The New World, The Isles, First City of the Fleet, Rocky Reef Shipyards
Fleet Master Megan entered the giant barn like structure that was built along the beach of a deep water cove. As she stepped out of the rain, she dumped her wet coat to one of her aides and cast her eyes upon a strange looking ship sitting on wooden supports inside the dry dock.
The strange ship appeared to be made out of two materials, the upper half was covered in slabs of black iron and was prism shaped with a sharp angled bow where a barbed metal tip jutted out. The other lower half of the hull was the similar to the bilges of the wooden sailing ships Megan was familiar with. The only difference was the appearance of two holes underneath the bilge at the centre of the hull with what appeared to be part of two paddle wheels sticking out.
The metal angular sloped hull had no open decks and instead of having the traditional cloth sails and masts, two fat stubby smoke stacks poked out from the centre. Several squarish port holes ringing the metal hull were opened at this moment. Several workers could be seen hammering away at some tasks all over the strange ship.
Seeing the arrival of Megan, a small group of people came hurriedly over and they bowed before her. "Fleet Master Megan! Welcome!"
The person who spoke was middle aged with a rough leathery face that had turned to a dark tan from long exposure to the sun. He had bugling arms and hints of a pot belly and was dressed in a leather work apron with several tools hang on a belt. He eyed Megan with a proud look and gestured to the ship on the dry dock, "Your timing is just right!"
"Is this the iron ship?" Megan asked as her eyes glittered at the sight. "It looks so... flat and ugly..."
The master shipwright frowned slightly at her words but did not let it bother him. Instead, he went on to proudly showcase his finest creation. "Yes, this is the iron ship you wanted! It is armoured from the waterline to the covered top with iron plating and powered by steam!"
"Unlike our other double decker sailing ships," The master shipwright explained. "This is a single decker, with six thunder cannon ports on each side and two more at the bow and stern of the ship!"
"We decided to build the iron ship as a single decker is due to the heavier topside weight and by keeping the topside lower, the ship will not be easily capsized by the rough seas." The master shipwright continued. "It takes a crew of two hundred forty to run and is expected to be faster by at least two wind levels of our sailing frigates!"
"How long before it can be completed?" Megan asked as they took a tour around the docked ship.
"We are finishing up on most of the major needed work," The beefy shipwright said. "Once the summer storm passes, the iron ship will be ready to be tested!"
"Very well! Continue with your work! If it pleases me, you and your workers will be greatly rewarded!"
The New World, Fort Hensink
The storm has lessened as the sun rose behind the storm clouds. The rain no longer fell in blinding sheets but had dropped to a drizzle. The UN soldiers taking this opportunity had sent several parties to check the bodies littered outside the sandbag bastions of the fort. Enemy wounded were carried back into the fort for treatment and those too far gone were given grace.
Equipment and gear were also looted and dead bodies were piled off one side to be buried in a mass grave once hostilities or the rain has ended. The soldiers also quickly took the opportunity that the enemy had no movements to lay new claymore mines to cover their positions.
While the rest of the fort was busy at work, the Base Commander of Fort Hensink too had been busy having a conference call with his superior, General Joseph over the landline. Plans were discussed and finalized before the Base Com ended the conference. He quickly gave orders to his staff and his orders were further passed down to the troops under his command.
Soon, one of the grounded FB - 1S2 Mariner S2 recon plane rolled out of its sheltered hangar and took off into the skies under the light rain. The recon plane circled low under the storm clouds as it performed its mission to scout out the surrounding areas for the location of the enemy.
Not long, its belly camera started whirling and clicking away as the aircraft passed over the city ruins that was just barely five kilometers away. The pilot suddenly swerved the plane around as he saw the outlines of dozens of airships in the distance and he quickly fled to prevent putting his plane and his crew at risk. The quick actions of the pilot saved his plane as several winged shapes came fluttering behind from under the plane, their intentions clearly hostile.
The Mariner S2 quickly retreated away from the enemy's small flyers and after a short tense chase, the short range flyers had to give up, allowing the UN recon plane to escape. After this, it became a game of cat and mouse as the faster UN recon plane continued to probe the enemy lines, beaming as much live fed imagery back to the fort and running when chased until the weather started to turn for the worse.
The daring crew returned victoriously having performed their mission of scouting for the enemy. The collected images and videos of the enemy concentrations were studied extensively by the command staff and mission planners. With better knowledge of the enemy's depositions, new orders were given and the defenders of the fort were rearranged.
