Book 7, Chapter 31 - Recruitment

When news that Cloudhawk had destroyed Sky Fortress spread, it was met with joy and shock. The wastelands and Skycloud were awash with cheering citizens.

Nearly half of all the best people from the four Elysian realms had been gathered there. Those soldiers, under the command of four Supremes, had been a deadly threat. Somehow Cloudhawk had managed to handle everything on his own, much to everyone’s surprise. It was hard to believe.

Since its fall, Skycloud had been staunchly against unity with the wastelanders. One of the biggest reasons was they felt they weren’t strong enough to fight against the other four realms. Cloudhawk’s answer was to slap their foes squarely in the face. Not only had he defeated most of their best soldiers, he also removed four Supremes from the equation.

The Alliance was without equal. 

Of course, only the Lightning God had been slain. The others were badly wounded and captured in their weakened state.

Wolfblade brought the three Supremes into Cloudhawk’s subspace cube. They were sealed within the crystal pillars surrounding the Sarcophagus of Rebirth. Even for a creature as old and powerful as Legion, capturing a Supreme was no easy feat. The bodies of such creatures held tremendous worth.

Cloudhawk didn’t know what the fiend was planning to do with them. What he was certain of was that Wolfblade had a plan. To achieve it, they need to find Belial.

“I sent Oddball to follow him for a while but we eventually lost him. He’s slippery. I know the general area he may be in, but nowhere specific.” Cloudhawk knew Belial was trickier than most. A Demon Elder was anything but ordinary.

His talents were in combat, but that didn’t say much. Belial was an elder, who in addition to his unique skills likely had power equivalent to a Supreme. If he wanted to hide, then finding him would take effort.

“Not an issue. He can’t escape my grasp.” Wolfblade chuckled, obviously unconcerned. He thought of something then. “Speaking of this conflict, we managed to capture a fair cache of spoils.”

“Like what?”

“Come see for yourself.”

Wolfblade led Cloudhawk to an airship where a host of Seraphs stood vigil. When he saw them Cloudhawk understood. Seraphs were divine builders whose purpose was to create and maintain. It’d taken only a month to build the Sky Fortress with the help of these puppets. The resources of the four realms were efficiently utilized by them and having been spared the destruction, now they belonged to Cloudhawk.

The Cloud God would be able to make good use of them. Selene as well. Cloudhawk decided to put the latter incharge since he still didn’t fully trust the Cloud God. Selene’s loyalty was not in question.

It was obvious how the Cloud God could use the Seraphs, but Selene’s power over them was not unusual either. Within her was the power of the God King. Just a fraction of that power made her more powerful than many gods.

“I’m sure there are more of them in other Temples,” Cloudhawk said. “The more of these we capture the faster we can build our alliance.”

“That is precisely right.” Wolfblade agreed with the determination. “But remember that although the immediate crisis is averted, we have yet to begin the real war. The divine armies will be here faster than you think and mounting an effective defense will not be easy. Skycloud, Stormford, Highmorn, Praelius, Dragenmere – great lands all, but in a state of chaos.”

Cluodhawk frowned. The dogma of those places was deeply rooted. How was he going to overcome a thousand years of prejudice? One big setback was dramatic, but not enough to crumble a long-standing foundation. Was a few months enough? Any way he cut it, the task before him was difficult.

“My king doesn’t need to worry so. There is always a way.”

Cloudhawk cast Wolfblade a glance. The Demon Elder was always full of secrets. There was nothing he  did not have an answer for – no situation was outside of his control. Based on the way he spoke, it seemed like everything that happened had occurred according to his plans. He was confident, even though on the surface humanity railing against the gods was like trying to break a stone with an egg.

But the Demon King and his elders did not need to rely only on humans. To rise against the gods, they would need to summon the dormant powers of Gahenna.

Cloudhawk asked it straight. “What are you suggesting?”

“Word is you saved Master Bruno Argyris’ daughter. Quite the coincidence. Perhaps you should show mercy and reunite father and child?”

Cloudhawk got the idea. “You’re saying gather the leaders of the realms back up and let them return to their conquered territory? What makes you think they’ll go along with it?” 

“Heh, you never know until you try.”

Cloudhawk didn’t have an answer. He turned away, his black cloak flapping, then walked into a patch of rippling space. Wolfblade watched him vanish. Rubbing his chin the demon nodded to himself. His protege was maturing. When Cloudhawk truly took the reigns, he could finally rest.

More than a thousand years… he had worked so hard for so long, in ways that humans would never know. He was tired, but there was still no way to predict what would happen. All of his efforts were to cultivate a new protagonist to push their story forward. 

It was the fate of the one behind the curtain that they should not know how a scene would play out. As the beginning of this new act drew near, all he could do was wait and see.

**

Idonea awakened with a throbbing head. No inch of her was unscathed, including internal injuries. Like a cripple she lay in bed, hardly able to move her little finger. She fought to dispel the fog in her brain.

Where am I?

She was looking up at a plain ceiling. Nothing was familiar, so it was nowhere she’d been before. But how and why was she here?

Little by little her memory returned. Like fragments of a broken mirror she saw the destruction of Sky Fortress occur in pieces. How long had it been… ?

As her eyes adjusted, a black figure before her sharpened into focus.

A familiar face, though it was hard to put an age to it. He had one black eye and one silver set beneath a crown of messy black hair. Dark clothes wrapped up his body.

He’s… this liar!

As recognize hit, her mind reeled in pain.

Cloudhawk was back to his normal self. Even the Eye of Time was fully functional and accessible whenever he needed. He stretched out a hand and filled Idonea with healing energy. “You’re injured. Fighting was inevitable, and now it’s out of the way.”

Idonea felt a warmth flow thorugh her and she began to feel better. She’d never felt such potent healing energy before. The instant she felt her strength return Idonea leaped off the bed and ran toward the door. Cloudhawk watched her race passed, making no move to stop her. She did that herself when she pulled open the door and saw what was outside.

A vast wilderness oasis spread out before her eyes. Among the bowed trees were scores of buildings arranged in neat districts. Ships floated overhead like clouds and all manner of unfamiliar plants and animals lined the roads. The city was huge in scale, crowded but well organized. She was definitely not in Stormford. She wasn’t in any Elysian realm.

Cloudhawk called out to her. “Welcome to the capital of the Southern Wastelands.”

“Wha-… what are you doing?!” Her face was pale. “I want to go home!”

He smiled. “Of course you do. I’m not here for anything, I just figured you’d want to visit with a guest I’ve had here for a little while. You’re father.”

It came to her all at once. This man was the demon of Skycloud, the one her father had come to fight… but did this mean he was alive? Was her father here?

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