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Orwell's Point, North Defense Line

A simple tent with its sides rolled up, sat on the top of the small rise. Inside the tent, a simple table and half a dozen chairs were placed over the night.

Lady Titanna sat on one of the chairs, nestling a cup of tea nervously as she waited for her people to come. She kept glancing out towards the forest while Mills laid on his back at the side of the tent.

Soon, the thumping of hooves could be felt as a dozen cavalry bearing streamers of blue and silver rode out of the forest edge. They stopped at the foot of the rise and dismounted while three armored men climbed up the gentle slope and stopped before the tent.

"Lord Father!" Titanna rose up and greeted the greying man in a full set of ornate armor.

Moel Rothschild's eyes warmed when he saw his daughter was doing well and placed his full faced helm on the table and locked eyes with the seated soldier at the head of the table. "I have come as you demanded!"

Joseph nodded and gestured his guests to sit down. "Refreshments?"

"I am not here to drink with the enemy!" Moel growled as he sat down on the chair which creaked under his weight. "Tell me, what do you want in return for the release of my children!"

Joseph observed the other two men standing next to Moel and mentally take note of them. Both men extruded a gloomy aura and were dressed in full plate mail and helms that covered their features with a motif of a twin tailed scorpion was displayed fully on their chest plate.

"I want twenty five thousand able bodied slaves for the release for both your daughter and son," Joseph bluntly stated. "And another two hundred thousand gold crowns for the rest of your people and as compensation for the broken parley."

"TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND SLAVES?" Moel's face turned red in anger. "Impossible!"

"That is the price for the release of your children!" Joseph's expression remained stern as he stared down at the older man. "Pay up or leave!"

"You want war? I give you WAR!" The older man slammed his fists on the table in anger. "Do not beg me to kill you when I get my hands on you!"

"Father!" Titanna cried out. "No! You can't send the troops in! The Knights are all destroyed and if your troops are destroyed too... The barons will revolt!"

"Titanna!" Moel shot a warning look at her. "You need not fret about it! I have summoned all the baron lords here!"

Moel turned to the quietly waiting Joseph and growled. "Release my daughter and son now, and I will give you a chance to run away with your life."

"Are you deaf?" Joseph sighed. "Twenty five thousand slaves, or no deal!"

Moel's face turned redder as he glared at Joseph. Suddenly one of the Knight in black armor spoke, "Enough, there is nothing more to be said."

Moel's face turned slightly grey and Joseph was amazed that the old man's expressions could keep changing. He gave another look at his daughter before he stood up and without a word, exited the tent with the two Knights in tow.

"Father! Do not recklessly attack them!" Titanna called out a warning after her departing father. "They have weapons stronger than what the Knights are capab-!"

"Hey," Mills clamped his hand over Titanna's shoulder, making her jump. "Stop spilling our secrets!"

"But!" Titanna looked at her father walking away. "My people will be ruined! My family will be destroyed!"

"In life," Joseph suddenly said beside Titanna, "You have to make choices, and once these choices are made, you have to keep walking that path."

"Your father has long chosen his path," Joseph said. "One must be man enough to keep on his path and accept the things he has done."

"If your family hasn't suppressed or treated the rest of the baron lords of this region badly," Joseph continued. "Why would you be afraid if you lose the support of your troops and Knights?"

With that, Joseph left the tent while Titanna muddled over his words in anxiety.

-----

"They are purposely forcing your hand," The Rock said as he removed his full face helm. "And you fell for their taunts."

"Who are they?" Moel hissed as he tossed his helm to a footman. "Where did they come from?"

The Rock handed his helm to another servant and took a goblet of wine. "My sources tell me that these people might be the remnants of the Goldrose Kingdom."

"A bunch of defeated peons?" Moel forcefully removed his gauntlets and slapped them down on the table. "Yet they have the strength to defeat my daughter's army and my highly trained Knights!"

Moel eyed the bald commander suspiciously, "What are you holding back from me?"

The Rock gave a cold smile, "What I know, naturally I will share. These... people calling themselves the United Nations are a thorn to the Emperor's will."

"And I shall destroy them by any means necessary!" He declared and finished his wine in a single gulp.

"Hmmm..." Moel frowned as he sat down. "I pray that is so, they already proven to have quite the magic power to defeat my Knights."

"That is why my Bronze men are here," The Rock declared. "With a body stronger than iron, they feel no pain nor fear and they are partially immune to magic attacks."

"Those... abominations..." Moel shivered as he remembered the ranks and ranks of emotionless eyes staring at him. "Why would the Emperor resort to such creatures?"

"Efficiency," The Rock simply explained. "They need no food nor water, nor will they tire. Should any part of the Bronze Men is damaged, they only require maintenance by the Organ Mages to repair them and refuel them."

"Still... those things give me the creeps!" Moel shuddered.

"Imagine an entire army of Bronze Men," The Rock's smile widened. "We will no longer need to draft farmers and slaves to battlefields, and with a constant workforce without any disruptions, what do you will happen?"

