Book 5, Chapter 37 - Entering Greenland

The entrance to Greenland was watched over by a small encampment.  Here the many different wanderers of the wasteland were put up while awaiting entry. Each was given food and water for free in the interim. To protect itself from those with ill-intentions, Greenland had to subject these outsiders to strict review criteria.

“We’re from Sandspire. My father is the Governor.” Sand Tiger presented himself before one of the Talon guards. “I have a letter here written by my father, to be delivered to Governor Cloudhawk. With me here is Sandspire's strongest warrior, Rhino. We hope to join your city.”

The guard captain took Sand Tiger’s letter and read it over. “I don’t care where you came from. As long as you are from the outside, you need to go through the review process. We’ll take all your information first then send someone to verify it.”

Was it really this strict? Sand Tiger opened his mouth to protest but was cut off.

“Hey, you up there in front! Stop wasting time, there’s a whole line here!” A group of burly mutants began to shout in frustration. With no other options, Sand Tiger stepped off to the side. It seemed like their only choice was to submit to the same checks as everyone else. Strange, though – this was the wastelands. No one knew anything except from word of mouth. What stopped visitors from simply making stuff up?

What process did Greenland have to see if they were telling the truth? He didn’t understand.

One of the guards led Sand Tiger and his crew to a temporary building. There he gave them instructions. “This is where you’ll be staying. Every day, someone will come by with food and water. Don’t go wandering around or you’ll miss your chance to enter the realm. It’s not safe around here anyway.”

So Sand Tiger and the others did as they were told. In addition to food they were also given fuel for heaters, to make their nights more comfortable.

The day slowly gave way to darkness. The temperature began to drop. The frailer sorts like Bug quickly began to shiver. Fortunately, a campfire was quickly lit and the tent walls kept most of the wind out. Besides… Bug was frail, but she was still a wastelander. She was tenacious as a roach.

More clusters of campfires appeared as daylight faded away. Between the lights and the camp residents, everything felt safe. After all, the sorts who came to Greenland for shelter were all strong, and the place was watched over by Talon guards.

Sand Tiger sat before the campfire. A vast and beautiful starry sky twinkled overhead. He chewed on some scraps of meat and looked around before muttering with a sense of wonder, “What sort of mysterious power does Greenland have, that they can entice so many strong wastelanders?”

Gray Rabbit and Sister Bug thought the same. They were stunned by the mystical look of the place when they arrived, but that alone wasn’t enough to bring so many incredible people from all of the wastes.

“Obviously, it’s because this place is safe.” A voice that crackled with the weight of age sounded from behind. Rhino and Sand Tiger turned toward the sound, and there they saw a group of figures standing by the tent. The one who spoke was a wrinkled gentleman who wore tattered clothes and a pair of glasses that were missing a lens. He walked up to their fire and spoke in a slow cadence. “For both the strong and the weak of any species, survival is paramount above all other needs. Our most basic desire is the desire to live. Am I right?”

Indeed, there was no way to dispute the fact. A safe place to lay your head was the dearest hope of any wastelander. For many, it was something they would never experience in their lives. They would live in hardship, surviving hand to mouth like insects skittering through the rubble.

Rhino gave this old man a closer look. He hadn’t heard or felt the stranger’s presence until he opened his mouth. That alone was proof that he was more than he appeared.

Rhino also spared a glance for the men he brought with him. One was a mutant with a simian face and two burly arms. While he was seated and showed no sign of malice, Rhino was pretty certain he couldn’t protect himself if the mutant wanted a fight.

These are killers! Strong, dangerous killers!

Sand Tiger didn’t have his companion’s keen sense. So, with no reason to assume otherwise, Sand Tiger greeted them like friends. “Where are you from, elder?”

“I’m called Mirage, a wanderer of the wastelands.” Mirage then indicated the ape-like man beside him. “This is Ape. He had a crew in the Northern Barrens but the fighting pushed him south. Who would’ve expect the troubles would follow him here as well?”

It was Sand Tiger’s turn to size up the old man. There was definitely something strange about his presence, while Ape appeared pretty average.

When Gray Rabbit watched the stranger, he noted that there was definitely something unique about the old man from other wastelanders. His frail and shabby exterior was just a front. Rabbit didn’t believe for a second that he was as weak as he wanted others to think. Neither man had the same aggressive bearing Rhino carried with him.

