Book 4, Chapter 109 - Leading Through

Wolfblade led Cloudhawk into the interior of an unassuming tree. Within it was a strange tower-like structure, about three meters tall. Its exterior was covered in eboncrys, and Cloudhawk sensed the mysterious energy wafting from it the moment he stepped close.

It came off the tower in pulses. He recognized it as similar to structures in Skycloud, the largest of which was in the center of Skycloud city itself affixed to the top of the Temple. While it didn’t look all that complicated, Cloudhawk was certain no human hands could create towers like these.

It was created by gods and demons.

“This is a Scryspire. It saw common use in the Great War. Channeling a detection-type relic through it will greatly extend and strengthen its effects. Nothing in its sphere of influence can remain hidden, so they were constructed around important locations for safety and information.”

“And what does this have to do with me?”

“Simple; items are not living things, but people are. And who can say that Scryspires are just used for spying? Think – you cannot control the phase stone’s dimensional teleportation abilities, likely because you’re perception is still inadequate. You cannot sense these different dimensions or how to access them.”

“So you’re saying that this tower can help me feel all the different dimensions?”

“At the very least it will strengthen your current perception. I wouldn’t go so far as to expect it will allow you to peer into the deepest layers of the multiverse, however.” Wolfblade paused for a moment before going on. “Once you’ve assimilated all of the Demon King’s inheritance, you will no longer need outside help to do this. The true Demon King is a master of spatial dominion. Barriers between realities mean nothing to him. However, if or until you reach that point this tower is your best bet.”

Cloudhawk frowned, thinking over the information.

He wasn’t sure how useful Wolfblade’s suggestions were. It wasn’t like he was in the best shape to go traipsing through other realities.

On the one hand he was still recovering from his psychic wounds. Who was to say that doing something this mentally taxing wouldn’t make his situation worse? Maybe it would make his injuries permanent, leaving him disabled.

On the other hand, no one knew what waited for him across the veil. There could be any manner of creature looking for a meal, and he’d be powerless to protect himself. Based on previous experiences he knew that sometimes the stone could drop him in dangerous places. Since he was so much weaker now, there was the real threat that a surprise danger could spell his end.

“With help from the Shepherd and Hellflower, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.” Wolfblade didn’t even need to ask. He knew what Cloudhawk’s concerns were. “The Shepherd God’s flute can accomplish many amazing things. Any other dangers you encounter can be handled by Hellflower. I do not suspect you have anything to worry about.”

Wolfblade had prepared everything. What else could Cloudhawk say?

Take things as they come. Cloudhawk was of course aware that all of this had been prepared for his benefit, and it was not something they could throw together in a couple of days. Wolfblade must have been making preparations for this even before Cloudhawk came to Woodland Vale.

What the hell are you up to, Wolfblade?

Well, he had no answers. Master how to make relics first, and then he would probably find out what this was all about.

Cloudhawk had always been the sort to be dissatisfied with his life. Might as well see what other realities held in store, the dangers be damned.

It wasn’t like this would be his first time. He’d leaped across dimensions a couple times, although only briefly and only once on command. It wasn’t a process he’d explored deeply, so he was excited to learn more about it.

The two attractive women who’d followed them moved at a glance from Wolfblade.

Hellflower was excited and eager. She wasn’t known for being adventurous, but this was completely uncharted territory they were exploring. She was excited for the opportunity to learn something totally knew, especially with Cloudhawk.

Autumn was precisely the opposite. Her displeasure hung in the air like a cloud, and to her Wolfblade was clearly pushing the boundaries. Did he honestly expect her to agree to help this pathetic mortal? He was treating her like a subordinate – her, a mighty god, in her own domain! If she willed it, the very earth would rise up to expel these irritating gnats from her presence.

Yet while internally she railed against the prospect, she didn’t protest. Instead, with a scowl on her face, she stepped into the tower with the others.

The tower’s interior was simple, empty. The walls were etched with strange archaic patterns and as Cloudhawk walked in the outside world seemed to dim into the background.

All there was inside was a small doorway. 

Cloudhawk turned to Autumn. “I’m going to start.”

She sniffed in response, but put the flute to her lips and began to blow. Melodious tones hung in the air, which seemed to sharpen Cloudhawk’s focus like being dunked in cool water. Clearly the Shepherd God’s powers were not just offensive, but also supportive. He could feel it shoring up his mental powers. Cloudhawk was reminded that the power of a god ran much deeper than what he saw on the surface.

Between Shepherd’s power and the tower’s aid, Cloudhawk could feel his mind’s reach expanding.

