Panzer Dragoon: War of Dawn

Chapter 1: Tides of War

Fifteen years have passed since the Great Fall and the disappearance of Edge into the Tower. The dragon, though, was not lost. It returned to Gash grievously wounded, barely able to move. It would not even let any other person approach it. Gash drew his own conclusions from there. He and the Seekers, very much used to the loss of friends, continued on their way, taking the dragon with them, and gathering recruits from other villages and towns. Before long, the Seekers had an undeniably large following, thousands strong. After the Fall, the Seekers under Gash -for reasons unknown- never again scavenged in the ruins of the Ancient Age, opting instead to settle down permanently. About four hundred miles northeast of the Garil Desert, the city of New Zoah was founded. Situated on a plateau, with the desert at their front, the Seekers had finally found a safe haven to operate from.

The Empire, meanwhile, had begun to regroup its forces. At the time of the Great Fall, a secondary fleet was about to be dispatched to locate the dragon, but after the dragon’s disappearance, the operation was cancelled. Instead, the attack was to be directed at the Seekers, who were believed to be the cause of the Empire’s downfall. However, the Seekers abandoned their first mountain fortress before the arrival of the Imperials, and the assault was called off.

Now, with all of its former might restored, the Empire plans for another offensive against New Zoah, the last stronghold of the Seekers.

Paet sat in the dimly lit room, staring out of the glass windows, wide open. The stars had long disappeared, but the moon still hung in the twilight, refusing to give way to a new day.

“Strange…” Paet said aloud to the shadows, “It’s past dawn; the sun should already have risen…”

He didn’t mind it much, though. These few minutes were Paet’s favorite time of the day. At this moment, every living being in the world seemed to be holding its breath, watching and waiting to see if the sun would ever rise again.

“Every living being…” Paet was thinking out loud again. “I wonder if those creatures have ever watched the sun rise.”

From one side of his room, Paet had a view of the entire city of New Zoah, and from the other side, the dark and gloomy canyon to the southwest. Beyond that was the desert, and little needed to be said about that.

Paet gazed at the city below. It was truly a wonder how magnificent New Zoah was, considering the short amount of time in which it had built. In fact, some of the outer walls to the south were still in construction. This city, though, was even larger than the older one, which had been leveled by the Grig Orig years before.

Paet’s room sat at the very top of the western parapet. There were four of these towers. Linking these four was an enormous inner wall, and between the inner and outer wall was the Liberal District of New Zoah. Inside of the walls was the Holy District, along with a massive, central building that functioned as the military headquarters for the Seekers.

With a sigh, Paet reached for the cloak that he kept beside his bed and wrapped it around himself. He felt like taking an early morning stroll on the battlements. When he opened his door, though, he was greeted by a large, winged surprise. Paet let out an intentionally loud groan.

There was Edge’s legendary dragon, with its tail wrapped around its body, sound asleep. It seldom did anything more than sleep nowadays, and it chose to sleep right outside of Paet’s door, on the wall-tops. Paet jokingly called it the dragon’s “nightly (and daily) vigil”. Sometimes it would fly off, only to return days later, exhausted, and continue sleeping. Paet watched the dragon’s prone form heave up and down for a few seconds, and then sat down on the ground next to it.

“So, kiddo, you’re back…” Paet said with a smile. “Nice to know that the ever-faithful guardian is once again right here beside my door… and obstructing my path,” he added.

Paet continued to stare at the weapon of mass destruction, with its wings tucked into its sides.

“Goddamn, you’re one cute little sonuvabitch, aren’t ya…”

The dragon, still sleeping, seemed to let out a snort at this comment. Paet, not noticing, continued.

“Where the hell do you always fly off to, anyways? I mean, what the heck do you do out there, be a carrier pigeon or something?”

No answer. Of course. Paet wondered why the hell he always spoke to the dragon anyways. Sometimes he wondered if the dragon was actually listening to him, even now. Not that it mattered, of course.

“Oh well, kid. Have a nice one. This is one guy who’s always happy to see you.”

If he had looked carefully, Paet might’ve noticed that, at that moment, the dragon had given him a peek out of the corner of its eyes.

But he didn’t, and with that, Paet went off to start the day.

New Zoah was a busy city. People were always up as soon as the sun was up. In the Liberal District, shops and stands and bazaars seemed to spring up instantly. The streets were filled with merchants and vendors, stable boys leading entire processions of coolias, and children running around, causing general mischief and turning the city into an enormous traffic jam. This day seemed just like any other day in the city.

Drala the gatekeeper was always on the early morning shift at the main gate of New Zoah, but he decided with a lazy yawn, anything was better than having the graveyard shift. Over an hour had passed since the time that he climbed into the lookout post, and nothing had happened.

