Dawn and Selene returned to Greenland, delivering their report.
Cloudhawk was surprised by what he learned. “I had a feeling something was off in Highmorn, but not like this. Luckily I sent you two and there are no consequences for me to worry about. What is the situation there now?”
“We scoured the Temple and didn’t find any sympathizers. It looks like Zephon was probably working alone. Dead as a doornail, now. You don’t need to worry about it,” Dawn said. “We hardly broke a sweat dealing with the cockroach.”
Selene furtively cast a belittling glance at her compatriot. The blond bimbo was very fond of talking herself up. Egotistical bitch.
If they hadn’t worked together they would have died in Highmorn. Things would have only gotten much worse from there. It was also thanks to the relics Cloudhawk had given them. He was unconcerned for their safety because he knew the sort of power they wielded.
“Less than half of the Temple’s people made it. We found them in the prison, including Master Anan.” Dawn scowled. “He’s supposed to be a Master Demonhunter. Got caught right away. We brought him back with us.”
Cloudhawk rose to his feet. “Bring me to him.”
He was led into the subspace cube where Hellflower and Belial were treating Walrick Anan’s wounds. The mighty demonhunter was a frail old man now, with a body covered in hideous black growth. They were so numerous that no inch of healthy flesh remained.
He was awake and greeted Cloudhawk with a shamed expression. “I’m sorry. I was cocky, unprepared for what was in the Temple. I didn’t think we’d be walking into a trap.”
Cloudhawk nodded to show he held nothing against him. He then asked the others, “What’s it look like?”
Hellflower adjusted her goggles. “No lethal danger at the moment. However, I am curious why Master Anan wasn’t just killed. There had to be a reason to keep him alive like… this.”
It certainly wasn’t a sign of mercy from Zephon. He’d lost his mind. Under the domination of a god, he showed no quarter – especially not to a deserter.
“Simple. Ammunition.” Belial, in his human form, had taken up post here as a scientist and researcher. “The Star of Dark Omens continuously corrupts any living thing it touches. As you can imagine this causes terrible trauma to the body. The Star’s power rapidly extracts all potential from living tissue, ultimately resulting in exhaustion and death.”
In other words, the contaminated clerics Dawn and Selene saw in the Temple were already doomed. Zephon didn’t turn them into walking bombs right away, he had to wait for the contagion to spread. Once they were ‘primed’ he could use them as weapons.
“Once the transformation has begun there is no reversing it. Luckily, Walrick wasn’t completely contaminated. After a few days he should be back to normal.”
This took Hellflower by surprise. “How do you know that?”
“Because I made the relic that did this to him.”
Cloudhawk might have figured. The Star of Dark Omens was a demon Elder’s relic. Belial, being Gehenna’s chief artisan, was probably responsible for all sorts of terrible weapons.
“Where is this relic? Sounds like it could be useful.” Hellflower was visibly excited by the prospect of studying the Star. It was completely different from any other relic she knew. Not overtly destructive, but practically impossible to defend against. Perhaps it could be abused to make the weak strong – especially suitable for someone with minimal power like Hellflower.
Cloudhawk looked pointedly at Dawn and Selene.
They both shifted awkwardly. Cloudhawk watched Dawn produce the broken pieces and place it on a table. He was surprised that they had managed to destroy it in the first place. These ladies had gotten strong.
He then turned to Belial. “Can it be fixed?”
The demon frowned. “Hard to say. I can try.”
It was what it was. Cloudhawk left the two in charge of the wounded. They were the experts, after all, especially Belial with his rich experience with relics.
“We got a little carried away and broke that relic, but we did complete our mission.” Dawn was eager to save face. She fished out a second item and handed it over. It looked like a pendant. “This is the Key.”
The Key. A simple name for a simple-looking item.
It appeared to be made of a colorless crystal hanging on a white thread. Around the edges were several gemstones. Looking into the heart of the pendent, it was like staring into the night sky, with the starry contents constantly swirling.
Cloudhawk could feel waves of spatial power wafting from it. Without question, it was a relic that bore dimensional power.
He held it in his hand and looked the item over. He reached into it with his feelings and listened to its patterns, trying to learn how it worked. He sensed the power of every relic as a particular resonance. If he could understand the vibration, he could understand the secrets of the relic.
Dawn couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Well? Can you use it?”
Selene was also interested. She didn’t know how this small relic could extract thousands of tonnes of crystal from beneath the Cursed Desert. It seemed impossible, even if Cloudhawk had help.
He didn’t answer. Cloudhawk merely lifted his hand with the pendent wrapped around his wrist. A strange light glowed within the gems, too fast for Dawn to react.
Space shimmered, and in a blink Dawn found herself… somewhere else.
She’d experienced teleportation before, but in times past there was a process to it. She knew when it was happening. This time, though, it was almost instantaneous. By the time she realized what happened it was already done.
Dawn and Selene had swapped places. This was the power of the Key, shifting location between two things. The more similar their size and mass, the easier it was to perform.
“I was right, but we must first prepare.”
Before they could move the Source, Cloudhawk had to find something of similar mass to swap it with. Not an easy task for something fifty kilometers around.
Hellflower piped up. “The south-eastern side of the capital hugs an underground mountain range. We can try to complete the transference from there.”
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