For nearly a full week that traveled through the wastes, making there way towards the Golden Den to begin their plan. The trip was mostly uneventful, with time being passed with hunting for food, fuel and experience; all of which would come running towards them. There were a few occasions where the local monsters could resist the power of the gem rifle, but they weren’t much of a threat since they could always continue driving, leaving the danger behind them. If there were soldiers following them, then those forces would be the ones to deal with the angry monsters.
The Golden Den managed to maintain its neutrality, not only through the power of the people that dwelled there, but also through its location. Technically, there were Golden Dens on every continent though each one was treated as if they were the same place, and the location of each one had a common trait; no other village or tower within two day’s travel via a fast car. Any attempt to build within that area would be crushed by the full force of the den. That stipulation would normally be limiting to growth and survival, but the Golden Den instead thrived. The vacant space ensured they always had ample warning of attacks, and didn’t cause inconvenience for them, due to their own amassment of pre-fall vehicles. With their hovercrafts and aircrafts, plus the abundance of flight capable Draconian, a little distance was no problem for any of the Golden Dens.
Further increasing the power of their organisation, before the fall, each den was used to house a data centre, either for a large international business or for military organisations, and the information in those centres enabled them to retain pre-fall levels of communication and power. Each den was given the valuable security contracts due to their proven performance and the vagaries of the then laws surrounding Draconian bloodlust. The people understood that battle, death and killing were innate to their physiology, and court decisions over whether they could be held accountable or not varied. It was especially troublesome when it came to cases with Dragonkin, as it had been proven that they were violent towards each other, even at a subconscious level. As it was, they were mostly let off the hook for violent crime when it was related to their occupation, or targeted another dragon race, which naturally meant that most of their race moved into occupations where they could express their inner violence.
One of the closest things to a working internet was then ‘interden’; the wireless information network between Golden Dens and, due to their technical abilities being needed, selected Orc villages. While many had attempted to force access to the Draconian global network, doing so was the fastest way to provoke the den into action. Even non-higher Draconian were willing to defend the network, since doing so could carry favour and not doing so would just result in being controlled.
It was still early in the morning when Daniel saw the rounded yellow peak of the Golden Den in the distance and it would be midday by the time they reached there. As a show of opulent wealth, the outer layers of the mountain had been transmuted to include high levels of real gold, giving the mountain a yellowed colour. Without knowing that, it just seemed like a nice looking mountain with few trees and yellow soil, but knowing how much mana and effort what spent on it changed its image.
As they pulled up in front of the main entrance they started to notice something was wrong. They couldn’t feel any prana and the radio was filled with static. While the lack of prana was highly limiting to them, if they increased their mana usage it wouldn’t stop them from using magic. What was really bad about the lack of prana was the danger it posed to their eggs. The eggs had entered into what was known as the first growth phase, when the amount of prana required started to increase. It was the period when the unborn Draconian hearts started to form and was commonly believed to affect their eventual prana efficiency. With no access to prana, the eggs would start consuming nutrients without being able to replace it, effectively starving. Realising that through instinct, Leah started to convert and channel her mana supply to feed them.
While she was busy with that, a figure burst from under the sand. As the red dust spread and cleared what was left was a human woman crouching with a hand on the ground and an arm in the air. Her dark green hair blew softly in the wind and her piercing green eyes locked onto their group like a predator to its prey. She wore a stylish black jumpsuit that fit her busty figure tightly and in the upraised hand was a small black throwing knife.
In short; she was an idiot.
Her eyes were tearing up from the dust and the breathing kit she used to hide under the sand with was still half covered. Blond regrowth could be seen at the start of her long hair and one of her contact lenses was misaligned, revealing her brown eyes beneath. Her crouching position seemed hard to maintain, as the arm braced against the sand seemed to wobble unsteadily. No matter how dramatic her first impression was, it fell apart with even the slightest bit of analysis.
With a steady effort, she managed to stand to her feat. While blinking dust from her eyes and acting like nothing was wrong she let out a proud, fake, laugh. As if to give them a chance to catch up with what was happening, she started to speak, though in a voice that was clearly an attempt at copying a villain only she knew.
“Hohoho, dearest prey, you have the esteemed pleasure of being captured by the legendary Machinist Katherine.”
When she spoke it seemed to all make sense; she was a machinist, after all. While not all people with the machinist class were like that, an unfortunate majority were. Spending time thinking about tools, gadgets and how to make them seemed, from Daniel’s perspective, to be hazardous to human mental health. From what he had read, the class was based around having in depth knowledge of how machines work and the imagination to make new ones, but the reality he had experienced was much different. They tended to be obsessed with the construction and realisation of fictitious concepts and with the appearance of those items, often to the point that they would forgo functionality for the appearance of functionality. Also, unlike other manufacturing classes, they tended to not let others use their tech and refused to incorporate magical elements.
“Feel honoured, for the bounty on your head will pay for several new tools I have been working on. In fact; feel so honoured that you put away your weapons and hand over your cc. I know you Draconian basicly breath prana and my anti-prana field generator will stop anything you try to do.”
With another mouthy laugh, she boasted about her device. The entire thing only irritate Daniel, though she was right that the lack of prana made his scales feel stuffy. Saying a quiet ‘fuck it’ to himself, he hoisted his F2000 and let out a burst of metal.
The sudden gunfire surrounding Katherine shook her and she fell back out of fear, covering her face with her arms. It was actually a normal reaction towards potential violent and painful death, but when compared with her former domineering attitude, it just seemed pathetic. With a sigh, they grabbed their things and walked towards the main door. As they went, Daniel shot the obvious rake stone, that was completely the wrong colour when compared with the den, and prana started to fill the area once more.
The main door was several meters tall and wide, similar to an airport hanger, and the silvered metal was etched with an elaborate mural to the birth of their race. The depictions showed the human mother of the Draconian and Dragonkin daughters as she was in the legends; a powerful warrior who subdued the dragon and let it live if it served her. In the story, the mother was as blond as the dragon was gold and that idea was why the story was etched into the doors of every Golden Den. They were the first born. They were the closest to the warrior that could subdue a dragon. Even if it served as a reminder of their common history with the Dragonkin, it was still a story that the Golden Den promoted.
In order to get the doors to open, a Draconic Command type skill had to be used on a crystal microphone in the centre of the door. If a group didn’t have anyone that could use that, they would have to wait until morning, when some people might leave the cave to sunbake. Even trade negotiations would still have to wait outside. After all, there were few thing the golden den even needed to trade for.
“Open” yelled Daniel, with his most commanding voice, to which the door complied. Inside, however, wasn’t as welcoming as he had hoped. Instead they found themselves facing a dozen heavily armed guards.