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A long time ago Edit
When the voyager Zheng He returned to the Imperial Court, the Hong Xi Emperor feted him for this travels and the knowledge he uncovered, and appointed him Grand Architect of the Imperial Naval Expansion and Exploration effort. This led to an age where the Chinese fleet dominated waterways and trade, opening up the world and cementing Asia as a formidable place during the age of sail.
As time went on, the merchant and military families grew stronger, gaining more influence within the Imperial court, competing with each other for power. When the Emperor eventually passed on, the families waged a shadow war for control, manoeuvring for power through character - and actual - assassination. In the end, to prevent trade from being affected, the top ranking clans of both sides agreed to form a council, composed of half of each group. Thus, the Dynasty was born.
The secret of flight Edit
Time passed, and the Dynasty stabilised. The various regions were finally united by the powerful military, and the merchant houses sent traders out far and wide to bring back exotic goods for trade. Times were good.
As the Dynasty became more affluent, people demanded more and more goods, beyond the ability of the merchant houses to supply – it took too long for them to bring in goods, and there just wasn’t enough variety to please the people. The Merchant families started to feel their influence over the ebb and flow off the Imperial court. Scrambling to stem the loss of status, the families spent their gold like water, sending expeditions everywhere in the hopes of discovering something new.
By sheer luck, one such caravan would discover Bayanore.
Travelling through the Gobi Desert, the caravan was being battered by a ferocious sand storm. On the verge of being of smothered to death, an eagle-eyed scout spied a cleft in a cliff and led everyone to safety. While waiting for the sand storm to die, the merchants sent parties deeper into the cave to see what they could find.
They found themselves in a massive, glittering cavern with a floor coated in black sand. Filled with wonder, they rushed in to see what gems or precious stones they could find, their feet displacing the sand in clouds, causing it to get everywhere and settle on them. As they ran in, a strange feeling came over them – as if they were lighter and less burdened, each step springing a little higher. The senior traders in the group soon realised it was the sand causing this, and only when it had been disturbed. Left alone, it would slowly float down to the ground and settle again.
The merchants recognised the value of this mysterious black sand, and the cavern became a secret jealously guarded by the merchant clans through any means necessary. They spent fortunes learning the materials secrets, using it to lighten packaging crates and create small floating barges to be dragged by animals that helped increase the amount of goods and speed up travel time a little. But for all their efforts, the returns were paltry - overland travel was still not as fast as sea travel, which was long and fraught with danger and most importantly, expensive; the military controlled all sea-faring ships and charged the merchants exorbitant fees for their usage.
A gifted child from a mid-tier house came up with a potential solution, one that was far-fetched on the face of it. Withstanding mockery and criticism from her siblings and relatives, she convinced the clan patriarch to let her proceed with her plans. Recruiting the best alchemists, metallurgists, blacksmiths and weapon masters, she experimented with the very elements of nature themselves. Rumors of her experiments spread, each more fantastic than the last. The other merchant clans mocked and derided her family, who in turn took it out on her. Her project cost exorbitant amounts – buying the silence of all those experts was not cheap. As the family’s fortunes grew increasingly precarious, she came dangerously close to being shamed and disowned, but eventually she and her team succeeded in creating the first sky ship.
It changed everything.
Rise of the Avertigos Edit
The creation of the first sky ship silenced the critics, catapulting the creator to stardom and raising her house to a place on the council. More ships proliferated, but these early ships were small, ad-hoc affairs. The military dismissed these sky ships as a waste of time, refusing to spare any men to help guard and defend what they considered a foolish venture. The many, often fatal, accidents of the early flights seemed to confirm this.
Forced to fend for themselves, a new breed of merchant-warriors arose – the Avertigos. Each was a master of battle and trade in their own right, with their own specialised skills and combat tactics to help them survive the skies and threats they met while trading – which were plentiful. An older Avertigo was rare, an unscarred one rarer. But with great risk came great profit, and an Avertigo who made their mark had their pick of crew and contracts.
As Avertigos became more experienced, they helped the creator to develop new ships, ships designed with flight in mind. A new industry was born, and ships grew, able to accommodate more than one Avertigo and their crew at a time. These new ships cut through the sky with speed and grace, making the world much smaller and filling all who saw them with awe.
The Avertigos revelled in reaching alarming heights, and new sky-docks rose up to meet them there, changing the nature of cities and trade. The merchant houses brought Avertigos into their houses through marriage, and would give their children furthest down the line of succession a ship to go make their mark. Those that survived were considered lucky, and only those that were successful considered worthy.
The military came to realise the value of Sky Ships, but with Bayanore fiercely guarded by the traders they had to resort to paying the merchant houses for access to the sky ships, and many left the military to chase their dreams of flight and glory. This led to a decline in the power and the influence of the military houses, changing the politics of the Dynasty and creating a new power structure.