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Book 5, Chapter 67 - The Will of Gehenna

 The Southern Wastes. Greenland.

Dawn slowly came out of her coma, opening her eyes to the familiar sight of Greenland fort. Her head was muddled and heavy and she felt weak. It took ten whole minutes for her to fully come around and all the while memories of how she got here filled her mind.

Sanctuary! Wasn't I at Sanctuary?

With wide eyes she sat straight up in bed.

The last tihng she remembered was throwing herself in front of Cloudhawk to protect him from Janus. She remembered what it felt like when that black dagger dug into her. It was a strike from Skycloud's ultimate assassin... so how was she still breathing?

She swung her legs over the side of the bed and tried to stand, but was too weak. She crumpled to the ground.

"Miss Dawn, you're awake." An alluring voice caught her attention. Dawn turned her head and her eyes traveled up a voluptuous body to see Hellflower standing over her. "You've been in a coma for five days. You're weak, you need to rest."

Dawn didn't care, she could only think of one thing. "Cloudhawk?"

Hellflower sighed and shook her head. "Don't worry about that now."

But she persisted. "Tell me. Where is Cloudhawk? Where is he!?"

"Cloudhawk led Greenland's forces to Sanctuary in order to save you. They succeeded, but he..." She trailed off, her face a mix of emotions. "He didn't come back. We don't know if he's alive."

Dawn's mind went blank. Cloudhawk didn't come back? Why not? How could he abandon Greenland?

No! Impossible!

Hellflower saw the pain in Dawn's face and shook her head. "We're all sad to lose Cloudhawk. I know what you're feeling. But you can't afford to go running off. We have no idea where Cloudhawk went, if he's even still alive. All we know is he was taken by the demon elder from the fortress."

Dawn could hear it, Hellflower had no confidence he was still out there. She knew better than anyone how terrible his condition was.

Under such conditions, to give himself the stimulant injection and push his body passed the limit, the chances he could survive were slim to none.

Dawn couldn't forgive herself. She'd left to try and help Cloudhawk, she didn't think it would lead to this.

She was in his debt. The rest of her life was still so unclear and if something had really happened to Cloudhawk how could she look at herself in a mirror? She was the one who should die!

Why was fate so unfair to him? Why was he forced to confront all of this on his own?

It'd been several days since the conflict. Only a third of the men Greenland had sent returned. They received a hero's welcome.

Members of Cloudhawk's Goshawk army had performed wonderfully in the war, going toe to toe against some of Skycloud's mightiest demonhunters. This division, less than two months old, had already won fame in battle.

The Goshawks, every one of them, were proud of the name they'd built. It had ended in defeat but they got their licks in, and gave the Elysians one hell of a fight!

In addition to that, Cloudhawk had led a force to rival their mighty demonhunters. He snatched up Dawn and got her to safety under the noses of their best. Such a magnificent feat resonated with everyone - a story that would become a legend of the wastelands.

Yes, they'd lost. But every wastelander could pound their chest and declare 'We are not weak and cowardly! We have the right to freedom! The right to survive! We can beat the Elysians because we have Cloudhawk!'

For a long time to come people would flock to Greenland, seeking refuge.

Dawn was sad, but she knew she couldn't let it drag her into the abyss. Cloudhawk had poured his heart into this place, a city he thought he could build his dreams. He'd spent so much of his life pursuing freedom and was rebuffed everywhere he went. Nowhere was more important to him than Greenland.

After Dawn had awakened the leadership of Greenland came together for a meeting. Cloudhawk was of course missing, but Hellflower, members of the Dawn family, Barb, Gabriel, the drunk and Claudia were all there. Everyone that remained of the highest stations, as well as some new faces - members of the Dark Atom Hellflower had recruited to their cause.

People like Coal.

Did that mean the Dark Atom was beginning to settle in Greenland?

The thought made Dawn curl her fists in anger. She knew all about the Dark Atom and what sort of person their leader, Wolfblade, was. She would not tolerate them destroying what Cloudhawk had built.

"We don't know if Cloudhawk will be coming back and Greenland can't just be abandoned. We need a new leader!" Hellflower rose to her feet before the assembly. "Dawn Polaris, you were the Governor's second in command. You must rise to the occasion!"

No one objected. All eyes fell unto Dawn. Would she agree to become a wasteland leader?

"I accept." To their surprise, Dawn accepted without hesitation. "From now until Cloudhawk returned, I will serve as Greenland's Governor."

