Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Headache and Nightmares

I am having recurrent nightmares after the concussion Miss Nan caused me !

No idea what I am talking about ? Catch up on the lastest issue of the Primgraph !

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Return to Caledon

The enthusiasm for flying, that was latent in the family, but that had never flourished in me before, was awakened in me by meeting Lord Wings and Crotty. That enthusiasm was to never leave me again.

When I was on my way to Caledon I was full of excitement. During my month running a flying cargo service I had started developing project for new models of airships and airplanes, and I was looking forward to show them to my father and my brother. Of course I did not expect them to accept all the new ideas - the family business has always been rather conservative - but I knew that with time I would have been able to convince them. Moreover I had a plan to use my savings to setup an hideout where I could build some of my projects, so the be able to show them not just blueprints but actual prototypes of the 2-3 models I cared most.

I was also particularly happy because Crotty, after some insistence, had finally decided to move and take his residence in Caledon as well.
It would have been great to have him involved in the activity. And in any case I was sure that he would not have accepted not to be a test pilot for every new flying machine I was going to build :)

My father welcomed me warmly, and listened to me with more interest than I had expected. Told me that he was looking forward to discuss in more detail the models that I had in mind. Harlow agreed politely, but my brother looked somehow ... detached, like his thoughts were constantly elsewhere.

After some weeks it was clear that something was wrong. Some thoughts were clearly bothering my father, and he looked so old and tired. Harlow was seen at the family's sites less and less and even when he was there it was nevertheless like he was there with his body but not with his mind.

One evening, when I was about to confront my father about what was going on, he called me in his study and dropped a bomb on me: we were ruined!
The family was totally covered by debts. Some promising real estate investments in some lands called openspaces had suddenly turned ugly. An unexpected rise in land taxes had dropped their value below zero and many were badly hit. Our family looked to be more exposed than most, though. The state of the family enterprise was not in good shape either. Looked like that Harlow had played some other risky financial games that, in turn, had taken a hit by the real estate situation. Bottom line we were ruined.

I could not believe to what I was being told. After so many years ... now that I had finally started to become fond of the flying business ... we had lost everything

Father told me that we had a way out. Some of Harlow's business acquaintances had offered to relieve all the family business and remaining properties covering all the debts as part of the operation. It was an unfair accommodation : the value of the properties was still higher of the debts ... provided we had a fair offer. But we had no other. We had to sell.

Ralph and his father

Father told me that he had decided to retire. There was still a little property that used to belong to my mother and that was not alienable. He had decided to abandon the Steamlands and move there with his dogs and his books.

He told me that he had pulled some strings and, if I wanted, there was a lieutenant commission in the RCAF waiting for me.

In a couple of months my world had changed. The family mansion was vacated, the properties sold, Father left to mainland, and I moved to a small apartment.

.. and I started my life as an officer and a test pilot of the RCAF.

It was a quiet life. My family was respected in the air service and many felt sorry for the bad turn of events that hat hit my father. I fly training flights in the morning. I tested new models in the afternoon. I spent evening at some pub with Crotty and Harlow and some other officers.

It was a quiet life ... until that day when, flying over Caledon Highlands, I noticed some smoke.

But this is a story for the next time


In the next episode : Pirates over Caledon

Friday, December 11, 2009

Meeting Crotty

My years at Oxbridge have been fun, even if unremarkable in terms of accomplishments. I used to enjoy my friendship with Mordecai and we made quite a name for our exploits, if not for our marks. After the unfortunate event that occurred just after our graduation, with my friend giving way to the dark side and trying to sell Caledon for his own private interest I thought I could never have another true friend.

And it was that way for a while. I traveled the grid as a lonely wolf, trying to be nice with everybody but always careful not to get too close either. 

That changed the day I met Lord Wings and Crottin De Chavignol from whom I learned there were people I could still trust. It was the time I was exploring the Southern Continent. I stopped in a little village that had attracted my attention because of its small airstrip and some nice planes and airships parked there. Moreover there were some nice shops and art galleries, and a beautiful palace uphill, dominating the place.

I stopped at the local pub and I booked a room, planning to spend a couple of days in the area. That evening I was in the common room, drinking ale and distractedly watching the serving wench. Suddenly I became aware of noise outside and people yelling. A little fellow entered the pub looking around with a gaze showing both worry and pride. Shortly after, three individuals, carrying wooden clubs came into the pub and walked toward the the little one.

