Duke Forecastle - Part 18

Duke Forecastle - Part 18

Double Eagle ran with the wind, the Anchorbar line in hot pursuit behind her. The frigate was faster than the fleet, but she had only minutes before the hex border would halt her progress. At that point, the ship would be pinned in and swarmed.

Captain Forecastle climbed up to the poop deck with Carrack in tow, to get a better view of their pursuers. The great brown form of the ship’s namesake perched there, too, with one head watching the captain, and the other gazing alertly out to sea.

Forecastle had called the bird down from the topmast, but this was the first time he’d seen it alight on a railing instead of a yard. Up close, he could see that it had wounds on its legs and body from the fight. It seemed untroubled by them, though.

“Look, bear with me,” he said to the helmsman, holding up his hands helplessly. “I don’t remember the terms, so I don’t know how to say the commands right. But this is what I want: either get them all spread out,” he said, making vague gestures toward the enemy line, “or get them in each other’s way. I want it so they can’t clearly see what we’re doing.”

“Aye, Cap’n,” said Carrack solemnly. He stood on tiptoes for a moment, taking sight of the Anchorbar vessels. “They’re stayin’ tight now, sir, though. I don’t see as how we could loosen the line. We could break across it, maybe. But that’d be tricky. They’ve got the weather gage.”

Forecastle looked, too. Across a sea of moderate swell, the thirteen enemy ships were holding a regimented battle line. It was capped at either end by their heaviest battleships, both 4-deckers which completely outclassed Eagle. But it was the number of ships that worried him, not their size.

“We shouldn’t, though. Right? Not with one ship? They’d...” he struggled to remember the book on battle tactics. “What’s the navy term for crossfire? They’d shoot us from both sides.”

Carrack glanced at the bird. “Double up, sir?”

That was it. “Double up on us. Yes. That’s not what I want. I want to fight them one at a time, in single ship-to-ship beam fights, where the others don’t have a clear view of us. And I don’t want to grapple.” He looked again. The line was somewhat slanted, with a leading and trailing edge to it. “Can we flank them? Get around that nearer side of the line?”

Carrack put both his hands on the painted rail, squinting through his still-puffy eyes at the horizon. He hunched his shoulders, seemingly uncomfortable to be standing so close to the eagle.

“Hafta be the man-o’-war we fight first,” he said dubiously, after a moment.

“Fine, do that,” the captain ordered. “I don’t care what ship we’re fighting. In fact, the bigger the better. It’ll block their view more.”

“Aye-aye.” Carrack gave him the rare shipboard formality of a salute, then jumped away, taking the steps down to the quarterdeck in a single bound. “Helm! Right full rudder!”

The de facto first officer shouted a steady stream of other orders from the command deck, and the riggers began calling out to one another in seafarer-speak, but Forecastle did not listen. He remained at the poop deck railing, standing right next to the eagle.

Sails snapped in the breeze overhead. The ship began tilting to starboard. The shadows of the lines and shrouds shifted over the planks. They swung away from the edge of the hex.

He looked up at the bird. Two of its four yellow eyes stared back down at him, while its other head peered down into the sea, searching for fish. Or maybe it was tracking their quakken, below the water.

Almost unconsciously, he reached out and smoothed the feathers on its nearer neck. They stood right back up again.

He laughed. “Well, I can’t say ‘pretty bird.’ You’re a homely beast,” he said, smiling up at it, “but you are probably the best fighting unit I’ve ever commanded.”

At that, the eagle opened its black-tipped ivory beak and lifted its head up. A beam of sun glistened on its pink tongue, but it made no sound. It then closed its beak with a tiny click, bent down, and pecked once at the railing by Forecastle’s hand, making a significant gouge in the wood and paint. Forecastle didn’t flinch. He reached up and stroked its neck again. The feathers were short and stiff, like the bristles of a groomsman’s brush.

“I also think you’re a pretty smart creature, too. ‘Pretty smart bird,’ maybe? Would you settle for that? Pretty smart bird.” He kept petting it. The bird did not blink, but a white nictitating membrane slid over its pupilless eye.

