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.