Round 22: With Watchful Eyes

Prologue

I am still with the Armada and have decided to stay here for the next two weeks to recuperate from my wild time with the Psilocybes of the Myconid lands.

The Admiral of the Armada has given me a cabin aboard the flagship Moya and I am getting used to life at sea, although I enjoy the relative peace and calm of being at anchored and sails lowered.

Day 1

These new Battleships are stunning to behold. There are rows and rows of cannons, dozens on each row on each side, and when fully crewed with three hundred Ensigns, it becomes a formidable war machine.

While I miss my spacious accommodations aboard the Frigate that sailed me here, life on a Battleship is much more exhilarating. There are dozens upon dozens of moving pieces, responsibilities, and tasks. 

So far on the battlefield, we have been joined by a Jagunii, Spirit, Norse, Dwarf, Lux, and Halfling.

Scouts report that the Imperial forces are made up of a Dark Elf, Troll, Nox, and two Artilleries.

Atop the mountains controlled by the Independent forces, two ziggurats have been spotted. Below the mountains, in the forest, a Simian has already been spotted taking cover for the rainy season. There is also a Beastfolk lurking under the trees in the drier regions. There seems to be a Marshling as well.

First out the gates was our Dwarf, soon followed by Wood Elf, Spirit, and Norse. A Marshling left its swamps entirely undefended.

In the Empire, a Dark Elf, a Troll, and a Nox have invaded our Spirit (part of the plan, the Spirit Master assures me) and Barbarians.

Day 2

Reinforcements have arrived in the form of a Firewalker. They have been called in to apply pressure and try to keep up with the fast Voids and threat from the Empire.

All is peaceful aboard the flagship Moya. The Admiral assures me there are great plans for these mighty Battleships and the Frigates are more than capable to handle even the most foul sea monsters.

Day 3

Our Spirit is growing at an impressive pace, accompanied by the Firewalker, Dwarf, and Norse. 

The Firewalker sent out on a mighty battle against the Nox. But fire is greedy, and a second hit later today on a Goblin gave the Voids opportunity to strike twice on the Firewalker.

The Rainy Season has passed and the Simian army has been spotted. We saw it emerge from the trees this evening as it struck our Norse.

But nothing seems to dampen the spirit of the the Berserkir and Einherjar.

The Firewalker has grown to be the strongest attacker amongst us but the furnace that burns the brightest burns out the fastest. The Spirit and Norse are keeping up, seizing lands from Barbarians and Imperials alike.

The Spirit is harassing dominions by invading only to harvest life essences to turn into Spectres and Phantoms.

However, the Voids are emerging as the true threat.

The Admiral is concerned that the Voids continue to find targets to invade. He has raised the topic in the Parliament and there has been an agreement to try to reduce the land ceded to the Voids.

Of note is that the Imperial Artillery was readied early this time and have already been seen blasting Barbarian and Commonwealth territories.

Day 4

Today, we set sail for the very first time. A particularly weak Barbarian was chosen by the Admiral as our first target.

Twenty-seven Battleships with full crews of three-hundred Ensigns each, totalling eight-thousand and one-hundred brave warriors arrived at the Barbarian shores. The battle was won with ease. While no Battleships were sunk, we lost in total over one crew of Ensigns. They were mourned and celebrated dutifully on the journey home.

When we returned, the Firewalker had already sent out and left itself poorly defended. The Voids soon came for it and for the Norse, again granting important territories to the Ziggurats.

Around mid day, we set sail again for the same weak Barbarian tribe.

Another Firewalker provided crucial acres to the Voids. The Admiral grew wary of losing ground to the mighty Voids, whose Walls and Forges were already matched by no one. Not even closely.

Day 5

It’s late as I’m scribbling this in my cabin aboard the flagship Moya. The Admiral has been busy all day with training troops and assigning Ensigns to Battleships.

The Admiral’s funding is limited and it’s taking time to see return on the investments made in improvements of weaponry. Whenever he has time to himself, I see him staring off at the horizon towards the mountain ranges where the Voids have started building Ziggurats that extend further and further.

