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Book 5, Chapter 98 – The Polar Conflic

 Chapter 98: The Polar Conflict

Six months had passed since the terrible battle at Sanctuary.

Since that time, calm had returned to Skycloud. Master Arcturus Cloude wielded his political and military dominance well, and came upon no resistance as he managed the realm. Through a plan of strategic isolation, Skycluod consolidated its powers and closed itself off from the world. It was touted as a way to prolong peace and usher the realm into a period of self-cultivation.

Thanks to Skycloud's rich resources and infrastructure, the considerable damage of previous years was all but reversed in twelve months.

Arcturus Cloude often mulled over the future and its complexities. He enacted an ambitious plan that not only vastly increased the size of Skycloud's forces, but also gathered the mightiest representatives from every organization throughout the land.

It was an unprecedented shake-up, with Arcturus at the helm. The military industry churned, stronger every day during this iron period of resurgence.

In the wastelands, things were decidedly less peaceful. Not long after the battle for Sanctuary, Natessa tried to unify the wasteland in a concerted effort against the southern wilds. Since the beginning of hostilities, she'd sent more than two dozen war parties of different sizes into that unknown place.

As Greenland's Governor, Dawn Polaris stood firm against the aggressive posture of the Conclave of Judgment. She leveraged the stories of what happened as Sanctuary to raise Greenland's profile and created the Southern Confederation. This period of wasteland strife between the southern wilds and the northern barrens was given a name: The Polar Conflict!

It had been half a year since the beginning of this war. Although the end had not yet arrived, the outcome was clear.

The conclave of Judgment was powerful, and Natessa was a skilled leader. Confederate surrender or defeat was only a matter of time, all that remained was the shrinking territory of Greenland itself. It seemed inevitable that the day approached when the Conclave of Judgment would rule the entirety of the wastes.

**

Dawn, Sandspire.

Sand rasped as it was blown through the half-buried ruins.

Bad news had been constant. The city's environment had grown dismal and defeated. Those cities under Greenland's protection had nearly all fallen. Recent reports claimed that the Conclave of Judgment would next set its sights on Sandspire. Their city was closest to Greenland, if the Conclave occupied it they would have their enemy encircled. At that point, their confederacy was doomed.

More than ten thousand Confederate troops were stationed in the city. They were the last, token resistance of their alliance. It was lead by a group of fierce and grotesque mutant warriors.

Each one was different, but they all used the same weaponry. Crude copies of weapons from the Elysian lands, exorcist rods. These were the Goshawks.

The hero Cloudhawk was their founder. He had once led them as the vanguard at the battle for Sanctuary.

Every wastelander cherished the memory of that great day. It was the battle that turned Cloudhawk into a legend and Greenland into a mecca for those who sought glory. And yet such a pity, for that same battle saw the fall of this man who contributed so much to the south.

The Confederacy's mightiest fighters were arrayed at the front of the battle lines. Elite men and women from Greenland and the Dark Atom. Yet even among these entrancing folk one beautiful figure stood out.

She was tall, with long shapely legs and platinum blonde hair. Her curves were wrapped in wastelander leathers that did nothing to hide her perfect body. Her hands were wrapped around the hilt of a large sword and her eyes were shut. She was waiting for something.

Everyone looked at her with eyes of fanaticism and worship. She was their greatest warrior, a former noble of Skycloud whose family had at one time been a nightmare for people like them. Today she was one of them, a wastelander, leading them to glory.

She was Dawn Polaris. A powerful woman, a beautiful woman, strong as iron.

When Greenland lost its founder, Dawn rose up to take the reigns. She continued Cloudhawk's legacy by working to develop the city he loved even further. Were it not for the Conclave's hostilities, thanks to Cloudhawk's reputation Greenland would have become a true jewel of the wastelands.

When the Conclave started making moves, it was Dawn who established the Southern Confederation. For half a year she led them at the fore, fighting from the front lines heedless of her own safety. Baptized by war, she had grown stronger and wiser. She was, unequivocally, their leader.

"They're here!"

Dawn slowly opened her eyes. Gone was the pride and frivolousness of years ago. Rather they bore the look of someone who had weathered life's tribulations and learned from them. She was as bold and stable as the weapon she wielded, like an angel borne from this blasted earth.

People changed. Dawn had changed. She'd grown into a woman very different from the one who left Skycloud.

The sound of rumbling engines met their ears as a dark line appeared on the horizon. The Conclave's formidable armada approached. It numbered over a thousand flying machines and airships and nearly choked out the sky.

Natessa had not been content with merely controlling northern forces. She had been steadily absorbing southern powers to bolster her army so that now they numbered nearly a million strong. Virtually all of the south had come under her iron fist and all that remained was this small holdout. Dawn's last gasp. Today, Natessa would make sure her breathing ceased entirely.

The wastelands would at last be unified!

But unification meant destruction. Today was likely the final hours of the Southern Confederation. Dawn knew she could not win against a force of this size, but she would die trying.

