The whine of steam catapults and roars of idling engines were loud on the flight decks of the Vengeance. Ear muffler armed deck crews in different coloured jackets moved around the waiting aircraft with a purpose on the deck while more and more aircraft were being elevated up to the decks from holds blistering with munitions.
Pair by pair, the Cobras and Vipers were lined up onto catapult tracks and hydraulic blast shields rosed up behind the aircraft. The yellow jacketed catapult officer waved his light wand and kneel down low as he snapped his light wand forward and aircraft locked on the catapult rocketed off the flight deck with a whoosh of steam.
Once the pair of fighters were launched, the next pair of aircraft quickly moved to take their place as the catapult piston retracted back into position to be locked onto the forward carriages of the waiting aircraft. The process was repeated again as the aircraft was launched off until the flight decks were cleared.
The black dots of circling aircraft soon formed up into formations of diamonds and they sped off towards the east, leaving behind the waving crew of the Vengeance.
The Isles, First City of the Fleet, UN Embassy
The Marines' landing crafts came to a grinding halt against the white sandy banks of the beach next to the UN Embassy walls. The Embassy building provided by the Isles' facing the sea and was located along a wealthy stretch of walled mansions. A neat cobble paved street ran between the mansions walls and the white sandy beach and a few lavish looking carriages pulled by raptor like dragons paused as the loud and crude looking Marines' landing crafts ran up on the sand.
The outward slanted ramps of the landing crafts swung down with a loud splash against the shallow waters and two rows of Marines in each craft came charging down the ramps. Two MAW Mk VI spider tanks followed between the Marines and came rolling out from two of the landing crafts while Magic Resistant Ambush Protected trucks came from the rest.
The sudden appearance of the troops made the passing carriages and people stare in surprise. Some ran away in fear while others gaped in shock at the Marines as they advanced up the beach, dripping seawater and sand all over the beautifully cobbled street. The Marines in dress uniforms guarding the UN Embassy opened the main gates for the newly arrived Marines while the spider tanks and armored vehicles took up positions outside the Embassy walls.
More fully armed Marines spilt from a side entrance of the UN Embassy building to reinforce the walls while heavy weapons were taken from the Embassy armoury and set up into defensive positions on the roof and walls. Non essential Embassy members and workers were ushered down to the cellars to take cover while others packed sensitive materials and documents to be transported away if there was a need.
Within minutes, the Embassy was locked down and ready to repel enemies. The people of the neighbouring mansions looked over curiously from their windows and walls, wondering what was happening. Some curious Islanders attempted to ask questions but were politely turned away by the Marines on guard.
Marine Captain Mills found himself standing in parade rest inside the study before a pacing red faced Ambassador for the UN to the Isles. The pudgy Ambassador finally stopped in his steps as he turned to Mills and asked in a worried tone, "Will there be an invasion here?"
"As far as I know, Sir, the Cartel's air fleet are on the way here..." He raised his arm up to check his watch and continued. "We got roughly two hours, Sir!"
"Two hours?" The Ambassador let out a sigh, "Do we have time to evacuate?"
"It's safer here, Sir," Mills assured the Ambassador before he gestured out the window. "And I brought two additional platoons of Marines and two spiders. It will double the troops here."
"And the Fleet is manoeuvring to a better position to intercept the incoming Cartel's air fleet," Mills added. As he said that, the drone of a lot of aircraft could be heard and the Ambassador pushed open the balcony doors and looked up to see many dots of aircraft in diamond shaped formation zooming overhead.
"They have launched their air interceptors," Mills said as he joined the Ambassador at the balcony. "We will be fine."
The Sea Shadow
The top bulge of the underwater vessel silently rose out of the waves half a kilometre away from No One's Island where the blackened remains of the Cartel Outpost stood. The Isles' underwater ship sailed as close to land as possible before the rest of the ship emerged from the water. Hatches swung open and dragons took off and longboats were pushed out into the water.
Troops and sailors quickly filled up the longboats and they rowed against the short span between the ship and the beach. In a short time, the longboats were beached and the Islanders rushed out towards the startled Cartel Outpost. The Islanders easily slipped through the gaps in the wooden walls and they slammed with a fury into the surprised and retreating Cartel workers.
An Iceling, heavyweight dragon, with white blue scales, came swooping down from the air. It was the only heavyweight dragon that Megan picked up from the supply ships to bolster her forces. The Iceling roared out and a breath of freezing cold air covered the manned watchtowers of the Cartel, instantly turning the towers into giant icicles.
A loud hum suddenly could be heard over the battle followed by an ear shattering crack of a thunderbolt. The arc of lightning crawled across the skies faster than the eye could see, leaving behind a white after vision to whoever saw it. The thunderbolt slammed into an attacking lightweight dragon and instantly, the dragon let out a brief death scream before any flammables onboard burst into flames and the charred dragon and its rider dropped off the skies.
