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The Empire of Bluewood, Royal Capital, Imperial Palace

The frown on the young man's face mirrored the expressions of the others seated around the long table. The young man finally gestured for the kneeling messenger to take his leave and leaned forward, addressing the rest. "These... attacks... all along the northern coast, we can be certain it is not the work of the United Nations?"

"Who else can it be besides the United Nations?" A noble cried out. "We all know they are the only ones to have flying machines!"

A mumble of assent rosed around the long table as the others agreed. The noble fueled by the agreements of the others continued on, "We all know that the Emperor was saved by the United Nations, but they have been aggressively expanding their land! Look what happened to the Meccans!"

"And the reports of them intervening to help destroy an enemy from beyond the ring of clouds?" The noble shook his head in mock disappointment. "How do we even know if it is true?"

"That report has been verified by not one but all our spies and even the Kingdom of Foral and the Isles!" A young noble wearing plate mail raised his voice out. "If their testimonies can are faked..."

"Why not?" The noble challenged the knight's words. "We were after all at war with them all previously!"

"If the United Nations has collaborated with the rest of the world to pull such an elaborate scheme..." The youngster on the throne finally spoke and directed his question to the smirking noble. "Why do you think they would do such a thing, Lord Dietrich?"

"Isn't it obvious?" The noble called Dietrich swept his hand around the table. "Look at the Meccans! Now they have become the lackeys of the so called honourable United Nations!"

"I say this is a plot!" Another noble yelled out his thoughts. "The United Nations wants to scare us! They know our military strength is uncomparable to their thunder sticks and strange machines!"

"If we cave in like the Meccans..." Another noble on the table said. "Would we all be like the Meccans' nobility that disappeared overnight?"

"So you all agree the attacks all along the northern coast are raiders from the United Nations?" The young Emperor asked which most of the nobles seated along the long table nodded in agreement "Alright, dismiss. I need to think about this."

The nobles all stood up and bowed deeply to the young Emperor who remained seated at the head of the table. "Attend to me. Chancellor!"

The Chancellor, a tall thin middle aged elf wearing a pair of crystal glasses paused in his exit and remained behind, while the rest of the nobles cast looks at the Chancellor who ignored them as they left the room.

"Lord Quaren..." The young Emperor let out a soft sigh and gestured to the rolled parchment which was brought in earlier by the messenger. "What do think of all this? Do you think these raids are done by the United Nations too?"

"It is hard to refute the evidence, my Emperor," The soft spoken Chancellor replied as he stood before the Emperor. "There are many eyewitnesses of flying... ships and machines and also spells that make the sounds of thunder, which are all the trademarks of the magic of the United Nations..."

"But I do not believe the United Nations will attack us!" The young Emperor insisted as he looked away towards the tall windows as if searching for some signs of the infamous flying machines. "They saved me... and I have seen their ways! There is no way they would do something this... dishonourable!"

"People change, my Emperor..." The Chancellor said. "One must change according to the situation, like you, my Emperor, you too have changed."

"I..." The young Emperor who was once exiled and sold off to be a slave before being taken captive by a team of United Nations adventurers. The leader of the United Nations later released him and the slave girl who now became his queen, back to the Empire and he regained his rightful place after several battles with loyalists.

Trying to prove his identity and bloodline was surprisingly easy, as all it took was for him to drip his blood onto the magical stone set on the royal sceptre that was kept in the throne room. But getting into the Imperial Palace was the hard part, having to fight and convince his way in. Thankfully, he managed to recruit several disgruntled nobles and knights who were unhappy with the way the Empire was ruled.

The Chancellor was one of the earliest to bend his knee before him, and for his loyalty and nimble mind, Aslan granted him one of the highest position of the Empire after the Emperor. Of course, without the rest of the nobles knowing, other than the Chancellor, the United Nations had secretly helped the young Emperor behind the scenes during his rise to the throne, providing funds if somewhat limited and even intelligence reports that were almost always accurate that at the time made the young Emperor and the Chancellor suspicious of their source.

"What do we do?" The bearing of the young Emperor changed, turning back to the young boy he was. "Another war will have the entire Empire collapsing! We have not enough people for the fields, let alone another war! The people are hungry and restless and the treasury isn't what it used to be..."

"Send a petition to the United Nations," The Chancellor advised. "Find out their motives and at the same time, start pulling some of our forces away from the Meccan borders and reinforce the towns and cities of the northern coast."

"Our new thunder weapons might not be as powerful as the United Nations, but we do have a lot..." The Chancellor said. "It should give them some pause and enough time for us to get a reply from the United Nations."

"Yes! That's it!" The Emperor suddenly yelled. "The Sage! We can ask the Sage for his help!"

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52 km Off the Coastal Waters of Fortress Hensink, UN CorRon Two, UNS Rambo

"Sir!" The radar tech yelled out excitedly as blips started appearing on his screen. "Multiple new contacts! Bearing zero eight zero!"

