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Pegasus Class Airshipsby James Ruhland
After the completion of the first Devil Ray in AC 1017, the Thyatian Senate baulked at the extravagant expense and refused to fund additional models in that Class. Emperor Eusebius, using the revenues of the Duchy of Thyatis, managed to finance the construction of another Devil Ray built at the Borydos Naval Proving Grounds, but after that even he accepted that such Airships were not an efficient use of funds. While significantly less expensive than a fully fitted Alphatian Man of War (I), they were far more expensive than recruiting numerous dragons would be, for example. The Thyatian government began to remember why earlier Emperors had preferred mounted Air Cavalry to prestigious but expensive skyships in the first place.
Never the less, the Imperial General Staff recognised the utility of Airships, especially in a combined arms role to enhance the effectiveness of other troops, and for strategic mobility. RAF and Knights of the Air forces had always been more mobile than many of foreign critics unfamiliar with their operational capabilities knew. With the use of Teleport Circles, Worldwalk spells, and Gates, RAF and KoA units were often able to reach distant areas quicker than an Alphatian Skyship could and be ready to fight. This, indeed, was how Thyatian aerial forces were able to quickly intercept skyships when they were detected encroaching on Imperial territories, and the danger even the depleted RAF posed after the Final War caused the skyship sent by Eriadna to contact Tredorian to steer clear of Thyatian territory, as the Thyatians were too good at destroying such costly vessels.
But the Empire's General Staff recognised that Gates could also be used to move skyships that were small enough, and that recruiting or breeding additional aerial mounts would take time, their not being sufficient numbers available to replace Thyatian losses as quickly as the Empire wanted, at any price. So while the Empire continued to build up its Air Cavalry forces (RAF and KoA), they also decided to design another Airship, the Pegasus, to be built at Borydos Naval Proving Grounds.
Unlike the Sky Dromond and the Devil Ray, the Pegasus was not to be a "ship of the line". Sky Dromonds would continue to be constructed (at Terentias and Thyatis City) to fill that role. The Pegasus, built at Borydos Naval Proving Ground, was to be different, and serve as the workhorse of the Thyatian Airship Fleet. The stipulations were that it be small, inexpensive, and capable of transporting a decade (squad) of troops. Instead of putting large numbers of troopers in one expensive vessel, they would be transported by large numbers of smaller ships. These Airships were to be capable of fighting aerial battles, but not primarily intended for such use. Likewise, they were to be able to strike ground targets, in support of land forces.
The Pegasus is a ship-shaped vessel, approximately 10' wide at the beam and 30' long at the keel. It is enchanted with Fly (rather than Float in Air) to give it better mobility and lower crew requirements. It has two crew members, the pilot and the weapon master, who is usually armed with a Wand of Lightning Bolts and a Wand of Fireballs. The ship itself bears an automatic ballista, firing through a porthole in the prow of the ship (aimed groundward and to the fore) that can be fired by both crew members. It is capable of transporting 10 soldiers and their equipment.
It consists of one "section", Woodwall enchanted with Fly (+20%), for an enchantment cost of 26,000 gp (not including spellcaster cost). At that price, over 100 Pegasus class Airships can be built for the cost of a single Devil Ray and in the same amount of time, with the Pegasi able to transport almost ten times as many troops - though without accommodations for mounts. It's size is still small enough to fit through the portal generated by a Gate spell, so it can be deployed alongside Air Cavalry and other troops moved in such a manner. There are hatches on each side of the Pegasus that can be opened to allow troops to disembark from the side, and also a drop ramp in the stern to allow them to exit there when they deploy "dirtside". They can also fight from the ship's deck.
While each Pegasus is fragile when compared with a large skyship, they are intended to be deployed in swarms and fight alongside other forces. It is not their mission to go toe-to-toe with skyships. Thyatis has the RAF, KoA, and now Sky Dromonds and Devil Rays for that task, and units embarked on Pegasi are usually supported by them. When fighting embarked on the ship, several troopers will fight above deck and the others below deck. More commonly, however, they are flown to battle and "dismount" to engage the enemy, with the Pegasus being used to provide aerial mobility in a manner not too dissimilar to that of lancers mounted on real pegasi, who might fire arrows while in flight and then soar to ground level to spear their foes.
A modified version, made of Ironwall instead of Woodwall and with the same modified version of the Travel (+20%) spell as was used for the Devil Ray replacing the Fly enchantment. This gives it greater independent mobility and makes it harder to hit than the normal Pegasus, but more than doubles the price, to 53,400 gp in enchanting costs. These versions are being developed as "interceptors" and are intended for use against other skyships, fighting in squadrons, usually alongside RAF and KoA flights and armed with a pair of automatic ballistae and will carry crews of 6, the pilot, weapon master, and 4 gunners. They are also intended for use on special missions where their attributes would be helpful, and a ballista can be removed and the normal complement of 12, two crew and ten troopers, carried.
As of AC 1018, the Pegasus has not entered Imperial service, but vessels are under construction. It will take until AC 1020 for it to be incorporated into Imperial forces and units reorganised to employ it, with at least 100 examples of the Pegasus and 40 of the Super Pegasus on order. There are differences of opinion over how it should be used, with some arguing that they should be assigned permanently to specific units, while others propose that they be attached to units as needed. There are good arguments on both sides, with some saying permanent assignment to a unit will allow that unit to attain greater expertise in their use, but the attachment method will allow greater flexibility. Most likely they will be used to move infantry elements of Thyatian elite forces, but even this is as yet undetermined and experiments are also underway in using them to transport mounted units as well as infantry.