An Introduction to Mahid
Roads are uncommon on the surface of Mahid. If the inhabitants of the ancient cities built any roads, they have not survived, and the present day civilizations have built few outside the shelter of city walls. Consequentially, wheeled vehicles are commonly used to ferry things to and fro in settlements or on hard packed trails between well established and friendly cities, but otherwise are rarely seen. In the wastes, riding beasts are the most common means of transportation, but there is an alternative: sandskips.
Sandskips are sail-powered craft with their lower surface plated with Diren, oriented so that it’s dimension of frictionlessness is also the direction of intended travel. The hull of a Sandskip is necessarily somewhat different from an Earth sailboat; displacing sand takes far more energy than displacing water, so they tend to have wide, shallow bottoms, minimizing the distance they sink into the sand and maximizing their surface contact so that they can have the lateral resistance needed to sail into the wind. They usually also have long, flexible arms with outrigger skids, to provide the necessary righting force against the tilting action of the sail.
As if the rarity of Diren were not enough, no known smithing technique can shape it. Every sandskip used on the surface of Mahid had its Diren plating applied through sorcery. This also is why they have not all been lost to the sands over the millenia; any magician worth his metal can sense shaped Diren from miles away, and in the present time finding and unearthing a once lost sandskip is far more common than finding the materials for a new one.
Estimates generally run that there are fewer than 500 functional sandskips on the surface of Mahid. Their rarity and immense utility, particularly in crossing the hostile equatorial or Ashen Sea regions, feats almost never completed without one, make them among the most valuable possessions one can possibly have, and hence they have become a symbol of power and wealth. A sandskip owner can expect regularly to be required to prove, through blood, his worthiness to own such a treasure. He will probably not remain a sandskip owner for long unless he has powerful friends.
Ashskips are unique adaptations of sandskips used to cross the Ashen Sea. They tend to be of immense size and of somewhat deeper keel, so that they can avoid sinking into the shifting, almost fluid ash and dust. As such, they cannot function on normal sand, and captaining one is dedicating one’s self to a lifetime in that hellish waste, unless someone can be convinced to take the captain’s place. However, as certain important trade routes cross the Ashen Sea, demand for an ashskip’s services are great, and their captains can command a high price. Some major cities which own an ashskip will rent out time captaining it to young notables willing to undergo a few grim and awful years in return for wealth.