These are all short stories which I will add to as I write them. They are not continuous in any way, nor are they in any chronological order.
Standing on the foredeck of his Greatship, Admiral Roschmann shielded his face against the sea spray whipped up by the cold Northerly. He gazed out past the angled sails of his smaller Wargalleys towards the approaching Bretonnian warships. They were beautifully crafted ships, brightly coloured and extremely graceful. Their huge sails catching the wind and propelling them westerly towards the Imperial fleet.
"Battle sails!" shouted Roschmann "Raise our battle colours, we are at war!"
Admiral Druillet strained hard and began to laugh.
"Milord?" questioned Gerard, his adviser, puzzled.
"The fool!" exclaimed Druillet "Can he not see we outnumber him?" he continued, as he gazed out at the red hulls of the Imperial fleet. They were vertically striped with black beams, which made an effective contrasting colour scheme.
The Bretonnian fleet consisted of Admiral Druillet's Galleon, the Pride of Brionne, named after his home town; six Corsairs in two squadrons, and twelve Buccaneers organised in four squadrons.
"Signal the fleet to assume curtain formation" He spoke to his communications officer. "We've got them." he muttered.
Roschmann cursed. He could see the Bretonnians had acknowledged his battle flags, however he could not make out the enemy fleet size past the huge sails on the Buccaneers. They were a small, fragile ship, but as with all their navy's ships, the sails were extremely large. Roschmann had stationed his squadron of Wolfships at the front, and moved a squadron of Wargalleys to each flank. His Greatship, the Dönitz, named after the famous Imperial Admiral, was at the centre, and his "ace" was a squadron that he kept at the rear. This the Bretonnians would not see until it was too late.
Even with the wind abeam, the two battle fleets approached with great speed. Druillet ordered the Buccaneers to commence firing. Their powerful catapults hurled immense boulders towards the Imperial battlefleet.
Roschmann watched attentively as twelve one-ton masses of rock showered down around the squadron of Wolfships. All missed.
"Signal the Wargalleys to join up with the Wolfships, line abreast." Roschmann ordered his communications officer. "Tell them to move into ramming formation, and divide the enemy to expose the centre. Also inform the Hellhammers to form up line astern aft of us."
The Imperial warships gracefully formed up in formation, their red, yellow and blue striped sails, and fluttering red, yellow, blue and black pennants and flags, contrasted against the dark churning sea, created a busy and interesting pattern. The masts danced, as the waves pounded against the red and black hulls of the Imperial fleet.
More boulders showered the leading elements, and one of the Wargalleys were hit, the first boulder knocking down the mast, and driving into the deck. The second hit the oar deck, smashing into the hull and killing most of the oarsmen. The Wargalley was drawing water, and couldn't move.
"Signal them to lash their boats together, and we'll return to rescue them later." instructed Roschmann to his communications officer, as he watched the Wargalley hulk become swamped by a ferocious wave.
He returned his attention to the front formations and watched with anger, as another Wargalley became driftwood before his eyes. He fingered the hilt of his rapier, and pounded his fist against the wooden railing.
Druillet was furious. His Buccaneers had used up most of their ammunition and had hit a meagre two of the Wargalley ramships. Ramships! He swore, and began ordering Gerard, but it was too late. The advancing Imperial ships were already using their oars to achieve ramming speed. Loud drum beats kept the oarsmen's steely arms in time. To add to the noise, the Imperial boarding companies beat their swords against their shields in time with the drums, to create a disturbing psychological effect on the enemy crewmen. Druillet was sickened with rage as the mighty rams of the Wargalleys and Wolfships tore gaping holes in the weak Buccaneers. The Imperial formations then fired their cannon batteries simultaneously, the almighty roar deafening the already dazed Bretonnians.
The Wargalleys had one cannon battery each, which destroyed the Buccaneers with ease. However the Wolfships each had three batteries of guns bristling from their high forecastles, which turned the considerably smaller craft to little more than toothpicks. Five Buccaneers remained, along with the two squadrons of Corsairs, and the Pride of Brionne. The wrecks of the Buccaneers shielded the Imperial formations, and once again Druillet swore as he ran his left forefinger down the length of the duelling scar on his right cheek.