Of note for today was our Spirit who sent out on a harassing attack against the Imperial Nomads. This was to set a trap for the Simians, who came swinging from the tree tops. As soon as the Spirit’s army had returned, it was sent back out and conquered nearly twice as much land from the Simian.

The Commonwealth efforts to stop providing easy lands for the Voids seems to be working. The Firewalker is fading, unfortunately. Their burning rage may be called upon another day.

The Dwarf is transitioning to a more sustainable strategy, suitable for long-term, slowed warfare.

Day 6

This morning, the Admiral gave orders to ready the fleet. Desmer’s Ruffians had been caught robbing merchant caravans near the border and needed some discipline.

The hammer of justice came swiftly for Desmer, as our Ensigns and Battleships rained justice and freedom over his ill-gotten lands. 

Next on the liberation schedule was Hork, from whom we seized land that rightfully belonged to the Commonwealth. The Admiral assured me that the paperwork was all in order but it was in the archives on the mainland. He offered a rowboat to take me ashore and review the paperwork, but I shuddered at the memories of Commonwealth bureaucracy.

Barbarians do so much evil. It’s important to remember that as one looks at them from a distance, behind a barrage of Battleship cannon fire and the structured, disciplined movements of Ensign formations.

Day 7

After an early morning raid on the Barbarian tribe controlled by Desmer the Murderer, the Admiral gave order to invade a new enemy: a Marshling.

Having so far only fought Barbarians, it was interesting to sail in more shallow and murky waters. The battle was short and easily won.

The Admiral was in a cheerful mood as we returned to port. The fleet is growing at a tremendous speed due to careful planning of lumber and ore production. More and more people are moving to Armada-controlled territories which has caused the Admiral’s coffers to grow.

Eager to find new targets to invade after the Commonwealth plan to not provide easy land gains for the Voids, the Independent have declared war on The Empire. The plan seems to be to take down or slow down the Demon, who is swelling with acres.

Day 8

The Commonwealth is beginning to grow very strong now. The Empire is falling behind. But the Voids remain as a significant threat. Every action has to be carefully calculated so as to not benefit them.

Spirit, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Jagunii, and Norse are all growing steadily and safely. The Firewalker has all but burned out. It was able to send out today but the Magma Giants did not plan for this war to last long.

The Admiral commanded the Armada on two successful campaigns against Hork today. Every time we return to shore, there are more Battleships than before waiting for us.

Day 9

Today has continued much like the last day. 

In response to our two campaigns the previous day, Hork had assaulted and pillages a village not far form the Armada harbours. This act of defiance required swift justice, which was dealt in the form of Battleship barrages and Ensigns annexing more of Hork’s lands.

The Jagunii had conquered lands earlier in the day from Logan but the lands were too close to one of the Void who saw and seized the opportunity to lay claim to new lands and extend its Ziggurat.

The damage was largely overcome with an easy invasion of Logan’s Crew and confiscating acres for the benefit of the Commonwealth and all who live in the Commonwealth’s realm.

Day 10

The gap between the Armada and Jagunii of the Commonwealth and the Voids is closing.

Shortly after breakfast in the morning, orders came down from the Admiral. It was time to set sail. Elven allies report of a weak Marshling whose swamps have bloated and overgrown. While the Wood Elves had failed their invasion, the Admiral had reviewed the reports from the spies and wizards and determined it to be an easy target with less than half of all Battleships fully crewed needed.

So once again, I settled into my cabin aboard the Flagship Moya and we set sail along with one-hundred and eighty-four other Battleships and a total crew of over fifty thousand Ensigns. We arrived to see the small defensive forces left behind. Covered by roaring cannon fire, the Ensigns jumped ashore and made short work of the defending army.

Once the Armada returned home, an especially wild and greedy Barbarian tribe led by Eduin the Backstabber found himself having taken more land than he could hold.

Both Voids invaded Eduin, following by the screeching Simians.

Then came the Jagunii War Mammoths to trample on what was left.

The Ensigns had just about finished polishing the cannons and were busy cleaning and pressing their uniforms when command came from the Admiral. 

“We are to take back land Eduin the Backstabber has stolen from us.”

