The Skybrary



Hello, Skytopia. I have been conducting research for a travelogue of the Capital City region of Skytopia, the better to aid aspiring young Skyrates in forming post-graduation plans.

May the following words entertain and inform you.

Day 0[]


I flew in to Echo with the sun. Landing brought jubilation, trepidation, and above all graduation. Today I graduated from Flight School into a full pilot's license.

This having been my goal for so long, I had no idea what to do next. I went to speak with the career adviser. She advised me thus: "I know many graduates are as uncertain as you. Perhaps you should travel, see the world and the many ways to fly, and return to tell us what you found."

That night, I joined in Echo's perpetual graduation party. The following morning, I took flight for Arcadia.

Day 1[]


Once, when I was half my age, my parents took me to see the Great Tree of Arcadia. The same thing struck me, now as then: it is big. I've seen Skylands smaller.

Mid-morning I drifted in to Arcadia. Since my last visit, the Court of Violets had set up a capital here. I expected a growing city creeping towards Echo's population; what I found was a Skyland quite as quiet as I'd remembered.

I was met at the hangar by a one Reader of Echoes. Reader had agreed to tell me a little about the Court in exchange for drinks at the local tavern. As we walked, I caught Reader up on the latest from Echo; I'll spare you and skip straight to the tavern, where we met Reader's associate Given Facade. On Reader's recommendation I bought a round of the local treefruit wine, and we began.

- Eskay: Hi, Reader of Echoes and Given Facade.

- Eskay: I wanted to talk to you guys about your faction, for my travelogue of Capital City.
- Reader of Echoes: We are ready.
- Eskay: Tell me a bit about the Court of Violets.
- Reader: The Court is headed by The Grand Artist, The Shining One. They dedicate their lives to the pursuit of perfection in all things, often seeming far too obsessed for lesser beings.
- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Court?
- Given Facade: The Court is dedicated to the ideal of perfection; it is thus Blue's pursuit for knowledge, but focused; Red's dedication towards honor, but without unnecessary ambition, and Green's desire for trade, without Greed.
- Given: The Court exemplifies the pinnacle of efficiency; that by knowing everything, you can cause a hurricane to hit Alpha 2 with but a correctly timed barrel roll on Jordan.
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Arcadia?
- Reader: The answer would be different for every member of the Court you ask. The natural beauty of the place does draw us out for simple wandering, though.
- Given: Scaling the Great Tree of Arcadia provides a necessary challenge to test one's physical capabilities to the limit; but there is also the mental challenge, for each member of the Court is instructed to take a different path up each time; thus there is the teaching that perfection is not one path, but many; not one success but several.
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: Next question. How are big decisions made in the Court?
- Given: Decisions are not made in the Court; the answer is already there, simply waiting to be discovered. As with my previous comment, each member of the Court is a different path up to the crown of the Great Tree of Arcadia. Each one gives their path, and through the understanding the correct action to be taken is 'discovered', though that is not the right word.
- Given: It is difficult to explain to one that has not been to one of our councils, Eskay; my apologies.
- Eskay: If a new pilot were considering joining the Court, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- Reader: That perfection is an all-consuming, all-encompassing goal. It does not suffer higher masters, and it does not respond to half-measures. Be warned, but be also joyful.
- Given: Those that will join the Court are but taking another step on the path to perfection, a path that has no beginning...or end. If there is one trait that I find prevalent in Skytopia, it is an urgency to matters you believe that your goals must be done away, that profit must be made before the sun rises and after it sets. Perfection is not attained in this manner. We may go quickly, but we are not hurried. New walkers of the path must understand that perfection will not be attained in a cycle of the moon...
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: What's the best food here on Arcadia?
- Given looks to Reader.
- Reader: The best food of Arcadia is the fruit of the Great Tree, obtained with efficiency and elegance and preserving the sweet taste of both journey and destination, present and future, path and goal.
- Given: Reader simplifies matters. The food of the Great Tree is indeed that which nourishes us, but he does not allow his answer to reveal all its complexities to the untrained.
- Given: The measure of perfection in food is the taste, because that is the measurement by which all consumeables are judged...but we must also consider the efficiency with which it is prepared: lack of waste coupled with the elegance of motion. In this, the fruit of the Tree represents the pinnacle of that goal - and, as Reader points out, carries within itself the understanding of what will be and what has been - to the discerning observer, of course.
- Eskay: One more question: What sets the plane of a Violet apart froman ordinary plane?
- Reader: It is crafted, not made. It is tended to, not serviced. It is guided, not flown.
- Reader: It is as much a companion as it is a tool, and as much a destination as where it is taking us.
- Given: In our efforts, we have made advances in many broad subjects, including combat. As such, the Court possesses technology that is beyond what Skytopia has seen so far, as exploration by some of your more...courageous pilots realized. As Reader adds, however, there must be the realization that technology alone does not engender the quality in combat that the Court is; that requires an understanding between the pilot and the craft that is not found in Skytopia but by a select few.
- Eskay: Thanks all for participating.
- Eskay: See y'all in the skies.

- Reader: You shall.

My head a few ideas richer and my wallet a hundred Skybucks poorer, I left Given and Reader to their business and set out for the Tree. As Given Facade had suggested there was a significant change here: the old tourists' trailhead has fallen into disuse and disrepair.

