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Outskirts of Bluewood Imperial Capital

The dragon riders riding into the village hall was a sight to behold for little Jon. He ran off chasing after the galloping dragons and the armored riders, ignoring the yell from his father at the bakery. He ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, and found the two dragon riders stopping before the village head.

A small crowd had already gathered at the small dirt square before the village hall as they whispered curiously at why the Emperor's men were here. It was not the time yet for the autumn tax collection.

Little Jon squeezed himself through the crowd and stood behind a wooden fence, watching the two riders in their silver armor and blue cloaks fluttering in the wind dismount from the land dragons. The land dragons' nostrils puffed out smoke as the cold air turned their hot breaths into vapor.

The soldier with a red plume on his helm unfurled a scroll and addressed the crowd in a loud voice, "Citizens! We are at war! Our southern borders are under attack by barbarians and rebels who worship the demons! Our Emperor has called upon you to help defend our great empire!"

"Each family has to contribute one male, fit and sound of mind," The Herald declared. "The village will have to contribute an extra ten stones of grain or equivalent value in gold."

Instantly the villagers all cried out in shock. Ten stones of grain were equal to twice the amount of taxes they had to pay for each harvest season! And with the draft, who knows how many will return in one piece...

"Grace to the Emperor! Long Live the Emperor!" The Herald ignored the cries of despair. "By end of the season, the collectors will come for the men and grain!"

The Herald pasted the decree onto the village notice board with some sticky tree gum and vaulted back up onto his mount and prepared to ride off.

"My lords! Please have mercy!" The village head cried out. "If we give all our food stores away, how will the rest of us survive the coming winter?"

"That is your problem," The Herald said in a disinterested tone. "Not mine. Now, move out of the way or be trampled over!"

Without giving the village head any moment to react, the Herald and his escort rode off, nearly trampling over the elderly village head who sat at the side of the dirt road crying.

Little Jon did not understand why everyone was so sad and afraid as he was too young to understand what was going on. He ran back to the bakery and found his father rolling the dough in the kitchen.

"Daa! Daa!" He called out happily. "Soldiers come!"

"So what did the soldiers come for?" His father smiled at Little Jon who climbed up the chair to watch.

"Soldiers said something, but everyone was sad and crying!" Little Jon frowned as he tried to recall all the words said. "Soldier said many words... Say we are at war with barbarians and demons!"

"Say we go fight war! Need food and gold!" Little Jon said, proud that he managed to recall most of the words spoken.

His father paused in his work, his expression suddenly dark. He gave a deep sigh and took a cloth to wipe his flour stained hands before he carried Little John in his arms. "What's the problem, Daa daa?"

"Nothing," His father gave a sad smile to his son. "Don't you worry my son. Let's go find your mother!"

"Sure!"

-----

All around the Empire, messengers, and Heralds visited villages, towns and even cities delivering the decree by the Emperor. Teams of Imperial quartermasters visited warehouses and markets, ordering the merchants to sell their grain at the lowest prices or were given promissory notes, making hundreds of small time traders bankrupt overnight as all their stores were taken away.

Slaves were also taken away by the Imperial Army and told that they can have their chance for freedom if they fight for the Empire.

Armories were emptied and the blacksmiths were all drafted to work, making new blades, armor and even maintenance of the Imperial Army's current stockpile. Elsewhere, legions were recalled from their garrisons and ordered to gather at the south staging point of the City of Silverton.

-----

Bluewood Imperial Capital, Merchant District

Potter peeked out from the curtains of his closed store, checking the dark streets for any signs of movement. Once he was satisfied that all was quiet, he went upstairs to the second floor of his study and quickly wrote down several lines on a small piece of scroll.

Once he was done, he rolled the scroll into a small wooden tube the size of his little finger and placed a small enchantment on the tube, making it glow briefly. He went up to the roof of his store and peered over the roof, double checking again for any unusual activity down in the streets.

Seeing none, he took out a whistle and blew on it gently and waited in the cold. After a turn of the glass, a dark shadow suddenly descended from the skies and landed on the roof. A long winged wyvern stretched its dark grey green feathered wings out, reaching almost two meters in length.

The wyvern, looking like a Terran chicken with super long wings and tail, eyed the merchant with its intelligent looking eyes. It accepted the morsel of meat offered by the merchant and lapped at the bowl of water offered.

Potter quickly attached the message tube onto the leg of the wyvern while it was feeding. He placed a few more pieces of meat for the wyvern and waited for it to finish its meal. Once sated, the wyvern stretched out its long wings again and with a mightly sweep, it took off from the roof and disappeared into the dark night.

