The Arettel

The Arettel is a merchantman, to be featured in a future book in the Voyagers and Kings universe, converted by Danthrey for the purpose of oceanic discovery, something that has never been attempted before. 

Building on recollections of the ‘Black Ship’, he begins the task of finding an existing vessel suitable for oceanic travel, built of iron and capable of carrying a large cargo of supplies for setting off into the unknown.

The following is a scrapbook for the development of what kind of vessel the Arettel is based on iron-clad designs of the late 19th century – without mast or sail that do not exist in Caramantum.


Design ideas – visualisation · Sources: Wikipedia

I.K. Brunel’s Great Eastern of  – a ship way ahead of it’s time in 1858

here berthed in New York in 1860:

Just prior to breaking up:

The first ironclad: the French Gloire of 1859: an example of a City-class ironclad gunboat

The USS Cairo, a City-class ironclad gunboat 1860’s

The French Redoubtable of 1876: The world’s first iron battleship

Outward-sloping sides: The Japanese Kotetsu, built by the French for the American confederacy: 1860’s

Guns and turret design: French Le Vauban of 1882

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Night In New Mondian

2

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It was a twilight of weird magnificence. The walk to the Harbor Lights witnessed the cloaking of the sun and the sky, the light taking them through some of the most run-down buildings of New Mondian. Half of them were deserted, half of them just appearing so, few daring to live amongst the dregs of humanity that eked out a wretched existence amongst the refuse of the harbor. From coughing windows to fuming stacks, the pockets of the few with money in their pocket never dared to show themselves until dark brooded itself into dawn. What was left in the night hour were those who were too ill or apathetic to care and those who preyed on them.

‘Hurry,’ he urged, forcing them on as fast as his little legs could go.

The fetid wretchedness of the city only became truly manifest in the half-light, Ganthrell thought, eyes drawn to the roofline vague but still distinct. He craned his neck to look beyond, the sky darkening, solidifying into shadow, everything about to be reduced to the stain of oppression coming from the never-resting spume of chimney’s cloaked within the gloom of the slag-heaps unseen.

He didn’t need to say to him soon he wouldn’t be able to see anything, pulling Crestan by the hand, who did what he could to keep up. Crestan knew. Crestan had seen the the depravity before. He only knew too well, the poor child. 

He paused to look up again, judging how much time they had, being less than he would have liked. The blanket had lowered, he noted grimly. A grey oppression as relentless as time, soon to smother cornice, rail and even the echo of footstep on cobblestone. Beyond, he could hear the distant throb of the last of the air barges, where somewhere a dozen propellers would be beating the smog into eddies in an effort to make a break for clean air and what was left of the day. He shifted his attention to what lay ahead, to the shifting incandescent pallor of the gas lamps. A streetscape composed of shadows, puddle-cobbles and an all-pervading grayness that grew and darkened with each passing step.

‘Grandpa, we have to hurry,’ Crestan said, taking the lead.

Ganthrell looked down and nodded. ‘Sorry. Yes.’

‘Why does it come?’ The boy said, following his searching gaze.

‘Greed, Crestan. It’s the pallor of greed,’ he said with a sigh, as the mantle kept on descending towards them.

It enveloped anything and everything, obliterating sky, soon to swallow the townscape in a shroud impossible to penetrate. This it did each and every night when the temperatures dropped and the city closed down, merchants and workmen giving way to gangs and stalkers, robbers and thieves who used the smog to hide their very existence. Above them, the criss-cross girders of the railway now silent waiting for another industrious day, the arches interlacing patterns of silent iron dripping in the fog that blended with the coal dust: Dark forms looming threateningly before disappearing within the underbelly of the smog that hung suspended, a blanket of foul air that seemed to settle lower and lower with every passing step.

Ganthrell marched forth, footsteps amplified off close-by brick walls shining dully by an approaching gas lamp suspended on a bracket mounted across the corner to the main street. It hung unevenly, he noted. One of the bolts mounting the bracket to the wall must have come loose, it being only a matter of time before the weight of the lamp would pull the single remaining bolt out of the brick. It was dark now.

Forth he strode until he noted it with dismay it was too dark. He paused, uncertain and peered into the darkness. Nothing. He held his cane out before him and kept on walking until he could make up a tall wall of dark red bricks that blocked off the alley turning it into a dead-end.

‘They’ve walled it up,’ he cursed. He turned and noted with dismay the mantle of smog had descended to a little higher than head height, lowering by the weight of the cold, a moving mantle that touched the top of Ganthrell’s head, the thin wispy lines of his thinning hair soon lost within. The old man limped slightly, back stooped to see before all visibility was lost to them, marching, pulling the boy he hardly knew until they re-emerged back into the light now blanketed, losing it’s strength. A handful of strides later the smog descended to his chest, so far he could no longer see beneath it. A distant cry of a gull. ‘Which way is the harbor?’