"We don't want no bloody babyfurs around here !" one said
"I'm no babyfur, I am a tiny!" replied the little one defiantly
"Shut up, you weirdo!" added another
"You stinking furry !" completed the third, raising his club and stepping toward the tiny guy

I sighed. I had many furry acquaintances and it did pain me that these gentle people were discriminated against in so many places. I never understood that attitude. I was always shocked that any time I invited one of these people they were constantly asking me if I was sure they would be welcome. The little guy that had just entered was clearly no furry but that did not mean I disliked what I was witnessing any less. And in any case I did not think those three jerks would have changed attitude for a tiny.

I sighed even more and I stood.

"The little fellow is my friend" I said
"Stay out of this, Mister! this is no *** business of yours!"
"I said this is my friend. You touch him, you pay the price" 

The fight was quick. I felt a bit sore and bruised after and my head was ringing and spinning but in the end the three guys retreated. People like that are always after easier targets, not someone their size ready to fight back.

I went back to his table and drank my remaining ale. I needed to recharge,
After a while I turned to the tiny, who had been staring at me all the time, and asked, "You okay , little fella" ?
Before I could hear the tiny's reply the world blacked out.


I woke up in bed the morning after.
"Good morning," someone said
"where am I ? ... who are you ?"
"They call me Lord Wings. You have a concussion and two broken ribs. I had you transferred here. I am in charge around here and this is my palace. Mr. De Chavignol is my guest, and I owe you. It would have been dishonorable if something happened to him in my village. I try to make this land a safe heaven for all, but you always find those who do not agree. Mr. De Chavignol here would like to thank you as well"

I noticed the tiny next to his host.

"You okay? " I asked, trying to force a smile
"I am fine. Probably thanks to you."
"Nice to meet you both, then. I am Ralph ... Ralph Montcalm"
"My name is Crottin De Chavignol" the tiny said.
"Damned long name for a tiny and difficult to remember when you have a concussion."
"You can call me Crotty" he said.


Lord Wings insisted that I remained as his guest together with Crotty, and I spent the following weeks at the palace. Without even realizing it we became good friends. Crotty was a natural in making people smile. He could spend hours telling you stories, and you were never able to discriminate the true part from what he was making up (and he is always making up a lot). He reaches his top in front of a glass. Crotty is very fond of good drinking, and I have never met anybody who knows about wines as much as he does.

Lord Wings had been very fond of flying for long time and he had built the airstrip I had noticed the first day. He also owned an impressive collection of airplanes and he was a always happy to involve new people in his passion. Crotty had been his guest because he was also very fond of flying and he was spending time there to try some new models.

Of course I knew how to fly. In my family you learn it almost as soon as you learn to walk. It simply was something given for granted, I had never thought of it as a potential source for joy. Being there was very different from being in the business environment of the family industries. Flying was about being free above the clouds, not just about making profits. I learned to take a plane up with the same attitude a musician plays an instrument. I guess Lord Wings almost immediately recognized my latent flying talents and became my mentor

When it was time for me to leave, Lord Wings donated to me my first battlebug, the vehicle that, to these days, I still pilot with greatest pleasure.

And by then I knew that flying would be my life



In the next episode ... Ralph's return to Caledon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Traveling Years

My family used to live in the family estate, on an island in the South of Caledon, but also had properties elsewhere: a palace in Steelhead, an apartment building and shops in New Babbage, a factory in Steeltopia, a private harbor in New Toulouse and country cottages in many other places. We can say I knew very well all the Victorian lands and Steamlands. To improve my knowledge of the world I wanted to visit different places.

My first destination was Antiquity and its seas. Antiquity is not totally different from the lands I was used to, but I was fascinated by the idea of meeting pirates. And indeed it was fun. Pirates are people that it is wise to stay away from when they are engaged in business, but nobody can deny they can make great drinking fellows and great friends (especially if you are wealthy enough to pay for all their drinks!). I sailed as a guest on board of several pirate ships and I also took part in some naval warfare practice. I visited other pirate areas, JabberwockBeek Haven (painfully lost in the recent great cataclysm), and the scary Armada. When the expectation arose that I would take part in some actual scavenging expedition, I decided it was time to move on.

