• Published 9th Jan 2017
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The Atlantean-Dominion War - The Atlantean



Crimson Dawn enlists in the Atlantean Reserve Emergency Army (AREA) to defend Atlantis from the Dominion of Apollo.

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57. The Battle of Expedition Explore

Dong! Dong! Dong!

Lost Legacy yawned and rolled out of his hammock. For the past three days, he’d been sailing south as part of the Dominion diplomatic entourage to negotiate a possible Atlantean surrender - if King Jagged Edge had to say anything about it. This conflict had turned to a war of attrition, with the Atlantean armies outsmarting their larger Dominion counterparts. Their navy had also retaken a substantial portion of the continent’s eastern coast, meaning Lost’s seven-ship fleet would be entering hostile waters in two weeks.

“Com’an, Pretty Colt,” an old, seasoned sailor called from the bow. “We’s gat some trauble brewin’ hotter than a tea kittle!”

“I’m coming,” the medium-grey Unicorn replied. He liked the gruff Mousetrap and appreciated his thirty-four years aboard the frigate DNV Pharoah, but he sometimes got a little overexcited about nothing.

This time, however, as he climbed onto the main deck and his eyes drifted over the bulwarks, he knew they were in for it. Seventeen Atlantean battlewagons, the powerful Mermaid class, no doubt, and their escort of several dozen Artemis frigates, Fireheart corvettes, and Marine extended-expedition patrol caravels. The four staple ship designs of the Atlantean Navy, all in one spot.

He waved to Mousetrap, who gave him a pair of binoculars. One of the standard non-regulation things Atlantean captains did before the war was paint the ship’s name on the side of the hull, just under the gunports. Knowing this, Lost scanned to guess the age of this battlegroup.

“Whaddya seh, Pretty Colt?” Mousetrap asked.

“Before the war, Atlanteans painted their ship names on the side. If I can find them, it means they won’t be hostile until we shoot at them.” CLANG! “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what the hell are you guys doing? Don’t attack. We’re outnumbered by the longest shot!” He started staring back through the binoculars. “Okay, that big one in the front is a Mermaid-class battlewagon. I’d know that sail pattern anywhere. It’s Chesapeake! By Harmony, she’s old.” Lost lowered the binoculars in shock.

“How old?”

“Old enough to have 32-pounders. Their navy stopped using them on battlewagons seven years ago, replaced them all with fifties and put them on their frigates. But as far as I know, the Chesapeake last deployed with a massive battlegroup in the year before Atlanta staged her successful coup. That’s at least fourteen years ago.”

“Where’re dey hidded?”

“Nopony in the Dominion knows. Atlanta probably doesn’t know. Hell, they’re probably the only ponies in the world to know.” He raced to the wheel, where Pharoah’s Unicorn captain was issuing orders for battle stations. “Captain Goldenrod, they don’t know about the hostilities!”

The captain glared into Lost’s eyes with his own golden ones. He had a golden coat and silver mane, and a massive tendency to break things. Many a sailor had left his sight with a bruised skull or broken leg after arguing against his orders. He did, however, have to follow orders, and Lost had immunity as part of this year’s Dominion diplomatic delegation to Atlantis. “What do you mean, they don’t know about the hostilities? We’ve been at war with Atlantis for two and a half years.”

“Captain, that big one out front is the Chesapeake. I don’t know how many naval records you’ve read, but I’ve read enough to know that she left Atlantis before Atlanta rebelled back in 960. We’re not at war with that battlegroup, sir.”

Goldenrod sighed. “Are you kidding me?” He picked up the binoculars Lost had and stared at the distant ships. “Yup, that’s Chesapeake. Damn. So, what you’re saying is?”

“We can’t shoot them unless they shoot first, because they could perceive it the wrong way. If we pick a fight, and we lose, then they could technically bring us to trial for Harmony knows what reasons. But if they shoot first, it means that they know we’re at war and that we can shoot them.”

“Lost Legacy,” Goldenrod began, “I’ve trusted your father for years. I’ve known you for years. But I simply can’t not engage an enemy battlegroup that’s within sight!”

“Captain, battles are fought when one side chooses to fight. If neither side takes that initiative, then there are no casualties because there is no battle. Hell, we could probably get them to escort us to Nautinia! Wouldn’t you want to be seen as the pony who seemingly brought their long-lost ships back home? That’d give you excellent relations with them, especially after the war. You could use that.”

“Lost, you’re a history buff, and your logic has always been sound, even now. I’ll give it some thought for sure, but I may just fire the cannons.”

“I understand, Captain.”

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Commodore Evergreen glanced back worriedly at the storm-damaged ships behind Chesapeake. Her thick, bark-brown coat and furry wings protected her from the winds up here in the crow’s nest, where she could personally survey the horizon with ease. The straw-like, deep green mane and tail that flapped in the breeze, however, gave away her cold.

