Thul stood on the bridge of the Warlock, it's adamantium hull gleaming through the polymer steelglass of the starboard bow window, looking out at a world like so many others that he had seen out here in the Outlands. They were all the same of course, primitive, no technology, easy prey for his Liege. The Empire would widen its grip and bring another world into the fold, whether the people of that world cared or not. "Sir, the runnerships have returned from the surface." The human's words cut through Captain Thul Gulokas's thoughts. "And what did they find, crewman," Thul didn't move an inch when the human addressed him. "More primitives I take it. Another rout for the Dragon Brigade and the Imperial way of life." "Y-yes sir," The officer was afraid. They all feared him. His dragon blood made him stronger, more intelligent, and highly cunning. The 'black dragon' blood also made him cunning and ruthless with those that could not learn to handle that fear. "But the world sir, this Brekma, as the natives call it. Is rich in magic for an Outlands world. The runners advise caution." Thul turned his head and stared down the young human. The boy shook slightly then steeled himself under the Black Son's gaze. There might be hope for this one yet. "Magic doesn't concern me crewman. All that matters is how much technology the world possess. The Dragon Brigade fears none with just magic. Do you understand crewman?" "Yes sir," the boy stood more at attention and was visible in awe of his commander. Good, the boy did have promise... for a human. "Now, what technology do they have?" "A basic medeval structure, commander. And in the more remote regions not even that. They are pitiful underachievers, sir. It is a wonder that they have remained unconquered for so long." The boy's words showed his naïveté. Not ever Outlands world was backwater. Indeed, a great deal of them are highly advanced and would be considered a threat if they lay closer to the heart of the Empire. "You name crewman," Thul wished to test the human and see if he would ignore his station. "S-sir..." The crewman stood there with his mouth wide open. He started to visibly shake again. "I-I cannot. It is forbidden for me to dishonor you with a name as low as mine." "Yes, yes..." Thul feigned lack of concern. "I know the Code but this is not an Imperial dreadnaught, crewman. Now, tell me your name. That is an order." The boy faltered for a second and almost spoke. Then he bowed his head and dropped to one knee. "As you know commander, the Code specificially forbids me to speak my name, dreadnaught or not." Thul puffed out his wings grabbed the crewman by the neck and pulled him upright. The human was little more than 19 cycles old and was like a paper doll in the Captain's clutches. "So you are disobeying a direct order of your captain and your fleet commander! Is that what you're telling me?" "Yes sir, Mezzenbone is Emperor of the Galaxy and the Code is the will of the Emperor! I will not dishonor it and neither will you by making me! You can kill me, raise me and kill me again! But I will die a thousand times before dishonoring Empire, Emperor, and Family!" Thul roared and threw the crewman to the deck. Every head on the bridge had turned to watch the display and had seen their Captain do this before. To an outsider he would appear mad. But each of them had been tested by the Commander of the Dragon Brigade and knew the boy had just passed. Thul ordered the boy out of his sight and continued to rant and rave until the crewman was gone. The crewman would learn the truth in a day or so. But first he would spend some time wondering if his Captain would come for him in the middle of the night. He would fear Thul more then and would know not to show it. Ever. "Launch the attack!" Thul gripped the rail of the forward window and watched as the first wave of fighters and dropships were launched. "Rain fire and death on them until there is no resistence left. I want total submission before the end of the week." The crewman was right this would be a rout. Thul grinned, his clawed hands crushing the steel rail in front of him. All the while, a world burned before him as if his eyes had set it ablaze with its inner fire.
by Robert Blezard
( continued from Robert Blezard's "Pirate Group" )
Arassil watched the viewscreen as runnerships descended to the planet and began their bombardment of one of the capital cities Breka. The silver half-dragon/elf hissed off a curse in draconic and looked about the room, and eyed her second, "Do we know who it is Caranarth?" An elven male looked up from a computer screen and nodded slightly and responded, "Yes." He punched several keys and the main ship if the fleet above the planet came up on the main screen, " It's Thul Gulokas and his Dragon Brigade." The ground then shook around those assembled, the lights dimmed for a moment, as bits of dirt and dust fell from the ceiling of the hideaway. Everyone braced as the pounding continued as the ships above laid waste to the city above. A stout female figure raced into the room from a corridor, "Power's holding, but it is only a matter of time before we are detected. Unless we are going to fight, we should start our evacuation now." Caranarth eyed the dwarven woman and spoke out, "We cannot surrender this world! Not to the Emperor…" "No, we cannot," Arassil broke into her second's comments before he started off on a tirade of his hatred of the Empire and how they took his world from him and his people, "Breka is too important to us. To the Resistance." The woman's draconic features hardened as she gazed over at the dwarf, "This is where we will make our stand Marda. Ready the fighters, and alert what remains of the fleet to prepare to engage Thul's ships." The young dwarven woman nodded and responded, her eyes aglow at the sound of battle, "Yes Arassil." She then turned and exited the command room for places elsewhere within the secret complex. Caranarth looked up to Arassil and asked in a low tone, "Are you sure you want to risk all of it for this world?" "No, I do not 'want' to risk anyone or anything." The half dragon stated with a heavy sigh before she continued, "But we must."
