UNS Vengeance, Command Bridge
Commander Ford stood next to Captain Nimo as they stared out of the armoured windows of the bridge to the port side of the ship. The Task Force was currently travelling through the middle of the channel between the island and the mainland which the locals called Exile's Passage, en route to Fort Hensink.
Ford could see the sandy beaches piled with dozens of wooden ships that had what appeared to be paddle wheels constructs on their sides bearing Imperial flags and colours. He put down his binos with a frown and said, "I am surprised the Imperials' tech is improving this fast..."
"They have black powder cannons, albeit very crude designs and now paddle powered ships..." Ford said. "I wonder how did they get their hands on such ideas..."
"Could it be the Isles?" Captain Nimo suggested. "We do know they started playing with black powder a few months ago."
"Well, I will not be surprised if Megan sold the technology to the Imperials," Ford shook his head. "But the thing is, why will she do that?"
"Money? Resources?" Captain Nimo guessed. "The Empire might have been beaten back, but still they control plenty of resources..."
Ford could only nod grudgingly in agreement. "Well, at this point in time, nothing out of that woman will surprise me anymore... Still, selling black powder weapons and paddle ships to the Empire will not bore well for any of us in the long run."
"We really need to have a good chat with that woman soon..."
The New World, The Old Kingdom of Foral, 237 km North of the Old Capital
"Six O clock low!" Dek manning the 'tail' gun yelled and he squeezed off a burst of .338 downrange at the winged shadow tailing them. White wiggly tracers darted off towards the dragon but Dek was unable to see if he has hit his target due to the erratic movement of Blue Thunder. "They are still at our six!"
Stamford leaned back from his bucket seat and tried to spot their pursuers which had attempted to ambush them earlier. Luckily, Blue Thunder did not disappoint as he reacted almost instantly, dodging the half dozen bolts of magic missiles that targeted his weaker belly.
Blue Thunder broke away from the ambush with the black dragon called Saphia following closely. She had been so far quite obedient in tagging after Blue Thunder despite the communication barrier and his weird translations which Stamford totally did not believe was correct.
It has been a day since they departed from the Old Capital and just barely an hour after they left their campsite for the night, they were set upon by a group of unknown assailants. Stamford had hoped to travel as far and as fast as possible, but Saphia was not in the best condition nor did it appeared she was experienced in long distance flight.
Her wing tempo was all wrong and she did not have the endurance nor stamina either, probably from her long imprisonment but soon Stamford realized that the black dragon was just not versed in long distance flight.
Hence, they had to take a short break every hour or so, and Blue Thunder used a variety of gestures and draconic, common, and english to try to teach and guide the tired black dragon on the proper methods for long distance flying. Finally, with night having fallen, they landed near a river and rested, the crew preparing a large cook pot and Blue Thunder leading Saphia into the river water to cool their bodies down.
Once their muscles had cooled down, Blue Thunder and Saphia returned back to the campsite and feasted on the pot of high calories stew. Stamford had crew including Blue Thunder draw lots for guard duty except for Saphia who he wanted her to rest and also she was not trained for this.
The next morning, the crew cooked up another two large pots of stew for the two hungry dragons. Stamford did not want Blue Thunder to go hunting as he wanted them to keep moving to put as much distance as possible away from the Old Capital.
But to his dismay, the attack came much quicker than expected. Blue Thunder had dodged the magical ambush but what followed was a dozen medium weight dragons rising up from forest around Blue Thunder and Saphia to surround them.
Blue Thunder gave out a mighty roar of challenge and spat a ball of flames at the direction Stamford indicated. The medium weight Razorwing gave a squawk of surprise as the flames exploded and super heated air warping around it.
"Breakthrough it!" Stamford yelled as he pointed to the distracted enemy dragon. Blue Thunder gave a loud roar and charged straight at the Razorwing. Stamford turned and saw, surprisingly, Saphia was following closely behind them. He gave a wave of acknowledgement to the black dragon before he turned his attention forward.
Blue Thunder using his mightier weight and size, barreled straight into the Razorwing in his way. The surprised Razorwing and its small crew could only scream in terror as Blue Thunder slammed into them with his armored tail, snapping bones and wings. The broken Razorwing screamed as it toppled downwards after its wings had snapped. It futilely tried to beat its useless wings to slow their fall but was unable to and its screams ended abruptly with a bone crunching thud.
Seeing the sudden death of one of their own and the escape of their prey, the rest of dragons roared out angrily and chased after them. The crews on dragons tossing spells at Blue Thunder every once in a while Dek manning the rear gun returned their gestures with streams of tracer fire.