I decided I'd keep to the new custom, and seek another way up. I plotted my course and I climbed it. From the highest point I reached, I finally saw where everybody was living: all across the base of the Skyland, and above me in the branches, were little huts. Each was exactly the same shape, and each was a completely unique color.

At dusk I made my way back down. I hadn't made it even a quarter of the way up, but it was time to rest up for my next flight.

Day 2[]


The Monument of Lhasa is smaller than the Great Tree, but no less striking for it. This is no miracle of nature; every stone here was placed by human hands.

Acolyte Robert, my contact in the Earthen Order, met me at my plane. As we hiked down to the Skyland proper, we spoke of the Order.

- Eskay: Hey, Robert.
- Acolyte Robert: Hello.
- Eskay: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me.
- Robert: Of course.
- Eskay: I wanted to talk to you about your faction, for my travelogue of Capital City.
- Robert: The Earthen Order is headed up by Matriach Clara, and espouses the principles of Magnus, an old king of Skytopia, for peace, unity, all that good stuff.
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Order?
- Robert: The big church. Pretty stained glass.
- Robert: The holy water is rumored to taste like whisky.
- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Lhasa?
- Robert: The view is superb.

We arrived at the Lhasan tavern, where I bought a round of the local grog for Robert and his compatriot, Darlan Mephis.

- Eskay: Next question. How are big decisions made in the Order?
- Darlan Mephis: Decisions in the Order are made the same way that they have always been made: upon consultation with the books of knowledge, and by reason and reference to those texts. We study history for it shows us how the Kingdom of Magnus was to be; our decisions flow ever in that path. Indivduals, themselves, are not enlightened, we can not make decisions simply by the whim that the other factions do.
- Robert: Before any big decision, we consult the Book of Developments.
- Eskay: What do you envision the New Golden Age looking like in Skytopia?
- Robert: There will be care for everyone, with a better, more open system, returning to the Rule of Magnus. Peace.
- Darlan: There is no reason to speak of a 'New Golden Age'. Throughout the ages, we but have been looking to return to the Kingdom of Magnus, when there was no inequality and war was unknown. From the texts that we have recovered, we know that it was founded on the atruistic principles the Order seeks to spread today.
- Darlan: The 'influence' that is spread today from skyland to skyland is a sign of how things have unforunately fallen; the Kingdom of Magnus promises that all voices will be heard, all joys delivered.
- Eskay: So that's the Second Kingdom of Magnus I've heard of?
- Darlan: Unfortunately, I started my studies with the Order but a few months ago; there is much that I have not learned. Indeed, the more that we discover from the texts, the more we realize how bereft of knowledge we truly are. We look forward to the return of the Kingdom of Magnus.
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: Robert and Darlan, what's good to eat here on Lhasa?
- Robert: I like the mashed potatoes, the meatloaf, and OH! the macaroni. Yum.
- Darlan: Fruit of the Earth, Robert. As close to Magnus as you can get.
- Darlan: At Lhasa, we provide for ourselves with minimal imports, and as Robert enjoys, subsist off the fruit of the Earth.
- Darlan: The simplicity in such foods is what we strive for, you see; we seek to use little and replenish what we take.
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: If a Skyrate were considering joining the Earthen Order, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- Robert: That there's nothing to fear. All sorts of bad rumors and allegations and insults are flying around, but they are all unfounded. There is nothing sinister about the Order.
- Darlan: That we welcome all to read the teachings of Magnus and decide for themselves whether they would like to return our time to such an age of prosperity and fruition. We are constantly learning more about the world we live in and welcome all students, whether for a week or a lifetime. The calling to spread these teachings does not appeal to everyone, but it has to me, and I hope it does to many out there. Learning and teaching does not require a dedication to trade, or to combat, or to anything -
- Darlan: Simply an open mind and a willing spirit.
- Eskay: Thank you.
- Eskay: One more question for both groups: What sets the plane of an Earthen apart from an ordinary plane?
- Robert: Planes are used to get what needs to be done, done. Large cargo planes are more useful for transporting goods to the people that need them.
- Darlan: Our planes are the vehicles in which we travel the skies, spreading the teachings of Magnus. They are not unarmored, for we are not fools, and we know how to fight
- Magnus does not tell us to sacrifice our lives for little. But they are planes much like what any Skytopian pilot flies; for we travel and live in the same world you do.
- Eskay: Thanks all for participating.
- Eskay: See y'all in the skies.

I left Darlan and Robert and wandered outside, where a group of citizens were painting the monument. Each had a task and performed it, with varying grace but infinite patience. I sat and watched their slow dance for a couple hours, then moved on to the dining hall.

The first thing I noticed in the dining hall was the sound. Dozens of forks and knives against plates, tens of conversations about everything and nothing, all merged into a sound of mealtime like I was back in grade school again. The citizens around were from many walks of life
- I saw pilots, clergy, professors, students, builders, traders, just about everybody.

I walked up to the counter and asked for the macaroni dinner. A heaping portion was supplied and no payment was requested. The macaroni is in fact delicious.

When done I returned to my plane, leaving a fifty in the basket by the door. On my way I pondered how many people could be given macaroni for the price of one bottle of treefruit wine.

Day 3[]


Day 3 was the first of my travel days. Since Lhasa is the southernmost capital on my tour and Fuseli's way up at the north, I set aside a day for a leisurely flight north, with a stop-off for lunch at Arcadia.

