- "You. Signal the Hellhammers into place. We must play our secret card sooner than I planned. Now, Le Fevre!...Now your scheming, arrogant presumption of my ineptitude will finally be your undoing...and your death!"
- —Helmut Van Dorf, Imperial Admiral[1b]
The Empire Hellhammer is a modified variant of the more common Empire Wargalley that has been re-purposed for use as a powerful siege-ship. Sigismund the Mad, a grey-haired alchemist, scientist and explosive specialist reporting directly to Emperor Karl Franz himself, is reputed to have incepted the concept of the Hellhammer after visiting the Sunken Vaults of the Dwarf Engineers deep within the tunnels of the Worlds Edge Mountains. After many failed attempts, Sigismund was able to create the first successful Hellhammer into service.[1a]
A typical Hellhammer is supported by the buoyancy of the sea, the huge cannon onboard the Hellhammer sitting comfortably atop the ships forward deck. The Ship's mast is shifted backwards along the deck to accommodate the new gun, while heavy iron-bands hold the cannon securely in place. Crammed around the massive barrel are ranks of laboring oarsmen, whose duty is to manoeuvre the ship into position. When fired, the Hellhammer fires a barrage so powerful that it would disapear in a fog of acrid gun-smoke, the force of the blast literally pushing the ship backwards several meters away.[1a]
The cannons used by the Hellhammers are so large that its ammunition has to be loaded into the hull by special cranes in the military dockyards of the River Reik. The gun can only be fired a few times a battle, as the ship simply cannot hold many cannonballs of the required size or enough gunpowder to repeatedly fire the cannon. But by far their biggest drawback is the chance that the cannon may misfire, an event that would almost ensure the sinking of a Hellhammer. Neverthlesss, even with these limitations, the Hellhammers destructive firepower at close range can easily rend great holes within the largest enemy ship with a single well-placed shot. Tactically, the Hellhammer are often used to lead an Imperial Fleet into battle and break through the enemy line with a great roar of flame, smoke and steel.[1a]