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Orwell's Point Airfield

"Ras?" Blue Thunder poked his head into the entrance of the hangar. "Are you there?"

He heard a small shuffling noise from deep inside the hangar and he crawled his way in. "Ras?"

His eyes adjusted to the dark of the hangar and he saw Rastraz huddled into a ball at the very back of the steel and wood hangar, her wings draped protectively over her head.

Blue Thunder sighed, remembering when he was first shot down and the hoomans took him. He wondered if Rastraz was suffering from what those dramas and movies called PTSD. He gently made his huge body over to the side of Rastraz and laid down next to her, covering her body with his larger wingspan.

He started humming a tune he remembered from The Game of Thrones as he laid next to Rastraz feeling her warmth spreading to him.

"Mmm hmmm mmm mm mm mmmmm~" He hummed as he gently wrapped Rastraz with his tail.

Blue Thunder suddenly felt Rastraz trembling and shaking under his wing and tail. Concerned he quickly pushed away her wings with his serpentine head. "Ras! Are you okay?"

"HAHAHAHAAA!" Rastraz burst out laughing. She wiped a tear from her golden eyes with her wing tip and giggled again. "Hehehehe!"

"Huh?" Blue Thunder looked confused. "Are you sick? Did they hit you too hard on the head?" He held Rastraz head still with clawed hands.

"Hahahaha!" Rastraz pushed Blue Thunder's hands away while trying to hold in her mirth. "Your... singing is bad!"

"W- What?" Blue Thunder leaned back and gave a relieved grin. "Really? Oh well, at least it cheered you up!"

"Ahh..." Rastraz stopped her giggles and looked away and said softly, "Thank you... for coming back..."

"Hehe!" Blue Thunder puffed his chest up. "How can I abandon you?"

"I thought you ran off..." Rastraz whispered and she rested her head on her folded arms. "I didn't know you went for help..."

"I wanted to come to save you..." Blue Thunder rubbed his head in embarrassment. "But I couldn't save you under those circumstances..."

"Well, at least you came back in the end," Rastraz smiled gently. "I guess that counts too?"

"Well, of course!" Blue Thunder stood proudly. "After all, I was ordered to look after you! I can't fail that responsibility can't I!"

Suddenly the temperature of the hangar appeared to rise up. "Huh? Why is it getting so hot in here?" Blue Thunder scratched his head as he looked around in confusion.

"Ras?" Blue Thunder turned and saw Rastraz starting to glow red in the dark. "Erm... why are you getting heated up?"

"Y- you... IDIOT!" Rastraz growled and smacked Blue Thunder with the full force of her tail before she huddled into one corner in a ball. "Don't talk to me! Go away!"

Blue Thunder rubbed the spot on his head where Rastraz's tail hit him in confusion and pain.

"What did I do?"

-----

Border of Sin City

A line of covered wagons pulled by land dragons slowly crested over the gentle slopes of the waving grassland. Outriders on alert, followed on the side of the convoy providing protection to the slow rolling wagons as they kept to the well traveled path.

Taris stood up from the wagon seat and stare out to the City in the distance in shocked surprise as the city now stood in blackened ruins visible even from the far distance.

"What in the heavens..." He whispered as the men around him too spotted the ruined city and they were alarmed.

From the distance they were at, Taris estimated they need at least half a day to reach the city, by then it would be late afternoon. He did not fancy staying near the ruins of the city with barely a few hours of light.

He ordered the men to drive the wagons to the side of the path and make camp. Taris called his guards to be on alert and sent a team of fast outriders to scout the city out first.

As the sun set, the sound of galloping hooves came and a dozen riders pulled up before the entrenched campsite. "Captain Taris!"

"What's the situation with the city?" Taris asked worriedly. If the city was truely destroyed, then all the effort coming here to trade for essentials will be completely wasted and the people back home will face a very hard winter this year.

"Nothing remains of the city!" The leader of the scouting party reported. "But there are scores of people and Oerkin camps scattered around the ruins."

"Damnation!" Taris cursed, knowing that they will return empty handed. "What happened to the city?"

"We asked around and the people said it was caused by a fight between some super creatures!" The scout leader replied. "A giant snake and some flying monsters destroyed the city! Some of the people even say it was the work of gods that destroyed the city."

"Sir, we might take this opportunity to salvage whatever useful things we can find in the ruins," The scouting leader advised. "We noticed most of the people that remained went into the ruins to find anything of worth."

Taris sighed, "We don't have much food and water to last us long out here."

"Sir, we still need to top up our water here," The scout added. "Why not see we can trade with the people here if they have what we need?"

"Alright, since we are here, we might as well make full use of our supplies," Taris nodded. "Get some rest, we will move out in the morning."

