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Book 5, Chapter 43 - The Khan's Visi

 Lately, Cloudhawk had been spending most of his time in his lab. A steady flow of things for him to research came pouring in from the other world through the portal he'd created. While he had yet to build a relic he could be proud of, he had already mastered the creation of exorcist bows and rods.

Bit by bit his understanding of relics and their creation deepened. Proof of this was the wasteland-style exorcist rod. Inset with the psychic pearl, it could produce as much stopping power as a regular relic in the hands of a normal demonhunter, or perhaps even more.

It was a crucial discovery. By making even these basic relics autonomous from the bearer's psychic energies, he'd shattered the barrier between normal people and demonhunters, between wastelanders and Elysians. In creating these relics, Cloudhawk dispelled the myth that they were solely provided by the gods. Relics weren't divine gifts. They were tools with a unique source of power, that was all. Mental energy wasn't some god-granted power, either. It was a power source that was extractable and transformable.

Meanwhile, Greenland had continued to attract powerful people from all across the southern wastes. These highly evolved wastelanders had grown up in a land that was harsh and unforgiving. All they needed to become elite fighters was a little training in the Elysian style, and a few pointers in the martial arts. Then, with the relics provided by Cloudhawk, they became practically unstoppable.

Right now the only thing they lacked was time to build up.

The Goshawks were only about a hundred strong and still untrained. So far, the secrets of martial arts were still mysteries to them, but there was nothing he could do about that. Cloudhawk had to admit with some pride, however, that the Goshawks were already a singular unit, and it was unlikely any other group in the wilds could stand up to them. In fact, he was sure that if you threw them into the heart of Skycloud they could go toe to toe with any other unit of similar size and come out on top - with the exception of Templars.

And this was just the beginning! Given a couple of years Cloudhawk could grow the Goshawks to several times their current size. They would all be martial artists, and each member would have at least two relics each. But that wasn't enough. They would also be equipped with high-grade, high-tech weapons and ordinance. They would have the best armor technology could produce. He would mold them into true wasteland Templars!

If Templars existed to defend the Temple, then Goshawks were made to protect Greenland - to protect the dignity of their new home.

Once fully established, who would dare look down on wastelander strength? With them, Greenland would become as stable and established as a mountain. And by then, when Greenland had been transformed into the paradise he envisioned, Cloudhawk would heap praise on the three women that made it happen.

Without Autumn's help in establishing a border, Greenland wouldn't have had the period of safety and seclusion it needed to grow. Also, her guidance in creating the dimensional portal ensured Greenland had plenty of resources to draw from. Hellflower's worth and contributions were as plain as the nose on one's face. She was the foremost scientist they had, a genius of invention and creation. From agricultural techniques to all manner of other inventions she was at the head of it all.

But of them all, Dawn earned the most praise.

Her contributions to Greenland were the most wide-ranging, including bringing the Elysian soldiers that saved them in the beginning. With the Talons of God on his side, as well as veterans and elders from the Polaris family, they transformed every aspect of this city - from its foundation to its administration, from education to training. These soldiers lay at the crux of it all.

It was no exaggeration to say that without the Polaris family's contribution and forces, Greenland City would very likely never reached the place it was today. This period of rapid growth would have been a pipe dream.

Dawn herself worked tirelessly and put in as much work as anyone else. Her efforts built the homes Greenland's citizens now lived in. To accomplish so much in only a few months was a phenomenal and difficult task, even for her.

Every corner of this town was built through their blood and sweat. Cloudhawk considered his own position as leader and wryly noted how limited his contributions seemed.

The day wore on and the pleasant glow of evening filtered through the semi-transparent barrier that protected them. Dappled rays of fading light were cast through the canopy and down upon the tranquil streets. Yet as he looked at the picturesque scene, for reasons unknown Cloudhawk's heart was disquieted.

It was too calm. The sort of calm you felt in the eye of a storm. He wasn't sure why he felt so strangely, but he trusted his sixth sense. There was definitely something ominous on the horizon.

"Bad news, excellency! Miss Polaris has been captured!" Barb burst through the door with this dire bit of news.

Dawn? Captured? How? He'd seen her just a little while ago and she was fine.

Word of her capture quickly spread through the city. In under twenty minutes, their best and brightest were assembled. Hellflower, the drunk, Gabriel and a number of the Polaris family's best had gathered. Everyone was present, but for the single empty seat that belonged to Dawn.

"What the fuck happened?"

