Defiance of Nature
Note: Image associated is from Ironage.media, specifically their prompt 'The Outlanders'
Jacob Amos Walters' world had been shattered for the sixth time in only three days.
No one had expected the events of the weekend, that the Western Storm would simply... cease. A world constant that had existed for so long that modern compasses were actually no longer working correctly, and nobody had yet figured out a solution for it. And that was merely the first change. Nobody was on time the next day, as the sun had risen two hours earlier than it ever had. Or he supposed that everyone had seen it two hours earlier than they ever had, as it was clear that the horizon hadn't moved, nor could it have. During that day, the weather was, for the first time since records cared to mention, different. What would always have been the Third Rain of September was dry. Not a drop of rain fell. Nor could any humidity be felt in the wind, what little wind there was.
That afternoon, the news broke. Not only had the Western Storm utterly disappeared from the world, but land had been sighted. Land. And stranger still, it appeared to have been cultivated by people.
That evening, it was said in hushed whispers in dark rooms that some mighty beasts had been seen upon that distant land by the brave, or insane, pilots of the newly made zeppelins.
Jacob had been privy to the early reports, as had the rest of the diplomatic corps and the chiefs of staff for the Army and Navy. The government had, for its part, been nearly as panicked as their people over these events, only a short 3 years after the most recent war between his people, the Isenbalds and their rivals, the Laborans. It had been a bitter war, two years of trench-to-trench fighting before an armistice had been called, and the peace talks had only truthfully ended 8 months ago, even though the Armies of both had been withdrawn shortly after the armistice was made. Now, he and his mentor, Duke Æthelstan Isenbald, younger brother to their King, were being escorted to a research base in the Southern Reaches at the suggestion of General Hartmund.
King Isenbald had informed both his Sword and Shield that any people found on the unknown land were to be treated as neither friend nor foe but that communications were the priority until such time as they could decide one way or the other. As such, General Hartmund had suggested that the Army could escort a team of diplomats to meet these unknown folk, using the freshly formed Air Division. Æthelstan and Jacob had been chosen, as they had written much of the treaty for the peace talks and successfully opened the armistice that allowed them to begin with. Much had rode upon them then, and even more rested on them now.
As they had travelled, General Hartmund had briefed Æthelstan and Jacob on the zeppelin he intended to escort them in, though they would need some training at the base before he could allow them on board. As they approached the base, the General offered them the chance to view the Ironheart as he dealt with making sure the Base Commander understood what was happening. Both men gladly accepted the opportunity. Neither could've guessed what they were about to see, even with the brief.
Both had expected to see some variation from the rapidly standardizing features of the privately owned zeppelins: a large bladder filled with a mix of hydrogen and helium to provide lift, a small underslung structure for piloting the vessel, and perhaps an interior cabin or two for transporting troops. The Ironheart shared none of these design features. No, it was a great metal beast, floating in the sky as gracefully as the often seen turtle-doves native to the North of the world, with a superstructure on top of the gargantuan barrel-shaped bladder. Sitting square on the face of the bladder appeared to be an observation area, with both men guessing that would be at least used to direct the helm and engines if not directly holding the controls for those critical functions. The superstructure above also appeared to have a similar design at the fore of the vessel, though whether it was secondary, primary, or served some other purpose, they dared not guess, but they did know that this would make their job significantly harder. Assuring strangers of peaceful intent was arduous enough on its own, but to do so while apparently defying the simple and observable law of gravity? That was an untested arena for any man's skill in diplomacy and would require a masterful strategy from the Duke and his apprentice.
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