April 15th, 1673
Kvarven Fort, Bergen
“Herr Kommisjonær.” Harald gritted his teeth, very slightly, at the title he had to give the representative of the Commonwealth; it was a longstanding grievance, that the Poles did not accredit ambassadors to their ancient ally, but contented themselves with appointing a mere commissioner. Ambassadors were sent to Great Powers, to enemies potential or actual whom the Poles feared; not to allies whose armies did not muster a full quarter million, no matter how respected.
“Good morning, General.” The commissioner returned a sunny smile; perhaps he was unaware of Harald’s annoyance, perhaps he was just ignoring what he could do nothing about. Or, then again, perhaps he was being deliberately provoking; the disadvantage to being nicknamed the “Troll Republic” was that even trusted allies felt quite free to troll you right back, at least in minor matters of prestige. “What can I help you with?”
Harald shoved his irritation aside; there was serious war business to deal with, much more annoying than a small dispute over titles. “The first elements of your fleet are sailing up Byfjorden; so it is a good time to discuss our naval strategy for this war.”
“Oh, they made it! Splendid!” The commissioner broke out into a smile of immense relief.
“Well – yes? See for yourself.” Harald gestured at the fiord, which was full of sails, five dozen ships spreading shining white canvas in the spring sunlight, making a brave show against the dark-green slopes of Askøy. The gold-and-blue war ensigns flying from their mast tops blended with the reflections of sunlight off water as though a painter had designed the sight to make a metaphor of war power at sea.
“Tengri be thanked!” the commissioner exclaimed, fingers moving rapidly as he counted. “It was a risk, moving the whole navy out of the Baltic, but it seems to have paid off. From this excellent fortified harbour we can maintain our joint fleet in being and threaten all the North Sea trade. No peace out of sight of land, eh?” He grinned at Harald, who blinked back, nonplussed.
“Well, yes, but that won’t force the Irish to make peace.” Since the Irish, and indeed every other power who had a port on the North Sea, were well used to the Troll Navy living by the motto the commissioner had just quoted, in nominal wartime and otherwise. “We’ll need to invade the Isles, or at least the Hebrides.” Harald took another look at the comforting sight of 66 allied warships making their way up the fiord, but now with a sneaking sense of misgiving settling into his gut. These were the vanguard, obviously; they all had two masts and a single gundeck. They’d be based on the Ynglings’ mass-produced corsair design, mostly of 24 guns, with a smattering of 30- and 36-gun ships for flotilla leaders; fast, elegant ships throwing, in the aggregate, an enormous weight of metal, a vast show of the wealth and power of their ally… but not really suited to stand in a line of battle.
“Your ships of the line will be following on in the next day or so, of course?” Harald asked, trying to sound casual. “You’ll send a few of these cruisers, with experienced sailing masters, back up the fiord to show them where the deepest water lies, perhaps?” The fiord was in fact plenty deep enough even for great warships once you got a few meters off the shore, that was what gave the craggy coast of Norway such a wealth of splendid harbours, but the Poles didn’t necessarily know that.
“Ah, yes.” The commissioner cleared his throat, as if embarrassed. “Right. Yes. You were present at the Bornholm Conference, of course. As was I. When we were much younger men.”
“Quite so,” Harald said. “I had just made the List, I believe; and you were the naval attache.” He looked away from the commissioner, who had broken out into a somewhat disconcerting sweat, which the gentle April sun, at these latitudes, could by no means justify. “I think the agreement was that the Commonwealth would build ninety war galleons, to back the Troll Navy in an emergency.” Of course the Poles wouldn’t have done anything of the sort, “ninety” was a number on paper, the sort of thing that sounded good to diplomats and rulers who didn’t, at that particular moment, have to find the lumber, iron, and hemp to build them or the men to fight them. “Ninety” wasn’t to be taken literally; it meant “a goodish number, about as many as we can afford given our other commitments”. Twenty, perhaps, or thirty; Harald would be thrilled if the next week saw two score heavy ships of the Commonwealth docked in Sandviken. Just as he’d been thrilled to see five dozen frigates; such a vast collection of scouts, escorts, and raiders implied a large number of men’o’war to serve as the fighting core of the navy.
Which was why he was very disconcerted to see the commissioner sweating so. The man was an experienced diplomat; he wouldn’t have taken that famous “ninety” literally any more than Harald did. So what had him so nervous?
“Ah, yes, indeed. I believe that is the number that was agreed on, at Bornholm,” he said.
“Of course,” Harald noted, as-if-absently, “such commitments are sometimes difficult to meet, especially in time for an unexpected war.”
“That is very true,” the commissioner agreed gratefully. “In fact, ah, it may be the case that my country has had some unusual difficulty, in this particular case. Ah, beyond the ordinary and expected problems; as you know, sometimes you get lucky and do better than expected, and sometimes you, ah. Um. Do not.”
The unease had become a cold dread creeping up Harald’s spine. Forty was clearly out of the question; he mentally waved thirty goodbye; but at a real pinch he could work with twenty. Even fifteen; something could be done with twelve if the weather cooperated and the Irish showed roughly their usual level of competence; not a full-blown invasion perhaps but at least a raid, a demonstration of strength…
“Just how many heavy ships does the Commonwealth have, Commissioner?” he asked, keeping his voice level and polite with an immense effort.