Since there wasn't time for another attempt at the Tree, I decided to try the commercial district this time. This part of the skyland looked more familiar — a Raider Joe's is a Raider Joes — but as is usual, the wares had a local flavor. Mmm, flavor: I bought a packet of dried treefruit slices for the afternoon flight.

On my way back to my plane, I happened to pass the recruiting center where aspiring Violets swear into the Court. Wandering out was a young walrus in a brand new magenta jumpsuit. I asked her over for a brief interview.

- Eskay: Hi there. My name's Eskay and I'm writing a travelogue of the capitals. Could I ask you a few questions about the Court?
- Aeauna: Heya. Sure, go ahead, though I don't know too much yet.
- Eskay: Thanks for speaking with me. I see you've just joined the Court of Violets. What are your impressions so far?
- Aeauna: I feel that others of the Court listen to everything said, but hold back from telling everything they think.
- Aeauna: At this point, there seems to be no intention of branching out or pushing our views on others.
- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Arcadia?
- Aeauna: I like the ice cream.
- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Court?
- Aeauna: Uuh, I like purple.
- Eskay: Thanks for participating, Aeauna.

There's not much else to tell about Day 3: sky above me, sea below, I flew north to Fuseli.

Day 4[]


Round about six in the evening I caught sight of a light-show up ahead. Five glowing red dots hung suspended over a horizontal stroke of bright white. There could be no mistaking this for anything other than the world's youngest Skyland: Fuseli.

The prolate spheroids are the float balloons, each the size of a zeppelin, supporting the largest battleship ever to grace Skytopia. The floodlights stay on all night, sleeplessly spreading the light of the peace of the Crimson Armada to all Skytopia.

I joined the landing queue behind several others, but it wasn't long before my turn was called. I made my landing on the enormous runway, then parked and went to sleep.

In the morning I went to the commissary and had coffee with my Fuselian contact, Fenriq. He's a Colonel in the Crimson Armada, and also an Imperial Senator. He introduced me to his coworker (in both roles), Markus Jarnhann.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Crimson Armada?
- Markus Jarnhann: The Armada as a whole is a faction that is dedicated to one another. There are tight bonds of friendship and comraderie with one another within the Armada, and we work cohesively to further the goals we've outlined.
- Fenriq: We are a tight knit group that has traditionally been the smallest faction but, because of our coordination and planning, we are the only faction to unify Skytopia not just once but twice.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Fuseli?
- Fenriq: Hang out in the Senate’s private chambers, discuss strategy with other Senators in sauna and basically relax for a few hours.
- Markus: Observing the old battleship in action is a site to behold. From the flight deck operations, to the running out of the guns, it's all very impressive.

- Eskay: How are big decisions made in the Crimson Armada?
- Markus: Typically, big decisions are made either by the Armada's political arm, the Crimson Empire, or handed down from the Admiral. The Crimson Empire is governed by the Imperial Senate.
- Fenriq: Usually by consensus among the Senators but we are open to ideas from all quarters.

- Eskay: For what sort of a world do you and the Armada strive?
- Markus: We strive for a world of peace. We may arrive there through different means, but our means work. Our pilots and soldiers head out into the world every day to defend Skytopia from those who would bring harm upon the average Skytopian. That is our purpose.
- Fenriq: A peaceful and safe world under the benevolent flag of the Crimson Armada.

- Eskay: What's good to eat here on Fuseli?
- Markus: Most folks do not come to Fuseli for the gourmet cuisine. This is a question better directed to Zabrak!, perhaps. But typically, whatever the vast messhall is serving is worthwhile.
- Fenriq: The fusili at Luigi Fuseli’s is fantastic but don’t tell Admiral Fuseli, he and Luigi still have some unresolved issues.

- Eskay: If a Skyrate were considering joining the Crimson Armada, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- Markus: Duty, honor, respect. Three parts of the same whole. These are our hallmarks. This whole is what makes the Armada great. We are a collection of individuals, but we are also a collective driven to wards a common goal, defined by duty, honor, and respect.
- Fenriq: Don’t believe the smears by the Blues. We are not a dictatorship, we are a group of like-minded pilots with excellent combat skills, strong organization and loyalty to the faction and our factionmates.

- Eskay: What separates the plane of a Red from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
- Markus: Efficiency. An Armada tends to typify efficiency. Whether or not it's a combat craft, or a transport, or some combination of the two, the average Armada craft is an efficient, highly capable platform.

- Fenriq: You mean aside from being top combat pilots? A Crimson Armada plane is a symbol and warning to pirates and other dangers to Skytopia. When you see a Crimson Armada fighter coming at you, you’d best make peace with your maker or turn tail and run and hope your plane is just a little bit faster.

I thanked my interviewees for their time and let them get back to the bringing of peace and order. Then I walked out to the observation deck, as Markus had suggested, and watched the operations.

The planes moved about as a well-choreographed dance, with the entire deck lively with activity but never a collision. Much like Lhasa, everybody seemed to know exactly where they were going and how to get there; on Fuseli, they were going here in large planes. Weaving its way through the entire dance was a conga line of courier carts unloading a Leviathan.

What impressed me most about the Crimson pilots was their separation of work and play. As they flew in it was business
- everybody knew, from the chain of command, exactly what to do. But as soon as that business was resolved, it was down to the tavern (or to Luigi's) to chat with friends.