“Geez… they pay me to sit here and watch sand…” he muttered. Sometimes he was grateful to have such an easy job; other times he was just plain bored out of his mind. Right now, he was the latter.

Thankfully, though, a coolia and its rider appeared in the distance, slowly dragging their way towards the gate. No matter what he thought of his job, Drala was always happy to meet new people. When the coolia finally reached the gates a billion hours later, it was his responsibility to examine the rider; making sure he didn’t look dark or suspicious, although sometimes he wondered if he was being too lenient with his checks.

“Aah… to hell with that.” He said with a shrug as he caught his first glimpse of the rider’s face.

“Hey, a chic! What’s she doing out in the desert alone?”

Actually, Drala couldn’t see any of her face except for her eyes, but that was enough to distinguish gender.

“Goddamn, I wonder who the hell would… Never mind, I can’t be bitched to think.”

He gave a friendly nod to the rider, who then proceeded through the gate. Drala noticed, though, that she did not take her eyes off of him until she was long gone.

Gash strode irately through the long, bleak corridors of the central keep. The other people in the hallways, mostly long-time Seekers, stared at their leader as he passed.

“There had better be a good reason why they called me in to Tact Ops at this time of…”

He threw opened the double doors to the Tactical Operations room, shocking all of the people within. All of the officers, with the exception of Paet, leapt to their feet. Gash knew well enough that Paet alone did not see him solely as a military commander, and in some ways, that was somewhat respectable.

“C-Commander Gash, sir!” stuttered Major Lieutenant Rennoth. Gash was a rather terrifying force when irritated.

“What is so fucking… what is it, major?”

“Gash, sir… it’s the Empire…”

Gash closed his eyes and slowly laid his face into his hands. He let out a long, exasperated sigh. There was total silence in the room for an entire minute. One of the lower officers let out a low, obviously suppressed cough. Paet hiccupped. Finally, Gash looked up again.

“Yes, I know. The Imperial fleet is on its way to blow our brains out. Is there something I don’t know, major?”

“But, sir, they’re approaching rapidly, maybe within four days, and we need–”

“Yes, we need preparation, I know, major.”

“And if we can’t hold the city then we’ll at least need–”

“Yes, we need evac procedures to get everyone out of here. I asked for something I didn’t know, major!”

Silence again.

With another sigh, Gash began again.

“Look, I know we’re facing an attack. Trust me, we’ll be able to hold this city from the Empire. As small as our fleet is, we’ll be able to hold it. This city was built specifically to outmatch any Imperial threat. We have tens of dozens of anti-aircraft and artillery guns stationed on both walls, and enough men to hold off any ground assault–not that there’ll be any from the Empire. Goddamn, they don’t even have that bitchuvaship Grig Orig anymore. Nobody needs to be panicking. Fifteen years ago we held off all of goddamn Sestren–”

“Fifteen years ago we would not have held off all of Sestren if it were not for the help of Edge and the dragon!” Paet leapt up from his seat. “I do not disagree with your views on this coming battle, Gash, but I beg you consider your words more carefully when referring to Edge, especially considering the sacrifice he made.

Yet more silence. Everyone in the room knew that Paet regarded the concept of “authority” as bullshit, but no one had ever spoke against Gash in such a way.

Gash cleared his throat.

“As you wish, captain. Fifteen years ago, we survived a war with Sestren.”

With a patient nod, Paet took his seat once more.

“As I was saying, this is not a crisis of any sort. War is indeed upon us, but we will endure. Rennoth, you have my permission to prepare the city’s defenses in any way, which you see fit. All platoon leaders, report to the battlements for the next few days; I want to see the artillery guns locked and loaded, and Rennoth can and will not do it all by himself.”

At this he passed a glance to the timid major, who somehow managed a sharp nod.

“Now… I want all of the ship captains here to deactivate their ships for the moment; they will not be necessary in the defense of the city, and will only get in the way of artillery fire.”

“No… you can’t do that…” Everyone turned to look at Paet, who had stood up once again.

“Paet! The Empire is attacking us with its own air force. This is a task for the anti-aircraft guns to handle. Their ships outnumber our ships at least ten to one! I will not have such a direct fleet-to-fleet confrontation where our casualties will come so great, especially in such close proximity to the city!”

“Fine then! I will take our ships and position them for an intercept course with the Imperial fleet. We’ll slow ‘em down… take as many as we can…”

“So. What you are asking for is suicide? You’re going to take a battle that is perfectly under control, and charge into it like a kamikaze son-of-a-bitch?!”

“What if I am?”

Gash sighed resignedly.

“I warned Edge. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Paet stormed out of the room, leaving a shocked silence behind him.