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The New World, The Isles, First City of The Fleet

Commander Ford was inwardly shaking his head as he watched Fleet Master Akron's patronizing smile from the other side of the council room that was filled with other influential and wealthy members of the Council. A fat richly dressed merchant came up next to Ford and smiled, taking his hand enthusiastically and asked when would the United Nations forces act to protect his assets from the evil invading Outsiders.

He gave his best neutral smile and made some politically correct answers before pushing the elf off to one of his aides to handle as he made his escape. He soon found himself next to Captain Nimo who had a constant frown on his face.

"Sir, this is a waste of time!" Captain Nimo complained. "What are they trying to do?"

"As I said before," Commander Ford took a drink from a passing waiter. "They are dragging their feet waiting for Megan's plan to come into action."

"I don't see her anywhere, sir," replied Captain Nimo. "Do they really think we are fools?"

"Fools or not," Commander Ford took a sip of his drink before replying. "We are here, and we are part of her plans."

"Half of the Isles' Council want us to provide military assistance against the Cartel," Captain Nimo said. "And the other half seemed to be on the fence as if the attacks on their Eastern Islands has no effect on them..."

"From what Intel has provided us," Commander Ford replied. "The Eastern Islands are not as rich as the Western and Main Islands..."

"It's mostly inhabited by fisherman and sea monster hunters," Commander Ford continued. "And the Eastern Islands are not as fertile as the rest of the Isles."

"Most of them here can afford to lose the Eastern Islands to the Cartel," Commander Ford added as he cast a disdain glance around the chamber. "They live for profits and gain only... And those that truly sought to protect the Isles... Are all probably sleeping with the fishes by now..."

"And yet here we are," Captain Nimo growled. "Do we really need to provide help to these... people?"

"As much as I despise them," Commander Ford lowered his voice down. "There are still innocents among civilians. They are the ones that really need our help."

"Damn," Captain Nimo looked around the council chambers, seeing the smiles and laughter. "Their people are suffering and yet they all look so happy and carefree as if war is not knocking at their doors..."

Ford nodded in agreement, "I wonder won't Akron's jaw get a cramp if he keeps smiling away like that..."

Captain Nimo chuckled as he glanced over to the Fleet Master entertaining some council members. "He has been avoiding our questions for quite some time. Thankfully, we still have some intel on the situation."

"Two major fleets defeated," Captain Nimo said in a low voice. "One belonging to the First Fleet Master Kose, and the other fleet that used to be commanded by Dijon... when he was still a Fleet Master..."

"And the appearance of those armored steamships," Captain Nimo added. "Megan has been busy..."

"Yes, she has," Commander Ford agreed. "And I think its time we push Intel to find out her whereabouts. I don't like to be in the dark!"

"Also, get our surprise onto the shore," Commander Ford ordered. "And a detachment of Marines too. I got a feeling we might need some boots here..."

-----

The Sea Shadow, Off the shores of No One's Island

The Sea Shadow silently emerged out from the dark green waters like some kind of deformed sea monster. Its metal back swung open slowly like a blooming flower and exposed a metal skeletal frame. Crew members guided by covered lamps quietly rotated the fat stubby tubes that pointed to the skies towards the island and crane and hoists lowered bags of black powder and huge cannonballs into the waiting muzzles.

On the further end, a dozen light weight dragons shook themselves as they growled and snarled, unhappy to be cooped up inside the small enclosed pens. Their riders hushed their mounts and the impatient dragons soon took off to the skies, finally glad to be out in the open again. The dragons had been drugged and sedated to keep them quiet and docile as the ship was underwater.

The dragons carried two barrels filled with black powder tied on each side of their flanks and flasks of alchemical fire in the saddlebags of the riders, quickly swept over the short distance to shore where the Cartel outpost was at under the guidance of the moonlight.

The riders saw the dark walls of the outpost and towers, outlined by torches and the light of the moon highlighted the dark roofs of the buildings inside the walls. The dragon riders flying over the outpost yanked the quick release cords holding the barrels of black powder and the heavy barrels dropped down.

When the barrels smashed to the ground, the clay flask of alchemical fire attached to the barrels, shattered alongside and erupted into flames and spontaneously ignited the spilled black powder with a loud fuzz, followed by a massive boom that woke the outpost up.

More thunderous booms erupted on the island and the dragon riders using the bright glow of the explosions, tossed down more flasks of alchemical fire, further setting the outpost on fire. At the same time, the waiting gun crew on the Sea Shadow used the light of the burning structures and fired their mortars, adding more thunderous roars into the night.

Hallowed balls of iron filled with more alchemical fire shrieked as they traveled in a parabolic arc before falling back down to earth and exploding upon impact. Bursts of flames and hot shrapnel flayed anyone in the open and screams of fear and pain joined in the loud cacophony.

