Mare Maleficium

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The Mare Maleficium

Introduction

The Adriatic, smashed by an asteroid impact near the Danish capital of Venice in 1744 AD.

The Adriatic is now a dangerous stretch of water, tormented by whirlpools, burning tornadoes, waterspouts and strange, vicious currents. Large sections are also boiling due to asteroid debris cooking on the sea floor.

Newsfax Entries

1743-1744 T207
Imperial Venice, the Skywatch Tower near the Arsenal, late spring 1744: Empress-Regent Claudia took the last of the narrow steps three at a time, her skirts gathered up around her thighs. She burst onto the rooftop observatory, two of her guardsmen panting at her back. A crowd of astronomers and scientists turned towards her and Claudia felt a chill drape across her shoulders. The faces were pale and taut, as if they had looked into an abyss of fire.

“Tell me,” she snapped. Time was ever short for the ruler of a vast empire, and no less for her, as she labored to keep her sister’s military expedition in the Middle East supplied.

There was no answer, but old Cassini raised his hand, pointing to the northeastern sky. Claudia produced a pair of spectacles and turned – then grew still. There was no need for spectacles. A pair of enormous lights hung in the sky, drowning the moon, washing out the stars.

“How long?” Claudia felt her heart seize up, her breath grow short.

“A day, perhaps.” Cassini turned to his assistant, Calvaire. The Frenchman shook his head sadly. “One is already shining red – we think friction heats such objects as they enter the ocean of air around our world.”

Claudia turned to her guardsmen. “What of Spielmann? Is there any word?”

“Yes,” gulped the lieutenant colonel. “A letter came just today – there is no gate he wrote, and the Yithians took him.”

“Damn!” Claudia looked back to the sky. “You old fools should have informed me days ago!” She bolted back down the stairs. “Get my son aboard an airship, right now!”

Destruction of Venice - 1744

Sixteen hours later the sky over Venice convulsed, a pressure wave thrown aside by the plunging asteroid shrieking down upon the city and the Veronan countryside. Zeppelins in flight – and there were many fleeing the doomed city – were slammed to earth, shredded beyond recognition. An enormous scream of distorted air roared out. The Adriatic flattened, then heaved, smashing ships like kindling. Nearly every building, church, warehouse and factory in Verona province was smashed to the ground by the supersonic blast.

Then the rock slammed into the Lagoon, and Venice and hundred mile radius vanished in a titanic explosion. The shallow waters vaporized, joining a mammoth blast of pulverized stone, rock, buildings, sea, docks and farmland. A secondary blast – this one heated to incinerating temperatures – roared out, annihilating everything in Verona, Lombardy, Savoy, Romagna, Illyria, Slovenia, and Carinthia. The bulkwark of the Italian alps blocked some of the raging inferno from Tyrol, but the surge of superheated air lapping over the mountains melted every glacier, snowpack and peak in the Alps.

Enormous floods roared down the valleys, inundating towns and drowning cities, carrying away hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. The lower mountains of the Italian alps also blocked some of the ravening blast from Liguria and Tuscany, but vast and widespread devastation afflicted those provinces as well. To the east, most of Croatia, Bakony and Slovakia were destroyed. Even the railroad – so newly finished! – into Slovakia was not spared, the bridges, trestles and way-bed smashed, buried or incinerated.

Worst, the impact threw up a vast cloud of dust and ash into the upper air. While a rain of burning stones would fall across Europe for the next three months, the spreading stain in the sky soon blocked out the sun. A dreadful cloud joined the faint brown smudge already clogging the higher reaches of the sky – the detritus of the Olathöe explosion.

Claudia, her scientists and her family – attempting to flee across the barrier of the Alps by zeppelin – were killed when the stormfront rolled across their aerial convoy and tore them all to bits. Not one airship survived, even the Grand Baklovakian which had been carrying the Imperial family to safety.

1745–1746 T208
Danish Empire: Prince Timman, the duke of Holland, led a small army south across the Alps and into the Desolation of Venice. There he and his men, and a sizable contingent of scientists and learned men from the University of Munich, found a horrific scene like none they had ever imagined. Despite terrible privations and torments – hallucinations, the constant threat of death, the soul-crushing knowledge they walked on the remains of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children – they did reach the edge of the Mare Maleficium and look upon a sea tormented by submerged fires, great smokes and whirlpools.

1769-1770 T220
Republic of Denmark: Amid all of this, the First Minister outraged his clerks, ministers and the Senate by taking a jaunt into the Mare Maleficium (the Venice maelstrom) with a squadron of steam cruisers, zeppelins and the insanely-dangerous Albanian submersible. Rumor held the Minister was searching for a "mystery ship" of awesome ability. At the end of 1770, however, the entire fleet returned, empty handed.

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