"There is an old sailor's tale. It tells of two black ships sailing the sea around Hidegold Bay. Tattered sails and broken hulls they straddle the waves. By all rights they should be at the bottom of the sea, but they are kept afloat by the ungodly hatred of the undead crew. They say that if you see them, you will never see land again. But if you're from Silowas or Northsea, you can only pray you die before they get too close, because if not, your soul will be forever doomed to torture in their bowls."

The historical 'Clash of 218' was the second engagement between Northsea and Invincible. After the battle, Invincible declared itself victorious. Northsea did not contest.

The fleet announced they'd freed the thirty ships Northsea had captured and destroyed two of their black ships and four LLDAWs. What they didn't announce, however, were the losses on their side. If one considered losses, while Northsea got a slap in the face, they came out much better and might even be considered the overall victors. Of the just over one hundred ships Invincible deployed, fewer than 50 returned, and most needed months in drydock. The flotilla didn't send out a single ship for the rest of winter and the entirety of the rainy season. They lost 7000 men and a blademaster. The entire flotilla was now combat-ineffective and out of the fight.

No one expected Northsea to be so ferocious. They sunk their own ships when they were in danger of falling to the enemy, they didn't even wait to confirm that they had indeed fallen. Just a hint of the possibility was enough to make them fire on their own. The loss of their blademaster was a blow almost equal to all the ships and men they lost. While they technically won the battle, because the enemy was forced to retreat, in terms of losses, they were the clear loses.  Pyrrhic victory could not even describe this. If this went on, they'd lose the war even if they won every battle along the way.

The battle was over, but nobody expected the enemy admiral to leave things at that. This was a massive humiliation to Northsea. And indeed, the enemy admiral struck almost immediately. He charged at them as soon as the two remaining black ships joined the rest of the contingent. His contingent couldn't match the flotilla in numbers, but they had ranged superiority and, without being encircled, the speed and agility to keep their distance while they fired.

Knowing that they couldn't win unless they encircled the enemy, the fourth flotilla pulled back to the bay, but were dogged all the way and lost a number of vessels along the way, with many more severely or moderately damaged.  Not a single ship got back to port without some damage.

They did try the take out their pursuers halfway home, but the same tactic couldn't work on their enemy a second time. Shortly before they reached the bay, their pursuers changed tactic. The contingent split into three groups, on continued to chase them from behind, whilst the other two caught up along their flanks. The ships got into position, then closed to just within firing range, fired a volley, and retreated. The flotilla was on the brink of collapsing entirely, and were even preparing to raise the white, when Northsea ran out of gunpowder and was forced to withdraw.

The only real victory for the flotilla was their freeing of the captured merchants and sinking a couple of enemy ships. The freed merchants had some supplies onboard, and, while not enough to solve the military's problems, could take the worst edge of for a couple of days. Word finally reached Chikdor that the merchant ships weren't just being sunk, but taken by their enemies, supplies and all, and they stopped sending any ships at all.

The Union understood they had to finish off Northsea before they could use the seas again, so the bit the bullet and mobilized the second flotilla as well as Chikdor's personal fleet. They would also send every ship capable of sea travel north loaded to the brim with supplies under the flotilla's escort. If possible, they would conquer, or at the very least blockade Silowas.

Shortly before the fleet was to set sail, however, the fourth flotilla's report made it to the leaders. Every surviving captain had signed his name to it. It said that they stood no chance against Northsea. The report detailed meticulous the engagement. Most shocking was the black ship's range and destructive power and their willingness to sink their own ships to keep them out of enemy hands. Second was their maneuverability. Ships of any size were as mobile as ships one or even two classes smaller.

The only even remotely viable tactic was to swarm them with smaller ships, but those ships couldn't brave the rough north, so they only stood a chance in the south where the waters were calmer. The report concluded with a request of funds to research similar weaponry.

The leaders laughed bitterly. They knew of the cannons for a year already. Their blademasters sent into Norton territory brought back blueprints and news. Unfortunately, the cannons were too heavy to transport, and they none of the blueprints they had contained anything on the cannons. Even if they had them, they neither had the recipes for the metal they used, nor for the propellant. They'd hoped to solve at least the gunpowder problem by relying on the dwarves, but their negotiations had been less than smooth. They also didn't have the funds to rebuild the flotilla.

The Union was rich, but war was expensive, and it had been at war constantly for almost a decade and it had been unable to trade for several years prior to that. It was nearly bankrupt. It didn't have a single spare penny to rebuild any ship it lost, they could barely even afford to repair the damaged ones. They had only one option. They had to through every ship they had at the enemy and sink their ships. Even if they lost every last of their own ships in the process, at the very least they wouldn't have to worry about attacks by sea for several years thereafter and could focus on the war on land.

As long as they could conquer Silowas, they could write House Norton off for several years. The island and its ports were their headquarters, and its dry-docks were where all their ships were made. Without it they would lose the seas. Without their dry-docks, House Norton would never be able to build up at a pace matching the Union, who would control every other inch of coastline, and every dock outside Andinaq.

Their plans made, the Union deployed both the first and second flotillas. The two would meet up outside Morante before heading north together. They would escort the merchant convoy to Hidegold Bay before heading for Silowas with whatever was left of the fourth flotilla. Since they couldn't match Northsea ship for ship, they would just sink them with numbers.

Senbaud arrived at Silowas at about the same time as the Union settled their plans. His campaign was a massive humiliation, for himself, the fleet, and his lord. The shame nearly made him fling himself overboard several times on the way back. The only thing that kept his feet planted on the deck was his determination to clean up the mess. Killing himself and leaving this mess to his subordinates and his lord would only bring further shame.

He wanted to set out the moment the ships restocked their gunpowder stores and flatten Hidegold Bay, but the rainy season, known as the Season of Storms by sailors, started. He could not move the ships out. He also had to repair his ships, and it was time for their annual drydock maintenance. He spent the season locked in his office and study, studying sea charts and history books, planning his revenge.