The scout saluted with his fist over his chest before going off to look after his mount, leaving Taris behind to ponder on their options.

Taris sat down before the campfire in deep thought, wondering how can he turn the situation around. Without the city, they will not be able to trade for the much needed food for his people back home and he did not know of any other city that existed in the Great Ocean Plains.

Should he approach the Oerkins? But where could he find any Oerkin Tribes or Clans to trade for their livestock? He still remembered the incident where he and his men were attacked and captured to be sold as slaves later.

Hopefully, tomorrow he will find out what the city ruins hold and what steps he should take after he sees the place with his own eyes.

The night went by without any incident and when morning, the caravan from Dead Frontier packed up and rolled forward towards the city ruins. Along the way, they spotted dozens of camps of various sizes which they learned that most of the camps were survivors of the city while the Oerkin camps seemed to be a mixture of many clans and tribes.

The people in the camps they passed by all looked wretched and downtrodden even the usually loud and boisterous Oerkin were strangely quiet and lifeless.

The mood surrounding the ruins creeped Taris out the closer he got to it, leading to him wondering if it was a good idea to go to the city ruins. Finally, they reached close enough to see the once tall walls were now reduced to barely a man's height and not one structure remained standing.

The once strange looking squarish palace that dominated the city was gone, flattened into bits and pieces of masonry and charred wood. Yet despite the destruction of the city, he could vaguely see hundreds of figures poking around the ruins, most likely trying to forage or salvage some useful items.

He noticed the people still staying around looked like they used to be slaves judging from the marks on their necks. He raised a hand and directed the caravan to the side of the path and ordered his men to set up camp again.

His caravan arrival had the attention of almost everyone here as they kept eyeing his wagons, making him feel like they were planning to rob him. He ordered his men to be on alert at all times and be on the watch for any attacks by the locals.

After ensuring his camp was properly defended, he set up with an escort and approached the ruined city gates. Less than a month ago, when he came here, the gates made out of massive logs that were cut and transported at a great cost from the forests at the edge of the Great Ocean Plains now laid in charred ruins.

He saw several people in thin bare clothing hacking away at a piece of the charred gate, most likely chopping it for firewood. He approached them and asked politely, "Greetings, may I ask what happened here?"

"Huh?" The group of people stopped their work and stared at Taris with hostility until they noticed the number of well armed men behind him and changed their tone and bearing. "Eh... The city was destroyed by the Gods!"

"Yes, the Gods came from the skies and rain fire and thunder down," Another said. "And a giant snake came out of the palace! It destroyed the city!"

"I heard it was the Oerkin shamans who called upon the Snake!" Another person added and the group started arguing between themselves over whose story was true.

"No, it was some goddess that called fire down to burn this place down for its sins!"

"I witnessed the beast myself! It rampaged throughout the city!"

"I see..." Taris raised his hands up to cut the argument of the locals off, "When did this happen?"

"Oh, almost two weeks ago!" The group finally managed to gave an answer that everyone agreed to.

"Do you know if there are any farms or merchants remaining?" Taris asked. "I want to buy seeds."

"There are a few scattered farming villages around here, but..." One of the group said while rubbing his fingers together.

Taris sighed inwardly and tossed a silver coin over to the man who grinned happily, rubbing the silver against his sweat stain clothes. "There is one about a half a day on foot south of here. Just follow the road down, you can't miss it."

"Or you can try your luck at the city center where the city's storehouses and granaries are," Other person offered helpfully and Taris awarded him with a silver coin too. "Maybe you might find some store not yet found by others."

Taris thanked the happy men and left them to their work before heading deeper into the ruins. The once broad streets were cracked and littered with broken masonry. They wandered around and reached the site where he did business with the merchants here.

The large warehouses and granaries that surrounded the merchant guild were flattened and most likely picked cleaned by the survivors. Along the way, they noticed spots of dark stains with insects and flies buzzing around, most likely someone had died on those spots.

Taris stood before the ruins of the place where he knew the merchants once deal with thousands and thousands of gold crowns and other trade goods.

"Damn," He kicked a piece of blackened masonry in frustration, knowing the food he wanted to trade for were all burnt down.

"Oie..." Suddenly a voice called out to him, jolting him from his thoughts. He turned and saw a person dressed in what appeared to be once rich clothing but now looked torn and dirty.

He noted the looks of the slim young man with raven black hair appeared exotic with his slightly slanted eyes and also, strangely enough, his ears were short and round, unlike the normal long and pointy ears, even his voice had a strange accent as he spoke.

The strange man pushed himself weariedly off from the piece of rubble he was seated on and dusted himself off. Taris saw the stranger was shorter than average and he came closer to Taris while gesturing to the water skin carried by Taris on his belt.

"Some help here? Can I have some water?"

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