Eventually I left Luigi's for bed, and first thing in the morning I flew out to Islo.

Day 5[]


Late in the morning I walked in the formal entrance of the Tower, into the grand Receiving Hall. To my left was the day's Stroganoff Chef, in the enormous toque representative of the role. To my right was my host, Major Major Major Major, wearing his customary Really Nifty Hat.

In his hands he carried something large and spherical. It bore large purple-and-red vertical stripes, and flames danced out of the top. As I read what was written about the base, I felt only apprehension: "Honoured Guest of the Azure League". This gold-encrusted chapeau was to top my head for the duration of the visit. My host was adamant that it was a necessary ritual, and I couldn't possibly refuse.

So encumbered, I sat down to stroganoff and interviews.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Azure League?
- Major Major Major Major: The people. There's a wonderful sense of camaraderie while at the same time there are no real restrictions. You're free to do your own thing, and if it's cool, people support you.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Islo?
- MMMM: Hang out with the gearheads. Try not to get fried by the unobtanium experiments upstairs. Watch said experiments from a safe distance. Visit the tavern.

- Eskay: How are big decisions made in the Azure League?
- MMMM: Quasi-consensus is perhaps the best term for it. People talk, very occasionally argue, and we try to figure out the best action. No one is stopped from doing anything, but at the same time, beware anyone who claims to speak for the entire faction. Older hands tend to get more respect, as do those who put more into the faction. There are no leaders, just those with fancier hats. It's an organized anarchy, or a completely disorganized faction. Of course, this is how it was. But given the core of the Azure League, I don't think the anarchist gearhead sentiment is going to go anywhere. We've got the greatest explorer and the one of the greatest, if not the greatest, engineers out there.
- MMMM: I think us being leaderless for a part of our history has something to do with that. Without Islo around we made it up as we went. I mean, sure Emir was our leader, kind of. But he lead by example, not by command.

- Eskay: What is the biggest threat to personal freedom in modern Skytopia?
- MMMM: My snap reaction is the Crimson Armada. But that was ages ago (well, 9 months), so perhaps they've changed. I hope so. Now? I'm not sure. I have a healthy unease at any faction that claims to know what is best for all skytopians. While there may be really good ideas out there (don't eat the unobtanium, don't stand in front of Capt Remy's plane, etc.) anyone who wants to actually unify skytopia under a single leader with a single law worries me. The democratic structure that they had (and perhaps still have) in the Jade Hand is perhaps the best form of organized government out there. But the dysfunction that I heard about makes me wary. Of course, these answers are dated. I go away for 9 months, I do some fishing, ignore the world, I come back and everything has changed. So maybe the Crimson Armada is the bastion of freedom now. And perhaps I'm able to fly without a plane now. I wouldn't put money on either one though.
- MMMM: I've read a little of the other two groups. The Court of Violets have an interesting organization, I haven't made a judgment on them yet. The Earthen Order worries me. They seem to want to give up the freedom of the air in their quest to reestablish the kingdom of Magnus. There's a reason we're up in the sky folks. And Magnus isn't uninvolved in that. I've yet to spend a great deal of time interacting with folks from either faction, so I'll know more later. Admittedly, I missed the founding of the Order, so I could be completely wrong here. Caveat Audiens.

- Eskay: What's good to eat here on Islo?
- MMMM: Avoid anything coming off the unobtanium grills upstairs. I don't care what they tell you, it will make your hair fall out in embarrassing patterns. Other than that, the food is good.

- Eskay: If a Skyrate were considering joining the Azure League, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- MMMM: I think the Leauge sits on a tripod of freedom, intellect and curiosity. Explorers, engineers, anarchists. Those who aren't afraid, but are willing to help. Ask an old hand about the Azure Wind sometime. (Not me, I went on sabbatical while it was still playing itself out.)
- MMMM: Some may ask why not just go independent if we value freedom so much. The answer is, of course, that we have a community of free men and women. We are not isolated, but we are not bound.

- Eskay: What separates the plane of a Blue from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
- MMMM: An ordinary pilot may slap modifications onto their plane, may tweak it here or there. A Leauge Member has perfected his or her craft with the funds and materials available. Whatever their plane is designed to do, it will do it well. There's a difference between a plane and a finely tuned machine that a member of the League flies. If anyone wants examples, ask about Pierce's custom builds or my kit calculations. Or ask yourself how a plane could make its way smoking across half the world to come home. Without a pilot.

With this to consider, I thanked Major Major Major Major for his time and followed him on a tour of some of the safer labs upstairs. The technological details of the experiments are outside the scope of this work, but I highly recommend to the more technically-minded that they pay a visit to the Tower, whether their flag be blue or otherwise
- you won't find a lack of Science. (Nor of hats. And often enough, one finds both, mixed.)

One engineer by the name of Kathryn showed me a particularly interesting device: it's supposed to record sound to little wires, so it can later be played back. She offered to let me borrow a prototype of the Recordifier for my interviews, to which I happily agreed. Kathryn said she'd have it sent to my plane.

