Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
Western Arc Archipelago
As told by Captain Linus Georgias of the Zephyr steam launch
The “Western Arc” Archipelago forms a wide spread in the northern half of the Arcal Bay in Western Arkalia, extending about 300 miles north-north-westward out to see. Geologists speculate that once, in the distant past, this was a mountain range to rival the Ortorten Plateau, but now only the eroded peaks remain above water.
The Arc is far more friendly to shipping than the infamous and treacherous Slader Archipelago; free of the shallow reefs and unpredictable subsurface outcroppings of its southern neighbour, and with islands rising to more than a thousand feet above sea level quite frequently – unlike the Sladers’ highest point of only 300 feet above sea level. But where the Sladers lend themselves to lone wolves knowing a few secret passages deeper into the heart of it, and are unsuited to heavy shipping, the Arc is a natural fortress.
Within an area of only two thousand square miles are some 8,000 islands, most of which rise hundreds or thousands of feet out of the ocean; hidden gun batteries and mortar emplacements, set up decades ago by the Navy, pose formidable obstacles to any enemy navies that attempt to encroach. With so many longer range firing solutions blocked, they can only advance by entering the Navy’s long-established killing zones, and land cannon emplacements can rival dreadnoughts’ in size, even if the Navy has no Ironclad ship big enough to house them.
Most islands are little more than rocky outcroppings and cliffs jutting out of the ocean; however some 620 islands within are large enough to support permanent settlements numbering some 80,000 people in total, and there are some 130 Naval facilities within – mostly defunct timberyards that logged the islands relentlessly to build the sailbound Navy that even now is still barely entering the age of steam.
All the Arc is Navy territory, uncontested except in their own leadership dispute; no mainland faction can reach here safely. The islands supply the Navy’s timber, food, much of their tax income, and their security to advance on the mainland; some suspect small mines in the area provide fire-rock, metal ores, and more to help the Navy supply its first ironclad drydocks in Meselheim. If there is anywhere in the Navy’s domain where a secret facility might house Lord Apargopolous and their technological secrets, it is probably within the Arc. For ships flying hostile flags, the Arc is death; but for the former Grand Admiral, there is mostly confusion. Most towns and villages in the region are neutrally declared in the struggle, despite threats of reprisals from both sides – the threats ring hollow, given how much the Navy relies on both recruitment and tax and food from the region, they would not risk forcing a choice quickly, and having key islands defecting to the rebels.