Updated: Jan 8
This coming story has a moral to it but, perhaps, not the one you would expect. I was speaking to a somewhat popular and well-known writer and editor friend of mine today because I had been bothered by a bit of a dilemma.
Those of you that pay attention will know that the Empyraeum has its own calender, in a manner of speaking, in that the year EA1 fell on what we would consider 298 B.C or 298 B.C.E of the Gregorian Calendar, making our current year, 2021 A.D/C.E EA1743. I had come up with a great timeline and history but then, in existential horror, realised I may have miscalculated. I had the famous Arks leave Earth in the year EA2000 or 1702 A.D and had the first space flight take place in EA1744 or 1446 A.D...I was worried that this would seem infeasible. My friend told me;
If that's what your universe requires, I say go for it - you don't need permission to alter history in your fiction
He's right, we do not need permission, we simply need to write it and explain it well. We need to justify why, not to anyone else, but to our universe and to the story. if the story requires it then the story shall have it!
Remember well Laurie's advice because he really knows what he's talking about!
Below is the result of that justifying my instinct, please enjoy;
The goblin licked his thin lips and wriggled from side to side on his chair, looking exactly like a teenager waiting to be admitted into the scholearch’s office for some serious infraction. A very ugly child, admittedly, but the similarity was uncanny.
“I’m not going to do anything to you, Iouri,” Lupernikes said softly, fighting to keep his face serious, yet friendly simultaneously, quite the feat when he was struggling not to break into chuckles. “I’m just asking the lead man – I mean goblin, sorry – in charge, as it were, what happened.”
“Fort there was air up there,” Iouri muttered, inspecting his fingernails; which was no task for the fainthearted.
Lupernikes smiled and tried to get comfortable on his own chair which, though well made as everything inside The Mountain was, had not been designed with his bulk in mind. Even in the chiton the dwarves had given him, Lupernikes made this goblin look like a three-year-old child. “Alright, I understand that poor,” he consulted the open scroll on his lap. “Skylàk did not have a pleasant trip?”
“Wee bugger near turned inside out, boss!” Iouri’s eyes veritably blazed with fury and his face went a curious taupe-like colour. “Beggin yer pardon but I’d say that put a serious skatagam on her day. Raised her from a wee ball of fuzz, so I did.” He collapsed into his seat and began to sniff.
Oh gods don’t start crying! Lupernikes prayed silently, he had seen a goblin cry before and not quickly forgotten the experience. As ugly as goblins are when they’re normal, a crying goblin made most people’s nightmare inventions seem tame. “I am sorry for your loss.” He managed.
Iouri flapped his long-fingered hand dismissively but said nothing. He searched strange sleeveless leather garment of many pockets which he wore about his skinny torso.
“So the kosmos is, ah,” he checked the scroll again. “Both rather cold and airless yet,” he glanced down to check once more. “Upon turning back towards Gaia, some aether which blankets and protects her causes things to get very hot very quickly.
Instead of a reply, Lupernikes received an almost comical parp as the goblin blew his nose and nodded.
“Froze the poor wee bugger solid on’t way up and roasted her like a Kristofeìs choi on the way down, aye,” poor fellow’s voice was shaking and his ugly features threatened the onset of even greater ugliness. “Me wee doggie looked like the chip yer forget about on the bottom of the oven for months so she did!” He wailed and, as a full goblin set of waterworks was released with an even greater wail, Lupernikes thanked him and left before he lost his lunch.
The Carrig was waiting for him in the dwarf’s rather modest ‘office’. As visits from those such as Lupernikes, if not the Steward himself, were more common here, he found a beautiful armchair of red leather stuffed with horsehair already set out for him. With a deep sigh of unknotting muscles, he surrendered to its familiar embrace.
“Caterwauling like a wee snot bucket again is he?” the Carrig asked with a smile so broad that his abundant beard barely hid it. He started to arrange scrolls and various sets of what looked like incredibly detailed dwarf greenprints on the desk. “Och, he loved that, wee doggie, so he did, bless his wee green heart.” He nodded and poured the comfortable Spartan a large measure of uisge, the good stuff not that poison the goblins made in old fuel drums which would blind even a Kalshodar.
Lupernikes accepted the cup and raised his glass before drinking. “Sláinte!” he toasted. He let the fine liquor warm his mouth, swilling it around and savouring the mossy flavour of it as it evaporated from his tongue. “So, what happened?”
