"... had brought in a new contract with the Meccan Kingdom, with an estimated annual net profit of 235,387 gold royals after deduction from taxes and expenses." A loud voice droned on in the massive open hall, where a large circular rough table stood in the middle. Approving claps could be heard from the audience in the hall. Five figures sat in high backed chairs, spaced evenly around the round table, that was stacked with scrolls and documents. "Next on the Agenda, approval of Item #13, the construction of 10 ships of the line..."

Surrounding the five figures in the hall, where a ring of tables which clerks and assistants to one official or another sat and took down notes. On a raised tier above them, was a viewing like a galley were other officials who conduct their day to day businesses. Each of the five figures wore a long coat slung over their shoulders, and they sat listening to the official presenting the Agenda.

"Finally, the last item on the Agenda, the purchase of slaves on the Mainland. Our contact has informed us of a new player in the Mainland, who is willing to provide escort services to the seaside, on the conditions provided." The richly dressed Speaker wearing a gold chain with a gold seal spoke, his voice resonating clearly in the whole council hall. "First, they have proposed a new route through the Uncharted Forest which will change the rendezvous with the ship. Second, they wish to discuss trade with us. And lastly, they requested that should the freed slaves wished to stay behind, we will not force the issue."

The first figure to react sitting on the round table had a white long jacket with gold braids and ornate gold designs on the sleeve cuffs dangled over his broad shoulders. Three gold loops hung from his right earlobes and he rubbed his shortly cropped straw-colored hair as he threw his head back and laughed out loud. His good-looking weathered face split into a large smile as he spoke. "Damn, those Goldrose survivors are good!"

"Tsk, how crude as usual, Fleet Master Dijon," The other member, the only female on sitting at the round table with long raven black hair frowned at the laughing Fleet Master. She looked strictly at the Dijon who just grinned back at her.

"Ahh, relax, Megan," Third Fleet Master Dijon replied, "You just get more wrinkles!"

"Alright enough banter there," A large presence loomed over the table and the one who spoke leaned forward. His ornate jacket draped over his muscular right shoulder and his white spider silk shirt stretched taut against his barrel-like chest. With a mop of greying hair and beard, the speaker continued, "What are the advantages and disadvantages of this deal? Akron? Marshal?"

The remaining two Fleet Masters on the table looked at each other and Akron spoke first. He was a frail-looking elf with silver-blue hair with a crystal monocle over his blue eyes. Despite looking weak, his eyes were sharp and alert. "First Fleet Master, the information we have on the so-called 'Rebels' was that they had defeated the Duke Sturm of Fallowfall in at least two engagements."

First Fleet Master Kose Torke gestured the Fourth Fleet Master Akron to continue while he pulled a small pile of document scrolls relating to the Rebels and opened them and started to skim through the scrolls.

"We estimated less than 10,000 Goldrose survivors had held up at this Pass here," Akron used a long wooden pointer and tapped on a mountainous spot on the table where a map of the New World was drawn on. "They have defeated a force of at least 40,000 Imperial troops led by Duke Sturm."

Dijon gave an impressed whistle as he heard the report. "Damn, they must have a pretty good commander leading them to defeat Sturm."

"That, we do not have much information, but all reports led to the remnants are led by Lord General Joesph Baker and the last surviving royalty, Princess Sherene Goldrose," Akron replied, "Also, there were unconfirmed reports of the rebels had managed to acquire some magical artifacts from some ruins or had contracted a demon, which made them powerful enough to fight against an enemy three to four times their size."

"Marshal?" Kose turned his attention to the silver-haired old man, wrapped in his long jacket like a robe. "Your thoughts?"

Fifth Fleet Master Marshal, also known as the Old Man, cleared his throat and spoke with a rasping voice, "If the Fourth's information is correct, then, working with Rebels will greatly help in our plans in the long run. But..."

"But?" Megan asked, her willowy eyebrows rising up in question.

"It is best not to turn them into an enemy for now," The Old Man coughed, "if the rumors of artifacts are true, it will be wise to trade with them in the hopes for getting our hands on some of the artifacts. But if they are found to be demon worshippers, we have to distance ourselves from them and instead work with the other nations to destroy them."

"How about the terms they give?" Kose asked.

"There is not much difference except in sailing time, we do expect to lose a certain amount of slaves to the Forest. If they can deliver the slaves by their route perfectly and we deduct half of the slaves wishing to remain behind, it is still within our expected outcome," Marshal replied. "We also can gain a better understanding with the capabilities of the Rebels if we work with them. I give my agreement."

"Information is key," Akron sounded his approval.

"The rebels want to make use of us to provide more warm bodies for their army I say," Megan voiced her objection.'

"We can bring along a large fleet to the Goblin Sea, on the pretense of fighting goblin pirates and as a show of force," Dijon grinned, "I approve!"

First Fleet Master nodded, "Then it is one against and three yes," He looked at the Speaker and nodded, "We agree."

The Speaker bowed and hammered against the podium and declared, "The Isles will accept the new terms of conditions of the Slave Trade with the Rebels."


UNS Singapore, Captain's Quarters

"What's the toll this time?" Captain Blake asked Major Frank as they sat in Blake's office.

"We managed to repulse the attack on the mining facilities," Frank reported, "3 deaths and 28 wounded. And also 9 others got hexed."

"Hacked?" Blake gave a confused look.

"No Sir, its hexed, not hacked," Frank replied, "Dr. Sharon and Magister Thorn are looking into this matter seriously." Frank handed over his tablet to Blake who started to scroll through the contents on it.