Come dinnertime, my host left me in the mess hall, where I was fortunate enough to run into General Burrito Loco of the Elite Azure Combat Corps. I persuaded him to tell me a little about his view of the Azure League.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Azure League?
- Burrito Loco: The variety and the spunk. I love the great zeal for life they have and a belief in progress and the future.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Islo?
- Burrito: Bum around the barracks and airfields. The boots on the ground and flyboys are far more entertaining than anyone higher up.

- Eskay: How are big decisions made in the Azure League?
- Burrito: *Chuckles* Some would say they aren't. Anyone who really cares finds a time to meet and hash things out. Then someone does something, though not necessarily the one discussed. Things tend to sort themselves out, mostly. I was too slow to step back and got stuck in charge of military ops, but those are the same the world over, so there's no news there.

- Eskay: What is the biggest threat to personal freedom in modern Skytopia?
- Burrito: Honestly? I think it's doing fairly well, as long as the League survives and people can choose their own way, I think we're alright. I've never been a fan of doomsaying, and I don't see any reason to start now.

- Eskay: What's good to eat here on Islo?
- Burrito: Stroganoff, no question. In the League commissary.

- Eskay: If a Skyrate were considering joining the Azure League, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- Burrito: They're more than welcome. We aim for breadth and depth in our numbers, so we'll take anyone in who's interested.

- Eskay: What separates the plane of a Blue from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
- Burrito: Aside from the duct tape and weld scars? Most of 'em are highly customized pieces of machinery, often the only person who has any idea how they work is the pilot himself, and even then you never know. We're big on personal knowledge of the workings of our stuff.

As Burrito Loco returned to whatever it is Azure Generals do, I left the mess hall to seek out my flight school classmate Sluor, who ought to have beaten me here by several days. Finding no sign, I left a note and returned to my plane to find Kathryn's Recordifier, then sleep and ponder.

This struck me about the Azure pilots: where the Armada was characterized by a firm separation of work and play, the League integrates both deeply. Blues have no time to sit around in bars; it's work-work-eat-work in the Tower, with maybe occasional time to sleep. But if you're not having fun with every part of that, you're not doing it the Azure way.

Day 6[]


All the way up to Eltsina, my plane was coughing and whining at me. Eltsina is one of the highest elevations in all Skytopia, and the engine didn't take well to the forced climb through thinning air.

Oh, but the sight to see once I got there. What the photo can't tell you is the way it sparkles. Every last little ice crystal lights up and it just hurts to look at for long, which is completely gorgeous but doesn't help landing much. I was glad to finally touch down on the runway so I could appreciate the majesty without the fear of crashing and killing myself.

Speaking with Dodgson Lewis.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Jade Hand?
- Dodgson Lewis: We're always ready to adapt to changing circumstances. I don't think that it's coincidence that the Hand was able to remain a strongly defined faction even when the other factions were in chaos. In my opinion, one of the cores of this faction's philosophy is that there are some things that you simply can't control, and as a result we focus on finding out the things that we can and doing everything possible to get the result we want using them. Even in my short time here I've seen the Jade Hand go through a lot of situations, and I don't think that I've once seen complaints about the circumstance, only solutions to it.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Eltsina?
- Dodgson: Sledding, absolutely. There's pretty much snow here year round, at least in parts, so there's a ton of great places to just grab a saucer and slide down a hill.

- Eskay: How are big decisions made in the Jade Hand?
- Dodgson: Most of the time the matter is brought before the Cabinet, either by an outside party or by an internal voice. The Cabinet will discuss the matter for a while and try to come up with what seems to be the optimal response. This usually includes a combination of internal discussion and communication with the members of the faction, so there's a lot of different points of view. Once we feel we've got a good response, it goes before the body of the Republic to see if there are any objections. On the really big issues it goes to a full blown democratic vote.

- Eskay: What are your thoughts on the recent reunification of the Jade Hand?
- Dodgson: I was in favor of it from the beginning. It always confused me that the Guild and the Republic were so distant, since the Guild is the heart of the entire faction. The Republic has been the face for some time, but our roots do, after all, lie in the Guild. Now that we've reconnected, I think that it will mean a lot for the future of the faction. It opens up so many opportunities, for both organizations.

- Eskay: What's good to eat here on Eltsina?
- Dodgson: They actually make excellent soups and stews. Lady made this great butternut squash soup a bit back, and there's usually a pot of something available in the Emerald Tower dining commons. It's handy cause it's great at fighting off the cold, and it's the sort of thing you can just leave to sit for a while while you're working and have ready to go when you find a spare moment.

- Eskay: If a Skyrate were considering joining the Jade Hand, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- Dodgson: The biggest thing to realize about the Jade Hand is that it is, in essence, a large family. We take care of our own. You could be the newest member of the faction and get into a jam and the rest of the Hand would be there to back you up. If there's a problem, we take care of it inside the family and keep things focused on solving the issue, not assigning blame. If you've got an idea, speak up. If it's a good idea, we don't care who it comes from, we'll listen. So don't be shy. remember, we're all family here.

- Eskay: What separates the plane of a Green from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
- Dodgson: The pilot. Honestly, I have faith that you could put a Hand pilot into any plane and they would find some way to work with the circumstances and turn a profit in the end.

Speaking with Taricha.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing about the Jade Hand?
- Taricha: The government. --Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm in the cabinet so that sounds really bad, really self-congratulatory. But basically...I wouldn't have gotten interested if the Emerald Republic weren't a place where everyone's welcome to speak up and gets a chance to vote on the important issues. There's a lot of that with Blue, of course, but the Jade Hand is a little more close-knit.

