The Three in One
The Silesian Trireme is one of the stranger warships that the fleets of the De Madden Company ever had to face. Each ship appears to be a large catamaran but is in fact three ships in one, linked by a couple of thick and sturdy wooden bridges easily raised within minutes by a healthy and well drilled crew. Once the bridges have been raised it becomes three separate ships. Wooden covers are then raised and fifty oars a side come rattling out, enabling the ships to row against the wind if necessary.
Although rowing against the wind is slow, it gives an advantage against ships that depend solely upon sail power to move them. The wood is a type of balsa that, at least when wet, is remarkably fire resistant, and floats so well that even if large holes are torn in the bottom the ship will not sink. Where possible the decks and sides of the ship or covered with water before a battle begins.
The Trireme also carries a small number of highly dangerous weapons. Each part has, at the bow and stern, two large cannons that can, if the range is just right, smash a ships hull below the waterline, and the balls then explode, sinking the ship quite quickly. The cannons are detachable as their weight can slow the ship/s down, and can be replaced with lighter catapults that can fire rocks, small bombs, sharp metal darts or flaming oil. Whist the catapults are unlikely to sink a ship of any size by themselves, they make good antipersonnel weapons.
Discipline and Tactics
On the top deck is a contingent of marines armed with large Firebows, each capable of setting a sail on fire, or doing lesser damage to the wood of a ship. Whilst the arrows are generally too small to set a ship on fire from end to end even in dry weather, they are more then capable of burning great holes in the sails and burning apart the rigging on sailing ships, stopping the crew from raising or lowering the sails. They also carry cutlasses for hand-to-hand combat. Just before going into battle, if possible they will announce that pressed men who do not fight them or who join them and fight with them will be either set free in a neutral country after the battle or allowed to join them, whichever they prefer. And in the vast majority of cases they keep their promises.
The sailors carry cutlasses and daggers when in battle and are unarmed at other times. A mutiny is unlikely as the sailors are volunteers, but it makes good sense not to have them carrying around weapons when not in battle, just in case.
Discipline in the Silesian Navy is strict but not so strict as to be unbearable. Murderers and mutineers are hanged, and the whip is the penalty for a large number of offences, but the admirals know that a navy held together by threat of punishment alone will perform poorly in battle and always be on the brink of mutiny. The food, unlike in many navies, is reasonable, the pay is all right and the men are volunteers rather then conscripts or criminals scooped up from the taverns or prisons. The mere fact that they want to be there helps keep them doing their jobs well.
Signals and Communication
The ship when all three parts are together has nine masts each with three sails, a lookouts tower and a flag. There are seven main flags in the Silesian Navy and each has a purpose, known both to themselves and to others.
A dark red flag shows that no prisoners will be taken and is generally raised if a ship has put up too hard of a fight for its own good. Normally the majority of prisoners are treated reasonably well for the most part, particularly if they were pressed into the opposing navy and didnt want to fight. Enemy officers are not treated as well, but are spared torture. At the end of a sea battle or a campaign where the Silesians are victorious, those officers who cannot either ransom themselves or be exchanged for captured Silesians within six months are generally enslaved. Once the red flag goes up, however, chivalry goes right out the window and anyone on the opposing vessel will be cut down and thrown overboard.
An orange flag is an SOS symbol, which means something is wrong, be it a fire, an incipient mutiny or another such problem that is not caused by disease.
A yellow flag means that there is a serious disease raging on board, and is a request to other mariners to stay away for their own good. It is rarely raised however as the Silesians keep their sailors healthy with plenty of fresh fruit on short voyages and dried fruit on long ones where fresh fruit would rot.
A green flag is the normal one flying at the masts, meaning that all is well and the ship is at peace.
A blue flag is the Silesian Battle Banner, raised in battle, symbolizing that prisoners will be taken and quarter given to those who surrender.
An indigo flag with three white stripes means that the ship is a peaceful trader or is on a diplomatic mission and will only fight if attacked.
A purple flag means that a Silesian Admiral is on board and marks the commanding ship in a fleet.
There are also smaller triangular flags, which are used in a fleet to give orders, and as such what they stand for is a secret as far as rival countries are concerned.
Silesian Naval History
In the first battle between a De Madden fleet and a Silesian fleet, eleven De Madden ships faced what appeared to be six Silesian ships, and their crews were shocked when the six ships against them, in the short time before sailing into cannon range, became eighteen. They were further shocked when they found that the Silesian vessels turned out to be made of a type of wood resembling balsa, so that even if they were hit below the waterline with a full broadside they would not sink, but only settled a little lower in the water.
The first thing after deploying that the Silesians did was to set fire to as many of the sails of the De Maddens as possible, then they opened fire with their cannons and swept in to board them. The Company marines, to their credit, gave as good as they got, but three of their ships went to the bottom and five were successfully captured. As the red flag had been raised by then, no prisoners were taken. The remaining De Madden ships managed to get away by tacking, with minor damage and many dead crew. The Silesians only had one of their ships badly damaged, although they too lost many men.
Since then there has been an uneasy peace between the Company and the Silesians, but neither side think it will last and both are rearming as fast as they can for the battles which will soon follow. The Company has greater manpower, money and industry, whilst the Silesians have good admirals, strong morale and ships that are almost impossible to sink.