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|The Battle of Mo Ce Sea, Pt. 1|
The Battle of Mo Ce Sea, Pt. 1 is the twenty-second chapter of
Previously in A Tale of Rebels
The Water Tribes conduct raids on the Confederacy, which leads to Anyang finding out of Yi Ming's plan to destroy their and the Fire Nation's power. Shizon and Zoruka are sent to the Fire Nation to strengthen the alliance with Kanyzon, in which they succeed. A Northern Water Tribe galley conducts a raid on the Kenisibao harbour, which Ranju almost single-handedly stops, before Anyang arrives with soldiers, and finds a document showing movement orders not only for the known four Air Empire warships, but also for a fifth. The first ship of Skado's and Senqok's design is launched and named Chief Gangtok, while Senqok also builds up a shock force consisting of Southern Water Tribe cutter sailing ships. The planning for the naval confrontation with Yi Ming begins.
Chapter 22: The Battle of Mo Ce Sea, Pt. 1
"So this is where we're supposed to meet?" Skado glanced over the railing at the side of the Chief Gangtok's bridge, seeing nothing but remnants of a caldera that once might've been enormous in size, but now was merely a crescent of basalt.
"That's where Kanyzon said we'd meet for the finalisation of plans, yes." affirmed Zoruka, her glance wandering from the fleet at their back to the island. "But where are they?"
Senqok yawned, sipping from a cup of tea from time to time as he havered towards them. "It's not even dawn yet! How do you expect to see a fleet when its dark?"
In the moment he spoke the words, the first beams of sunlight hit the water and were reflected, only to reveal a greater naval force than any of them had ever seen, gathered on the other side of the island.
"You- you mean when the fleet is- is dark?" stuttered Zoruka taken aback by the discovery.
"Yeah, that might be a factor, too... " agreed Skado, walking inside the bridge, only to emerge again, "Senqok, where are our plans? Documents? You know, that... organisation kind of stuff."
"Burnt." answered Senqok before another sip of tea, which must've been imaginary by then.
"You- WHAT?!" Skado stared at his colleague in disbelief and seemed only millimetres away from throwing him off board.
"To avoid enemy- stuff. You know." Senqok himself went inside, put the cup on the map table and walked outside again, before realisation hit him. "Wait. Dark ships? You mean... black? That's the- it's the BLOODY BLACK FLEET!"
"...so?" Zoruka didn't share his enthusiasm, obviously.
"Their hulls are coal, their decks gold and their sails crimson! Not only that, but also does this make the ships fireproof!" Senqok gestured wildly, which heavily contrasted his still tired expression. "Their crews are some of the most experienced ones in the world! The Black Fleet was what made Fire Lord Kanyzon possible!"
"...then why didn't I hear of this?" Zoruka seemed more than skeptical, but still gave Senqok a chance.
"Because it was disbanded three years ago, after Kanyzon had defeated the Fire Sages' troops." Senqok let out a sarcastic snicker. "Officially."
"Hey people what's going on- Oh, SPIRITS!" Shizon joined their company, and seemingly shared Senqok's enthusiasm about Kanyzon's commitment towards this cause.
Ranju and Anyang joined them quietly shortly thereafter, and slowly, the ships, both fleets, came to life. The returning light gave the Whaletail Islander fleet its many colours back, and the Black Fleet its crimson sails. The flags were run up, the sails hoisted, with the Chief Gangtok bearing a grotesquely big Liberation Alliance flag and an equally huge Water Tribe streamer, whereas the ship they identified as the Black Fleet's flagship flew enormously huge flame-like pennons of gold and crimson. This ship it was that suddenly pulled up its anchor and began moving around the island. Senqok gave corresponding orders to intercept the ship, and so the Chief Gangtok too began moving, slowly at first, and slowly at last as well. The two ships ceased all movement when there were a mere fifty metres between them, when Anyang remarked, "The Sun Warrior, the Black Fleet's flagship. So Kanyzon does lead every battle himself, it would seem."
"Hey people here we are! What did we- WHAT FOR SPIRITS' BLOODY SAKE?!" Kabura intended to excuse herself and Noki for their late arrival, however, she was taken aback by the sheer size of the Sun Warrior. The black, gold and crimson treasure ship loomed over each and every ship of the Rebel-class with at least twice their size. "Well... I sure hope these ships have the same effect on the Earth Empire as they have on us before they hit!"
"What is it? I can't bloody see, dammit!" Noki was more than just slightly displeased by her disability then.
"Well, you remember how our battleships are fifty metres long? Kanyzon's flagship is at least twice as long and- oh, nevermind." Skado began explaining, but found he was going to trail off, so he stopped right away.
Noki let out a combination of a sigh and a grunt to signal both her dissatisfaction and resignation, before Luna arrived last of all, and was the first to suggest something they all should've remembered long ago, "Shouldn't we get a boat ready?"
"Uh... yeah... about that... " began Senqok, still not fully awake, "Who needs a boat when you've got two waterbenders?"
"We're all going to drown," stated Noki, barely being able to remain standing even when the waves rocking the ship were merely slight.
"Oh yeah, we will." agreed Skado, not sounding half as cheerfully sarcastic yet serious as Noki.
