Theo lay on the ground in the training courtyard in a pool of his own sweat. “W-why do I have to do this? I thought this was a mage academy.”
Headmistress Lorenz stood over him and smiled, “It is. Mages need to be physically fit if they want to not be disappointments in combat.”
“I don’t… want to be in combat.”
“Too bad, because you will be. We’re not going to send you out to combat if you won’t fight but… at some point it will come to you.”
“Because, as long as you don’t remain a nobody someone will take issue with you.” Headmistress Lorenz leaned on her staff, “Unfortunately for you, you no longer have the choice to remain nobody. So, you need to be fit.”
“Can’t I just do cardio or something?” Theo’s robes squelched as he rolled around, “Everything is so heavy. I’m just a kid!”
“Heavy?” Headmistress Lorenz raised an eyebrow, “You think things are heavy? Maybe you should try being a human. That will let you experience heavy. Even now you should be close to an adult human.”
“It’s true! Everything is so heavy…”
Headmistress Lorenz frowned, “Do you have some kind of muscular development problem?” She shook her head, “No, you’re perfectly capable, so you’re just a wimp.”
“I swear! Everything’s heavier!” Theo looked around, “I’m used to… less gravity.”
“Well then, we’ll just have to get you used to normal gravity.” Headmistress Lorenz shrugged, “At least, William said it’s basically Earth-normal.”
“Who’s William? Is that… Josef?”
“Also known as other things, yes. Over time, people will call you a lot of different things.”
“I guess I’m still not used to this whole ‘being alive again’ thing. It sometimes feels like I’m dreaming.”
“Well, maybe you can get in some more dream training then.”
Lieutenant Zima woke up to the sound of the first explosion. He threw a jacket with his insignia on over his sleeping clothes. He didn’t have time for anything else, not with the sound of a second explosion following shortly after. He ran through the halls of the military compound to the central command area, arriving less than a minute after his rude awakening, “Report! What do we know so far?”
Only a few scattered soldiers were in the command area, but one moved to report what little they knew. “Sir! A ship is firing upon Tigershark Point! We speculate that it is one of the dwarven ships… with the… cannon! None of the sentries saw it before it started firing.”
Lieutenant Zima wanted to ask what they were doing if they didn’t notice that, but this was no time to yell at people- except to give orders. “You there! Gather the ballista operators and get them to the walls! You- you’re responsible for the fire squad. You- take some of the privates and have them move all the civilians away from the coast!”
Lieutenant Zima wanted to go see what was happening for himself, but as the commanding officer of the port he needed to remain where he could be found. Explosions continued to ring out, and he felt like a coward for remaining in a fortified area- but he still had many orders to give. The men could handle everything competently, but competence didn’t equate to perfection- especially where battles were involved. It wasn’t long before the first complication arose.
“Sir!” a soldier came to report, “Some owners of the warehouses closest to the harbor are demanding we let them pass.”
“Tell them I said nobody gets past until that ship in the harbor is gone. If they’re worried about their goods, they can go man a ballista- or swim out to the ship. Otherwise, unless they’re a fire control specialist, they need to back up. If not, I won’t shed a tear when they get some limbs blown off.”
“Uh…” the soldier stood nervously.
“Fine, I’ll tell them myself! Just remember none of them get past.” Lieutenant Zima left orders at the command center before stomping out to go yell at some stupid merchants.
Just as he had finished describing to them how their parts would be able to fit in a footlocker if they got near a cannon blast, the next issue arose. “Sir! The ballista operators say the ship is nearly invisible. It’s a new moon and there’s only a brief flash as a cannon fires. Its effective range is longer than the ballista and it doesn’t move like the men expect.”
Of course. Lieutenant Zima knew that even if they hit it the ballista bolts would have a bit of trouble penetrating the armor. At least, based on the reports he had received about these new craft. They seemed nearly impossible… but so did dwarves. There it was though, shooting at them. At least they didn’t seem to be able to sustain a high rate of fire.
That problem was not so easy to come up with a solution on the spot for. Of course, if they could see it better it wouldn’t be a problem, but lighting it up wasn’t easy. It was hundreds of meters away. Doing magic at that distance was impossible, and it wasn’t like he could send someone out there to swim with a torch. The ballistae were basically blind firing without even the chance to get proper ranging done.
The best they could do was guess. All of the ballistae were loaded at once, and aimed vaguely toward where the ship had last been heading. When it fired, all the ballistae returned fire. Unfortunately, there was no way to tell if they hit.
“Sir, the bombardment has stopped. Do you think we sunk it?”
Lieutenant Zima shook his head, “Probably not. Maybe they finished their goal. Have everyone take stock of the damage. I’ll start preparing the report to… the commander.” That was actually the worst part of the whole thing. Sure, the damage was important- but explaining how he let that happen to the commander… that was something else. At least he had the excuse of being the first to come under fire. As long as he explained the issues, he thought he could keep his position… or at least his life. Depending on how bad the damage was.