Admiral Noster Raynott Proudly Fulfills His Duty

Admiral Noster Raynott winced in pain as a crewman wrapped a bandage around his head.  A wad of cloth covered what remained of his left eye.  A Targ ballista bolt had hit the deck three feet in front of him, sending a large splinter into his left eye, destroying the organ.


He waved the crewman away and stood up shakily.  “Dam-“ he started, but choked on smoke.  He spat and tried again.  “Damage report,” he finally croaked out.


His first mate was Nathan Sterling, a former Imperial like himself.  They were aboard the admiral’s flagship, the Queen Beatriz, or the Queen Bea as its crew called it. 


Sterling was young for the post, just in his mid-twenties, but he was efficient and intelligent.  He had blonde hair so light it was near white, and a ruddy, pock-marked face.  But he had an easy way about him that brought out the best in those he led.


“The Queen Bea’s been damaged a bit, but nothing we can’t handle,” Sterling reported.  “We broke through that group of ships, but we lost a half dozen in the doing,” he went on.”  He glanced about and lowered his voice.  “Three of our privateers simply turned tail and ran before the battle.”


Sterling and Raynott walked up to the wheel deck as they surveyed the damage.  “It’s to be expected,” Raynott said.  “The king was the only one who could motivate the privateers beyond their own greed.  I’m afraid I’m not up the challenge myself.”  He shook his head.  “It’s a small matter.  I doubt they’ll get far.”  He stared out at the horizon to see hundreds of Targ and Swalduni ships ahead.  Shading his eye with his hand, he could make out the shapes of dragons circling high in the sky above the enemy ships. 


“Admiral,” Sterling said, his voice barely above a whisper.  “Are we to sail headlong into that armada?  We took quite a beating in that brush with their lead elements.”


Raynott turned to Sterling with a small smile as he placed a hand on the young man’s shoulder.  “Those are our orders, young man.  We sail on.  And don’t forget, it isn’t just us out here.  The Emperor’s navy is about, as well as ships from a dozen other countries.  We are not alone.  But even if we were, we will not shirk from our duty.  Do you understand?”


Reassured, Sterling took his leave to attend to the ship as Raynott pulled up a stool and fell onto it.  Sharp stabs of pain shot through his head as he looked out at the enemy fleet.  “We do not shirk from our duty.”




The crew cheered as a dragon fell from the sky and crashed into the sea.  Baron Smythe’s ballista rafts had been deployed and accounted for three dead dragons, including the latest one.  But the unarmored, wooden rafts had been quickly destroyed themselves.  A shout caused Raynott to look up as another dragon bore down upon the Queen Beatriz, flames trailing from its open maw.  He heard someone mutter behind him “For what we are about to receive, may the gods make us truly grateful.”




The mainmast snapped in half like a twig from a Targ boulder, catapulted through the air.  Shrill, agonizing screams of the crewmen crushed beneath it were mercifully short.  The impact had knocked the admiral off his feet.  Dizzy and reeling from the pain of his missing eye, he staggered to his feet and took stock.  The Queen Bea had three masts, and Raynott was pleased to see the fore and aft masts were still standing.  The Targ ship had paid a heavy price to get into catapult range.  The enemy ship was fully engulfed in flames from the Queen Bea’s firepot launchers and was slowly sinking.  The giant Targs were not great swimmers, but they didn’t get the chance to even try as Raynott’s men shot them with arrows as they dove overboard.


He heard a new crewman mutter to his mate “Is it honorable to shoot helpless men, sailors like us?”


His grizzled, veteran companion gave a snorted laugh.  “If they can’t take a fucking joke, they shouldn’t have started a war.”




The voice of the wizard Kesh suddenly appeared in Raynott’s thoughts.  Raynott had been coordinating with Kesh via a sending spell every four hours.  She had also been communicating with Raynott’s counterpart from the Feron-Jacobe Empire in similar fashion.


Admiral Keeley asks that you make best speed to Fiddler’s Sound.  His Third Fleet is surrounded and needs aid.  Can you assist?


Admiral Raynott looked out across the deck.  Nearly the entire ship was blackened from dragon fire.  They were on their last set of sails.  He had lost half his crew.  Glancing backwards, he saw what remained of his fleet.  Only 33 of the 97 ships he started with had survived thus far.


Admiral Noster Raynott straightened his hat on his head and smoothed down the front of his uniform as he contemplated his answer.


Inform Admiral Keeley that help is on the way.  And tell him that Eldermont does not shirk from its duty.




Blackness.  Then pain and confusion and chaos as Raynott blinked his remaining eye open.  It was thick and gummy with blood, whether his or someone else’s wasn’t clear.  He felt hands lift him to a standing position, and heard voices shouting his name, but they sounded so far away.  He shook his head and pain blossomed through it, but his senses were returning.  Looking out, he almost wished they hadn’t.


