Dolthe 13, 5682---The Queen of the Sea stood at the helm of her ship with Ila’Mun looking over the nearby coast and mouth of the Irata River. Almost a month and a half since her first battle with the ships of Irata, her wound was healing. The witch from the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar urged her to refrain from too much strenuous activity as she recovered, but commanding a fleet and leading this flotilla as it advanced toward Irata was demanding no matter how careful she was with her actions.
Now there was the issue of how to proceed upriver. She initially planned to take the lead herself, but some of the reports she had from other captains advised against it. Now she had the most influential of the captains meeting with her and the Great King and his commanders to strategize their advance. Most of them were already inside around her large table, but she stayed outside waiting for the last few to arrive. “We need to fix the mast,” she said, breaking the silence. “I’ve never heard it creaking this badly until after that last battle.”
“I suggest you get a new ship,” Ila’Mun told her. “Considering the number of repairs we’ve made over the past two months, I’m surprised the ship still floats. The mast is sturdy enough for sailing, but I fear it may not survive another battle.”
“These small attacks we thwart almost daily are not battles,” the Queen of the Sea replied. “They are nothing more than an attempt to slow our advance and give Irata more time to prepare its defenses.” She paused. “Have all the captains arrived yet?”
“No,” Ila’Mun answered. “We’re still awaiting two, but they signaled troubles with their ships. They might not make it today.”
The Queen of the Sea nodded. “Then I guess it is time for me to start this meeting.” She left the helm, and made her way down to the cabin.
Inside, she found everyone standing as she entered; everyone, that is, except the Great King. He sat in her chair at the far end of the table with a goblet of wine set before him. Her eyes narrowed, and she put her hands on her hips. “You would refuse a queen her seat?” she asked sarcastically. Everyone laughed.
She took their laughter as a good sign. It meant the captains unaffiliated with her or the Great King were finally accustomed to her presence. They would be willing to fight for her not because they feared her revenge, but because they accepted her authority. She walked around the table to the far end by the Great King.
“We have plans to make,” she told them. “I want to sit on the throne of Irata by the end of two weeks.”
“Then let’s get sailing!” one of the captains loudly suggested, slapping the table. “We’ll have you sitting like a proper queen faster than...” He stopped talking as he noticed the scowl on her face.
“I wish it was that easy,” she told him. “I am not a fool to think Irata left that river undefended. We can expect shores lined with archers or worse on either side of us. We can expect ships to block our course. We can expect the river is just the first line of Irata’s defenses for us to defeat.”
“I can’t speak for you,” another of the captains said, “but I’ve sailed up that river many times. Never was there any danger to my ship, in Irata, perhaps, but not while in the river.”
“You’ve never sailed up that river while Irata awaited an invasion,” the Great King said. He took a sip of his wine.
“The Great King is correct,” the Queen of the Sea added. “I have never been up this river, and the rest of you have never seen it fortified. We can only guess what awaits us, but Atalan provides the best knowledge of the challenges we face.”
As she stopped talking, the loud groaning of the mast as the ship rose up the side of a wave seemed to frighten her guests. “By the sound of your mast, you need a new ship,” one of the captains decided.
“Nonsense,” the Queen of the Sea argued. “This ship is going all the way to the docks of Irata. The mast will hold. That’s enough talk about the seaworthiness of my ship. We have plans to make. Commander Pyron, show us what you know.”
The Commander set a large roll of parchment on the table, and unrolled it to show a detailed map of the region. “We’ve marked every location where previous Overlords positioned defenses along the river, or at least the ones we know about. Most of these along the shore were nothing worse than a few thousand archers, but several of the positions contained catapults.”
“I can handle a ship full of archers,” one of the captains interrupted, “but thousands?”
Commander Pyron shrugged. “The royal navy has ways to negate their effect, and will share this with all of you. The real dangers from the shore are the catapults.”
“What use are catapults against ships?” someone wondered. “It’s too hard to hit a moving target.”
The Great King tossed a heavy item onto the table. It was a metal object coated with sharp spikes, and left gouges in the woodwork. “Why toss a single massive stone at a ship when you can toss a large number of these?” he asked. “A cluster of these will shred your sails or tear through your crew without effort.”
“I recommend every crewmember you assign to work on the deck carry a heavy shield,” Commander Pyron added.
“I think next you’ll be asking who wishes to volunteer their ship to lead the fleet through this gauntlet,” one of the captains decided. “I tell you it will not be me and my ship, not even if you offered me all the gold in Atalan.” Several of the other captains nodded in agreement.
“Such grand examples of bravery,” the Queen of the Sea muttered.
The Great King pounded the table with his fist. “Enough discussion about who takes the lead,” he said. “Atalan supports the assault on Irata, and Atalan will bear the brunt of the cost to see it through. I have soldiers ready to send to shore to destroy any catapults we encounter. We are merely informing you of what to expect along the river as a courtesy.”
“Then there is little to discuss of that aspect of the assault,” the Queen of the Sea said. “That leaves us only to plan the final day of this voyage.”
“Why bother?” one of the captains wondered. “Battles never go according to plan.”
“That’s what I’m counting on,” the Queen of the Sea told them, “except I want the enemy’s plans to go awry, not mine.” Quite a few of the captains vocalized their agreement with the statement.
“Everyone will need to build rams on the bows of their ships,” she continued. I intend for us to plough through any fleet Irata sends at us.”
“You can’t be serious!” someone said. “Archers and boarding parties are one thing. We can’t avoid those since everyone uses them, but to suggest ramming the enemy demands we risk harming our own ships. We’d aid the enemy each time one of our ships can’t break through an enemy hull, or can’t withstand the force of the collision.”
The Great King picked up his goblet of wine to take another sip. “Victory to the daring,” he said.
“You’re hardly in a position to speak on that,” one of the captains said without thinking. “With all due respect, my king,” he quickly added. “I mean no offense, but your reign contains no history of daring endeavors.”
“I take no offense, although I do question the validity of your reason,” the Great King answered. “If I choose not to waste the lives of my soldiers in a fruitless war against the Dark Magicians, who are you to question my judgment? I had daring enough during my youth.”
“Gentlemen, this is hardly the topic of discussion,” the Queen of the Sea interrupted. “Now let’s work on our plans for battle at Irata. I want to have everything planned before we sail up the river.”