Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Chronicle of Southwatch: Aristos, Airships, and the Aerie

Editor's note: We will publish sections of Herink Lesward's The Chronicle of Southwatch upon occasion to provide our readers with an alternate point of view regarding important events in Southwatch. While the majority of historians cast doubt upon Herink's credibility and his obvious anti-sunside bias, we feel that this maligned diarist can give someone unfamiliar with Southwatch a different perspective on what happened. 

The dichotomy between the sunside and darkside of Southwatch is nowhere more emphasized than in the excesses of the Aerie. After all, what other city in the world has literally elevated the upper class to the point that it floats above the rest of the populace? The upper level of the Aerie is comprised of nothing but scores of airships, tethered to the tops of the buildings of Southwatch and each other through walkways and plazas. Their only link to the city below is the network of private lifts that carries the well-to-do from the Aerie into Midtown and the transportation hubs there. 

The best way to view the Aerie is from underneath it.  On a clear day, the sun's rays stream through the field of bessem airships, coloring the light until the heavens look like an expanse of stained glass. If you're a poet, that's a good thing.  But if you live in Midtown or University Heights, chances are you'd rather have a blue sky with a sun in it, particularly if you have the misfortune to live under Lady Romarty's ghastly pink and purple monstrosity or the Earl of Green Mountain's unoriginal homage to himself. Obviously, a green airship wasn't a stretch of the old man's imagination, and it doesn't matter how fair the maiden, she isn't at her best when the only light that hits her skin is a mottled green camouflage. 

The Aerie itself, however, is a cold and uncomfortable place. Even on the hottest days of summer, the walkways and terraformed plazas always have a frosty wind howling through them.  The air temperature is too cool for plants to grow, so the "parks" are littered with clear bessem terrariums, and therefore the flowers are always beautiful but cannot be enjoyed.  The Aerie smells are dictated by what happens in lower levels of the city, although the Dark Cloud filters out most of the emissions of the factories far below. 

So while the Aerie can be beautiful, that loveliness is aloof and cold--two attributes that suit the district very well.  The environment so perfectly matches the attitudes of the aristocracy that they naturally thrive in the Aerie, much like fungus in a scientist's controlled experiments. 

One of the most interesting things about the Aerie, however, is that it's always changing.  The noble and wealthy trade families who can afford a floating palace are constantly moving their airships around, jockeying for position both physical and psychological closer to the center of the district.  In the very center, of course, are the airships of the most powerful entities in Southwatch.  The Baron of Southwatch, young Thomas Amberville, occupies his family home right in the middle of the Aerie. His ship, one of the few vessels that isn't an affront to the goddess with its blue bessem and silver filigreeed beauty, does not move, and is surrounded by a core of airships that rarely move. Every other airship, however, is constantly moving. Unless you live in one of those core airships, you can go to bed one night and wake up the next day to find all the paths you navigated the day before have been changed. It's impossible to even map the Aerie, and only the Sky Rangers and the Angels of Steel have the ability to find all the ships easily.  The only fairly constant landmark in the Aerie is the immense golden dome of the Caelimane Temple, which has maintained its position two rows away from the Amberville airship for decades.

Which, if you think about it, is a fairly stupid way to maintain order. Originally, the airships of the Aerie wanted to be in the center of the field purely for reasons of security. After all, the pirates that constantly harass the Aerie can only get close enough to the ships on the fringes of the district.  Ships in the center of the Aerie were left unmolested.  But over time, that competition became less about safety and more about proximity until now a familiy's investments and social prestige directly impact their living address.

Put simply, the closer your airship is to the Amberville ship, the more powerful you are. It makes one wonder: what would happen if the Amberville family lost all its wealth and power? Would its beautiful ship fall out of the sky? Would the Sky Rangers come and tow it away? Or would the new power over Southwatch just move into the Amberville airship and claim it as its own? 

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?