The wasteland forces were in turmoil.
In a greedy rush to devour the Elysians, many of the slower wasteland ships had fallen behind. With diminished numbers it would be a struggle to kill one half of their fleet, let alone being caught between both.
But they would not sit idly by!
The ancient vessel spread open again, funneling energy into its cannon. It took aim, preparing to blast a whole through their shields. After days of continuous battle, the Elysians were spent. How much more could they endure? If Hell’s Army was going to suffer, then they’d make sure Skycloud did as well!
But would Cloudhawk give them a chance?
God’s Spear fired first, loosing a streak of golden light. It was too fast, the mothership had no time to engage its particle shield. Without anything to stop it the beam struck, piercing the barrel of the central cannon. All the power it’d gathered was released as the weapon lost control. A deafening explosion followed.
And then another, and another in a chain reaction that obliterated half of the enormous vessel. With a terrible groan of metal it listed into the distance and sank, until it collided with a mountainside. A ball of fire slowly rolled skyward, and a column of thick black smoke marked the mothership’s final resting place.
Flames from the wreckage reflected in Natessa’s narrowed eyes. But instead of anger or a sense of loss, her lips were pulled up in a smirk.
Eckard scowled at the enemy fleet. “It’s too much. We need to find a way to fall back.”
Natessa nodded. “We’ll lose them in the mountains of the Northern Barrens. Take us down.”
Elsewhere on the bridge of a Dark Atom ship, Wolfblade was also grinning. “They’re too strong. This situation has become out of control.”
Abaddon and Autumn were standing in front of him.
“We’ve certainly stirred up trouble.” Abaddon’s red eyes bore a particularly dangerous glint. “We’ve done what we set out to do.”
Autumn’s pretty face was drawn into a scowl. She didn’t understand why she’d been roped into this mortal conflict. She was a god, above these petty and boring concerns. But Wolfblade had promised to rid her of that nagging voice of the girl she took and restore her divine powers. She couldn’t lift her nose at that offer.
Hellflower sauntered over to them. “It’s not good. I would propose you spread out into the mountains and disappear until the Elysians leave.”
Whole ships were abandoned or dashed on the mountains and their crews – at great risk – tried to escape the Elysian fleet. Only a small remnant of the impressive force remained, and filtered into the mountains.
“Incredible.” Roc’s face was joyful and incredulous. “We’ve crushed the wastelanders’ main forces and our losses account for a fraction of what we dealt. It’s simply… but for the loss of our General, we would be returning home with a flawless victory.”
In what had become commonplace for Cloudhawk, everyone was looking at him with new eyes. There were even traces of awe in the eyes of the Templars.
He had a sixth sense for danger and an incredible grasp of leadership. Real military potential. With training and experience there was no doubt he had the talent for high command. Now Roc understood what the old man had seen in him. Skye might not have had the talent of those Master Demonhunters, but he had a gift for reading people. It was a wise choice to cultivate Cloudhawk’s talents, and guide him to leadership of the family.
But now, the fate of the Polaris family would be very difficult. As would Cloudhawk’s, the wastelands, Skycloud and potentially the whole world...
There was no sense in asking ‘what if.’ Skye Polaris was dead and not coming back. Everything moved forward as some dark destiny intended.
“What should be our next step?”
“Do you even need to ask?”
“You must pluck up the weeds by their roots!”
Everyone immediately began calling to press the attack.
Their enemies had lost their weapons of war, and without them it would be a long time before they were once again a threat. However, there were still many soldiers who had survived and who could tell what tragedy they would orchestrate next? For the safety of the realm, it was better to eliminate their enemies when they were weak.
Elysian warships spread and out began to search. Cloudhawk led a small group to survey the ruins of the mothership.
It had been a priceless link to the past. The vessel contained science and knowledge that could transform the wastelands. Know it was nothing but scrap metal. As Cloudhawk looked out over the burning ruin he couldn’t help but feel pity.
Once they’d gotten close enough they could see survivors picking their way toward the wreckage. The Elysian ships prepared to barrage of the ground with their pylons.
But something tickled at the back of Cloudhawk’s mind. He spotted one small group leap out from the ship and begin fighting another cluster. “Those are… Elysian soldiers!”
