Tephra, above all else, is a steampunk world. Its technologies are often grounded upon Victorian principles, but the scientists of Tephra have taken things further. Much, much further. Airships now fill the skies, trains haul resources across the vastness of the continent, automatons mine minerals and act as bodyguards, alchemists create liquids and substances that both heal and destroy, and even more misunderstood sciences are coming out of the shadows like bio-flux and essence manipulation.
Aether has been both a blessing and curse to Rilausia since its first wide-spread use during the Hurricane Wars. It enabled Paldorus to hold the line against the coastal invasions of the ayodin and kept them from flanking Evanglessian forces several times, but also poisoned the land of Paldorus from the radiation emitted by their first form mechanisms, causing the nation to go pirate en masse. From weaponization, to power boosts for engines, to the the engines of steamer-class automatons, aether has rapidly changed the face of war and technology in the last fifteen years.
In its simplest form aether is a particle gathered by an aether resonator using radio waves. Applying light to aether causes it to super-heat instantly until the gathered aether has burnt itself out, though it will not spread to diffused particles around it. Gathering aether does not produce heat in and of itself though when performed in daylight a small amount occurs. Aether weapons typically have light emitters installed in the aperture and fire the gathered material in tight beams. In engines, specifically steamer automatons, aether forms the core of the boiler, heating the water around it to produce the steam needed for locomotion. A small amount of coal or other fuel and a bit of light sets the aether core to racing.
Though new and improved aether resonators have eliminated the radiation flaw which caused the downfall of Paldorus, the technology is still rare and viewed with no small amount of suspicion by the common people of Rilausia. Despite it all though aether is slowly making its way across the continent and is leaving nothing but marvels in its wake.
Lighter-than-air vehicles have been around for over 40 years. For many years, they were limited in their capabilities and mainly toys for scientists and rich merchants rather that cost effective means of transportation. It wasn’t until the Hurricane Wars, when the seas were no longer safe for ocean-based shipping, that airships truly came into the public spotlight.
It started off with dirigibles being used for long terms scouting, but as the technology rapidly improved with military funding, they took on larger and larger roles. Soon airships were being used to commonly haul supplies and troops all around Rilausia. Yet lighter-than-air vehicles have some significant limitations. The two largest of these being the vulnerability of the gas filled bags and their lack of control in bad weather. The ayodin armies took advantage of these limitations by using mysterious flyers of their own, simply referred to as rays. These airships had no visible forms of lift and simply seemed to defy gravity. Under the onslaught of these rays, Evangless, Tordryon and other coastal nations were soon forced to give up their ports to advancing forces. Things were looking grim until ayodin deserters worked with Evanglessian scientists to develop the same technology that powered the ayodin rays. This technology was based off the use of very rare stones that have become known as graviton spheres.
Graviton spheres are made of a strange metallic substance that is so dense that it creates its own gravitational field. At rest, this field causes their mass to be so extreme that massive machinery is required to lift them. However, when spun, the stones act against Tephra’s gravitational field, causing them to rise. By integrating graviton spheres into airships, they could act as backups for traditional lighter-than-air vehicles, or even replace them altogether if enough power could be supplied to keep them rapidly spinning.
The surface nations quickly jury-rigged existing air and ocean vessels with this new technology and put them to work. Within two years, craft specifically designed to incorporate graviton spheres into their design began being deployed into wartime service. With the playing field leveled, and the superior resources of the surface, the ayodin were slowly pushed back to the sea.
Now, nearly 10 years since the end of the Hurricane Wars, airships have become a major form of transportation and trade around the world. Ocean-going vessels never regained their former glory, and the reliance on set railways for trains has allowed the airship to flourish. They can be found hauling raw goods, acting as merchants, transporting people from town to town, and serving in the military. In the cities, hundreds of airships come and go each day. To many, an airship mean freedom.
Graviton spheres at first appearance are flawless dark metallic spheres, and while all gravitational spheres are nearly identical in appearance, the spheres can be found in various size (although finding one larger than 8” is extremely rare). Occasionally witnesses claim to have seen meteors falling from the sky and found graviton spheres in their craters, however none of these claims have ever been scientifically substantiated. Yet, nearly all graviton spheres are mined, how they arrived or were originally formed is a mystery that science yet to discover.
