Emperor Aslan stood before the lake with its surroundings totally devastated. Trees were unrooted or shattered into many pieces and the earth was churned up and filled with large ugly mud filled craters. Wreckages of buildings and airships were scattered all over the place, including bodies and bits of unidentified parts. Finally, he understood the meaning of seeing is believing as he stood before the aftermath of a one sided attack.
Even his Imperial Court who flew over from the United Nations' island ship was dumbstruck at the scene. Lord Dietrich who had been the most vocal about the trickery of the United Nationers was actually now at a loss of words as he stared at the destroyed landscape.
Imperial troops were moving around the devastated land, picking through the bodies and wreckage while Aslan and his Court stood up wind from the smell yet they could still catch a whiff of burnt meat, ashes and charred wood.
"Your Majesty! May you live for a thousand years!" A Knight in full plate armour went down on one knee before Aslan. "Knight Colonel Sander of the Fourth Imperial Army reporting!"
"You may rise!" The old eunuch next to Aslan intoned after Aslan gestured for the Knight Colonel to do so.
"You have performed very well lately, Knight Colonel Sander! We are very pleased with your results!" Aslan said. "We shall reward you greatly!"
"Many thanks, your Majesty!" Knight Colonel Sander quickly bowed. "But much of the credit goes to the Great Sage's advice! If he was not by my side, sharing his wisdom, we would not have performed as well!"
Emperor Aslan nodded as he had seen both the reports of the defence of Port Sunder and also the ingenious paddle wheel designs powered by leg power at the beach. The Great Sage's idea had taken three days to be implemented fully to all the available ships and allowed the entire landing fleet to cross the channel within a couple turns of the sand glass instead of requiring half a day or more of sailing.
"Yes, We need to reward the Great Sage too!" Aslan quickly said as he also wanted to recruit the Sage to be the Court's Grand Advisor position. "Where is his Greatness?"
Knight Colonel Sander frowned as he turned and looked around in confusion. "He... He was just right next to me just now!"
Leung placed a gloved him over his racing heart to calm himself as he peered from the corner of the tree he was currently hiding behind. When he first landed with the rest of the Imperial Army, which he was cajoled along by the beefy Knight Colonel despite his excuses and reasons for staying behind at Port Sunder.
He saw the devastated landscape and the obvious bomb craters dotting all over the area and he knew the UN was here. His suspicions were further confirmed when he slipped away from the Knight Colonel and the escorts when their attention was on the young Emperor, and he had overheard the nobles surrounding the Emperor talking about a ship the size of an island and flying crosses.
He immediately knew that the UN must have somehow constructed a carrier of sorts and has bombers similar to those that hit Sin City and nearly burying him forever under a pile of rubble. Leung decided it was time to run and at all cost avoid getting the attention of the UN and now it would appear that the UN has somehow formed some kind of alliance with the Emperor!
This meant that by staying around, there was a very high chance he will get exposed and he really did not want to die.
"In the thirty six stratagems... Its time to run!" He mumbled to himself as he sneaked off into the forest. "Why the fuck is my luck so bad?!"
The New World, Old Kingdom of Foral, Outskirts of the Old Capital
A city slowly appeared before the eyes of Blue Thunder and his crew as he dropped out of the clouds. Colourful spires and conical towers dotted all over the city which was surrounded by a grey city wall and a moat, its green algae filled water glittering under the noon sun. Tiny banners and flags could be seen fluttering in the wind all over the city.
As Blue Thunder approached closer to the city, a trio of smaller dragons appeared and formed up around Blue Thunder. The smaller dragons had yellow brown scales and wings and a rider sat on a saddle just forward of the shoulder blades and was decked out in orange trappings.
"HOY!" The leading rider yelled using a spell to broadcast his voice across while he gestured with a crossbow. "LAND AND BE IDENTIFIED!"
"Do it," Stamford ordered Blue Thunder who tilt over and dived down towards the ground. The three Foral Draconic Corps followed closely behind and Blue Thunder came to a halt just before touching down on the ground by beating his wings furiously to reduce his speed.
As they landed, a troop of cavalry came riding over while the smaller Foral dragons continued to circle overhead, ready for any hostile actions by the unknown dragon and their crew. Stamford and the rest remained on Blue Thunder and waited for the Foral cavalry to pulled up next to Blue Thunder.
"Greetings!" Stamford greeted the lead cavalryman and he took out a scroll case which contained their Writ Of Passage and handed it over to the cavalryman. "We come in peace!"
The cavalrymen eyed Stamford's short ears with suspicions and the leader took the Writ out and gave it a look over before his expression softened. "And what is your purpose here?"
"We have an invitation to an auction," Stamford took out a perfumed scroll tied with an exquisite silk ribbon.
"Oh!" The cavalryman's manner changed to be even more respectful as soon as he saw the invitation. "My Lord, other than official businesses, dragons are not allowed to fly over the city, you have to land and enter at the East Gate if you wish to enter the city."
"Okay," Stamford nodded as the cavalry leader gave him more directions and lodgings recommendations. "Thanks for the information!"