After seeing the wyvern disappearing into the skies, Potter gave out a relieved sigh and returned downstairs. Once the message was received on the other end, he would get paid in gold for his services. Thinking about the money he was about to earn, made Potter happy as he left his store and returned home.

Elsewhere, dozens of similar incidents were occurring, as merchants and information brokers started sending out word and news of war. Nobles and even merchants guilds paid good money to be informed of such news as it could mean profit or loss for them.

Knowing where to sell goods at the highest prices was always the Merchants Guilds' highest priority while the Nobles wanted to know where to avoid and when to stay low to avoid getting taxed or their men drafted into war.

Part by part, news of the Empire preparing for war was passed down the chain and weeks later, word of the Empire's army mobilizing came to the ears of the UN Naval Intel division.

-----

UN, City of Haven

2nd Lieutenant Tavor started off his day with his usual routine, reading the local newspaper and having breakfast with tea. He missed coffee, even those instant 3 in 1 mix but unfortunately, the UNS Singapore's remaining stores of coffee and instant powder had run out months again. Those that still have a pack or two were hoarding them more jealously than a dragon and his cheese fries.

Worst yet, Exploration and Survey had yet to find a coffee substitute here on the planet, meaning he had to switch his taste to drinking the local tea here, which taste, closely resembles those on Earth.

After his breakfast and reading were done, he dressed for work and reached his office before 0800 hours and started reviewing all the reports that had piled up on his tray. Most reports were regrading the regional areas of the UN, from the mood of the people, price of markets, attacks or sightings of monsters, to even rumors and fairy tales.

He had trained a small core of intelligence agents from local volunteers and even a couple of Marines which he poached over. He mostly picked those who were natives of the region and assigned them accordingly to make full use of their familiarity with the area.

Once assigned to an area, the agents will form a cell to which he buys and collects information of all kinds before transmitting it back with a portable radio. So far, due to lack of manpower and resources, his agents had only managed to cover till several kilometers off the borders of the UN.

Tavor would spend the rest of the morning going through all the reports and filtering them according to their levels of credibility and threat. Things like stolen items, he would place them on a low priority list while sightings of monster movements and missing farm animals, he would place them on a higher priority list to be investigated.

Once he had sorted out the reports for the day, he would break for lunch. His subordinates will either have their meal or continue their work, filling in reports from his agents or government bodies.

After his meal, he would visit the holding cells at the prison deck of the ship now turned into a fortress. High level prisoners were kept in specially created cells that both physically and magically restrained them. Next, he went to the VIP cells where the cells were more like rooms, comfortably decored as the prisoners were more under house arrest than anything.

He stopped before VIP CELL 07 and tapped a few command keys on the keypad next to the door. Instantly a window next to the wall opened up and allowed Tavor to look into the room. The boy and the slave girl looked up from the books they were reading as the window opacity cleared and they saw their jailer standing there.

"When are you planning to release us?" The boy yelled as he stormed over to the window. "How long are you planning on keeping us locked up!!"

"When we full verified your identity and what you said were the truth," Tavor's voice came in over the speaker.

"I had told you the truth!" The boy hammered his fists against the armored sapphire glass window. "I am a prince of the Bluewood Empire! I dema-"

Tavor stepped away from the darkening window as he tapped the controls turning the window opaque again. He hummed a tune as he strolled off back towards his office, ignore the dull thumps coming from the room.

"Sir!" One of his subordinates greeted Tavor as he entered the Intelligence office. "We have gotten word of something urgent, you need to see this quick."

Tavor nodded and took the report slip from the operator. He scanned through the contents twice and turned to the ops room filled with intelligence analysts. He clapped his hand loudly, gaining the attention of all the intelligence staff.

"Alright people!" Tavor addressed everyone in the ops room. "We just got word that the Empire is doing bulk purchase of grain, dried rations, iron, leather, arrowheads and all sorts of misc little things needed for an army."

"Looks like the Empire is preparing for war," One of the intelligence analysts said.

"Yes," Tavor nodded. "But against who, where, and when?"

"Now, contact your agents! I want to know for certain is the Empire mobilizing its troops!" Tavor ordered. "I want to know where are the troops headed!"

"I want to know when!" Tavor continued. "I want to know who are they attacking!"

'And I know to know all these facts by yesterday!" Tavor roared. "Go find out what is happening to the Empire now!"

"Yes, Sir!" All the staff cried out and they returned to their work stations and donned on their headsets and started contacting their ground agents.

Tavor returned to his office and sat down, holding the slip of report in his hands as he reread it again and mumbled to himself. "Damn... are those blue boys finally making their move now?"

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