The Empty Ocean
Between the continents and surrounding Thistleland on all sides, with the singular exception of the Dire straits is The Empty Ocean. Serving functions somewhat similar to water based oceans, the most striking feature of The Empty Ocean is the lack of anything, be it land, water or any substitute. The Empty Ocean appears to be a body of empty nothingness between continents.
While the mechanics of The Empty Ocean are poorly understood for those outside the Mages, it's effects and properties are documented by The Adventure Guild in detail. Such learning has enabled cargo and personal transport over The Empty Ocean.
The Empty Ocean is known to have a surface of sorts, though it cannot be seen directly. It is commonly thought that The Empty Ocean has a barrier along a vertical axis, though there are some who suggest The Empty Ocean is the result of the meeting point two forces pressing together. This surface supports displacement and buoyant objects to float along it, and has effects on objects depending on the objects mass.
Items with a small enough mass, that of around pebbles, will find themselves moved by the surface back and forth akin to wave motion, creating erosion functionally similar to real world erosion.
Larger objects such as people are much less effected by this effect and assuming a person does not allow themselves to 'sink' they will float on the ocean surface. They will not usually notice the back and forth wave effect anywhere near as much, though will find it impossible to change their direction of travel as they float helplessly. The effect is akin to floating in space.
Larger still objects the size of ships will have a sink-or-swim outcome. Objects with displacement (such as normal ships) will float as normal, usually requiring sail, propeller or jet engines to provide enough momentum to travel. Interestingly such engines or fails need to overcome the natural inertia of such an object, but also provide additional thrust depending on the objects mass to overcome Empty Inertia. However, without buoyancy or displacement, a ship or other large object will start to sink until it passes through the surface entirely. Once this has happened, the object will continue to sink forever, until out of sight below. Nobody knows the fate of such objects.
Objects with largest mass, from small islands up to continents are affected differently further still due to their high mass. Their high Empty Inertia will slow them down further in all directions enough to be rendered effectively immobile. As such the Continents such as Thistleland remain in a state that appears to be resolutely immobile. the smallest known land masses that have this effect are the various Crags to the north-west of Thistleland known as the Remnant Isles. Interestingly, research trips to the Dire Straits have hinted that with enough force even continents can be moved, and that this process may have indeed happened, causing the gaps between the landmasses in the Dire Straits.
Rivers that empty into the Empty Ocean typically makes a splash on the surface before proceeding to pass through, creating short lived but aesthetically pleasing waterfalls off the edge of the continent. These river waterfalls soon turn to mist as they fall and are blown away by any small wind, evaporating in the process.
Clouds and rain clouds often form over The Empty Ocean, presumably fueled by the evaporation of water from rivers emptying into The Empty Ocean. These clouds pass through the continents and The Empty Ocean much the same as with weather fronts in the real world, and will provide rain to both Thistleland and the surrounding Empty Ocean, though the latter will pass through the surface and soon evaporate further down to be recycled. Surface-level clouds such as fog are also common, especially during winter mornings.
Much like any ocean, The Empty Ocean is known to suffer storms. It is unknown if the poor weather during a storm is the cause of such storms, or the result of it.
During a storm in The Empty Ocean, the surface will rise and fall rapidly like huge waves, tossing ships about and often sinking them. The weather will worsen, with thunderstorms flooding water down to the surface in great sheets, leaving a fog-like spray that is whipped up in the gale-force winds into blinding blasts.
While difficult to predict more then three days in advance even for the Mages, short term forecasts usually enable most ships to remain safely in their ports during such storms. The only people known to travel across The Empty Ocean during most storms are the Gamanic, using their powerful modified short range shuttle craft, though even they will avoid braving the worse storms.
Empty Ocean Shipping
Different groups of people employ different methods of travelling The Empty Ocean. These different methods reflect the different abilities and capabilities of such people.
The Adventurers of Thistleland are known to use the most standard form of travel, employing traditional shipping to float along the surface of The Empty Ocean. Such ships are known to commonly use sails, paddle wheels, or marine propellers called screws for power. Sails are commonly on the top side of the Ship, though captains with greater resources may have additional sails to the side or underside of the ship. Rarely some craft use water caterpillars. Smaller, more advanced Adventurer vessels designed for speed are known to employ a method similar to hydrofoil, though these are usually restricted to the newer metal-clad boats. Adventurer ships are typically basic in looks and highly utilitarian.
Mages take a different approach to transport, still using ship-like craft to travel between continents but instead of floating on the surface of The Empty Ocean, they fly in the air. True air ships, these craft typically use sails, propellers or jet engines to travel and are thus able to travel over land as well as the air. Typically garnished decoratively, they are elegant, and usually as much impressive art displays as they are functional vessel. Mage ships highly reflect their sophisticated magic approach to dealing with the outside world.
While the original main vessel type of The Gamanic is unknown and lost in The Dark Continent, they retain a number of their smaller short range shuttle craft, modified for longer-distance travel at the expense of maneuverability. Such craft are full-metal and jet powered, able to power through most conditions. As usual with the Gamanic, their craft appear to be based in very high end science, looking very much like shuttle craft one would expect to transport people between ships in space. Despite their specification and original highly formidable nature, these craft have been heavily modified, stripping out weapons, evasion thrusters and other functions to enable them to travel the distance between Thistleland and The Dark Continent. While their strength is largely unknown, due to the fact the Gamanic fly their ships through most storms in The Empty Ocean some have suggested that in a fight with another ship it's possible the metal-based shuttle may be piloted through an enemy wooden based ship as a viable tactic, and there certainly are remains of numerous pirate ships across the northern beaches of Thistleland.
Both Pirates and the East Avala Company are known to use whatever ships they can get their hands on, the former by hook and by crook, the latter with more honorable purchasing. As such, both groups can be seen using airships, but are far more commonly found employing traditional shipping. While Pirates typically modify their ships for combat and salvage and usually use smaller ships, the East Avala Company typically purchase more sizeable ships with larger cargo holds, or with generous accommodation for passengers. East Avala Company ships typically use Adventurers for security forces on board, and rarely Mages, which can often be a point of tension between the crews.
As the Adventure Scouts originally relied on the now outlawed teleportation methods to travel and generally do not have finances to purchase ships, they are forced to hire ships or seek passage from Adventurers and The East Avala Company. As such they have no real ships of their own, though naturally there are some Adventure Scouts that purchase small leisure craft or the like. Due to the Adventure Scouts very close ties to the East Avala Company they typically use East Avala Company ships for passage, though due to the ban on Adventure Scouts providing security during such voyages Adventure Scout weapons must be stowed and any security must be provided by local Adventurers, which is often a cause of tension between such passengers and the ships security crew.