Elder Scrolls: The Great War: Chapter One
30th of Frostfall, 4E 171 - Off the coast of Hammerfell
The Aldmeri galleon Beautiful gracefully floated in the warm waters off of the coast of western Hammerfell. The desert wasteland jutted out into the Abecean Sea, dully ending the enormous blue expanse of water that the crew had grown use to. The Beautiful was accompanied by two smaller ships, Pride of Aldmeris and Ellah. These galleys were smaller and faster ships, but they were armed enough to serve as escorts for the Beautiful. Unlike most Aldmeri Dominion fleets, the Beautiful was protected by two - as opposed to five - ships. But this fleet was no standard Dominion fleet, this fleet had been assigned to begin the invasion of Hammerfell.
Aboard the Beautiful, the two hundred man crew moved about, roaming around the wooden deck and scurrying about like mud crabs. There was a sense of uniformity to them, and they were dressed in a similar fashion: a standard golden cuirass accompanied by a pair of equally golden gauntlets, greaves, pauldrons, and boots. None of them paid any real attention to the dull, desert-covered wasteland staring back at them from across the Abecean Sea. The only one among their number who had the spare time to focus on the land was the ship's commanding officer, Captain Erthanor.
Erthanor stood on the command deck that overlooked the entire ship; his perch gave him a hawk-eye view that enabled him to watch each of his crewmen with his cold, blue eyes and make sure each of them carried out their respective tasks appropriately. While he was leaning on the railing, Erthanor's height was difficult to discern, although when he stood he easily towered over an average adult Imperial male - standing at two meters in height. Erthanor's light golden armor and red sash went well his golden skin and light brown hair, which had been kept up in the oiled style. On his belt, a silver long sword was situated in its scabbard.
Erthanor had only recently become captain of the Beautiful, evident by the darkened bags that formed under his eyes due to lack of sleep - he had not rested very often since he had taken command of the ship. The bags exaggerated his thin nose and gave him a visage of wisdom, even though he was not a day over two hundred and forty-nine. He was pleased by his promotion, in fact, he had been appointed to serve as the captain of the Beautiful by Lord Methyn, the High Admiral of the Aldmeri Dominion's fleets, himself. However, the position had exhausted him and he grew tired of the long voyage across the sea. His crew had not tasted the fine cuisine of battle for several weeks, and they had grown sloppy and impatient.
"Sir," spoke his first mate, a lithe, young Altmer as he approched Erthanor from behind. "Our scouts believe they have located the bulk of the Imperial forces, but they are hiding among the barrier islands. Our helmsmen are hesitant to approach, lest we are ambushed."
Erthanor scowled at his first mate's report. Rising from his position against the railing, he towered over his subordinate, and Erthanor hoped to inspire fear in the young officer. "Catapults don't concern me, Aelorn. I want progress not complaints. Begin the advance."
"But sir..." the first mate tried to argue, his voice uneasy. Erthanor's stature and position had served its purpose.
"Now, Aelorn! If the helmsmen do not comply, you will tell me immediately."
"Sir, yes sir!" replied his first mate, saluting.
Walking from the command deck, Erthanor descended the stairs that led to his cabin and then emerged onto the main deck. Erthanor marched through the rat's nest of crewmen that had formed on the deck. Every officer and crewman he passed on the deck saluted him as he walked by, showing the respect he had earned as the captain of the Beautiful. The prodigious captain made his way across the wood-planked deck, his elven boots clinking with each step he took until he reached the station that belonged to the helmsman. Approaching the helmsman, a Bosmer, Erthanor placed a hand on his shoulder and beckoned him to turn around.
"What is it, Captain?" the Bosmer asked, sneering as he emphasized Erthanor's title.
"I heard that you complained about my orders, Uuras. Needless to say, I'm displeased," Erthanor replied, his voice taking an authorative tone in response to Uuras' insolence.
The Bosmer muttered under his breath, evidently displeased by the revelation. "If I would have carried out your orders, the entire fleet would have been in danger."
"Insubordination is a dangerous crime and can ruin your career, Uuras. It would be a shame if I had to throw you off the ship," Erthanor said maliciously.
"Funny," Uuras muttered. He scratched the back of his head. "I believe Admiral Tragri told you something similar off of the coast of High Rock, if I recall correctly."
Erthanor's blue eyes glared at Uuras, and his eyes met with the Bosmer's eyes. He was infuriated by the Uuras' argument, considering he was right. Tragri was the previous captain of the Beautiful and was the mentor of Erthanor and Uuras. Erthanor had once refused to carry out Admiral Tragri's orders off of the coast of High Rock when they had fought a group of pirates there a year before.