- Eskay: What's your favorite thing to do here on Eltsina?
- Taricha: Visit my family? I've got relatives all through the northern--all through what were the northern territories before the storm. Now, well. It's a lot of work to get this place rebuilt. But of course that's not much to tell a tourist, so if I've got friends visiting I take them out to the archaeological site. There was some kind of pre-Guild settlement there, and it's in these amazing ice caves. Absolutely beautiful, you see this stuff frozen in there and you can watch the researchers do their work right in front of you.

- Eskay: How are big decisions made in the Jade Hand?
- Taricha: Like I said, we vote on the big stuff--like our non-aggression agreement with the Azure League, for instance. But we also vote for representatives into the cabinet, to do the bulk of the work. Organizing our defenses, talking officially to other factions, that's the elected representatives' work.

- Eskay: What are your thoughts on the recent reunification of the Jade Hand?
- Taricha: Oh, I think it's great. There's definitely some...oh, call it culture clash...between the Merchant Guild folks and the Emerald Republic folks, but that's good for us. I know I lean pretty heavily toward the Republic, but it's never healthy for a faction to only hear from one kind of mindset. And the Guildmistress...well, heck, wouldn't you want her firmly on your side?

- Eskay: What's good to eat here on Eltsina?
- Taricha: Heh, well, 'snowcones' is such a cliche're talking to the wrong person, really; my parents run a restaurant on Romeo, of all Eltsina specialties. I like everything! But the fishing is especially good: all fresh, mostly from small-time ice-fishermen. The Ice Eel sushi is amazing--I know, it sounds gross, but try it, really. And for the vegetarians, there's a kind of a stew seasoned with this local shrub, almost minty, excellent on a cold day...which is most days here.

- Eskay: If a Skyrate were considering joining the Jade Hand, what one thing would you most like them to know?
- Taricha: That we've got all kinds here and they're all welcome. That's true of every faction, of course. But by and large, I'd say a lot of the big egos get checked at the door--you don't have to be a combat ace to be welcome, you don't have to be the richest gal in Skytopia. We've got entrepreneurs, pirate-hunters, politicos, everything. And if you just want to mind your own business without worrying about politics, that's absolutely welcome as well.

- Eskay: What separates the plane of a Green from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
- Taricha: The little green decal? Heck, I dunno. Like I said, we've got all types. So maybe you'll see more big cargo haulers, and--heh--maybe there are a few smuggling holds that you won't see. But we've got our fighters out there too, swatting pirates. Well, there is one thing, though: tuning into the special Jade Hand radio frequency is always good for an extra laugh. You ever talk to that guy Eon?

Day 7[]


When I woke up on Day 7, I was immediately sorry that I had. Sparing the details, I was ill. I'd not be flying anywhere today. Mental note: dress warmer for sledding.

By midafternoon I was feeling up to a little Science, so I took out Kathryn's Recordifier. In the space of an hour I taught myself that if this switch was pushed that way it did one thing, but pulling another knob did the other thing, and before long I could reliably make a somewhat scratchy recording of my somewhat scratchy voice.

Once I felt up to some water, I cleared that up and got on the radio. My new friends on Lhasa and Arcadia expressed their concern, and suggested I send out advance copies of my notes on said Skylands to my fellow undecideds, which I did. Not long thereafter I went to bed.

Day 8[]


Speaking with Marcus Cunningham, Chancellor of Eastern Business Operations for the Jade Hand.

"There are many things that initially drew me to the Jade Hand. Well, to be honest, when I joined it was still the Guild of Merchants, though that's an entirely different story. I was drawn to the prestige and the history the Guild held." the fox started, "It's a highly political organization, one where words and deeds win the day, rather then superior firepower. In the halls of the Guild, influence and words are your weapons, and a skilled tactician can sway a crowd."

"I used to have a mantra, a saying if you would, about the factions back when there were only three, well four if you included Flight School. It went like this. *ahem*... The Armada is Victory. Victory over anything else. To win, by any means. The League is Freedom. Freedom for all, and each a government unto themselves. The recent graduates of the Flight School... are Ambition. To strive, to desire, and to reach. The Guild, represents Control. Controlling the market, controlling the flow of the world around."

"Well, I was born here on Eltsina, so as for my favorite thing, aside from visiting my folks, I like to tour the taverns here and look for the best barbeque. You did know that Eltsina makes a great barbeque sauce didn't you?" he looks surprised, then smiles, "See, everyone focuses on the political, but when you get down to it, there's more to this Skyland then just her name. Sure, there's..." the fox is cut off as a kid throws a snowball at him. Undeterred, he scoops up some snow, gives it a good pack, and hurls the snowball right back. He gives a good laugh, then continues, "Sorry, but it was a challenge. Though yeah, it's a nice place to visit. I think everyone should."

