Saturday, December 15, 2018

Skyport Security in a Fantasy World

Arcanial Skyport (click on image/open in another tab for larger view)
It took me long enough, but I did include a top view of Arcanial's skyport as part of the series of maps describing the magiocracy's capital city (On Wings of Darkness--available summer 2019). Essentially, it possesses two large "terminals" with multiple docking slots for skyships. In the view above, one very large vessel overshadows warehouses well below its hull. You might recognize the skyships from previous blog articles. The skyport lies next to the river's northern embankment, some distance below the flying city.

The terminals are huge towers with wooden "skybridges" that can pivot alongside docking vessels. They rely on wheels and rails located inside the towers to keep them level, and load-bearing beams enchanted with reverse gravity spells to balance the devices. Skybridges are positioned high enough to leave sufficient clearance for masts beneath the skyships' hulls, and at different heights so pivoting docks do not interfere with adjacent ones. Docking presented a challenge since many of Calidar's skyships have outrigger masts angled above or below deck level. 

The towers' top levels house cranes handling the heaviest merchandise. The centers of the towers include a shaft with a hoist load down reaching to the ground level (or below if need be). Anything these mechanical devices and an army of fellfolk dockhands employed by the skysport cannot handle requires levitation spells, a common form of magic in a setting where many things dwell above ground.  

Hoist Load (left) & Mouse Wheel Crane (right)

A swarm of flying barges headed to/from the city flying above pick up merchandise and passengers. Large vessels do not dock directly at the flying city for security reasons and because mooring facilities there aren't convenient enough. Any number of skyships otherwise remain tethered at air anchors, all around the flying city, well above the skyport. Much of the merchandise otherwise transits through warehouses surrounding the skyport.

One might wonder what sort of security a facility of this nature demands. Air travel in Calidar's universe isn't comparable to modern day, real world commercial aviation. There's nothing like mass passenger transportation. Paying passengers are an exception more than a rule. Much of the traffic concerns valuable freight, especially in the case of Caldwen. For the sake of the ruling class's privacy, local control, and prevailing paranoia, few roads exist across the magiocracy. Transportation relies mostly on rivers and airways. Both are needed to feed the capital city. Wizards and the upper class in general own private skyships which they use for leisure, relying otherwise on spells and teleporters to travel. On the other end of the spectrum, the hoi polloi rarely venture far away from their birthplaces. 

Nonetheless, some seal-bearing documentation is often required when stepping aboard or disembarking a skyship in a major city. City guards and the port authority are generally in charge of security. City guards use their own flying barges to board and inspect approaching vessels before authorizing them to come any closer. Dockworkers act as eyes and ears for the captain of the port. Much of their focus remains on preventing merchandise theft and smuggling. Overseeing sorcerer's are responsible for collecting docking fees and the use of aerial mooring space near the capital city. Fees are paid to the port authority. Sorcerers also intervene when dockhands report something suspicious (for which the latter earn monetary rewards). Very much in the style of Caldwen, bound demons can be summoned to handle challenges to law enforcement. The port authority resorts to geas to help alleviate the problem of bribery among spellcasting inspectors and unscrupulous dockworkers, a daunting task considering the number of people involved. In a city where most things are expensive, theft and bribery aren't uncommon, not to mention potential sabotage risks from the Fifth Column, a secret society of activists demanding the return of Caldwen as a colony of the Nicarean Empire