by Michael Sander
|[The Dragon Brigade]
The Dragon Brigade is a secret Imperial fleet stationed in the Outlands. More like a group of Imperial sponsored privateers than a true Imperial Wing, the Brigade is made up of the most ruthless individuals that the Dragon Emperor could recruit from the Imperial Fleet and Legions. The Brigade is tasked with subjugating Outlands worlds without the trouble of diplomacy. Many in the Empire, such as the good dragons of the Qesemet, would be horrified to learn that such a group exists. Only a few resistence pockets in the Outlands are aware of Mezzenbone's Wing, as its members are fond of calling themselves. The Brigade is lead by a ruthless, half-dragon orc rouge/fighter named Thul Gulokas. Thul was sired by one of Mezzenbone's most loyal allies in the Outlands, a colossal black dragon female only known as the Night in the Sky (world unknown to stellar community). Thul was sent to the Legions, by his mother, the instant he was old enough. There he learned discipline and loyalty. Within two years of graduating to the Imperial Fleet he had his own command and was the Emperor's favorite commander. When Mezzenbone secretly put together the Dragon Brigade, Thul was the only choice to lead the Brigade. Captain Gulokas and the crew of the Warlock were ordered to the Outlands and start the Emperor's new crusade. For nearly a year the Warlock worked alone and stuck to terrorizing small vessels. The Warlock was though to be just another pirate ship, even if it was well organized. As more ships were assigned to the Brigade and Thul's power and reach grew in the Outlands it became obvious to several resistance groups, such as the Arcanum and the Freedom League, that Thul and his fleet were being sponsored by someone. Only in the last year or so have these groups and a few others learned the truth. The Dragon Brigade has nearly two dozen small to medium-sized warships at its disposal in the Outlands. Mezzenbone is hesitant to assign more vessels to the group, as the Emperor doesn't with them to become to overt. However, the Brigade is assigned new personal every cycle and has one of the largest and best trained groups of fighter ships in the Outlands. Only the Freedom League and the Regency of Bluefall have access to a larger group of pilots and fighter ships. Captain Gulokas is a big believer in in discipline and all in his command must follow the tenets of the Code of the Legions, as implemented by the Empire when Mezzenbone ascended the Golden Throne. This Code of behavior is not an option in his Wing of ships and failure to follow the Code is punishable by death. Thul has no tolerance for weak, uneducated, and undisciplined pilots or soldiers. The Empire is all.
