The entire city was decorated with banners and flags of reds, blues, whites, and gold. Music and processions of dancers and performers filled up almost every street as the city inhabitants danced and celebrated in the snow.
Bursts of fireworks rocketed off here and there and the whole city was celebrating Founding Day. Work at all the outposts had stopped and everyone that could make it to the city gathered in the streets except for a few critical personnel.
Princess Sherene stood hand in hand with Captain Blake at the City Hall's balcony and waved madly at the thousands gathered at the plaza before the municipal building. Several Cobras flew pass in diamond formations overhead and peeled off into aerobatic stunts that wowed the crowd.
"Look at the sea of people!" Sherene laughed as she waved at the masses. "Thank you!"
"Why the thanks?" Blake asked from her side as he too gave a wave once in a while.
"If it wasn't for you saving my people," Sherene replied. "We would not have this day today..."
"Technically, it was the Marines who saved your people..." Blake grinned. "I just reaped the rewards!"
"Hey! So you want me to marry some Marine?" Sherene smiled dangerously. "Well... I can do that..."
Blake broke out in cold sweat, "No no no, I was just joking!"
"Hmph!" Sherene eyed Blake with a sly smile. "I got options now!"
"Wh- what?" Blake was speechless and he stared at Sherene who was giggling away. "So you want to play? Huh?"
Blake activated the microphone and cleared his throat. The roaring crowd and music slowly died down as they waited for him to make a speech. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!"
"Today marks a new chapter in our lives, for we celebrate one year since this city which every one of you had helped built." Blake addressed the eager crowd while projections of his image and speech were broadcasted to other temporary displays all over the city.
"We found long and hard, worked with sweat and blood to get to this day where we have a safe place to live and grow in. Our children can play in the streets without a care in the world and we all have a proper roof over our heads and food in our bellies because of what we had put in our sacrifices and efforts into!"
"This city isn't built for me, or the Princess. It is a city for you, even if you are an Elf, Orc, Beastman, Goblin, Troll, Dragon, or even the Wind Wolves!"
"Everyone has contributed and we live in harmony among all the different races because why?" Blake paused as he looked at the crowd. "We care about this city!"
"Today is the day the city was officially founded one year ago, yet it still bears no name," Blake said. "We had run a poll for everyone to vote which name is best suitable for the city and now we will officially unveil the results!"
"Now the most voted name with 8,000 over votes, I declare this city as Haven!" Blake yelled over the roar of the crowd as they cheered wildly.
Blake smiled and gestured for the crowd to quiet down before he continued. "I have another news for everyone, the Princess has accepted my marriage proposal and we will be wedded next autumn!"
Sherene gasped when she heard his announcement to the city about their marriage. Blake gave a wink and pulled her into his embrace and kissed her in front of the crowd.
The crowd went crazy as they cheered and applauded madly. Bands beat their drums and music blared again throughout the city while a cluster of fireworks erupted over the City Hall.
"I declare the opening of Founding Day!"
Dijon, Megan, and Akron looked around in wonder and felt their hearts beating wildly as they were dragged into the celebratory mood of the crowd even thou they were seated at the VIP viewing platform.
They haven't seen such a large scaled procession before as most parties or even public announcements of nobles and royalty would the most have a thousand or two thousand people gathered the most. But here, it clearly could be seen that the whole city was in celebration and out in force in the streets.
They watched in awe at the aerobatic displays of the strange flying machines as they danced in the air with the dragons. Columns of soldiers marching with such precision that made them wonder if they were illusions made by magic.
The next thing they saw made they gawked in surprised as two massive armored looking monster bearing six legs waltzed it way behind the marching troops. The crowd gasped in astonishment as they too have not seen such creatures before while the hoomans seemed to whooped in joy and excitement.
"What are those monsters?" Megan leaned over to the side and asked a hooman dressed in a strange light grey coat with bits of colorful metal lining his chest.
"Monsters?" The hooman looked surprised at the question before he excitedly replied, "Mecha! Those are freaking spider tanks!"
Liz Regnar held onto the arm of Evelyn excitedly as they stood watching the processions of bands, dancers, performers, and even soldiers passing by the stand. She had seen and attended many balls and festivities of nobility due to her social status and popularity in the Captial and she was secretly impressed by the sheer scale of it all.
Even the normally unresponsive Evelyn gave a small smile and swayed along to the music which made Liz happy as she found out from the Magister that Evelyn's soul had suffered some damage. Her initial hostility to the hoomans and the rebels faded as she was later shown evidence regarding the nature of the Hero that she worshipped.
She did not believe at the start but slowly she slowly came to accept the truth as she recalls several incidents where the hero did something that she can't match it up like sudden disappearance or strange female dried up corpses found in every town, village, or city they had been through.