The boy could still see from his height. Crestan let go of his grandfather’s hand. ‘Over there,’ he said pointing unseen.

‘Sure?’ Ganthrell asked, blind.

‘Yes.’

Ganthrell took the boy’s hand once more and strode forth with an energy that belied a hidden, youthful vitality even at his ripe old age. He kept his other hand clasped to his cane that he trailed across the damp brick walls making a ticking sound, pausing as they passed shuttered windows until the light deceased, replaced by another, fouler air that stank of rotting fish and tar. His hand left the wall, heading out into open space, the echo of footsteps relieved by the slapping of water against planks of wood. In the background, a muffled sound of revelry.

‘Over there.’

He made for the opposite direction, wanting to avoid meeting anyone, emerging out of the night smog to where it was little lighter where it made contact with the silent still waters of the harbor.

‘Come on,’ he nodded towards the looming shadow of the building framing the street unseen as from somewhere across the silent waters a seagull let fly a melancholy cry.

‘I don’t like being here,’ Crestan said. 

A peel of drunken laughter filtered past the flickering lights.

Of course he didn’tGanthrell looked down. ‘Neither do I. Now let’s stop dilly-dallying.’ He nodded towards the faint glow of golden flame. ‘That’s where we’re going. It’ll be all right.’

They set off again, accompanied by the occasional light rap from the man’s cane on stone. The glow of light, flames invisible.

For a moment, a glowing swathe of light erupted, the piano filling the space around them to be extinguished, replaced by a solitary laugh emerging out of the grey veil returned. The laughter repeated itself, the indistinct outline of a women, soon followed by a man wearing a top-hat catching up to link arms. He took hold of her shoulder, swayed on one leg as the other poised unsure what to do with itself, steadying himself as his mouth sought her ear, his breath swirling in the mist about them, their clothes steaming. The boy look up startled as she shrieked, her head tilted backwards, followed by a cackle of laughter. On they marched, stumbling and laughing as they made for the buildings across the dockside road. Looking up, the woman saw the two figures had stopped in the street to look at them, grey tangled hair cascading around a black shawl pulled tightly across sloping shoulders

Crestan looked quickly away.

The man stopped, both feet planted as he swayed. He stepped forwards, eyes clinched in a look of suspicion. ‘What ya lookin’ at?’

‘Look away,’ Ganthrell whispered. ‘Come.’

‘Oy! Don’t you know it’s rude to whisper?’ The dreaded sound of footsteps.

Just go away, damn you.

‘Stay where you are,’ the voice said, words slurred by grog.

‘Come,’ Ganthrell turned, dismayed to see no one at all, the smog already descended to cloak the street.

‘Stop!’

He could approach to within five space and he wouldn’t know it, the flickering lights suddenly all too vague and unreachable.

‘This way,’ he pulled Crestan desperately to the side. But it was too late, a shape emerging out of the vapor topped by a tall hat, then another emerging from behind the first and he knew then it had been a mistake to come after the smog had settled at all.

The scroll

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Book 1 Chapter 1

He was entranced. He was so totally, wonderfully and delightfully entranced, the stupid old fool I am, he thought, squinting to keep the thick lens entrenched within the socket of his one bad, watering but ever watchful eye as it scanned fragments of upwardly curved sentences. He cursed softly as he unrolled it with both hands on the desk before him, fingers trembling but not from exertion. Each time he unrolled it, each time he moved his one hand, it had that wonderful tendency to roll back up within itself. And each time he resisted, and moved his hand away to weigh it down, roll back up within itself it would. This act of trying by speed to move his hand fast enough was what entranced him. He tried again, and again, he failed. He sat up and stared at the roll then raised a hand, hooking a finger around the end of his nose in thought.

‘This will do no good,’ he said out aloud in a grunt of indignation. ‘No good at all.’ He tried a last time, rolling out the parchment again, the neat but ancient quill-inscribed letters faint yet quite readable.

He left the tip of his thumb on the corner, fingers searching for the paper weight, a round cylinder of iron upon which had been fused the seal of New Mondian, a tower standing tall upon a hill, that if left standing would be quite invisible, to be lost in the smog that pervaded the air from anything above roof height on upwards. His little finger found purchase, moving the seal closer until, with the aid if middle and little fingers, he was finally able to keep the edge perfectly in place. Only then did Master Ganthrell reach across to the paraffin lamp to bring it a little closer. He read:

“The Third Lore of Scy-entification states:

‘The natural state of the universe is chaos and that all things and beings tend to disorganise themselves to become it. A wise man once said that there is but one life on earth, a life that embraces every blade of grass and every breath of every being.’