The dwarf indicated a scroll with a thick finger, leaning forward Lupernikes saw a sketch of Gaia with concentric circles drawn around her as well as some rather odd looking symbols. “Yer familiar with Pythagoras, Eudorus, and Diadorus I’m imagining?”
Lupernikes, who was known for devouring texts in Alexandria’s great library and had spent many a night under artificial light immersed in obscure tracts, simply nodded.
“Turns out they were wrong,” the dwarf rubbed his beard. “Turns out there’s a lot more of nothing out there than there is of anything. It’s not a something that can be warmed up like the water o’ a bath at all.” He sighed and stared at the papers.
“We got it up there though,” Lupernikes said, trying to calm the dwarf. “Leonidas Touvinctas and the Madhava’s group got that right.”
“They did, right enough, went up faster than a crow wi’ its arse on fire” The Carrig nodded slowly. “Yer Leonidas fella had a few ideas on the lack of air and coldness aspect at least. He said it came to him while he was feeding the bees yeh gave him.”
Lupernikes smiled at this, the eccentric genius and polymath was well known for having three or four thoughts – at least that many – at once. “Go on.”
The dwarf slid a parchment covered in crabbed handwriting over towards him; it was also full of little sketches, including several detailed anatomical studies of bees. He studied it for a moment, taking time to turn Leonidas’ letters the right way around in his mind. He looked up and met the dwarf’s calm hazel eyes. He looked back down again at the mess of a brilliant mind, running shaking fingers through his hair, before looking back at the dwarf. “No way.”
The Carrig took a sip of his own uisge and split his beard with a massive grin. “I’ve had Wally, Benny, and Polly look it over and they say the matématika is flawless.”
“That’s hardly a surprise,” Lupernikes finished his own drink and grimaced as he took too much at once. “Gah! Leonidas practically invented our current system while he was in the bath cleaning his toenails.” He ran a finger over the page and tapped the part that was bothering him, well bothering him more than the rest of it did.
“I believe the words you are looking for are ‘bomb’ and ‘suicidal’…” the Carrig supplied helpfully, refilling both cups. “Our blubbering friend Iouri has volunteered to pilot this, says he wants to more freeze-roasted dogs on his conscience.”
Lupernikes blinked at that, Iouri Da'Goblin, first being in space? Hmmm. “What’s this part here?” he tapped it on the page. “Says ‘bathymetrik bathing suit’ here.”
The dwarf leaned forward and ran a finger over the drawing; it showed a strangely dressed figure with what looked like a large metal sphere on his head, tubes and pipes of all kinds connected to the main suit itself, that figure also carried a large bellows type arrangement in one hand. “Yer friend, the loony, says he invented this so’s people could get shellfish in larger quantities faster. Says he got the squits from eating some bad mussels and did it….errr…you know, to distract hisself from the consequences.”
Lupernikes wrinkled his nose and subconsciously wiped his hands on his chiton. “Can mithril do that?” He asked in absolute surprise, the dwarf just nodded, drinking slowly. “It can…change depending on whether it is hot or it is cold?”
“Aye it can, we’d not have figured it out were it not for that wee accident that cost Snorri his hand.”
Lupernikes stared at the page until it began to blur, speaking his thoughts out loud without realising he was doing it. “Can’t breathe underwater, can’t breathe in the kosmos. Too cold deeper underwater, too cold in the kosmos. Steam into water when too cold, water into steam when too hot; hot evaporates to cool….we’re going to need a bigger ship!”
Near the summit of The Mountain, a small group gathered to see Iouri the goblin off.
He'd marched out of the tunnel beaming with pride, dressed in a suit of heavy treated canvas and metal, with that odd helmet already in place. Leonidas had added a thick front visor of heavy dragon-glass to his earlier design which he had somehow made almost transparent. You could still see the goblin's face, grinning like the maniac he must surely be, through the visor, big red eyes sparkling.
He'd continued to grin and wave like a princess at a ball as he'd climbed the wooden stairs and entered the ship, a pair of burly dwarves sealed it tight behind him and kicked the stairs away.
The small crowd was huddled mostly around a brazier burning good dwarf coal, which kept up a merry blaze even in this oxygon scarce air.
