Rise of the Black Ships

Hyrum the Black, engineer – helped win independence from M’Kal Council

Hyrum the Black, also known as the Black Dwarf, came to Southport in 490 MR from Black Roost. He had been experimenting with gunpowder and combustion engines, and had hopes of putting his engineering expertise to work in the port city on a prototype ship. Although he was disappointed in the results of internal combustion using gunpowder, Hyrum found some alchemical liquid fuels more promising.

He did a proof-of-concept trial run in 492, and based on its success he built a prototype that sailed in 496 MR. Hyrum’s prototype was immediately bought by Southport as a coastal guard ship. They ordered three more similar vessels (popularly dubbed “Black Ships”), which Hyrum was able to deliver in six years, on schedule. Outport, which at the time had warm relations with its neighbor, contracted Hyrum for another four of his ships.

In those days the colonies of M’Kal were still vassal states of the Council of M’Kal, the organization that had financed the original penal colonies. Among the terms of the vassal treaty was a provision that none of the colonies would launch any warships that displaced more than 2500 tons. Hyrum’s Black Ships toed that line, but only barely, and the Council received false reports that the ships exceeded 2700 tons when fully armed. The buildup of Hyrum’s “black warships” in the area resulted in the Council sending demands to both Southport and Outport that they either scuttle the ships, or disarm them, or turn them over to the Council.

In the year 511 MK, Southport and Outport responded with a rebuttal, which included documents certifying that they had not violated the treaty. However, both regions immediately asked Hyrum the Black to begin work on larger warships, anticipating the worst from the Council, and increased the armaments on their merchant navies.
In 512 when the Council’s envoy attempted to seize the four Outport Black Ships already in service, the colony revolted against its overlords and jailed the envoy. Two frigate class Council warships in the harbor opened fire on the four Outport Black Ships, who were backed by a dozen other smaller vessels. Southport immediately sent its small navy to support its neighbor, and by the next day, both of the Council’s frigates had been sunk. Ten of the colonies’ ships had also been lost. All of Hyrum’s Black Ships were still afloat, though four were listing badly, and one eventually sank that afternoon.

Knowing the Council would respond in force, Southport and Outport put all of their resources into completing the two Black cruisers that Hyrum already had under construction, and commissioned half a dozen smaller vessels that could be finished on a rushed scheduled.

The next spring, a flotilla of the entire Council navy arrived, expecting to pound Southport into submission and raze Outport to rubble as an example. Instead, they found the combined navies positioned behind two enormous Black Cruisers, whose armor was more than a match for the weaponry the Council had brought. After the initial skirmish, the Council attempted to maneuver around the two cruisers, and lost half of their fleet before they could gain a position affording them any advantage against the smaller vessels. In the end, the Council attempted to flee with its last nine surviving ships, but these were also picked off, resulting in a complete victory for the colonies.(edited)
Although the document that served as the instrument of the treaty, in which the Council surrendered its claims on M’Kal, has been lost to time, and the date of its signing is only a footnote in the history annals, the date of the great naval victory is still celebrated every Tarsakh 10 as Hyrum’s Night with fireworks over Outport harbor. Hyrum the Black is also remembered in Southport, though he is less popular there than in the island nation of Outport. In the rest of M’Kal, which all benefitted from his deeds, he is rarely remembered if at all. Alchemical combustion engine technology continued to form the backbone of the Outport navy for the next three hundred years, though eventually it was replaced again by sailing vessels, which were far less costly.

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