The aging of time has divided this one life into so many small pieces that we can hardly keep track anymore, he thought.

‘But rest assured, each is one small piece of a whole…'”

Ganthrell scanned ahead of the first few paragraphs, seeking the proof he had been seeking for so many by years, knowing he had totally, finally and quite distinctly… found it:

“The fact that the story of Pantacoris was for thousands of years regarded as a fable proves nothing, nothing at all. There is an unbelief which grows out of ignorance, as well as a scepticism which is born of intelligence. The people nearest to the past are not always those who are best informed concerning the past. For a thousand years it was believed that the legends of the golden cities of Leionnór and Arathach were myths: they were spoken of as ‘the fabulous cities. For a thousand years the educated world did not credit the accounts given by Sépucive of the wonders of the ancient civilizations of the Pantacoreans.”

Leionnór. He had never heard of it before. Or Ara…. Arathach for that matter. No matter; he was called the father of liars, Ganthrell recalled. This man who copied the old texts.

“Even Elisantis sneered at him. Now, in the language of Buthrock it was written, ‘the deeper and more comprehensive the researches of the moderns have been, the more their regard and esteem for Elisantis has increased.’ Buthbrock says, ‘His minute information about Panatcoris is admitted by all geo-graphicers.’”

Buthrock was full of cow dung. Admitted by all geo-graphicers? Buthrock was never ordained as any geo-graphicer. ‘That’s a damnable lie,’ he said aloud. There had been nothing, not one measly little word by any geo-graphicologicer he had ever read. There was a time when the expedition sent out by Sépucive to circumnavigate the world was doubted, because the explorers stated that after they had progressed a certain distance the sun was north of them. Of Sépucive, nothing. Gone, vanished into the very ether of nothingness from where the adventurer came from.

“This circumstance, which then aroused suspicion, now proves to us that the first Coranàthian navigators had really passed the equator, and by there very arrival to these shores, does irretrievably anticipate the discovery of the Islands of Pantacór.”

Ganthrell cleared his throat. ‘Indeed.’ He tugged at his nose.

If I succeed in demonstrating the truth of the somewhat startling propositions with which I commenced this chapter, it will only be by bringing to bear upon the question of Pantacoris a thousand converging lines of light, from those whose names remain hidden within the Counsel Archives. Further investigations and discoveries will, I trust, confirm the correctness of the conclusions at which I have arrived.”

Ganthrell rubbed a wrinkled finger across the white hair of his brow as he removed the weight, letting the parchment roll back as it so desperately wanted to. So, Sépucive’s nameless whoever-he-was source suspected the Counsel of foul play. And who could blame him? He pushed the ancient parchment out of the flickering light of his candle, turning next to the open tome laying dormant to his left, pulling it closer. He opened the large leather-bound book at the mark and read:

‘…This Chronicle is the true testament of the voyages of the good ship Arettel. We have journeyed perhaps farther than any other man of the North, and have seen things and been places nobody can dream of. Sitting here in the comfort of my cabin, the tale I am about to tell seems as a dream now. I need to pinch myself to make sure I haven’t dreamed it all. But the absence of some of my friends and fellows testifies to the truth of my tale.’

The old man breathed in, deeply and pondered the Captain’s words. Arettel, the very name of the vessel stirred emotion. Sépucive, that very name stirred wonder, gone he was. So where the hell in Baldazar did his ship’s  log come from?

Of my ship, this is all that is left of a small flotilla sailing from Coranon, city of the South. Our five ships left these shores to discover the fabled lands of the South…The world is a great place!

Fabled lands of the South. He regarded for a moment the parchment again. There was only one fabled telling, and this was it. Unless the old texts of Elasantis had by some divine intervention, prevailed. Sepúcive had access to the document. But how? New Mondian was once a harbour of boats, he had to remind himself. How terribly quaint, he summized.

So great my words can never serve to bring it the justice it so deserves. We have seen lands few have even dreamed of! We have discovered new realms, new peoples! Glory to all. But our discoveries have changed us. We are no longer the people we once were. We have left a piece of ourselves behind, in Pantacoris…

We have left a piece of ourselves behind. Ganthrells hands were shaking as he placed the document down onto his oaken desk. He read these lines over and over again, but still the weight of them continued to thrill him. ‘Yes, yes… quite.’ Terra Pantacoris was no longer a fable of the past, that much was certain. He stared for a moment into the flame, then blinked behind the thick lens of his monocle. Pantacoreon’. He mumbled its name to himself, his eyes vacant as he travelled to worlds of his mind. ‘Now, there’s a name if ever there was one.’