For some time now, Ciyera has labored over the idea of getting a ship in the air. The dream started to become a reality when she first made her beloved windboard. Then it was replicated, then it became a standard process. But when her gaze turned to her skiff, then to the Elven flagship and its sister warships docked in her harbor, simple enchanting magic would not be enough, not nearly. She brought the idea first to Perise, then she came to him with schematics. She constructed the Albatross' Eye, a glyphic circle to triumph any other, wrought by her own magic risen from the sea. Ciyera pulled at the strings of the physical world, fashioning its wings to cradle a ship... Then she returned to her workshop, and forged the glpyhs that would uphold such a massive spell as that which she had in mind. Words of power laced with the magic she made the incantation through runes long tried and tested, managing to word an incantation that would flow seamlessly from one glyph to the next. A boundary, a line of demarcation that would designate what would take to the skies.
Days dragged into weeks and months and years even, as she fully recovered from her broken mind to discover again the dream that had brought her to magic in the first place: total and unbridled freedom of the skies. The incantation changed many times until she got it perfect, then she began doing the numbers. It would require massive amounts of mana for the spell to take effect and solidify. Solidify? Yes, this had to be permanent. This had to work no matter what. Liquid mana, beyond one's usual capacity. An amount of magic poured into it that she knew she wouldn't be able to shoulder. Ciyera would spend a single long night writing plans to leave for her advisers, to keep the county and the city running smoothly, then would disappear into her workshop again for days at a time. Working with a scaled model of the glyphic circle, beginning rough size estimates for the area the spell would have to cover.
The spell almost worked. It finally came to fruition, she knew she had it as right as it would get, though the woman was still hesitant. Looking over what she'd crafted into her grimoire and the extensive ritual, Ciyera realized just how great was the potential for a backfire. She frowned and spent weeks more into reworking it, making sure that, should any catastrophic failure occur, she would be the only one taking the fall for it. Thinking of her closest friends, of Sigal and Perise... no, no one else would suffer if this goes wrong. Finally, she finished another draft of the glyphs. Would this work? It had to. Could it kill her? That's a risk she'd have to take. Was this worth the risk?
The only breaks the woman took were to gather more liquid mana into the growing jugs and barrels- a dangerous amount to keep in one place- or to briefly come up to speak with Sigal, then it was down into the caves again. The walls lined with sketches, her notes in her own glyphs and scrawls of all her knowledge of sailing and flight poured out into possible designs. A cross between the Elven warships and something more sleek like her windboard, and possibly even something more well-designed still. She looked to the concept she has written for Sigal's board, yet to be built. Incorporating a sail, but the mast would have to be different. Lower, longer, rigged well so as not to be torn by the strength of the cold upper winds. And cold it would be. Altitude was something to consider, and navigation. She made notes to include pyromancy in the design of the ships, just to circulate warm air around the decks and keep the pilots from freezing. She brought in her best admiral and asked him which captains were most adaptable and the quickest learners. Bring them here. And send the shipbuilder too. It was time for the next step.
With the spell settled upon, Ciyera could devote all her attention to the design of this first ship, and with her own "fleet" of craftsmen and sailors, those who knew the sea and sails best in her lands. The workshop was left behind and the Exarch could be seen daily and nightly at the raised drydock, the glyphic circle outside Tyr'Arien. Word was out now, out in the open for any passing guardsman to see and word got around. The Exarch was planning something again. When the Albatross' Eye had first appeared, there was skepticism. What could one need such a big catalyst for? And why did it have cranes and struts and a cradle for a keel? Why was timber coming in? And canvas for sails and rope? What could possibly be bustling among the small knot of people privy to this, those who spent hours and hours among the workbenches at the sides of this glyphic circle? They worked through the day, they worked through the night. Some came and left but Ciyera just threw up a hammock among the skeleton of a cradle and stayed. In the town time she gave herself for meals and rest, she'd brought barrels over and started gathering more liquid mana to spare for the inevitable quantities needed for this to work.
