Sky ships were flying vessels used during the First and Third Ages of Flight. They were the primary means of transport and trade in the Edgeworld.
Sky Ships during the First Age
First Age sky ships were constructed of wood and resembled 17th century sailing ships. In the center of the vessel, a flight-rock was used to maintain buoyancy. The equilibrium could be changed by heating or cooling the rock, where heating it would cause it to sink, and cooling it would cause it to rise. On top of this, to counteract any excess buoyancy, weights of varying masses were hung from the sides. These were used to better control the ship's movement, on top of the sails, which were used to manipulate the ship's direction, and speed according to the wind. Atop the mast was the Caternest, which served as a lookout post.
Sky ships came in many varieties. Some, like sky pirate ships and stormchasers, were sleek and fast, with large, high-quality flight-rocks. Some, like sky ferries and sky barges, were tiny, two- or three-seaters with miniscule flight-rocks. Most League ships were massive, cumbersome vessels, with multiple flight rocks or a flight-rock rubble cage.
During the First Age of Flight, sky ships played a crucial role in Edgeworld commerce. Due to the danger of traveling across the Twilight Woods and the Mire, transporting goods between Undertown and the Deepwoods over the ground was almost impossible. Thus, most exports were carried on sky ships. When Stone-Sickness attacked the Edge in 39 ᴇ.ʏ., sky ships ceased to function, and the politics and trade of the Edge changed dramatically.
Sky Ships in the Third Age
Large-scale flight was rediscovered in the year 102 ᴇ.ʏ. when Xanth Filatine invented the phrax engine. 'Phraxships' as the new sky ships became known, were made of metal, powered by Stormphrax and didn't require a flight rock, thus making them immune to stone sickness. They could be considered analogous to Steamships in the real world. These new machines heralded the beginning of the Third Age of Flight.
Members of a Sky Ship Crew
- First Mate
- Stone Pilot
- Ship's doctor
Parts of a First Age Sky Ship
The description of a sky ship varied dramatically depending on whether it was a sky pirate ship, a league ship, a rubble barge, or one of many other specialized types of vessels. However, a fairly large standard sky ship usually contained most of these features:
The aftcastle was a superstructure on the sky ship's stern. The aftcastle contained the Captain's cabin, the bridge, the infirmary, and the galley. The cables connecting the bridge to the hull-weights also ran through the aftcastle.
The flight levers were two long rows of bone-handled levers which were located on either side of the steering wheel. One row controlled the hull-weights, and the other row controlled the sails. They were used by the captain to maintain the sky ship's angle, speed, and balance.
Located on the top of the main mast, the caternest was a lookout point similar to a crow's nest. Some caternests actually consisted of caterbird cocoons, although this was rare; most cater nests were weaved. The inhabitant of a caternest was usually an oakelf due to their keen eyesight.
The most distinguishing and vital feature of a sky ship was its flight rock, enclosed within a vast wooden cage between the fore and aft hulls. The flight-rock of a ship sank when hot, and rose when cold. The temperature of the rock was controlled by a Stone Pilot, who uses the flight burners and cooling rods on the flight rock platform to alter the ship's altitude. Cold earth was often released onto the rock as a method of quickly cooling it. The flight rock was penetrated by various pipes that transferred heat around it. The cooling rods usually were covered in ridges which increased their surface area and allowed them to cool the rock more efficiently. The cooling rods were on one side of the flight rock, and the heating rods were on the other side. The rods were in order of efficency, either least cold, medium cold, extreme cold, exterme hot, medium hot, least hot, or the more likely possibility of extreme cold, medium cold, least cold, least hot, medium hot, extereme hot.
Flight Rock Platform and Flight Burners
The flight rock platform was situated on top of the flight rock cage and had several levers built into it that allowed the ship's Stone Pilot to control the temperature with cooling rods and bellows connected to the flight burners. The flight burners were flaming torches mounted near the flight rock and connected to it through a network of metal pipes that went through the stonecomb that provided the heat needed to control the sky ships altitude.
Fore and Aft Hulls
The hull of a sky ship was split into two sections: the fore hull normally contained the crew's sleeping quarters, hold, and the harpoon, a deadly weapon used to fire at enemies. and the aft hull contained a cargo bay (which featured hinged doors to allow the removal of cargo from below if the sky ship needed to jettison extra weight in an emergency), a food store, and and somtimes ( for instance on the "Galerider") hull rigging.
The hull weights were a series of weights chained to the hull used to control the sky ships balance. They were adjusted by the flight levers. Usually, a sky ship featured a stern-weight (the weight of the back of the ship), a prow-weight (the weight at the front of the ship), small, medium, and large staboard hull-weights (the weight on the right side of the ship), and small, medium, and large port hull-weights (the weight on the left side of the ship), a mid-hull weight (the weight in the middle of the hull), a peri-hull weight (the weight around the edges of the hull), a neben-hull weight (the weight at the sides of the hull), and a klute-hull weight (a weight that controls the area in-between the mid hull, and the peri and neben hull). (Note that these weights are listed in order of flight lever from first to last).
Because every side of sky ships were exposed to the air, they were covered with several sails to aid mobility. These are controlled by the flight levers on the bridge. Usually, a sky ship featured a foresail (the sail in the front of the ship), an aftsail (the sail in the back of the ship), a topsail (a sail on the top of the jib formation), two mainsails (two sails in the middle of the ship), a skysail (a sail near the top of the ship), a staysail (a ship on the bottom of the jib formation), a studsail (sails on either side of the ship that are different because of studding, and increase speed in light winds), a boomsail (a moveable sail attacted to a rotating pole), a spinnaker (a large sail used when going into the wind or running against the wind as it is techinacally called), and a jib (in the middle of the jib formation, note: a jib fomation is typically 3 sails topsail, jib, and staysail, in that order, at the front of the ship). (Note that the sails are listed by order of flight lever from first to last).