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“That it could.  So his majesty has asked me to come up with some kind of defense against them.”

“Against dragons, sir?  No wonder the king has put priority on this.  Not even the smartest of gnomes could hope to come up with a defense against dragons.  How could he expect a humble division such as yours to do so?”

“It is quite daunting, isn’t it?” Manfred gazed dreamily off into the nether realms. “Perhaps I might be able to come up with something.”

“Like what?  What could face a dragon in the air?  Even small dragons are dangerous in the air.” Kennison lit another lamp to help alleviate some of the gloom of the office, and then set about building a fire in the fireplace.  The last rays of the sun were disappearing over the mountains and the lights of the gnomish town of Glennford were coming on.

“Yes, and according to the intel these are big enough for elves to ride.” Manfred stared out the window, watching the clouds that were colored orange by the setting sun.

“Really,sir?”

“Really.  Do you know how big a dragon has to be for an elf to ride one?”

“No, sir.”

“Neither do I, but I’m sure it has to be pretty big.  Maybe we could make big spear guns, like the humans use when they hunt whales.  Whales are pretty big, aren’t they, Kennison?” Manfred watched the clouds as they formed shapes in the sky while he considered the problem.  Perhaps it was because he was thinking of the human whale hunters, but one of the clouds had come to resemble one of the human ships that wandered the oceans of Alongrid.  If only real ships could travel the skies as easily.

“Yes, sir. Quite large.  But even if you made these big spear guns, the sky isn’t like the ocean.  What’s to stop these dragonriders from flying over out of range and dropping bombs on your gunners?”

Kennison was right, of course.  He needed some way to take the fight to the dragons, regardless of how high they could fly.  That meant he needed to invent a flying machine of some sort.  Maybe one that could carry spear guns.  Not big ones, but maybe a lot of small ones.  He could see the beginnings of an invention forming in his mind’s eye.  It would resemble one of the small human boats, and he would call it an airship.  Now he just needed to find something that would carry his airship into the sky, like water carried a human ship.

Manfred watched the Kennison as he poked the logs that were blazing in the fireplace.  Glowing sparks floated upward on the hot air from the burning logs and Manfred Pennigig began to get an idea.

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