Kaga jerked awake, shivering an shaking as she curled up on the hard floor panting. Tears flowed down as she recalled the sacrifices made by others for her. Her last handmaiden hid her in some shacks and switched clothes before leaving her to draw away the searching Empire soldiers.
Without the Spirit Lamp and her as the key to the CIty Protection Spell, the Empire's dragons swooped in and tangled with the city's griffins while siege engines attacked the city walls. With the Empire Knights wreaking havoc behind lines, the city fell rapidly and the city inhabitants fled.
She was later captured by slavers who followed behind the Imperial Army, who traded gold for life, healthy bodies. Cutting her long hair short with a dagger and being on the run for over two weeks, she looked like any other refugee on the run. It was also probably due to her depleted both magic and physical powers from casting the City Protection Spell, the slaver's appraisal of her was that she was unfit as a prime slave, and was cast with the undesirable and dying leftovers.
She attempted to escape when her magic recovered, but unluckily she was stopped by an anti-magic formation cast into the slave holding pens which earned her a beating and anti-magic collar. She and many others were transported from one holding pen to another before reaching the southern trade hub of Woschester.
After a week of horrible treatment in the pens, a buyer came and said he needed bodies to clear the land near the uncharted forest and they were sold. Another two weeks of hard travel, several died along the way from the harsh conditions before they arrived at this place. Kaga laid shriveled up wondering when they will have some porridge to eat and drink.
UNS Singapore, Command Bridge
"Gods, what a mess! It's been three days since the goblins landed yet they are still running around... like a cockroach!" Captain Blake sighed as he read the after action report from Major Frank. "The goblin mop up is taking too much time and resources away from us."
"Yes, Sir," Frank agreed, "But we need to clear them out thoroughly or we have an unknown cancer at our flanks."
"Agreed too," Commander Ford added, "Despite the overwhelming victory at the defense of the beach, there are still hundreds shattered and hiding along the beach. We can't take the risk of having an enemy there. It's better to finish them off once and for all, or we have to spend resources just guarding against them."
"3 deaths and 47 injured from Delta company, the recruits suffering no deaths only 5 injuries due to mishaps," Blake read from the report. "And we lost a single F/A-1 Cobra on landing."
"Sir, the pilots are still new to night combat and landing," Lieutenant Commander Tommy replied. "The good thing is both the pilot and co-pilot suffered minor injuries and will recover in a couple of weeks time."
Blake nodded as he continued reading the report, "Ordnance used, 70% of all rocket stocks, 80% of all mortar bombs and roughly 295,680 6.5 mm Black Powder (BP) rounds fired."
"Estimated goblin deaths at roughly 21,000, with roughly 2,000 still hiding along the beach still," Blake put down the tablet and looked at the three commanders. "That's not counting the 12 deaths and 24 heavily wounded Marines of Alpha Company. That's almost half the fighting strength gone from an experienced combat unit."
"Sir," Frank spoke up, "It's my fault, Sir!"
"No, no," Blake waved Frank down, "I am not assigning blame here, we just could not foresee what dangers are in the dungeon. Even with having an entire platoon fighting the Boss of the level, it was almost wiped out even with all kinds of precautions we took."
"I think we should suspend exploration of the Dungeon till we consolidate our forces first," Blake said. "What do you all think?"
Ford looked at the other two and nodded, "We have been constantly encountering external threats without having a proper chance to rest and recuperate. Thou the Dungeon did offer us substantial rewards like the nitroshroom, but its dangers are just too overwhelming at the same time."
"What you are saying is?" Blake raised his eyebrow at arched his fingers together.
"Stop digging deeper," Ford replied.
"Sir, I think we should stop the exploration, and limit it to Level Two for our resource needs, and avoid deeper exploration," Frank said.
"I concur too, Sir," Tommy replied.
Blake looked at the three standing before him and nodded, "Ok, from now on till further notice, exploration of the Dungeon will be stopped, harvesting teams are only to have access to level two that has been cleared. No one goes down into Level Three, anyone caught will be prosecuted."
"And be shot," Frank grinned.
"And survivors will be shot again," Finished Tommy.
"Get out of here, kids..." Blake rubbed his face, covering the smile he had.
Both Officers gave a salute and left the Bridge leaving Ford behind with Blake. "Captain, regarding the trade deal with Falledge, you think its a good idea?"
Blake nodded, "We can secure a line of supply from the town, why not?"
"But it's in the enemy territory," Ford replied. "It will not be a stable source of supply."
"Yes, I know," Blake agreed. "That's why I want to milk it as much as I can before it gets discovered."
"Well, 10 tons of seeds, a thousand heads of muffalos and two thousand egg-laying bird wyverns," Ford replied from memory, "It isn't a lot to support our population of fewer than 9000 humans, elves, orcs, and three hungry dragons..."