"Get back to work, Uuras. You will be punished for your impudence," Erthanor managed to say, still wounded by being called out by a low-ranking officer.
"Of course, Captain," Uuras muttered. Saluting curtly, Uuras turned his back to Erthanor before returning his attention to the ship's wheel.
"Absolutely useless," Erthanor muttered, already returning to the command deck that was positioned above the chaotic mess of soldiers that were struggling to keep the ship running smoothly.
30th of Frostfall, 4E 171 - Barrier Islands
Amidst the sand-covered barrier islands that were gathered near the northern-most region of Hammerfell, a single Imperial ship was hidden; the galleon took shelter in the cover of a large, abnormally shaped barrier island. On the deck of the ship stood an Imperial male, twenty-four years of age. His skin was tan, as was common for members of the Imperial Navy, and he wore a tattered blue cloak over his gray, iron armor. Upon his head was a blue cowl, adjusted to fit upon his head loosely. In adittion, the cowl served to protect his green eyes from large amounts of sunlight.
Fiddling with his steel mace, the Imperial was waiting for his comrades to emerge from the lower decks where they were discussing the strategy for the upcoming battle. Although the ship was in plain sight, the ship was protected from being seen by the Dominion Navy by several dusty hills. Their skills in magicka and naval warfare were not helping them now. Scanning the dust-filled but still beautfiul sky with his green eyes, the Imperial failed to see any of the birds who were so common throughout these islands. Swearing under his breath, the Imperial was about to give up his search when he heard the clinking of boots emerging from the lower decks; apparently, they were done discussing strategy and were coming to talk to him.
Turning around to face the two Imperials coming towards him, the Imperial spoke, "How did the meeting go? Did we decide on a course of action?"
"No, Octavian. Curio and I tried to convince them to stand and fight, but we couldn't convince them. It's almost like they want to be conquered by the Dominion," Talan Crassi explained in detail, his voice gruff, deep. Octavian could tell that he was obviously displeased with the outcome of the meeting.
"Get one of the mages to contact the other ships then. Tell them to start the retreat so we can get out of here before the Dominion navy gets any closer," Octavian replied.
"Very well. I'll go back below deck to find that blasted mage. I'll come back when the orders have been relayed."
While Talan went back below deck, Octavian gave orders to the helsmen, and the ship began to make its way deeper into the chain of barrier islands, back towards Stros M'Kai, the headquarters of the Imperial Navy in Hammerfell. Wading through the warm water and ship rubble, the Attrebus I began to leave the cover that it had taken shelter in. The Attrebus I gracefully swam through the remainder of the cove and met up with the Lady Luck and Septimia - which were also galleons - inside the heart of the barrier island chain.
Octavian's gazing at the sky was interrupted by Curio placing a hand on his shoulder. Octavian turned to his fellow Imperial and listened intently as Curio said, "So, Octavian, how exactly did the Arch-Mage know that the Dominion would be attacking from this direction? How can we trust him?"
Octavian thought on the question, allowing it to linger in his mind before he answered Curio. "The Arch-Mage has the reputation of being a highly-skilled magister, even among the members of the Arcane University. He defeated Mannimarco. Presumably, his skill at manipulating magicka was second to none save the Psijics."
"So if he's so strong and special, why isn't he out here fighting alongside us soldiers?" Curio shot back.
"Shut up, I wasn't done," growled Octavian, his anger getting the best of him for a brief moment. "The Arch-Mage coordinated the Penitus Oculatus' infiltration of the ranks of the Dominion and their attempts to gather intelligence on the Dominion's military movements. The Penitus Oculatus' agents were later found and executed. Their last message indicated that the Dominion Navy was going to strike Hegathe first."
"So that's why we're here?" Curio pondered.
"Yes, that's why we're here," Octavian repeated, still agitated by the interruptions. "But obviously this fleet is too experienced and well-armed for us to defeat. So we're retreating to meet up with Admiral Agrudilius' fleet at Stros M'Kai. No reason to stick around here."
Octavian heard the faint whine of bows being released from the west. A brief explosion was faintly heard across the water and a gout of fire rose into the air.
Octavian ran up to the command deck and yelled up to the crow's nest, "Lookout! Cidius!" Octavian raised his voice when he did not get a response. "What happened?"
"We have Dominion ships entering the islands! A Dominion fleet is here and its spotted the Lady Luck; they're attacking it with bows and magicka!"
Octavian's face scrunched up, expressing his own concern. "Damn! Keep watching! I need to warn Talan!" Octavian hurried down the stairs to the lowest deck of the ship where Talan and the mages were no doubt arguing as usual. "Talan, we've got a Dominion fleet! It's attacking the Lady Luck and its going to destroy us too if we stay here much longer. Let's get out of here before they spot us too!"