Nonetheless, they all raced down to the main deck, during which Noki managed to trip on nothing and fall exactly thirteen time, before gathering again at the railing, where Senqok and Kabura began forming an icy footbridge between the two ships. They then lead the group onto their extremely unsafe structure, with Senqok walking in front to keep freezing more and more water into the footbridge, Kabura in the back to keep them from falling off. Slowly, they made their way to the Sun Warrior, where Senqok made an icy platform on which they all gathered, and, together with Kabura, thrust them onto the deck of the treasure ship. The sailors there were rather displeased by that, however, Kanyzon, who had witnessed it, couldn't help but smile at the notion behind the action.
"Welcome on my tiny little ship, my faithful allies!" he welcomed them, feigning only part of the courtesies. "I believe we have business to discuss, am I right?"
"Indeed you are, Your Majesty." affirmed him Senqok, "We have come to discuss a way to defeat Yi Ming's naval forces today."
Kanyzon merely nodded, and lead them inside the structure he stood in front of, which turned out to be a small throne room. In its centre, a detailed map of the Mo Ce Sea was spread out. Kanyzon claimed one half of the space around the map for himself, while Senqok and Skado had seven people between them. Nonetheless, Senqok spread figures of small ships bearing insignia of the respective nations they served on the map, grouping the Fire Nation and Whaletail Island – or rather, Liberation Alliance – ships around an island creatively labelled as 'Crescent Island', and amassing the many more Water Tribe and Earth Empire, and also one Air Empire, figure on their way from Taku southwards.
"First of all, if Your Majesty would be so kind to grant me that, I would like to start with a brief situation report." started Skado, spreading various documents bearing insignia of every single on the spare area he wouldn't have to use. "The Earth Empire and the Water Tribes have used up their, er, obsolete – rotting, in fact – warships in bold and rather unsuccessful raids against Whaletail Island harbours, using either elderly or untrained crews for these missions, most likely so they would spread fear in our rows – needless to say, unsuccessfully – and to leave their forces stronger than before. We know that the decisive attack on the joint navies of Whaletail Island and the Fire Nation was due half a year ago, and that the chiefs of both Water Tribes, Harqoon and Bunak, share the command over the joint forces of the Earth Empire, the Water Tribes and the Air Empire. We also know that their fleet set sail for Whaletail Island about a day ago after a fake command of our fleet gathering reached them, and that their forces most likely amount to the following – a hundred medium- to small-sized treasure ships, two-hundred junks of various types, twenty-five catamaran war galleys, fifty other catamarans of various types, and seventy cutter sailing ships, plus five ships of unidentified type. This adds up to a total of four-hundred and fifty vessels, although only a hundred of these would pose and actual threat. In comparison, our forces amount to... er... " Not knowing the numbers of the Black Fleet, Skado slowly turned to Kanyzon and shrugged with raised eyebrows, begging him to reveal the numbers.
"The Black Fleet counts twenty-five treasure ships, one hundred and fifty junks of various sizes, and fifty other vessels, mostly different kinds of ocean-going galleys." answered Kanyzon, somewhat dumbfounded by the numbers Skado presented, for even 'small'-sized treasure ships still measured fifty metres in length.
"This, plus fifty Rebel-class ships, and twenty-five cutter sailing ships. In total, what we can deploy against the four-hundred fifty vessels are... three hundred vessels." Skado had to laugh nervously at the numbers. They were hopelessly outnumbered, even if most of the enemy's ships would serve as cannon fodder. "In other words, we have to have luck and to employ a rather ingenious tactic, else we're... "
"...bloody fucked." finished Noki, smiling not out of amusement, but, alike Skado, for her nervousness.
"Yes, that's what I wanted to present, Your Majesty. A tactic. A way to defeat this force." Senqok had now stood up and took the figures. "We know the route and the approximate order in which their force sails. We also know that there's a storm coming in from the north-west, a storm which will throw them off course and bring us right to them from here – to a place called Wrath Islet, a place with treacherous currents, dozens, hundreds of rocks hiding underwater, only emerging during low tide, around noon. If Skado's calculations and approximations are correct, this will be when we and their force both arrive in that area, which – in theory – makes it easier for us, as we can lure them into traps, if we're lucky. This brings me to my plan." He arranged the figures of the Earth Empire and Water Tribe ships in a certain order before he began. "The enemy fleet sails in a double column, with the one-hundred and forty-five Water Tribe vessels serving as the vanguard. Around noon, they and the storm both will have reached Wrath Islet. Unbeknownst to them, so will we. We will part our forces, the Black Fleet taking the east, our Whaletail Islander fleet taking the west. We must hope for rain and high waves, so that we can approach unseen, and that so the storm already would sink some ships. Then, our shock forces – I do believe the Black Fleet has such...? – will strike the vanguard with utmost ferocity, with the goal to lure them into the area around Wrath Islet itself. Once they're near enough, our forces emerge, and burn the remaining Water Tribe ships at will, so to say, before the Earth Empire fleets arrive. By then, we must have reached our original positions, before we will reorganise our forces. The Black Fleet will form a reverse wedge, with the treasure ships in the centre, and the Rebel-class ships will form two equal columns, while the shock forces will ready themselves to strike, to harass and sink again. Then, we will strike. First, our two columns hit the enemy column, with the goal being to smash it, naturally. However, that the reverse wedge will do." Senqok removed the Water Tribe figures and showed what he meant. "The wedge will serve as the anvil, and gather the enemy forces as well as possible, while our two columns and the shock forces will be the hammer, once the anvil strikes, of course." The Water Tribesman had to make a brief pause to make sure everyone understood his plan.
