Sawtooth Mountain Pass, Rear Marine Base, Hell's Gate

Princess Sherene had spent the last day helping out at the medical center, tending to the wounded Marines and even the prisoners of war. She also visited the defenses and worked on her public relations, boosting the morale of the troops.

Now she just the sun was on its zenith, she stood under a covered platform, facing thousands of prisoners, who all either sat or stood at the enclosed parade square where armed Marines guarded them. "Good afternoon everyone. My name is Sherene Goldrose, I am the former princess of the Goldrose Kingdom. I am sure most of you are confused and worried about what will happen to you in the coming days."

Sherene paused and looked over the crowd who whispered among themselves. "Most of you are just following orders from the Empire in waging war here if not every one of you would be still enjoying the comforts of your home. We do not blame you, but your masters."

"My country was brought into a war it did not wish, and it was conquered by the Empire and yet the Empire still persists in destroying all that remains of its people. I know some of you also came from conquered land and the only way for you to survive is to join the Empire," Sherene's voice echoed out from the broadcasting speakers. "Here we only wish to be left alone, to live in peace and freedom, but we are willing to fight and defend for that peace. In the traditional way of the New World, losers in battle with become slaves or subjected to the whims of the winner. but we will offer you two choices."

"One, you join us on probation and after the period of probation is over, you will be part of us." The whispering and muttering rosed louder as the crowd started talking among themselves.

"Two, you will be released, you are free to go where you want to go. You will be given a few days of food and a simple weapon for defense and that is all." Sherene continued. "You have one day to make your choice."

"Those that are worried about their families and yet want to stay, we will find ways for them to join you here for a better life!" Sherene promised, "We protect and look after our own!"

The crowd burst out in a discussion as she finished her words, some yelled demanding to know more while others yelled pro-empire slogans and insults. "One day later, you will be asked to make your choice, think about it carefully." Sherene stepped off the platform and into the hot sun, following her aide as they head to a waiting jeep.

"What's next?" Sherene asked as they sat down inside the cloth covered jeep.

"You have a meeting with the medical staff at the medical center with Dr. Sharon, in twenty minutes," Her aide replied as the driver drove them off towards the command center.


Sawtooth Mountain Pass Defense Command Center. The Pit

"Why didn't you do the speech or say something yourself?" Major Frank asked as he and Captain Blake watched the live feed from the display on the Princess's talk at the parade square. "The speech from the HR dude is pretty bad,"

"The speech's so so... Anyway, we are too alien to them still," Blake shrugged, "Besides its always nice to have a pretty face doing the recruitment talk, yes?"

"Is that why you joined the Navy?" Frank deadpanned.

"Of course!" Blake grinned, "Have you seriously seen any female Marines?"

Frank groaned, tired of that stupid joke. "We do have females in the Marines you know?"

"Hahaha of course of course," Blake winked, "Well, the speech ended and we shall see tomorrow on who is willing to join us."


Sawtooth Mountain Pass, POW Holding Camp Charlie

In one of the Empire issued tents, a large group of Oerkins huddled together, "What does everyone think about joining the rebels and strange hoomans?" A bald grey skinned Oerkin questioned the group in Oerkin Tongue as he gazed at all the Band leaders involved.

The whole party had scars and freshly healed wounds all over their bodies, as they were picked up and held as prisoners after the battle was over. Most of them had fainted or could barely be moved when the army of the Empire was routed. Close to two hundred of the Oerkins were picked up by the Marines and dropped off at the POW holding camp.

Now after the speech from the rebel ex-princess about the hoomans willing to recruit people, they were honestly tempted by the offer. They know that if they returned to their tribes they would suffer humiliation and scorn from their own people for falling into the enemies hand.

"Hmm, I don't mind, if we can have those loud thunder sticks to play with!" Someone yelled, and the almost all of the Oerkins grunted in agreement. "Make big boom! I like!"

The bald grey Oerkin nodded, "So all in agreement?" The Oerkins growled and grunted in agreement, "Done than tomorrow we shall be part of the rebel hooman tribe!"


All over the five POW holding camps, discussions among the Empire soldiers were ongoing constantly, as they debated they would stay or leave, or if was it a trap or something. The discussions soon split the camps into three groups, those that were willing to stay, those that were on the sit and wait, and the last group were those against the idea of staying.

The next day, the strange clothed rebel soldiers opened the gates of POW holding camp Alpha, letting the two thousand plus prisoners to the parade square. As they were herd to the square, they saw two gates leading to other places which they couldn't see.

This time, instead of the Princess, it was a grizzly looking old timer, dressed in the same strange patterned uniform, addressing the crowd from the raised platform. "Alright, listen up! I am only going to say this once and once only!" The soldier bellowed, his voice echoing down the parade square with the need of any magical assistance.

