The Dross

Back before the War and the Dissolution the typical route between Hub and Gloria ran alongside a scattering of islands known as the Fates. As far as scatterings go, the Fates were on the bigger and wilder side. Something about the updrafts from below in those parts made it a dense patch solid land. Dozens of large, verdant islands floated at various heights and thousands of drifter isles milled about between them. The flip side being that the Fates were never stable enough for large-scale settlements, though a few hardy folk took up the challenge on the bigger islands. Happens when your home island might take a hit from a wild drifter any day of the week. There was one port town of any size in the whole mess, Roteon, and even they were on the outer edge.

The Fates were rich in raw materials, especially the ore that keeps all our airships flying, but the risks in harvesting them were too much for most operations to take a crack at them. The isles remained untouched apart from some small timers out of Roteon. Then the War started and if the Empire was good at one thing it’s operating on a grand scale. The Fates were commandeered by the Empire and turned into a massive mine for the new factories down in Hub. Those token groups of scrappy settlers were, ah, relocated and Roteon became the Fates’ central office. Another pop-up bit of prosperity as the Empire called in its favors and made the Northwest a vast supply yard.

Turns out world-wide war efforts have a mighty hunger and the mining in the Fates was relentless. We’re talking hundreds of ships flying between the Fates and Hub, laden with ore. Thousands of workers, local and otherwise. Willing and otherwise. The islands were stripped bare, some even losing their lift and going into slow falls into the Churn. The various bergs and drifter isles were sampled and shattered for quick harvests.

The mining operation was a big effort, but never a well-organized or well-defended one. Like most Imperial investments during the War, they didn’t exactly send their best and brightest out here. Made the whole operation an easy target for ‘lancer crews sympathetic to the Coalition, corsairs or resistance fighters depending on your outlook. It only got worse as the War dragged on and the front drew closer to our stretch of the sky. A few climatic fleet battles later and faster than it was set up the whole industry in the Fates vanished. The Empire followed suit and the victorious Coalition not long after. And unlike other areas of the Northwest, the Fates couldn’t recover to anything resembling how it was before.

Now we simply call it what it is: The Dross.

Countless broken isles drift every which way, smashing into each other or catching the chaotic winds to tumble down into the Churn. Roteon’s a bombed out shell. Fields of waste rock float through the region like mist and nothing green grows there anymore. A little piece of Hell to fly through and most captains rightly opt to take the long way ‘round. But the temptation of all that abandoned machinery attracts scavengers with more desperation than sense, and the shifting, dangerous routes of the area are one of the Northwest’s primary havens for outlaws and pirates. It’s a fine place for anything or anyone that doesn’t want to be found.

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Copyright © Michael L. Watson 2015

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