"What about the Air Empire? These five unidentified vessels could be anything!" thought Kanyzon aloud, letting the Air Empire figures descend upon the Fire Nation ones and smash them. "We need to prepare for them too!"
"How should we prepare to face something of which we don't know what it is?" countered Senqok almost instantly. "Besides, five vessels won't do much in a battle of hundreds."
Kanyzon considered it for a moment, before he found himself forced to agree, as much as he hated it. Then, however, another matter came to his mind, one that would have to wait. "The plan seems rather reliant on weather and luck... "
"I know. But doesn't this entire operation?" Again, Senqok snapped back within a split second. "But we need to agree on who commands which portion. Naturally, you, Your Majesty, would command the Fire Nation forces, although I would suggest that the shock forces share a command, namely my dear sister."
"I'm your superior in all matters!" Luna feigned shock, before she revealed how pleased she indeed was. " ...but I do get to command pira- privateers, so... "
"For the second column of the attack, I must ask my fellow Vice-admiral to take the command... " added Senqok, glancing at Skado, who merely nodded at first.
"I'll take the General Wei as a flagship." decided Skado aloud, Noki immediately wanting to be on said ship as well, which Skado denied, however.
"As for the rest, I hope you don't mind staying aboard the Chief Gangtok?" Senqok's words and tone didn't truly allow a negation, so everyone agreed. "Thought so."
"One question remains, though... " Kanyzon spoke, finally voicing his concern he hat thought of earlier. "...what to do once this battle is won? What then?"
"A high risk mission making use of the moment of defeat." Without hesitation, Senqok shot back again. A plan had formed out in his head, a plan he would see to be made reality. "An assassination of Yi Ming, a coup, and the choosing of an Earth King, and his installation." Senqok didn't feel the urge to elaborate any more, thinking he had already revealed too much. "But let's focus on the battle ahead, shall we?"
"Indeed." And with this, Kanyzon dismissed the allies of his.
"You really can sail in such weather?" Anyang had seen much, he had done much, but that ships of the Rebel-class could indeed sail through a storm as such they were approaching he very much doubted.
"You should see the Southern Sea in autumn!" shouted Senqok through the howling wind which, thankfully, came from behind, enabling them to sail across the waves, which kept getting higher and higher, swiftly. "Waves thrice as high at the very least, plus icebergs! Oh, and freezing winds and water, too! This is nothing!"
"...these ships barely left their harbours before... " Anyang indeed had his doubts, which he proved with his tone, and justified they were. "It's risky, very risky... "
"This IS a war, remember? And wars tend to be risky." added Senqok, simply having the feeling that he had to do so. "Especially at sea, they're very risky, especially on the high seas... "
Anyang intended to reply, but in that moment, a wave hit the Chief Gangtok, and threw it a good twenty metres to her starboard side as if she were a toy. Salt water sprayed up to the sails, and litre by litre, the main deck too was flooded, although it was too little water to truly matter. The cutter sailing ships to their larboard side, however, simply flew over the waves, being designed to sail in every weather. The wind picked up a bit, and pushed the ships through the waters even faster, pushed them towards the eye of the storm, towards the wet darkness that would bring death should the sailors make only one mistake. A good one and a half kilometres ahead, a lightning struck something that then caught fire, illuminating its vicinity. In the very moment the lightning had struck, the rain began. Ahead, more lightnings struck, revealing what lay ahead, even if only for a split second each. What had been struck before was nothing else than a galley of the Northern Water Tribe that would now, ironically, burn down at open sea. Behind, as a mere black shadow against grey background was the rock jutting up from the sea that had cost many sailors' lives, the rock that once had been called the Wrath of the Ocean Spirit, then shortened simply to Wrath Islet. It's where some hundreds of sailors more will find their ends today, Senqok thought, no matter which side wins.
"We're almost there!" shouted Shizon as he ran towards the bridge, leaning at whose railing Anyang and Senqok were, him being soaked, from his copper hair to his ebony boots, then jokingly adding, pointing towards the burning galley, "And the Storm Spirit seems to be on our side!"
The closer they got to Wrath Islet, the more often did the lightnings seem to strike, and the more often they struck the galleys, and the better they illuminated the area. The winds too picked up, until, suddenly they stopped entirely for a few seconds only to then strike harder than before. A few of the galleys couldn't stand the storm's raw power, and were thrown against each other or against the rocks, jutting out and underwater both. "Seems so indeed!" shouted back Senqok after the half minute it took for this spectacle to unfold, not joking at all, other than Shizon had. What remained of the Water Tribe fleets, however, were the Southern Water Tribe ones, which had been built not only for war, but for everything, which simply had been built to sail. The ones there were not simple cutter sailing ships, however, these were longer, broader, bigger – thrice, four, five times as big, in fact – but still sharing the basic construction that made them robust as a junk and versatile as a catamaran. The fact that there were still dozens of ships in perfect condition – most of which were Southern Water Tribe constructions, as the storm slowly ruined the Northern fleet – unnerved Senqok somewhat, especially now, as his sister led the shock force into battle. From the east, a few dozens of various ships approached, only to break through the line of galleys with the help of a wave, and to thus take the Southerners unaware, however, after using up the element of surprise, which had left their side rather quickly, Senqok started to change his mind.
"Oh, dammit!" he exclaimed, displeased, to say the least. "Message the other ships. We're engaging, I repeat, we're engaging NOW!" he shouted into the bridge, walking inside as he did. With a swift movement of his hand that would've been a slap had he aimed, he drove off the helmsman and himself took control of the ship's wheel, saying to himself, "Let's see how the Chief Gangtok handles this shit!"
