All of these recent events were having a major effect on Greenland’s progress.
You could feel it in the atmosphere. A heavy gloom had settled over the city ever since news of Dawn’s capture had spread. It was suffocating, like the air before a thunderstorm. Still and ominous. Posts manned by Polaris soldiers were empty since they could not focus on developing the city as they had before.
At the same time, Greenland was and always had been a wasteland city. These settlements were prone to attracting snakes and other bad actors. Chaos always took root whenever cracks appeared in the foundation, like insidious weeds.
In large part, stability had been maintained in Greenland because of the strong Polaris presence. Once they began to disappear from their posts, it stood to reason that the security they brought would begin to erode, right. Murder, theft, extortion – would the seeds of sin buried in the wasteland’s barren soil bloom in their pure oasis?
And yet… it was a miracle, because what happened was not what people expected and feared. Even though the city was in conflict, and even though threats approached from all sides, chaos did not take hold.
Months of effort by its leaders had cultivated a sense of honor and gratitude in the hearts of Greenland’s citizens. They saw this city as their home, a place worth protecting.
Was the Elysian view that wastelanders lived for chaos true? Of course not! After having a taste of surplus, safety and comfort, who would throw all of that away for the bloody struggles of their former life?
Wastelanders were humans, and but for a few outliers they preferred safety to conflict. This precious gift, which Elysians were given at birth, wastelanders viewed as a hard earned treasure. The emergence of Greenland – its harmony, its order, its abundance – instilled within these wastelanders a long-dead sense of dignity.
The Greenlanders themselves, more than anyone, wanted to make sure this place was protected! And if the Polaris soldiers were too distracted to protect them, then they would do it themselves!
Grassroots groups sprang up to maintain order. One of the mutants who had been elevated to a leadership position in their forces took charge, leading his squad on patrol and manning guard posts. It was their express mission to make sure anyone who used this chance to cause trouble was harshly dealt with.
He was but one example. Greenland was their home! Although they weren’t strong enough to defend Greenland’s honor outside its borders, they could still contribute in this way.
There was one area in particular which was deeply affected by the changing times, and that was the Institute. Although classes run by Seekers would continue unchanged, most others had been run in the Elysian style with Elysian methods. Their instructors, soldiers from Skycloud, were now all gone. They were preparing to embark on a campaign to fight and die against the expeditionary force. But what of their students? What would they do without their teachers?
Claudia showed up at the school as she did every day and was faced with a striking scene.
Several hundred martial arts students were divided by class and were practicing strength training in the yard. These young, immature students were solemn and quiet. What did it matter that there were no teachers? They simply followed the same curriculum as any other day under the guidance of their class leaders . None of them had any doubt that their instructors would return safely in time, and they wanted to be in top shape.
Seeing these children dutifully attending to their studies moved Claudia deeply.
Beneath these fresh faces was a strength that was growing all the time. When they finally bloom, their effect on the world they inherit will be incredible.
Cloudhawk told her that his hope was to give the wasteland an opportunity to make the change it wanted. What wastelander wouldn’t leap at the chance? In most places, they were like drowning men grasping at straws. Now that they’d been given a vine, they would hold on tight as they could and never let go.
Claudia slowly made her way to the center of the facility. Here was situated their special demonhunter training area. She took up position behind her podium and every student was present. Wordlessly, they took their seats. Their eyes, bright with a third for knowledge, were all fixed on her.
Claudia looked them over for a moment then shut the book in front of her. “No class today.”
Her students were first surprised then disappointed. No class? Why!
“Headmistress, are you joining the fight?” From among her students one strong and dignified voice called out to her. It was Ironspike, the mutant. He had trained hard and was acknowledged as an especially talented novice demonhunter by this point. He spoke to her with a face full of enthusiasm. “The headmistress is strong, she’ll definitely make the enemy regret crossing us!”
The other student vociferously agreed. But their burning eyes were filled both with excitement and concern.
Ironspike’s resolute words caught Claudia off guard. She shook her head. “Actually, I’m not considered strong here in Greenland. And I will not be participating in the battle for various reasons.”