The few heavy 155 mm artillery batteries were repositioned and their long barrels now pointed towards the enemy several kilometers away. Coordinates were rechecked and guns rumbled one by one, each spitting an over forty kilogram shell of high explosives towards the unsuspecting enemy. Many seconds later, the first echos of thunder rolled back over the fort as the UN forces struck back.
The New World, Protectorate Camp
Inquisitor General Mathias was in a dilemma as he and his command staff gathered around a map drawn by the previous expedition force. New markings had been added to the map and small flags representing Paladin companies and War Jacks dotted the map.
Many found Lord Bishop General Atlos's battle report and description of the unknown heretical force blocking their way to be too incredulous to be believed. But the numbers of the dead and wounded could not be faked. This enemy unreported by the first wave was far superior to anything military force Mathias have ever seen.
And the other mystery of the remaining missing airships of the first wave led by Inquisitor Rism was also making Mathias worried. He could only think of two situations that happened to the remains of Rism's fleet. One, he has retreated safety and was still traveling within the Sea of Clouds back to the Protectorate. The other was that his fleet had encountered this unknown enemy had was totally wiped out, just like the city which ruins he was camping in now.
Either way, both conjurations were unfavorable to him, as that meant that the enemy he was facing now was too strong to be defeated with his limited forces. His next reinforcements were months away and even if they came right now, it would still take a month for them to arrive, which by then, his forces will either be totally defeated or scattered and in hiding if he could not defeat the locals here.
Retreating back to the Sea of Clouds was also not really an option as majority of their stored magic crystals and supplies were used up. They had expected to refuel and resupply with Rism's forces, but now, they had no way to resupply unless they take out the local garrison.
As he was deep in thought, he was suddenly shaken by a series of thunderous booms. The ground shook wildly and everyone had panicked as they did not know what happened. A guard rushed in and quickly reported, panic evident in his voice, "My lords! We are under attack by some kind of long range magic attack!"
The shelling continued on for a couple of hours until the storm resumed its fury. The 155 mm 'Thunderer' howitzers' red hot barrels hissed loudly under the rain, the raindrops turning into steam instantly as they touched the barrels. The gun crews drenched in the rain quickly secured their howitzers before retreating under cover.
The plan was for the artillery to pause until the storm lessened enough for the recon planes to take off to assess the damage and situation before the higher ups decide what's next. The storm was like a stage curtain, signalling the start and end of the battle and despite being cold and wet, the soldiers were in high morale as they knew that the other side was having it worse than them.
Inquisitor General Mathias stepped out of his headquarters and into the rain. An aide immediately carried an umbrella over him to shelter him from the rain. He briskly strolled through the ruins towards the rows of tents of his force and even with the heavy rain obstructing his view, under the dim daylight, he could see chaos reigning across the camp.
Large craters had appeared over the camp and anything even remotely nearby had been shattered or blown away. He could see dozens of soldiers struggling under the rain, moving wounds or unidentified parts as they searched the attacked camp for survivors.
"This is... impossible!" Someone gasped as they followed Mathias out and saw the scene. "What kind of weapon or magic could do such a thing?"
"Did anyone witness anything?" Mathias asked one of the guards.
"No, my lord!" The guard nervously replied. "There was only a large flyer flying around earlier but it was chased off by our Sky Wings!"
"My Lord, the local lawless might have some kind of weapon or magic that we do not know of," An aide said. "If we can capture such a weapon or magic... It will be advantageous to our cause!"
"Use a heretical weapon?" Another person spat. "Heresy! The Judgement will not stand for such blasphemy!"
"Enough!" Mathias stopped the argument. "We must be wary of the lawless power! They might be the cause of Inquisitor's Rism missing force!"
Hearing this, the officers and aides paused in heavy thought, their faces showing ugly expressions. Mathias ignored them and felt a creeping unease as he stared at the rainy skies. He had a suspicion that the storm was currently their saving grace and once the storm has truly lifted, a Judgement unlike any will come fast and swift!
"Install the magic barrier generators and steam cannons!" Mathias ordered his command staff. "Take half the troops and supplies back onboard the transports! I want a new base at another location!"
Mathias at that moment decided to split his forces and not keep every egg in one basket as he was worried about the unknown power displayed by the locals. If the local lawless were so powerful, how did Rism managed to capture an entire kingdom as written in the reports?
There was something unnatural about the ability displayed by the local lawless, there must be something of great power hidden within the New World! It might even have to do with the Seven Fragments which he had once pursued a rogue Iron Kingdom airship across the Sea of Clouds and which incident now led to the mass expeditions to the New World.
If these lawless heretics had truly obtained the power of one of the Fragments than they must be purged from this world for the Judge and Creator had decreed, that none of the Fragments must fall in the hands of the unrepentant!