He boldly changed course, heading directly for the line of Southern ships, before it came to his mind to inform the crew. He glanced around on the bridge, looking for bronze tubes widened at the end, and was quite desperate after not finding them after half a minute, before he noticed them right next to him. Having to hold the wheel with both hands, he leaned towards one of them which was labelled as common and spoke into it, "Crew, this is Vice-admiral Senqok speaking, we're engaging NOW! LOAD NOW, FIRE AT MY COMMAND!"
With the winds in his favour, the ships raced across the waters, and soon were by the Southerners' ships' sides. Senqok then gave his command. The embrasures' covers were opened, and at once, the ballistae's bolts struck the hulls of the enemy ships. Being of Skado's construction, these bolts didn't simply strike, but they exploded, or spread burning liquids, both of which would quickly end the wooden ships they were facing, especially in conjunction with the firebenders who fired their balls and streams of fire at the enemy ships without pause or hesitation, mostly selecting enemy crew members or inflammable objects aboard as their targets. The winds no longer favoured either side, and on both sides, the crews had to work hard to keep the ships on one course. However, this still wouldn't have posed a problem for the Whaletail Islanders – what did was the sole fact the Southerners had waterbenders amongst them, and not few of such. These aimed at the firebenders or the embrasures to eliminate these as threats, while few aimed at hulls, with the intention of breaking through them.
"YOU! Helmsman! The ship's yours again! I got things to do!" stated Senqok, handing the ship's wheel to the helmsman he had driven away and hurrying off the bridge, in order to find Kabura. First, he glanced around on the main deck, but didn't find her. Not having the time to properly search for her, he decided he would manage without her too, for the time being at least. He rushed to the starboard side, where they faced the enemy, and, as he was about to jump down on the main deck from the structures containing most of the supposed sailors and ammunition, a stream of water knocked him back, and when he had almost recovered, down to the floor. He got up quickly, and took the next attack thrown at him, added water from the rain and the ocean, and let it descend upon the enemy ship it had come from with a quick, improvised slash of his hands, and sent his icy breath after it. Within seconds, the ship was frozen, even though it wouldn't stay that way for long. The ballistae fired another volley while the firebenders seemed to take a short break, even if it only lasted seconds. However, that was not what caught his attention. What did was the fact that icicles, and not small ones, were flung out of the embrasures, always precisely aimed at enemies who wouldn't be able to strike until after the impact, at sailors keeping the ships on course, at distracted benders, at captains bellowing commands, and striking every time fatally. Behind, the enemy ships were mostly burning wrecks about to get smashed at the rocks of Wrath Islet, and ahead, there were few enough of them left.
"Why are they not scattering already?" wondered Senqok aloud, somewhat frustrated, emphasising every syllable. "They must see they're defeated!"
In his frustration, he gathered as much as water as he could, and smashed it into the nearest enemy ship he found, piercing the deck and the hull, which didn't help him the least bit. A few more ships were left ahead – five cutters and a galley, but their crews didn't surrender, flee, or alike – they stayed on course, and paid the price for it. But so did the Whaletail Islander fleet, Senqok realised only seconds later, as he saw emerald sails beyond the waves, coming closer swiftly.
"You do see what I see, right?" A wave splashed onto the ship as Anyang stared ahead through a certain kind of tube that would later be called telescope.
"Don't tell me I'm not hallucinating... " answered Senqok after being handed the telescope. He looked at the instrument, and suddenly changed his attitude, from panicking to annoyed. "We're about to get fucked in the arse by Yi Ming's bloody Imperial Grand Navy and you hand me a blood tube?"
Even Anyang struggled to remain standing as the waves tossed the ship around, and rain made the planks slippery. "It's one of Skado's instruments! He calls it a telescope, it lets you see further and- ah, dammit! Just look through it!"
"Oh. So that's how you use it." Senqok almost fell, but Kabura, who approached from behind, bound his feet to the deck boots of ice. Senqok didn't notice, however, and observed what the high waves let him observe. "Oh damn... I have an idea... I think. It likely won't work, but it's all we can do now."
"Uh, Vice-admiral... " Kabura tried in vain to gain Senqok's attention as he further observed the movements on the naval battlefield.
"Kanyzon's reverse wedge will have to be the hammer instead of the anvil... this is so bloody risky!" His dismay grew with each second.
"SENQOK!" Kabura was frightened, and Senqok ignoring her made her angry.
"Wha- oh, sorry! What is it?" Senqok started with a hiss, but ended in a rather apologetic tone as he turned to face her.
"Earth Empire ships! We can't avoid them now, we're too fast and they're too fast and the crew wants to know your orders!" She was more nervous than she'd liked to admit, but her voice said it all, as well as her accompanying gestures.
"Tell them that they should- that they must- that- " Senqok's own nervousness increased with his fright, and all of sudden, his memory went blank. He attempted to speak further, but failed to do so, he failed to articulate proper words. He then let out a frustrated shout, and turned his head back to Kabura, kneeling on the planks, "Tell them to get as much ammunition as possible on the starboard side. Tell the earthbenders to prepare themselves for the onslaught of their lives. Tell the firebenders to prepare themselves to strike like else only a volcano can." He sighed as he got up, and saw Anyang had approached him, awaiting his orders as well. "Tell them to bloody well get word to Skado. Tell them we're going to sail as fast as possible, tell them WE'RE GOING TO BROADSIDE THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THEM!"
