The story of Slothjemia’s most famous seafaring ship began with the capture of the Craiovian seaport that was renamed by the goblinoids “Reichstanta.” It had been a shipbuilding center for hundreds of years prior to the Slothjemians moving in, and when the first soldiers stormed in to the besieged city they discovered a number of ships in various stages of construction. Among them was a magnificent dromond, bigger than most any vessel afloat in the Sea of Shadows, and it was nearly complete. Slothjemia already had a small navy that had been active for years in portions of the Dolonau River, but this ship dwarfed them all.
It was given as a project to the gnomish engineer Langford Tildenschwan and his associates. The masts were sawed off, and the oar banks modified to suit the vessel’s design modifications. By now the ship had been rechristened, much like the city that housed it. From here on out it was the Royal Slothjemian Vessel Gonkulator, a curious name that would become synonymous with power and serendipity.
The Gonkulator was fitted with a massive golemotive, the largest ever built for any reason, as its power plant. Instead of rowers lined up in banks with oars to drive the ship, or using sail power to brave the choppy, unpredictable waves of the Sea of Shadows, two huge paddlewheels, one on each side of the ship, would drive the Gonkulator through any and all weather conditions. Without sails the upper decks were extended upwards, allowing archers a better vantage point from fore, aft, and center towers. Trebuchets were mounted just behind each of the paddlewheels, capable of flinging barrels of Greek fire extremely long distances. Their aim was not good, but they could be used to attack shore fortifications. Bombards of varying sizes were mounted all around the Gonkulator, the biggest being mounted so that they could deliver devastating broadside attacks. There was no angle from which the Gonkulator could be attacked that didn’t allow it to respond with fury almost unimaginable.
Following its extensive retrofitting, the Gonkulator set sail on its maiden voyage under the command of a human, Captain Heironymous Mjukr. A native son of Reichstanta, Captain Mjukr had been a Craiovian junior officer aboard a small galley. However, he was the only man in the Slothjemian navy with any experience at all on the Sea of Shadows, and so off they went, the gleeful crew of the Gonkulator, banners fluttering and paddlewheels churning.
The ship wasn’t even out of sight of the city of Reichstanta when they encountered three galleys that seemed to be closing in on the great wooden atrocity that plowed ahead through the waves. The Slothjemians identified the ships, incorrectly, as pirates, and prepared to engage them in battle. The vessels were really sailing under the flag of the Torkan Caliphates, and had been dispatched weeks earlier to see what the Slothjemians were up to. They discovered very quickly what the goblinoid empire had been up to. When the bombards opened fire, the Torkans were blessed by the fact that the Slothjemians were miserable at targeting moving vessels. The three galleys took evasive maneuvers, and the bombards from the Gonkulator failed to find their marks. But what the gunners were unable to do, the helmsman accomplished quite handily. Steering the lumbering Gonkulator directly into the fleeing galleys as they made their turns, the huge Slothjemian ship crushed two of them under its prow, powering over them as a rampaging bull would grind over two field mice. The third galley was more of a challenge, but the Gonkulator finally caught up to it and forced it to surrender or be grinded into the seas in the same way.
Following this victory, Mjukr was named an Admiral, and the Slothjemians began work constructing two more ships, dubbed the Murdilator and the Herkimer, virtually identical to the Gonkulator to form the nucleus of their fleet in the Sea of Shadows. There would not be further action for the Gonkulator until the Romillian war broke out, and it would then be tested far more than the lopsided running down of some galleys.
Within a week of Romillia’s attack over the Kragalian Alps, a pair of the dwarven kingdom’s mightiest warships sailed south to harass the city of Reichstanta. They were the battleships Fate of Gods and Hammerwrath, powered by steam engines and with a similar paddlewheel design as the Gonkulator. The Romillian ships were crewed mainly by humans, but had dwarven engineers on board. The Gonkulator still had the same motley crew that they had had all along. When the Slothjemians spotted the Romillian ships, the Gonkulator was dispatched to drive them off.
Unlike the woefully outmatched galleys it had met before, the dwarven designed battleships were armed similarly to the Gonkulator and would prove to be more than a match if the Slothjemians wanted a fight. Admiral Mjukr realized this, and before they could get close enough to find this out for certain, he ordered the trebuchets to let loose on the nearest of the Romillian ships, which happened to be the Fate of Gods. Using the billowing smoke from the steam engines as a marker, the trebuchets launched their barrels and missed by a fair margin. However, the Fate of Gods hesitated in closing with the Gonkulator, and it was all the Slothjemians needed to get a better bearing on the enemy. The next volley found its mark; one shot landed directly atop the forecastle, and the second blasted down the middle of the main deck and into the belly of the battleship. Within minutes the flames of the Greek fire found their way to the powder magazines, and the Fate of Gods blew into smithereens, killing everyone aboard.
The Hammerwrath had come up by this point, and the explosion of the Fate of Gods sent a deadly hail of shrapnel and flaming debris over the decks of her sister ship. The port side paddlewheel was damaged, and while not debilitating, the Hammerwrath began to turn towards the port side. The Gonkulator continued plowing ahead, and turned the same direction so that the two ships were side by side, and while still a fair distance apart, both opened fire with their powerful broadside guns. The Romillians were by far the better shots, but the Slothjemians had more firepower on hand to deliver. The Hammerwrath continued its turn away from the Slothjemians, and the Gonkulator gave chase.
For three hours the two ships did their best to get the upper hand. The aft mounted guns aboard the Hammerwrath kept the Gonkulator from getting too close, and the ships were too close together for the Slothjemians to utilize their trebuchets. Short bows and crossbows were the weapons mostly used, along with the firearms of the Romillians. When the Hammerwrath finally had its wheel repaired enough to allow free navigation, it turned sharply to starboard, and readied another broadside. But before they could complete the move, the Gonkulator was able to aim its forward mounted bombards, and hit the Romillian ship right in the poop deck. The commander of the Hammerwrath was killed, and his second-in-command mortally wounded. There was some chaos aboard the Romillian battleship, but they changed course one last time and steamed towards home.
Having succeeded in driving away the Romillians, the Gonkulator returned to Reichstanta. It had been damaged in the fight, but nothing too drastic. Admiral Mjukr was hailed again as a hero, and Slothjemia further cemented their reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the Sea of Shadows. Which is quite an achievement, when one considers that they really had no idea what they were doing, and have no business sailing about shooting at people.