A SkyShip is a type of flying machine, usually kept aloft through magical means, and were probably used extensively during the Mage Wars. A SkyShip varies from an AirShip in that the former (typically) cannot land; once raised into the air, SkyShips must fly forever.
Reasons why SkyShips cannot land vary from ship-to-ship: in some cases the ship cannot land because the airframe is too weak. Others lack landing gear or are simply to big to land anywhere. Obviously they have to have been built somewhere and then launched, and most do have limited landing capability; but the key is whether or not it was designed to stay aloft indefinitely.
Under the name of "Eldritch SkyShips" or "Veils" (for their veil-like wings), skyships are mentioned in many ancient texts and depicted in artwork as far back as the First Chaotic Period. However, a great deal of debate has occurred over whether or not they truly existed.
The earliest depictions of SkyShips date from the late Age of Darkness and take the form of crude drawings etched in stone. While some interpret these early pictographs as birds, others point out that "birds typically do not have a large central hull'. These drawings, if dating methods are accurate, would indicate that SkyShips are older than the Mage Wars.
During the First Chaotic Period, SkyShips were in uncommon but frequent use. Moderate-sized cities often had at least one dock, while larger cities may have had several (the Gudersnipe Foundation, who refuse to admit the existence of SkyShips, state that these towers are mis-identified Mage Towers - which is somewhat accurate as many either doubled as or were later re-used for that purpose).
The Foundation's Stance
The Gudersnipe Foundation has gone on record as stating that SkyShips did not exist. During the Foundation's involvement in the last 300 years of the Mage Wars, no credible sightings were made, no reconnaissance images were captured, and no wreckage found in the aftermath. The only evidence, the Foundation states, is anecdotal: written accounts and paintings.
However, the Foundation does not actively deny the existence of SkyShips, and has made no effort to censor information on the subject. Print copies of the Accepted Histories kept in Foundation-run schools and libraries include sections on SkyShips (though instructional time in class is not devoted to the subject). The unofficial stance, then, is more to the tune of "we can't prove it".
The term SkyShip is used off and on throughout different books in the series and is largely self-explanatory, with one key thing to keep in mind: the difference between a SkyShip and an AirShip.
A SkyShip always has to fly. It may hover close to the ground, but it cannot land. An AirShip is capable of landing. This is roughly analogous to the difference between a boat and a ship.
- Reasons why SkyShips cannot land vary from ship-to-ship: in some cases the ship cannot land because the airframe is too weak. Others lack landing gear or are simply to big to land anywhere. Obviously they have to have been built somewhere and then launched, and most do have limited landing capability; but the key is whether or not it was designed to stay aloft indefinitely.
In the Cannon storyline, skyships were used extensively throughout the Mage Wars, and saw the heaviest production and use during the late Dynastic Period. Production was somehow lost towards the end of the Dynastic Period, as the use of skyships declined very sharply shortly before the start of the Second Chaotic Period.
So sharp was the decline, in fact, that the Gudersnipe Foundation does not believe they existed. No sightings were made, reconnaissance footage captured, or other proof found. This, despite extensive fighting on both sides of the Barrier Range, where skyship use was most prevalent.
The ships themselves, being made mostly of lightweight wood and fiberous materials, were easy to destroy, tended to burn when crashed, and decomposed quickly. Even operational frames required a great deal of maintenance and upkeep.
Most evidence for the existence of skyships was lost during the Golden Age when historical revisionists, unable to find support for the historical accounts, simply wrote the skyships out of history. In some stories, the massive armadas of aerial juggernauts were replaced with dragons, which led to a wide-spread idea that dragon-slavery was common during the Mage Wars (it was, in fact, extremely limited).
Historically, SkyShips were identified as Veils, for their many veil-like wings and sails.