I thought to myself, what about the Void? Our spies say they are strong. Can we really do this? But this was no time to ponder at length. It was time to once again sail to the Barbarian and bring peace and justice to their lands. The kind of peace and justice only Battleships can deliver and Ensigns ensure is properly implemented.

Not long into our return journey, we received word that terrible Nightmares had befallen the those left behind with thirty-two Frigates sunk and many hundred of Commodores and Ensigns perishing. The Admiral looked at the setting sun on the horizon, firmly grasping the railing of his beloved flagship, the strong wood cracking slightly under this fingers. There was a calm fury growing.

Some time later, when we were nearing the Commonwealth harbours, we received word that our Jagunii had responded to the attack but been repelled.

The Admiral sent word to the commanders of the Battleships at bay to prepare for an all-out assault. 

The flagship returned home to a harbour in ruin but with people in high spirits. Cheering erupted as three-hundred and sixty-nine Battleships crewed by over one hundred thousand Ensigns set sail, hoisted the Commonwealth flag, and readied their weaponry.

The Void suffered few casualties but the Armada laid claim to many hundreds of acres of land. It was an important victory.

Those who had stayed behind knew that the Void would return. Preparations had been made to minimise the damage. It was a trap to enable retribution by the Jagunii.

We arrived home late that night to the news that the Jagunii had successfully taken even more land from the Void. They, too, were expecting reprisal but had made the necessary preparation.

Overall, today was a resounding success for the Commonwealth.

But the Demon blood orgy is uninterrupted. 

Day 11

Although the early hours of today saw the Void invade the Jagunii, it was an expected visit and the Jagunii benefited from the exchange by gaining more than it lost.

The glacial shift in power from the Void to the Armada, Jagunii, and Wood Elf is continuing. 

Keen on keeping up, the Spirit sent out this morning on the Nomadic forces. The immortal units that stayed home braced for impact as the trees started starting rumbling and the leaves rusting louder and louder.

Thousands of Gorillas emerged from the tree tops and descended on the undying Spectres and Phantoms. They ceded land to the Simian army but Simians were not the only forest dwellers on early duty this day.

The Wood Elven Warsong was sung, and Sentinels charged into the trees for the Simian lands. Hundreds upon hundreds of acres were taken for the Commonwealth.

Upon returning home, the Spirit sent out almost immediately, this time on an unsuspecting Goblin army.

The Norse warriors keep the Barbarians away with frequent border skirmishes, with rarely any land taken but plenty of Barbarians killed. The brave Norse border guard Berserkirs are soon seen returning to battle as Einherjar.

Broderick’s Tribe had successfully pillaged land from the outermost parts of the Empire and some of the less carefully incorporated lands of the Commonwealth in just a handful of quick raids.

This was met with all capable armies invading Broderick, costing him thousands of acres and nearly all of his pride. 

Day 12

Dawn broke and I was strolling the upper deck of the flagship Moya when we received word from the Jagunii that Eduin was back with poorly defended lands, ripe for a peacekeeping mission.

We set sail almost immediately and successfully ensured freedom and liberty for all survivors on the new land now under Commonwealth control.

When we returned to harbour, the Dwarven army was missing. They had sent out on a smaller barbarian without consulting with the parliament. There was irritation and confusion about whether they would be able to defend their new lands from the Voids.

The Jagunii mammoths stomped their feet in irritation and the Admiral of the Armada was none too pleased, but they agreed the Dwarf was likely to be safe or safe enough. 

Immediately upon return, we received word from woodland scouts that the Simian army was starving and in disarray, no doubt praying for a rainy season to begin again. The Admiral gave order to turn around and sail to the Simian shores.

Resistance was futile and while the trees provided shelter for the defending warriors, the Ensigns captured hundreds of acres of land from the Simian.

There was to be no rest today for the Admiral and the Armada. As we were on the return journey home, one of the scouts aboard the ships at the rear reported that one of the Voids had left their Ziggurats poorly defended.

Spies were despatched immediately and returned with news that not only could the Armada invade the Void, it could do so safely.

