Lorelei kept watch from the deck of the steamship. It was impossible to constantly be on alert, but some level of caution was necessary. The wards generally kept away sea monsters, but they weren’t perfect. Otherwise, there would have been no need for sea routes between the dwarven homeland and Cruonia.
The wards were a combination of many things that kept away most sea creatures most of the time. Lorelei appreciated the work that must have gone in to put together. It would have required multiple excursions with people returning to report on what types of sea monsters attacked, then testing countermeasures.
However, just because the formations worked in most cases to protect the dwarves on their travel routes didn’t mean it would be perfect when travelling to new places. There could be different things that lived in different waters. William had told her what he knew about what the wards could repel. It covered many things like giant sharks, shipwrecker whales, several varieties of giant squid, and a number of varieties of barnacles that would eat through a normal hull- or even a metal coated one in some cases. The list went on, but it didn’t cover everything. Kraken, colossal crabs, and sea hydras were among those not covered. The crabs were only a danger in more shallow waters as they only roamed the sea floor. Sea hydras were more mobile than their land counterparts, and actually capable of swimming up to the surface- where they would often latch onto ships and eat the sailors on top.
The biggest danger from any sea creatures, however, came not as a threat to the crew, but to the ship itself. There weren’t many weapons good for attacking undersea creatures. Cannons were laughable underwater. Harpoons were the best, and the dwarves even had kindly left them some harpoon guns. Even so, it was rather hard to fight creatures directly under the ship. Lorelei supposed it was possible to create places to stab monsters with spears through the hull… but that would create structural weaknesses and likely lead to more trouble than it was worth, even ignoring the intrusion of water. Lorelei did have some magic in mind that might help, but the best option would be to avoid conflict altogether.
So far all of the trips had been pretty uneventful. The ship would go out for a few weeks, covering as much area as possible, then return to port to refuel. The ships weren’t exactly the most efficient things, but Lorelei doubted that sails would much help. Though, it was something worth looking into.
While testing the dwarven ships, the fuel efficiency had been much worse. Part of that was just a misunderstanding of what was required- but the biggest part was the type of coal used. It wasn’t standard coal, but magic infused. That gave it more energy per weight, which made it actually possible to travel longer distances. Minimizing what magical formations were active and thus their drain of the energy was also important. That was why spotting potential enemies before they attacked was important, because the reinforcement formations weren’t active.
After several months of going out to sea and finding nothing but more sea then returning to port, Lorelei wasn’t expecting much. At least she had time to ponder over the formations on the ships, thinking of ways to improve performance or efficiency. The occasional sea monster attack broke the sameness, but usually those only lasted long enough to scratch up the hull before a harpoon or two made the creatures realize they would rather go find something easier to eat.
There were also some incidents with large shadows in the ocean below… and while some of them had probably just been dark spots at least one had moved beneath the ship. Lorelei postulated that it had been a giant turtle, based on the shape of the shadow.
When the call of “land, ho!” finally came, Lorelei was surprised.They were certainly far enough from Cruonia that the area hadn’t been explored, but after so much nothing any island was something special. As they approached closer, it became clear that it was even a rather large island. It was covered in lush jungle which gradually sloped up to one side, presumably with the island itself.
The ship approached cautiously, wary of sandbars and coral reefs, before dropping anchor and proceeding toward shore in a few dinghys. Lorelei didn’t anticipate needing many soldiers, but having a half dozen wouldn’t be amiss. They pulled the dinghys up onto the beach so they wouldn’t wash away, then proceeded into the jungle.
“Watch for snakes.” Lorelei cautioned. While most creatures would be wary of a group, a snake was likely to hide and attack if something came close enough for it to feel threatened. Whether or not a snake could injure someone in armor was a different question, but snakes were the most likely threat. There could be wild boar or various types of magical beasts, but those would be more easily spotted.
As a precaution, Lorelei continuously hummed, using magic to create a weak barrier to keep away insects. It took relatively little effort, and if it prevented a poisonous bite or a new exotic disease from being contracted, it was worth it. Besides, it was also practice.
While Lorelei might have liked to comb the whole islands for new animals or different species, that wasn’t the purpose of the trip. Instead, they spent a few hours trudging through the jungle up toward the highest point… where Lorelei could confirm that it was a volcanic island. That was useful for making an other outpost, assuming it was managed properly. Siphoning off energy from a volcano gave a large source of power, but of course brought with it some risks. Mostly during the process of setting up such siphons. If the process was done properly, it could actually reduce the probability of an eruptions- but it could just as easily set one off early if done improperly. Regardless, Lorelei didn’t need to worry about that at the moment. She just took notes on the general size and shape of the island, as well as logging its position. It was nice to be involved in the first bit of discovery in recent times. She found that the gevai and humans had been far too focused on fighting over their own lands and afraid of trying to explore. She couldn’t speak for the humans… but they would get the chance eventually. Once they purchased information on the formations necessary to avoid monsters… or put in the effort to come up with their own.