Seeing the spell coming from one of the strange looking towers that has a ball on its roof, the attacking Isles' dragon turned their attention to those. Balls of flames rose from the dropped alchemical fire and black powder bombs over the shimmering glow of magical barriers protecting the spell towers. The Iceling roared again, its ice breath spraying over one of the spell towers causing its magic barrier to flicker colourfully and creating a circular sheet of ice over the barrier.
The Sea Shadow's deck mortars roared and incendiary cannonballs rained down in front of the attacking Islanders, the explosions rolling over the shocked Dwarvans. Megan stood on the top of the Sea Shadow's top bulge as she watched the battle with a far seeing spell. She gestured to one of her aides and said, "One more volley with the cannons and prepare the ship to return into the water!"
Megan glanced up to the skies before nodding to herself, "The two Cartel flying ships would still need some time to return! We have at least one turn of the sandglass to totally raze this outpost down once and for all!"
She and her crew had spotted the departure of the massed flying fleet of the Cartel from the main outpost of the Cartel here at No One's Island, only leaving behind two flying ships as guards. She waited until the two flying ships left to patrol the sea around the island to launch a sneak attack. Previously, the raid on the island was to destroy their infrastructure to service their flying ships and the defenses of the outpost.
Now, with the departure of the majority of the Cartel forces, Megan knew that the chance for the final part of her plans was here and she ordered an attack. Knowing that once the attack on the outpost has started, the two flying ships would return immediately, but by then it would be too late for the Cartel.
They had long known that the Cartel had been digging underground for each time, Akron and the other trade ships that came calling, they had observed workers coming in and out from certain structures ladened with soil. After a few weeks of observations, they came to the conclusion that the Dwarvans were digging some kind of base underground as it would match all the evidence they had spotted.
Now, the landing force of Isles' soldiers and sailors smashed through the small garrison of Cartel soldiers easily despite their heavy armor, steam, and shock lances. A shock trooper of the Cartel was knocked down by charge and fell under a barrage of axe blows from several berserking Isles' sailors. The Isles suffered heavy casualties but their numbers were still enough to overrun the Cartel garrison and soon the Islanders broke into the underground tunnels.
There they faced grim faced workers armed with a variety of weapons and another bloody melee broke out. As the Isles ground forces were pushing the Cartel deeper into the tunnels, the Isles' dragons finally managed to silence the remaining spell towers at the cost of half of their numbers. Even the Iceling suffered a couple of heavy injuries and it landed on the island and angrily vented its pain at the remaining Cartel holdouts, even turning any unlucky Islanders too close to its ice breath into ice statues.
A small group of dragons came fluttering down to land and the cargo they carried were offloaded rapidly after which the dragons all returned to the Sea Shadow. An Isles' officer yelled at his men to move the offloaded black powder barrels down into the tunnels as fast as they could. The fight underground at this time had turned into a stalemate as the remaining Cartel had holed up and barricaded the way down into the underground town.
The Isles' ground commander seeing the way blocked and a charge would bring even more casualties to his troops quickly ordered his men to fall back. The black powder barrels carried down were instead rolled down to the barricades and Cartel, sensing some kind of dangerous ploy, tried to remove the barrels were met with crossbow fire.
Their plan was simple, it was to use the barrels of black powder to blow up the underground tunnels and force a collapse. By doing so, the remaining Cartel would be buried underground and the underground base was as good as gone.
The Isles forces retreated and only a team of volunteers remained behind. They carried torches and counted until a hundred heartbeats before casting balls of flames and tossing them down at the piled up barrels of black powder rolled up against the barricades. The spilt black powder instantly fuzzed and clouds of suffocating piss smelling smoke rose up. The volunteers abandoned their crossbows and ran for their lives and the black powder finally ignited.
The ground shook not once but four times as clouds of dirty smoke erupted out from four entrances to the underground works of the Cartel. The bloodied and tired Isles' soldiers let out a rousing cheer as the ground rumbled with some parts collapsing in, creating rifts to appear.
The Isles' troops under the orders of their commander quickly gathered their wounded and returned to the waiting longboats when two dots appeared over the horizon. The troops, including the wounded, numbered less than two hundred, a quarter of the original attack force, paddle as fast as they could to the waiting Sea Shadow.
Yet as they approached the Sea Shadow, they could see the dark hull slowly dipping under the waves and disappearing from sight. The abandoned Isles' soldiers' shock turned to anger and fear as they screamed at the Fleet Master who had abandoned them.
The large rectangular shaped flying ships of the Cartel quickly overtook the dozen longboats and long dark muzzles poked out from its underbelly. The screams of anger and betrayal were soon overtaken by the sharp hiss crack of the avenging Cartel flying ships' steam cannons.