This time Roschmann had a chance to laugh. A series of broadsides from the Wolfships destroyed another two Buccaneers. So far, his fleet had destroyed half of the Bretonnians, punched a hole in the enemy curtain, and he hadn't even had to play his ace yet.
"Now we have the advantage" he said, and continued to his communications officer "See if they wish to surrender". The communications officer was disturbed by his Admiral's laughter.
"Surrender?!" screamed Druillet "I'll see that upstart in hell before I hand over the Pride of Brionne!" He was losing all composure. No matter how many times he tried to signal the Buccaneers, they kept retreating. Little did he know that dismal morale had caused all three ships to be under mutineer command, the officers and captains were now shark fodder.
The fleets now regained their formations, and the battle lines were drawn again. The Bretonnian Corsairs raised their sails showing the Fleur de Lys against a bleached white background, above their blue, yellow, and brown hulls. The Imperial fleet now had the Dönitz, a full squadron of Wolfships, a full squadron of Wargalleys, a lone Wargalley, and a squadron of Hellhammers.
The Bretonnians had two squadrons of Corsairs, and the Pride of Brionne.
The Corsairs moved towards the Imperial fleet in a line abreast formation, still with the wind abeam. Then suddenly, they wheeled to port, ploughing through the waves, and raked their cannon fire along the lines of the Imperial warships. All the Wargalleys were damaged, with one destroyed, two sinking, and one on fire. Roschmann cringed, as he watched the flames lick the sails, turning the craft into a towering inferno. Now Druillet could rejoice.
"Get us in there!" screamed Roschmann to his helmsman, then to his communications officer "Unsheath the Hellhammers, all or nothing!"
Druillet turned pale, and an iron knot, as icy as the waters themselves developed in his stomach. He had believed that the Imperial Admiral had a squadron of Wargalleys in reserve, however it was not until he saw the wooden façades fall, and the sun glint off the Emperor Cannon that his heart began to beat rapidly. He was nauseous at the thought of being destroyed by the "inferior" Empire. He had heard stories of the great power of these mighty guns that possessed nearly twice the range of his own guns. He could not run, he could not hide.
The enemy Wolfships were locked in a battle to the death with a squadron of his Corsairs. His Galleon, and the remaining Corsairs would try to rush the Hellhammers, and destroy them with their fire power en masse.
"Fire!" screamed Roschmann, wielding his rapier aloft, his voice breaking during the single syllable word. Though they could not hear him, it seemed perfect timing that all three of the mighty cannon, which each occupied two thirds of the space in the Wargalley based hull fired at that very instant.
Their ammunition was so large, only three rounds could be loaded in the stores. The recoil of the metre-diameter gun propelled the ship backwards in the churning waters.
Druillet quickly reflected upon his failure, as the mighty, red hot, iron balls bore in towards his beautiful, proud Galleon. He searched back through his mind, looking for mistakes. He should have put the Corsairs in the lead, with the Buccaneers firing from the rear with their long range catapults.
The Pride of Brionne was smashed by the greatest guns of the known world. The Bretonnian nobleman plunged into the hungry sea to await his death by the even hungrier sharks.
The remaining undamaged Corsairs turned tail and ran away with the wind at their heels, their captains unwilling to suffer the same fate as their Admiral.
Roschmann had no intention of pursuit, and instead turned his attention to his Wolfships. He noticed one remaining Corsair and two Wolfships.
After rescuing as many crew as possible, the remainder of Admiral Karl Roschmann's Imperial Battlefleet, the Dönitz, the squadron of Hellhammers, and one partly damaged, sailable Wolfship, headed towards Marienburg, the sun setting over a nearby mountain range. Roschmann ran his hand over his weathered, battle scarred face, as he plotted out their course and current position. They were inside Empire waters now, and at last his men could get some real rest.
The four-horse coach reigned to a halt at the foot of the Palace steps. The door opened and a man, aged in his late thirties, stepped down. He was of medium build and wore the military dress uniform of the Imperial Navy.
"Admiral Roschmann, sir?" queried a yeoman, to which he received a curt nod. "This way, sir."