"With the Bronze Men as a standing army, the farmers and slaves need not be drafted away, leaving the farms and mines untended," Moel spoke out his thoughts excitedly. "The farms and mines will still keep producing unlike if the men were drafted away to war!"

"And the Bronze Men need not be paid a salary nor fed," The Rock added. "All they need is just the arcane fuel to power their bodies."

"This Bronze Men of yours sounds very interesting," Moel's mood had lifted by the thoughts of an army that is cheap and efficient.

"They are still in a testing phase," The Rock admitted. "But so far they are doing quite well and the Emperor is very pleased with their results."

Moel rubbed his hands together excitedly, "When can we expect the Emperor to start producing more of these... Bronze Men?"

"That is for the Emperor to decide," The Rock shrugged. "As for us, we have to destroy these rebels first."

"Yes, yes," Moel nodded. "Once the rest of the Barons' forces arrive, we can push forward and destroy these upstarts."

"Good, once these pests are removed," The Rock gave a cold smile. "The Isles will be next!"

-----

Upper Shard River

The sleek bow of the PT boat smoothly cut across the fast flowing river as it came roaring out from a hidden cove by the river bank. The twenty four meter long patrol boat powered by a twin dragonite engine had burst out without warning as a dozen flat bottom Imperial river barges passed by its location.

The Imperials cried out in alarm at the sudden appearance of the PT boat at their flanks and the ready archers and mages let loose a barrage of arrows, bolts, and spells at the intruder.

The speed of the PT boat totally exceeded their logic as they failed to hit the faster mover. Splashes and plumes of water sprouts chased the strange watercraft as the Imperials tried to hit it.

Suddenly, the body of the strange watercraft erupted with flames and smoke and the screaming begun on the Imperial barges.

-----

The PT boat, Fast Attack Craft Zero Niner, "Daisy" roared mightly and tossed its secured crew hard against their restraints as the pilot threw the FAC into a sharp spin and throwing a three meter high spray from their wake.

"ALL GUNNERS, FIRE ON REAR MOST TARGET!" The PT boat's skipper, a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant Quartz roared out as the boat came to a complete halt in the river.

Almost instantly, the entire PT boat rocked as all three gun mounts mixed with .50 calibers and 20 mm autocannons fired. The skipper of the Daisy quickly ordered next, "Pilot, flanking speed! Keep a distance of two hundred meters away!"

"Aye!" The pilot replied and he gunned the throttle and the Daisy eagerly leaped forward at his touch.

The skipper glanced out of the narrow view slits of the armored shuttered windows of the wheelhouse of the PT boat and watched the impacts of his gunners' work.

The high caliber rounds shredded the starboard side oars of their target. Splinters of wood and unidentified bits flew wildly as the Imperial river barge rocked under the heavy punishment.

The gunners worked their guns from one end to the other of the barge, blasting glory holes out from the hull which leaked blood and turning the river red.

"RELOADING!" Came the cries of the gunners as they fired all their ammunition and started to hammer in fresh cans of ammunition into their guns.

"Hold fire!" Daisy's skipper ordered. "Pilot, bring us to the next barge down the line! Gunners, target the next barge!"

"Aye, aye!" The men cheerfully chorused as they carried out their orders.

Suddenly a loud clank could be heard from the hull of their boat and the crew jumped in surprised. "What was that?"

"Skipper! We took a hit on the port side!" One of the crew on the topside yelled. "A bloody ballista bolt!"

"Check for damage!" The skipper quickly ordered his engineer who went down under to check the interior of the hull. "Pilot, evasion action!"

"We got a tiny hole on the port side lower hull!" The engineer reported. "Taking in a bit of water but it's fixable! Advise not taking any more hits! Our hull is pretty thin!"

The bolt of the ballista had poked a small hole at the lower hull which can fit two fingers. Water leaked through the torn and splintered wooden hull while the engineer slapped a patch over the damaged hull and hammered away.

"You hear that, Pilot?" Quartz grinned at his man. "Don't let them take a bead on us!"

"Lucky shot!" The pilot cursed under his breath as he weaved the Daisy into an 'S' maneuver. "Coming up on the next barge!"

"Gunners! You know the drill!" Quartz cried into the mike. "FIRE!"

The bark of the guns immediately drowned out the constant rumble of the engine as the whole PT boat rocked on its sides as it plowed through the river surface. The Imperial fleet, already alerted to the attacker, had its men, firing their ballistas, bows, and magic at the enemy as fast as they could.

Yet, despite the heavy barrage from the Imperial fleet, the impossibly fast attacker seemed immune to their attacks as it weaved between bolts and spells while spitting fire back at them and disabling the barges one by one from the rear.

The Imperial Commander cursed madly at the clearly man made arcane boat as it kept its distance and disabled another of his barges. Suddenly a thick cloud of dark smoke popped out from the cursed boat as it finally suffered the wrath of his fleet and it visibly slowed down.

"Launch the rowboats!" The Imperial Commander rubbed his hands in glee thinking of the reward he would get.

"Capture that thing at all cost!"

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