Beneath the city, planners had discovered a massive underground layer of rock whose size and composition were different from its surroundings. It was transferred here a thousand years ago, during the cataclysm that broke the earth. It was also the most suitable thing they could use to exchange for the desert’s Source.
In the early morning, people began to gather.
The Shepherd God spread her enchantments to temporarily cover the entire capital. The realm’s strongest were strategically positioned and all the capital’s defensive towers were activated. The capital was on high alert and all the citizens gathered in open spaces to avoid any possible danger.
Azura and her fellow students were helping the soldiers maintain order. By now the students were all given formal appointment as Greenland Awakened. They weren’t given posts on the front lines, but did have responsibilities around the city.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re not going to war, are we?”
“Nonsense. I heard Cloudhawk is preparing to bring a huge treasure to Greenland. If he succeeds we won’t have to worry about resources anymore.”
“Such a treasure exists? Impossible.”
Curiosity and rumors about what was coming were rampant.
A small figure approached, draped in a cloak that was a little too big for her. Her shoulder-length hair was tied up in a ponytail and three swords were strapped to her back. In her hands was an exorcist bow. Her face was a picture of determination and valor.
Everyone stood a little straighter. Everyone listened and respected Azura. There was every reason why they should.
With her talents she had already surpassed Greenland Institute’s chief instructor, Claudia Lunae. She was widely accepted as the school’s best, not least because she was known to routinely defeat veteran demonhunters twice her age.
Skycloud’s most famous talents – people like Arcturus and Selene – didn’t show as much promise at her age. But more than that, the leadership qualities she showed were amazing. With an innate charm and gravitas, people were drawn to her command.
She had been given the post of deputy-commander of the Goshawks. She was responsible for keeping a special unit of young soldiers numbering in the hundreds under control. Ordinarily she was responsible for giving them tasks and overseeing their training. Her team had already begun to accumulate a good reputation.
Among the young generation, she was closest to matching Cloudhawk’s potential. War was coming and they needed to be ready, but it seemed like the next generation would easily match the one before. Since Azura was also Cloudhawk’s sole disciple, it was widely assumed she would take on the mantle of alliance leadership one day.
She shouted at them. “Remember your orders.”
“Yes, ma’am!” They shouted. “Protect the citizens! Protect Greenland!” Her soldiers stared straight ahead with firm expressions.
Overhead, several airships floated like clouds.
They came from the Elysian realms, the wastelands, Woodland Vale and Meadow. Armies from everywhere. Dawn stood within the bridge of the flagship staring out across the horizon. Everyone was gathered to witness the scene.
She cast her eyes down to the ground. Her voice rang out, amplified by a loudspeaker. “I am Dawn Polaris, Governor of the Southern Capital. Everyone, evacuate the area immediately. Again, clear the area!”
“I know you are curious to see what follows. Remember, what you are about to witness is proof of the crimes the gods have committed against our species. Remember what our leader, Cloudhawk, has done to protect us. What we are about to accomplish will affect us all.”
“Today is another miracle on our path to freedom.”
Azura’s eyes were fixed on the horizon. She could feel the hum of relics growing stronger. Straight ahead was a group of mighty warriors, all of which she looked up to. Every one of them was a hero in their own right.
Azura wasn’t ready to join their ranks yet, but she was confident that she would one day. Sometime in the not too distant future she could become an important pillar of this world they were building. She was sure of it.
Behind her were scores of troops and civilians who had been evacuated from the site.
Times had changed dramatically in a very short time. Everyone was less sensitive to the news of the times. Citizens and soldiers alike only understood fragments of what was going on, but they were ready to face the future all the same.
Cloudhawk’s defeat of the four Supremes already seemed like a distant legend. Word of the encroaching divine army had spread, but they didn’t realize how serious that was. They were confident that Cloudhawk would see them through.
In times of peace and times of war, citizens lived different lives from their leaders. Ordinary folk were like little fish, swept along with the tides. Only the mighty among them had the power to change how the current flowed.
That was why the life of a commoner was peaceful and satisfying. Although they weren’t in complete control of their lives and couldn’t change the future, at least they could accept it as it was. Without this responsibility they could live in peace. It was the sort of life Cloudhawk had always wished to live.
Unfortunately for him, Cloudhawk could never outrun his destiny. There was no such thing as peaceful seclusion, not for him. Instead he had created a peaceful land for thousands of others. He had to sigh at the machinations of fate.
Thud, thud, thud, thud!
“Everyone at the ready!” Azura felt the ground tremble beneath her feet. She raised her hand high in preparation. “We’re about to start!”
As soon as the shaking began, it quickly picked up in intensity.
Azura felt a pressure descend. A strong wind was blowing that struck her like a wall. She teetered back but kept her footing. At this moment, out beyond the border of the Southern Capital, a bubble expanded into view. In no time at all it had spread across several kilometers.
Most of the bubble was below the surface, so vision alone couldn’t reveal the scale. All they could see was the air within the bubble shifting strangely. Bolts of lightning crashed together inside, spewing waterfalls of sparks.
Even from this distance Azura was struck by how much power was within it.
Suddenly there was a light as bright as the sun. Through squinting eyes Azura saw the desert undulating like the surface of a lake. All the area around the bubble collapsed and others heaved upwards a thousand meters.
A huge burst of energy spread through the ground, spawning waves of seismic activity. Like a stone dropped into a puddle, people watched in awe as the landscape was fundamentally altered. Huge plumes of sand were spat into the sky, temporarily turning day into night.
The violent earthquakes continued for a time before eventually subsiding.
Greenland was protected by the God Tree’s enchantment, further supported by the power of several powerful demonhunters and Awakened. No one was in danger of being injured by the dramatic display.
Citizens and soldiers alike stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Azura, Gabriel, Barb and others watched in utter disbelief. They could hardly imagine the breadth of power needed to accomplish such a thing!
But Cloudhawk had done it. He’d really done it.
Over the distance of thousands of kilometers he brought a grand treasure right to their doorstep. With the Source they could power their war against the gods and catapult their species to prosperity.
The sky was dark.
Like the explosion of a nuclear bomb or a massive meteor impact, huge plumes of dust and sand were thrown into the air. For a long time they spread out like a blanket, concealing the sun and covering the city in darkness.
But that wasn’t a bad omen, it was a grand sign. Cloudhawk had brought the Source to them. With this wealth of power people could create whatever they wished. There would never be a shortage of resources ever again.
Just as the southern wastes were being transformed, a massive pit appeared in the Cursed Desert as well. Kesjir vanished entirely, tumbling into the sandy depths. The surrounding dunes poured in like waterfalls. From this point forward, the Cursed Desert would be nothing but a huge, dead expanse.
The world’s landscape was changed. Earthquakes shuddering through the area were felt as far away as Stormford.
Overhead were hundreds of airships, watching the display. Those aboard were astounded by Cloudhawk’s power. Who would believe that a single man could transport something the size of a city, practically across the entire world! But that is exactly what had happened.
It was an act that was bound to be remembered forever. The witnesses stared at the silent, sandy basin where an oasis once stood. It was all that remained of the miracle.
This was bound to mark a turning point. What happened here was vitally important to humanity, and to the survival of their planet.