“You’re a Seeker,” he blurted out. Greenland City wasn’t just looking for fighters. Talented scientists were also in high demand.

Mirage ran his fingers through his beard when confronted by the question. “I suppose you could say that. I am seeking something. Greenland looks like a fine place – young and exuberant. The wastelands are full of death, and places like this are hard to find.”

Sand Tiger took up the questioning. “So you lot are also applying to enter?”

The old man’s answer was noncommittal. “It doesn’t matter much to me where I end up. But Greenland might have what I’m looking for.”

Sand Tiger and his small crew shared quiet glances. It was clear the old man was hiding something. Mirage wasn’t the only strange one, either. Ape was his own mystery. All this time, he hadn’t said a single word. Mutants were known for rash action, but this one just sat there like a boulder.

Sand Tiger and the others knew when to stop asking questions. After all, everyone in this world had their secrets. They were all trying to get into Greenland, so there was a chance they’d interact regularly in the days to come. Developing good relationships with future neighbors was a fine tactic. 

One thing was certain, however. Greenland’s call to arms had definitely attracted some unique characters.

***

Before the sun rose over the horizon on the next day, a Talon guard approached their group of tents. “You’re up! Come with me.”

Sand Tiger and his group, along with Mirage and that crew, got up and did as the guard commanded. They lined up before a pretty, short-haired woman in worn and rugged demonhunter armor. In her hands she held a folder and asked a series of questions from it as prospective citizens presented themselves. Once the questions were answered, they were let through.

Sand Tiger was stunned. “That’s how they confirm someone’s identity? Seems pretty sloppy…”

“What do you young folk know?” Mirage chastised from behind. “That woman is an Elysian demonhunter. Did you notice her necklace?”

They furtively glanced again at the woman, noticing the item for the first time. What did it have to do with the questioning?

“I suggest you think twice before saying anything false. Answer every question honestly, otherwise you’ll get tossed out on your ass.”

“Really?”

“That’s a relic, created by the gods. It allows her to read your mind.”

Mirage’s words would have been a terrible shock to anyone within earshot. The one asking questions was Barb, and indeed the necklace she wore was the seeker’s torque.

The torque’s special abilities allowed the bearer to sense a target’s mental and emotional state. It was a perceptual enhancer. When someone with less-than-noble intentions came near, the demonhunter could sense their schemes.

In short, it worked like a lie detector.

It was Cloudhawk’s idea, for he knew that the wasteland was full of snakes. It was important that Greenland didn’t let unsavory sorts in, and so it was well worth spending the extra time and effort to determine who was a fit for their young nation.

The time came for Rhino and Sand Tiger to face questioning. Each answered somewhere between twenty to thirty questions and not a single word was false. When the process was done, they were let inside, apparently vetted. Next was Mirage and his crew. 

Greenland had a dedicated fighting squad for rapid response missions. Indeed, with the oasis being as dangerous as it was, even experienced trackers often ran into trouble. To protect them, Greenland sent guards to act as escorts. As they were led into the forest, their stunned eyes stared every which way. The outsiders could hardly believe such a lush place existed in the blasted wastes.

However, their surprise was only just beginning. Eventually the dense forests thinned to reveal Greenland City itself.

It towered over them like a giant of the forest. Neat and clean, its row upon row of gray towers reached into the sky. Its lanes ran straight and orderly toward the ancient (but well-maintained) fortress in the center.

Nearby was an absolutely enormous tree that rose above all else. As their eyes rose toward its canopy, they saw planes and unmanned drones zipping through the air.

Robotic men and dogs wandered the streets, weaving among clean and healthy citizens. What a magnificent display of order and cohesion! The street corners all had machines that broadcast messages from a local radio station. Towering mushrooms could be seen here and there as well. 

It was like walking into another world. They’d never seen anything like it.

“Come with me. Let’s figure out what job you’ll get.”

Most of Sand Tiger’s small group served as engineers by trade. Luckily for them, Greenland was still in the process of establishing their mechanical networks and needed plenty of people with these skills. They were given suitable positions. Mirage claimed to be proficient in medicine, a position which counted among the Seekers and in high demand.

As for Rhino and Ape? They knew how to hurt things. While Rhino had hardly any training, he was still as deadly as an Elysian officer. He was drafted into a special unit, one whose missions were far more dangerous than mere guard work.

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