Mountainous Kegiz Gavem have long fielded a considerable navy to safeguard its share of the Southern Ocean’s trade. Likewise, the ancient naval traditions of the Gavemites have allowed them to strike unexpectedly by landing forces on the coast and overtaking their foes from the rear. Most famous of all of Kegiz Gavem’s naval affairs, however, is the ages-long tug of war fought against the despised Infernal Dwarves over the Sacred Coast overseas.
Zalaman Tekash the Great and all her baleful holdings is undoubtedly the stronger power of the two rivals, yet the core realms of the Infernal Dwarves are much more distant from the Sacred Coast, compared to the Gavemites. For where their benighted cousins face a primarily overland logistical nightmare to wage distant wars, the Gavemites with their easier access via the sea can reinforce, supply and outflank their enemies with a speed that has frustrated Infernal Dwarf efforts through a long succession of conflicts. Such have long been the state of affairs of wars fought for the Sacred Coast beyond the Southern Ocean, with Gavemites having the upper hand in most clashes.
Yet nothing lasts forever.
The Ninth Age has seen a great number of grudges recorded by the dour Gavemites against their hateful adversaries to the northeast, for Zalaman Tekash is once again on the rise, with an unrelenting hunger to dominate and reshape the world in its image. For the demented minds of the Infernal ones’ artificers are putting out an endless stream of inventions, which is slowly giving these infamous Dwarves a technological edge of increasingly acute sharpness. And so their manufactories and shipyards glow and echo to the birth of ever deadlier weapons of war, and woe betide whosoever will stand against that ravenous will to power which drives Zalaman Tekash to rebound and reforge itself from disasters that would have toppled lesser empires.
As a hereditary arch-enemy to the south of the Infernal Dwarves, the warriors of Kegiz Gavem and her colonial possessions has borne the brunt of this renewed Infernal onslaught. Where once her fleets ruled virtually supreme upon the waves, now the northwestern sections of the Southern Ocean has become a truly contested battleground, and the naval supremacy of the Gavemites have vanished in the face of Infernal technological advances. The trend is a dire one, yet the outcome of this naval warfare is still in doubt and far from being predestined. As such the devout folk of Kegiz Gavem turn to the Heavenly Light on high for guidance, call upon their saintly ancestors, and gird themselves for war. For nothing alive can be more stubborn than a Dwarf in the face of adversity, and the sworn admirals and mariners will serve their Light-touched Ras unto death, no matter come what may.
The legend of the Sunken Souls will serve as an illustration of the difficulties that beset the Gavemite navy. It tells of a recent grudge by Dwarven standards, and follow the exploits of a dogged crew upon the Southern Ocean.
The fleets of Kegiz Gavem are led by finely carved stone vessels that are the marvel of the seas, and the subject of fanciful sailor’s tales the world over. Gavemite lore holds that it is only by the blessing of the Light that these ships of rock may float. Their ornate hulls and interiors are evidence of a mastery of stonecarving far beyond the ken of Human hands, and their surfaces are bedecked with sacral runes and iconographic fresques. Each stone ship is a massive monument wrought by the hands of Kegiz Gavem’s Runecarvers, and each vessel hewn out of the mountain is an incredibly costly crafts object, and an overbearingly powerful instrument of naval war. The loss of a single stone ship is a disaster, for it is the equivalent of seeing a giant obelisk or fortress sink to the bottom of the ocean.
The vessel known as the Radiance Upon Akurem was carved out of the naval quarries of Kallugiz Marak, south of Kegiz Gavem. Naval stonecarving is a most demanding craft, and the Runecarvers and quarrymen of this fortified stone shipyard toiled for years to fashion her into a smaller class of warship known as a Vrek within the Gavemite navy, to serve as a squadron leader for one of the many small patrol units who are the day-to-day workhorses of the fleets of the Ras Taphria. The timbermen of the Mastmaker Guild equipped her stony hull with stout wooden masts. The seamstresses and tailors of the Clothier Guild made for her durable sails, both of leather and of linen. The Ropemaker Guild crafted her rigging, and the Blacksmith Guild made all her details, implements and ornaments that were forged out of metal. And the Armsmith Guild provided the ship’s mariners with an armoury of spears, sickle-swords, axes and many other weapons.
When the Radiance Upon Akurem was launched, she rocked heavily seven times to the chanting of clerics and assembled worksfolk alike, as well as by a masked member of the royal clan. And they all rejoiced and sang hymns of praise, for the Divine Light had approved of their arduous efforts and found it to be good. The Vrek did not sink, but proved herself well carved to handle waves and winds, as well as to withstand ship-to-ship battles and sea monsters. The Crown was in possession of a resilient weapon of war, bedecked with a roaring lion’s head of grey stone at both bow and stern.
For four centuries and three decades did the Radiance Upon Akurem serve the Ras of Kegiz Gavem, and for four centuries and three decades did she protect Gavemite interests and thwart Goblin raiders, Human pirates and Infernal Dwarf battlegroups. The Radiance Upon Akurem was usually deployed in a squadron with four or eight wooden vessels of war attendant, or in convoy duty to escort merchant vessels and pilgrim ships, and at a few occassions did the Vrek earn her honours in large naval battlegroups facing full enemy fleets.
Her many captains served with distinction, and the stone ship was well cared-for, and proved herself well able to sail for extended periods between drydock refits. Runecarvers would occassionally board her with their apprentices, as part of instructive inspections, where the novices of the secret craft would observe firsthand the handiwork and test of time in the field of the fruits of their Guild’s labours. Master Runecarvers always brought up the Radiance Upon Akurem as a fine example of naval stonecarving done right, as opposed to other stone ships where cracks and repairs were regularly required from the wear and tear of mere sailing service.
