The Temple had darkened somewhat.
Within, five figures convened. The Time Avatar Selene, Highmorn’s High Priest Lucian, Dragemere’s Demonhunter Commander Phoenix, Stormford’s Grand Prior Bruno, and Praelius’ Grand Commander Ash.
Selene began by explaining in brief the situation that Skycloud now faced.
When her report was finished, Phoenix’s fiery red hair was practically standing on end. One could almost swear tongues of flame danced between the threads as though it were actually on fire.
Of the four foreign leaders it was the lone woman who seemed outraged by the circumstance. “What was Skycloud’s leadership doing when the realm was facing these tragedies? Were they so useless? That one leading the wastelanders, Cloudhawk – I will deal with him myself!”
A smile crept into Bruno’s face. “Don’t be so hasty, Commander Phoenix. We know from the honorable Avatar’s report that this Cloudhawk is the Demon King’s successor. He possesses spatial talent, the strongest to be found in this world. No one contests that Commander Phoenix is the strongest warrior throughout Dragenmere, but capturing or killing a master of dimensions is no easy feat.”
Lucian and Ash said nothing. They withheld their words as they pondered the situation.
Until now they were unaware of the troubles facing Skycloud. All of the Elysian realms were separate and did not typically communicate. Had nothing happened to the Cloud God’s realm, they wouldn’t be here.
Eventually Lucian asked a question. “Why is Skycloud’s patron deity not with us?”
It then occurred to the others that indeed this was an Elysian realm. It had its own god to guide it!
Mount Sumeru had lost contact with the Cloud god but knew it still lived. Skycloud’s master had severed its ability to provide information to the collective but still received. The Cloud God knew all that gods were preparing.
When the Supremes sent their representatives to Skycloud, they did so without telling the humans about the Cloud God’s aberrant state. Orders were simply to comply with whatever the Avatar required for this was no ordinary godly representative – the power within her was gifted directly by the God King.
Selene explained in calm tones. “The Cloud God has been corrupted and will never return to Mount Sumeru. It has betrayed us, and should you encounter the renegade it must be destroyed.”
“What? Murder a god?!”
Once more, Phoenix raised her voice. This time in alarm. The others shared a wordless look. If they’d been asked to hunt a demon there would be no hesitation, but to slay a god? Such a thing was easy to say but far more difficult to achieve. On the one hand it was difficult for them to wrap their minds around. On the other, the Cloud god had been one of the Supremes.
Selene had no intention of repeating herself. “The Cloud God’s strongest aspect is its psychic ability. He can attack through nearly any defense and is my only real threat. Although it has not overtly acted against the gods yet, the corrupted god cannot be permitted to continue living.”
Selene’s powers of time allowed her to see all attacks before they occurred. However, against the mental powers of the Cloud God even she felt threatened. Its scope of influence was wide, far wider than Selene’s. If it attacked from outside the range of her abilities she would not know until it was too late.
It must be that the Cloud God had not yet decided to turn against the gods entirely. But whether or not that was true, it would act before the Boundary Portal opened again.
When that occurred Selene would find it difficult if not impossible to finish the process. Besides the fact that he could attack from great distances, Skycloud was also its home territory. With the reputation it bore as patron, a single word could unravel all her plans.
The fact that the Cloud God had yet to do either of these things meant it was still uncertain. Perhaps it hoped to return to the fold.
Selene found it pathetic, almost laughable. A god hoping with the blind desperation of a gambler. Such feelings within a god, with the thought seal removed… what made it any different from these sad mortals?
Lucian intruded once again. “Calm yourself, Mistress Phoenix. We are newly arrived and know nothing of this place. We should listen to the honorable Avatar’s instructions.”
Clearly Phoenix was the most reactive of the group. More than likely it was a result of the environment she came from. As the realm’s greatest warrior there was not a soul in Dragenmere that could stand before her. Undoubtedly this would foster a more arrogant nature.
Of course she was also no fool. She knew there were powers greater than her. When her patron god arrived even it would not be able to supersede the will of the Avatar. How much truer was this of Phoenix? She was wise enough to know when to hold back.