The fox takes Eskay to a little out of the way place where the flames rise high and the barbeque sauce is put on with a paint roller. "I recommend the double-rib." he points at the menu, "Good eats, besides the ribs? Well, a lot of people here like to try their hand at brewing, and sometimes they make a stout thick enough to *eat*, but aside from that, I'd still say ribs. I've always had a sweet spot for homemade barbeque, especially the kind that gets you right here, in the corner of the jaw...." he points to the corner of his jaw, then continues, "Though, if you tell my folks that I put ribs above mom's apple pie, I'll deny it." He paused, then moved to the next question. "Decisions in the Jade Hand are, well... there's two branches, one derived from the Guild in it's original form, and the other from the merger with the Republic. Think of it like a hand: Open, or Closed. On one hand, no pun intended mind you, there's delegation, there are elected officials, delegation of duty, very nice and democratic. While, on the other side of the coin, there's the structure from the Guild. There are those above you, and those below you. Service and merit grant promotions, and orders come from above, and go to those below." he pauses, "Decisions are either made via general concensus or informed consent, or in the case of the guild-based structure, decisions are made, and then actions are carried out. Who decides is based on who is most qualified to make such a decision. Should she opt to disapprove, though, the Guildmistress is not adverse to making herself known."

As the food is delivered, Marcus very carefully removes the green glove of station from his right hand, not wanting to smear barbeque sauce all over it, "I was around when the Guild was just the Guild. I was one of the skyrates responsible for conceiving of the Republic, the other being Kenisu Ichojari. Good guy, just give him his space." Marcus comments, "Born from a simple idea, and blossuming into an entire way of life. Some would say the Republic is no more, consumed into the Jade Hand, but in all honesty it still lives and thrives." he smiles, "Jade Hand, I still love that name."

"If someone came up to me and said that they want to join the Hand I'd let them know that now is probably one of the better times. There's lots of potential for someone with the drive and the desire to become a well known face among not just the faction itself, but across all of Skytopia. That's what I would want them to know, mostly cause while most people assume there's room for advancement, very few act on it." he takes a breath, then smiles, "What's a Jade Hand plane got that an ordinary plane doesn't?" he pauses with a smirk, "Fuzzy dice. Totally kidding." he chuckles, "Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I like to furnish my planes with a little success here and there. Comfy chairs, maybe a carpet, some artwork or something, just to spruce the place up some. If I'm going to live on my plane for so long, I'd like it to at least be liveable. If you really want to see, I invite you to fly with me aboard my gunship, the Iron Vulture. I feel she speaks for herself." another pause, "Though, it's all going to vary from skyrate to skyrate. Some will want to show their wealth, others will want to live in comfort, while others still will horde their wealth to save up for bigger and better ventures."

"Though, there's food on the table, let's eat." he smiles.

Speaking with Calvin.

What's your favorite thing about the Jade Hand?
“The community. Hands down. From the stalwart Marcus Cunningham to the colorful, sometimes unintelligible, Eon Tuskany, you won’t find a more honorable, infamous, classy and unique pile of pilots than within the Jade Hand. Some real champs for sure.”

What's your favorite thing to do here on Eltsina?
“Have you ever been ice fishing? It’s horrible. Don’t let anyone talk you into it. Miserable.”
Calvin leans in a little closer, looking once over his shoulder.
“It may seem really childish to most folks – especially considering my age – but I love sledding. Honestly. There’s a great run just about 10 minutes from here.”

How are big decisions made in the Jade Hand?
“Typically, someone has an idea, folks bat it about a little and, if it’s worthy, the Emerald Republic Officials help narrow down the options and ask people to vote on their preferred course of action. The Emerald Republic Officials don’t dictate policy, they just help guide it. Officials are elected into office by their peers and serve a two month term. Any Emerald Republic member is welcome to run for any of the 5 offices. Being a member of the Jade Hand gives you a unique, solid voice in the shaping of Skytopia. I don’t think any other Faction can claim that.”

What are your thoughts on the recent reunification of the Jade Hand?
“It just made sense, you know? Like nuts and honey, or nuts and chocolate, or nuts and… nuts. Mmmm. Where was I? Oh yeah. Okay, so the Jade Hand is comprised of two parts
- like two hands: left and right. One hand is the Emerald Republic; the other is the Merchant Guild. The Emerald Republic is… how to put it?... the ‘public-facing side’ of the Jade Hand, while the Merchant Guild is, well, you’ve probably seen their representatives on every Skyland over at the Trading Post. They’re the ones who provide us with trading data, futures speculations and have surprising influence on the viability and productivity of the economy.”

What's good to eat here on Eltsina?
“If you want a drink, you’re in the right place. But most of the bilge they pass off as ‘food’ here in the Tavern is true swill. Tell you what. You ever tried pelmeni? Borscht? Blini? There’s a fantastic little Russian café about 3 blocks from here that my Trader discovered. There’s no sign on the door, but I’ll give you the address. The proprietress doesn’t speak a word of English, so expect an adventure.”

If a Skyrate were considering joining the Jade Hand, what one thing would you most like them to know?
“Most folks assume that ‘trade’ is a transaction that involves just two parties: the buyer and the seller. While this is certainly not inaccurate, it fails to paint a complete picture. Consider this Log Book here.”
Calvin pulls out a small, pocket-sized Flight Log book. Frayed at the edges, the pages are slightly yellowed with age and many are dog-eared.
“When I bought this little book at Echo, they called it ‘Noptis’ back then, several things happened: I got a nifty log book, the store clerk decreased his inventory, the SkyRS got a little tax income and the demand for paper at the Echo printing presses increased slightly. That, in turn, caused the demand for wood – for paper pulp
- elsewhere to rise.
“Hanging around the Jade Hand opens your eyes to these little nuances and helps you recognize that you better hop in a plane and haul some oil to Earthbreach. 'Cause those paper mills don’t run on warm fuzzies.”

