Each and every new innovation in battlefield technology has to prove its worth sooner or later. For the Romillians they proved that their air cruisers, caravel-sized ships held aloft in the sky by enormous dirigible-style gas bags, were an effective way to surprise an enemy and transport commando units deep behind enemy lines during the Romillian-Slothjemian war. Slothjemia then proved that these same air cruisers were uniquely vulnerable to concentrated attacks by dragon riders. Both sides learned a great deal from this hostile exchange of tactics.
Following the war the Slothjemians did not give up on the idea of making their own air cruisers. While it was true that dragons and other powerful airborne creatures would be difficult to defend against they decided that there had to be a more effective way of doing it than how the Romillians had done it. Reverse engineering the wreckage of some of the enemy vessels provided some clues, but the real breakthrough was in the delivery of an intact vessel by a mutinous Romillian crew. Using their own diabolical ingenuity the Slothjemians set about to improve upon what the dwarven engineers had created.
The result was the luftkreuzer. Noticeably larger than the Romillian air cruiser it is also much more heavily armed and far better defended. Using ballistae mounted on the top of the inflated gas bag the vessels have a far better defensive field of fire than did their predecessors, and by using a much more buoyant gas in the luftkreuzer than is used in the air cruiser the lifting capacity of the vessel was increased considerably. Instead of traditional dwarven steam-powered engines the Slothjemian version relies on custom-built golemotives. While much more expensive to build than the dwarven power plants the golemotives are far more powerful and require exponentially less maintenance. While no faster than an air cruiser the luftkreuzer can carry a lot more and go much further without needing to resupply.
As of now the Slothjemian Navy has only three of these monstrous flying vessels operational. Two of these, RSV Abhorred and RSV Thunderstorm, were built as “standard” configurations that employ a limited number of small bombards for use to attack other similar vessels, flying monsters, or ground targets. They also bristle with ballistae to keep smaller flying foes at bay. The third ship, RSV Fisticuffs, is categorized as an “assault” configuration and was designed for the sole purpose of obliterating heavily fortified ground defenses. In true Slothjemian style this was not an original idea. They swiped the notion from a weapon used in wildspace by a race known as the giff, a peculiar militant people with a penchant for firearms. The giff long ago perfected a massive flying bombard that amounts to little more than an enormous cannon with wings and cabin space to house the crew. Taking that idea and harnessing it to the notion of a luftkreuzer the result is a bombard that would normally be too large to move anywhere capable of being deployed literally anyplace on the planet.
The luftkreuzers were to be put into action against the Ash King’s legions in Vincasikilia, but a number of factors prevented this from happening. The first was that there is no clear data suggesting the new vessels would hold up against powerful magic such as was wielded by the Ash King. The loss of even one of the luftkreuzers would have been a significant blow to the treasury and to troop morale. The second concern was that the ships might not be ready for full functionality when the action started, and as things turned out they wouldn’t have been. The conventional naval forces that had been deployed ended up arriving too late to take part in any significant way in the fight to secure Vincasikilia and the luftkreuzers would have arrived even later. While they still might have a role to play in the former holdings of the Ash King their trial by fire was going to be elsewhere.
The second phase of Operation Ettin saw the three luftkreuzers, known as the Roc Squadron and placed under the overall command of Commander Shar Lersha von Slothjem, deployed to the Wenigzustand in support of Fanolanian operations against the orcs of Oublier. It was thought that the orcs might retreat to their fortified city of Bozageest to put up a spirited defense against what would be seen as an overwhelming invasion and to bring the fight to a conclusion Bozageest would need to be assaulted head on. To this end the RSV Fisticuffs was going to play a major role in knocking down the walls to allow ground forces to swarm in and secure the orcish stronghold. With the RSV Thunderstorm and RSV Abhorred serving to protect the assault-class luftkreuzer should Untote Druuna (the green dragon of Forêt Verte) show up and ruin things the Slothjemians set about to see how effective the new vessels were.
Damned effective as it turns out. One shot leveled an outer gatekeep, and a second shot took down an inner gate keep. Two shots were fired by the RSV Fisticuffs and that was all it had to do. The other two luftkreuzers got in a couple of broadsides to destroy some of the anti-air defenses of Bozageest (the orcs have always been paranoid about being attacked by the green dragon of Forêt Verte) but for the most part they had little to do. From the standpoint of the Herzgraf a success of immeasurable proportions. For a first outing that went surprisingly well.