Release the Quacken! Vehicle in The World of Cartyrion | World Anvil

Release the Quacken!

A fearsome sight, when first we saw it come out of the fog, I'll tell ye... Smoke, fire, and destruction blazin' from its nostrils, hurlin' iron shot down on us from above... its huge wings unfurled to catch the wind... the blazin' glare of them red eyes starin' down at us. Lucky fer us ol' Pegleg kept enough wits to fire the catapult. One hit with a fireglob and the whole thing burst into flame. In five minutes, there was nothin' left but bits of burnt timbers, and dozens of gnomes thrashin' about in the water lookin' fer somethin' to grab onto.
— Tyrnabay pirate's recount of the fate of Quacken I
The pirates of Tyrnaby have been a scourge upon the seas for hundreds of years. To the Folk who make their livings sailing the waters of the Inner Sea, as well as the merchants whose goods travel between the kingdoms, they are a constant threat. The Traders Guilds, the Grand Dukes of Eastguard and Elvenpass, and even the King of the First Kingdom have long offered rich rewards for anyone who could devise a weapon, vessel, or whatever to clear the Inner Sea of these menaces. One day, a Gnomish engineer by the name of Billiflower Blagnigoop decided he could meet this challenge, and the vision of the Quacken was born.

The Vision

When Billiflower decided to take up the challenge of designing a vessel that could take on the pirates, his first thought was to turn the tides of fear upon the buccaneers that had for so long sowed terror in the hearts of merchant sailors. Just the sight of his vessel needed to make the pirates cower. Thus, he based his design around the thing that terrified him the most: the sight of a fearless, irate waterfowl charging unrelentingly. His first thought was to emulate a goose, but the long neck would introduce problems. He settled instead on a creature still quite fearsome in his mind - the mallard duck.

His duck would be huge, though... the size of a seagoing vessel. Its wings would become sails to catch the wind. Its raised head and neck would form a fo'c'sle (forecastle) with Gnome-deesigned Blasterpipes set into the nostrils. The neck would be articulated, allowing it to dip downward to ram an enemy vessel or act as a boarding ramp. Another Gnomish engineering marvel, the Steambelly, would power paddles resembling webbed feet hidden beneath the vessel so it would not rely on wind alone for propulsion.

At first, the non-Gnomish around him thought the idea of a giant fighting duck to be quite silly. Nevertheless, BIlliflower managed to convince the small but enthusuastic Guild of Engineers in Siren's Point (almost exclusively composed of Gnomes) to finance and construct the vessel.

The Visionary

Billiflower Blagnigoop grew up in a village in the marshy lowlands surrounding the small bay just northwest of Siren's Point in the Grand Duchy of Eastguard. His family was one of many in the village that made its living tending waterfowl that made their homes in the spring-fed freshwater marshes that fed the bay. From the time he could walk, ducks, geese, and swans were a key part of his life.

Despite his family's livelihood depending on tending the flocks, Billiflower had a deep-seated fear of these creatures. Most likely the result of an encounter gone horribly wrong while he was still a toddler, to him, the most fearsome sight in all the world was that of an angrily quacking goose charging at him to defend its young. This phobia would eventually inspire his vision of a fearsome opponent to the pirates that harassed trade ships that the lands depended on.

The Vision Realized

The Guild of Engineers secured an abandoned drydock at the edge of Siren Point's shipyards and began the work of turning Billiflower's plans into reality. At first, any who saw the construction assumed it was just another merchant ship being built; its oddly-shaped, wide hull obviously being intended for lots of cargo space. When that space was suddenly filled with a pair of huge tank-like objects made of heavy iron plates, though, people began to wonder.


This is a contraption of Gnomish design. A large tank of heavy metal plates has two internal spaces: a firebox and a water boiler. The firebox is fed with wood, coal, or even magical fire, the adjacent water tank is heated and steam produced. Pipes and valves allow that steam to be vented off to do something else; other pipes admit more water. The Quacken's Steambellies were the largest ever built by Guild members; the steam drove wheels that in turn moved rods connected to paddles that could propel the ship.
It wasn't until the hull took shape, and the neck-and-head forecastle was framed that the jokes among the onlookers begain. Nobody knows the identity of the punster that coined the name "Quacken", but soon even the Engineers were using it to refer to their creation. Reluctant at first, even Billiflower eventually embraced the name.