Kabura looked at him, concerned, but nodded and hurried away, as intended Anyang to do, pondering about Senqok's motivations for such a folly, however, the Water Tribesman stopped him, "Wait."
The Air Nomad stopped in his tracks and spun around as only an airbender can, though anyone could've done that on such a floor. "What is it? Anything to add to this deadly folly?"
"Yes." admitted Senqok, "It's quite a folly, but what else can we do?" He left Anyang wondering for other options for a second, before he continued. "And yes. Get me my sister here. I need to tell her as well."
Anyang leapt directly to the bridge, enhancing it with his airbending, leaving Senqok almost alone on deck. Suddenly, a mixture of cheers and gasps shook the entire ship, coming from inside. Senqok took it the crew had found something in his suicide mission to rejoice in. What it was escaped his comprehension. Even though it would harm the sails, they were hoisted again so the ship would accelerate. Deciding he would best not stay on deck, lest he would be washed off board, Senqok approached one of the earthbenders' castles. There, he found Noki alone amongst disks of rock, seeming more than just sick, which also was implied by the bucket next to her, even though it was clean.
"Who dares come into mine own domain?" asked Noki, only partly jokingly, as she sat herself upright.
"I do, if I may." Senqok answered, his dread washed away for a second as he had to smile at Noki's greeting.
"Oh, my dear commanding officer." she spoke with a voice heavy with irony. "What brings you here? Is something amiss?"
"So you heard it, didn't you?" The insecure vice-admiral approached the earthbender with something that was rather a polite enquiry than an accusation.
"Of course I did. From you personally." she answered, leaving a pause before adding, again in her ironic voice, "Sir."
"Please, just stop this." Senqok was annoyed for a second, but his fear returned shortly. "Look, we're about to get fucked in the arse by the most powerful navy in the world, and I need to know – can you fend them off?"
"Who thought of these things, these... ships... I mean, seriously, I got sick the second I set a foot on it!" Noki complained. She then sighed and got on her feet, having to hold to the rail to stay on her feet. "Yes. No. I don't know. I can hardly stand here, and you can't fight sitting. I can't promise anything. Maybe I'll sink half their fleet, maybe I'll drown in a minute. I'll try, I'll give my best, but I can't promise anything."
Senqok could do naught but nod, understanding her troubles. He was about to get back to the bridge, when he noticed Water Tribe streamers to his left, on the ship's starboard side. There, a cutter had approached them, and, with years of experience, Luna climbed on board.
"So, you wanted to talk to me?" she spoke almost casually, likely unaware of their new plan, Senqok guessed.
"Yes, indeed." Senqok couldn't help but sigh again as he climbed, or rather, slipped down on the main deck, only to land right in front of his sister. "You see, we're going right for the Earth Empire's ships, and- "
"Do you think I'm blind and stupid?" she laughed, not caring she cut him off mid-sentence. "I've got years of experiences on sea, I think I can figure something like this out!"
"Oh, right, sorry." her brother spoke with a hint of a smile, which faded as fast as it had appeared. "I want you as much out of danger as you can get with your role in this battle. I want you assisting the Black Fleet, for I doubt that ours is going to make it."
"You dare to think I'll abandon you!?" Luna was more than shocked. "I won't! Under no circumstances! I'll help you out, not Kanyzon!"
Again, a smile briefly flashed over Senqok's lips. "Should I embrace and thank you for being such a good sister or strip you of your command for disobeying mine?" he asked her rhetorically, approaching her.
However, she was quick to climb back down to her ship, shouting, "Neither! Time's too short for it!"
And with this, the versatile ship was already gone, and the enemy ships were in plain sight now, only two or three dozens of metres away. With yet another sigh, Senqok braced himself for the onslaught of his life, his memory briefly reminding him of the Battle of the Five Armies. Then, the firebenders started it, the fireballs vaporising the water they came across on the way to the enemy vessel.
The Fire Lord would've paced around on deck, had sea and weather allowed it. Alas, it was raining heavily and waves tossed the huge treasure ship the Sun Warrior was around like a toy, thus Kanyzon had to stay in the deck's middle as he tried to make sense of what he was reported.
"You're telling me the Whaletail Islander fleet engaged the Water Tribe one?" Even after hearing it twice already, it failed to make sense.
"For the third and bloody last time, sir, Your Majesty, whatever, AYE!" replied the sailor who had identified himself as Lieutenant Li. "They burnt the Southern Water Tribe ships to crisps! Or would've, if it wasn't for the bloody rain!"
"It still doesn't make sense... any observations on what happened before?" Kanyzon tried a new approach. He tried accepting that it had happened, and focussing on the reasons.
"Aye, plenty. The Whaletail Islander bit- lady led her ships against the Water Tribesmen, she did, and they just kinda bent water at her forces, they did. Lost a bunch o' good ships there, she, and they too, before her brother led his battleships there and sunk the enemy's, he did, and that he did well. Now it seems he's heading for the enemy ships directly." Lieutenant Li reported as best he could remember.
"How many were lost on our side?" Kanyzon found some sense in it, although he wouldn't have sacrificed the entire fleet for just a sister. Unless I had a plan, of course...
"No one bothered to count. A dozen, half a dozen, who cares. Some were lost and some more will be lost, they will." Lieutenant Li had a certain rough honesty, Kanyzon found, something he liked in some of his more experienced soldiers and sailors.
