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Tohulian Skyships
Tohulian Skyship
Image from Steve Bowers
This skyship uses decarbonated Tohul air as a lifting gas. It acts as a mobile perch for To'ul'h hunting parties, and doubles as a cargo ship. Skyships of this size can carry a small quantity of valuable cargo, especially spore-spices
The Tohulian Skyships, sometimes known as Tohulian Airships or Tohulian dirigibles, are a mean of transport devised by the xenosophonts known as To'ul'hs, on their home planet Tohul Prime. The classic variant of the Skyship is a relatively large vessel with some wings (or even sails) for lifting and maneuvering and several gasbags from various materials filled with a lifting gas.

The most common lifting gas employed by the To'uls is hot Tohul air, which consists of 50% carbon dioxide. To produce heated air for the most common type of skyship is challenging, since fire does not burn easily on Tohul Prime (due to the local atmospheric composition). Before contact with Terragens, only the most developed cultures and policies were capable of producing a source of heat long enough for sustained flight.

Some cultures on Tohul used skyships filled with various kinds of domesticated floating biota, which use methane, nitrogen or oxygen as a lifting gas. These flying 'raftships' were among the first skyships built by the To'ul's, but the lift obtained by such craft is small because it also has to lift the 'still-living' floating biota.

Several progressive Tohulian cultures, also known as "skywhalers", found ways to fill their dirigibles with other gases rather than hot air, giving them access to the rich amount of resources in the higher layers of the atmosphere. The Skywhalers had only rudimentary chemical science, but they were to hunt or breed several kinds of floaters in large amounts to get the gases they needed. These gases included decarbonated Tohul air, which is mostly nitrogen and oxygen, or nitrogen alone. Oxygen was rarely used, since it presents a fire risk, even though many skyplankton species produce oxygen for lift and as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Another gas that was sometimes available was hydrogen, which gives significantly more lift; but the floaters that produce hydrogen are rare and confined to the upper atmosphere. Skywhalers harvested large quantities of floating biota for their skyships, and often had a damaging effect on the environment. For this reason they were unpopular with many factions. Despite this, the use of dirigibles was becoming increasingly widespread in the centuries before contact with Terragens.

The To'ul'hs also built gliding heavier-than-air craft that could be launched from high ground or from very large skyships. In addition the To'ul'hs domesticated several large species of floating animal which they could ride, using various goads and straps to control their flight.

Common Features

Xenoarcheologists studying the history of Tohul Prime have found evidence for the use of dirigibles in conflict since their first invention. Some of them were used as bombers, carrying different weapons (sometimes even chemical ones), other served as mobile bases for soldiers and for gliders. By the time of Contact, several polities across the planet were using a wide range of military skyships and mounted cavalry, but several elements of their construction were the same everywhere on this world.

  • Most skyships used short wings for lifting and maneuvering, and these wings could be controlled using stout ropes. In most cases a Skyship could safely glide to the ground even after all the envelopes were destroyed due to the Tohulian dense atmosphere. In fact these skyships had many features that were analogous with heavier-than-air craft such as gliders, and had many features in common with the To'ul'h bodyplan itself.
  • Most of the skyships only used wind for moving. Their captains used large elevons, elerons and "sails" to navigate through the air streams. This was a hard and very dangerous job, so the captains were usually highly respected in most of the societies.
  • Most of the 'hot air' designs used methane burners to heat the air inside their envelopes.
  • The gondola and envelopes of the ship were generally made from strong, light fungoid matter, derived from various kinds of plant-like fungi growing on the surface
  • The solid parts of the ship were generally surrounded by billowing gasbags to improve the aerodynamics of the craft

Methane Farming

Methane for heating air (and sometimes for filling the dirigibles) was provided by a domesticated species of low-atmosphere floaters from the meduzoid family. The meduzoid farms were usually large territories with medozoids flying from 300m to 1km, attached to several "towers" by tethers. The To'ul'hs could determine if the individual meduzoids were ready for harvesting by the tension of the rope. After that the meduzoids were usually killed and their methane was used for skyships and for many other purposes- methane was a valuable fuel. Several other parts of the meduzoid body were also used for different purposes.

Skyships could be used not only as weapons but also in exploration, diplomacy and trade. In the period before contact several To'ul'h polities (mostly situated around the Narrow Seas) were using dirigibles for trading, and the ruler of G'bchera, a state situated near The Narrow Sea, is recorded as using a giant airship as a flying palace (about three hundred years before the Terragens arrived). The majority of To'ul'hian polities in this era had limited or no access to skyship technology.

By the terragen contact only one transcontinental skyship trade route was active, connecting the Narrow Seas region with a large island (more often referred to as a small continent) of Tso`sho`hia to the west of the region. This connection was an important trade road controlled mostly by the elites of the cities nearby. The cargo-carrying dirigibles usually had length about 50-60m and consisted of several envelopes with hot air (or other gases) and a cabin where the crew, which consisted of 5-7 Tohuls, and cargo itself could be located in safety during the flight. None of the Tohul airships of that time travelled higher than 1000-2000 m above the surface.

At least one long-vanished Skywhaler culture used extremely large, industrial skyships that served as their mobile industrial centers and as bases in the sky for hunting and collecting skyplankton. These appear to have been extremely large, sometimes more than 1000m long, and may have utilised steam-powered propulsion and condensed gas reservoirs.

There is more information about the pirate cultures that used to raid unprotected cargo-carrying airships with their small, but highly mobile vessels. It is known that some rulers of the countries near the Narrow Seas attempted to destroy all the skypirate bases about a hundred years before Terragen contact. Some piratic cultures, known as the Tas'schoo'chto, had already existed for about a thousand years before this happened. They had developed a rich culture tightly connected with these raids, including a form of sky worship (most To'ul'hs thought of the deep sky as an inaccessible, hell-like desert). These communities were led by the Tas'schoo'cht'oosch, old and successful pirates who were considered to be extremely wise. The leader of the states that participated in the operation tried to erase the information about that culture, so there isn`t much information available.

The use of domesticated flying animals as carriers was popular to the north of the Narrow Seas, where several kinds of Meduzoids were used as an air balloon. Cavalry of this kind was rarely used in warfare but remained an exotic means of transport by the time of the contact.

History

It is not certain when and where exactly the first skyship was invented, but the most popular point of view supported by To'ul'h and Terragen archeological schools is that it happened for the first time way before the Great Eruption and has been lost and re-invented multiple times since then. Probably the oldest known information about the airships comes from Touhlian legend, mentioning "the warriors coming from the floating city". This legend is usually dated from 36000 to 20000 PC (Pre-Contact). More exact mentions of the airships are usually dated 20000 PC. The archeologists are still arguing but there is one fact hey usually agree with - by 10 PC the airships were used widely in many Touhlian policies, and several 'skywaler' cultures had already emerged and fallen. It is known that the dirigibles were often used during the War Period about 500 PC. There are no direct signs of using dirigibles from 500 AT to 1000 AC (After Contact), but there is some information about the methane farming and then skyship building technologies re-invented in the Narrow Seas region about 1100 AC.

In the Current Era many skyships use helium as a lifting gas, a resource which the To'ul'hs were not familiar with before contact.

Cultural Impact

Today virch entertainments about intrepid skyship pilots are still popular in various Tohul polities, especially the ones about the skywhalers and skypirates. There are such examples as Tas'schoo'chto by H'scheem'sce'scho.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Evil DoDo
additional material by Mike Miller, Stephen Inniss, Steve Bowers
Initially published on 19 June 2018.

 
 
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