As soon as we got back to the Commonwealth, the ships were restocked and resupplied at record speed. To save time, the Admiral gave order to not lay anchors and instead resupply quickly with just ropes and pulleys from the supply boats.

The victory against the Void was resounding. Once again, after we were leaving, we saw the same Void conquered land from a nearby Barbarian settlement. Once again, the Admiral gave order to not lay anchor and instead use the new system of resupplying with using ropes and pulleys to counteract the waves.

During this our second battle against the Void, I asked the Admiral if I could join the lookout at the top of the tallest mast of the ship. I had spent the last battle desperately cleaning a telescope given to me by the wood elves, but couldn’t find the right type of cloth in time.

This time I could see and try to study the Void, albeit from the safe distance aboard the flagship. I was saddened to see as over four-thousand Ensigns lost their lives in a most terrifying manner, keeling over and screaming in terror as their skin seemed to age decades in seconds. Four Battleships were sunk.

While many Void warriors seemingly took part in the fighting, very few died. Once they see they are overwhelmed, they simply retreat further into the enormous ziggurat labyrinth. Cannon fire cracked and shattered the impossible architecture which crumbled to dust.

Our ships returned home late that night. It was already nighttime.

Day 13 

As impressive as these new Battleships are, the walls do not offer much in terms of privacy. By now I have got used to the loud snoring of Ensigns and laughter from the crew quarters. But this morning, before the sun had barely started rising, I had first heard a rowboat come up to our starboard and I fully was awoken by the determined footsteps of the Admiral and unfurling of scrolls. There was a feint waft of mammoth musk still lingering.

The Jagunii must have come with news!

I knocked on the Admiral’s door and was told to come in. 

It was not clear whether it was happenstance or if the Void had studied the patterns of the Armada, but at the cover of night, the Void had once again sent out but the Jagunii night guards had spotted it and freed vast mountain ranges from the Ziggurat incursion. 

The sun greeted us on the horizon as we pulled up the anchors, readied the ships, and set sail. He would not say so himself, but victory was surely within the Admiral’s grasps now. Not just for this battle but for the whole war.

The Independent were no longer a threat to the Commonwealth’s peacekeeping mission. Only the Empire remained a concern, and the Empress’ best so far was a Demon whose path to world domination was not through violence and war but through sickly desires and unholy temptations.

We had just set sail to return back to the Commonwealth with charts showing the newly liberated mountain territories, when phenomenal blasts of Artillery echoed down the valleys and out at sea. It had been some time since the Imperial Cannons had been fired and scouts relayed that the target had been a Barbarian tribe led by O’Mannu.

Mere moments later, precisely the duration required to reload cannons, they fired again. And again, and again — every time at perfect intervals. In total, six volleys had been fired at the Barbarian. 

We returned to shore shortly after the echoes of the final blasts had subsided. The Empress must have grown frustrated, furious, or mad — or possibly all three at once. 

Charred and dismembered Barbarian tribes leaders pleaded for help. O’Mannu the Liar, Broderick the Savage, Hork the Bastard, Zeke the Grifter, and Ivi the Fugitive all laid down their arms at the tenuous border of the Commonwealth. They offered to not harass Commonwealth lands if the Commonwealth would return the lands, or what was left of it.

I was permitted to sit in during the Parliamentary hearings that followed. It was decided that the Artillery could not be allowed to keep all this land (thousands of acres!). It could too easily fall into the hands of the Void and give them the momentum to regain control of the war.

It was decided that Dwarven, Wood Elven, Jagunii, and Norse forces would take turns reclaiming the devastated Barbarian lands from the Artillery. The Parliament drafted a resolution under which they would seize the lands the Barbarians had lost to the Imperial atrocities, but keep it under Commonwealth control for an indefinite period of time to ensure full restoration of peace and stability. 

The Armada would not be able to reach the Artillery; our goal aboard the flagship Moya was now to break down the Ziggurats even while fully guarded.

The Empress responded by preemptively declaring war. Demonic wizards cast lightning bolts which struck the Armada and spies sank boats and killed wizards. But the Admiral seemed unfazed. He had stared into the Abyss too many times to flinch at this.