What separates the plane of a Green from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
Calvin chuckles, “A larger cargo hold.”

Day 9[]


Sadistica walks in, wearing her full uniform. Several decorations adorning her chest, various medals for valor, duty and even a purple heart or two, and Captain rank stripes on her shoulders. An eyepatch covers her right eye, and the edges of a scar can be seen peeking out from underneath the patch. She offers a warm smile and a firm hand in greet.
"Captain Sadistica Krijgsman-McKinney of the Crimson Armada. It's a pleasure to meet you, Eskay." she warmly states as she sits down, ready for the interview.

What's your favorite thing about the Crimson Armada?
".. Oh, that would have to be the sense of unity and the sense of purpose. We all know why we're here, and we all watch out for eachother. We're all striving for the same goal, and we all have that singular goal firmly in mind." She muses, leaning back a bit, relaxing in the comfortable chair. "It's almost like a family."

What's your favorite thing to do here on Fuseli?
"I quite enjoy many things, here on Fuseli. Sometimes I just like to walk along the ship's flight deck, chat with the other pilots and crews, spend time among the planes. Sometimes I just hang out in the commercial area and shop for clothes." A soft smile now. "At times I just sit at the edge of the ship and stare out over the sea .. But I guess that's not unique to Fuseli." The feline giggles softly. "I guess, in the end .. It's that same sense of purpose and unity that I enjoy about being in the Armada, is what I enjoy about Fuseli."

How are big decisions made in the Crimson Armada?
"They come down via the chain of command, of course. The Admiral decides policy, aided by his advisors and the reports from his officers. But in the end, it's his decision."

For what sort of a world do you and the Armada strive?
"A world where all can be free to pursue their life's goals - within reason - without fear of pirates and other criminal scum." She explains firmly, this question touching on her very deepest motivations. "A world where all are provided for, even the sick and the infirm. Where all who can work, do work, and where none need to live in poverty or fear." A pause then, and a warm smile. ".. That's what we all want, isn't it ?"

What's good to eat here on Fuseli?
"Oh I rather enjoy the Lasagna Bolognese down at Luigi's in the commercial district. He adds a particular spice that gives it that extra bite." she smiles softly. "I love going there with my wife and having a romantic dinner, just the two of us .. The feel of that place is amazing, with live music and just the right mix of privacy and atmosphere."

If a Skyrate were considering joining the Crimson Armada, what one thing would you most like them to know?
"We used to have a pretty negative reputation. One of totalitarianism and total obedience. While it's true that by our very nature we are a totalitarian government, we still leave our members free to do whatever they please, as long as they don't neglect their duty to the Armada, and don't break Armada laws - and even those laws are pretty lenient. Don't steal, don't murder, things like that - common sense, really." Then a pause and a soft smile before she continues. "And even then, is a totalitarian government really such a bad thing ? The kingdom of Magnus was a totalitarian government, and everyone is always going on about how wonderful things were, back then .."

What separates the plane of a Red from the plane of an "ordinary" pilot?
"Crimson Armada craft usually have an identifying marker on them, somewhere. A flag, a logo. But on the whole, Armada craft are just like the planes from other factions. We have our combateers, sure - but we also have our explorers and our traders, just like any other faction."

Day 10[]


A letter was waiting for me at Echo. It's from Sluor.

To: Eskay,

I deeply apologise for the time this missive has taken. I can see I'm going to have to retrain my Automatic InTray Prioritiser (read: Lank, my mole assistant) for this.

To answer your questions:

My favourite thing about the League is its philosophy. The idea that respect, trust - authority - is not granted from on high in a self-perpetuating hierarchy, but individually, by each person, by whatever they feel is important.

The flip side of that coin is the only way to gain respect is by truly doing good acts. It's much harder to fool everyone than to only fool some - to the point where, theoretically, it's easier to simply do the actual work.

This also hearkens to the way we make decisions. We debate, talk it out, and try to convince one another. People may or may not give each other's opinions credence, and will or will not be convinced by logical arguments. It tends to work well, in that we come to a majority decision in a surprisingly short amount of time.

This means that the greatest threat to personal freedom in Skytopia is simply repression of any form. There's no point in mentioning any specifics, since they are inherently changing and changeable.

About Islo - hm. My favourite thing to do here is to ride down the elevators at "Turbo" - a sort of controlled freefall, some engineer took that on as his pet project a while back. It probably doesn't meet some safety regulation or such, but who's counting?

Food - uh, there's a good coffee joint on the ninth level. They accommodate requests for duodecuple shots without blinking!

For new indoctrinates to the League, they should know that they've willingly stepped into their doooooom! Muahaahhahaaa. Uhm, I mean that they shouldn't feel shy in making their opinions, thoughts, ideas known.

Oh, and that they will need something that could potentially be argued to be a hat using any form of logic they can come up with.

And as for our planes, well. They tend to have a lot more going on under the hood than appears on the surface, is all I'm saying. I am not bringing up the platypus prop incident.

All right, I think that's it for your questions. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask!

-- Sluor

That's all for now, but you can watch this space for the details to be added. 'Til next time, fly right, Skyrates.