The United Armada: You Can't Have Nice Things
#1
(Posted on the Global Skein Gate, Noon Highwinter Day)



This is Admiral Pryor, of the 2nd Destroyer Squadron, Empire of Berphaunt. I leave this message on this last remaining Skein Gate so that it may find its way home to my superiors.

The armada is shattered. As stillness settles over a red dawn on the southern seas, I may be convinced that last night was naught but a terrible nightmare. To see the truth, however, is only so hard as to look over the haunted faces on my ship’s deck. My crew has swelled in size and among our new shipmates I have White Raven men and Sons of Sprawn Orcs. Of the events of early Highwinter morn there is but wreckage and the cries of dying sailors.

Highwinter Eve seemed an enchanted thing. I saw brotherhood on the waves and old political grudges give way to the simple camaraderie that only men long away from comfort and home are capable of. Last night my man-of-war, The Turbulent, was lashed together with a Duvanian Frigate, Hightide. This was not in a boarding action, but instead so our crews could walk across our decks to exchange gifts, play at games, and behave like civilized folk for a few hours. The popinjay Captain Drysdale was prim and proper like all high ranking Duvanian naval officers, but I came to enjoy his company. The man ran a tight ship and knew every inch of his vessel, I could tell at a glance. Even the fucking greenskins showing up didn’t spoil a thing.

But after several hours of peace and merriment we started to hear it; screams of pain and anger filled the night air. Then I heard the scratching of scabrous claws upon our ship hulls. The sound was unmistakable.

Brood.

The Brood came in the middle of the night, their dark carapaces disguisinging them against the jet-black water. As we made fools of ourselves, they crawled through the cold waves. They were weeks early. Either our reports were wrong, or we were lied to. They were upon us before we even knew they were there.

Between myself and Captain Drysdale we quickly took command of our crews and began to fight to unobstruct the deck. Once we’d cleared Hightide all three crews split into two groups, one pushing onto the ramshackle orcish vessel to clear her decks, and one to join me upon The Turbulent. Every sailor there fought and followed orders like they’d been on my crew for three seasons. Never thought I’d be proud of a Son or a Whiateraven, but I am proud to have known those people then.

The fighting on deck was brutal, but quick. Acid soaked the wooden boards of The Turbulent:They groaned underfoot just like the dying. As we reclaimed our ships we set our archers and mages to the rails and the rigging, and set our weapons crews to the task of slaughtering bugs. For a foolish moment, I had hope. We had caches of catalysts and alchemy, buckets of arrows, and rows of bolts for the ballistae. It wasn’t until the first of the smaller ships began to sink beneath the waves that the cries from below deck reached my ears. As we slaughtered the Brood in the water around the ships, their acidic blood and juices filled the sea and was eating away at our hull… The Turbulent was taking on water.

Seemingly all at once vessels began listing to their sides and capsizing, their crews dumped into the acid brine that consumed the ships. Drysdale, to his credit, had already signalled for the Duvanian fleet to rally on Hightide, and was calling for a fighting retreat to the rest of the armada. Were I not staring at my quartermaster’s acid eaten face a moment before I saw the retreat called, I might have called Drysdale a coward; more the fool I. I gave the signal and soon the flares of retreat and horns were sent skyward, sounding across the armada. I had never envied Duvains more agile vessels until that day, what good was the might of a man-of-war when the very seawater is set to consume you?

As the smaller vessels of the Berphauntian fleet and the Sons of Sprawn made their way into position alongside the Whiteraven Alliance ships, one thing became painfully clear; the man-of-war, the dreadnoughts - anything over a damned frigate class - were not going to outrun the tide. I looked around me and saw the heavy vessels like my sweet Turbulent lagging behind. I watched behind us as the largest and slowest vessels were overwhelmed and consumed. We were going to die.

As we doggedly made our way forward, I resigned myself to my fate and looked across the faces on my deck. People from every nation on Maud’madir stared grimly back at me. I fixed my tricorn and drew my cutlass; No Berphauntian sailor dies running. As I turned to order the helmsman to turn us about I saw snapping Duvanian sails streak past The Turbulent. I watched agape as a half dozen Duvanian frigates drove past our limping vessels to plunge directly into the Brood tide. As he flew past I swear I could see Captain Drysdale, bicorn gone, fastidious hair in disarray, manning the wheel of Hightide with one hand and waving a cutlass with the other.

The Brood turned on those brave fools and over the flash of spell and alchemy I saw more chitin than water rise up and turn round to consume those six ships. Every sailor on those ships paid the ultimate price, every captain went down with his vessel. To a one, they all fought until claimed by claw, acid, or sea. The price of six Duvainian ships that could have outrun that catastrophe saved four times as many heavy vessels, and ten times as many sailors. Captain Drysdale and Hightide spearheaded a suicidal charge that saved the lives of thousands of people that only a few months ago would have been his dire enemies.

As the six frigates floundered and sank behind us, as one by one the crash of spell and steel died down, we saw the precious gap they had bought our vessels with their lives begin to all to quickly close. The brood were going to catch us anyway.

As the brood drew back into range, our archers and ballistae began to volley once more. It seemed mere moments before our mages began casting spells, but the speed of the brood was terrifying. It seemed for a moment that despite the valiant death of Drysdale we were doomed.

At the very moment before all hope drained from me I felt a deep, echoing rumble from my boot heels to my hat. It grew in intensity into a roar that drowned out all other sounds. Men began pointing west frantically, and I turned to see what fresh abomination was to be unleashed on us. What I saw I will carry with me all my days.

