Picture, if you will, two island states. One of them is called the Great Barrister Isles, the other is the Isle of Solicitors. The Great Barrister Isles are made up of lots of little independent countries, the Isle of Solicitors is more tribal but a proud and venerable civilisation none the less.
Dividing these two great island nations is a patch of water called the Referral Straits. This area of sea is of critical strategic importance to both civilisations. It is also the trade route between the two. Each of the nations had very different traditions and strengths. The Great Barrister Isles fished in the seas around them. The Isle of Solicitors had enormous mineral reserves. Trade between the two nations was vital.
One day the people of these two islands awoke to find that they had been besieged. At every port and along every shipping lane a hostile naval force threatened them. Each of these ships bore the flag of a people known as the Moj-rathki. The Moj-rathki were an infamous breed of bloodthirsty warriors and attack dogs.
The Moj-rathki sent messages to leaders of both islands and made it known that they wanted to annex parts of each of the islands to take as their own and they wanted control of the Referral Straits as part of their national waters, the Sea of Dual Contracts.
Now the Great Barrister Islands had always been a fighting, seafaring nation. Every seaworthy vessel was commandeered and made ready for battle. Every able bodied man and woman (for they had taken great steps in warrior diversity) boarded the ships and set out to confront the Moj-rathki. They amassed a fleet of 41 Dreadnoughts and behind them came the armada of smaller boats. They vowed not to surrender and called themselves the Fleet of No Return.
Things were more complicated on the Isle of Solicitors. They were indeed a large and powerful fighting force. However tribal loyalties made massing together a more complicated task. They also had no naval heritage to speak of and insufficient boats to take the fight to the Moj-rathki. You see the Great Barrister Isles had a always transported whatever was needed to and from them. So they had to stand on their shores and watch the Fleet of No Return sail into battle.
When the Moj-rathki saw the Fleet of No Return it could see that they had under estimated their task. Their leader called upon the Admiral of the Fleet to join him on his ship, The Petty France.
And so it was that onboard The Petty France the leader of the Moj-rathki, a giant known as the Grey King, and the Admiral struck a deal. The Moj-rathki would still lay claim to the disputed Straits but would allow the Great Barrister Isles to retain fishing rights. The Fleet of No Return would disband and resume their normal peacetime sea-faring activity. The Moj-rathki wanted an undertaking that the 41 Dreadnoughts would also return to port but the Admiral thought it best to allow them to patrol the Straits still. The Moj-rathki agreed not to annex any part of the Great Barrister Isles until at least four more seasons had passed.
The Peace Accord was not universally well received. Some were concerned that the Dreadnoughts had been left exposed, others worried what would happen to their neighbours and allies.
The Grey King called the Admiral back to this ship. He assured the Admiral that he had no plans to sink the Dreadnoughts. He understood that there were concerns. He assured the Admiral that he wanted to see the Great Barrister Isles flourish as before.
So the Peace Accord was reached. Of course the Isle of Solicitors were still besieged. No ships could come in or out of their shores. The Great Barrister Isles complained to the Moj-rathki on their behalf. They petitioned that their neighbours were being treated badly. The Grey King dismissed their complaints.
“It is out of my hands,” he said, “the Great God Gideon and the Goddess Cost have decreed it.”
As the siege carried on the Isle of Solicitors grew weaker. Although rich in mineral reserves they had little food to keep them going. They had always relied upon trading with others to survive. And they had always relied upon that trade coming to them. One by one, whole tribes began to be wiped out.
Of course the Great Barrister Isles still had their fish. Yes they suffered by not being able to trade with their neighbours like they had before but fish could keep them going. The Dreadnoughts proved hugely successful in protecting their fishing rights.
Until one night. One night the Grey King ordered a portion of his navy into the Straits. These were ageing old hulks of once great warships. However he now deployed them in a new way. He set fire to their timbers and set them on course for the Dreadnoughts. Oh the Grey King was very pleased with the sight of his Pyrotechnic Dreadnought Scupperers sinking the 41.
The Admiral was very cross and said to the Grey King, “you told me that you had no plans to attack the 41.”
“I didn’t have any plans to do so. When I said it,” answered the Grey King.
With the burning hulks of ships littering the Straits it became more difficult for the smaller fishing boats to venture out and feed the Great Barrister Isles.
Over on the Isle of Solicitors the few tribes that remained formulated a survival plan. All the time that this had been going on a few of them had been sewing. That had not seemed like a great plan to fight a war. However it was cunning. Their sewing produced vast nets that they were able to throw into the Straits at their narrowest point. They were able to capture just enough fish to keep the tribes that remained in food.
Unfortunately the industrial sized nets used by the Isle of Solicitors meant that there were less and less fish for the fishermen from the Great Barrister Isles to catch. And less and less fishermen were even able to set to sea as more and more Pyrotechnic Dreadnought Scupperers drifted around the Straits.
Slowly but surely the siege had worked in different ways. The Great Barrister Isles preserved the integrity of their borders but few citizens remained to defend it. A few tribes managed to eek out an existence on the Isle of Solicitors. The once beautiful Straits of Referral were now littered with the pollution caused by the burnt out relics that floated on its surface.
Neither Isle had lost. Neither Isle had won. The Grey King chuckled to himself every night.