The Dwarf went first, then the Wood Elf, then the Jagunii, and finally the Norse. While the Bombardiers tried to fire cannons at the invading forces, inspired by the earlier success of the day, the Artillery suffered enormous losses. The Commonwealth laid claim to the land and sent the Barbarians a certified letter stating the resolution was now in effect. Two hours later, The Spirit invaded Eduin and claimed some more land as part of the resolution.

Later that evening, the Admiral called me into his quarters. He showed me a familiar map, with the path to the Voids laid out. Spies in Eduin’s tribe reported that they had recently been invaded.

Anchor raised, sails unfurled, cannons loaded, and Ensigns equipped — we set sail and we conquered. This was the end of the Voids as far as the Admiral was concerned. Between the fleet and the mammoths, the Voids had gone from constant threats, to potential threats, to a vanquished enemy.

Day 14

With no Voids in sight anymore, I had broached the subject of whether the Armada could end the Demonic presence, whose unsightly delights blemish the world.

On this morning, the fleet was ready to set sail to the Empire and begin the fight against the Demon. Seven-hundred anchors were raised and seven-hundred fully crewed Battleships left the ports to begin the assault on the Demon. 

No amount of Clear Sights and spy reports can truly prepare you for the sight that is a Demon’s dominion. Over one-hundred-thousand Subjugators were wandering the lands and over fifty-thousand Succubuses paused from their blood orgies to face the opponent. The first opponent they had seen.

The Admiral gave order to form a line of the ships and signalled for the Ensigns to get into their rowboats and row ashore. The Subjugators gathered at the shores. When the rowboats were a few strokes from shore, thousands of cannons erupted in a cavalcade of fire, battering the Subjugators. Thousands died immediately and thousands more as the Ensigns stormed ashore.

The battle was a narrow victory but a victory nonetheless for the Armada. The most important victory.

The Archdemon locked eyes with the Admiral from a great distance. There was fear, but it was not the Admiral’s.

We sailed home, six-hundred and ninety-three Battleships. Seven had sunk. But the survivors were joyous over their victory, yet mournful of their fallen friends.

During our return journey, the mighty Jagunii conquered the Void and the Norse made great strides by taking lands from the Marshlings.

As soon as we returned to harbour, twenty new Battleships were awaiting us, fully crewed. The Admiral’s plan had been to return to the Demon immediately.

Using the now perfected method of resupplying without laying anchor, we returned to the high seas and sailed for the Demon. This time, seven-hundred and seventeen Battleships.

The Archdemon gathered the Subjugators by the shore again, only to be torn apart by cannon fire and Ensigns. 

Now, the Armada was truly and completely unstoppable. We returned to the Commonwealth to fanfare and cheering people in the port.

A Troll had sent out leaving himself poorly defended against the might of the Armada. We set sail again, this time for Troll homelands. While the Ensigns alone could not kill the Mountain Trolls, those trolls who suffered cannon fire lay slain on the ground.

We returned home and to everyone’s delight, the Admiral ordered the fleet turn around again to the Demon lands. Another easy victory.

And then one final time. One final barrage of Subjugators blown apart and scarred land liberated for peace and freedom for all.

Finally, the Ensigns and the Admiral, and the Commodores and the Frigate, could rest in the port. Tens of thousands of people had relocated to the safety and prosperity provided under the Admiral’s wise rule.

Epilogue 

There was nothing left to do for the Admiral. He had secured his victory and helped ensure that his allies take several of the key positions for the final tally of the round.

The Dwarf, Wood Elf, Norse, Jagunii, and Spirit all made their moves to secure as much land as possible from the remainders of the enemy dominions and Barbarians. 

The Artillery fired once more, on the Firewalker explorer who had initially given so much important land to the Voids.

It was time for me to move on. I packed my belongings, tidied my cabin, and went up on deck to meet with the Admiral one last time.

I shook his hand, bid him farewell, he wished me luck, and then I climbed aboard the rowboat that was to take me ashore towards my next adventure. As we were leaving the flagship Moya, I looked back at the Admiral who was resting his watchful eyes on the bright horizon.