Saphia was expecting the worst to happen to her after been seeming traded away like an object. She knew that she was a slave now and had read and heard many horror stories of slavery. But the strange low breed dragon was surprisingly gentle to her and even her 'new' owners seemed to treat her with some care.
The leader of the people appeared to be a tall and thin person with surprisingly round and short ears. He had appeared to asked her for her name as he repeated some words while pointing to himself. Saphia soon learnt that the short ear person was called 'Sam fort'. The friendly one with a silly smile on his face was called Dek, while the short and stubby was 'Barkly', and the last skinny people were called Luth.
The big low breed was called Blue Thunder seemed to be low in intelligent as he made some very badly pronounced words which did not make any sense to her at all. But she could understand some of their gestures easily as the one thing she could be very proud of, was her intelligence and sharp mind!
She was turned off in the morning when a big pot of some kind of greasy and thick stew filled with unknown meat and things was offered to her. The big oaf had bared his teeth at her which she suspected was not an aggressive act, more like what the people would call a smile. It was something strange about the culture of the dragons here who seemed to try to imitate people instead of the other way around! And also, she noticed that he has very white and nice teeth.
In the end, she could only force herself to eat a few mouthfuls of the thick greasy stew which was totally different from what she would usually have. Porridge made out of the finest grains and cooked with dried shellfish or dried flying fish fins was what she normally was served back home.
Next, they hooked her up in some kind of barbaric harness that dug into her insides and loaded her back with several crates like she was some kind of low born mule! Following that came the most physical exertion she had ever done in her whole life! At first, she could keep up with the pace set by the big oaf and they made some distance. But to her horror, they did not appear to seem to plan to stop at anytime soon as they kept heading into a direction which she has no idea of.
Her wings started to tire and her shoulders started aching. Even the cargo on her back started to feel very heavy. Her breath came out burning hot as she felt her insides warming up and making her whole body very uncomfortable. Even her belly started growling as hunger set in. The short eared Sam Fort had constantly turned around to keep an eye on her seemed to finally notice her distress and he made some motions, pointing down to the ground.
Obediently, she followed the big oaf down and they landed near a river. She felt grateful when they removed the cargo off her back and the big oaf gestured her to follow him. She at first did not want to move as she was too tired until the tall short eared Sam Fort gave her a smack on her side and gestured impatiently at the river.
Finally understanding their gestures, she followed the big oaf into the river where he laid down in the middle, letting the cooling water wash over his body. She gingerly followed his example and laid down in the water and felt the uncomfortable heat in her body and headache started to fade away as if it was washed away. She lapped the cold water in an unladylike manner and blushed when she caught the big oaf staring at her with that silly open mouth toothed smile of his. And really, his teeth do look very nice...
After a moment of cooling down, the big oaf came over and started speaking his barbaric tongue and even started to flap his wings around like some kind of mating ritual that she read before. It was only after a while did she understood what he was trying to do. She turned embarrassed again and focused on his wings movement as he showed her how effective use her wings.
Over the course of the day, Saphia found herself doing endless flying and having short breaks in the middle where they found either a river or a lake for them to cool down. Finally, the sun came down and they stopped for good and Saphia found herself licking clean the bottom of the cook pot after they made camp.
After the meal, she laid stretched out on all fours as she was too tired and full to move. The big oaf seemed to laugh at her unladylike posture and she ignored it as she was too tired to keep up with appearances taught to her in the Dragon's Peak. She fell asleep with her tongue hanging out at where she laid and was oblivious to her surroundings as for the first time since she was captured, her sleep came easily and without any dreams.
The next morning, she woke up feeling as if she had a fight with the big oaf as her muscles hurt all over her body. Even places that she did not know were hurting and having learnt her lesson, she finished the entire cook pot of greasy stew when it was offered to her.
The crew started dismantling the camp and Saphia let out a sigh as she obediently allowed the people to put the barbaric looking harness upon her. The big oaf's harness looked way fancier and nicer compared to hers, making her feel a sense of self consciousness.
As they took off into the skies, Saphia sighed again as she beat her sore wings after the big oaf. She was half dozing off when suddenly the big oaf gave out a mighty roar and shocked her awake. It was then that she realized that the big oaf was actually not clumsy despite his size and in fact quite nimble as he dodged the spells out of nowhere that was aimed at him.
The big oaf gave another mighty roar and she watched as he spat out a ball of flames that covered a smaller dragon in his path before he cunning whipped his long thick tail downwards and knocked the dragon screaming off the skies.
Saphia felt her heart beating rapidly as she watched Blue Thunder's heroic fighting abilities in the skies and realized that Blue Thunder was actually quite valiant! That knowledge actually made her feel safe and she swooped in after Blue Thunder, her tiredness forgotten.