Roc and other members of the Polaris family seemed uncertain. Their mistress agreed to this?

People changed. Dawn might have been a noble member of Skycloud's elite, an illustrious Templar, and an unruly trouble-maker...

But life conspires.

Her experiences had shown Dawn her mission and responsibility. So with determination she took up her new identity, shouldering the responsibility left behind by Cloudhawk, as a leader of the wastes.

***

Dusk. Wastes. Howling wind.

Inkspecter led his people through the complex terrain of jagged peaks and rugged valleys. Inkspecter hadn't participated at all in the battle for Sanctuary. They had merely watched from the sidelines.

From the moment Cloudhawk summoned the meteor they all knew it was true. He was the Demon King's successor. He would be the next Demon King.

"Incredible." Ravenous Tiger walked at the front of the party with his ax resting on one shoulder. "The Demon King chose a human to pass on his legacy. Humans only live a hundred years, what was the master thinking?"

Inkspecter responded in calm tones. "'Knowing the way in the morning, at dusk one may die content.' When you live for a mission, what reason is there to live past its completion?"

Squall strode along with them, a stalk of grass poking out from between his lips. "I heard from Frost that Cloudhawk has been taken to Nox. Why are we wandering around here instead of heading there to get him?"

"Demon Elder Judas is a complex creature. Even though he is a lesser elder, he was still capable of fighting off Arcturus. He is also surrounded by the likes of Abaddon, and the Khan of Evernight. We are not strong enough to save him." Inkspecter knew all about Judas, the radical. He certainly knew of Cloudhawk's secret and nothing good could come from him snatching the successor away. "It will be fine. Our lord will send someone to meet us, and we shall relay what we know. When Gehenna receives the news it is certain they will react."

They were going to meet a representative from Gehenna? It caught Inkspecter's men by surprise.

What sort of place was Gehenna? A mirror opposite of Mount Sumeru - a place of infamy but which no one has ever seen. Inkspecter himself was naught but an envoy, so there was likely many like him spread throughout the world. He was not the only agent Gehenna had chosen to seek out the Demon King's successor.

Inkspecter's task was now complete. It was time to report in.

After days of picking through the inhospitable terrain, the group finally came upon a dilapidated temple. Every member of the Hand of Gehenna approached with various measures of trepidation. Was this where they were supposed to meet Gehenna's representative?

"Enter!" The call came from within the temple.

Inkspecter gestured, motioning for the others to remain behind. He approached the temple with Ravenous Tiger, Squall and Three-Eyed Spider in tow. When they crossed the threshold they spied a figure waiting for them. Nothing about it looked demonic. Instead this representative was a man like them. When he turned around they all gasped in surprise.

"This..." Inkspecter looked at the figure in disbelief. "You serve our master?"

His surprise was mirrored in the faces of Squall and the others. The figure they approached was not someone from Gehenna, as they expected. On the contrary, this mysterious agent was quite familiar.

He was a man of medium build he stood before them with his hands clasped behind his back. He regarded them with a calm face, and a single eye. Nothing about him seemed dangerous, rather scholarly and respectable.

What was Wolfblade doing here?

"No, I do not. On the contrary - if your master was here, he would bow before me."

His words summoned a sense of incredulity from Inkspecter. Although he'd had only a handful of encounters with the master, he knew his status among the demons was very high - much higher than Judas. Who did Wolfblade think he was, to speak of the master so disrespectfully?

"Allow me to put it this way. Those fiends you built are gifts I have provided." He paused for a moment. "But I did not give this knowledge to you directly. Instead it passed through someone else - can you guess who?"

Squall looked at Blackfiend by his side. Suddenly he remembered the reports he heard from Frost.

Was it... Arcturus!? Inkspecter was struck dumb with amazement.

Was he saying that Arcturus learned how to absorb the power of the Seraphs because Wolfblade had taught him?

Who the hell was this man? How many names did he have? Why would he have a relationship with someone like Arcturus?

"I am sure you are full of doubts. You want to know who I am - something that is more difficult to answer than you might think. I have used so many bodies and identities over the years that even I cannot recall them all. All you need to know is that I represent Gehenna."

Inkspecter's expression darkened and was uncertain. "What are you planning?"

"I am the Will of Gehenna. You are its Hand. A hand does as the will demands, without question." Wolfblade turned away. "From now on, you will follow me."

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