Loremageddon 2019, Day Six: Teman Slant-Ships and the Playwright Droven

Hello once again, everyone, and welcome to Day 6–the day where I begin to regret my decisions! The posts here on the blog aren’t too taxing, it’s the work I’ve given myself behind the scenes that’s got me suffering. The worst part is, it’s all so double-super-secret-forbidden you’re unlikely to see most of it for years.

However, enough of my whingeing–let’s get into today’s lore! First, some especially ambitious fantasy warships, then a famed writer who went off the deep end from working too hard (No, this isn’t projecting myself into the work, shut up though!) And–that’s it! You see, for today the second section was one I really wanted to delve deeper in, so I’m going to waive the format this one time. Enough dawdling, in we go!:

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Full Segment #1: the Teman Slant-Ship (World: Canno)

The slant-ship is currently experiencing its infancy at shipyards throughout the Kingdom of Temana. The queen hopes that this new style of warships will allow her nation to rise to prominence, but without any major wars in which to test them, the slant-ships function more as a curiosity than as confirmed-effective warships. The Teman Admiralty remains leery of deploying them, and for the moment keeps them on hand primarily to humor the queen.

The brainchild of Osklyjec Svarinski, a non-binary ship builder known both for flamboyant style and a certain manic inventiveness, the first-generation slant-ships are broader than most warships of a comparable size class in beam, and this widest point rests much closer to the front. This gives slant-ships something of a wedge-like appearance and has not endeared them to Teman captains, who believe them to be “sluggish vessels, lubberly to sail and unsatisfying to the eye,” as Admiral Narowicz observed on returning from his first voyage aboard a slant-ship.

This front-heavy shape is exacerbated by the slant-ship’s deck design, which is to say that it lacks a single traditional deck. Instead, each slant-ship features a succession of tiered decks which slope back and inwards from the previous ones; each has at least enough room to mount one ballista. Depending on the ship’s exact size, there may be as many as five of these decks, with the final deck covered by a sort of plated awning. If nothing else, Osklyjec has to be a genius to stop their designs from capsizing under a stiff breeze!

There’s not much room for traditional sails on such vessels, and Osklyjec took the novel approach of adding a copper “sub-hull” lined with holes that radiate from a central nexus, allowing seawater into the void. These are keyed to a system of kinetic enchantments which are in turn keyed to the ship’s wheel and several levers the captain may pull. This allows the slant-ship to move, but with damnable slowness, and adding magic to any military design severely limits its manufacture.

The slant-ship’s exact role in the Teman fleet has yet to be determined; each can field an impressive number of ballistae for its size, but they’re mostly untried. Many wish to leave them that way.

Today’s Snippet: the Playwright Droven (World: Canno)

Droven was the single most famed–and most prolific–playwright of the 11th Century V.R., but his fame had as much to do with his consistent quality over a huge range of tones and subject matter as it did with the amount of matter he produced. His comedies were particularly uproarious, and for the most part far less vicious than those of his contemporaries; Droven was the first proponent of what he dubbed “the sympathetic satire”, a tale which used more likable characters and heartfelt plot to drive home the satirical elements that much harder.

Of the above, his most famous example is “Nine Calamities of King Cotta,” the tale of a disenfranchised prince from a fictive nation who refuses to stop referring to himself as King Cotta. The play served both as a commentary on the importance of identity to sapient beings, and on the self-destructive nature of a person who refuses to let their identity be changed even when every event they face screams that something needs to change. The satire in “Nine Calamities” is not against Cotta himself, but the society which made him unable to adapt.

In his later years Droven suffered an escalating series of mental breakdowns; most agreed these came from overworking himself. During these breakdowns he lost most of his formidable powers of speech, and was prone to repeating the same words or phrases at different volumes, under his breath, into a mirror or into a corner, and so on. When asked why by a longtime friend, he snapped, “Because I’m trying to call the real ones!” and then ignored any further questions.

It was in this fractured mental state that Droven wrote his grimmest and, it’s generally agreed, his best tragedy: “Anselm of the Ancient Hymn.” It concerned a mariner who, after his ship is destroyed in battle–the play is deliberately vague about which nation Anselm comes from–hears a beguiling song while in a dreamlike state on the brink of death. Once rescued, he swears that he will hear this song again if it takes him all his days. He builds a crew and a new ship and sets out.

Along the way he falls in love and marries, and for a brief period it seems Anselm might forget the song. However, he dreams of it again, and leaves his wife and newborn daughter behind. At last, withered by age, Anselm and his crew sail through “a hole in all, the all to find” and arrive on a jagged black-rock island beneath a crimson sky rippled by fires in multiple shades of red, orange, and gold–“Anselm” was an expensive play, requiring a skilled mage to provide its most dramatic effects–at an otherworldly whirlwind’s center.

They see that the ocean itself has turned black behind them, the waves sparked by “light other than light”. The island and even the waves themselves are riven by cracks, creating hollow spaces where none should exist, and in those hollow spaces the crew see “naught that should be seen.” At last Anselm hears the melody he remembers, though not the words. He follows it through the island, passing impossible structures and seeing ghostly beings at the corners of his vision, “his mind ensnared, and on he walked, and no death dared meet They who stalked.”

At last Anselm passes unto a threshold which warps and shifts constantly under the influences of the ethereal power streaming through it. Right as he crosses the brink, he thinks he hears the first word of the song–then, the play ends.

In fitting fashion, Droven died during the night three days after he completed “Anselm”, and he never saw it performed. It’s considered an ill-omened play, but such a masterpiece that it remains popular–best taken, the connoisseurs agree, with plenty of strong wine and a warm bed to huddle in afterward.

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That’ll do it for Day Six, and not the cheeriest of material either I fear! Worry not, there shall be happier in the days ahead! It, er, seems tiredness makes me more archaic in style. Never mind that–as always, let me know your thoughts down in the comments, leave a like, and share this post with your friends. Otherwise, follow me on Twitter if you’d like to keep up with my day-to-day musings and, uh, all the artwork I retweet.

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