"Those who willing to stay, enter this green gate on my right!" He pointed to a gate on the right with a green colored banner hanging on the sides. "Those who want to return to the Empire, enter the red gate on my left," And he repeated his gesture, pointing to the left gate with a red banner.

"Now form up in an orderly manner! Do not push or rush, disobey and suffer the consequences," He warned, glaring at everyone. "Form up now!"

The crowd looked at each other before someone timidly walked up to the green gate, and soon a steady stream of people started to be processed through the green gate while others scorning the traitorous rest, headed out of through the red gate.

The whole process for the five camps took almost the whole day, those willing to stay were than returned to the holding camps while those that want to leave, were each given a 5-day rations pack and every group of five were given a single dagger, a sword, a spear, a shield and a bow with ten arrows and pointed down the slope towards the direction of the Empire.

The wreckages and bodies of dragons and soldiers were long removed by the prisoners, but the stench of blood and voided excretions lingered strongly under the hot sun. A warning was given to those that want to return that if they remained within sight of the walls, they will be shot on sight, with several warning shots given off, scaring those defiant men off into the forest.

Finally, as night falls, the last of those wanting to return to the Empire had vanished into the sea of trees and the base slowly returned to normal activity.


"So tomorrow we will start to process those staying," Captain Blake said, "Make sure no spies or assassins are hidden in this time."

"Yes, Sir!" Lieutenant Tavor and Master Sergeant Pike responded. "We estimate it would take almost a week, our week not their's, to process everyone."

Blake nodded, there were almost four thousand who decided to stay, in fact, many expressed concerns about leaving their families and skepticism on whether the hoomans could deliver their promises of bringing in their families from the Empire.

"Well at the dragons are simpler," Major Frank added, "Blue Thunder is willing to sign up with us and so are the two Silverwings without their masters. Sadly none of their remaining crews except one kid is staying with the dragons, hopefully, that kid knows enough handling of dragons than us, course none of us, including the Goldrose people knows anything about dragon care."

"On the interesting side, we have more than 200 Orcs very willing to join us, in fact, they all specifically requested to be part of the military force, something about bangs and booms," Blake grinned, "Well, Major, they're all yours."

"Ooo, Orc Marines, how clique!" Frank rolled his eyes, "I hope they are not as dumb as they look, but they will make good shock troops or heavy gunners."

"What are you planning to do with the dragons, Sir?" Master Sergeant Pike asked curiously. "Gunship dragon or anti-air support?"

"Oh, I was thinking more of them being aerial recon, the Owleye UAVs badly need some downtime for servicing and maintenance or we going lose them forever." Blake said, "Blue Thunder could double up as a rapid troop transport or heavy cargo lifter."

"You think they will be willing to?" Frank inquired, "We don't even know how to control or even manage them."

"We will have to create an Air Force to manage all dragons and air units in the future, for now, we just learn as we go," Blake answered. "Take things one step at a time for now."

"Sir, we do have an interesting character who wants to join us," Tavor spoke up. "May I?" He gestured to the display.

Blake nodded and sat back, as Tavor fiddled with the display and soon the screen showed a portrait of a pale looking female elf with silver hair in hospital gown lying on a hospital bed. "Her name is Irisval von Aston and is currently held in a heavily guarded isolation ward at the medical center."

Tavor played a video next, replaying back a few videos of the battle days ago, "We suspect she is the culprit for the creation of the earthen ramp here." He played the appearance of the earth forming a ramp in slow motion. "And in this video, apparently due to our Marine snipers, the death of those two creepy looking masked knights, she turned against the Empire." Another video was shown, the silver-haired elf casting spells against the Empire forces.

"According to her statement, she was held against her will, using the threat of termination of her people that she was forced to work with the Empire," Tavor continued, "She stated that due to the deaths of her handlers that she decided to fight against the Empire, apparently, she said and I quote, sick and tired of fighting and all the killing, end quote."

"Can she be trusted?" Blake asked the most important question.

"Well, she passed the psychological, profiling and truth stone test we gave her," Tavor shrugged, "Well if she turned out to be a sleeper agent, it will be hard for us to keep tracking her all the time. So unless she has to prove her loyalty in one way or another, I say she's a keeper."

Blake nodded, "What are her skills?"

"She said her powers involved with earth magic. The Empire mostly use her powers to destroy enemy fortifications or create gaps, allowing them to break through," Tavor answered.

"So she's like some sort of magical combat engineer?" Frank raised an eyebrow at Tavor, who coughed and nodded.

"Interesting," Blake looked at Frank and smiled, "Well, you got yourself a combat engineer now."

A note from neo Koh

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