A sky ship, called letica [‘letiʦa] in Bereghin, is a kind of sailing vessel used in Bereg to transport people and goods over air.
Table of Contents
- Description & Operation
- Present Day
A sky vessel looks very similar to regular watercraft, and can usually go on water if needed.
To be able to fly, sky ships are treated with feywood tar and enchanted by sorcerers. All sky ships in Bereg are built and enchanted by the Bereghin Company of the Crown Shipwrights, which strives to keep the exact details of the process secret. Perhaps more importantly, the Crown Shipwrights also control all production of feywood tar.
Feywood smuggling and unauthorized sky ship construction are equated to high treason in Bereg.
Description & Operation
Sky vessels vary in size much like regular watercraft does, ranging from heavy three-mast freighters to small patrol boats.
Like all sailing vessels, sky ships use the power of wind, but they also rely on magic for direction and to stay airborne. Bigger and heavier ships are generally slower, while small boats may be able to go as fast as 30-40 km/h. The average travel speed of a sky ship is around 8 km/h.
While sky ships require regular maintenance by the Shipwrights’ sorcerers, one needn’t be a practicing magician to fly one. Sky ship crews are normally composed of regular lay sailors.
Yarina, a sorceress from Lykov, and her cousin, woodcarver Peresmyak, are credited with discovering the anti-gravity properties of feywood in the late 1610s.
Feywood was believed to be a cursed tree at the time, and not used widely. However, the town of Lykov is near the Bereghin Verge where feywood grows, and dry feywood is nearly indistinguishable from birch. Persmyak bought some feywood logs by accident and, not wanting to lose money, asked his artificer cousin to check if the material was really as unusable as people said. Yarina tested the wood for thaumic interactions and discovered that under certain conditions it could float in the air.
The discovery was first presented to Princess Karislava of Tregorie in the fall of 1622. The princess, who had sorcerer training herself, took great interest and funded Yarina’s workshop to continue the research.
The first functional sky vessel — a small boat — took flight in 1629 Asunder. Yarina’s workshop was then expanded, and by 1631 had built two more sky sloops.
The Company of the Crown Shipwrights
The main difficulty in constructing sky ships has always lain in sourcing feywood. This tree — also known as ghostwood or fairy birch — only grows in the enchanted forests of the Bereghin Verge, and procuring a sizable quantity of it has always been both difficult and dangerous. Quite a lot of it is needed for sky ship construction, however.
Therefore, in the spring of 1631, Princess Karislava appealed to her brother, who had married into the royal family and was then the gosondar consort of Bereg. Under his protection, Yarina’s workshop was chartered as the Company of the Crown Shipwrights. It was now officially owned and funded by the Crown of Bereg, with the goal of harvesting feywood and building a sky fleet.
With this new support, the Shipwrights proceeded to recruit large numbers of human settlers to work in the Verge forests. In just a few years, four ward towns with sky wharves were established, and over a hundred villages. In those early days, the tar was made mainly by cutting down feywood trees before stripping off their bark and distilling it. This, naturally, caused damage to the forest, provoking the wrath of the leshies and of other creatures that lived there.
By 1635, there was very nearly a war on the Verge, with the woodland sprites regularly attacking woodcutters and their settlements, and the Shipwrights requesting battle mages to protect them.
Battle mages were as rare in Bereg then as they are now, but Princess Karislava did manage to send three — Chaegost of Ylinka, Malena of Hlat, and Tolignev of Kluden’. They became the first forest wardens of the Bereghin Verge.
The Forest Wardens
The three forest wardens soon discovered that even had they been three hundred, protecting the woodcutters by force was impossible. The forest itself was hostile. On top of the woodland sprites fighting to protect their home, the presence of humans seemed to either cause or attract large numbers of unclean spirits, and the human dead were often restless, too.
The whole enterprise was rapidly turning into a nightmare, with fewer and fewer people willing to risk working on the Verge, no matter how high the pay.
In the spring of 1636, after a leshi killed Tolignev of Kluden’, there was talk at court of abandoning the Verge altogether, despite how useful the sky ships were becoming. However, then the news came that the Halcians were working on domesticating wyverns — and controlling the skies suddenly became a matter not of convenience, but of national security.
Proposals of using forced labour followed, and, although the royal couple disliked the idea and the elderly Princess Karislava protested it vehemently, the situation threatened to turn even more nightmarish in short order.
However, the disturbance on the Bereghin Verge was by then so great that it drew the attention of the Hilderath.
The Forest Treaty
The Hilderath — that the Bereghins call dyvs and the Halcians call elves — live on the Other Side and do not, as rule, meddle in the affairs of mortals. They do seem protective of all otherling folk — or at least, of those also living on the Other Side — and the Verge is the natural border of their domain. Eventually they grew concerned with the conflict there, and came to investigate.
It was Chaegost of Ylinka that, on one summer day in 1636, met a dyv scout in the woods under Dobrin. Chaegost was weary of hopeless fighting and very ready to negotiate. The two reached an understanding — rumours say they even became blood brothers at some point later— and the dyv agreed to mediate between the humans and the leshies.
By early 1637, an agreement was settled on: the Forest Treaty, sworn to by the Gosondar and Gosondaria of Bereg, and by the three elder leshies of the Verge Forest, and witnessed by mage Chaegost and dyv Iqeris.
The leshies would cease attacking humans and allow them to harvest in peace. The humans, for their part, would cease cutting the trees down, and take only a limited amount of outer bast from living trees, taking care not to kill them and to plant new trees as needed. Several human villages would also be abandoned, and the land reclaimed by the forest.
The Crown Shipwrights remained responsible for harvesting and processing feywood, but the forest wardens were now answerable to the local sorcery council only. Their responsibility, in addition to protecting the human harvesters, was to protect the forest itself and to ensure the Treaty was upheld.
The Forest Treaty has been upheld and renewed by the rulers of Bereg and Tregorie ever since it was first made almost fifty years ago.
The Verge forest is still a dangerous place, even without open hostility from the leshies, and there’s a constant shortage of forest wardens, but there are again people willing to venture there, and the supply of feywood is steady.
The sky ships are now the lifeline of Bereghin trade and transportation. Most Bereghin towns now have specialized sky wharves where they can easily dock even in winter.
The dyv Iqeris disappeared from the Verge after Chaegost died, but other dyvs patrol the woods now and then, occasionally helping those lost or trapped — and presumably making sure the Treaty is upheld on behalf of the forest.