The battle of Yamen was one of the most destructive naval engagements in history, rivaling Trafalgar, Lepanto, and Noryang Point in its ferocity and loss of life. In it, remnants of the Southern Song Dynasty, numbering around 200,000, faced off against a Mongol force of equal strength–but one which was better provisioned, better led, and better-equipped. The results were predictable, as they were for many engagements led by the Mongols and the Han Chinese traitors who fought under their banners: in a matter of days, the Song navy lost half its men, including the last Emperor, a boy of eight. Bodies kept washing up for weeks afterwards, choking the local waterways and harbors, flooding the waters with hungry, restless ghosts.
Needless to say, it was the final nail in the coffin for the Southern Song, for now the Mongols could rule China and proclaim their own dynasty. But according to lore, one of the Song commanders escaped in the confusion; presumed to have drowned at sea, he vanishes from the historical record.
What if he never died?
Honored Father, Esteemed Mother, and Beloved Sister Meiyi
I write this to you from my duty station on the edge of the world, under the turquoise waters and clear blue skies that lie at the intersection of the sun and the sea. I am silenced by the lush, natural beauty of my surroundings, and were it not for your absence, as well as the impending battle, my heart would be lifted, light, and happy here.
Today, our navy forms its lines of battle and prepares to stand against our traditional foes, the accursed northern barbarians–may they be reborn as sea slugs for ten generations. I can divulge little for fear of running afoul of the censors’ brushes, but suffice it to say that it is life or death, not just for myself and my Marines, but also for our Empire.
Amidst ignorance and chaos that accompanies war, I know not what fate has befallen you since the fall of our territory to the Huiran barbarians, but I pray that all of you are well, and in good health. I also pray that you bear me no ill will and have not lost faith in me, despite my recent, unhappy failure, for which I cannot help but bear responsibility. Despite my weakness at that crucial time, know that I remain a loving son, a devoted brother, and a proud soldier of the Celestial Empire.
It would gladden my heart to see you again in this life, but the will of Heaven remains mysterious to us, and Fate afflicts us cruelly, mere mortals that we are. But I love you, wish you well, and know that we shall meet again, be it in this life or the next.
I have enclosed this letter, along with payment, to a trusted courier who makes his way between occupied territory and the last free remnants of our Empire. I hope you shall receive it, read it, and think of me during the winter squalls and the summer monsoons, for I certainly shall think of you upon the morrow.
My warmest wishes,
Lieutenant Yan Dawei
Yamen Garrison, Imperial Marines