"What's their heading?" The XO jolt out of the command chair and hurried over to the radar station in the bridge. "And someone go wake the Captain up!"

"They are heading in a west direction! Distance one four and closing!" The radar tech replied excitedly. "They are coming straight for us!"

"Bring the squadron up to condition red!" The XO ordered quickly and a piercing siren blared out. "Why didn't we see them earlier!"

"They must have kept low to the waves!" The radar tech said. "And maybe used some magic to mask their presence too!"

"Whatever!" The XO snapped. "Weapons! What's your status?"

"Gun crews still reporting for Number Two, Three and Four guns!" The Weapons Officer reported back. "Secondaries too! Only Number One is ready to fire on your mark!"

"What's going on?" The Captain of UNS Rambo appeared on the bridge. "Report!"

"We got incoming contacts!" The XO quickly gave a summarized report of their situation. "UNS Giant and UNS Danger have reported the same and is going to battle stations!"

The Captain gave a nod and sat down on the command seat, "I have the conn."

"Aye, Captain has the conn!" The XO replied as he took up position beside the captain's chair.

"Order the squadron to go line!" The Captain said. "Switch heading to three five zero!"

As the orders were transmitted to the other two ships of CorRon Two, the squadrons quickly shook themselves out into a battle line, their starboard side facing the incoming unknowns that were skimming the waves.

"Captain! All guns green!" The XO reported as each station readiness report came in. "All stations manned and ready for battle, sir!"

"Sir! Contacts coming into main gun range... now!" The radar tech reported excitedly. "We got two two bogies!"

"Give me one starburst directly over the incoming contacts!" The Captain ordered. "See if we can have some visual over them!"

"Aye! Fire one round of starburst!" The XO repeated the command to the weapons officer who relayed the order down to the gun crews. Seconds later, the four 3" guns of UNS Rambo positioned in the middle of the formation roared, the muzzle flashes left a searing blob of white in anyone's vision who was looking at that direction.

The Captain peered out from the armoured window shutters of the bridge, following the thin streaks of light that was arcing across the night skies and suddenly they burst into a tiny artificial sun, illuminating the night and exposing the dozens of winged shapes and flat pancake like objects skimming the waves.

"There!" The Captain yelled. "Can we ID them?"

"Its... too dark still!" The XO next to him with a pair of binoculars replied. "Do we engage?"

"They can only come from the force we are tailing..." The Captain said before he turned to the Weapons Officer. "Pass the order down to the squadron... All guns... fire!"

-----

Lord Jester of the Loose Confederation was onboard one of the many skimmer craft that looked like a round flatbread. A bulwark ringed the skimmer while at the centre sat a Confed boiler with aetherium filled pipes extending out like a spider web underneath the wooden deck of the round skimmer.

Two airscrews at the rear propelled the round skimmer which typical roles were for the transporting of goods and people between floating cities or airships. Each of the open topped round skimmer was large enough to hold a hundred people with all their gear and were coloured in bands of yellow, white, red, and other colours.

Escorted by dozens of drakes of the Dragon Lords, the small raiding party made off under the cover of darkness towards the trio of grey ships that they had spotted tailing them for the past few days. He had managed to convince the Council to attack the grey ships with a small party, in part for their blood debt and also to gather intelligence. The small raiding party kept to the waves and guided by the drakes' superior night vision, they set off towards the direction of barbarians who had hurt them.

Lord Jesper wore a suit of high collared leather armour studded with steel stripes over his set of colourful robes. A sword hung on his side while a square tank was slung behind his back with a hose connected to a pistol like weapon holster. Leather greaves and gloves covered both arms and he kept a firm grip on the railings set on the side of the round skimmer.

Like the rest of the passengers, he stood with his feet apart as they braved the wind as the open topped round skimmer was unprotected from the weather. He yelled over the wind at the pilot controlling the skimmer. "How far?"

"Not much further!" The pilot yelled back. "The dragon riders have just informed us that they are just ahead!"

Lord Jesper squirmed his eyes in the darkness, trying to spot the barbarian ships that were following them when suddenly there was tiny flash in the far distance, and four very tiny pinpricks of light seemed to float into air towards him.

Surprised and curious by the floating tiny dots of light, Lord Jesper leaned forward and craned his head up, following the trail when suddenly they burst into tiny suns that seared his eyes and blinded him like so many others.

Screams of pain and panic rose from hundreds of throats both elven and beast as they were blinded. The formation of drakes and skimmers shattered as pilots blinded by the sudden illumination turned their wheels in reflex and others soughed to dodge crashing into the sudden out of control skimmers and drakes.

Lord Jesper wiped tears of pain away from his blinking eyes and he quickly yelled to the pilot, "Shatter the party! Shatter now!"

Just as he finished his command, red fiery streaks slashed through the raiding party and the dying began.

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