When she said it Claudia could see the disappointment in their faces. What were they disappointed about? That she wasn’t thought of as strong, or that she wasn’t going to fight?
She kept her face calm and continued. “We aren’t having class today, because we have something more important to attend.”
Her students quieted down again. They listened with eager curiosity.
“Today is an important day for Greenland. For the whole of the wastelands.” As she began a conflicting mess of emotions filled her. She had been, after all, a noble demonhunter of Skycloud. Even after months among the wastelanders her former life still left its mark. However it had finally begun to dawn on her that she was an Elysian no longer. “It’s important that you are all there to see this historic moment.”
“Headmistress, what do you mean by historic moment?”
“The Governor is going to meet with several people, each of them very important for the wastelands. They are fine examples for you to follow in your life, for they represent the real strength of the wastelands. They came here with a purpose and a motive, but what’s important for you to know is that they are all pioneers, all elders who deserve your utmost respect.
Their eyes glittered with interest.
“In the future, when you’re sitting safely in class and learning to better yourselves, remember that these men and women are who made it possible. They were the ones who stood up to death and danger in the dark places you can’t see, protecting you so you can have that future.”
“Further in the future, if some of you grow to be as strong as they are, please remember them and their contributions. Do everything you can to walk in their footsteps. Transforming the wastelands is a long and difficult journey that will require the efforts and sacrifices of many generations.”
“That’s enough lecturing. Now, let’s go take a look.” Claudia was suddenly struck with a wave of exhaustion when she finished her speech.
The students were all abuzz with excitement. Azura was the first to shoot to her feet and took charge. “Alright, calm down! Follow instructions. We don’t want this to be a mess!”
Everyone obediently quieted down. Azura wasn’t just the most talented among them, she also had a surprisingly commanding presence for her age. She was only ten years old! When she grew up, she would be exactly the sort of person Claudia had just been talking about.
The students arranged themselves into orderly lines, then made their way to the square in the center of the city. They stood straight and tall, and quiet as they waited for the spectacle. It was an hours-long process, and not once did someone complain or get out of line. To them this was like a pilgrimage. They were all excited for every moment.
Eventually a loud rumble shook the city. The gathered citizens turned their eyes toward the noise. Several enormous airships were descending on them from above.
Once they were docked the students watched as a number of striking and important figures emerged. One after the other they presented themselves, and with each new face the students were more in awe. Their headmistress had impressed upon them how important they all were. They understood that without these people, the wastelands would never survive under the shadow of Skycloud.
Wolfblade! Leader of the Dark Atom. For years he stood alone on the front lines against the Elysian lands.
The Khan of Evernight! Master of the city of Nox. They were the mysterious power from the south that wielded incredible and enigmatic power. They were the backbone, supporting them as they marched to war.
Cloudhawk! Governor of Greenland and one of the men these students adored the most. A unique wastelander, and founder of their great realm!
The procession continued: Abaddon, Autumn, Hellflower, Coal, the Wendigo King… a dozen of the wasteland’s greatest leaders all gathered in Greenland. Choose any one at random and you would have a representative of the best of the best the wastes had to offer.
Here they were, most of the wastelands’ powerhouses, gathered as representatives of their land’s defiance to Elysian oppression. Their city had become the center of their bid to win freedom and the right of self-determination.
Who could have imagined that such a small act could lead to one of the most historic wars in modern history?
Cloudhawk, Wolfblade and the Khan stood at the head of the procession. The rest fanned out behind. All together they walked across the square and into the central fort. Although it lasted only a moment – ten minutes at most – the spectacle had filled the students with fervor and determination.
They felt pride at being present when these illustrious figures gathered.
They felt honored that these pioneers were fighting for their right to live free.
They felt confident, for they had faith one day they might join these hero’s ranks.
Fight for survival. Fight for freedom! Fight for dignity! Fight!
Their actions would plant the seeds of resistance and fighting spirit. Their blood would soak the barren lands and, one day, turn it into a vibrant paradise!