But all tales of success and fortune must come to an end, for the career of the Radiance Upon Akurem ended in fatal disaster by the hands of the hated Infernal Dwarves. Yet another war for the Sacred Coast erupted during her 437th year of service, and the stone ship left the grand royal harbour of Kegiz Gavem as part of one of two relief fleets that would reinforce and supply the realm overseas, intercept enemy vessels and seize any opportunity to land forces and strike from the rear. The voyage began under ill omens, for dark clouds blocked out the sun at the very moment the masked Crown Admiral blew out the signal for departure. Heavy rains drenched the sailors on deck, and fierce winds began tugging at sails to rock ships in the water. Then, lightning struck. First once, then thrice, then a hundred-fold. Thunder rolled ominously while the Gavemites prayed beneath deck and toiled sourly without complaint on deck and in masts, and over fifty sailors were struck by lightning in that hell-spawned storm, of which three Dwarves died.
Nevertheless, the Light shielded its devotees from the worst of the storm, and both fleets emerged quite intact out of the harsh weather. Half a week of repairs was called for by one of the admirals, yet the leader of the Radiance Upon Akurem’s relief fleet had to stop for a whole week out at sea. During this time, the admiral in charge held his fleet together, anchors down, sails rolled up and vessels moored to each other in squadrons, while sailors and timbermen toiled night and day to restore the damaged ships’ rigging and sails, and replace broken masts. At last, this second relief fleet set sail anew, yet soon hit dead in the failing wind and found itself stranded on an uneerily calm sea without a single gust of wind blowing.
Three weeks passed in this manner, and ships’ clerics organized penitent masses to appease the Heavenly Light. The mariners asked each other what they had done to so anger the Light, and they repented of sins and prayed earnestly. At last, after a time of fruitless waiting that was torture to the soul, did the winds pick up again, and the second relief fleet sailed straight for their destination with great speed from strong winds.
Yet even this stroke of luck turned out a curse, for it led the sail-borne Gavemite fleet straight into the clutches of an Infernal Dwarf trap close to rocky Cape Myrrh. Out from a cove did the steel behemoths churn through the turqoise waters, unfettered by wind and spewing black smoke from their spiked chimneys. Steam enginges gasped and clanked and creaked, and harsh voices rang out upon rivetted decks, to the cracking of whips and screams of slave flesh. The brisk winds had taken the Gavemite fleet into the worst possible position, and every squadron was out of position to respond to the lumbering metal monsters of the Infernal ones, for the enemy was close by and quickly upon them.
The Infernal Dwarf ships fired mortars and rockets as their armoured hulls cut through the waves in spite of the wind direction, and Volcano Cannons unleashed their searing flames at close range while steel rams crashed into the sides of wood and stone. Sharks gathered to feast upon the doomed in the brilliant waters. The Infernal fleet had struck without a single sail unfurled, but had waited behind rock formations and pounced with their hot engines from a spot by the coast where sailing ships could not have hoped to do so and catch their prey. It was a slaughter, and Gavemite ships sank into the salty depths.
This battle was to be the last of the Radiance Upon Akurem, for its captain, Avrakam Palebeard son of Rezilak, managed to steer it around to come back upon the Infernal Dwarf fleet, bearing down upon a three-chimneyed warship with full ramming force from the side and buckling her plate hull so badly the Infernal vessel sank within half an hour. This loud impact of stone upon twisting metal gained the attention of Bazerak One-Eye, the commanding Lord of Fire in the Infernal fleet, who commanded a handful of his steamships to deal with this flanking threat. The Radiance Upon Akurem managed to catch and crush a slave galley filled with shrieking thralls while this response force was incoming, yet the Infernal Dwarf steamships were too quick, and they bore down upon the Gavemite Vrek from all sides, putting their paddle wheels in reverse gear and striking the Light worshippers again and again with their rams.
The crew of the Radiance Upon Akurem fought off their attackers as best they could with bolt throwers, crossbows and composite horn bows, yet their stone ship’s hull cracked in places from the repeated ramming blows, and its deck was awash in the vomit of Infernal fire weaponry and guns. Finally, the Might of Azhebarak landed a titanic hit upon the weakened rock hull, and the Gavemite stern broke apart as the jagged metal ram ground into the Radiance Upon Akurem. Most of its crew abandoned ship and leapt overboard as their marvellous stone vessel sank, yet their chances of survival by escaping upon flotsam or their own rotund Dwarf guts were grim indeed. Infernal Warriors scoured the surface of the sea with blunderbusses and gouts of flame that even burnt underwater, and many sharks gathered to the shipwreck, throwing themselves at Gavemites in a frenzied bloodfeast. Captain Avrakam Palebeard is said to have been finished off by a shoulder-launched red rocket that blew his head clean off while he led a desperate boarding party who tried in vain to conquer a nearby steamship with grappling hooks and sickle-swords, and thus secure their escape upon captive enemy hull.
Yet the sacrifice of the Radiance Upon Akurem and her dutiful crew were not in vain, for the diverting action of Avrakam’s manoeuver saved half the Gavemite relief fleet from destruction, and allowed them to limp into harbour on the Sacred Coast. The survivors of the ambushed fleet repaired their crafts and spent the rest of the war making Infernal Dwarf naval squadrons pay dearly for their cheap victory early-on, for these sailors of fabled Kegiz Gavem struck with holy vengeance to avenge the Grudge of Sunken Souls.