Tale #9: The Stacks of Fulgrath
When the city of Fulgrath was planned and constructed around the academy between 251 GE and 312 GE, more Molotov Towers and so-called Cloud Stacks were constructed to the south-west, the latter of which were meant to vaporize large quantities of water harvested from the Eel Holes, small but incredibly deep bodies of water nearby, which connect to a vast underground supply. Generated clouds were agitated with lightning magic to create targeted lightning strikes into the Molotov Towers. The magical industrial revolution started two to three centuries earlier in Fulgrath compared to the other four cities of the Middle Lands, which started out with the invention of spell ink in the 9th century GE. In 350 GE already, the streets and houses of Fulgrath were powered by electric light, long before the invention of magus lamps that use fire magic spell ink mandalas. This proclivity for raw, only semi-magical invention made the culture and science of Fulgrath very appealing to Miyako Fluxum, which was founded in 125 GE after separating from Borealis during the Declaration of Existential Independence. After fostering good relations with Fulgrath for two centuries, around the 4th century GE, Miyako Fluxum declared Fulgrath an official partner city, and more extensive cultural and scientific exchanges were facilitated after that, including broader trade agreements, making Fulgrath one of the main suppliers of food stuffs and manufacturing for Miyako Fluxum.
"Well, well, step right up, boy!" the paunchy man said with a wide grin, holding his hand out to David. His voice was husky from all the tobacco the smell about him implied he smoked, and his wiry black hair had the odd grey one mixed in. His stubbly beard suggested he could use a visit to the barber, but his suit was as spick-and-span as his black shoes. Shyly, David stepped up and shook the man's hand. "Grip tighter next time, boy! People trust a manly grip, take it from someone who has made it to the top! Now come, walk with me, there's plenty of work to be done, and we best start as soon as possible." He guided David onward by the shoulder, and the two of them left the small office building by the outer west wall. From here, it was quite a brisk walk over to the lightning farm, but already the Cloud Stacks loomed in the distance, belching a white thicket into the sky. "So," the man said, "what's your name, boy?" "David," he replied quietly. "Speak up, will ya? It'll get much louder soon enough. Now, David, was it? You're here for your internship, I hear." "Yes, sir." "Well, good on ya! I'm Francis Gruber, head of this here outfit. The city runs on lightning, and I aim to supply. Now, do you know why your teachers suggested you intern here with me?" He gave David a wicked wink. "To gather practical experiences..." "Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe it is because I am a significant donor to the Grand Academy. In turn for that and supplying spots for internships, they send me over boys and girls like yourself. Young people with talent, you hear? I always need more mages to feed the towers, there are never enough. The city is just too large, you see. So I have my little deal with the academy, and they have their little deal with me. We're all a big, happy family, yes?" He beamed at David. "I suppose..." "Well, you suppose right, boy! Now, what do you know about these stacks and towers? Do they teach you the proper workings of a lightning farm over in that academy of yours?" "Yes, sir," David replied, glad the whole shmoozing had suddenly taken a more quiz-like turn. That, at least, he could handle. "The Molotov Tower was invented by-" "Blablabla, I know the history, kid." "Uh... it uses a large metal ball to attract lightning, which is fed into a high voltage capacitor. The Cloud Stacks generate artificial clouds above the lightning farm, which are charged by lightning mages. Or more accurately, the mages start the chain-reaction of charging the clouds up." "Yeah, you got your theory, boy, alright, great. And you can shoot lightning too, yeah?" "I suppose... If I am meant to charge the clouds, it won't look like I am doing that though," David cautioned, growing more uncomfortable with this whole arrangement by the minute. Something about Gruber unsettled him. "Great! Ah, we'll have a terrific time, boy, absolutely terrific. You'll get your practical experience; gears, I bet by the end of your internship you'll be able to shoot down a can at fifty paces." "Yes, sir..." David mumbled. The chatter went on for a while, but after a fast-paced stroll of no more than thirty minutes, they had finally arrived at the lightning farm. Molotov Towers and Cloud Stacks rose up before them like fairy chimneys, spewing clouds and sucking lightning. In the distance both to the left and right, David could see other mages, grown men and women by the look of them, stand at the edges of the lightning farm, holding their arms upraised and chanting the words of power they had learned at the Grand Academy of Fulgrath. The dark blanket looming above the unnatural forest cast a deep shadow over the land, engulfing both David and Gruber. "So," Gruber said, "you think you can do your thing here?" He waved over a man that had emerged from a small house-like cuboid attached to one of the Cloud Stacks. "I just... charge the clouds up ahead with electricity?" David asked nervously. "That's right. If you have any questions, just ask Hendrick here, he knows what's what in these parts," Gruber encouraged him, introducing Hendrick with an outstretched arm. Hendrick looked a bit younger than Gruber but was still a grown man compared to David. He wore a striped overall with purple and blue on it and a posh cap. "This the new one?" he asked calmly. "David's the name," Gruber explained jovially. "You'll take good care of him, right, Hendrick?" "Sure thing, boss," he replied, his face an impenetrable mask. "So, you ever spike a cloud before, David?" "Spike?" "It's just slang over here. It means charging it up." David shook his head. "Only in the metereologium." Hendrick shrugged his shoulders. "Same principle, I've been told. Just say your words and aim at the cloud cover up ahead. You're already in the right position. Output is down, so we'll need you to start right away. We've got a lot of demand today." David nodded, utterly uncertain of everything, his face pale and his brow sweaty. Gruber stepped back, as did Hendrick. "Well, boy," Gruber said encouragingly, "best get to it then." David focused, trying to block out the two men that scrutinized him. Staring at the clouds up ahead, he raised his arms and began speaking the words of power taught to him by the mages of the Grand Academy. As his chanting swelled, he saw flashes in the bulging clouds he was fixing with his stare, and a smile ran across his face. Then, something went wrong. Whether his focus had been broken for a moment or it had been a freak spike in charge, he could not tell, but the flow of his magic suddenly and violently turned against him, and he was struck blind as a mighty arc of lightning bent down from the heavens and felled him where he stood. His head was pounding as though a million bulls were raging inside, and his muscles were sore, all of them. In his nose he smelled singed flesh and thick ozone, and he couldn't see a thing even though his eyes were wide open. "I'm blind..." he croaked, "help..." As through pillows stuffed over his ears, he heard voices near by: "Can't believe... green... well get me a new one right away! ..." - "What... -out... ?" - "Have... the hospital... but first... ... need the workers..." The last words David heard clearly before passing out were these: "The city runs on lightning, and I aim to supply."