He checked its stats:

Unit: Double Eagle

Level: 2

Class: Heavy Flyer

Move: 0/26 (crewed to: HMS Double Eagle)

Hits: 11/20

Combat: 8

Defense: 4

Special: Flyer

Special: Capture - capacity: 1, transport: 0

Special: Luckamancy Reserve - capacity: 3/30

A mere 3 points of its Luckamancy remained, after saving Cat. And that was probably far too little for what he had in mind.

“I hope you are smart,” he said, as he scratched it gently down its back. It shrugged contently. “I need you to do something quite complicated now.”

---

Being one ship against a formation afforded Double Eagle an advantage in agility. She could turn as she wished, but if the long battle line wanted to change course in response, then orders would have to be given, and signal flags waved down the line.

In its pursuit, the enemy formation was like a fishing net, intended as much to cut off the quarry’s route of escape as to align their own firepower. Its leading edge was knifing in on the northeast side, where Anchorbar had the greater benefit of the gage.

At first, the Anchormen allowed the frigate to slow and sail closer against the wind, giving up her speed and distance (the only tactical blessings she still had left). But as it became clear that the Seaworld ship might just be able to round the line and squeeze by, their tight formation finally broke. A barque and two fast brigantines hove to and lagged behind the fleet, holding back in case of a chase. Then the remainder of the Anchorbar line bent and swung around to the southwest, to cut off their retreat.

At the fore, the man-o’-war did not try to race to cut them off. Instead, she trimmed her sails and lingered, as if welcoming the chance to lay down a raking broadside or two as Double Eagle passed within her range.

“Three held back, and the line’s down to ten,” he said to Carrack, pointing. “They’ve had to spread farther apart.”

“Is that far enough, sir?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. But it’ll help.”

Visibility was all too clear in this hex. It had been limited in the bigger battle, so Forecastle didn’t know if the enemy was yet aware of the double eagle. But he believed in holding his cards close. The bird was now perched on the lowest yard on the mizzen (which, for some perverse reason was not called the mizzenyard, the way the other masts had a foreyard and a mainyard there, but was called a “cross-jack yard”), hidden from the enemy’s view by the (again, Titans, why?) cross-jack sail.

“They’re presenting for a broadside,” said Carrack, indicating the big battleship.

“I think they’re expecting one from us, as we pass,” nodded Forecastle. “But we’re not going to pass. Get ready to turn and sail right for ‘em.”

Most of the rest of the enemy ships still had line-of-sight on the frigate, but the main fleet of ten was now nearly in full conjunction behind the man-o’-war. The farther ones shrank to little dots. Most of them were too far away to spot the eagle in the air, he thought. But before he could risk letting it fly, he needed the cover of fire.

Fire came.

Sooner than he’d expected, a bolt of Shockmancy lanced out from the man-o’-war’s main beams, struck the fore topgallant sail, and cut the top of the foremast off completely. A chunk of timber, still with Her Majesty’s pennant attached to it, tumbled overboard. And with it fell the bodies of two riggers, into the brine. Pieces of sailcloth and frayed rope fluttered on the breeze.

He couldn’t see the damage too well from the command position, but he understood what had happened. His sense of this ship and its condition was sharper than it had been for Unsinkable II. Maybe that was something that came with being captain.

“Not even a warning shot?” he muttered to Carrack.

“Think it was meant to be, Cap’n,” said the first officer. “We should still be out of range for a minute or so. A hit from that distance was just cursed good luck!”

Forecastle raised his eyebrows.

He turned and glanced up at the eagle, which was perched above and behind him. Its points said:

Special: Luckamancy Reserve - capacity: 4/30

“Cursed,” said the captain, shaking his head, “is exactly correct, Mister Carrack.” The creature had gained a point in its Luckamancy Reserve, almost certainly at the cost of two crew and a piece of the mast. Pretty smart bird? Well. Indeed. “Instead of running, I think we should’ve been playing cards this whole time.”

Carrack snorted. “Like as not, Cap’n. For all the chance we’ve got left to us.”

The first mate took a step away, as if intending to get a closer look at the damage, but Forecastle clapped him on the shoulder, turned him around, and looked him in the eye.

“Do you happen to have a deck?”

