Greenland Institute, Demonhunter Training classroom.
The training program had grown to over two hundred students. They were engrossed in meditation training for the moment, training their minds to make their psychic abilities more capable.
It was almost a year and a half since Claudia took her post as headmistress of the Institute. She had been here since the school’s inception, watching it grow and develop. Several major events had rocked the wastelands in recent times, but whether it was the terror and excitement of the battle for Sanctuary, or this Polar War, she never left her station.
She had decided to set aside the honorable mantle of a demonhunter. Claudia was a teacher now, and she preferred it that way. That meant her responsibility was to the students and the fighting could be left to the soldiers.
Claudia was happy with the calm and peaceful life. Greenland had advanced to where it was not in danger of being destroyed in a day. Everything wouldn’t suddenly stop. When one found their place there was a sense of contentment and belonging. Doing otherwise brought pain and confusion.
Claudia had found her place. And Cloudhawk? Now that he was one of the most powerful leaders of the wastelands, had he found his place?
She had conflicting feelings toward her Governor. It would be hard to claim that Claudia had entirely put their contentious past behind them, but as he continued to grow stronger she saw him as someone else. They weren’t even part of the same world, anything that couldn’t catch up was left behind.
Meditation class drew to a close. Her two hundred students slowly opened their eyes. Each one of her charges felt mental energy puling inside them, of varying degrees.
When the children turned their eyes to Claudia, they looked at her with admiration and respect. Greenland was now a hub for legendary figures, but those men and women were beyond the grasp of these kids. Practically, Headmistress Claudia was the peak of what they could accomplish. She was their wise and capable guide.
She spoke to the stirring group. “There are those of you who have been training here for a year. Some only a few months. All of you have grasped the basics of mental energy, meaning it is time for you to learn more mysterious knowledge and tactics.”
Everyone held their breath. Their eyes sparkled with anticipation. The dream of many of these young apprentices was to join the Goshawks, for they were the defenders of Greenland. They were the pride of the southern wastes.
But every member of the Goshawks was a strong and capable warrior. If they wanted to join the ranks of these elite men and women, they would have to train hard. Their hearts were filled with determination, their bodies ready. Wastelanders were not afraid of struggle.
Claudia went on. “Today we have a guest lecturer joining us. From time to time he will be giving you all special instruction. Please give him a respectful welcome.”
The students sat cross-legged in the training room, looking around for this new professor but could find no one. They muttered among one another in confusion. Confusion turned to shock a moment later when the air shimmered over the mat at Claudia’s side. A figure emerged from nothing, seated upon the mat as though he’d always been there.
“It’s the Governor!”
Azura, Ironspike and the others were thrilled to see who it was. Cloudhawk was practically a god to these children.
Perhaps it was for good reason. It was Cloudhawk who almost single-handedly founded this city. He called for the creation of the Institute, among many other remarkable contributions to the wastelands. His name would forever ring throughout the history of this land. No one had guessed this legendary figure would be the one to appear before them. Was he to be their new instructor?
The Cloudhawk of today could not be compared to the Cloudhawk of old. He sat straight-backed, radiating elegance, with black hair hanging to his shoulders. Although he wore nothing of note the sense of those who looked on him was like gazing upon an immortal come to earth.
Fervent excitement burned in the eyes of these pupils. Every one of them hopes one day to fight side by side with this incredible man.
“I am very happy to sit here with you all, and it is my great pleasure to help guide your learning. In your eyes I see curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. I see myself in those eyes. You all are lucky, for countless elders used their bodies to keep you safe from the fires of war. Even today their blood is spilled to give you the opportunity to sit here and learn. They fight to bring order back to a world twisted by chaos. All so that you could be safe, so that you can grow and become better than they ever could.”
Yes! Every citizen of Greenland was grateful for these sacrifices and opportunities. Without this city and its defenders, where would they be?
“Of course, peace remains a distant goal. One day we will turn in our swords for ploughs and bring civilization to all corners of the wastes. But it will demand a cost. A cost in blood, sacrifice. Giving up one’s self for this purpose will be inevitable for some. So it seems is the fate of my generation. Among us will emerge mighty heroes, and some of their deeds will become legend.
“Don’t be jealous of them. Those times which see heroes rise are the darkest times. It is my hope that my generation can grope through the darkness and bring the disorder to an end so that you and your children can flourish in the light. Do not strive to be like us. Hope instead to see a land of peace and prosperity.
“Unfortunately, even I can't be sure that we will defeat our enemies. I can’t know if by the end of my time these goals will be reached. When I established this Institute, my greatest aim was to pass on the will and faith that we all will need to continue striving for that dream.
“Some will die. Their lives will end, but never their will. That strength of spirit is eternal. The world is a dark and unforgiving place, but in our hearts lives a utopia we can build together. It is my deepest hope that you all carry that faith – the faith of Greenland and its purpose – with you always.”
Claudia sat by his side, listening quietly. His words made it clear that he had indeed found his place.
But the road he’d chosen was a difficult one. His life would be spent forging inroads through the darkness. Who knew what monsters waited for him in that mist? But perhaps, like he said, if will and faith persisted one day the spark he bore would take. From that light a new world would be born.
“Today, I am going to be talking to you about the essence of relics.”
