Ballistae (or "ballista") are the main heavy artillery used in the Vulpine Imperium. The main form of weaponry on Navy ships, ballistae range from offering a light, versatile, yet accurate attack, to heavy, ship wrecking monstrosities.
Almost every Navy ship (and every warship) is armed to the teeth with top-quality ballistae. These large, crossbow-like killers are used to hit crewbeasts on enemy ships, or foes on top of fortress walls from a distance.
(NOTE: BlackShip bears 72 heavy ballistae, two dozen light; Skeered bears 60 heavy ballistae, eighteen light; Golden Hide bears 30 heavy ballistae, nine light. DELETE ME LATER)
Mounted on the aptly named bow-decks, heavy ballistae are the heavy hitters of Naval combat. Hitting with enough force to crack boards and mainmasts, their fire is meant as the final nail in another ship's coffin. The massive stone or iron-tipped bolts easily penetrate ships, and can provide vital platforms should beasts be unable to preform a normal boarding action.
The massive size of a heavy ballistae allows it to fire almost double the length of a light ballistae, though are completely stationary. During the construction of a ship the heavy ballistae are literally built into the framework, making them impossible to move but twice as sturdy. Many variants of projectiles are available, from stone and iron tipped points, to clingfire heads and rope-ended bolts for quick boarding.
Essentially a scaled up version of a crossbow, the front end of the ballistae is fused with the side of the ship, while the flexible arms are contained within. These massive structures take up twice as many slots as the light ballistae (meaning that the number of cannons on a normal ship would be halved) and require a crew of at least five beasts to operate: two strong beasts to crank, two to load, and one to fire.
Lining the top deck, light ballistae are accurate, strong, and deadly weapons, that can pierce a beast's armor, punture right through flesh, or throw a beast an pin him to a mast. In sea combat, tactical ballistae fire is used to clear the enemy deck of crewbeasts so when in range the ship can be safely boarded for the crew to take over the ship. Ballistaes are also used to take out an enemy's own ballistae crews.
Depening on size, a ballistae can fire from 150 meters, to 300 meters. They are designed to pivot up and down, from side to side, to provide for a wide array of of range. Projectiles can vary, from rocks, metal balls, 4 foot long bolts, to empty Grog bottles.
Although accurate, and strong, the ballistae are not as effective at dealing hull damage to enemy ships. Alternatives have been used where bolts have been wrapped in strips of canvas and dipped in spoiled Grog or lantern oil. The bolts were then lit, and fired onto the decks or at the sails to burn the ship down.
With similarites to a large crossbow, the ballistae's massive form is usually raised off the ground on a frame or on wheels. Hinges allow the "bow" to move up and down and back and forth, providing a wider range of fire.
The strength of the ballistae is in a set of twisted ropes, with two strong rods stuck in them to create tension as the bow is drawn back with a crank. It normally takes at least two beasts to properly operate a ballistae, one loads while another cranks and aims. Although sometimes a ballistae may require three or four beasts to load and fire in a efficient time.
Often a wooden screen is fixed to the front of the bow to provide cover from oncoming fire from slings, bowbeasts, and other ballistae.