Recent posts... (See full thread)
tgillet1 wrote:
I'm still not buying it. Unlucky crap was still happening to the crew after the double eagle was tamed, most notably Forecastle's rope snapping and him almost drowning. If the double eagle could have borrowed rolls from unlikely things that didn't have a particularly negative outcome, it would have. It seems at least smart enough for that, and it's luck reserve is small enough that it could choose between rolls to borrow from. The cards won't work, but Forecastle will think of something else, something he doesn't like but knows he has to do it to survive. A series of bad rolls that seems to put them in an even worse position, followed by a user of that stored luck at the last moment to turn it all around. I'm ready to wager quatloos, at least on the question of the cards.


You don't know that the rope snapping was a bad luck roll. If the double eagle wanted to save Forecastle, but couldn't due to him being tied up, it may have exerted luckamancy on the rope so he could "capture" him and bring him back up to air. Serendipity is a form of natural luckamancy. ;-)
kiyote wrote:
You don't know that the rope snapping was a bad luck roll. If the double eagle wanted to save Forecastle, but couldn't due to him being tied up, it may have exerted luckamancy on the rope so he could "capture" him and bring him back up to air. Serendipity is a form of natural luckamancy. ;-)


I don't think this is actually what happened, but I love the suggestion anyway. It's a really nice reversal of perspective. I certainly wouldn't be annoyed if that did turn out to be the case.

Perhaps though the eagle did purposely take the luck knowing it could save Forecastle. Or it may have no control over which rolls it takes from. In either case I'm thinking that it can only take luck from rolls which have a "bad" outcome that is sufficiently unlikely.

I also realized that I had some things wrong with regards to when the double eagle was taking luck. It was taking luck from all over before being tamed. We don't know what sorts of rolls it took from after it was tamed because Forecastle was keelhauled immediately after taming it. So that takes away some of the reason I had for thinking it had no control over where it takes luck from.
tgillet1 wrote:
We don't know what sorts of rolls it took from after it was tamed because Forecastle was keelhauled immediately after taming it. So that takes away some of the reason I had for thinking it had no control over where it takes luck from.


Well, we know one now - Anchorbar shot at them, and it hit, and either the eagle is really stupid, or it doesn't have control. I think it's much more likely it doesn't have control.

I don't see it as a terribly overpowered thing, either - it's just a weapon that the double eagle has, and I'm not sure you couldn't defend against it the same way that they're charging it. In a normal battle, you could throw a minimally manned ship at them, to try to have the eagle burn a bunch of luckamancy against a ship that's not a real threat.

In this case the reason the eagle is so overpowered is because, well, this is Star Wars and the Death Star all over again - a foe with a deadly weapon but a critical vulnerability that could be exploited by someone who's able to make a one-in-a-million shot thanks to being able to manipulate odds.
Or, it can distribute luck in combat but not take it. We've only seen it take luck when it was basically not doing anything, from what I can remember.
Keighvin1 wrote:
Or, it can distribute luck in combat but not take it. We've only seen it take luck when it was basically not doing anything, from what I can remember.


Or it has a "harvest Luck" type action that allows it to take "good" Luck from any of the various Rolls that are being made around it from any given unit by negatively impacting the numbers. Although now that it's attached to a side, maybe it can only pull Luck from SeaWorld rolls. My suspicion is that it cannot selectively grab Luck like a Luckamancer can "curse" someone with "bad" Luck.

My unfounded speculation is that which Roll gets impacted by a Harvesting is completely random. So if all the units on a side / in proximity are doing important things like fighting a battle or using seafaring expertise to run a frigate or defend against an enemy Beam shot, statistically, the Luck will be harvested from one of those important Rolls. If the majority of Rolls available for harvesting in proximity to the Double Eagle, are say, coming from a ton of sailors being ordered to dice/play cards/gamble like their lives depended on it, then harvested Luck is most likely to pull from one of the myriad unimportant Rolls going on from the gambling. (Although there would still be a chance of the harvest grabbing a Roll from something important that's going on at the same time as the gambling Rolls.)

