Men, magic and machines

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Men, magic and machines

Post  Berserker on Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:16 am

Men, magic and machines - a brief history of the magic crystals powering much of Elne

From the year 1912 onwards, industry began advancing on Elne, and engineers found themselves needing more and more energy to fuel their creations. While they initially used coal to heat water and produce steam, they came to realise that if they were able to use magical energies, in any form, they would solve a lot of issues: Not only could they reduce their dependency on coal, which would lead to significantly cleaner air in the cities, they could also stop worrying about their machines' efficiency if energy was limitless, as magic appeared to be. Nonetheless, in these early stages, it was easier to rely on coal out of Narhel and local mines, which was both cheap and efficient, particularly once the railway line to Narhel's gates opened in 1947.

However, in the year 1967, several prominent engineers in Locria, led by the railway engineer Arden Wallis, petitioned the Locrian wizards' college and the engineers' college in Narhel for assistance with finding a way to use magic in machines. As steam was by then the most prominent way of powering all sorts of machines (at least those not still drawn by horses), their primary focus was to find a way to generate heat through magic. Using wizards themselves was right out, as wizards refused to be utilised as mere components in a machine (and trying to replace firemen with wizards led to threats of strikes from the worker unions), but Wallis and his colleagues were confident in using magic as a resource.

In the year 1971, after extensive work from both wizards and engineers, they eventually discovered what they had been searching for, in the deep forges of Narhel: A form of crystal, simply made from molten stone and steel, crafted in enchanted forges, had the property of drawing in magic from outside and convert it into heat. Putting several of these crystals together produced a greater energy output than each of the crystals did on their own. The engineers rejoiced, as did the wizards; these crystals turned out to draw magic into them, much as focus points, but instead of channeling it elsewhere, it turned the magical energy into heat, which the engineers could then use to create steam. A side-effect of the crystals was that they glowed with a stronger and stronger light the more heat they generated; a single crystal glowed well enough to replace the oil and gas lights that were common around then.

It did not take long before mass-production of the crystals began and they could be taken into use. Their constant power output proved to be extremely useful for stationary steam engines that ran around the clock on a steady supply of water, and could replace coal in its entirety in these kinds of machines. For other engines, such as those found in locomotives and ships, they were not so easy to introduce: These engines required highly variable power output depending on circumstances, and for the locomotives' part, they also ran on a limited supply of water. Simply leaving the crystals in the fire and letting them run on would not do, as that would create enough steam only when the engines ran at one speed, creating too little or too much at all other speeds. Therefore, Arden Wallis' team of engineers had to sit down and think. The simple solution was to use crystals to produce a certain amount of heat, and use coal to create the rest. This was simple enough, and Wallis immediately set about instructing the railway management to order enough crystals for 30% of the budget normally spent on coal. Several shipping companies placed similar orders, and the increased demand for crystals caused prices to rise so much that, in the summer of 1971, it was cheaper to fuel machines with coal than it was to replace the coal with crystals, completely contradicting the intention behind the crystals.

As crystals slowly became widespread, and the forges' ability to produce grew, prices dropped once again, and the demand stabilised. The crystals would keep on producing heat for what seemed an eternity, and many engineers, including Wallis, realised that moving from the part-crystal, part-coal firing to full crystal firing would mean even greater savings. Arden Wallis managed to build and patent a device allowing for simple and effective crystal handling in and out of machines, without the firemen needing to touch them at all. This became known as the Wallis firing mechanism, or the Wallisian for short. With the Wallisian introduced to the transport business, both railways and ships became even more economical, and transport of both people and wares became cheaper.

While the transport business and the industry benefitted well from the new development, the dwarfs soon realised that at some point, the demand for crystals would drop once most machines had their crystal firing in place. As the former coal mines now lay near abandoned, the dwarfs needed the crystals to keep up their export-based economy towards human lands. Therefore, dwarf engineers began working on developing new products based on crystal, for use in households and small businesses. Their metalworking skills soon came to their right; beautiful lamps crafted from iron, with anything from one to many crystals set within, as well as crystal-heated stoves, using a variant of the Wallisian, soon entered the market, and many chose to purchase these. One particularly popular lamp was made so that several crystals emanated quite a lot of heat, which in turn caused the metal in the lamp to glow, making for an impressive display. Naturally, many burn wounds were inflicted by the lamp, as well as occasional house fires, but its popularity remained high for many years.

Nevertheless, the inherent nature of the crystals meant that the market would become sated one way or another, no matter what the dwarfs made from them - except for one thing. Focus points across Elne were now man-made, for the most part, and these man-made focus points required a lot of maintenance. As the crystals did draw magic, as part of their nature, the dwarfs speculated in replacing a focus point's commonly exhausted components with crystal. They ran a test on one of their own underground points, and soon found that such a heavy load of magic wore out even the crystal, and by forming the crystal in certain ways, they could alter the focus point's property, from generating heat to channeling the magic elsewhere, as is the focus point's intentional purpose. With that in mind, they approached human authorities with these crystal replacements on offer. Selling the idea of not only using these as longer-lasting focus point components, but also using them to intentionally channel more magic into heavier populated areas with high magic consumption, the dwarfs struck a deal with human authorities, much to the dismay of the wizards' college. They advocated less dependency on magic, deeming it a curse rather than a blessing, but most ignored the wizards, claiming they were only standing in the path of progress. The dwarfs themselves were happy, having now secured a steady demand for their crystals for many years to come.

Thus, the magic-consuming crystals have found their way into Elnean societies, for good or ill, and with their coming, magic is seen in a more positive light by many, as the crystals would not work without it. Nonetheless, both the wizards' college, and engineers such as Arden Wallis, warn against becoming too dependent on them; if magic one day goes away, Elne would be crippled for weeks, even months, until the coal supply once more flows from Narhel.
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