Selene continued. “For the time being the Cloud God is dormant, but may change sides at any moment. If it does then we will be unable to wage war against Cloudhawk, even with you here.”
His took the delegates by surprise. Unable? How could that be? They were the very best of their respective realms and had brought along thirty elite soldiers each. Suddenly ten historically powerful warriors had arrived in Skycloud with twenty more formidable fighters to support them. With such a group, how could they be powerless against a wasteland rabble?
Phoenix was the most incredulous among them. But before she could voice her disbelief Selene fixed her with her silver gaze and went on. “How likely do you find your chances of rising against the God King?”
The question came out of the blue. Phoenix hadn’t expected it and didn’t know how to respond. In truth it had never even occurred to her. Why would she raise her hand against the God King? Of course, now that it was posed she stopped to consider. She acknowledged that even with her strength, against such a creature as the God King she’d be woefully inadequate.
Selene didn’t need to wait for her answer. “Skycloud’s former Governor, Arcturus Cloude, had strength equivalent to a Supreme God. He was perhaps stronger than some of the Legendary Demonhunters of old. But even he died at Cloudhawk’s hand. Do you think you are more powerful than Arcturus had been?”
Once again the other leaders exchanged surprised looks.
Their assumption had been that Skycloud’s leaders were weak and ineffectual, that was why such tragedy had befallen the realm. Selene’s words proved the truth to be quite the opposite – in fact, if what she said was correct than Skycloud’s Governor had been stronger than anyone from the other realms. At once they realized there was a real and dire threat that had caused Skycloud to be in the state it was today.
Cloudhawk had arisen. The southern wastes boasted a population nearing two million. With Skycloud fractured, defeating the wastelanders would be difficult.
The Avatar filled the silence. “From today we will seal off the realm. Any Elysians we find suspicious or seditious will be removed. Our border wall must be restored. Once this is finished, we wait for the Boundary Portal to open.”
The four leaders thought for a while. Being that they did not know the situation there was no option but to heed the Avatar’s directions. They trusted she would not make a mistake.
Selene then gave each of them a task. Ash Farran was put in command of the realm’s entire military force. Lucian Ambrose would take over administration of the Temple. Phoenix Igna became the commander of Skycloud’s Demonhunter Corps and Bruno Argyris would lead the rest of the special forces. All focus would be on rebuilding the border wall.
With their orders given, the leaders left the Temple.
Skycloud was in a state of chaos. The Boundary Portal’s unstable opening had caused widespread harm and destruction. If something wasn’t done then panic was sure to spread quickly.
In considering this situation Phoenix grumbled. “Poor wretches.”
Ash’s frigid voice returned, “Unlucky enough to live in the land of a traitorous god. Better they are all culled before another like Cloudhawk emerges.”
After the tragedies Skycloud had faced it was unlikely the realm would ever return to what it had been.
Ash Farran made his way to the former Commander-General’s mansion. From there he learned what state the realm’s armies were in and summoned a stewart before him. “Bring the one called Hammont Seacrest here,” he ordered.
About half an hour later, a slovenly man with an unshaven droopy face dressed in officer’s garb was brought forth. Ash regarded him with a stony expression. “You were one of the generals who fought and lost against Cloudhawk?”
Hammont looked back at this unfamiliar man. Although he knew nothing about him, the aura the soldier generated was enough to leave him breathless. He managed to nod his head. “Y-yes.”
Ash plucked something off the desk and threw it at the fat man. “Consider this formal confirmation. You’re to help me manage the realm’s troops.”
Hammont watched the item skid across the desk and stop before him. He stared blankly. A writ of promotion.
Was this how he would become an official general?
There wasn’t a ripple in his heart. It’d been his highest aspiration to become a high-ranking commander, but now it held no flavor.
Ash had selected Hammont because of his spotless record. Any relationship he had with Cloudhawk and Arcturus had been expunged. All that remained were the times Hammont lead troops against the wasteland scourge.
Just as Hammont had predicted, he’d clawed his way up from the bottom and was now a mighty general of the armed forces. The new Commander-General was unfamiliar with Skycloud’s military and needed someone like him to help get situated.Previous Chapter Next Chapter