In the end, the ship was not as big as Lupernikes had envisioned. The goblin “pilot” in his bulky suit could spread his arms and his legs wide but not much else, he could stand on the strange looking chair to look out of the round window as he was doing now, waving at a number of other goblins who’d come to watch. It was shaped like a slightly squashed ball with an elongated rear section, housing the “engine” itself. Covered in carefully chosen dragon scales (which She had kindly donated) the space between which was filled, somehow, with mithril, which flowed around the spaces, shimmering as it did so. Aside from the huge conical exhaust bells at the back, the ship was relatively smooth. A number of other goblins were getting ready to operate the winch that would hoist it “vertical’. A couple of goblins dressed in thick and heavy robes were, under Leonidas’ supervision, pouring what Lupernikes had been told was a mixture of Manchurian Salts, what Leonidas called artificial liquid dragon fire, and mercury vapours into a large tank situated over the blackened exhaust. Leonidas himself checked valves, switches, and touched various parts of the tank and pipes emerging from it and scribbled his findings on a scroll he carried. He began scribbling again and, after several moments, nodded that he was satisfied.
The group goblining the winch mechanism started to haul on the ropes. As the ship started to change orientation, he saw a small hand at the window, its thumb pointing upwards.
Before he could look closer, Leonidas began to shoo everyone back and, once they secured the winch lock and cast ropes off from the ship, all goblins scattered into the tunnels.
A lone goblin, holding a curious kind of torch, sprinted forward, stuck his torch inside each of the three exhaust bells for a second and then ran like hell.
“Ten,” Leonidas said, slowly counting downwards. He reached four and waddled rapidly towards the brazier around everyone was struggling to warm themselves. “One!” he almost whispered.
There was a terrifying thumping and clanking sound from the rear of the ship, the entirety of which began to vibrate violently. From the exhaust cones, a curiously coloured smoke began to emerge but then, nothing. Lupernikes heard Leonidas suck in a freezing breath just as the loudest sound he had ever heard exploded from the ship and echoed off the distant mountain peaks.
It happened so fast that he could only make sense of it later on.
One second, bright green-blue flames emerged from the exhaust bells, the next the ship rose out of sight with an eye-wateringly bright tail of fire below it. The roaring, tearing sound continued for several moments before another noise, like a rippling crack of thunder drowned the roar out. Of Iouri the goblin and his ridiculous-looking ship, there was no sign.
Everyone cheered as enthusiastically as the frigid cold and thin air would allow them to, before filing back down into the tunnel for a nice warm glass of uisge in front of a fire.
When Iouri returned ten days later, landing exactly where Leonidas had predicted he would, with a great steamy splash in the Black Sea far away, recovery crews claim he spoke to them of wonders beyond imagining and hardships close to beyond endurance. It took three cups of warmed uisge to get the goblin to calm down and so he was asleep when they arrived down the main Flèva Dromos into Alexandria.
Lupernikes was sat in his Steward’s chair at the bottom of the steps to Alexander’s throne, reading a scroll when he heard the soft slaps of goblin feet on stone approaching. He looked up as Iouri approached and smiled. The goblin was dressed in a fresh guest chiton and, from the look of his plastered down hair, had just finished bathing. He was shaking all over and had a curious grin - halfway between ecstasy and a rictus of terror – frozen to his face.
Lupernikes waved to one of the Dracograth by the door and he, in turn, signalled towards the kitchens. Lupernikes himself rose and set down a stool for the vibrating goblin, who was even thinner than he remembered him being. After a moment, palace staff approached bearing food, wine, and a small folding table, which they arranged between the pair. Iouri sat, the smile still not leaving his face, and gratefully accepted a cup of wine from Lupernikes own hand.
“Tell me everything.” The Steward said. The goblin set down cup, chicken leg and began.
The sun was setting and the throne room torches and fires were being lit as the goblin drew towards the end of his tale. Lupernikes interrupted him rarely, so swept up he was in the majesty and beauty of the tale, even though it was told simply and roughly.
The goblin had woken up some time after the immeasurable terror of the launch. His head had hurt and his body felt strange, he said, and was sure that he had lost consciousness very shortly after the launch for he could remember little except the roaring noise, incredible vibration of the ship and terrifying exhilaration of travelling faster than any being had before, at least any being who’d lived to tell the tale. He'd been shoved into his chair "like an ellifint were sat on me", before he'd passed out.
He released the curious set of belts the dwarves had made to secure him to his chair and – his eyes shined as he spoke now and his eyes shined like opals – he floated!
