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Lichcraftby John Calvin
A lichcraft (sometimes also referred to as a lichship) appears to be a normal sailing vessel with the yellowed, decaying bones of a dragon built into its keel. The neck and head, forelegs, and portions of the once great beast's ribcage can be seen sticking out of the ship's bow, while it's hips and rear legs form the aft of the vessel. The spine runs along the centre of the deck, leading to a tail that forms an aft jib sail. All masts are removed from the deck and replaced with the dragon's wings, to port and starboard. The wings are aligned perpendicular to the plane of the ship so that any sails strung on them might better catch the wind.
All of the bones on a lichcraft are bound in place with cold iron. The spine is bolted to the ship's deck, and the tail held straight with supporting bars on three sides. Neck bones are aligned in the shape of a tight 'S' and bound fast to the deck, while the legs fore and aft are braced in an outstretched fashion allowing the ship to land on firm ground. The wings, base of the tail, and head are not bound and can move in a limited fashion.
The wooden frame and hull of a lichcraft, along with any other material used in its construction, always appears ancient with age. Rot and decay permeates the air around the vessel. This often leaves passengers ill at ease, although they suffer no other detrimental effects.
A lichcraft is in actuality a captured and bound dracolich, forced into service by some maleficent wizard. As such the dracolich provides lift for the airship, as well as a modicum of motive force, however the extra weight of the ship bound to its bones prevents the dracolich of attaining the flight speeds that it would if it were unencumbered. Oftentimes additional sails are bound to the ships tail and wings providing for increased speeds when wind conditions are favourable. The advanced, and constant, state of decay on these vessels means that they dare not land in water (although the dracolich would no doubt survive such a landing), lest the innards of the ship be swept away.
The process of creating such a vessel also binds the dracolich's will to its phylactery, and to whomever has possession of the artifact. The amount of control that can be exerted on the creature varies from ship to ship, based mostly on the skill of the wizard who created it. Ultimately the dracolich determines all ship movement, however those bound properly are subjugated to the mental commands of their owners. Such commands are issued through the lich's phylactery which must be in the physical possession of the ship's master. A dracolich is always looking for the opportunity to escape its servitude, and as such it may contest control with one not powerful, or not cunning enough to control it. Should a dracolich ever gain its freedom, its first act would be to smash its bonds (and the ship as well) and attack the one who imprisoned it.
Although weapons can be mounted to the ship normally, typically the most powerful weapon on board is the dracolich's breath. The creature can be directed to fire this at any target in a forward arc. In addition, although the creatures legs are normally bound to prevent movement, it's claws are typically left free. A lich ship that comes close enough to another vessel can attempt to grapple with that vessel or rend it with its claws.
The first recorded instance of a lichcraft on Mystara was the vessel Fyrrixal, created in BC 637 by the Alphatian wizard Razmoun. Records are unclear as to whether the technique for creating such vessels hail from Old Alphatia or were crafted by combining Alphatian and ancient Thothian arts, however several similar ships were built shortly thereafter. No new instances of lichcrafts have been reported since BC 394. By that time many dragons of the era had already heard tales of the promises of immortality by Alphatian wizards and the ultimate fate of those who listened to them.
Fyrrixal - The first lichcraft crafted on Mystara, Fyrrixal played a prominent role in early Alphatian empire building, and saw most use against the native Yannifey peoples. The dracolich gained control of the vessel in BC 521 upon the death of Razmoun, and crashed itself into the side of a mountain. With Razmoun dead, his bonds broken, and his phylactery in his possession, Fyrrixal fled Alphatia. To this day, strange and unexplained devastations are still attributed to this fiend, said to be bent on the destruction of the empire that once made him a slave. Every few centuries some foolhardy wizard quests for the dracolich's phylactery and the chance to once again recreate the great ship. None of them are ever seen again.
Malthondur and Draslytnie - In life these blue wyrm siblings terrorised the deserts of Thothia. Already ancient when the Alphatians arrived on Mystara, they were easily persuaded to accept the gift of lichdom. That gift quickly became their curse, as brother and sister became the flagships of the Alphatian sky navy. Draslytnie's fate remains unknown. She was lost off the coast of Thyatis during the Thyatian rebellion of BC 1. Malthondur has remained in the empire's possession since then, although the ship is erratic and difficult to control. In fact Malthondur has gone quite insane due to the duration of his imprisonment and the loss of his sister.
Dverithon - One of the last lichcrafts to be created, Dverithon has passed through many hands and is currently controlled by the Blackheart mage Alketh. Unique among lichcrafts, Dverithon does not view his fate as a curse, but rather as a blessing. He is more powerful with the additional mages on board than he would be otherwise, and his current master has goals similar to his own. In fact it is difficult to tell who is really in control, the mage or Dverithon. The two have spent the last several centuries capturing and torturing other dragons, performing experiments on them designed to strengthen the lichcraft itself. Their latest acquisitions are a pair of gold dragon wing membranes, torn from their previous owner and now furled proudly from Dverithon's bony digits.