“The Umbra family isn’t very notable in Skycloud, but they possess very uncommon abilities. You killed one of theirs, I don’t think they’ll ever forgive you.” She frowned once she learned what happened. “You saw what Atlas can do. The Umbras are not a family to be trifled with.”
Raith was small potatoes – a demonhunter, but a weak one. Cloudhawk didn’t think dealing with him would cause so much trouble down the line. First he got caught by Claudia, out for revenge. Now he had Atlas to deal with because of what happened to his brother. His whole family, in fact. Definitely not pleasant news.
“I have a solution!” With a mischievous look on her face she saddled up to Cloudhawk, patting her amble chest. “Swear allegiance to me and I’ll make you my personal guard. You’ll be with me every day, that way we can keep you safe!”
“The lady’s got jokes.” Distrust was clear on Cloudhawk’s face. “I almost died and you were two feet away.”
She couldn’t stop someone like Atlas, who could creep out of the shadows at any moment and disappear just as quick. And how could Cloudhawk agree to be anyone’s loyal servant? It was unthinkable!
Most importantly the Polaris family was preparing to send him off to that training camp. He would rather take his chances out there than be this girl’s lapdog.
“What do you mean? I didn’t see him at first but I fought him off right away. If I wasn’t right there nothing would have stopped him from finishing the job. Would you still be standing in front of me complaining then?” She sniffed in irritation. “Atlas has to show me some respect anyway. If you were my man he wouldn’t dare carelessly attack you again. I’m the only person in the city who can protect you. I’m the only one who’s offering to.”
As he listened to her righteous promises, her self-sacrificing oath of protection, and the implications between her words, Cloudhawk felt touched deep within his heart. The words came rising up through his throat and he carefully enunciated each syllable.
“Not. A. Chance.”
Dawn Polaris was hopping mad. “Do you have any idea how many people adore me in this city?! You have no idea what you’re throwing away. You’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”
“If you told me there were a bunch of people who adored Selene I might believe you. You, though…” He shot her a glance. “I dunno if you could ever find so many masochists in one place.”
“You want me to beat the shit out of you!” Dawn was literally stomping around in fury when she raised her blade against him.
All of a sudden Cloudhawk vanished into thin air.
Dawn froze, thought for a moment, then deflated like an angry balloon: No one compares to me, except maybe Selene – that bitch. She did always have fans, ever since she was little. Is it true no one likes me? No… they’re just blind!
“Hey, come out. I’m not gonna cut your head off.”
“I found a clue and I’m going after my merchant friends. This is too important for me to be screwing around with you. We’ll meet up later.”
Cloudhawk’s voice reached her from down the tunnel. Her temper seethed just below the surface, but she managed to keep it squashed.
He had indeed found a clue, one that told him the Bloomnettle company survivors were likely with Majjhima. Under these circumstances it wasn’t smart to bring Dawn along since Majjhima and Squall were both considered felons – the kind they were supposed to kill on sight.
Things were getting better between Dawn and Cloudhawk, and he didn’t want to put her in a tough spot. It made more sense for him to go searching on his own. At least that’s how she saw it, and the thought satisfied her. This guy had a terrible attitude, but at least he was thinking about her.
Her guess was more or less the right one.
Cloudhawk’s aim was to save the merchant family, and to also warn Majjhima of what was coming. That was the best he could do, though. Whether or not they escaped from their hunters would be up to them and the whims of fate. After all Majjhima was no friend, warning him about what dangers lurked in the tunnels was more than what could be expected.
Anyway Dawn’s group was too conspicuous. If Atlas decided he wanted to cause more problems or if they ran into Frost de Winter in their search, that would put Cloudhawk in a pretty uncomfortable position. Going it alone was smarter. He made a smaller target, harder to pin down.
Cloudhawk had only gone a short ways into the tunnel before he was engulfed in pitch blackness. He couldn’t see his hand in front of his face.
Troublesome. He’d forgotten to bring some sort of light with him.
He slowly came to a stop. It’d been so long since anyone was down here that it felt claustrophobic. The air was stuffy and the ground slick with sludge. Finding Majjhima like this was not going to be easy. But as Cloudhawk mulled over the problem his little bird companion perked up. Oddball fluttered off of his shoulder, and then the unexpected happened.
Oddball’s golden feathers began to glow and suddenly he was a huge firefly. It wasn’t enough light to fill the tunnel but it was enough for Cloudhawk to see where he was going. He beamed at his little friend. “Interesting. You’re your own little torch, huh.”