She wondered why she did not pick up these disturbing signs at the same, but Magister Thorn consulted her told her it might be a Glamor spell the Hero had projected around him, making people trust or naturally feel good near him.
This news struck her mind deeply and she felt she can't trust anyone anymore and instead, she sought Evelyn out to try to help her to recover her damaged soul and uncover the truth.
Today she granted leave by her probation officer to come to view the parade and enjoy some time off. Seeing the cheering and happy crowd, she felt herself being swayed and even started to join in the cheering.
Irisval wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and clapped enthusiastically as she watched the parade passing by her stand. She smiled with pride when she saw the two prototype MAWs marched past to the amazement of the people around as children clung to their parents and pointed and asked questions.
A sudden gush of wind blew against the stand as two Dragons swooped over the stand, their powerful wings kicking up a storm as they flew past over the cheering crowd. Irisval's hat flew off and her silvery hair whipped in the sudden wind.
She flinched and tried to grab her hat only to find someone had already helped her recover hat from flying away. She stood up and thanked the stranger for his help only to freeze as she recognized the hooman holding her hat out to her.
Drake climbed up the steps of the view stand to reach the top where he was supposed to relieve Kont over his security duty when suddenly a gust of wind kicked up by flapping wings of a dragon hit him.
He looked up and frowned at the underbellies of Blue Thunder and Rastraz as the duo flew off somewhere over the stands and out the corner of his eye, he saw a straw hat flying towards him.
He quickly snatched the hat and turned to return to its owner and froze as he stared into the clear golden eyes.
"Well, the naming of the city is settled," Blake raised a toast to the senior officers and ministers gathered.
"To be honest, we, humans have come to this place for over a year," Blake said as the gathered men and women listened.
"It's one year and four months to be exact since you crashed the ship!" Someone yelled in a joking manner.
"Hahahaha," All the humans laughed, while the elves looked confused as they did not know the full story, only knowing that these hoomans came from somewhere and were stranded here.
"Alright my fault, my fault!" Blake raised his hands up in mock surrender. "Well, I am glad that we all made it till now, and I hope that we can continue to survive!"
The Kingdom of Foral, Border to The Great Ocean Plains
A battered company of soldiers and their families toiled against the snow as they made their way to the border to the Great Ocean Plains. Dozens and dozens of wagons pulled by land dragons or muffalos left streak marks and paw prints on the knee deep snow.
Wrapped in several threadbare blankets, Captain Borse leaned into his spear shaft as he plowed through the snow, his breath turning white in the cold.
He stopped and looked at the rear, where hundreds of soldiers slogged on. His company had increased almost tenfold ever since coming to the Two Nation Alliance. It had grown larger than company size, more like a small army as dozens of Meccan and Foral soldiers attached themselves to him after getting lost in the retreat.
They had made used of the heavy snow to pull back from the lines, only to get harassed by Imperial Dragons Corps which the Two Nation Alliance could barely counter with their weaker dragon species.
Knowing that it will be safer to head to outlying regions of the Foral Kingdom, as the Imperial Army will very likely aim the cities and larger towns while pushing towards the Capital. Hence, Borse made the decision to head southwards towards the Great Ocean Plains, where the Oerkin ruled.
The border towns and villages were mostly abandoned due to constant raids from the Oerkin or due to conscription to the Foral Army. Borse was thinking to take over one of the abandoned village or town and have their men and families rest up for the winter before making their next plans.
Even the Oerkins wouldn't risk a raid during the winter months, which will give Borse's Last Company the time it needed to recover its strength.
Taris strolled up next to Borse with Captain Lanser in tow and they shared a wineskin among themselves, warming them bodies with the burning sensation of alcohol down their throats.
"How far more?" Borse asked as he looked at the struggling troops. "The men are flagging, and their families are barely able to keep up with the pace!"
Lanser unrolled a map from the scroll case he had on his side and frowned as he did some calculations of their position. "I say half a day or more before we reach one of the towns."
Borse nodded, "Tell the company to halt. We rest for the day and continue tomorrow."
Taris nodded back and returned to the troops calling the leaders to halt the company and setup camp.
"Captain," Lanser asked. "Do you think we... will survive?"
Borse sighed inwardly as he looked at the hopeful expression on Lanser's young face. "Of course, we will survive!"
"Send out riders to scout ahead of our path," Borse said. "I don't want any surprises along the way."
"Yes Captain," Lanser smiled, his spirits lifted after hearing Borse assurance and he left to see to his orders.
Borse looked at the number of dependants lagging behind the troops and wondered how will he feed everyone over the rest of the winter and how many will die tonight.