“I was spinning and bouncing off a da walls an’ had no weight to me, boss!” he cried.
So wrapped up was he in spinning around, swimming in air, and laughing like a broken hyena that he completely forgot about wanting to look out of the window.
“There was Gaia, boss, like a big shining jewel beneef me!” he laughed, spreading spidery hands wide. “All blues an’ greens, an’ browns wiv swirling white and grey spread over her face like paint in a bucket a water!” he clapped loudly and took a long slug of wine. Entranced, Lupernikes refilled his cup without comment. “An’ she’s like a big, bigger than massive ball, boss, stretching in the black o’ da kosmos boss, like a jewel on velvet!”
The ship, Iouri said, had hurtled around Gaia, though progress felt slow and stately to the goblin, for what was probably days. He saw Helios appear and vanish behind Gaia at least twice, he said, and watched the light slowly spread across the blue and green face. He forgot to eat the dried rations the dwarves had packed. He forgot to sip from the flexible tube Leonidas had designed and connected to the condensers. He simply stared at a sight no mortal man or woman had seen before. Finally he tore his gaze away when thirst made his head pound worse and hunger tore at his innards. It was shortly after he had refreshed himself that he remembered The Button. The crazy old human man had impressed upon him repeatedly and with much gesticulation the following;
“When you get into the orbit of Gaia, when you go round and round her you see Gaia in front and Sèlene behind, OK?”
OK. Iouri found a small window he had not noticed previously; it had a nice cover on it and a handle. He pulled the handle and, lo and behold, there was Sèlene, all bright and glowing like really well polished silver might if it was dustier. Her face was a mess of dents of various sizes, like something had been thrown at her and made marks. Directly behind, the crazy old man had said.
“When Sèlene is directly behind you and Gaia is directly in front of you…pay attention you stupid goblin, over here! …. Do you see this button? Yes, the one painted red, that's right. Only when Sèlene fills that window, the one with the door on it, do you press the red button, not at any other time, OK?”
OK. Iouri thought for a moment and nothing else changed. He pushed the button. He was rapidly plastered against the wall of the ship behind him and felt the speed grab hold of him again. He grinned and he screamed but, as he was in space and in accordance with the old laws, nobody heard him. As he saw Sèlene rapidly growing in size through the window, he decided to scream some more, as a matter of principle.
It seemed that, at exactly the point when Iouri was certain that all of the skin would come off of his body and fall down one of the legs of his fancy suit, he heard a thump and drifted free of the wall bouncing instead from every surface his body could find. Finally it stopped and he breathed again. Dusting himself off, he moved closer to the window. And saw that Sèlene was an awful lot closer now. In fact, little puffs of grey dust were slowly falling down in front of the window. He remembered the part about the door then, but also the part about making sure his helmet was on properly.
Gripping the big wheel at the centre of the door awkwardly with his bulky gloves he tried to remember which way to turn it…righty tighty, lefty loosey…he strained to turn the wheel to his left and slowly it moved. Now should I say something, even if no-one can hear me? He thought anxiously, big moment and all that.
“You said what?” Lupernikes barked out a laugh and almost choked on the wine he’d been drinking.
“One small leap fer a man, one even bigger leap fer a goblin!” Iouri muttered, his ears reddening. “It were quite high up.”
So, he’d clung to the doorframe in panic, eying the big drop suspiciously, until he remembered how he’d been floating around like a fairy for ages now. That dust was also falling very slowly, so he stepped off and…well it’d have been a lot worse had he done that back on Gaia. As it was, it’d have been mildly embarrassing had there been anyone to see him. Dusting himself off, he stood up and surveyed his new surroundings. Realising there was dust on his thick glass visor, he tried to wipe that off but as soon as he began, the high pitched grinding squeal filled his helmet. He stopped and listened. He took a slightly panicked breath. Unconvinced and remembering an exploded doggie, he took another one. He could already see a big scratch across his vision and realised that if he didn’t want it to be a hole… right, leave the dust where it is then.
He could see that his ball had landed right near an odd phenomenon; there was like a line on Sèlene’s surface; it was very light on one side and dark on the other…seeing as he was a goblin and bright light hurt his eyes, he chose the darker part.
Lupernikes leaned forward and seized the goblin’s arm, causing Iouri to drop the small sausage he’d chosen from the platter onto the floor. “You saw what?