Wolfblade definitely hadn’t been lying. He shut his eyes and summoned the stone’s power from within him. His will reached out around like, seeping like water to fill the tower interior. The pulsing of his mental powers sped up which caused the space to fill with even more energy. The air rippled visibly from it.

Yes… Cloudhawk could feel it. Everything was much clearer than he was used to.

Every thread of his psychic power was like a tentacle, an extension of himself that reached out into the ether. As he focused, a single thought crystallized in his mind: the universe he knew was far more segmented, and far vaster than he ever could have imagined. They sat on top of one another like layers of cloth.

His will was like a sharp, heavy stone dropped onto those layers. If he used enough force he could pierce the barriers and slip through to the space between. That’s how he phased between places.

All he needed was the will to see it done, and Cloudhawk could leap into one of these folds he could touch.

The first layer was one he was familiar with. It was the dimension he visited often, where everything had experienced some terrible cataclysm and lay in broken pieces. He didn’t know what happened to that world, only that it was uncomfortably similar to the one he came from. It made it easier to shuffle back and forth on a whim.

It was all so novel, so unexpected. The idea that there were so many dimensions, extending far beyond his vision, was completely new to him. He figured there was no point in entering the ruined dimension this time, so he poured more of his will through the tower to extend his consciousness. He reached out toward the next barrier.

It was hard. That ache had crept into his mind once again, even with Shepherd’s help. Strenuous though it was, after a few moments he felt some of the resistance part, and knew he’d reached into the next dimension.

It was all so… incredible. Cloudhawk was amazed that his mind was reaching out through space to other realities.

“Got it!” His eyes popped open and he looked at Hellflower. “We’re ready to go.”

She stared back with obvious surprise. Go? What was he talking about? For all her intelligence, the wasteland’s arguably greatest scientist was at a loss. This was entirely outside of everything she knew, beyond what science could explain.

“The first time you slip through, it will feel uncomfortable. Relax as much as you can, and it’ll pass quickly.” He reached out and grasped Hellflower. Then, a scene she couldn’t quite process followed. The two of them rippled like the air that surrounded them, then swirled in on themselves like whirlpools. As Cloudhawk spaghettified into nonexistence, he gave Autumn an appreciative nod. “Thank you.”

Then they were gone.

Autumn couldn’t help but be entranced by this strange and mysterious power. It reminded her of the old Demon King, a creature who strode the multiverse as he willed, who no one could stand against. He traveled where he pleased, whenever he liked, and no one could follow.

The Shepherd God had battled against the Demon King, once. It nearly destroyed her.

She remembered being dragged into a different dimension, where she was bound and made powerless. Subversive thoughts and images intruded on her mind, until the Shepherd decided the truth was too much. It was the catalyst that made her choose betrayal, the very first of her kind to turn against her people…

That was the power of the Demon King. The only creature capable of killing him was the God King himself.

A thousand years after the monster’s fall, this was the frail mortal he chose to receive his inheritance? If the mighty Demon King had failed, what chance did this whelp possess? He commanded less than a hundredth of a hundredth of the capabilities of his predecessor, but even if he absorbed all the former Demon King’s might, he was hopeless against the God King’s time powers. Defeat was inevitable.

Autumn stood in silence, feeling the weight on her heart. She felt ever since becoming human that her emotions were more… complicated. As a god she’d never experienced such a riot of feelings. Her people were famously apathetic, acting mechanically on the orders of their king. Emotions were personal things, and ‘personal’ was not associated with the gods.

She was far weaker than she had been, yet felt infinitely more alive.

***

A wave of dizziness swept through Hellflower, nearly more than she could stomach. Reality fractured into a hundred million pieces all around her and she was thrown into a chaos of energy. She’d never experienced anything like it, and as her consciousness expanded passed the microscopic reality she knew Hellflower felt her horizons gaze out over an infinite – and strangely complete – cosmos.

The discomfort was almost unbearable!

It felt like her mind was being crushed to paste, and although Cloudhawk had warned her the sensation took her completely off guard.

“Are you alright?”

Cloudhawk stood in front of her, still covered in bandages, with a pudgy little bird on his shoulder. He reached down and helped Hellflower to her feet. It was the first time Cloudhawk had taken someone with him on one of these excursions. Wolfblade had offered Hellflower’s aid for a simple reason; the laws of dimensional travel were that the more powerful the creature trying to pass through, the harder the process was. Hellflower was much more appropriate for Cloudhawk’s current level of skill. Abaddon or Autumn were simple too much for him to handle, for now. Hellflower was just right.

She nodded in response to his question. She was already starting to feel much better.

When Hellflower raised her head, even the level-headed scientist was astounded by what she saw. She was so shocked she couldn’t speak, because the scene that stretched out before her eyes was more incredible than anything she’d ever seen in her entire life.

 

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