The true value of the stones comes from their unusual interactions with gravity. While at rest, they weigh an extreme amount, requiring massive machinery to lift and move. Yet once a spin has been placed on the sphere, its anti-gravity field will grow stronger and stronger in relation to its rotational velocity. Even at low rotations per minute, the sphere negates its own weight. Increasing the rotations further will cause it to counteract Tephra’s gravitational field and rise. A side effect of the anti-gravity field is that anything within a few feet of the sphere (how far depends on the size of the sphere) is also subject to the anti-gravity, thus working on Graviton Sphere engines can be quite tricky.
While Graviton Sphere technology has gotten to the point that it is safe enough for use by most trained mechanics, letting a graviton sphere stop spinning can quickly be the death of you and the destruction of anything it is attached to.
Automated humanoid machines have been around for almost a century and a half, ever since Velkya and her ayodin assistant first began building hulking steam-powered automatons to assist in their building projects. Of course, basic automatons have been around for much longer than that, though those automatons were often little more than human-looking machines that could replicate simple actions such as tapping on a piano or moving their hands in a certain pattern. Velkya and the many prestigious inventors that soon followed her radically pushed automaton technology to what it is today.
The most common automatons come in three categories, all based on their power-source. Steam-powered automatons are the oldest automatons. Until recently, they were large and difficult to control, requiring enormous amounts of coal to fuel their large boilers. Since Deylus Luthricien implemented aether-boilers inside steam-powered automatons, steamers have become significantly leaner and easier to control. They now use radio-based remote controls to alter the aether resonators inside the steamers. They are the most common, especially following the Evanglessian Civil War, in which the Royalists used full armies of them to defend themselves.
Clockworks have become much more common in the past few decades, especially as analytical engines have truly caught on. Clockwork automatons are entirely reactive and have to be programmed to comprehend and respond to certain situations. Full humanoid clockworks are fairly rare, but nobles and entrepreneurs use them as guards and simple laborers.
Electric-powered automatons, coloquially called Fuse Boxes, were invented by the Hazards not long after Velkya built her first hulking steam-powered automatons. They have by far the most advanced systems, as fuse boxes are almost sentient. They are able to perceive their environment, function without aid, and can make their own decisions. They're quite delicate, but fuse boxes are the automatons that most resemble a sentient race. They are quite expensive, however, and can be very fragile compared to the other automatons.
There are a few other automaton models that exist, though they are signficantly rarer. Some rare automatons use only aether as their power-source, rather than using aether to heat a boiler. Some enormous clockwork automatons known as wind-ups have become common in large factories, as they can be wound and then used for large tasks. In Bael, they've reinvented fuse boxes to use natural gasoline's and chemicals to power them, calling them guzzlers. And though they're quite rare and considered entirely illegal, there are a handful of automatons known as simulacrons that are powered through essence, making them as close to normal Tephrans as an automaton can get.
Magnets have long been know for their properties to attract metals, however it wasn't until the aether revolution and the discovery of graviton spheres, that the technology came along to alter a magnet's properties to be far beyond anything naturally found. This led to the creation of some revolutionary technologies, especially in the nation of Tordryon which quickly embraced Magnetech despite the expense required to produce it.
To create magnets powerful enough to be used in Magnetech technology, traditional magnetite must be gathered, refined and melted down. Once melted down, it is poured into an overlapping anti-gravity field of two graviton spheres, which causes the floating molten ore to rapidly re-align it’s molecular structure. It is then poured into a tank and a graviton sphere is let spin down above it, greatly compressing the ore below. It is then rapidly re-heated with aether, and the process is gone through again. Depending on the strength of the magnet needed, this can sometimes be repeated over a hundred times.
While steam power became common through locomotives and the steam engines aboard ships, it reached extraordinary heights when the founder of Evangless, Velkya Luthricien, rapidly advanced steam power and the technologies of the world. In Varsylis, she built her enormous "steam ring," an enormous wall of steam that surrounds the city. In Aldamiir, she proved that the proper application of steam engines could produce a flying city. Later, she would create hulking automatons powered by steam that could do her bidding. Today, with the advent of aether technology, steam has been taken to an even higher level.
With concentrated aether super-heating the steam for surprisingly little energy, steam power has been used to create sleeker automatons, light steam carriages, and is even being used in airships all across the globe. Gadgets and trinkets of all sizes have started using pressurized steam for power, great industries are powered through steam, and you can't walk through a modern city without seeing the hissing steam vents that prove that in Tephra, steam is king.