Final, Fateful Touches

As the ship neared completion, Billiflower became obsessed with the need to ensure that the craft resembled the giant waterfowl it was designed to resemble. The standard wood planking and framing wouldn't do, even if painted. After a brainstorming session, the Engineers all agreed on a solution.
They would procure a vast supply of mallard duck feathers which would be glued to the outer skin of the ship. They even reasoned that, as duck feathers repelled water, this would help form a water-tight seal around the hull. A waterproof glue devised by one of the engineers was use, and eventually the entire ship was covered with feathers. Billiflower's vision of a giant, menacing duck, over 100ft (30m) long, 60ft (18m) wide, and 30ft (9m) above the waterline had become reality.

First (and Final) Voyage

The Quacken was launched amid great fanfare provided by the Guild of Engineers, and more than a little laughter by the majority of Folk in Siren's Point. But it was seaworthy. Steambellies billowing white and black smoke from stacks sticking out of the back of the giant waterfowl, it propelled itself away from the docks before the crew - mostly the Gnomish engineers, with a few Goblin sailors hired on - hauled on the ropes that unfolded the "wings" from the vessel's back. The Quacken sailed off in this manner, resembling a gigantic bird trying to take wing.


This was a weapon of Gnomish design that consisted of a large, thick-walled metal tube closed at one end. A canvas packet of grainy material the Gnomes called "Boompowder", and whose recipe remains a closely guarded secret, is stuffed into the tube as far as it will go. Some form of projectile is then pushed into the tube and tightly rammed against the Boompowder packet.

The first projectiles were heavy ballista bolts, with shafts thick enough to fill the tube, but recent experiments with large stones or iron balls have been promising. The device is fired by first poking a sharpened rod down a narrow hole drilled through the tube's wall near the plugged end. Loose boompowder is poured into this hole, then fire is touched to the powder at the top of the hole.

The result is a loud "boom", and either a rapidly propelled projectile, or a cloud of shrapnel if the metal tube itself bursts from the pressure.
Its first voyage was intended to be merely a shakedown, but the apperance of a ship flying the flag of the Raging Storm changed things. The Storm was one of the most dangerous of all the Tyrnabay pirate companies; the Gnomes aboard the Quacken decided to see just how formidable their creation was. Calling for "full steam", the ship turned toward the pirates and began rapidly closing the gap. Gunners in the forecastle loaded their Blasterpipes.

As soon as they were within range, the Blasterpipes fired. Both projectiles missed their marks, but the sight of a giant mallard belching flame from its nostrils was doing its job of frightening the pirates. But while most were standing and gaping at this horrific "beast" closing down on them, one managed to get the courage to fire back. A catapult lofted a fireglob projectile through the air that caught the Quacken squarely in its "chest".

The Gnomes quickly realized the folly of their last-minute decision regarding the feather covering of the ship. The glue that secured the feathers was highly flammable, and the feathers themselves - being filled with natural oils to provide their waterproof nature - were nearly as combustible. It took only minutes for the flames to spread from the fireglob to cover the entire Quacken. It took only a few more minutes for the ship to burn through, disintegrating into piles of burning timbers as it did, and depositing its Gnomish and Goblin crew into the waters of the Great Sea. For their part, the pirates decided that nothing was salvageable, so they simply sailed away.

The Future

Miraculously, BIlliflower and almost the entire crew survived and were soon picked up by a passing merchant ship. Unfazed, the Engineers Guild immediately started work on planning the Quacken II, vowing to correct their flammability oversight, and perhaps adding more Blasterpipes.

The folk of Siren's Point now await the launching of the Quacken II, or "Son of Quacken" as some call it. Meanwhile, the prizes offered by the crowned heads of the kingdoms remain unclaimed.


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