Elves are rare in our society, but they were not uncommon to be met with in the dark forests of Winterfell where I grew up, so the Fantasy Lands were a natural destination of the next stage of my voyages. It was a fun and relaxing period. I slowly traveled the Fantasy Continent East to West, starting from the the lovely market of Faery Crossing, crossing the proper elven areas, (one cannot claim to know the spirit of the elves if one has not danced at the drum circle in ElvenGlen :) ) and all the way to the Isle of Wyrms, the land of the mighty dragons.

Many others have been the wonderful lands I discovered in my wanderings, where people lived their lives in many styles, but as more I traveled the more I heard stories and became curious about the big land masses known as Mainland.

I got a passage on a cargo airship and I was left on the shores of the so called Korean Canal, the portion of sea that separates the two branches of the Southern continent, near the village of Sternberg, where my mother's family came from. Sternberg was not so different from the places I had visited with it beautiful palace and its efficient underground network. Yet there was a very clear flavour that suggested that I was in a different world.
I soon moved inland and rented a small cottage in a little medieval village on the western branch of the continent to use as a base for my explorations. Mainland is amazing: it is so easy to discover the most incredible places near huge areas of wasteland. I traveled the continent North and South, East and West, and I met many friends and had some many remarkable adventures that shaped my experience. It was in this period that my latent passion for flight came to the surface and it was also during these years that I meet a guy that, years after my disappointment over Mordecai, I learned to truly call friend: Crotty. But these stories are worth their own chapter and will be told another time.

Not all the experiences have been so pleasant, and one of them, that will remain untold for the moment, forced me to move away from the Southern continent.

I moved to the oldest land of our world: Sansara, the original mainland. Sansara is a fascinating land: much less wild than the southern land and still so different from the countries of my childhood. So many different people and so many cultures all interleaved and living next to each other.

I worked for a while on the ferry connecting Sansara to the northern Atoll Continent. And after that I was for a while with the railroad company. I loved the trains. They reminded me so much of Caledon. I guess I was starting to become homesick.

This was about the time that I started to get messages from father about Harlow's behavior. My younger brother was on a dangerous path, spending more and more time with loose women and in gambling houses than in the family factory.

For a while I lived in Nautilus City, running a small seaplane service connecting the mainland with the far islands to the east of the Blake Sea. By that time flight had become my life and the idea to go back home and help Father run the business and work on new airship models I had started to fantasize about had a new appeal. One evening, after reading yet another letter from my father the decision was quickly taken: I shut down the seaplane service, packed and got on the first airship on its way to Caledon. I was full of enthusiasm and new ideas.

I did not know that as soon as I was home disaster would have occurred.

But this is for another time.


* Picture of the Seaplane by Lord Lisle, to whom go my thanks

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hello !

Greetings !
... and welcome to my pages.

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Ralph Montcalm. I am a pilot. A captain in the Royal Caledon Air Force, to be precise.

I was born into an old Caledonian family. My father is from the cadet branch of the Marquis Montcalm, and descendant of Admiral Jean-Alexandre Montcalm who had such a great role in establishing a large number of colonies. My mother died shortly after my younger brother, Harlow, was born.

Despite not being entitled to inherit the title, my father, Roger Montcalm, used to be a successful businessman in several branches of industry and was able to build an impressive fortune and being recognized as an influential member of the many communities he was part of. Unfortunately financial disaster hit badly in recent years. Tax rises together with some unfortunate investments brought the family to the edge of bankruptcy. All the properties had to be sold, at a great loss. My father moved to a small rental property on mainland, near mother's relatives, an unremarkable plot near the Korean canal.

I spent most of my youth growing up in the country family Cottage in the North of Winterfell. They say that magic is more common than steam in Northern Winterfell, and I am not going to comment on that :) . In any case, I loved the feeling there.

I graduated from the Oxbridge University. Those were fun, even if unremarkable, years. I remember with fondness my friendship with Mordecai Watson during those years, and I do miss his friendship, even if I cannot forgive him for the actions that took us on separate paths.

Unlike Harlow, I was never particularly fond of the family business, not even the airship branch that was one of the most important. Actually flying had never interested me too much during my younger years so, after graduation, I reached an agreement with my father to complete my education traveling the world and exploring lands and seas. Father told me that he hoped that, at least, my interests in new people and costumes would help the family enlarge the network of acquaintances.

So I started my travelling years. But that story is for next time

See you soon