“Like a city guv’ner,” he picked another sausage and took an appreciative bite. “All big square towers and walls and stuff” This last part came out quite indistinctly.
The Steward ran a hand through his hair. “A city…”
A bloody massive great city it was as well, reaching high into the airless air around him. Iouri found he could move a lot faster here, taking hopping leaps forward rather than slogging forward like he did on Gaia. It was like the thing that held stuff down was less here; like Sèlene was less possessive about it than Gaia was. He soon stood at the base of a cyclopean wall, staring up in wonder at what must be the largest city ever, maybe even taller than the outside of his mountain home. In fact the comparison was a good one, he decided, because this city somehow looked grown rather than built but grown in the kind of way things didn’t normally grow. Too intentional and symmetrical. He checked the little dial on his wrist that the funny old man had told him to check much more regularly than he been doing and decided that he had time for a walk.
If there was a bloody great city here, what else would he find? He liked finding things.
What he found was the wonder of all Gaia. Suddenly all telescopes that were inclined to look towards our smaller neighbour realised that something that had not been there before was modt certainly there now. Sèlene had a ring circling around her, a vast ring of silvery metal and blinking lights. She looked like a new bride proudly displaying her happiness the world.
Lupernikes had stopped the goblin’s narrative and summoned one of the Dracograth to him at this point. The big golden bugger took off like a dragon was chasing him and soon came back with a few more of his kind and a couple of older humans. Iouri took advantage of the lull to stuff more of those sausages in his mouth and gulp more of the fine Steward’s best wine.
“Tell them.” The Steward commanded.
Iouri felt caught, he was chewing the sausages as fast as he could but his mouth was rather full. His ears turned a bright pink at the tips and he felt his face burning as he masticated like the devil and forced the lot down. He told them.
“It was like the big place you launch ships from and tie them up…”
“A dock?” A Kalshodar-sized man with sandy hair and laughing eyes cut in.
“Yes boss, one of them, a dock.” Iouri liked them eyes, they belonging to the kind of man you could trust. “Only made of black metal and massive. An’ there was big boxes next to ‘em with lights on them, an’ switches, an’ dials, an’ buttons. Like the ship has only fancier.”
The big fella with laughing eyes laughed then and Iouri found that laugh to, like the eyes, belong to a trustworthy man. “Let me guess; big red one right in the middle?” Iouri nodded sheepishly “So you pushed it?”
“I did, boss, an’ then more lights came on, there was lots of loud noise and I – beggin yer pardons – nigh shat meself that I’d started the thing to blow up!”
“But they didn’t blow up?” Lupernikes now smiled.
“Nah, boss.” The goblin shook his head so hard it’s a surprise it didn’t fall off. “The air up above went all blurry and…and stuff started appearing like magic.”
“Well, I didna know t’was a ring at that time sir, but aye, the ring.” He grabbed for his wine cup and was pleased to see it half full; all this talking was giving him a mighty thirst. “Then I saw the dial on me arm was dropping into the red bit and himself, the old inventing nutter, said not to let that happen so I legged it back to the ship and come back.”
None of the men gathered around him seemed to be listening to that part; they were talking and arguing quite loudly, gesticulating and pointing up at the sky. Iouri took advantage of the sausages again, and a few bits of nice sharp cheese, piling them up on his lap and popping them away like the child who’d finally found the sweet jar. He noticed that silence had fallen and realised that the Steward had raised one hand without saying a single word. Like magic, every mouth, even Iouri’s full one, closed.
“Thank you for your immeasurable service to The Empyraeum, Iouri, most honoured among goblins.” He said softly with a smile. “We will talk privately later, follow Lectes to a room you can rest in.”
Gathering his hoard in the folds of his shirt, Iouri stood up shakily and waddled off toward the small, bald man Lupernikes had indicated, singing softly to himself as he went…nice soft bed, lots of sausages…he chuckled. He was so wrapped up in his singing that he was oblivious to the chuckles coming his way. He stopped dead, how could he have done himself that?
He pivoted round on his callused heels smoothly and gave the Steward he Greatest of the Goblin Salutes. “The honour was mine, sir!” he cried, before spinning back round and scampering off, ears burning in shame.
Once the chuckles died down, Lupernikes looked away from that valiant little goblin lunatic and shared a smile with Kalliades.
“Gentlemen!” He addressed the room at large, “we are definitely going to need a much bigger ship!”