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"Treat your ship as you would your women, and the sea as you would your mother, and you shall have fair sailing all your days." ~ Old sailor's saying.
Northsea fleet, Hidegold Bay; Invincible fleet, Morante...
Everyone was shocked by the suggestion. The room was so quiet you could hear a needle drop. Lorist raised his brow, considering the proposition. Malek's suggestion was far too shocking. Even Lorist didn't think Northsea could defeat Invincible and still have the momentum to go on to Morante. It wasn't that his foresight was lacking. Invincible was known for its perfect record.
When the Union first formed it, it was known simply as Union. Its purpose was to defend Morante from pirates and keep Hidegold Bay safe. Eventually, but the scope of their operations soon expanded to the trade routes through the sunshine seas and the golden coast. They curbed piracy in the territorial waters of other nations. It had not suffered a single loss in the century of its commission thus far and its name was changed to Invincible somewhere along the way.
The merchants clamored for a downsizing of the fleet and their military in general when the empire fell into civil war. They first cut the garrisons, but when they went after the fleet, the big-seven vetoed their motion and nothing happened. While they could reform their mothballed land forces in a matter of months in the event of war, it would take years to bring the fleet back up to strength.
Can we really do it?
Senbaud declared Northsea undefeated and Lorist was keen on agreeing but there was a difference between claiming invincibility and actually having it. They had indeed never lost a fight, but they'd never faced an established navy, and they were just two-thirds the size of Invincible. That said, they did have the bronze cannons...
But Invincible had a completely different operation protocol and structure. They had decades of experience. At least eight tenths of their sailors and marines at any given time were veterans. He heard of their exploits almost every six months back in Morante. The thought of facing them had never even crossed his mind.
Northsea wasn't meant to be a wartime fleet. They were formed only to patrol local waters and take on small bands of pirates. Their ships, training, doctrines and command structure was not meant for fighting large scale naval engagements against even a similarly sized fleet, nevermind one one-and-half times larger.
It wasn't that he didn't have any ambition. Grindia was a single, ma.s.sive landma.s.s. Whilst travel by sea was faster, it wasn't necessary, besides a couple of islands, you could get everywhere without ever having to use a boat. He'd never made his fleet big enough to fight Invincible because it didn't mean much against the Union's incredible influence in the world of trade. If they announced a boycott against Norton goods and trade, then even if he could dominate the seas, the ports would still refuse to dock his ships and it meant nothing.
A strong fleet was neither necessary nor sufficient to keep a nation safe. Nor was it needed for trade. It made trade faster, easier, and less expensive, but one could still do just as much trade over land.
This all made it a pointless endeavour to invest in Northsea. Lorist might as well toss the money directly into the sea for all the good it did him. He had an unspoken agreement with Chikdor to not meddle in each other's waters. Each had their territory and neither would make trouble for the other.
The two fleets were the most powerful to have ever existed, each with its own speciality. Northsea excelled at mobility and immense ranged attack capabilities while Invincible used numbers and superior crew for close combat. Invincible did not sail into the northern seas because the ships they had weren't suited to the stormy conditions there. Northsea also did not enter the southern seas because it was uncharted territory and they didn't want to face Chikdor on its home turf. The only time the two interacted was during the yearly House Norton's annual meeting and Chikdor and Peterson's fleets docked at Silowas, during which many spices and daily necessities would be traded. In some sense, the two guilds treated House Norton as a supplier. The two completely withdrew when the war started, however.
Northsea had 16 Blitz cla.s.s warships were fitted with bronze cannons, 28 LLDAM, 56 MSM cla.s.s and 26 Swift cla.s.s. They were split into two flotillas and a patrol detachment. The flotillas each had a unit with 20 LLDM cla.s.s because Northsea was also in charge transporting daily necessities to Hanayabarta and spices from Shyarsia. They had to escort the merchant fleets to the two archipelagos every year.
The great majority of Northsea's power was vested in the 16 Blitz cla.s.s ships. The rest were almost entirely transport vessels. The fleet's combat detachment was far smaller than Invincible's. They had a good chance of winning if Invincible fought them in the north, but those chances dropped drastically the moment they went south.
"Tarkel, briefing them on Invincible's status. Jinolio, check the logs. See when your father will arrive for the celebration."
"Understood, Your Grace."
Tarkel took out a few files on Invincible.
"Invincible was formed 136 years ago with just 20 vessels. Now it has enough ships to fill four Northsestyle flotillas. It has at least a thousand ships. There is no fleet that can compare. It has a force of about 43 thousand men. Its operating cost stands at two million gold Fordes a year. And it's mostly responsible for patrol and escort duties in the sunshine seas and the golden coast. They charge a fifth of profit as tariff for their protection. We have on record two instances of n.o.ble fleets in their area of operations being attacked and wiped out by pirates, but we suspect Invincible to be the true culprits.
"Chikdor is in direct command of the fleet and take four tenths of the fleet's profits. The rest is split between the other big guilds. As for the fleet's structure, it is split into several flotillas. Each has two floating fortresses, known as Sabnim cla.s.s vessels. They are only deployed when the fleet plans to annex a location.
"Each flotilla also has 50 LLDAM and MSAM cla.s.s vessels and at least a hundred rammers. The small ships form the largest part of their combat operations. They're typical approach is to swarm the enemy and ram into them. If they want to wipe out a fleet, they'll just keep ramming the hips until they sink. If they want to take the ships intact, they'll ram into the ship and deposit their contingents of marines.
"In dire situations they have used the small ships as fire ships.
"Each flotilla has ten thousand crew and armed personnel. Civilian detachments, mainly traders and transport vessels and their crew add another 10 to 20 thousand. Whilst their a.s.signments change from year to year, they always have at least on flotilla at Hidegold Bay--
"You mean the ships in the bay is only a quarter of the whole fleet?!" Lorist shouted.
"This is would be the case under normal circ.u.mstances. We're at war now though. While I don't know how much of their fleet is now in Hidegold, it's definitely not just one flotilla."
Lorist nodded. He was just about to speak when Jinolio returned.
"I've checked the logs and Admiral Senbaud left Silowas five days ago. He's expected to arrive in Northsea tomorrow and be in Ragebear in three days."
"You little rascal. He's your father; why call him 'Admiral Senbaud'?" Lorist asked, stroking the child's head.
"This is a formal meeting. You were the one that said private and official matters must not be confused."
"Hahaha," Lorist laughed, "Let's end it here for the day. It goes without saying that this is confidential and top secret. I'll speak with Senbaud about Malek's idea when he arrives. We can make our final decision with Senbaud's input. Dismissed."
Senbaud entered Lorist's study, the snow still perched on his shoulders.
"I can sink Invincible any day you want me to!" he proclaimed when he heard the plan.