"Very well then... return to your ship, Lieutenant Li." he dismissed the man, who had a shaggier beard and a thicker accent than Kanyzon had ever heard from an officer.
"T'was a pleasure, Your Majesty, sir." Cautiously, the man went to the rail and began climbing it down.
"So how will we continue now, Your Majesty?" The rather high voice belonged to Vice-admiral Xu, second-in-command in the Black Fleet. A lean person, unlike sturdy Kanyzon, he was.
Kanyzon pondered, deciding to sit on the golden planks. Sitting at a mast's base, cross-legged, he closed his eyes and envisioned the movements since the beginning of the battle – the Water Tribe ships being annihilated by Rebel-class battleships, and Senqok's apparent decision to die at sea. In his mind, his forces formed a reverse wedge that would reach slightly further than the Imperial Grand Navy in its two columns, and made it approach the enemy. Suddenly, Senqok's movements made sense. Both of their forces would be anvil and hammer at once, and smash the enemy forces in between. A smirk appeared on the Fire Lord's lips, and he rose, not opening his eyes, even though a massive wave hit the ship, shaking it heavily. "Continue as ordered previously. We will form a reverse wedge, as narrow as necessary, as wide as possible, with the treasure ships at the centre. We will approach the enemy as ordered previously, and together with the fleet of Whaletail Island, we will destroy them." Despite his smirk, the words were almost completely devoid of emotion. "Go. Send word to the ships. We will win, and our allies too will, if we're fast enough. GO!"
With a bow, but without a word, the vice-admiral hurried astern, where the messenger hawks were held. Within a mere minute, dozens of hawks flew out, to a select few of the ships which were the commanders' personal flagships, and from these, dozens of hawks each flew out to each and every ship in the fleet, and with the winds in their favour ever so briefly, the formation had formed in less than ten minutes. Kanyzon had observed it all in as much silence as the howling wind, the clattering rain and the foamy waves allowed, before he now decided to walk to the Sun Warrior's bow, which continued ahead in a bronze figurehead fashioned in the likeness of a dragon. There, glanced left and right, and ahead, comparing the forces that were about to face each other. Over the waves, the likely most experienced fleet rolled at the likely most powerful one, which was about to face the most advanced one. This was a battle of the best, Kanyzon realised with ever so slight envy towards the Whaletail Islanders. Yet he smirked. Not only would they win this battle, he was sure, but also would they deliver a massive blow against Yi Ming, and they would make it impossible for him to threaten the Fire Nation. Such, and a thousand thoughts alike raced through his head as one of the greatest naval battles of all history was about to reach its decisive phase. Left and right, larboard and starboard, ahead and astern, the firebenders prepared for battle, the nonbenders as well, and everywhere was the artillery readied for the initial, devastating strike. With a slight larboard, or southwards, turn, the wind was in their back again, and the artillery of the junks at the wedge's edges released its projectiles, with ballistae and trebuchets striking. Slowly, the artillery that was fired neared the centre as they all approached the enemy forces, quickly getting into range. Finally, as the battle already raged heatedly on the wedge's wings, the Sun Warrior and her fellow treasure ships fired their artillery, sinking two ships already. With a smirk he had worn since he decided their attack, Kanyzon fired a lightning at the nearest enemy ship. He wouldn't emerge with a smirk.
While he had thought to be land battles to be intense, battles at sea were truly intense, Senqok had found, especially against the heavily specialised naval earthbenders of the Earth Empire, who were said to be able to sink ships with the dust on board. Explosive ballista bolts were fired relentlessly at the ships they passed faster than they had thought they could, as were fireballs. However, none of their own earthbenders ever got to send an earthen disk against the enemy, completely aside it would've been completely inefficient, for they were more than busy with fending off rock after rock. Most of the rocks were mere shards aimed at crewmembers and at the sails, but there were plenty of proper boulders amongst them as well. The ship behind the Chief Gangtok, the General Ranchi, had already lost a part of her main sail, and her ensign, while the ship behind her, the King Chao, had lost an entire mast. Nonetheless, they all continued according to their orders. Senqok had stopped to observe what currently seemed to be the outcome, but was called back to reality by a boulder that caught his attention. It was aimed at the bridge, and his instinct let him no other choice but to destroy it in time. He spun his arms around to gather water from the rain and the deck, and then sent it forward by thrusting his hand forward. The water didn't form an ordinary stream, but one with a point that could be sharp as a knife's blade and blunt as one of Skado's remarks. It was even sharper than a knife's blade, and had to be. The rock was hit in the centre, and Senqok turned his extended hand, making the water enter every last fissure of the rock before freezing it, which made the boulder burst and its parts drop into the water. Another one was flung at him, but he realised it too late. It was caught by water bent around it, which then was frozen, and liquefied again. It had the same effect as Senqok's tactic, but what Kaubra had just done was quicker to accomplish. They then passed a gap between the enemy ships, which gave them a moment to catch their breath.
"Thanks." Senqok smiled slightly at Kabura before taking a look at what effect their assault had. The further he looked back, the more the enemy ships were either aflame, or without any masts left, or both, which made him smirk.
