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Book 6, Chapter 51 - Consulting the Shepherd

 Greenland's water towers were more impactful than originally thought.

In the short term the increase in water availability changed the lives of citizens and potentially the wastelands as a whole. In the long term, it was humanity's first successful step into 'superstring' technology.

Cloudhawk didn't understand this theory very well yet, but that hadn't stopped him from inventing a device that could potentially change the world with it. It was a landmark event for the future of their species.

Before the towers were constructed, humans relied on their own scientific accomplishments. They could not fathom the enigmatic ways of gods and demons. They saw that mysterious technology as divine or unholy power.

With his invention Cloudhawk was gradually changing public opinion. What gods created, humans could create as well! What seemed like magic wasn't only reserved for those strange otherworldly beings!

The technique for creating of the towers came from the same origin as relics. Only their practical significance differed. Godly and demonic relics were weapons whose intent was to cause harm - things like shields and blades. Greenland's Miracle Towers, on the other hand, were tools. Public facilities that improved life instead of taking it.

Their simple construction meant that any demonhunter could use them, regardless of whether they had the talent for manipulating water elements. Fresh, clean water was now readily available - cheap and easy.

Dawn tested it herself. She spent all of her energy on generating as much water as she could. With her abilities, she was able to fill one and a half towers. Translated into ancient measuring systems, it was about a hundred and fifty tons of drinkable water.

On average, every day each person used about five liters of water. One tower could meet the needs of thirty thousand citizens, and that was from just one full reservoir. If Dawn or someone like her filled up the towers ten times in a day that would mean water for three hundred thousand people.

The city was planning to build ten, twenty or maybe even more of these towers. When the project was finished water would no longer be a scarce resource. Free, clean water would be available to everyone.

If there were a hundred towers? Water would be cheap and available enough for everyone's basic needs and then some. Baths, showers, cooking - the quality of life in the city would be unmatched.

Right now it was all theory of course. These were relics, after all. Normal people couldn't use them without adjustments. Greenland certainly had a good population of demonhunters but they weren't in spades. It would be difficult to keep ten water towers consistently full, much less a hundred or more.

As such, while it was a fine goal to one day have enough water for the people to bathe every day, it was too ambitious for the time being. Perhaps in the not so distant future it would become a reality and when that day came, it would be a real blessing to the wastelands.

Cloudhawk had unknowingly performed a miracle. But clean water generators weren't enough, because there weren't enough demonhunters.

He had to think of a way to bring more demonhunters into the city. Secondly, transforming the wastelands into a green oasis wasn't going to happen with water alone. To make the land fertile again Cloudhawk had to come up with a new tool to rise to the occasion.

Neither of these would be problems easily overcome. As he thought about it Cloudhawk decided to seek guidance. He left Greenland, headed south. Crossing thousands of kilometers he arrived at Meadow.

Meadow was one nation under the purview of the Green Alliance, one of the territories Cloudhawk controlled. It was also a very special place.

A millennia ago it had been an Elysian land, but the loss of its patron caused it to fall into neglect. However, even the skinniest camel was larger than a horse. Having withered after so long the Shepherd God's realm could not measure up to Skycloud, but there was no place that was its equal in all the wastes.

A million people called Meadow home. Their lives were rich and prosperous. It was a world outside of the strife and conflict that embroiled everywhere else - until the dark star that was Cloudhawk changed all that.

Because of him, Meadow was now part of the Green Alliance, for better or worse. The person he'd come to visit was none other than the Shepherd God.

Though she had taken over the body of the human, the former god retained some of her divine power. Cloudhawk had once watched her summon an enormous tree from a single seed. If he could find out where those seeds came from, or how to produce them, he could turn the wastes into a thriving forest overnight. With this goal in mind, he made his way into Oakstead.

**

Meadow's capitol city was nestled in the trunk of a tree. It'd been a whole year since the last time Cloudhawk wandered its roads.

Things were orderly and unhurried, but it was clear the Silverwing Monarch had left an indelible mark on their world. To this day there were still groups loyal to the fallen leader, though their voices were soft and oft ignored.

Nessus, under the guise of the Silverwing Monarch, had ruled over the city it called Imperia for a thousand years. To the people 'he' was a representation of power and immortality. Yet in the end even their unkillable leader was slain. The shock and impact of this event was still something people were trying to get over.

Even more difficult to accept was the Monarch's true nature! Their king was merely a puppet - a flesh bag controlled by some fiend to wield power over the city. This was not a secret to anyone. Under the crushing weight of evidence the people had to accept reality.

Since taking control, Cloudhawk hadn't called for a single soldier from Meadow. The realm and all within was given unto the Shepherd God for her to guide in the hopes she could maintain stability. The Silverwing Monarch had been an outsider, but the Shepherd God was the realm's creator.