Elysian soldiers? In that ancient vessel? How could that be?
It clicked. Cloudhawk’s brows shot up. “The Talons. Drake. Those are our men!”
His original intention was to rescue them, having received word that they’d been caught in an ambush. Cloudhawk and the others got swept up in the push for Fallowmoor, but never in that time did they hear word of Drake or the Talons.
It turned out they survived by being captured. Once the mothership crashed, they made to escape. However, the soldiers were in bad shape with open wounds and tattered armor. They were clearly in a dangerous situation.
“We can’t attack.” Cloudhawk called for everyone to hold off. “Let’s send people down to get them first before we start killing indiscriminately.”
The officers looked at once another for a moment before one spoke up. “We have an opportunity to decimate the enemy without them fighting back. We should take advantage of our airships and higher vantage to clear them out. Once we’re in the mountains we’ll lose them.”
Cloudhawk’s anger flared. “So you expect us to just watch as our people are massacred?”
“We have no way of confirming their identities! Nor is that a reason for throwing away our advantage!” The officer applied sound reasoning. “We cannot let this piece of the field draw us from the big picture. If those are Elysian soldiers then they would gladly give their lives for the peace and security of our realm. They knew it was a possibility from the beginning.”
Everyone else was silent, but most agreed.
From a logical standpoint the right decision was to scour this site, eliminate all the survivors. A blast from God’s Spear would slay most, and a ground squad could clean up what was left without a problem.
“Fuck your sacrifice, this is a goddamn order. Now do it!”
Cloudhawk didn’t spare an ounce of his contempt in front of the gathered officers.
Although the reprimanded soldier’s face darkened in anger, there was nothing more to discuss.
Hammont Seacrest’s body was a collection of injuries. 
He clambered through a twisted metal hatch, where a wasteland swung around with his gun raised. Hammont’s eyes went wide. He was done for. But then a large tungsten steel sword swept by and cut the wastelander in two. A big man, covered in blood, trotted toward him with a grin. “You have amazing luck, fat man, if you can survive flying into a mountain.”
“Don’t curse me like that, Drake, sir. I can’t die until I’m a general.”
Hammont rolled out of the hatch like a globe of meat. Two more figures emerged from the wreckage to join them. Rio and Brontes were also still alive.
Drake took the initiative. “How many live?”
“I’m not sure. We’ve gathered about thirty, but there may be others. The whole area is crawling with heathens though. We don’t have enough to hold them off.”
“Doesn’t matter. Kill one and it’s enough. Every dead blasphemer after that is icing on the cake.”
Drake picked his sword up from the ground. His head snapped up at the sound of shouting, as suddenly a group of a hundred or more wastelands came charging at them. Many were mutants, but one woman in particular was what caught his eye.
She was also a mutant as well, which meant one did not expect good looks. Her skin was like a leathery old woman, maybe seventy years old. Short in stature, both of her eyes were covered by something. Her long wavy hair wriggled and whipped like an octopus’ tentacles or a thousand angry snakes.
Drake scowled when he saw her. “It doesn’t look like we’re slipping away.”
Four beings in the Northern Barrens were considered to have reached the highest level of mutant evolution in the wastelands. Because of this they were called the Four Kings, and were recognized by the color of their robes. The Green and the Black already pledged themselves to the Conclave of Justice. The remaining two had yet to reveal themselves.
She was known for her purple robe, and the purple snakes that were her hair. King Cobra was what they called her, but her name was Naga.
Word was Naga’s skin was like that of a snake, and her mutation changed each time she shed. The first time her hair had turned to snake. The next she emerged with super regenerative powers. Most recently her gaze could not turn people to stone…
Her abilities were many, but what the stories always focus on was her eyes. A mere glance was enough to condemn someone to an agonizing death of petrification, comparable to the abilities of a demonhunter.
Her role among the Kings was not unlike that of a Seeker. She had lived for over a hundred years, spending all that time acquiring old memories and ancient knowledge. Her scientific insights were not inferior to the likes of Roste, Three-Eyed Spider or Hellflower.
The ancient vessel had been her most prized possession. Naga’s roving fortress! Now it lay in ruins – destroyed in pursuit of those bastard Elysians. In a fit of rage, she threw herself at the despicable outsiders.
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