Shard River, North of Orwell's Point

Dozens of barges nested against the sandy banks of the river as teams of workers unloaded equipment and supplies off the barges while being overseen by Marines. Trucks and jeeps slowly and carefully rolled off the ramps of the barges and drove off to marshaling points.

Marines with earth affinity rapidly loosen the earth so that the others could easily dig up the soil to create a trench network. A small army of foresters fell away the surrounding trees creating clear lanes of fire and using the material to create barricades.

Coils of barb wire originally used to fort the city were deployed in front of the trenches, creating an interweaving barrier of razor wire.

Marine Signalers installed poles of transmitters and buried hundreds and hundreds of meters of cabling for the army's communication, linking them all to the main command bunker that was being populated with equipment.

Above the mad frenzy of preparations, a sole dragon lazily flapped its wings and glided gracefully watching over the area.


Orwell's Point, Marine Stronghold, CO's Office

"Enter!" Joseph replied to the knock on his office door which swung open and two bulky Orc Marines had to lower their heads as they entered the office while escorting the prisoners in.

Lady Titanna sat anxiously on one of the chairs before Joseph, leaped in hurried as she saw the two prisoners being brought in. "Brother! Judis!"

The two prisoners were dressed in a striking bright orange prisoner uniform while their hands were cuffed to a chain that further linked to the cuffs on both their feet. They both wore an anti magic collar and under the restraints of the cuffs, they could only shuffle their feet into the room.

"Sit!" Joseph gestured to the chairs before him and the two Orc Marines shoved them down on the chairs before Joseph dismissed them out of his office.

"How do you like your accommodations?" Joseph teased them as he grinned at the hate filled expressions of the two prisoners.

"Release us at once!" Tidus roared. "You bastards will gravely regret your actions today!"

"Enough!" Knight Captain Judis hissed, he was sweating slightly and had a pastry complexion as he just barely recovered from his ordeal two days ago. "What do you want?"

"Oh, since we now have the eldest Miss and youngest Master of Rothschild," Joseph's gave a wide smile. "I think the ransom has to be renegotiated!"

"Pigs!" Tidus sneered as he sat on the chair. He felt deeply humiliated as he was half drunk when he got hit by a lightning spell that made him disgraced himself by urinating over his robes. "You are all a bunch of greedy pigs!"

"Well, your daddy is the rich one here," Joseph continued to smile and gave a shrug. "Why not?"

"You!" Tidus rosed from his chair in anger.

"Sit down!" Judis barked and Tidus gave a humph before he settled down again. "How much more?"

"Since the asking price for Lady Titanna is at ten thousand slaves..." Joseph winked. "Well, he can't be lower than that right?"

"Another ten thousand slaves?" Judis's eyes widened. "You really are greedy!"

"Ten? I was thinking fifteen thousand total," Joseph laughed. "And that is not counting the rest of the delegation, including your ransom!"

"Fifteen thousand?" Titanna gasped. "You want to exchange the two of us for a total of twenty five thousand slaves?"

"TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND SLAVES?" Tidus choked. "Why don't you go and rob the Emperor himself!"

"Eh.. in a way we are robbing the Emperor," Joseph pointed out. "By depleting the resources of Rothschild..."

Tidus paused and grimaced and he shut his mouth and returned to glaring daggers at Joseph.

"The Rothschild might be rich, but..." Judis shook his head. "Asking for twenty five thousand slaves is impossible. The city and the neighboring region farms and mines will collapse due to lack of worker slaves!"

"Than," Joseph gave a shrug. "You all will remain as our guests for longer!"

"Lord Joseph!" Titanna suddenly spoke up. "Please let me negotiate with my father! I can be certain to come to an agreement between us that does not need any more bloodshed!"

"Hmph!" Tidus snorted. "Thinking of your own skin?"

Titanna frowned and she ignored her brother's biting words. "I know the strength of your soldiers. You can easily destroy a force ten, twenty times your size."

"I do not want more blood on my side," Titanna admitted and she lowered her head. "Please let me talk to my father. People will not have to die needlessly."

"Where is your honor?" Tidus stood up angrily. "Where is your pride as a Rothschild? Have the dogs ate it? Why are you bowing down to this barbarian?"

SMACK! Titanna glared at Tidus as a palm print slowly reddened on his pale skin. He stared at her and opened and closed his mouth in shock.

"They can destroy the entire Knights of Silver in one night!" Titanna growled at the stunned Tidus whos cuffed hands couldn't even reach up to rub his stinging face. "What can twenty or even forty thousand regular soldiers do?"

Tidus sat quietly as he slowly digested the news.

"How can you be sure they are all destroyed?" Judis asked in a questioning tone.

"Because... I have seen the bodies while the two of you were knocked out and tossed into the dungeon!" Titanna's voice pitched higher. "All the Knights that you are so proud of... DEAD!"

"What do you think will happen to the region if the land barons and nobles knew that the only power that kept them in line is totally destroyed?" Titanna slumped down on her chair in defeat.

"My gods..." Tidus's face turned paler. "They... They will revolt!"

