Over the past six months or so, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about trade routes. As you can probably imagine, supplying a string of shoppes scattered across the grid is no small undertaking. It was during the many expeditions into the desert to establish the Eridu Society’s Airship Outpost that I started to study the maps and think about establishing ourselves in a place that catered to trade.
I began studying the maps and charts, searching for an island. Not just any island, but one that could serve as a port for ships of the air and sea. I pored through countless documents and found dozens, if not hundreds, of towns and villages that had great potential. So I packed my gear and decided to go exploring.
Each week seemed to bring new leads, and off I’d go to see if the town might suit my purpose. But each week I returned in disappointment. Incredible sea ports. Amazing ports of the sky. But never, it seemed, in the same place. I have to admit, I very nearly gave up on the idea. Naturally, it was at that low moment, as I was drowning my frustrations in drink, that I first heard about Reachra.
I was into my fourth or fifth round with the publican and two of his friends, and we were sharing stories of the places we’d been, and one of the gents started talking about a place he used to go. Airships and sailing ships, there was always work and good drink to be found. At first I thought he was spinning a yarn, then my friend behind the bar nodded in agreement. He’d lived there as a younger man, but moved on after the airships left.
Despite having had a bit to drink, I suddenly felt quite sober and excited. This place wasn’t on any map I was familiar with, yet it sounded like a dream. But why did the airships leave, I wondered. I didn’t wonder for very long, as my friends knew Reachra’s history well. It seems there was a bustling airship outpost, with a great mast made from the biggest and strongest of trees from the mainland. I cringed upon hearing it, for I knew how the story would end. Any builder worth his salt knows you don’t build an airship mast out of wood. Not these days, anyways. Sure, you could use a strong wood for a sightseeing balloon, but for ships of any consequence you need iron or steel. But a great ship or a great storm would snap a wooden mast, and that is exactly what happened.
Apparently, way back in the great storm of ’42 (one the locals still refer to as ’the storm of the century’)
, a pair of merchant vessels were tethered to the old wooden mast. The pilots had been waiting for a boat coming in with some cargo or another, and thought they’d be able to get out before the storm came in. They’d been wrong, disastrously so, and in one cold dark night both airships as well as the tower had been destroyed. Without an airship tower, the boats stopped coming, and the town was all but abandoned.
While it was a tragic tale, I don’t think I could have been more excited. The very next day I stocked up and set out for Reachra. With fair seas and the wind at my back, I made it in a few days’ time. Exercising great caution (the name Reachra translates in gaelic to ‘place of many shipwrecks’), I approached and attempted to make land.
The eastern shore is a rocky, craggy mess - I can see where the place got its name. But the western shores were gentle, and a sheltered cove to the North where a great pier had been built. An old, run-down warehouse stood in a terrible state on the western side of the island. Still, it looked to be of solid construction, and the building looked quite salvageable. In fact, the whole place seemed rather perfect for my needs. Sure, it would all need quite a bit of work, but that’s never frightened me off.
I conducted a bit of a site survey, then did my best to make a map and update my chart with the island’s location, and then sought out the owner of the place. As I’d suspected, the owner had died some years ago. The loss of the airship outpost had all but destroyed him financially, which is why no attempt had ever been made to rebuild. His wife and son had survived him, but they wanted nothing to do with the place. Indeed, his widow had been getting on in years, and her loving son had been providing her care. We met over tea and then several dinners, it seems both were quite amenable to selling me the place. My offer was accepted, and before I knew it construction had begun.
The hilltop was perfect for an airship tower, and I soon found that the one I’d recently designed could easily be adapted for this place. An iron and steel framework, covered in brasswork, providing both form and function for the task at hand. Getting up the hill was another matter, but soon the rickety wooden steps had been replaced with stonework. The docks were in better shape than I’d imagined, but still took quite a bit of effort to bring up to snuff.
The warehouse would be a perfect place to base centralized operations - I’d be able to dispatch goods to any of our shoppes from there by sea or by air, as well as use the place to bring in raw materials and assorted supplies. Of course it made sense to open a shoppe here as well, a grande showcase of our latest and greatest works.
While I had given some consideration to the idea of designing a completely new building, those thoughts quickly vanished. Our tried and true shoppe would suit the place perfectly, and besides I would have my hands quite full tending to all the other tasks at hand. In what seemed like no time at all the island was habitable and functional again, and ships have been coming by air and by sea. While there is still a lot of work left to do, I’m proud of what has been accomplished in so short a time. A new trade route, a new shoppe, a new place to call home.