The commissioner’s wide-eyed speechlessness was answer enough.
A view from Kvarven Fort, our timeline. In 1673, with the bridge not yet built, Askøy across the water is mostly wilderness, so you are to imagine its slopes as an unbroken dark green, without the dense white buildings; and as it is a working fortress, the trees in the cannon’s firing line will be cut down, and the concrete not cracked and overgrown with moss. The Krupp 155-mm gun, of course – installed by the Germans of OTL, kept as war booty by the Norwegians – should be replaced with a battery of black-powder six-inchers, squat heavy beasts in black iron, poking heavy snouts menacingly out beyond the embrasures; and a huge fleet of single-decked, two-masted warships, flying the blue-and-gold of the Commonwealth, sailing up under their unblinking gaze. You may add soldiers, if you like, in the snappy black-and-red uniforms of the Ynglinga Rike, standing about idly among the piled ammunition, holding rammers and gunpowder scoops and perhaps fingering small arms and considering the wealth of loot they might gain with such a raiding fleet on their side; Yngling soldiers are often assigned to units of the Troll Navy to give them fighting experience. But the sky and the sea are the same.
I strongly opine that, with Mike’s betrayal of Dragoon in the War for the Rhine (two sessions ago), the treaty that created the North Sea Confederation was abrogated and my obligation to deliver the Isles to Ireland at an end. Dragoon clearly agrees, since he has been colonising in my agreed sphere of interest and even took my Chesapeake colony. I nevertheless did hand over the East March, because it made the borders ugly and Mike had, after all, spent considerable time not colonising my area, and besides, it couldn’t be defended. Mike then declared war on me for the remaining three provinces, the Isles. I naturally called in my ally Mark, with the ninety heavy ships he had promised to build to back me up in situations like this. His 66 frigates made rendesvouz in my capital to Mark’s great relief, as he had considered their journey outside the Baltic to be rather hazardous in the face of Mike’s vast fleet. I asked him “Yes, I see your raiders, but where are your heavy ships?” and, quoth he, “Ah, er. My heavies, right. Um, about that…” Consequently the Troll Navy perforce kept to a fleet-in-being strategy for this war, protected behind the heavy guns of Kvarven Fort, and no Yngling troops landed in the Isles to defend the Hebrides.
To his credit, Mark did in fact manage to slip a stack of troops across the North Sea, despite Mike’s superior fleet, and land in Cornwall. That would have been a bit more helpful if he’d told me about it, maybe, since then I could have supported him. Or then again it might not have been, because the plan “1. Take Cornwall, 3. Impose terms on Ireland” is missing a step; presumably Mark was not planning to slip across the Irish Sea from his base in Cornwall even after he’d built up mercs there, so what exactly was he thinking? In any case it became a moot point when some random vassal of one side or the other asked Dragoon for military access, Dragoon – who had been trying to stay neutral – absent-mindedly granted it, and Mike’s entire army retook Cornwall.
I was, unfortunately, a little too fast in giving up; Khan had offered to join, but I did not see his thirty-ship navy as a decisive increment of strength, and EU4 is still very much doomstack-takes-all in naval warfare. Had Khan managed to let me know that he would bring Sauron along, with the largest navy in the game, that would have been another matter entirely. Of course, that might have brought in Dragoon on the other side, for all I know. As it was, I gave up my three remaining Scots provinces. Sauron then declared colonial war for Mike’s Californian colony, which did indeed bring in Dragoon; as I understand it, the Irish navy is currently adopting a fleet-in-being strategy, but as Dragoon had prepositioned troops in North America, the land war is going more their way.
In the middle of this James, in Bohemia, declared colonial war on Khan, Sauron’s ally, for North America. Thinking that against a middling power like Bohemia the Troll Navy was big enough to be actually useful, I joined Khan’s side; I need not have done so. It appears that James declared that war without having a fleet; Khan sank thirty Bohemian transports, my Colonial Swarm took over the three provinces of Bohemian Lousiana, and there the war rests except for the siege of Black Fort Isle.
The siege of Black Fort Isle. Note that those are colonial troops, not Yngling regulars. I’ve got artillery on the way, and a general with three siege pips; I still expect to take some fairly heavy attrition before the (checks notes) indomitable island of brave Bohemian colonists surrenders.
Bohemia has, it appears, some fairly humongous defensive modifiers. However, flinging tens of thousands of expendable troops at a worthless target in the pursuit of ankle-biting objectives is precisely the sort of thing the Troll Republic excels at! Black Fort Isle shall be mine!
Wars this session:
Chilly Kyrgyz Carnage
Mark : 1515.91 -> 1598.9
LaxSpartan : 1730.94 -> 1574.93
War of the Isles
Mike : 1561.08 -> 1627.06
King of Men : 1208.19 -> 1148.19 "Yes, I see your trade fleet, but where are the heavies?"
Mark : 1598.9 -> 1519.49 "We can totally get troops across an uncommanded sea!"
Caladan Colonial War
Colonial war, reduced win number
Mark : 1519.49 -> 1570.3
Sauron : 1456.71 -> 1387.48
Ranger : 1490.01 -> 1472.3 (25%)
Khan : 1629.71 -> 1610.34 (25%)