The dragon riders having dropped their loads jerked their mounts back towards the Sea Shadow. Some of the dragons overshot the deck and landed in the water and the dragons had to waddle their way up the slippery hull. Once the dragons had boarded, the cannoneers ceased their fire and Sea Shadow made its way back out to the open sea, while the hatches closed back up, before diving back under the waters to escape the Cartel airships that came charging back from their patrols to seek out their attackers.

-----

Grand Lord Hammerfall was fuming mad as he stood in the middle of the street surrounded by burning buildings. People all around him were carrying buckets and trying to put out the flames and as he watched, one of the guard towers collapsed with a loud groan, kicking up embers and clouds of soot.

"My Lord!" An aide came rushing over and started reporting. "The attackers... There is no sight of them! They have disappeared! None of our flying ships has spotted them at all!"

"How is this possible?" Grand Lord Hammerfall roared. "Are you telling me the attackers can vanish into thin air?"

"There were dragons and cannons!" He roared again. "How can they vanish into the air?"

"Find them!" He spun around angrily and snatched a bucket filled with water off a nearby person and angrily flung the contents into the burning building. "I do not care how... FIND THEM!"

"Yes, Lord!" The aide frightened by Grand Lord Hammerfall's outburst, quickly saluted and ran off.

Without another word, Hammerfall joined in with the rest of his people and helped to douse the fire that raged on the island. Finally, when the first dawn of light broke out from the horizon, the fires were under control and he sat down on one corner of the street, his strength gone.

"My Lord," Lord Copperstone suddenly appeared next to Hammerfall. He looked tired and his face and clothes were soot covered. "I bring bad news..."

"Say!" Hammerfall snapped as he closed his tired eyes.

"The sneak attack had destroyed over two thirds of the outpost buildings and several of our stores on the surface," Lord Copperstone reported. "One of the docked airships had taken damage and would be out of action until repairs are done. And another two more airships suffered from some fire damage but are still in action."

"The attack further claimed a hundred and seventy lives," Lord Copperstone said solemnly. "But thankfully, most of our people and supplies were underground."

"But the burnt down buildings are mostly servicing towers and repair platforms for our airships," Lord Copperstone added. "Until we replace the destroyed service towers, resupply and refuelling our airships would take much longer time."

"Have the dastardly attackers been found?" Grand Lord Hammerfall demanded as he stood up. "They must pay for their despicable attack!"

"None of our patrolling airships have spotted anything," Lord Copperstone frowned as he said. "We found no trace of the enemy!"

"Impossible!" Grand Lord Hammerfall snapped. "I do not believe they have some kind of invisibility spell that can cover an entire raiding force in this... backward land!"

"They must somehow manage to sneak past our patrols..."Grand Lord Hammerfall frowned in thought. "It must be a small raiding force... They must have a mother ship somewhere for their dragons to land!"

"Yet we must take that possibility of them possessing a type of mass invisibility spell into account..." Lord Copperstone replied. "There is still much we do not know of the New World... And this will not be the last of their attacks..."

"Yes... you are right!" Grand Lord Hammerfall nodded. "Send word out to all our forces! Double the guards and lookouts!"

"And for this... despicable attack... they must pay the price!" Grand Lord Hammerfall gritted his teeth in anger. "Assemble a strike force! It seemed that we had been too patient and kind to these people!"

"It is time to end this facade once and for all!" He growled. "We shall take their capital and end this war!"

-----

The Sea Shadow

Megan's smile widened as she savoured her victory. She had viewed the entire attack by magical means, by using a scrying spell that allowed a dragon rider circling the air to use a crystal ball like a camera to broadcast the spell vision down. She had borrowed the idea from the hooman's camera and tee vee, and incorporated it into a spell.

The night attack was a success, as they disappeared into the waters, they left the outpost in flames while they suffered zero casualties. The attack was carried out so successfully that none of the Cartel defenses was activated, which made Megan greatly pleased as it turned out more than she expected.

There were several hiccups to the attack, mostly, the crew were still green despite several drills. The dragons were irritated and some even dazzled from the drugs to keep them placated and quiet underwater. And keeping the black powder dry at the covered deck was also a challenge. But ultimately the challenge was keeping the Sea Shadow from running aground as it crept as close to shore as possible.

She had the crew post lookouts to watch out for any Cartel flying ships that were desperately trying to find the culprit of the sneak attack to their outpost. The lookouts sat inside a tiny floating barrel that was painted in dark colors to blend in with the ocean. They communicated with a cup and line that goes down a hose to the Sea Shadow, and once they completed their shifts, they will reseal the barrel and it gets winched back down underwater to dock into the Sea Shadow.

Megan stood over a map of the Eastern Islands region and drew a cross on the dot representing No One's Island. She traced her long fingers along the map before stopping at another island and her eyes glittered. She tapped the map and turned to her first mate and ordered. "Set course to this island! We will repeat our attack!"

"For the Isles!"

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