Cloudhawk was led to a huge passage barred by a set of gates. It delved deep into the earth and at the far end, he could make out the faintest bit of light.
Husk, the leader of the Eternal, gave an affirmative nod. Belial was down there, but what he was up to was a mystery.
The Eternal explained that they could only lead him here. No further help was possible. So long as Belial held the Black Heart, they had neither the courage nor power to rise against him. The foul relic had the power to override their thoughts and turn them into mindless, ever-living zombies.
What’s more, the Heart could compel them to act on his command. They could be a hundred times stronger than they were now and it would mean nothing in the face of the demon. Below, where other defenses lay, the Eternal would be more of a detriment to Cloudhawk than a boon.
After some thought, Cloudhawk saw the logic. It wasn’t a problem, because he had no choice. Despite the dangers he knew what he had to do.
“We’ll figure it out as we go along. Let’s head in.”
Him and his crew stepped into the tunnel and made their way deeper into the earth.
By the time they reached the distant light they discovered that it wasn’t an exit, but an entrance. Cloudhawk had used a significant amount of time and resources carving into this crystal and had created a fissure. It was insignificant to the crystal as a whole, but plenty large enough to allow passage.
The Eternal claimed this crystal had formed over thousands of years. In that time it had continued to grow until it spread out all through the desert. With time it would continue to spread and grow firm until it was hundreds of kilometers wide – all one solid piece.
It was a strange formation. Who had ever seen a single crystal that was a hundred kilometers in diameter? Something that large couldn’t be called a crystal anymore, it was like its own small planet. The purity of it was also infinitely close to perfect. It was dense and uniformly shaped, like a work of art.
Without a doubt, something this flawless was not natural. It had to be a cover for the gods’ secret base here on earth. The seed they left behind. Could this massive crystal be the ship that would eventually burst from the ground? The whole thing stank of divinity!
But as Cloudhawk thought about it, he second guessed the theory. When he thought back to the memories from the crystal, he remembered that the ship they sent to the planets was a single drop.
Those teardrop-like spacecraft were simple, no more than a thousand meters long and seemed more liquid than crystal. This stuff in front of them was different. It was much, much larger. What’s more, it was packed with more energy than Cloudhawk could believe.
It was even more condensed than eboncrys. The black crystals they used for energy grew from the energy of the universe. They were a strong driving force for production and could improve the destructive power of whatever it joined with. It’d become the core driving his Alliance’s progress.
Both cursed spar and eboncrys were crystals formed from energy. Eboncrys, in a way, was just a more efficient sort of coal albeit with more condensed energy. This so-called cursed spar was different. All the energy it contained was virtually incorporeal, meaning that even if it were released all at once it wouldn’t have much of an effect on its surroundings. It couldn’t be used to power a factory or strengthen weapons.
The power inside cursed spar was mental energy.
Mental energy wasn’t measured by physics or biology. It was a higher form of energy that didn’t directly interact with the physical world. What it could do was reach into the deeper parts of matter and change its fundamental resonance. It affected and adjusted things on a quantum level.
That was how a demonhunter’s power worked. So in other words, cursed spar was mental power in highly condensed form. If Cloudhawk gathered all the demonhunters of Skycloud, the sum of their mental strength wouldn’t add up to one one-thousandth of this crystal. If all of this crystal’s power was released it might not offer much in the way of energy, but the mental storm would be apocalyptic.
Cloudhawk led the way. Frost, Autumn and Abaddon followed. All at once it was as though they stepped into a dream. The crystal was similar to ice in how light warped through it, only it clung to the surface like a halo.
“Careful. Something’s not right.”
Cloudhawk felt something drawing him. It was like his soul was trying to leave his body and become devoured by the crystals. Powerful mental energy thrummed all around them, so dense that it was overwhelming his mind and blunting his danger sense.
“Cloudhawk, are these crystals and the spirit orbs the same?”
Autumn asked the question, and it made sense that she would make this connection. In one of the worlds Cloudhawk traveled to, they found those spirit creatures whose essence contracted into a spirit orb when they were destroyed. They were the same, dense collections of mental energy.
He’d worked closely with Autumn and the Shepherd God, using these crystals to enhance his power and even affixed them to relics he created. Autumn immediately made the connection based on this experience. And she was right – the similarities were striking.
It would take all of the Elysian lands hundreds of years to mine all this crystal. The value would be incalculable. After all, mental energy could do anything! It could change matter at the desire of its wielder.
An example that perhaps didn’t do it justice, was to call this crystal a universal voucher. You wanted water? Done. Soil? Easy. Gold? More than you can use in a matter of minutes. Food? There at your fingertips.
There simply was no way to put a price on a crystal this size. If this could all be excavated than all the desires of every living thing on this planet could be realized. The discovery of this crystal was of huge importance and implications.
“Yeah, more or less. But there is a difference,” Cloudhawk revealed. “I can feel that there’s something else in these crystals other than mental energy. I can’t tell what exactly, yet. We’ll have to take some back with us and examine it more closely.”
This place had to have some connection to the divine seed. According to Abaddon, they called it Source. Cursed spar was what the locals called it, but its true name was ‘The Source of Gods and Demons.’ Source crystals. They were the embryos from which those mighty creatures were conceived.
“We’re under attack!”
The warning came from Frost, who was taking up the rear of their party. All of a sudden Cloudhawk felt a shift in the air and a number of black shapes closed in. Somehow they’d managed to surround them without him noticing.
What the fuck? Did Belial set up an ambush?
Cloudhawk raised his left arm and a shield of white light was summoned. The attackers crashed against it then shattered as though they were made of smoke.
“Strange,” Autumn whispered. “They aren’t real!”
As she made the observation, they watched the smoke get sucked into the surrounding crystal. It used the spirit power of the crystals to reform its body.
Abaddon waved his hand and a volley of sand arrows was formed. However, as they struck the crystal surface they left only tiny scratches a few centimeters deep. Meanwhile, the creatures within could move through the space at will.
This was a problem. The crystals were hard a diamond. Since their attackers weren’t wholly physical they could move through the crystal surface without issue. The space within the Source was their world, and they could lash out at then as they passed without fear of reprisal.
A few moments later they could see more of these black shapes hiding within the walls.
Suddenly Cloudhawk and his allies found themselves neck deep in trouble. They were in enemy territory with no way to fight back. Even Cloudhawk for all his strength couldn’t destroy the crystals and get to the smoke.
“This is a problem,” hissed Abaddon. “We appear to be surrounded.”
Autumn couldn’t shake the burning fear that the Eternal had led them into a deathtrap.
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