He wasted no further time, revealing to the class a rather unremarkable short sword. A ghastly green fire swarmed around it, causing it to erode. Cracks appeared and it continued to melt until it was a formless, unknown substance. This strange material writhed around Cloudhawk’s fingers and twinkled like starlight. It was incredible to behold.
“What are relics?”
Cloudhawk raised his left hand. He revealed smooth skin, uncovered, yet with a thought a pale golden arm guard appeared as though it were part of him. It radiated with a gentle white light, a nimbus of protective power. It condensed into a spherical vacuum as everything around and inside it was repelled.
Even Claudia was stunned by the display. She recognized Cloudhawk’s gauntlet of turning. It was one of his most powerful relics which now had been absorbed into his body like the Silver Serpents before.
“Relics are energy processors, or templates which function to focus and release specific types of power. It functions, in a sense, like a gun. A gun without bullets is no danger, just as a demonhunter without mental energy is just a man. But by focusing our minds on a relic our psychic energies become like gun powder and awaken the power within these tools.”
“In theory, then, if one can understand the nature of these powers they can transcend the constraints of a relic. If we could do that we could employ any power, launch any number and style of attacks.”
Cloudhawk had joined entirely with the power granted by the Demon King’s legacy. In addition, he could access more of the former King’s memories. Power and knowledge both were important aspects of the inheritance, for the knowledge was entirely new to mankind. Through it Cloudhawk was able to grasp a deeper understanding of the universe.
Cloudhawk extended a finger. The air shimmered in response and an instant later water vapor began to rise from nothing. Then, the vapor coalesced into an orb of water, only to solidify to ice. Under the watchful gaze of the students a flame was born in the center of the sphere which quickly spread. In the space of a breath the orb became a roiling ball of fire which flooded the classroom with heat.
The fireball’s glow faded to reveal a core of molten rock. It cooled until it was merely stone, but only for ten seconds before exploding. The orb was now composed of dust and air. Finally, just as it emerged from nothingness, the power dissolved until it was no more.
Cloudhawk’s display had lasted less than a minute.
With a smile on his face, he addressed the shocked onlookers. “Through all of that, I didn’t use one relic.”
The apprentices all watched in absolute reverence. He could produce power without a relic? How was that different from pure magic?! No human could do what he’d just done!
Claudia, as well, was struck with deep amazement. Everything she knew about relics and mental power had been turned upside down. Was Cloudhawk strong enough now that he didn’t need relics anymore?
“Matter is essentially energy. And energy composes all matter. Because it all comes from the same source, energy can be transformed into whatever we life, and likewise those things can be transformed by manipulating the energy that creates them. In reality the only thing stopping lead becoming gold is how the energy chooses to manifest itself.” Cloudhawk was dismantling their world view in short, concise sentences. “Everything in this world – from air to the sea, from dirt to forests, in fact even you and I – in the end, we’re all composed of one universal thing.”
This was the string theory Cloudhawk had come to understand. Atoms, molecules... none of that made any difference. At the very basic levels of every single thing was a vibrating string. The strings themselves were no different from one clump of matter to the next. The only thing that varied was how they vibrated. How they appeared to the world at large was merely an expression of their resonance. Resonance created molecules which created structures which gathered into matter.
When it came down to it, to the very root of all the world, everything was the same. And the human mind was capable of tapping into that resonance. That was what gave demonhunters their power. By adjusting the frequencies of these strings they were able to manipulate energy.
Cloudhawk had grown to the point where he no longer needed a relic to help him focus on this truth. He was able to reach out with his mind to the threads that existed all around and call on them to sing. While at present it was only a small manifestation, Cloudhawk had still gone far beyond what any other demonhunter had ever achieved. He was the first person in all of history who was able to forsake relics and mold energy with nothing but his own mind.
This was the stuff of magic!
“If you can reach this step, then you can truly explore the essence of the world around you.” Here, Cloudhawk paused for a moment. “However, not everyone has the gift that allows them to hear these strings. Still you need only remember one thing: Relics aren’t the mysterious, god-given blessings we were told they were. There are nothing more than complicated weapons, and any weapon can be built.”
As he spoke Cloudhawk waved a hand. Four hundred items blinked into existence without foundation. These ring-shaped objects floated throughout the classroom.
“Skycloud has relics they consider standard use. Greenland will have our own.” Cloudhawk drew his eyes across the group. “These are two types of relics I have made myself. I have given them the names ‘Mornarrows’ and ‘Mornshields.’ Today I give them to you.”
Yes, Cloudhawk had succeeded! He’d achieved a great breakthrough in casting his own relics! He was no longer limited to creating copies of exorcist rods and could now research and create new ones.
Mornarrows were informed by Skycloud’s exorcist bows, however users didn’t need to pull back on a string and fire. Focusing on this relic, users could fire a bolt of energy anywhere they pleased. As rings they were far more convenient than having to carry around a full bow. Cloudhawk wasn’t interested in the flashy and luxuriant style common in Skycloud. He was a wastelander, and wastelanders concerned themselves only with what was practical.
Mornshields were also rings, only instead of firing energy arrows they summoned protective shields. With them, bearers could ward off different sorts of threats. Altogether a very fine addition to any arsenal.
The functions of these two relics were very simple, but they held stupendous meaning for Greenland. They had great significance for Cloudhawk as well!
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