He grasped the railing of the wheel deck to steady himself and took in the horror all about him.  The ship was in near ruins.  The two remaining masts still stood, a testament to Baron Smythe’s engineering genius, but there was little else to cheer about.  The sails were half burnt away.  Large, gaping holes like open wounds in the sides of the ship.  Injured crewmen limping frantically about dousing fires.  And the enemy fleet advancing steadily in seemingly endless numbers.


He turned to look aft and his heart sank.  Only 13 ships in the Eldermont navy remained, trailing behind him.  He became dizzy suddenly, and swayed slightly, but his first mate Sterling steadied him.  All those men!  All those ships!  His first command as admiral had led to nothing but death and ruin for the men who followed him.  He shook his head, despite the pain.  No.  Noster Raynott was not one to dwell on recriminations and guilt.  No.  He did not start this war.  Nor did he have any control over the forces arrayed against him.  It was then that he glanced to the east, and despite the horror of the battles, a smile crossed his lips.  He knew exactly where they were.  He had sailed these waters many times as an Imperial sailor.  The smile turned almost feral as an idea formed in the admiral’s mind.


“Signal the fleet!  Make course due east, best speed!  We’ll hug the shore as we advance,” he shouted.  The men quickly scurried to their orders.  He turned to his confused first mate.


“There’s a mountainous peninsula about three miles north of here where we’ll be hidden from the enemy’s view,” Raynott explained.  “For a short time, at any rate.”  He put his arm around the young man’s shoulder as he walked them down to the main deck.


“While hidden from view, have every ship transfer their mines and stores of hellpowder to the Queen Bea.  Every bit of it.”


Sterling was confused, but nodded.  “To what end, Admiral?”


Raynott scowled.  “Never you mind.  Just follow your orders, sailor.”




The Eldermont fleet had stopped for an hour or so in the protection of a sheltered cove, hidden from view by the peninsula.  As Sterling oversaw the shifting of the hellpowder and mines, the admiral had a quiet conversation with some of his most trusted crewmen.


Soon, the Queen Bea was overflowing with the dangerous and explosive powder, and the fleet set sail again.




Rounding the tip of the peninsula, Raynott smiled to see the enemy fleet clumped up as they waited for his fleet to emerge from “hiding.”  There were dozens of Targ and Swalduni ships slowly drifting forward.  Sterling stood by his side and whistled.  “Hard fight to get clear of here, admiral.”


“Not for you, son,” he muttered, and motioned to the waiting crew.  A half dozen crewmen rushed up and grabbed the first mate and drug him to the deck.  He yelled and fought, calling for the admiral to help.  It was then that he saw the rowboats being lowered to the sea.  He screamed.  “Mutiny!  Cowards!  How dare you?”


Raynott’s voice cut through the young man’s anger.  “It’s not mutiny, lad.  They’re acting on my orders.  You are to take command of the remaining fleet and make contact with any remaining Imperial forces.”  He smiled.  “You’ll hear the wizard Kesh’s voice in your mind from time to time.  She’ll help you coordinate a safe rendezvous.”

“No!” Sterling exclaimed.  “My place is by your side!  Don’t do this to me!”


Raynott gave a sad shake of the head.  “One day you’ll understand, lad, that sometimes the hardest part of duty is living to fight another day.”


“Now, off with you, lad,” he said, cheerfully.  “The Queen Bea and I will cover your escape.  And next you see the king, tell him that I am honored for the faith he has shown in me.  And tell him that Noster Raynott proudly fulfilled his duty to king and crown.”


Sterling was still struggling and protesting as the sailors dragged him to the lifeboat.




The Queen Bea was a marvel of engineering.  Theodore Smythe, Royal Engineer and Baron of Stonehill, had included every idea and innovation that he could imagine in its construction.  Flanking the ship's wheel were levers and cranks which could allow the helmsman to adjust the boom and sails himself.  Despite the battle damage, those control levers allowed Raynott to sail the large ship by himself, at least for a few minutes.  And minutes were all he needed.


Raynott looked out at the approaching ships across his deck packed to the gills with explosives.  He muttered a short, but solemn prayer.


Mighty Moch, God of the Seas, Blessed Po Lord of Hope, and Allfather Kempin, Lord of Battles, all I ask is for a strong wind at my back, and to keep those fucking dragons away from the ship until the Queen Bea is right in the middle of these bastards!


The gods heard, the gods weighed, and the gods agreed.




The explosion could be heard for miles.  Looking back, the remaining Eldermonti sailors saw a huge plume of smoke rise up from the horizon.  The small, weary, battered fleet sailed on, unpursued.  None of the enemy ships were seen again.


Nathan Sterling openly wept for his admiral, and he was not the only one.  The remaining crewmen, the battle-hardened survivors, would tell the tale of Admiral Noster Raynott’s bravery and sacrifice for the rest of their days.




    • Mark Stinson

      "Duty bound and bathed in honor divine, he ascended to rewards unimaginable as the devils and souless beasts were devoured by hungry flames."

      ---  from "Eldermont Eternal" by Bogdan Durov