Duke Forecastle, Part 1
One hundred and eighty turns ago, the HMS Superbia set sail for the western colonies, with a crew of sixty seafaring units on deck and a complement of more than 400 soldiers and seafarers below.
In command was the legendary Royal Lord Admiral Hubris Unsinkable. This was the mighty flagship‘s maiden voyage, and both the three-masted ship of the line and the Chief Warlord himself were the pride of Seaworld, their illustrious side.
Superbia made Uwotmate in an astonishing eleven turns, exchanging crew and supplies and joining with the frigates Extraneous and Bagatelle. Admiral Unsinkable dined with the Viceroy, talking of trouble with Anchorbar to the far west, and affirming the Crown‘s commitment to defending her colonies.
The Anchormen were Seaworld‘s only maritime rival, and of late they had become increasingly aggressive. The Admiral told the Viceroy he intended to sail out in this brawny vessel and smack them in the nose a bit.
Other than routine position and mapping reports, that meeting was the last anyone heard from the Admiral or his ships again.
On the turn of Superbia‘s commissioning, Duke Joseph Forecastle had traveled to the capital to witness the ceremony (and even play a small part in it). He‘d also made his requisite appearance at court (which was little noted) and then at the ball (where he dragged a reluctant Lady Windlass around the floor before retreating to the smoking room), and at the War Council (where the Admiralty again explained to him why Seaworld could not afford to upgrade his garrison). Duke Forecastle then rode back to the city that bore his name, the city he had popped in, to patrol the mountains and keep the side safe on its only approach by land.
Seaworld comprised only five coastal cities, plus the inland fortress of Forecastle. The side was an indomitable maritime power, known and feared as far as three thousand ocean hexes away. Her colonies numbered nine, with a total of twenty-nine colonial cities supplying her great treasury. The management of this sprawling empire demanded a vast navy of fine ships and a vast bureaucracy in the capital, and Seaworld could afford both.
But it could somehow not afford to upgrade the city which protected its eastern flank. Nor could the Admiralty spare any more troops here.
As Seaworld‘s only warlord without the “seafarer” special ability, Forecastle knew that he was something of a joke to them. That was all right; he was doing important work out here in the east, whether or not Her Majesty‘s Admirals appreciated it. He remained vigilant. He patrolled. He‘d be ready, come what may.
Ninety turns ago, an identical ship to the Superbia–the HMS Hubris Unsinkable–was formally commissioned. She sailed westward on a mission of vengeance, with a fleet of fifteen ships bearing twenty-eight masts.
In command was Royal Lord Admiral Buck Brummel, a protege of the late Admiral Unsinkable, who endeavored to speak and dress exactly like his late mentor: royal blue finery, golden epaulets, and a grand black bicorn hat with gold trim. He looked magnificent.
Once more, the fleet made for Uwotmate, subsequently making port at Corblimey to rendezvous with another three warships, bearing two masts apiece.
They sailed for where the city of Anchorbar was supposed to be located. This time, reports were made with more detail and care. It is known that Brummel met and sank two pirate and three Anchormen vessels as he stabbed westward. No new land was charted on the voyage.
It is also known that the Vengeance Fleet then met the main force of Anchormen at sea, the enemy force numbering twenty-one ships, thirty-two masts. After two inconclusive engagements left Seaworld‘s ships mangled, Brummel turned the fleet around and made for the distant port of Buggrov, eleven turns‘ sail away in their current state of repairs.
They made it only three. The fleet was wiped out to a man, without a word sent home about the cause. More than two thousand units and twenty-seven warlords perished in all.
Lord Forecastle had attended the commissioning of the Unsinkable, of course. And he dutifully returned to the city of Seaworld for the ceremony to commission her successor: the HMS Hubris Unsinkable II.
This time, there was little ceremony and no balls. Queen Eliteabit herself attended the War Council.
Looking at the map and hearing the Admirals speak, the situation was even worse than Forecastle had understood it to be. Two colonies had been lost to Anchorbar while the new flagship was being popped. Ships were needed more than warlords now, so the steady stream of new Captains and Admirals had slowed in favor of popping vessels. Seaworld‘s strategic position had shifted from conquest to defense. For the first time in Forecastle‘s life, his side was losing.
He sat quietly, telling himself he wouldn‘t even ask for more troops this time around. He would give his perfunctory report and tell them all was still quiet in the east, and ride home again. Her Majesty had greater worries, and he was grateful not to be a part of them.
But when he was finally called upon to report, there were no private smiles. No-one ignored him. As he rose, Eliteabit spoke his name. Her tone was sombre.
“Your Majesty?” asked Forecastle, bowing to her.
“Your report is not required. And you shall not be returning to your city,” said the Queen.
“My...” his heart suddenly pounded in his chest. He knew he was viewed as useless, but was she about to disband him? He couldn‘t find words. “I‘m sorry, Majesty?”
“Your services in Forecastle are no longer necessary,” she said gravely. “You sail at dawn upon the Unsinkable II, as her first mate.”