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  1. Astrapi,an evening at the beginning of March 618. Immediately before the changing of the guard, an allarm was sound: the hour was perfect for a raid into the military port, with the tired gunners blinded by the low sun... or at least it's what an invader usually thinks. The Oleanders moved quickly, lead by their Gunnery Officer: the 36 pounder cannons were loaded and fired aganist their targets. Meanwhile, volleys Congreve Rockets were shot from the towers of the fort, laying down a heavy barrage fire. This modern weapon, extensively tested by Corrington and Oleon, can easily set ablaze sails and riggings... a terrible danger for a wooden ship! A Hades of fire and iron was falling on the raiding fleet, the fearsome squadron... ...led by Admiral Jimmy, as the puppet on the first target boat was called by the gunners. "Bob and Billy are burning, Sir, and James has just been hit by a cannonball!" Exclaimed the officer "Only Jimmy would have survived to the first volley, and we are not even using wall muskets". "Well done, Lieutenant! Your men are perfectly operative even if we made them exercise at the end of their shift." Replied Captain Rimbaud "And what we have seen right now is only a part of the defensive system... What about the chain?" "As you can see, Sir, it has already been laid down. It is raised and lowered twice a day, according to the tide, and obvioulsy whenever our ships enter or leave the bay. To avoid accidents in case of low visibility the chain was marked with yellow bouys, but in case of fog we will also use longboats and light signals. In case of attack, the defensive chain would probably block the enemy ships under our fire, but with a bit of luck it could also cut like a blade the hull of smaller ships: only a large battleship at full speed could break the barrier, but not without being severly damaged." An inspection of the armory A soldier wrapping gunpouder cartouches for the cannons Additional pictures: An overall view:
  2. Entering the port of the Royal Arsenal of Astrapi, it's hard to believe that only few months ago it was only a secluded bay, a safe place to shelter fishing boats from storms but not deep enough to host anything bigger than a corvette: the new military port, in fact, was built by the hard work of Oleander diggers and engeneers. The first challenge was the laying of a double palisade across the entrance of the bay, about 400 metres wide; the barrier was strengthened with earth, sand and rocks coming from the foundation works of the Arsenal itself. The poles forming the dam were deeply plunged into the sea bottom using a pile driver mounted on a boat: an heavy block of rock is lifted using a crane and then violently dropped on the pole, hammering it in the sand; a ballast of stones, on the back, prevents the boat from capsizing. Meanwile, a group of "volounteers" is digging along the coastline in order to expose the solid rock below: soon a little fort will be built there that, with his twin on the other side of the bay, will welcome any unexpecte visitor with 36-pounder greetings. The "volounteers" are actually former pirates nicely host by Astrapi jail, who were given a chance to shorten their conviction or avoid the gallows; their work is hard, but they receive decent food, fresh water and can see the sunlight. A group of Astrapi inhabitants is removing some bush: a temporary road will be cut across the thicket in order to allow an easy arrival from Astrapi for the hundred of men that will be employed soon and for the building materials. An overall view The pile driver again A coplue of volounteers Some other pics of the building site This is the first of a series of three builds. I tried to depict the same area at the beginning (here), at about an half and at the end of the works. No pirate was badly hurt during the process.
  3. After a hard work the dam was completed, but this was only the first step towards the new military port: dozens of unusual cranes (usually called "giraffes") were built along the barrier and, manouvred day and night by hundreds of labourers started emptying the bay. At a conceptual level, transferring a single bucket of water from the bay to the open sea or repeat the operation ten or five thousand times is not different: it's only a matter of resources, logistics and manpower; continuously working for a couple of months, the groups of workers (convicts, Astrapians and laborers from all the New World) emptied the bay, reaching the muddy seabed. The dam was then reinforced with beams from inside, to prevent it collapsing due to the terrible pressure from outside. Even if the giraffes egregiously did their job, a significant was given by a series of endless screws, simple (and quite fragile) machines capable of lifting huge volumes of water with a minimum effort; they were useful in particular when the bay was almost dry, to complete the job and control infiltrations along the dam. Here you can see how the port was actually realised: hundreds of tons of mud, sand and rocks, accumulated by tides and rivers during the last centuries, were gradually removed with showels and cases by convicts (with red clothes) and salaried labourers. When full, the cases were lifted to the top of the cliff using winches and wooden rails: the resulting materials were then carried away with wagons along a temporary road and used to pave streets or build new piers in different areas of the island. A little ceremony was held at the top of the cliff: celebrating a tradition older than the Faith itself the Master Builder made a short propitiatory speech near to the cornerstone of the future fort. This stone, influencing the direction, precision and stability of the foundation, has always had a strong symbolical value: the future of the new building relies on it's stability and, since the cornerstone can only be exposed by the complete distruction of the overlying building, an offer to the gods of the Underword (Hades in particular) is usually made. As usual, the cornerstone of the fort contained a little space for the ritual offers: a golden figurine of Hades, a doubloon minted during the year, sometimes a message for the future Oleanders; the cover was then sealed forever with mortar and, since that very moment the new fort became something more than a mere project. Tristan Rimbaud, one of the promoters (and financers) of the Royal Arsenal congratulated with the Master Builder: the build was perfectly on time, and the bright, glorious future for Astrapi was a little nearer. An overall view: Other pictures: The men manouvring one of the winches