"Thorn?" Dr. Sharon poked her head into the room which had been converted into a sort of laboratory wizard tower for the Magister. "We need you in the great hall!"

"Wait! Wait!" Magister Thorn was hunched over several vials and beakers of some liquid on the desk. He looked like he was doing some alchemical ritual but using modern chemistry glassware gifted to him by Dr. Sharon.

"What are you doing?" Dr. Sharon frowned and entered the room. "What is that?"

"Oh, this?" Thorn grinned like a child who had gotten his most wanted present. "This is dragon's blood!"

"Pure bloodline of the dragons!" Thorn continued as his eyes glinted with excitement and happiness. "Untainted by lesser lineage. Just pure blood of the dragons!"

"Where did you get that?" Dr. Sharon stood over Thorn who was gazing with adoration at the test tube of thick red substance.

"From Rastraz!" Thorn grinned. "I helped did a check up on her the other day and... erm..."

"You took her blood?" Dr. Sharon shook her head. "On medical grounds?"

Thorn smiled sheepishly, "Well... "

"Haha," Dr. Sharon laughed, "You cunning old man!"

"Ha!" Thorn laughed back. "Well, she doesn't let us take her blood for any other reason... and the opportunity was here, so..."

"Like you always say," Thorn gave an impish smile. "In the name of Science!"

"You!" Dr. Sharon sighed helplessly. "Don't let her find out you took her blood for other reasons!"

"Of course!" Thorn patted his chest. "So what is going on at the great hall?"

"Oh yes!" Dr. Sharon quickly pulled Thorn up from his seat. "We need to go, there is a contingent of Imperials here to talk about the release of the prisoner of war we caught."

"I see," Magister Thorn set down the vial of blood in disappointment. "That is indeed a grave matter, we better hurry."


Orwell's Point, Docks

A large crowd had formed that was kept at bay by Marines surrounded the docks as they came to watch the delegates of the Empire.

Joseph stood with several other senior officers and grinned at Magister Thorn and Dr. Sharon as they joined him. "Too busy in your work?" He teased.

"You know me too well!" Magister Thorn laughed and he tried to comb his white beard and fuzzy hair with his fingers.

"Look here they come!" Dr. Sharon called out as an ornate looking river barge. The single silvery barge had dozens of blue colored flags bordered with gold and silver while hundreds of silver white oars flashed against the sun as they rowed the barge forward as one.

The sound of drums and music slowly drifted across the river as the barge neared under the watchful eyes of the single 3" gun battery stationed on top of a gun tower built specially to defend the river passage.

The flashing silver oars moved in tune with the beat of the drums while two more barges less ornate than the silver ship stopped a short distance away and dropped anchor at the river. The silver ship soon came to a perfect stop next to the docks.

Figures in full steel plate armor lined the side of the barge and the of the hull opened and a ramp dropped. Two rows of heavily armored soldiers stormed down the ramp and formed up on the docks before turning as one to face each other smartly.

Mills whistled softly, "Damn, that drill would increase Pike a great deal! Now, all we need is The Imperial March!"

"Shhh!" Drake standing at attention next to Mills hissed. "Here comes the big fuck!"

Four men clad in ornate armor strolled down the ramp with several flunkies at their heels had the lined up Imperial saluting with their right fist across their chest.

The leading armored knight wore a silver gold plated full plate and had his helm hooked to his belt. A gold scabbard hung on his left with a red jeweled pommel with the sword peace bound with a white ribbon.

His fine silvery hair was kept back by a simple silver circle adorned with a red gemstone. He strolled up towards Joseph and gave a bow, "Greeting, my Lord. I am Knight Captain Judis. Commander of the Knights of Silver."

He eyed the grizzly looking soldier in the strange color patterned uniform with an appraising eye, recognizing his experience.

"Well met, Commander," Joseph returned his bow. "I am Captain Joseph, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, Marines, of the United Nations and Governor of Orwell's Point."

"United Nations?" A young man next to Judis gave a questioning look at Joseph. "What manner of a nation is it?"

"We can talk more inside when it is more comfortable," Joseph gestured politely towards a horse drawn carriage. "We have prepared refreshments for your welcome. And you are?"

"This is our young master, Tidus Rothschild," Judis introduced the young man dressed in an even more ornate plate mail. He had an arrogant look and a permanent scowl on his face as he wrinkled his nose at the smell of the rotting docks.

"Let's go!" He sniffed and waved the air before him. "This place smells!"

Judis nodded and gestured his men to follow him. The Marines eyed the Imperials warily as they marched past them and they followed behind.

The return to the stronghold in the middle of the city was uneventful despite the local populace had turned out to view the Imperials delegates. The local police in their black uniforms stood at intervals to keep the locals from rushing forward.

So far, the populace had started to trust their new lords, as the efforts against the cultists and the promises were given to them were not broken. Even the grumbling merchants and ex slave owners issues with the loss of their slaves had died down due to the amount of compensation and tax rebates given to them.

The number of jobs provided and dying discrimination of the slaves also improve the standing of the Barbarian Lords to the locals.

