No matter how great or powerful a person thinks they are, there will always be a beast even greater and more powerful staking its claim to some unclaimable corner of the earth; a natural hierarchy of humility keeping a sea of egos checked and balanced. Some swim the depths, shattering to splinters and sailing ship who dares challenge their rule, others roam the dark caverns beneath the earth itself, causing tremors that crumble the mighty cities built above. These creatures possess power without peer, but their giant size and indominable constitution doesn’t mean they’re violent or malicious towards other living things. One example of the mighty but humble can be found in the giant Cliffback Tortoises of the chilly western mountains. Standing as tall as many whole buildings, Cliffbacks are docile hardshelled creatures known for their ability to weather harsh weather and navigate rough, uneven terrain that would spell the end of most load-bearing creatures. Possessed of four thick legs spread wide apart, Cliffbacks command solid stability when traversing the mountains, wide enough that they’re unlikely to tip over. These traits along with their passive attitudes have made them one of the few living forces of nature sentient races can harness and utilize for their own benefit.
There’s three ways to cross a mountainrange. You could burn time and go around it, you could pay out the nose and fly over it, or you can hire a Cliffback Rider and go through it. Having harnessed the natural feeding habits of these gargantuan quadrupeds, Cliffback Riders built huge howdahs on their docile shells and direct them across the mountains, offering a ride to any passenger who pays their modest fee. How did they do it? A little observation and ingenuity was all it took to master the Cliffback. There’s two things a Cliffback needs to survive: the rich green vegetation that grows midway up a mountain and the water that flows near its bases. By digging reservoirs of water at key stations on either side of a mountain route the Cliffback Rider can hitch a ride on the naturally-grazing Cliffback and point it where they want to go by positioning the sources of water they’ll inevitably come to in the most convenient places for passenger loading and unloading. They can’t command a beast so big it doesn’t have to listen, so they instead persuade it to climb across the mountains for them. The fare is fair compared to the alternatives, and those who’ve ridden in a Cliffback howdah say the ride is smooth and the view spectacular, citing it as a voyage you’ll want to take at least once in your lifetime.