"What in the name of oblivion..." Talan began. Once he realized that the Aldmeri were assaulting the Lady Luck; however, his focus deviated quickly. "I see. Well, Agrudilius is entering the islands from the south now, and should be here any minute. His flagship is being escorted by three galleys. We'll be fine."
"Should we help the Lady Luck out anyways, and give Agrudilius a heads up?"
"Yeah," Talan responded, his voice getting jittery.
The Attrebus I took off first, propelling forward and racing through the warm water. The Septimia sluggishly followed the fleet's flagship although it was not as maneuverable or as fast as the other ship. The two Imperial warships traversed the small sound side-by-side before meeting up with the damaged Lady Luck which had slowly managed to limp away from its pursuers. Once the three ships had been united, they made their way around a larger island and increased their speed, hoping to reach the Dominion fleet before Agrudilius and his fleet arrived.
30th of Frostfall, 4E 171 - Off the coast of Hammerfell
"Captain!" Erthanor's Altmer first mate called to him from across the command deck. "We seem to have found the rest of the Imperials! Two unidentified vessels and the one we damaged earlier are exiting the islands; they're probably a scouting force."
Erthanor leaned uncomfortably against the railing; the woord of the rails were causing his arms to bruise. Nevertheless, he tried to appear as pleased as possible when his first mate gave him the news. "I see. Tell all ships that they have permission to engage. Give no quarter," Erthanor said, shrugging off the news.
"Yes sir, as you wish, sir," his first mate said nervously.
Although the first mate tried to be as respectful as possible, his nervousness caused his words to become jumbled and slurred, causing Erthanor to despise him even more. As the Beautiful, Pride of Aldmeris, and Ellah raced through the warm water like angry slaughterfish towards their unsuspecting prey, Erthanor felt relieved. Once these Imperials are defeated, he thought, The invasion will commence on schedule.
As soon as the Dominion fleet began to advance; however, the Beautiful rocked violently. The unexpected quake sent the captain flying from his position against the railing and causing him to collide with the wooden planks of the floor. The rest of the ship was also thrown into mindless chaos; once the Beautiful began to tremble, nearly every crew member on the ship was either thrown off their feet or began to scamper for cover as unorganized as mindless rodents.
Wiping away the blood that had begun to flow from his forcibly sqaushed nose, Erthanor forced himself to his feet and cried out to his crew, "Back in line vermin! What in the name of Oblivion just happened?"
The first mate was the first to speak, although his voice was still mired with fright. "Sir! An Imperial galleon has just arrived from the direction of Stros M'Kai with three galleys. Their mages hit the rudder with fireballs!"
"Damage report?" growled Erthanor.
"Their fireballs only made contact with the top of the rudder so it can still be maneuvered!" called out the scout in the crow's nest.
"All crew members to your stations! Return fire!" Erthanor bellowed. "Aelorn, prepare a lifeboat for the officers, and inform the second helmsman that he is in command of the vessel now. We need to get back to Cespar now!"
30th of Frostfall, 4E 171 - Off the coast of Hammerfell
The nimble Attrebus I rocked as large waves conjured by the Altmer mages buffeted its portside hull, damaging the mast and flooding the lowest deck. Although the damage was extensive, Octavian was still smiling underneath his cowl. Using his sweaty, cramped palm, Octavian summoned his inner reserves of magicka, sending two tendrils of lightning at the Dominion galleon. As the galleon continued to advance towards the Attrebus I, the tendrils of lightning collided with the massive Dominion galleon, ripping through several Bosmer archers and causing them to devolve into a pile of fiery ashes. Cheering at the deaths of the Bosmer, the Imperial archers began to take aim at the opposing ships.
The battle was set: the myriad of Dominion ships flocked around their flagship - the Beautiful - while the Imperial vessels were scattered about with no clear focal point. However, most of the Imperial ships were still clustered around Agrudilius' galleon and its escorts. The Imperial forces moved first and clashed with the majority of the Dominion galleys. Magickal energy and arrows flew from the Dominion and Imperial forces, and soldiers and ships met them with distraught, yet open, arms. While the majority of the magickal attacks collided with the ships' masts and hulls, some arrows found their targets and sank into the flesh and armor of soldiers, their lifeless bodies quickly becoming impediments to the survivors.
Octavian took cover behind the railing on the side of the ship, coming out of his cover every few minutes or so to fire fireballs or lightning at the Altmer and Bosmer on the opposing ships. In the delay between his magickal attacks, the Dominion forces responded in kind, unleashing a wave of deadly, fiery arrows in the direction of the Attrebus I. Performing a quick roll, Octavian managed to dodge the incoming arrows and protect himself from harm.