And with the harsh penalty of the breaking of laws and crackdown of gangs had the city seeing its first peaceful period since its founding. Many of the locals had a better opinion of the strange polite Marines and the United Nations.

Hence when Judis watched Tidus waving from the carriage at the gathered locals along the main street, he was surprised there wasn't much happiness or enthusiasm at seeing him and his men.

Frowning, he retreated back from the window and turned to see the enemy commander smiling at him. Something is wrong here, thought Judis at the reaction of the locals.

Finally, the carriage rolled into the courtyard of the stronghold and they were brought into a comfortable day room where refreshments were served on a side table.

"I am sorry for the lack of more exquisite offerings," Joseph politely said. "But please help yourselves."

"Lord Joseph," Judis denied the refreshments and sat down on the sofa. "I am here on behalf of my Lord to talk business with you."

"Ah, yes," Joseph smiled. "Straight to the point."

"I want you to release Lady Titanna and return Orwell's Point to us," Judis said in all seriousness. "And I will allow you and your men to retreat out of the city without harm."

"If we reject your offer?" Joseph unhurriedly poured himself a cup of tea and stirred in two cubes of sugar. "What will you do?"

"As much as I respect you," Judis eyed Joseph like a hawk. "I will be forced to destroy you and your men."

"I see," Joseph took a sip of his tea before sitting down before Judis. "So it's either, give you Lady Titanna and Orwell's Point, or you kill us all?"

Joseph took another sip of his tea and sighed. "So there is no negotiation at all?"

"This is not a negotiation!" the young lord Tidus removed his scaled gloves and slapped them on the table. "This is what you will do as ordered!"

Joseph sighed again and gave a death glare at Tidus. "Son, you need to keep your mouth shut when your betters are speaking."

Tidus shrunk back as he felt the blood lust from Joseph's glare and he shivered slightly but he jerked his head up and snapped. "How dare you a barbarian speak with that tone with me? I can crush you here and now!"

"Then I guess we have nothing more to said," Joseph stood up and he gestured to the door. "I will not be seeing you off."

The Marines stationed at the doors opened them and one of the officers gestured, "My Lords, the carriage will return you to the docks."

"What kind of insult is this?" Tidus roared. He reached for his peace bound sword and was able to draw it out when Judis gripped his hand, stopping him.

"Enough!" Judis hissed at the young man. "Stop making a fool of yourself!"

The young man gritted his teeth and glared daggers at Joseph who smiled back. "As I said, you are not here to talk, but to declare war, hence there is no point for any more words between us."

"Lord Joseph," Judis put a smile on his face and said carefully. "We are willing to ransom for the release of Lady Titanna. If you care to give us an offer?"

"Sure of course!" Joseph grinned and rubbed his hands happily. He snapped his fingers and a beast girl entered the room with a roll of parchment in a tray.

Judis picked up the parchment and unrolled it. His eyes scanned the contents of the parchment and he jerked his head up. "Ten thousand able bodied slaves?"

Joseph nodded as he poured himself another cup of hot tea. "The contract is here. If you agree, just sign it and Lady Titanna will be released unharmed."

"Ten thousand?" Tidus snapped contract over and read it. "Are you crazy?"

"Ten thousand slaves for her?" Tidus threw the contract onto the table. "I will only offer one thousand slaves for her ransom!"

"So in the end," Joseph stared into his cup of tea as he stirred it. "Her life is only worth a thousand slaves?"

"No!" Judis stood up and hushed the livid Tidus. "But ten thousand able bodied slaves will take us some time to gather and transport over."

"Well, I have time," Joseph gave a wide grin. "All the time in the world."

"You!" Tidus cursed under his breath at the shameless attitude of Joseph.

"I guess you better send word back to your Lord," Joseph continued. "As you said, it will take some time for you all to gather and transport the slaves here."

"We can agree to the ransom," Judis held Tidus back with a warning look. "But, we must see Lady Titanna and make sure she is unharmed!"

"Of course, of course," Joseph rubbed his hands together and nodded to one of his officers who appear to fiddle with something.

Suddenly the black rectangular object on the wall flickered and a window appeared with Lady Titanna inside in.

Shocked, the Imperials stared wild eyed at the window. Even the Lady Titanna stared back to them with the same surprised expression. "TIDUS? JUDIS? HOW ARE YOU INSIDE THAT THING?"

"WHAT DID YOU DO?" Judis spun around and glared at Joseph who was calmly sipping his tea. "Release her from that prison now!"

"Relax," Joseph raised his hand to stop his men as the Imperials ripped off their peace bound weapons in retaliation to the imprisonment of their Lady inside an arcane prison.

"That is just a magic communication device," Joseph explained. "She is not trapped inside that thing, it is just an image."

"Is that true?" Judis turned and asked Lady Titanna who nodded.

"Yes, I am actually inside a room," Titanna clarified. "I am seeing everyone inside this window!"

"I- I see..." Judis gestured his men to stand down. "I apologized for that disrespectful outbreak earlier."

"Apology accepted," Joseph gave a sly smile and rubbed his hands gleefully.

"Now, ten thousand slaves for her release. It's a very good deal, yes?"

A note from neo Koh

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