Mystra didn't feel them coming until the ships' starcasters tore through the Weave like sword through flesh. It felt like a part of her was being sucked away into a deep void. Then the three starships' fusion engines ignited and she screamed in agony. The Weave felt like it was unraveling around her and her manifestation struggled to appear before her Chosen, Elminster of Shadowdale. "You must stop them, they are destroying the Weave!" Elminster could feel it to. He had known this day would come and had tried to warn his allies all over Toril. Only Khelben Arunsun and Vangerdahast had taken a serious interest in the threat and joined the Arcanum. The Seven Sisters took little interest in the threat trusting in Mystra's power to protect the world from this Empire of Dragons. The members of Arcanum House had warned him that the Dragon Empire would send an invasion force. They also told him there was little any could do to stop the invasion from succeeding if the Emperor decided he wanted Toril. "Not even your Goddess can stop this," Chancellor Syrath Erais had told him this when he had first joined the Arcanum of the Stars, but only now, as he felt the Weave weaken around him did the full weight of those words sink in. Mystra was being forcefully seperated from the Weave in front of his very eyes. Something about the technology was disrupting the Weave, breaking it apart. "This cannot happen," Elminster tried to steel himself and concentrate on the magic around him. He tried desperately to pull it towards himself and funnel it back into his Goddess, without success. "The magic cannot be lost, Elminster. Without it the world is doomed and this Empire will conquer us all. I should have listen to you." Her manifestation was starting to come apart and Elminster knew that she was dying. "I must give a part of my essence to my Chosen, as my predecessor did to you during the Time of Troubles." "No, the world must not lose it's Goddess of Magic again! I-I cannot lose you again!" The manifestation of the Goddess dissipated in front the old mage's eyes. "There is no other way..." It was the last thing Elminster heard his Goddess say before she broke herself upon the world shattering her essence. Mystra was gone but part of her power flowed to each of her Chosen. They all instantly knew that she was dead and had known just before it happened that something was dreadfully wrong. Elminster could feel the Simbul weeping on the floor of her palace of green stone in Velprintalar. Elminster trembled, as the power of the Goddess flowed into him and he knew that Mystra, the human known as Midnight was gone forever. The old mage also knew that the other Gods would be without access to the Weave and chaos would be the result. The higher magic of the world would now be almost impossible to access without the Weave in place and more would turn to the Shadow Weave... if it still existed. Elminster tried to sense it but could not. Of course, only those that Shar favored could access the Shadow Weave so he was still uncertain whether or not it, or its Mistress, has been affected. * * * The Centurion was the first Imperial starcaster to enter the Amaunator system since the time before the Great War had consumed the galaxy with its destructive power. And its Captain wasn't happy about being sent there either. Gregory Farhand was the Emperor's personal whipping boy. He received the worst assingments and was given the tak of bringing remote worlds under the sway of the Empire. This Amaunator system wasn't even on a Imperial starchart and the half-elven Captain hadn't even believed it existed. Yet, Emperor Mezzenbone had received word from the Commander of the Dragon Brigade, Thul Gulokas, that the system did indeed exist and that a world rich in magic was rumored to exist there. And the Commander's report had indicated that the world had very little technology developed yet and that it should be easy to conquer. Even now, as Captain Farhand scanned the report sent to him by his Emperor, along with orders to scout the system, did he realize just how much his Emperor loathed him. Gregory wasn't just a half-elf, he was a half-drow and, as such, his blood was considered unpure at best and a mark of dishonor for his family regardless. Thus, his loyal was always questioned and he would never be trusted fully by his own people. This had forced him to give up any hope of joining the ISPD and Gregory had settled on being the Captain of the Centurion. A ship without any glorious history or true battle scars. And now, the Centurion was little more than a glorified gopher ship sent to poke around in a useless system. For Mezzenbone believed that this Toril was a myth and wasn't willing to commit 'real' forces to this scouting mission regardless of whether or not the report came from the Dark Son, his favorite in the Imperial fleet. Thus, the Centurion was sent along with only two Hammerhead-class drop ships, the Basilisk and the Scorpion, to check out the validity of these rumors and see if this mythical Toril really existed. "I guess we should get this over with," Captain Farhand didn't even lookout his cabin window when they entered the system. He pressed the comm button on his desk so that his First Mate on the bridge could hear him. "Elgan, send out the runnerships to map the system and head for the third planet. That's supposed to be the one we're looking for. "Aye Captain," Gregory noted the lack of enthusiasm in the mate's voice. "Elgan, I know this assignment isn't the greatest but try to care a little about what we're doing. The Emperor will want a 'detailed' report of this system regardless of what we find. You know as well as I do that he doesn't accept anything but perfection." "Yes sir! Elgan, out." That sounded better. Gregory didn't blame his First Mate for his displeasure regarding the assignment. The entire crew was disgusted. But they believed in their Captain even if the Emperor didn't. This loyalty had cost many of them promotions and a chance to be assigned to another starship. And Gregory always let them knew that he would always be there for them because of that loyalty. Just then, Captain Farhand felt the fusion engines ignite and then could have sworn that he felt a shiver run down his spine. He looked out the glassteel window and felt his stomach tighten into knots. It was if he could hear a woman screaming, crying out in pain. Then, it stopped and he felt a wave of death wash over him. The half-drow raised an eyebrow then shook his head. He was obviously imagining things and made a mental note to go to the Medlab for his routine checkup a couple of months early this cycle. "I think I need a vacation." To be continued...