My thought is that the DE, having just been given complex orders by Forecastle, knows it needs Luck to do its job. So initiated a "Luck point harvest" action. Rather than selectively pulling from the Defense Roll against the Beam shot (because it can't choose), that Roll just happened to be the one that was impacted. Rather than a rope breaking, the navigation team screwing up a Roll to steer the ship around the enemy line, a Rigger making a climb rope mistake, the enemy Warlord having a better shot at escape, etc.
I'm not sure where some people are getting the idea that Forecastle is going to fill the Double Eagle's Luckamancy Reserve by playing cards. He just needs a few more luck points. Sure, he'd like to fill up the reserve, but seeing as the double eagle didn't even have a full reserve despite having hung around and inflicted bad luck on the Unsinkable II for a while, I doubt he's expecting to get a full 30 points - he's looking to get every point he can manage to scare up at this time.

the Seafarers seem to be a lot more sensitive to Luck and Luckamancy - perhaps Luck is a more prominent factor in ocean battles than on land?
Jacinth and Rubies wrote:
I'm not sure where some people are getting the idea that Forecastle is going to fill the Double Eagle's Luckamancy Reserve by playing cards. He just needs a few more luck points. Sure, he'd like to fill up the reserve, but seeing as the double eagle didn't even have a full reserve despite having hung around and inflicted bad luck on the Unsinkable II for a while, I doubt he's expecting to get a full 30 points - he's looking to get every point he can manage to scare up at this time.

the Seafarers seem to be a lot more sensitive to Luck and Luckamancy - perhaps Luck is a more prominent factor in ocean battles than on land?


http://archives.erfworld.com/Kickstarter+Stories/39
"Forecastle eyed it once more, noting its points: Special: Luckamancy Reserve - capacity: 28/30."
it was pretty close to full
http://archives.erfworld.com/Kickstarter+Stories/35
and at the time he had tamed it, it was only 9/30. also noted, by the time he had rescued Cat, that luck was down to around 2/30.

Granted, Forecastle definitely has a more well defined plan than he did when he burned through nearly all the luck points in a single battle - but he also realizes how quickly that luck can run out. I agree he probably isn't going to get 30/30, but he is going to try to get as much as close to 30 as possible before he has to start spending it. And if I were to guess, he probably will need more than what he actually gets (ie eagle could end with 0/30 or croak).
I hope and don't think that playing cards will increase the luckamancy reserve, for reasons stated by previous posters.

But what if the cards are used to randomly make some minor decisions, such as slightly adjusting the ships speed. Depending on the card drawn, Forecastle could give different orders. This would set them back a bit, but good luck for the eagle is more important.
tgillet1 wrote:
kiyote wrote:
You don't know that the rope snapping was a bad luck roll. If the double eagle wanted to save Forecastle, but couldn't due to him being tied up, it may have exerted luckamancy on the rope so he could "capture" him and bring him back up to air. Serendipity is a form of natural luckamancy. ;-)


I don't think this is actually what happened, but I love the suggestion anyway. It's a really nice reversal of perspective. I certainly wouldn't be annoyed if that did turn out to be the case.

Perhaps though the eagle did purposely take the luck knowing it could save Forecastle. Or it may have no control over which rolls it takes from. In either case I'm thinking that it can only take luck from rolls which have a "bad" outcome that is sufficiently unlikely.

I also realized that I had some things wrong with regards to when the double eagle was taking luck. It was taking luck from all over before being tamed. We don't know what sorts of rolls it took from after it was tamed because Forecastle was keelhauled immediately after taming it. So that takes away some of the reason I had for thinking it had no control over where it takes luck from.


Oh, no, I think that the double eagle used some of his luckamancy points to get the rope to snap and put Forecastle in a position where he could be rescued, and not used the bad luck to save him. I don't think he has control over where he pulls bad luck from, it may just be random. He was at 28/30 after Forecastle was rescued. He may have been at full strength before Forecastle was keelhauled.

As far as playing cards goes, I don't think that the eagle can choose to take luck from there, but it does add a fairly harmless supply of luck rolls in the vicinity that may get randomly pulled from. I don't think we know for certain that luck rolls need to be pulled from equivalently important events, it may just be any luck roll.
Would the anchorbar prisoner who was bonded to the quakken have had an obligation to Duty to attempt to croak himself after his ship was captured, given what it meant for their secret being at risk? And given that he wanted Forecastle to do it anyway?

I imagine he didn't necessarily have the means available (doubt they left him with a weapon), but I think it says something about Duty if it can compel a unit to do that. The only person in discworld I can think of that has done this is Queen Bea as I recall, and I'm not quite sure if rulers feel Duty the same way a random stabber or quakken tamer might.