"Don't mention it," replied Kabura quickly, jumping to action as they approached the next ship, and so did Senqok. He had to take the offensive, lest they were sunk. Out of the sea water, they both drew a bubble, and bent it into streams of water, once again, with sharp points. They both thrust them forward simultaneously, and used them as extensions of themselves, turning them around, using them as drills, until they had torn leaks into the hull, when they both froze part of what they had thrust at the enemy and ripped it out to maximise the damage. By then, the enemy ship's wet sails were aflame, and splinters were torn out with every explosive bolt that struck, becoming an actual, unpredictable and unsupected danger. The ship was passed again, and both were about think they had not been struck all too seriously, when they saw the main mast breaking and ungently descending upon the deck. A storm far fiercer than the one around – which had weakened considerably, as had the rain – was being built up right where the mast would hit, before it was thrust upward, splitting the mast – and the sails, too – in two, both parts falling almost harmlessly to the sides. Ranju, who had just parted to mast, then prepared to help fend off the boulders, to which some firebenders, amongst them Shizon and Zoruka, had come as well. And another ship came, a ship whose crew flung the boulders fiercer than the previous ones.
"I have a feeling we're all going to die today!" shouted Zoruka as she sent a fireball of a brighter colour than anyone else aboard could produce against a boulder, making it crack and explode.
"Might indeed be, eh?" agreed Shizon, who made up his lack for actual power in firebending – power, not prowess – with quantity, his fists shooting forth as if he alone had to shower the entire enemy fleet in fire.
"We had so many chances to die, why now?" answered Kabura, a bit more optimistic than the others. She helped Senqok ripping holes in the hulls as well destroying boulders that came their way.
"Why not?" shouted Ranju back, sending a boulder back to its ship – though into the hull rather than on the deck – with her glider staff. She, alike Anyang, denied to fight like a true airbender, and rather employed waterbending tactics.
"I don't think we'll die today. In this conflict, maybe, but not today," replied Senqok as he twisted his hand around again, and froze the water he was bending, before ripping it out again, letting water stream into the enemy ship. As they passed the ship, he couldn't help but joke, "Though if the entire crew sweats as much as we do, we might as well sink."
"Indeed... " agreed Shizon, who wanted to use his sleeves to wipe the sweat off, but couldn't for he was wearing a proper armour. Briefly glancing upwards, he noted, "Hey, look! It's clearing up!"
"I'm not sure this is a good thing," replied Zoruka, and for once the others had to agree with her rather pessimistic remark. They braced themselves for the next ship.
Assaulting Earth Empire ships from their sides was a bad idea, Kanyzon had come to realise. Even though his initial strike had sunk perhaps a dozen, perhaps two dozens, there were still hundreds of them, and it didn't exactly help that the Whaletail Islanders barely sunk the ships, but only left them burning and unmanoeuvrable, for their crews were sooner or later recovered and could defend the ships against his own. He ran his fingers through the air, parting positive and negative energy, the fingers soon having a trail of electricity behind them. After having lead them in a circle, he extended both arms forward, shooting a lightning at the ship he faced. While the flanks had already had a partly success, the centre with its treasure ships was, ironically, likely to be defeated. A lightning more or less wouldn't change that, Kanyzon knew. He had to do something about this, but even though he was the Fire Lord, he was no more than one single man. Of course... but I'd have to be insane and tired of life for that... oh, screw it. He fired a few more fireballs at the ship they faced, one not unlike his own flagship, before retreating further backwards on deck. He then began running faster than he had known he could, and thrust streams of fire with both his arms. Thus, he shot off board and on board the enemy ship, where he landed with his fists first, which had a devastating effect – flames spread all around, and set half the ship on fire, at least briefly. He got up from his kneeling position, and blindly began striking his fists into all directions, sending fireballs everywhere. The sails greedily took the flames, as did the ropes of the rigging, however, the wood wouldn't take it that fast. His rampage didn't last very long. Soon, he took an earth slab in the chest, and was knocked to the rail. There, thrust both his fists forward at the one who had struck him, but failed to fend off another strike. He dropped to the ground to avoid it and used his gaining momentum to undermine the earthbenders. He caught his fall with his hands and then, resting only on his hands, and kicked around, spinning as quickly as his hands would allow. The earthbenders weren't exactly prepared to face master like the one Kanyzon was, and so some of them dropped. I have to be mad to do this... Once again, the Fire Lord clenched his fists, leaving only index and middle fingers extended, and led them in a circular, fluid motion, dividing energy. He thrust them forward, at what he thought to be the centre of the ship, where it struck with an explosion, setting the surrounding wood on fire. He intended to leave, when he noticed the dozen earthbenders who had him surrounded had risen again. They all held slabs of earth, and waited for Kanyzon to strike, prepared to strike back immediately, however, didn't strike them – directly. He sunk into a crouching position and breathed heavily. Then, he extended his arms and legs at once, thrusting powerful streams of fire out of both, and thus flew himself back to the Sun Warrior.
There, he found, much to his dismay, damages as well. Masts lay broken, sailors slain, and all for earth disks constantly battering the mighty treasure ship. Some launched fireballs against them, in vain, some streams of fire, in vain, some ballista bolt, in vain. The ships still attempted to force her way through the line of enemies, but in vain, although the enemy ship Kanyzon had brielfy paid a visit to was about to sink.