Out of the hundred-odd vessels in her expeditionary force, only fifty remained. They’d been at sea for almost a decade and a half, and the standard wear-and-tear on the less destroyed ships required them to scuttle the ones that were only barely seaworthy. Crew had been lost to storm and battle against pirates. But mostly storm, which sucked.

The Mermaid-class ship of the line Pathfinder, the slowest ship in the fleet, was towing the nearly-sunk hulk of evidence of Dominion activity in the North Luna Sea, off the western coast of Equestria. Dubbed Eternity, it was a small iron-hulled warship that ran on steam supplied by three coal-fired boilers. Numerous Dom artifacts had been recovered, like its half-eaten flag and captain’s log. It also appeared to be the seventeenth ship of its type, according to the big, peeling numbers on the bow. Once it had been found rusting beached on the wilds of the Equestrian West Coast, it had become their top priority to bring it home.

Now, after years of constant strife, the end was in sight. Dominion land, albeit, but land. They were so close to home. They could reunite with old friends, if they were still alive.

“Evergreen, Intrepid says there’s a Dominion fleet on the horizon, with battle flags unfurled.” The call, barely heard over the wind, was repeated as other ships on the right flank saw the same thing. By the sixth call, a Pegasus flew up and sent her back to the deck.

As Evergreen landed gracefully on the slippery wood, she yelled, “Battle stations. Sound the bell and prepare to be boarded.” Her commands, although seemingly odd given the distance between the two fleets, were founded in fair reasoning. Dominion-flagged ships and sponsored pirates throughout the Narrow Ocean had a tendency to close the gap as quickly as possible, followed by a boarding party that completely overwhelmed the defenders in minutes. After the first time it happened, Evergreen had vowed to never allow herself to be caught flat-footed like that again.

“Wait. Let them get in range. We’ll send them to the bottom. For Radiant.”

The guns were primed and loaded, all forty-per-side of the 32-pounder cannons. A couple 12-pounders were near the bowsprit as well as a late addition to the ship during one of the many scuttlings.

The Dominion fleet stayed its course. However, that was one where they would intersect in a couple hours.

“Helm, head south. Signalmare, tell the fleet. We’re gonna run the gauntlet to Port Snowfall tonight, but sail parallel to the coast for now. That Dominion fleet is going to have to turn east soon, or they’ll hit Oceania Point. By then, we’ll go dark and sail west, get some repairs before we continue on to Nautinia.”

“Got it, Evergreen,” the pony at the Helm replied. Longtime familiarity had eventually led him to just drop her rank when he spoke. It had even affected the crew; she was only called “Captain” in an emergency. Of course, her Helmspony was a little closer than everyone else, as he was her Executive Officer as well. They shared something more than an intimate relationship that was kind of hard to hide from the armada, as big as it was.

As the entire battlegroup turned to port, Evergreen seriously hoped a battle wouldn’t ensue.

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Lost Legacy looked scared. More than anypony else on the ship, he was scared. He was no fighter. He was no sailor. Hell, he wasn’t even in the military! And Captain Goldenrod had just ordered his ships hard to port to face the Atlantean ships. This was not going to end well.

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Evergreen’s heart sank. With a fleet of fifty ships, she had little choice whether a fight was going to start. Her only hope was to get as far south as she could in the time she had. “Signal, tell Pathfinder to head south, full power. See if you can get that iron hulk to move by itself, and wing it if you have to. Do whatever you can to go south.”

Her XO glanced west. “Evergreen, I suggest that Pathfinder makes a run for Nautinia. If that’s an official Dominion fleet, then we’re at war, and it’s quite possible that Port Snowfall has been overrun.”

“Do it. Have America and Thunderbird escort her down. Any ship that either runs out of ammo or becomes too heavily damaged to fight will follow them.”

The hours ticked away at a painfully slow pace. Ammunition was distributed. Damage-control crews readied their tools. Medics prepared to handle the inevitable casualties.

At fifteen feet across, seventy feet long, and a hundred fifty feet high, Chesapeake was a massive ship for her time. She had over three dozen 32-pound cannons per side and was built to take a beating, with diagonal crisscrossing beams and near-watertight bulkheads in strategic places throughout her hull. Her crew was well-trained, seasoned, and determined, for their long voyage led to encounters on all coasts, services-for-supplies bartering, and some of the bachelors stayed behind until the fleet came back on its return journey. Those stallions had started families, who now accompanied them back to Atlantis. Even now, these ponies reorganized to board the southward-heading ships in exchange for more fighters.

Then the first shots rumbled across the placid sea. Fifty-pound cannonballs slammed into the frigate Cardinal, tearing chunks out of the unarmored ship’s wooden hull. Her 32s fired a reply, and found her adversary was out range. The balls splashed into the water several dozen feet short of the Dominion ship. The enemy fired again, blasting more holes in the frigate.

“Evergreen, Cardinal is moving closer to engage.”

The commodore simply stared at the impossible range the Dominion possessed. “No, no. They have bigger guns.”

“Exactly what does that mean?”