As such the Shepherd God knew better than anyone how to manage this wonderful place. Over the course of a year the situation in the realm had stabilized, even if the influence of the Silverwing Monarch had not entirely faded. People were beginning to acknowledge the Shepherd God as their true leader - and some even accepted their place as members of the Green Alliance.

Shortly after teleporting into the city, Cloudhawk's presence was noted by members of the Enforcement squad. A number of them rushed over to his location, riding sidesaddle on enormous birds. Their leader was a woman. "Who goes there? How did you appear here!"

Cloudhawk raised his head and looked at her. He recognized her immediately and a smirk touched his lips. "Hello Glawyn. I'm here to see Autumn."

Glawyn was sure she'd never met this man before, yet when she looked into his eyes she saw something strangely familiar. After a second she put it together - the way he appeared here as though from nowhere - and she remembered the only other person she'd met who could do that.

"You are the deceiver!"

Cloudhawk shook his head. "I am the leader of the Green Alliance, and in the hierarchy of leadership Autumn answers to me. I can't say I'm happy with the way you address me."

Glawyn ground her teeth but said nothing. She was still haunted but everything that'd happened a year ago.

As commanded she led Cloudhawk to the Shepherd God's Temple. From a distance he could see atop the magnificent structure a young woman in green robes, seated quietly. She looked as pure as a lotus flower, with her ankles crossed playing a small flute.

"Autumn, it's been a long time!"

The young woman turned toward the voice. She hadn't changed in the least, her face still young and fresh. Her sparkling eyes came alive with mirth when she saw Cloudhawk approaching. She dropped from the air to stand before him.

But who was it who stood there? The Shepherd God, or Autumn?

She looked up into his face. "I've been hearing about what's happening in the wastelands. You really defeated Arcturus? It's difficult to believe!"

The two walked into the Temple shoulder to shoulder. "Arcturus was nothing. The battle to come is what will really determine whether we survive."

Autumn felt it clear, pieces of divine memory inside of her. It was only the tip of a mysterious iceberg that was godly society.

The gods would no doubt be incensed by Cloudhawk's actions. What he faced was a storm of trials that could swallow him up if he wasn't careful. But Autumn was firm in her faith and undaunted. No matter what enemies rose agains them, she would stand by Cloudhawk's side.

"What help did you come here for?"

"I need to borrow some Chosen. Most of the demonhunters we have in the wastes came from Skycloud. There aren't many of them as I'm sure you know. To help bolster the numbers I'm going to ask for Black Knights from Nox and Chosen from Meadow. Only volunteers, of course."

"That's a tall order, but I'll help as much as I can."

Life in Oakstead was easy. Who would choose a life of hardship out in the wastelands? But if it was what Cloudhawk needed, Autumn would do what she could.

"I also need to speak with the Shepherd God. I want her to teach me about those seeds she uses to summon the God Trees. I want to sow them around the wastelands to improve the environment."

"Absolutely not!"

Cloudhawk heard her tone suddenly become cold as ice. In the blink of an eye that sweet child was gone, replaced by a domineering and unapproachable figure. The Shepherd God didn't even let Cloudhawk finish his thought before flatly rejecting it.

"Seeds of the God Tree are artifacts, only a few such Sumeran items exist. Items of such rich vital energy are complex - far more complex than even high-order relics. You do not have the power to control them."

That was a disappointing answer. Cloudhawk could hardly make low-grade relics, much less more capable higher-level items. Things like seeds of the God Tree were way beyond his scope.

Cloudhawk didn't give up. "Can they be simplified?"

The tree she planted in the heart of Greenland was several hundred meters tall. That was excessive, so far as Cloudhawk was concerned. He was only hoping for typical flora, that would already be a huge benefit.

"No," she answered flatly. "But even if it could, it wouldn't matter."

"Why do you say that?" Cloudhawk asked.

"These artifacts don't create true life. The God Trees, if we are being precise, are a simulacrum of biological material. They are similar to real vegetation in almost every way, but they are not. Godly methods can create anything - anything but soul and life."

Life could not be made from nothing. Even if Cloudhawk found a way to create plants, they would not improve anything. That seemed to be the only failing of this advanced technology. Some special artifacts could conjure vines, flowers, even animals, but could these things really be called 'alive'?

Most often when using these relics in times of war, there is a set duration for the vines, plants and so forth a relic created. It was determined by the mental strength of the user. It worked in much the same way as Castigation Fire; once Cloudhawk's mental energies were spent the fire was extinguished. Plants and other life-like creations were the same. A constant supply of mental power was required to keep them healthy. If that mental energy disappeared, the plants withered and the animals died.

So Cloudhawk's idea was doomed from the start. If he wanted to transform the wastelands he wasn't going to do it like this. It would be a long, laborious process.

He heaved a sigh. "So I guess it isn't as easy as I thought."

The Shepherd God muttered a single phrase in answer.

"Fragile humans."

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