worked onto a metal plate. He puts his foot times on this one, times on that one, and they glow when he does so. I quickly understand that these move the ship and made the icy hull as well. They also keep the ship steady.
You have probably guessed it, dear reader: magic engines. I am on a magic boat. The skipper explains that these have brought great convenience into the lives of everyone around here. He doesn't even know how to perform water magic, the boat does all the work.
If you are an islander like me, you may have never seen a magic engine in your life, but here in the Middle Lands
Magocracy, they are everywhere. Since spell ink
was invented in the 820s GE, the invention of new and practical magic engines has slowly but surely revolutionized all sectors of city life over here. Initially used by city guards, who painted spell ink mandalas onto their shields to gain access to rudimentary magic, these days there are boats, land vehicles, factories, high temperature furnaces, and all sorts of things run by this amazing technology, which was developed, or so I am told, by a united think tank of Middlish scholars, who call themselves the Middle Lands Magic Research Consortium
, way back.
In fact, I see factories in the back blowing smoke, and the skipper tells me they are cobalt works, churning out precious cobalt using magic engines. And the surprises do not end here: After we are well out on the lake, he steps off the plate and lets us drift a little, pulling forth the ominous blackish box. Opening it, the inside seems to be very cold, and food is stored inside. He takes out a couple of plates with food on them as well as chilled drinks. He places the plates before our company on the table and then pulls a strange sheet with top handle from the box. Holding it above each plate in turn, a cover extends from it, and he touches another mandala on its side. We quickly see that the contraption warms the food right up. After he has warmed the last plate, he sticks the plate back into the side of the box and touches a mandala on the box.
''We invented these with the help of Altonar technocrats, I hear," the skipper explains to me as we eat a nice, rustic meal of mussels and fried rice, which he assures me were made this very morning and are quite delicious indeed. "Ya, see you can't touch the mandala all the time so it's gotta still stay cold. They made this special uh... thermos lining they call it, I think, that makes it very good at keeping the cold in. And there is also this sort of soul energy battery inside, so it works for a while before you have to touch it again."
I am reasonably impressed. Though I can't help but think about the less fortunate people here that are allegedly abused for their natural ability to power these magic engines. An ability we all carry. But those who are poor and in need are quickly targeted by those out to make a quick coin, and for that victims of spellblight
are more prolific here than anywhere else. Yes, blight is the price of progress in this region, and yet the blighters are still terribly stigmatized here.
No doubt are magic engines still rare on the Ocean Belt after hundreds of years because the Church of Pure Souls is lobbying against them with all the resources at their disposal.
Personally, I am unsure which side is right: progress, or caution? Even with draconian practices and revolting attitudes towards certain groups of people, there is a certain merit to the churches fear for the human soul, is there not?
Then again, this old skipper seems to be fine driving his magic engine out on the Lake every day, and there are only grey streaks in his hair, no white. As so often, I fear that education and societal stratification are the things that create social injustices. Still, I cannot help but be awestruck by this pristine lake, the magnificent Spire of Rahn that towers before me, the grand city beyond it, and the impressive factories in the distance. Truly, this is a city of splendor.