Again for weeks did the archmage labor over designs, over schematics and sketches and constructs woven of light or stone, or crafted of wood. They cluttered her desk at the Eye and she went through countless renditions before settling on a class of ships that would function like no other. They could be landed on water, yes, and they could sail as a normal ship, but these.. They were light, slim, their sails low but long to avoid being tall and mighty targets, or see the mast torn from the deck by strong wind. Highly-maneuverable and highly-defensible. A drop-door at the hull that could be sealed, but more importantly could be used to get a visual on the below. The sides reinforced against ballistae fire. Ports to return fire- both for ballistae and mages. It retains its Elven design, yet bears outrigging fins to remain stable even in a storm, though these auxiliary sails can be pulled in and their ports sealed if they are on sea, or not needed. Everything has been accounted for. It will be... a true beauty. A sky fortress.
Ciyera ran it by the admiral and his top sailors and the shipbuilder and some adjustments were made but they agreed that, yes, this might just work. This might actually work. She sent word to Perise with the final sketch and asked that timber and canvas be sent to Tyr'Arien, along with whatever carpenters they could spare.
-----------------As construction began, Ciyera could... finally step back. She could go to the shrine to Vassas, she could stand before it in the silence of the late night and light a candle, and think. The minutes drag into an hour, then she finally mutters, "... Is this what you have meant for me? ... Is this the reason I seem to always live, when so few around me have made it this far?" A bittersweet smile forms over her features. Is this her legacy? Airships? Bringing them back to the world? Building a fleet? Might Tyr'Arien finally become what she'd always meant it to be?
You live, Ciyera, at what cost?
Tears well in her eye and her heart twists in her chest. Her dream is coming to fruition, why does it weigh on her so? Because of the candles she has lit, the bodies she has buried. Her hands clench. Her gaze turns to the stars. Could Godswill see her now? Her dear father... did he know what she was doing? No, even the buried dead, that wasn't what caused her ears. Even in all this, even if she was laying the groundwork, the answer was as clear as the ink in her grimoire. Her grimoire, written in her glyphs.
"Nothing I do will outlive me, will it."
The day her luck ran out, the day she joined everyone she'd buried, would be the day all this would flicker and flare and fade forever.. The woman took a sharp breath and turned from the shrine, forcing herself not to think about it.
-----------------The following weeks passed with Ciyera watching the construction of the ship. She smiled to those who passed, she took it upon herself to visit the men regularly and check on the progress. The keel was carved and constructed, its ribbing laid in and good and strong. The ship would be shallow, and relatively small, but it would be the crowning jewel of Tyr'Arien's success. Ciyera began instructing the sailors they'd selected on the rigging- largely the same as any ship they'd flown- and how to maneuver through the skies. What they could and couldn't do, and how it would handle in air instead of water. To the squads of mages trained in her keep, she kept them up with their training and occasionally gave lessons herself.
Slowly, day by day, the ship was assembled in the cradled wings of the gyphic circle. She watched, she aided where one could, even using her magic sometimes as an extra crane to lift pieces into place, or fly up and help with the rigging when it was time. The hull was sealed, the mechanics of it set into place, the sail made to be raised or lowered quickly. The mast held firm and steady even as Ciyera pushed her gale spells against it, testing its strength. At long last, the ship was completed, and all the liquid mana that Ciyera had been gathering over the past seasons was put into use. First, she wrote out her incantation over the hull of the ship, fitting it in a scrollwork on a panel section that had been made flat and went end to end on both sides. Surrounding, and drawing the boundary. Then, with her windboard steady, she flew up with the liquid mana jugs, partially solidifying them into a thick paste that could be used to etch and draw the glyphs over the ship.
This process went on for days. It had to be perfect. It had to be her hand, the expertly-crafted flow of mana allowing for the spell to take effect, she hoped. This... had to work. That's what she kept telling herself, as the days dragged on and the sleepless Exarch held diligently to her duty. This would be the culmination of it all. Are you watching, All-Father? Are you watching, Traveler? Lord of Light? Lady of the Moon? Venti and Bahari both? Life and Death? This is what it's all been for.
Then the sun went dark again.
They could wait no longer.