"What the hell is this?" Blake asked in surprise, as he passed the tablet to Commander Ford at his side.

Ford looked at the content and blinked his eyes rapidly in surprise, "Molecular disassembly and reassembly?" The content on the tablet showed several images of bird wyverns, frog-like creatures and Puffball-like creatures with the names and image identity of elves in the Marines.

Frank nodded, "Yes, apparently it is some kind of curse from a goblin spell. It turns living matter into something else, in this case, it turned the Marines into critters of some kind."

"So this hex thing, is it permanent?" Blake rubbed his face tiredly, "What's the diagnostics?"

"Well, according to Magister Thorn, depending on the level of the hex, it could be temporary or permanently," Frank explained, "But in this case, it should be temporary, the affected Marines will return to being huma-, eh, elvish again after a day or two."

"How do we know if they are our men?" Ford asked.

"Well, most of them still had their dog tags hanging over their necks," Frank said, "They were found mostly next or on top of their uniforms and gear, while others had eyewitnesses of something bright green hitting them before they turned."

Blake sighed, he was tired, barely having much sleep and rest, since the attacks from the goblins. "How is their health?"

"Dr. Sharon is looking after them," Frank gave a grin, "It's kinda funny actually, the hexed Marines retain their consciences and intelligence but could only communicate with quacking, chirping and sign language."

"God, this is becoming a zoo," Blake shook his head but he grinned, "Bet you that Sharon is having a great time."

The officers laughed while imagining the short doctor trying to communicate with the animals, just as the door to the Captain's Quarters slid open, and Dr. Sharon herself appeared, "Captain!"

The men quickly stifled their laughter and straighten their faces. Blake gave a cough to hide his amusement and invited Dr. Sharon to have a seat. "What's up? Everything alright?"

"Yes, No," Dr. Sharon waved off Blake's questions and sat down heavily on the chair offered by Frank. "It's like a zoo in my med bay."

"Yes, I heard," Blake gave a small smile at that statement. "How are you coping?"

"Actually it is amazing," Dr. Sharon replied, "Magic that is able to restructure living matter! But that's not really the thing I'm here for." She dug into her oversized doctor coat's pockets and pulled out a large shard of clear crystal.

"Isn't this from the T-Rex boss?" Ford asked as he observed the crystal Dr. Sharon placed on the table.

She nodded and said, "Yup and the test results are out." She pulled out her tablet and transferred the data over to the display screen in the room. "You will be amazed!"

The display screen booted up and showed a schematic of the crystal with colorful graphs and charts. "This has enough power as a micro-fusion core!" Dr. Sharon said excitedly.

"Wait," Frank injected, "Isn't it some kind of mana stone?"

"No, it's not even close to a mana stone or even a Dragonite stone!" Dr. Sharon explained, "It is pure energy, and unlike mana stones which comes in different flavors, this is neutral."

"Neutral?" Blake raised his eyebrows in confusion, "So what are the difference with it and a mana stone?"

"A mana stone comes with different elemental properties which power that particular magic element," Dr. Sharon replied, "While Dragonite stones are like fossil fuels. This here has no affinity to any elements nor is it a fossil fuel."

"It's pure energy condensed into a crystal form," Dr. Sharon said, "It has enough power to say, fire the ship's main guns or the whole Colony for a week."

Blake sat up straight as he heard that, "Are you sure?" The ship's main guns had been dug out but due to power constraints, it was just sitting there doing nothing.

Dr. Sharon nodded, "I passed the data and a sample over to Chief Matt and his engineers to take a look and do tests, they should come out with a detailed report within a week or so."

"Great!" Blake exclaimed, "At least some good news."

"Well, you haven't heard what they found in the Mutated Silver Dragon's lair?" Dr. Sharon grinned.

Blake looked at Ford who shook his head, "No, I did not have the time to review that report yet," Ford said sheepishly. "Too many happenings going on in this 32 hours."

"Well, they found a bag inside," Dr. Sharon and Major Frank grinned.

"A bag of?" Blake and Ford asked together. "Gold? Silver?"

"Hehehe," Dr. Sharon lowered her voice and said mysteriously, "It's a bag of holding!"

"A what?" Blake and Ford looked confused, "I think I heard or read of it somewhere before..."

"Oh come on, you guys are not fun," Dr. Sharon pouted. "A bag of holding has a dimensional space inside, allowing it carry more than what you could think of." She searched her folders in her tablet and brought the dungeon report up onto the main display.

"Huh?" Blake rubbed his forehead, he felt a throttling headache coming along. "So you are saying this bag can hold more than what it appears to be able to?" He pointed at the screen where a picture of a simple looking light brown colored, cloth sling bag was shown.

"Yes, well, we did find a horde of gold, silver, potions, magical scrolls and even some weapons and equipment inside," Dr. Sharon grinned. "Our own tests showed that it could carry roughly 226 kg of items, not exceeding a volume of 1.2 cubic meters and the bag only weighs half a kg. You can't stuff items later than 32 m by 12 cm into the mouth of the bag and to retrieve an item out, you just have to place your hand into the bag and mentally you can 'sense' what is inside."

"Sense what is inside?" Ford raised his eyebrows, "That's quite unscientific for you Doc."

Dr. Sharon rolled her eyes, "You need to try it to understand, anyway, coming here, science gets thrown out of the window."

"So you are saying this bag allows us to carry," Blake did a quick mental calculation, "over 450 times its weight in small items?"

"Yup, it is a bag of holding after all!"

A note from neo Koh

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