"WE NEED TO GET THROUGH THAT GAP ONCE THIS ONE'S SUNK!" he informed his sailors angrily, deaf from the noises of battle. All of sudden, all focussed their fire, the aim shifted to the one ship that already was ablaze. Within a minute, the enemy ship was burning all over, screams emerging from every corner of the enemy ship. The remaining winds and sails thrust the Sun Warrior against the burning ship, which had little effect to the former, as it was completely fireproof – almost completely, anyway – however, the latter was crushed. Plank by plank were torn apart upon the impact, sparks and flames' tips spreading to the Sun Warrior, but to no effect. The ships that now were to the Sun Warrior's starboard and larboard, however, did have an effect, or rather, the earthbenders on board. All earthbenders there started bombarding the Sun Warrior with every last piece of rock they had on board, piercing the hull more often than Kanyzon dared to imagine. Sure, the other treasure ships of his fleet were about to sink the ships attacking his flagship, but it was too late. The hull was about to be flooded. In the chaos left behind by the burnt ship, he didn't see a way to return to his own fleet without being slaughtered like his sailors now were, so he decided to trust the sea for once, and jumped into it. Like aboard the enemy ship, he extended both arms and legs at once, and flames shot out, vaporised some of the water, and went out again, no matter how hard he tried. After a few minutes, a current pushed him away suddenly, and he decided to surface again, and not just for breathing. He was certain of his death in the first split second when he noticed the Water Tribe streamers, but then he noticed the Liberation Alliance flag.
"HELP! SOMEONE BLOODY GET ME OUT OF HERE!" He shouted as loud as he could, and on the rail of the cutter sailing ship he had found, a female figure he didn't recognise at first appeared.
"What it Koh's bloody realm!?" She was taken aback at first, before she acted resolutely, as usually. "Get me some rope!"
She then tossed a rope towards him, which he caught, and began pulling at it together with some sailor. Then, they pulled him on board.
"You're Kanyzon! The bloody Fire Lord!" shouted the woman, whom he then suddenly recognised as Luna. "Damn! What happened!"
"Just try to find the Sun Warrior and you have your answer," replied he, exhausted as he was. He took a look around. Most of the enemy fleet was either ablaze, sunk or unmanoeuvrable, he realised with relief. Sure, his and allied forces too had suffered losses, and not all too light ones, but he was confident.
"Oh. I see." Luna took a look around the ships, and added, "Or rather, I don't see, which, I think, is your exact point."
The ship, and Luna's entire small force was headed to get out of the surrounded enemy's forces, which they did without much effort, passing through a southwards gap near Wrath Islet. There, Luna took out a tube he heard her call telescope and took a look around, before saying, "Damn."
"What is it?" inquired Kanyzon, leaning on the rail next to her.
"We thought we annihilated the Water Tribe forces. Well, we haven't. Some of them escaped and they're gathered, alongside some... forty to sixty Earth Empire ships... DAMMIT!" Luna was infuriated, even though they would still be victorious. "In this condition, a single galley could sink half our battleships!"
"Then go, tell the other commanders... and get me on another ship, please." sighed Kanyzon, feeling pranked in the worst kind of way.
"That just what I will do... " she answered, narrowing her eyes.
He leaned back against the rail, like they all did, in relief. A slight wind blew across the ocean, and even though clouds passed in front of it all the time, the sun did dry the entire ship. The allied fleet gathered – after all, they just had annihilated an entire fleet, and that with lighter losses than expected. The Chief Gangtok, the General Wei and the Dragon of the Seas, the new flagship of the Black Fleet, had gathered in the centre, as well as Luna's cutter sailing ship. They took time to repair and to catch their breath before sailing home, or so they thought, and so Senqok, Kabura, Zoruka, Shizon, Ranju and Anyang did. Skado and Luna, who hurried towards them, however, knew the battle wasn't over yet.
"Senqok! Anyang! Sir! Dammit, get up!" shouted Skado, shaking Senqok's and Anyang's shoulders both.
"What is it? Did you come up with a new invention?" Senqok had no interest in what he had to say, and thus replied in an annoyed tone.
"Dammit, Senqok, get the bloody fuck up or I'll cut you!" shouted Luna to her brother, who then almost instantly shot up. "Better."
"Now, what is it?" Luna's outburst didn't change Senqok's tone, however.
"Well, I think I now know what the unidentified vessels are... " spoke Skado, handing Senqok a telescope. "Just take a good look southwards."
"What do you mean, there's nothing the- " Senqok's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "What. In. Koh's. Bloody. Ream. We're soooo bloody fucked."
"What is it?" asked Anyang, and was instantly handed the telescope. He remained calm. "I knew they weren't just bluffing!"
"You knew the Air Empire had a bloody flying ship!?" Senqok was more than merely shocked, and too exhausted to contain his actual reaction. What he was referring to was the Air Empire fleet – four junks and a treasure ship, the latter propelled by sky bison.
"I thought it best not to make everyone panic in advance!" defended Anyang himself, seeing how weak his defence was.
"So THAT'S the fifth ship! You-! AARGH!" Ranju had tears in her eyes as she wanted to scream at Anyang, but couldn't put herself to it.
"So... what's it you've got, Luna?" Senqok's doubts returned, as did his fear.
"About a hundred enemy vessels in prime condition survived the battle and prepare to strike us." she reported, laughing nervously afterwards.
"In other words, we're fucked." summed Zoruka their situation up.
After briefly exchanging glances, Senqok, Skado, Anyang and Luna all could only answer with a simultaneous, "YES."
Notes and Trivia
- Treasure ships were a rather huge kind of ship in Ming Dynasty China.
- Wrath Islet is named after Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of Great Britain.
For the collective works of the author, go here.