"Well, its a start," Blake said, "City Hall is still at its baby steps, but these are seed stocks crucial for our food needs for the future. Besides, we do not know if the merchant friend of our Claymore One leader is reliable yet. It's like a test to see if he can deliver."
Ford nodded, "Then how about the transporting slaves crap?"
"If what Sergeant Tyrier reports is true," Blake rubbed his chin, "I don't mind opening up the Pass for the freed slaves. In fact, I would even like to meet with the person doing this, especially if they are from the Isles. That's another trade option there."
"And you can poach on the freed slaves to join us too right?" Ford shook his head.
"Hehehe," Blake grinned, "You know me too well!"
"Well, according to our good Sergeant there, the merchant Otoro Arther should have a batch of freed slaves to be transported to safety within the week," Ford said. "But do you think this Otoro guy will accept?"
Blake flipped open his tablet and pulled up the files on Otoro Arther, "Owner of North Star Trading, 31 years old, Son of Baron Arther, Kingdom of Goldrose..." There were several pictures of Otoro in the file too, most likely taken from a recording camera from Tyrier.
"Well, we can only wait and see," Blake said. "And hope our good Sergeant can convince his friend."
Ford nodded, "I am assuming you going to authorize the mission to extend over the one month period?"
"Of course," Blake grinned, "There is still so much to learn!"
Somewhere in Falledge
The large barn-like wooden doors swung open and several figures stood before the flood of sunlight shining into the holding room. Kaga sat up slowly and squinted her eyes against the bright lights.
"Alright, everyone!" One of the figures spoke in a loud voice. "We are going to clean you up, feed you and have proper places to sleep. But I need you to be orderly! Come along now!"
Hearing the word food, the hungry people got up and slowly exited the room, and Kaga dragged her swollen and bleed feet along. As she came out of the room, she found her self in a large courtyard with three other warehouses like structures. People wearing white aprons were helping the slaves too weak to walk out of the warehouses and led to what appears to be a healer.
Stalls were set up along the courtyard where bowls of soup or porridge were handed out to the starving slaves while another area was covered up with cloth for people to shower and clean up. She limped her way to the shower area first, as she desperately wanted to feel clean again after so many months of filth.
Entering one of the shower stalls, she found a wooden tub filled with hot water and a female wearing one of those white aprons was saying, "Just wash up and I will remove the dirty water for you," And she placed a pile of clean clothes on the side for her. "For your dirty clothes just dump it here," she pointed to a basket, "We will burn them later."
Kaga nodded and stripped, dumping her dirty rags into the basket and slowly climbed into the tub. Her body was thin to the point where her ribs could be clearly seen, and her tummy was bloated due to malnourishment. Soaking into the hot water, Kaga gave a sigh of relief as the aches and pains in her body faded, despite her burning wounds on her feet.
Using a scrub, she washed off the layers of dirt and filth and had to ask the attendant for the second fill of water in her tub which had turned into a dirty grey soup. After that, she raised off and used a coarse soap to lather her whole body until she was sore and pink before exiting the shower, dressed in a simple clean dress.
Next, she limped her way towards the healers and had them help her with her feet. She was curious as to why there was such a good treatment but decided to just make the best out of the moment first.
The healer wrapped her feet in a foul-smelling salve which was cooling to her feet. The healer also brought along a Magesmith who carefully removed the anti-magic collar from her chaffed neck, and more of the foul-smelling salve was applied to her.
After thanking both the healer and Magesmith, she left to find food at the food stalls. The smell of food made her mouth water and after queuing for a while, she has gotten a bowl of porridge and she sat down on the floor and wolfed the hot food down.
Once satisfied, she started to observe her surroundings, finding it strange that someone would spend so much effort for some slaves. She wondered what their agenda could be and she watched the crowd of people and beast men mingling around, holding bowls of hot porridge and dressed in clean clothes.
Suddenly someone stood on top of a small raised platform and rang a small bell, catching the attention of everyone. "May I have your attention please?" Once he has gotten everyone's attention, he continued, "I have good news for you. From now onwards, everyone is free, no longer a slave."
After he spoken those words, the crowd broke into a wild discussion. "But, it is still not safe for you to be here, therefore, we will have to move you out to another place where you will be safe!"
Kaga touched the slave brand burnt onto the top of her right hand and wondered where will they be bringing them to.
"Where will you bring us to? Is this real?" Someone yelled, asking the question Kaga had. "What if we want to stay?"
"There is no point staying here," The man replied, "Staying here and getting caught by the Empire will be death waiting not only for you but also those that helped you! Therefore, you must leave here!"
The crowd kept quiet after hearing that. "Don't worry, we will bring you somewhere safe, where the Empire won't reach you."
"But where is safe from the Empire?" Someone yelled again. "
"We will bring you to The Isles."