The Conclave of Judgment was controlled behind the scenes by Arcturus Cloude. His support sped up the group's development and indeed many high-powered fighters had appeared among their ranks. Almost certainly these warriors were dispatched specifically by Arcturus to bolster the Conclave's ranks. Each time a new batch of deadly soldiers it appeared it made Natessa's forces that much harder to repel.

"This will be a bit of a hassle," the old drunk muttered at Dawn's shoulder. He watched the dark line approach. "They get bigger by the day while our numbers shrink. It looks like they're bringing ten times what we've got. It doesn't look good."

"No more running, Sandspire is our last line of defense. If we fail here we'll be left to cower in Greenland and wait for destruction." 'Hassle' was definitely an understatement, and Dawn knew it. Yet as those dark shapes in the distance continued to swell, so did her resolve. A hard, fervent light gleamed in her eyes. "Arcturus Cloude has Skycloud in the palm of his hand. Now he wants the wasteland. Whatever his aim is, we won't make it easy for him."

The drunk could only sigh. "The power disparity is too great."

Dawn turned her eyes back to her own troops, shuffling behind her. "I will hold this line! We have to hold out until Cloudhawk returns!"

The drunk was even more disparaged when he heard her words. Cloudhawk. Would he ever be coming back? It'd been six months since he fell at the battle for Sanctuary. After so long there seemed little chance he was still alive.

Dawn addressed her troops. "Are you afraid?!"

Her army answered in one booming voice. "Never afraid!"

She nodded in satisfaction. "We are warriors of Greenland! We will never yield! Hold your weapons high and fight with me, to the end!"

Clinging to this city was foolish. This wasn't a fortress, it was a half-buried ruin in the middle of a desert. The city itself was surrounded by a sprawling expanse of ancient remains, however, and Dawn spread out at strategic areas throughout the ruins. It made it impossible for the Conclave to pinpoint the location of their main force. If they complicated the engagement enough it would give them an advantage. If they made themselves a smaller and more diffuse target, then the Conclave's greater firepower wouldn't give them an edge.

A few moments later the Conclave's armada was close enough to begin firing. They were five kilometers away from the walls of the city. To the soldiers below that dark line erupted into a wave of light and fire.

Followed by the deafening sound of rolling thunder.

Hundreds of missiles and burning shells came rocketing toward Sandspire.

They slammed into the walls, blowing it apart in several places. Structures closest to the defenses collapsed from the aftershocks. If Dawn had garrisoned her army in the city, half of her troops would have been obliterated in the opening salvo.

But in reality, Sandspire was not all but empty. Its destruction was an accepted and acceptable result. Southern Confederation soldiers watched the destruction from their guerrilla positions among the ruins.

Their weapons were no match for Conclave equipment. However, as an ancient industrial complex Sandspire had a hefty cache of munitions they could rely on. With the addition of Dark Atom artillery, they were well stocked with missiles, bullets and bombs.

"Counter!"

The Conclave's armada had crept into range. Dawn stood out in the opening, a signal flag raised high to signal her orders.

Cells hidden throughout the ruins leaped into action. Cannons were positioned and mortars were adjusted. A dark and bloody battle was about to begin, one that was sure to ravage the air and land. What would remain when the dust settled?

Conclavian ships continued their barrage and Confederate installations released their payloads. In an instant, the intensity of the battle skyrocketed. Natessa's forces were fierce, but its concerted efforts were ineffective against a force so spread out. She watched as her airships began to drop from the sky.

Be it equipment or numbers, the Conclave of Judgment had a clear advantage. Yet the Confederacy was reasonably defended in their twisted metal enclaves. The northern army's superior guns meant nothing if they had nothing to hit. They meant even less once the ships were shot down.

But the Southern Confederation was not without casualties. Swaths of their numbers were buried alive when missiles struck nearby ruins. One explosion nearby almost took out Dawn's position. She scrambled up from the wreckage, covered in dust without missing a step. She cried out over the cacophony of war, sword held high. "Keep up the attack!"

Sandspire's convoluted environment was peppered with small defense garrisons, each a few hundred strong. The ruins were all a hive of activity as soldiers fought for their lives. Soldiers fired wildly into the enemy armada with shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and more dangerous ordnance. They were fully mobilized for guerrilla warfare, hoping that this tactic could stop the Conclave's advance.

But there was a limit to what they could accomplish. The Conclave had the high ground. Lumbering ships punished the surrounding area with carpet bombing.

Natessa saw that their attacks were cumbersome and their enemy was fast and agile. She passed on her next order, authorization for a particular weapon - one they'd prepared specifically for this circumstance.

A cloud of unobtrusive spheres were belched from the airships. When they detonated, they carpeted the landscape with a low-hanging cloud of toxic green mist.

Biological weapons, bombs of potent poisonous gas. They were prepared to fight an enemy position that was hard to hit with conventional weapons. Those who breathed in the foul smoke died almost immediately.

Most terrible of all, this mist would seep through all the crevices of these ruins for the next ten days. There was no escape.

As the Conclave repositioned to coat the entirety of the battlefield with their poison, another force appeared in the distance. Without any warning or hesitation, it began to fire on the dark armada.

Dawn and her soldiers stared at the skies in shock. "These are Noxian forces! Has Cloudhawk returned?"

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