Stamford flicked a gold crown over to the pleasantly surprised cavalryman leader who grinned and saluted. "Get a drink for you and your boys!"
"Thank you, Lord!" In the end, the cavalry troop walked them to the East Gate where under the escort of the cavalry troop, they skipped the queue of merchants, couriers and other bureaucratic requirements. The cavalry leader gave a last salute before he and his men returned to their duties after seeing Stamford and his crew off at the East Gate.
Unlike the rest of the city gates, the East Gate was massive as it was catered to the needs of dragons and other massive beasts of burden. The concourse was wide enough for three dragons of Blue Thunder's size to waddle through and was lined with warehouses and custom houses.
Teams of children carrying shovels, buckets and coarse bristle brushes came running up next to Blue Thunder and started to call out their services. "We do scrubbing! Washing! Waste clearing! All for one large copper!"
"Fine fodder for your dragon, kind Sir?"
"Best lodging in the East Gate with feathered beds and pillows! No lice!"
"Need porters? Warehouse space?"
"Best prices! Buying premium leather and ores!"
The street was blustering with activity, hawkers and vendors yelling out their wares while others trailed after the traders' dragons and beasts of burdens offering services. Blue Dragon blinked his eyes in fascination as waddled along the wide street, following behind a couple of wingless land dragons that were carrying large parcels of goods on their backs.
He kept whipping his head left and right as he took in the smells and sights until Stamford snapped, "Stop swinging your head left and right, you dumb lizard! You are making us all giddy!"
"Ooo, sorry!" Blue Thunder gave a cheeky grin. "I never have seen such a busy market place before!"
"You better watch where you are going..." Stamford warned as he gestured before them. "Look out!"
"Huh?" Blue Thunder paused in his movement and lifted one clawed forefoot up. He looked at the gooey mess caked on his claws and took a quick sniff before he roared out, frightening the surrounding people. "EEEEEWWW!"
"HEY YOU!" A troop of City Guard came running up to Blue Thunder and pointed at Stamford. "YOU! KEEP YOUR ANIMAL UNDER CONTROL! OR WE WILL THROW YOU INTO THE DUNGEONS!"
"Sorry!" Stamford quickly called out in apology before he smacked Blue Thunder on the side of his neck. "Keep it down you bloody country bumpkin! If you don't feel embarrassed, I do, ok!"
The rest of the crew snickered as Blue Thunder lowered his head down dejectedly and tried to scrape the crap off his claws. "Yucks..."
"Look, there it is," Stamford gestured to the right at a large building with a neat looking facade. A large sign with stylized wheel and pickax hang above a set of double doors and beside it was an alley that was large enough to allow a dragon like Blue Thunder to enter. "That should be the Pioneer Inn as recommended by the cavalry boys!"
"Good sir, are you looking for lodging?" A blonde boy no older than twelve came running up next to Blue Thunder and addressed Stamford. "We have the finest bed and dining! The best stables and hay for your beast! Our service is guaranteed!"
"Alright, lodging for four and one dragon for two nights!" Stamford said as he looked at the boy who cheerfully guided them into the alley next to the Inn. There, the alleyway opened up to a large courtyard where several massive stalls were lined on in rows with at least two thirds occupied by a dragon or some other beasts.
Stamford and the rest started to climb down from Blue Thunder who looked around his surroundings with a sense of dread. "You are not seriously letting me sleep here?"
"Stop being a baby!" Stamford hissed in a low voice. "Soldier up!"
"But... but..." Blue Thunder took a peek into the stall and took a sniff. "It smells like piss and shit! There's not even a blanket!"
"And..." He gestured around the courtyard which was just flattened earth with suspicious stains covering the yard. "I..."
"Just endure it," Stamford grinned. "After all you wanted to come to the auction!"
"But... but..." Blue Thunder was crestfallen as he squeezed into the stall. "Its... not fair..."
"Chin up soldier!" Stamford shook his head at Blue Thunder's expression. "I see what good food they have around here and send you some ok?"
"Really?" Blue Thunder immediately perked up. "Just now I saw there was a stall selling some sort of roast!"
Stamford laughed as he knew as long as that glutton have some food to think about, he will be alright. "Alright, I get you some!"
"Sir?" The small boy reappeared next to Stamford with a middle age lady who was carrying a thick tome and feathered quill in her hands. "Two nights for four person and one large dragon?"
"That will be a total of one large and two small silver!" The lady had similar blonde hair as the boy tied up into a bun stated in a business tone. "One small silver per night each and two small silver per night for the large dragon!"
"Food is provided for breaking fast only," The Inn lady said. "Additional meals at two coppers each!"
Stamford nodded and handed over two large silvers and gotten his change. "We are from out of town and is new to this place. Can you tell us anything about this city?"
"Here for the auction?" The lady raised an eyebrow at Stamford. She did not seem too concerned about his ears.
Stamford nodded and gestured to Blue Thunder who leaned over to listen. "My dragon wanted to see this auction as we heard that there is a rare black dragon there."
"Oh," The lady peered over Stamford's shoulder before she said in a matter of factly way. "You do know that dragons aren't allowed in to watch the auction?"