What else did this little creature have to do to prove its pricelessness? It could read his thoughts, scout, warn him of danger and light the way – the best pet he could ask for. What deadly relic weapon could hold a torch to this little guy? Literally.
Cloudhawk was determined to do his best and make sure this weird little fluffball grew well. He didn’t have any friends who really knew him, and a companion like this really helped dispel the loneliness he sometimes felt.
However the light wasn’t inexhaustible. After about fifteen seconds Oddball’s light began to dim.
The growing creature was already low on energy and so it asked Cloudhawk to lend him some power. Without hesitation he reached out with his psychic energy, the same way he did when Oddball was just an egg. The two started to resonate and Cloudhawk’s psychic energy slowly drained while Oddball recovered. The light returned, a little stronger than before.
Divine creatures were basically special relics and Cloudhawk could communicate with Oddball the same way he did with his cloak or book. His psychic energy activated Oddball’s powers in the same way, but where it differed from typical relics was that it grew and developed its own abilities.
The two were closely tied. Cloudhawk had to get stronger if Oddball was to grow up, and he was determined to get stronger soon. As Oddball grew up it was sure to do ever more amazing things! While Cloudhawk’s psychic energy flowed the little bird tittered happily and flapped around. Thankfully it didn’t require much energy, so they could keep this up for several hours before it got tiring.
But time waiting for no man.
He had to find Majjhima. He had to find Squall!
Majjhima had left clues along the tunnels, but a group of a hundred survivors had also left signs of their passage. Cloudhawk picked them out and eventually gathered enough to know their direction. As he picked his way through the tunnels he was also careful to erase any clues he found. He had to do whatever he could to throw Atlas and Frost off the scent.
As he was closing in on his targets a whistling sound rose through the darkness. A soldier’s arrow was headed straight for him!
Cloudhawk scowled. Did he run into another group of hunters? He whipped to the side just in time for the arrow to zip past and lodge itself in the wall. Half of it was buried in the stone while the other half quivered.
He didn’t even have time to steady himself before a second and then a third arrow followed. They came one right on the heels of the other, out from the darkness of the tunnels. Cloudhawk threw himself around, wildly dodging the attacks and eventually caught sight of where they came from.
Those weren’t soldiers.
About six or seven people had come upon him, none of them weaklings. They had to be some of the convicts who’d escaped from prison. They’d probably robbed the bows from soldiers, or took them from their corpses.
“Wait, wait!” He hissed. “I’m Cloudhawk, I’m the one who got you out of prison. I’m not after you.”
His answer was another volley of arrows.
These guys weren’t deaf, just determined to make sure Cloudhawk was dead. Down here there weren’t any supplies; no food, no water, nothing except what they could take. These men were criminals – counting on them to appreciate what he did in the prisons was like counting on a cow to climb trees.
Splash! Without warning a spray of blood painted the tunnel walls.
One of the convicts gaped as somehow, without a sound, his throat opened up. He fell to the ground and twitched as the life drained out of him. What the fuck?! How was there no sound at all?
The rest of them had only a moment to ponder the question before a dark blade started hunting them through the shadows. A ruthless hack buried it through a convict’s back and into his heart, ending him instantly. Cloudhawk wrenched it free and a fountain of blood followed, but still there was no sound. Nothing as it ripped through cloth and skin, nothing as it slipped back out. The others only noticed when they heard the patter of blood and the thud of their companion hitting the ground.
“Come out! Show yourself!”
The surviving convicts were shaken. They waved their weapons through the air to ward off the darkness but the monster in the shadows gave them no room to breathe. The black blade moved again, more lives were lost. Soon only one remained.
A ghost! There are ghost down here!
Noiselessly his companions had died one after the other, all in a matter of seconds. Whatever terrifying weapon that was passed right by the others and they didn’t hear it, not even as it was buried in their bodies.
The last one only managed a few steps before the shadow came for him. Cold steel pressed against his throat as suddenly and soundlessly the blade was in front of him. He went stiff as a board.
“Where is Majjhima?”
“They’re ahead, under attack. I’ve answered your question, spare-“
The convict crumbled to the ground, eyes wide and gaping into the darkness of the tunnels.
Cloudhawk gently waved Quiet Carnage through the air. It was frighteningly sharp, he thought to himself. He barely felt it as he killed the convicts. Those men were doomed the moment they decided to attack him.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
No mercy, for once. I like it. Keep it up, Cloudhawk!