The first sky ships were lifted by hot air. Heated by whale oil or open fires, these ships were useful for short hops or for the daring. In the worst squalls, the fire risked going out all together and even when it did not, an escaped fire on a wooden ship was a dangerous thing. The next great leap came when ores were found on one of the outlying islands which when exposed to acids produced hydrogen, allowing for lift without the danger of a fire. The downsides to this discovery was in the scarcity of the ore and the necessary water quantities required to brew the acid. In addition to this there was also the danger from lightning storms. As a result, some of the earliest adopters of hydrogen flight were the Skydancers, whose journeys called for greater speed and distances but also who had access to the metals required for safe conduction of electricity. Today, hot air is still the preferred method for short flights owing to its low cost and accessibility. However anyone travelling between the islands of The Rockery does so in hydrogen lifted gondolas, steered by sail and rudder. Quite who first discovered how to produce hydrogen without fresh water in great volumes is shrouded in mystery (and any number of rivalscientific papers). Some say it was a lone genius working away in Link, some an upstart on Shackle who gained friends amongst the Skydancers in order to move off island. What is known is that it required large amounts of metal, seawater, and an immense amount of luck. The luck being in catching alive several of the Scarp Eels needed to provide an electric charge. Today, the science of flight has become part of dockside life. Adjacent to the shipwrights lie the Scarper Houses, where the workers, nicknamed Scarpers, raise young Scarp Eels for use in the hydrogen process. Marked out by their red leather gloves, they are the only people willing and able to wrangle the eels into the electrolysis pools. All attempts to breed Scarp eels in captivity have so far failed.
Skydancers live apart, rarely setting foot on land. They travel in Troupes, each one tattooed and decorated with whatever they can barter for. Rumours abound about them, both damning and praising, for they share little with those outside their family circles. What is known is that if you need something from the mist’s edge, or to travel more than the known routes, Skydancers are the guides to hire. Trading the metals they find for goods and commodities at Anchor’s harbours, they are required and resented both.
Give The Bureaucracy a chance and it would tax the sky. In fact, save for the Skydancers - it does its very best to. Flags of conduct, bright blue against the fog, are handed only to the trusted captains, men and women willing to risk their lives for the betterment of Anchor. However, it didn't take long before the blood-red flags turned up - those trying to steal a run on the Skydancers, or gather supplies without paying for port fees or market rates.
The most famous historical raider was the Hasty Maiden. Beginning with simple cons such as hiding cargo and claiming 'storm losses', the crew quickly became infamous across the Rockery for crooked dealings. After pushing one con too far the ship raced into the cloud-deck, coming to rest with a bump at a stormy island now known as Hook. In Hook, they found a crook's dream - a seemingly unassailable and well-hidden base from which to launch their endeavours. For thirty years the Hasty Maiden's crew gathered other malcontents and criminals on their occasional raids and trips to the outlying islands.
The golden age of piracy did not last long. The Knights Anchorer finally found a way to Hook, leading to a drawn-out and vicious power struggle. To this day, the island remains divided. The eastern edge is, to all intents and purposes, an outpost of Anchor - in contrast the western end, though nominally under the rule of the Bureaucracy, is controlled by criminal gangs. Both dance around the other, waiting for the balance to shift in their favour.
This happened only a few months after the Centennial Audit when the captains of the Pirate Court met in the Rusty Anchor on Hook to plan raiding. Someone - presumably one of the two missing pirate captains, Marianne Bonnyread or Bloody Violet - had tipped of the Knights Anchorer. Only one of the pirate court escaped, the others were killed or sentenced to Bolt. The escaping pirate, Ben Hornigold, was arrested on Audit Day YJ101 after an attempt to capture the new DoMP ship, the Dauntless.
Also known as “Bluecoats” after their smart blue uniforms, The officers of the DoMP are responsible for Port Cardinal and the defence of Anchor and the Rockery. Whilst the Church handles law enforcement, it is up to the DoMP to keep the peace in the sky. It is the DoMP who make decisions on which captains they will back and which ships are issued papers for the blue Flag of Conduct.
Amongst the oldest artefacts of the Rockery, kites were first used as wind gauges on Shackle, and quickly caught on amongst the islands. From the plainer, sturdier kites used by the Vanes on voyages to the bright warning kites on slim outcroppings of rocks; kites have become a common sight in the grey. More recently, they have also caught on amongst the fashionable set, who, enamoured by the idea of anything that could link to the sky, commissioned ever more elaborate kites from the island kite makers. On Anchor, there are competitions held to crown a yearly champion kite maker. Suited to the cramped conditions in the city of Anchor, these prize winning kites are traditionally in the shape of elaborately decorated insects, such as Flying Mantis, Cicada,locusts and weatherlights.