Eighteen-year-old French farm boy Luc Courleciel glanced up into the clouded Pas dé Calais sky and what he was about to witness would forever shape his destiny...
From his perch atop a windmill he could see north to the two open fields and the brooding defense stations they contained. One, a listening outpost, the other, an anti-airship tower. Both part of a string of stations along this stretch of the French countryside, paralleling the Channel coast..
Luc could clearly see, silhouetted against the backdrop of a large white cloud, a trio of French Vaillante class destroyers, floating gracefully above and between the two defense stations. He could hear the drone of their engines even from this distance. They seemed so loud to him, and in that same instant he realized he was hearing more than the engines of just three flying warships...
It was then that he saw the flashes and explosions far off to the northwest, where another listening outpost lie. Flames and smoke could be seen rising at the edge of the horizon, where it appeared the outpost had been attacked. It was then that Luc realized the engine sounds he was hearing were punctuated by the sounds of far off explosions and the cacophony of a war that had just gotten hot.
As Luc watched, the three French vessels turned slightly to port and, in line, continued moving south by south west. He thought he could make out some movement beyond them, amidst the far cloud bank, but was uncertain, the shifting sun light and billowing cloud making it increasingly difficult to be certain of what he was seeing.
Luc quickly scanned other quadrants of the sky and when he was facing due east he saw high in the sky what looked like two approaching vessels. They were a little further from him now than the French vessels were from him to the west. The ships off to the east didn't look to be French. From this distance he thought they might have been Austro-Hungarian, but they were still too far away for him to really identify. Vienna was known to be allied with London, so their appearance over French skies, while alarming, was not completely surprising.
A few minutes later, Luc observed two Rawalpindi class British monitor craft emerge from the mass of cloud to the north. They immediately opened fire at the nearby listening outpost and Luc watched in horror as their many dedicated surface attack batteries, manned by so many British dogs, destroyed the outpost and the many sons of France manning it.
Wiping a tear from his eye, and beginning to boil over with angry frustration, Luc shook his fist at the British ships and swore, under his breath, an oath of vengeance.
The Austro-Hungarian vessels drew closer and as they did Luc was able to identify them as Huszar class destroyers. They too were firing on French ground targets, and Luc could see them targeting the anti-airship tower to the northeast. Luc quickly realized that the windmill he occupied, and the village that contained the windmill, La'Tatouin, were right in the midst of the three groups of ships. He turned towards the French ships and could see them reverse course and begin heading east, just as the two Huszar's were heading west, crossing almost directly over La'Tatouin.
Looking around, Luc also could now just start to see two larger ships, what looked like a British Benbow class battleship and a French Jeanne La Pucelle class cruiser, heave into view in the northern sky. The French ship quickly disappeared into a bank of nearby clouds, no doubt to escape the guns of the nearby British battleship that had suddenly appeared in the same skies.
Spinning around as the two Huszar's crossed over the village, Luc could now see the French forces further reinforced with the appearance to the south of a L'Epee class commerce raider. It was clear that both sides were escalating their commitment to this growing battle, as ships arrived on the scene from various quadrants. The L'Epee was coming on fast, following the northern flow of the Moneisly, a creek beneath it, and heading straight for the skies over La'Tatoiun.
Even as he saw the L'Epee approach, he heard overhead the roar of gun batteries as the three Vaillante's tore into the nearest Huszar. In moments the concentrated fire had wracked the enemy ship and Luc suddenly leapt into the air with a jubilant yell as he saw the repeated hits on the Huszar bring it down. In short order he realized, horrifically, that the stricken Huszar was coming down fast, right past his windmill, right into the western end of La'Tatoiun! Even as Luc now tried to take shelter from the effects of the crash, flying dirt, wood, and other debris were scattered as the blast from the ship's impact into the built up area of the village threw him off his feet, where he struck his head and immediately passed out...
Rob, Larry, Matt, and I met up at the King's Head on Eldridge to try out a new west Houston venue, celebrate our club's seventh anniversary, and play a little Imperial Skies. The war in Europe, having officially begun a few years ago over the mid Atlantic with the "Majestic Affaire", has now evolved from Phoney War to Real War and come to a coastal region of France, as a combined British (Rob) and Austro-Hungarian (Matt) raiding force gathered from several different directions over a string of French ground defenses, with the intent to destroy as many of them as they could. Protecting these ground assets was a gathering force of French ships (Larry).
In the end, the "Coalition" of Britain and Austro-Hungary were able to destroy four of the five ground installation to the loss of one Austro-Hungarian destroyer, and some damage sustained by a couple other ships. The ground targets fell oh so quickly to the very effective ground monitor gun batteries of the Rawalpindi class ships, which are very well suited for ground attack as their shoot-down weapons don't pay the usual air-to-ground bombardment penalties other ships suffer.
The King's Head had a great private room for our use and a very good beer selection and a reasonable pub menu. Best of all, they had pretzels! :-) We plan to hold two game nights a year here, two game nights a year out east of downtown (location still TBD) and the remaining seven to eight game nights will remain at the Black Labrador.
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