"YES!" Titanna nodded. "The only force that glues the region together will fall apart!"

"And if the troops were deployed..." Judis grimaced. "The land barons will take the chance to grab for power!"

Joseph gave a polite cough and smiled coldly when the trio had his attention. "Now that is all none of my problems. The issue now is you broke the parley and attempted to murder everyone. So forgive me if I give any balls of what will happen to your home."

"All I know is that your people will have to pay up compensation and ransom for your safe return," Joseph said coldly. "Now, since the Lady has volunteered to speak with her father, I think we can accommodate that request. But only on a place of my choosing!"


0924 Hours, North Defense Line

A single Imperial cavalry slowly appeared out from the thick fog from the forest edge and paused before a field that had its trees and foliage recently dug up and chopped down. The rider held a lance with two flags, one blue and one white tied to the tip.

He remained motionless as he sat on his land dragon and surveyed the area and was surprised when several figures that appeared out of ground slowly walked up to him.

The Knight frowned at the painted faces and the bits of leaves and other plants stuck on their bodies and inwardly sneered at these barbaric forces.

"I come bearing word to this United... Nations... that this land and the city of Orwell's Point rightfully belongs to his Majesty, Rightful Ruler of the People, the Emperor of Bluewood, Varacen Bluewood," The Knight declared smugly. "Return the land and its people to their rightful owners and the Emperor, praise his benevolence, will allow you your lives!"

The several barbarians in their mud and leaves outfit looked at each other and laughed, making the Knight's face turn red with anger. "Return the hostages you taken with trickery and be good to surrender yourselves quietly!"

The barbarians seemed not to understand his words as they kept giggling and laughing away. "This is your last chance! Do not take our benevolence as weakness!"

"Alright!" Suddenly one of the barbarians with a strange accent said and gestured the rest to order. "Well, you can tell your high and mighty Emperor, he can come and kiss my ass!"

The barbarians hearing their compatriot saying that, broke out more into laughter.

"INSOLENCE!" The Knight hissed and bared his teeth in righteous anger. "YOU WILL PAY FOR THAT INSULT!"

"Oh, don't get your underwear wet because of that!" Mills grinned. "We have a message to whoever is in charge."

"The Lady Titanna of Rothschild wishes to speak with her father in regards to their ransom and other compensation," Mills enjoyed pissing off the Knight. "Place and time will be set there."

Mills pointed to a small rise that was in the open and handed a rolled up scroll with fanciful ribbons and waxed seals to the Knight who snatched it and dropped it into a pouch.

"I will bear your words to the Lords!" The Knight's eyes flashed within his covered helm. "And I will not forget the insult you gave to my Emperor!"

With that last words, the Knight wheeled his mount around, the clawed hooves nearly stepping on Mills's booted feet and rode off towards the forest and into the fog.

"Well, that went well!" Mills grinned at his men. "Let's see if we can delay them and piss them off more!"

The men cheerfully made their way back to the concealed trench line and Mills left his squad at the forward trenches while he made his way in the maze like trenches and towards the Command Bunker.

"Sirs!" He stood at attention inside the bunker as he greeted the officers gathered around the tactical table. "Message delivered!"

"Good!" Lt Silverstar nodded and gestured Mills over to the table. "We are just discussing the enemy depositions."

"Looks like they divided their forces into five armies," A Marine with an eye and three lightning bolts shoulder patch pointed to a colored photo of an aerial view taken with infra cameras.

Five distance blobs of red and white could clearly be seen arranged side by side under the cover of the forest. "The center army looks like their cavalry, while the flanks should be infantry."

"Also we haven't spotted any air support yet," The Intel officer said. "We believe that their dragons are hidden somewhere at the rear, so far our UAV is still searching the area for them."

Another photo was placed on the table and this time it was a regular image with the waters of the Source Sea at the background. "This is where their supplies are stored. They are being supplied from the lake."

"If we count roughly the amount supplies that they unload," The Intel Officer continued. "We can roughly estimate the number of troops they should have."

"Rough estimate at twenty five thousand," The Intel Officer replied. "But that is not all, we have a sighting of another force coming down the Shard River."

"That force should be Rothschild's army, coming to reinforce the current army on the ground," Another image was placed on the table. "We estimate another ten thousand mixed troops."

Mills whistled, "Thrity five thousand troops? Against our single battalion?"

"That's like 36 to 1 odds!" Mills shooked his head.

"Yes," Lt Silverstar nodded. "Hence why we want to delay them as much as possible to enhance our defenses."

"Can't we get the PT boats to do a lightning strike against the river force?" Mills suggested. "Cut down their reinforcements."

"No, the best plan is to sneak the PT Boats into the Source Sea and pillage their supplies lines," The Intel Officer said. "For troops on the ground, we can hit them easily with our attack planes."

"Our Marines will hold the ground here to prevent them from advancing while our guns and mortar hammer at them from the distance," The Officer detailed their ops plan. "The FB - 1s will link up with the PT boats once they reached the Source Sea for resupplies and they will block off the enemy's rear."

"We will force the enemy to break their teeth against our defenses!"

A note from neo Koh

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