“We need to get out. Everyone head south like the wind. Let out oars if you have to. We must leave their range before we’re reduced to splinters.”

A long hoooooooooooooooooonk blared from the southeast. Using scrap wood as fuel, crewponies from America, Thunderbird, and Pathfinder had fired up the lone unbroken boiler on Eternity and steam began to run the engines. With a few more minutes, they’d be ready to move on their own. As Evergreen watched, however, the bowsprits were chopped off the three ships and floated to the iron warship. An Atlantean banner unfurled in the wind atop the tilted foremast, and ash-saturated smoke began to billow from the middle stack, further fueled by her escort’s sacrifices. Rowboats hauled wood, both dry and wet, to Eternity from various parts of the entire fleet.

The Dominion fired again, this time with three ships against Cardinal’s outranged guns. Feeling the frustration boiling in her crews, unable to shoot back, Evergreen gauged the distances. Just two more minutes…

Time’s up. Calculating that her entire right flank could hit the enemy’s waterline at maximum elevation, she yelled, “FIRE!”
Ten ships of the line, a dozen frigates, and five caravels shot one huge collective broadside that screamed between the two fleets. Many shots fell short, but the majority slammed into the waterlines and above. Showers of splinters had to have blown into their faces. Hit by at least half of the balls, the ship in the middle immediately began to founder. The other two retreated, unsure whether to continue the offensive or to stay behind and help their friend.

“Evergreen, Eternity signals that she has the fuel to reach Whitecap Point at full steam. A few more tons and she’ll pull into Summercrest - barely.”

“How’s Cardinal holding up?”

“Captain Anthill says he’s taking on water, but can seal the hole. Her foremast is a wreck, though, and he already has ponies on the job. They’ll sail to Eternity and drop it off.”

“Tell them to move quickly,” Evergreen ordered. “The Dominion may still shoot her with their larger guns.”

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Lost Legacy’s vision was red and blurry and his ears were ringing. His face was against the bloodied deck and covered in small cuts. Slowly picking himself up, he saw an enormous cloud of white smoke drift downwind, obscuring the Atlantean ships behind it.

A medic ran to him and started trying to communicate. She was waving her hooves and running a very fast but unheard voice.

“What?” he asked. Then his mind came back as he realized that he couldn’t hear his own voice. He started to tap his ears, but the medic reached at his hoof, probably saying something along the lines of “Nonononononono!”

Finally, the sounds of yelling sailors punched through the ringing. “I said, ‘Are you okay?’ You don’t look too good.”

“I don’t know. My ears hurt and my side hurts and there’s blood on my tongue.” Lost looked around. “What the hell happened?”

“The Atlanteans fired a multi-ship broadside at us. Some shots missed, some hit the waterline, and some overshot into the upper decks and rigging. One ball nearly hit you.”

“Oh.” He gestured at his eyes and she wiped them with an almost-clean towel, getting the dripping blood all over it. She tossed the towel to another medic, who washed it and tossed it back to her.

“Shouldn’t you be tending other ponies? We must’ve taken a lot of hits.”

“My orders are to keep you from dying as much as I can during battle. Essentially, I’m your personal doctor until we return to Amyfalone. I think the reason Captain Goldenrod chose me specifically was because our diplomats tend to like having… comfort mares… when times get rough.” She blushed at the thought.

“I’m no normal diplomat, ma’am. I just have a message from the Prince to Queen Atlanta.” As he continued to explain his presence in the entourage, she cleaned and dressed his wounds.

A gruff stallion wobbled across the deck, finally reaching Lost. it was Mousetrap, with a destroyed eye and splintered leg. “Glad t’ see ya in one piece, Pretty Colt. Landlubbers rellay don’t like sea fights.”

“That was pure luck. Where’s Goldenrod?”

“The Cap’n took one t’ the head, perr soul. First Mate’s got it from here, and he’s hangin’ back. After that volley, nopony wants t’ get in their range. We lost Montoyana, b’hind us, since she’s takin’ on too much water fer her crew t’ catch up. We took a coupla hits, but nothin’ like Montoyana.”

“I just hope they don’t strike back. Our numbers are too few to hold them off, even with a longer range.”

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Evergreen sighed in relief. The Dominion fleet wasn’t pursuing her, and Eternity was pulling ahead, hoping to reach a friendly port in Summercrest in a couple of days. Her ships, as old and broken as they were, were almost home. Hopefully they hadn’t been forgotten over the last decade and a half.

Author's Note:

This took longer than I expected. Then again, I was telling the battle from two different POVs at the same time, kinda like an experiment.

Yes, the Expedition Exploration Force (EEF, or simply Expedition Explore) will get some more background later. This isn't a simple lifeline toss out to the soon-to-be-resource-depraved Atlanteans. There actually will be a major worldbuild coming with it, and hopefully soon.

Feedback, especially on this style of "battle-telling," would be much appreciated. That way, I know what I did wrong, what I did right, and if I should do it again.

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