Admiral Karl Roschmann strode after the yeoman, across the foyer and down the long corridor to his left. He was due for shore leave, after his tour in the Sea of Claws, when it had been cancelled and his ship called upon for extended duty. Although disappointed, Roschmann was a loyal subject of the Emperor, and obeyed without question.
The hard soles of polished boots announced his presence to the Reiksguard halberdiers standing at the double doors on the far end. It never ceased to amaze Roschmann how lavishly the entire Palace was decorated, with its polished marble floors, and plush red and ebony furnishings. The doorway of each room consisted of eight-feet-high double solid oak doors, which had a banner bearing the national symbol - a rampant griffon - to each side.
The passage bulged halfway along, and split either side of a bronze and black marble statue of the Emperor's griffon - Deathclaw.
Near the doors to the War Room was a bench, upon which another Naval Officer sat. Roschmann immediately recognised him as Günther Lichtenstein. He was smoking, a habit which the Emperor did not permit in his presence, and one which Roschmann did not engage in.
"Karl, my old friend, how are you?"
"Fine, and you?" to which there was no reply.
"I wonder who we are at War with now."
"We'll soon see."
The yeoman opened the doors, and the guards stood to attention. Both men entered the huge chamber, and too their places opposite each other, as they had done many times before - too many for the liking of Roschmann. The other Admirals acknowledged the recent arrivals and resumed their conversations.
Several minutes later, the guards at the other doors which led to the Emperor's chamber, snapped to attention. Chatting ceased and all rose for the entrance of His Majesty the Emperor. Once seated, the Grand Admiralty were permitted to once again take their seats.
The Emperor wasted little time with formalities, and began to speak about the reason for the meeting.
"Gentlemen," spoke the Emperor "as you know, we have lost a disturbing proportion of our merchant shipping to pirate attacks. Over the last month, forty ships have been attacked, making our financial losses an estimated 500,000 gold pieces in goods. These buccaneer's activities must be curbed immediately, and the path I have seen fit to take is as follows:"
The full attention of all those assembled was directed upon the Emperor. His Majesty explained the activities of the pirate vessels, the suspected enemy commander, and detailed the areas in which the worst attacks had occurred. An hour had passed before the orders summary was provided.
"Each of you shall command a task force of several squadrons. You shall then sail to the port from which the merchants you have been assigned are headed, and provide them with an escort to their destination, destroying any enemy vessels you encounter to ensure the safe passage of cargo. Your orders will be provided in further detail, in writing, before you leave the Marienburg Naval Docks. They are to be opened once you have set sail. I bid good fortune to you all. Good day."
With that, the assembly were dismissed. Whilst they were leaving, each Admiral was chatting. Many were discussing mutiny. The argument was that to force men, whom had just returned to serve a consecutive tour without leave was inviting mass mutiny and desertion. Roschmann did not get involved, and looked forward to the sea and the stars - even if he had no leave.
Admiral Roschmann arrived at Marienburg the next day, after a land trip of some 200 miles. It was a Sunday morning, and the many Church bells rung out invitations to their respective congregations. He was greeted by His Majesty's Herald and received an envelope containing his orders.
Karl looked out at a task force that was already leaving - Admiral Heigel's - the oldest and most experienced of the Admiralty. They were under full sails, and slowly slipped by the lighthouse and round, out of sight. The sky was overcast, with the sun looking to break through in spots. There was a mild easterly wind, and the sea was a glassy swell. Roschmann strolled along the docks until he reached his Greatship, the Dönitz, named after the famed Admiral. It was the last ship of his group to be loaded. The rest, consisting of two squadrons of Wolfships, and two squadrons of Wargalleys were ready to sail. The Imperial Marines he was taking on this voyage were far from enthusiastic, but not bordering on mutiny. A few hours later, the Dönitz slipped her lines and led her battlegroup to the open sea. Once sails were set, Admiral Karl Roschmann opened his orders, and read them to the crew. They were headed to the Bretonnian port of Brionne, a beautiful place by Roschmann's memory.
"Signal the rest of the fleet," he told his communications officer "that we are headed to Brionne."
"Navigator, plot a course for Bretonnian waters."
With these orders, Admiral Roschmann had begun his part in the greatest naval operation in Empire history.
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