"It happened too fast. We're only just hearing about it." Hellflower pushed her goggles up higher on her nose. "Earlier this morning a settlement near Greenland's border called Howling Outpost was attacked, we're not sure by who. When Dawn heard she gathered a few soldiers first thing and went to investigate. Best we can tell it was a trap and she walked into it."

Cloudhawk's face was all frowns and furrowed brows. "What do we know now?"

"We sent someone to find out what was going on. We found the bodies of several Polaris soldiers but no trace of Dawn. This leads us to believe she's still alive but in the hands of the enemy."

"Just from this one attack?"

"Impossible! How can a mere raid result in this?"

Representatives of the Polaris family clamored in shock. They were here because their mistress commanded it. If she was in trouble, then it would be a dereliction of duty to sit on their laurels here in the city. If something happened to her, the shame on their names would be impossible to wash clean.

Even Roc, ever calm and collected, found himself trembling with anger. Dawn was the General's only granddaughter. Whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice, she had to be returned safely. If she died then their lives would have no purpose.

"Everyone, calm down!" Hellflower scowled. "The enemy acts from the darkness and we're exposed in the light. We don't even know who it is we're up against. We need a target if we're going to go racing after Dawn, don't we?"

"There are only a handful of people in the wastelands strong enough to overpower Dawn." Cloudhawk sat in his chair, the picture of calm. However everyone knew that underneath that facade a powerful and angry force was brewing. "This isn't the way Elysians do things. If Skycloud came to snatch people up it wouldn't just be Dawn. Unless I'm mistaken, this was put together by wastelanders."

His determination only made the Polaris soldiers more anxious to act. If their mistress was in the hands of those savages, it was even worse than they feared.

"There's no one out here she's made enemies with. The Polaris family hasn't had any direct conflicts with any wastelands groups, either. I don't believe Dawn or the Polaris family was their intended target. They were either after me or a response from Greenland." He thought for a moment then rose to his feet. "Drunk, Gabby, prepare to leave. We're going to Wolf's Den."

Hellflower blinked after hearing his announcement, but quickly understood what he was thinking.

If indeed there were only a few organizations that could capture someone like Dawn, they were most likely from the south. The Khan of Evernight was highest on the list of suspects. And even if he wasn't responsible, a visit to Wolf's Den wasn't a waste. If his organization was responsible, Cloudhawk could assail the Den directly and get Dawn back. If they weren't, he could negotiate for aid or information from the Khan. If they used the wargs to help search for her, it would cut down the time required significantly.

They were preparing to leave when a messenger burst into the room. "Boss, there's a group outside who's here to see you. The Khan of Evernight is with them."

This new development stunned everyone who heard. Cloudhawk was just off to see the man and here he was, presenting himself to them. Why? His sudden presence was more than just suspicious. Almost certainly they were here regarding Dawn.

The Khan of Evernight had come with the Wendigo King and ten of his black knights. When Cloudhawk appeared, the Khan's red eyes flared and he wasted no time coming to the point. "I have the information you want."

Cloudhawk was dangerously close to losing his temper. "What do you mean?"

"My intelligence sources have told me about a group from the Northern Barrens. They call themselves the Hand of Gehenna. It was they who laid the trap on the outskirts of Greenland's influence and captured the Polaris girl - but I believe you to be the one they were after."

"The Hand of Gehenna? Them..."

Cloudhawk's hands curled into fists. Squall, you bastard. Now, that asshole had really made him mad. The next time they crossed paths, Cloudhawk promised himself he wouldn't go easy.

The concerned faces of the Polaris clan members also turned dark with fury. They all knew the Hand of Gehenna was lead by Inkspecter - the man who was once their patriarch's closest adviser. The same man who was responsible for all the tragedies that had laid them low.

Cloudhawk did not waste time. "Where are they?"

But the Khan shook his head. "It is too late. Even if you pursue them immediately, you cannot save Dawn Polaris. My sources claim she was collected by Skycloud's expeditionary force. The Hand is clever and knows they are no match for your strength. So, they intend to borrow another's dagger to kill."

The suspicion never fled from Cloudhawk's gaze as he regarded the mysterious Khan. "I'm not on the best terms with that lot but they don't have a reason to come after me, either. How do I know this isn't some story you've cooked up?"

"You're free to verify this intelligence on your own. However, I will caution that you have precious little time." The Khan paused, and then -

"Greenland is not powerful enough yet to contend with the expeditionary force. But it would be, if we joined forces."

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