|Art by Deven Rue|
The steady, constant hiss of steam filled the warehouse, followed by the scrape of steel as the pistons pumped. Somewhere, the sound of a welder, the pounding of a hammer, deadened by the thin walls of the builder's work-room.
The builder sat on a tiny stool, crouched over a wooden desk, a pair of goggles atop his head and the welding gloves he usually wore tossed into a corner. By the light of a small lantern glowing with a violently white flame, he looked at a large piece of blank paper.
He nodded to himself, grabbed a pencil worn down to a stub, and began sketching like mad, the sound of the scraping led adding to the din, seeming a little out of place.
He started simple; a half moon shape. His pencil scraped along, adding small details; brass brackets, painted designs, grooves in wood. Occasionally, it would be joined by the clatter of a ruler against the paper as he measured or scale.
When he was done, he looked at it. He followed this by looking at a young woman in a photo on his desk; a woman wearing a fur shawl that hung from her shoulders, medalson her chest, a corset, and a pair of goggles not unlike his own.
He grunted his satisfaction, then rolled up the paper, grabbing his gloves and leaving.
Outside, the noise was louder; but he was so use to it he barely noticed. Workers of all shape and size scrambled, walking by with materials and tools as the shape of of a ship was seen forming in a channel in the floor, the open doors at the end revealing the unobstructed view of the sun.
He walked to the room next door, nothing more than another wooden pillbox on the warehouse floor. He knocked on the door.
"Come in." came a voice.
He opened the door, walking in to see another man not much older than he was; skinnier, with a full head of
peppered hair. He looked up at the old, slouched man with hazel eyes.
The builder gave him the schematic. He looked at it, then back up at the old man.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" he asked. "There's no backing out once it's done."
"I know." replied the old builder, ringing a glove in one hand. "But she asked for it. It's what she would have wanted."
The skinny man sighed. "We usually use birds for this kind of thing."
"She was meant to fly." the old man replied.
"Ok, ok. I'll talk to the council."
A month later, a new ship was in the channel. A beautiful work with a mermaid figurehead and brass brackets, pounded into place by experienced workers, one of them an old man who had recently lost a daughter in a clan war. With one last pound of the hammer, it was almost done; but one thing had to happen.
A coffin was lowered into the hold. A priest uttered a few words of blessing, and the soul once bound to that body was bound to the wood and brass. A crystal, high upon the mast, lit with an eerie glow.
The ship Gale Winds, laden with food and crew, sailed off into the night, floating on currents of wind.