On the horizon the water boiled menacingly as something cut through the waves, advancing at an alarming rate, leaving a wake so large it defies description. As it sped closer the cause of the disturbance became clear; A dorsal fin slicing through the water, 30 feet high, and almost upon us. With impossible speed it swept into the waning gap between our vessels and the brood, before disappearing beneath the surface, leaving the water deceptively calm. A moment of silence passed before the sea roiled and what burst forth will be one of the most wondrous images of my life. A serpentine head emerged from the frenzied waves and rested its gaze upon us, clad in glistening scales of the purest aquamarine, shimmering with a prismatic essence as the first rays of the dawn light caught the edges of each scale. My eyes widened in wonder as wing-like fins stretched behind the Firstborn, Physiganthus, the translucent webbing glowing with the rising sun, framing her in glory.


Turning her gaze upon the Brood, the Firstborn revealed a pair of twin tails, ridged with the same translucent material as her fins. Thrashing them about, her intent became clear as the tails created massive whirlpools, dragging many of our foes to the ocean’s depths. My crew held on to whatever was on hand, uttering prayers to their individual deities and dragons, as the waves pummeled our already abused vessel. It was obvious that she was not finished with these intruders to her realm.

Opening her maw wide, strange arcane words slipped from her tongue, her voice cold and otherworldly. I couldn’t help but shiver as her voice washed over me like a cresting wave and trickled down my spine as an icy rivulet. Water elementals formed from the waves created by her lashing tails and stood upon the sea, 30 feet tall each, blasting brood into the clutches of the whirlpools, or shredding them with their attacks. Smaller figures joined the elementals, seemingly birthed from the foaming waters, but proving to be less arcane in nature.

With glowing dragon marks the Firstborn’s knights, merfolk one and all, crashed into our foes, some brandishing lances and riding monstrous sea creatures too terrifying to describe, others bristling with tridents and javelins. Brigandine made of shells, finned helms, war horns echoing across the waves emitted from conch shells; this was an army armed and armoured to the razor sharp teeth they so gleefully bared. The crew and I watched with fascination and admiration as the water churned with blood and acid from these armies clashing within the surf.

As the numbers of our enemies dwindled Physiganthus disappeared beneath the surface of the sea. Her elementals seemed to burst as they returned to the ocean, and her army of Dragonknights disappeared as suddenly as they had surfaced. The sea frothed and the deck beneath my feet shook with the violence of her passing, rising to a roaring crescendo as the dragon launched herself from the sea’s icy clutches to take to the air. She hovered with fins outstretched, webbed claws spread wide, and cracked wide her jaws. The water displaced by her leap to the air seemed to halt its fall to the ocean below and instead floated for a mere second before rushing to her open maw as she inhaled it greedily, snapping her fangs closed on her breath. A moment of silence passed, even the Brood pausing.

All at once there was a rumbling in her gullet and her jaws opened wide once more, spewing forth a steaming jet of boiling water over the Brood, and all hell broke loose.

The water thrashed as our foes struggled, scrabbling against each other’s carapaces for purchase as they fought one another to escape the roiling doom escaping the Firstborn’s throat. There was a shrill whistling I mistook for the wind, but soon realized it to be steam bursting forth from their chitin wherever it could, creating a horrid shriek as they were cooked from the inside out. I have seen a lobster cooked and placed upon my plate, but nothing could have prepared me for the image of these monsters boiling within their shells; it shall haunt me the rest of my days.

Plunging back into the water she stretched her fins out before her and I swear we all held our breath, for what could she do that would not pale in comparison to the havoc she had already wrought on our foes? Dragging those same fins back to her I watched in horror as the sea fell away from her graceful form, leaving use teetering on the edge of a dizzying drop into depths men can only dream of. Within the space of a heartbeat the the sea roared back, the water rising to a wave a full league in height, crashing over the Brood and driving them beneath the surf before rolling them back up once more to ride its crest. We could see their forms, dead and living alike, caught up in this massive wave that dwarfed the largest of our ships.

It carried them from us quickly, driving them away from our shores and the defenceless coastline towns and villages..

As quickly as she had come, the Firstborn sank back beneath the waves and was gone. All that remained around us was a tranquil sea and the stunned silence of delivered souls.

As dawn light filled the sky, and we could see clearly once more, I sent swift vessels to follow the path of the wave looking for survivors. Sadly it seems Highwinter had but one miracle to grant us, and of the one hundred and forty vessels that sailed together hours before barely half remained. The combined forces of the Empire, the Whiteraven Alliance, and the Sons of Sprawn lost sixty-four ships with all hands. Damn near twenty thousand sailors lost in one hellish night. Of the wreckage we found but a single blessed message stuffed into a wine bottle. I dearly hope Drysdale had the time to drink the bottle empty before trusting his message to it and the sea.

As of the last report I received from our scouting vessels, the wave, a scholarly type likened it to a “tsunami”, drove the brood horde a full 5 leagues inland on Amaranthia before it's fury was spent. I do not know what to say to my superiors or to the families of those that have died other than the simple fact that though we fought, we lost. We could do nothing but lose in the face of that tide.

It is sadness, but surety, I have come to a stark conclusion: Our combined naval might cannot prevent the brood from making landfall. Counting on dragons to save us all seems dubious. The Firstborn bought us a bit of time as it is unlikely the Brood will attempt a direct assault on our southern shores again. But how much, I cannot say.


War is coming to Maud’madir, and we stand ready to die.

For the Emperor and for the Empire! Long live Berphaunt!

-Admiral Terrin Pryor, of the 2nd Destroyer Squadron
David Ashby
Underworld LARP Canada - Co-Owner
World Shaper Lead: 2017
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