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Book 6, Chapter 69 - The Migration

 Soldiers were shocked at the gall of the Green Alliance!

They had chosen overt aggression - something the wastelanders hadn't done in the three years following their defeat at Sanctuary. An alarm was raised. Southaven's garrison rushed out to meet the enemy.

After martial law was imposed Southaven had been fortified with thirty thousand standard troops, in addition to tens of thousands of security personnel. When they heard the inflammatory announcement from the warships they formed together quickly and prepared to attack.

"Wasteland dogs! They're spreading lies to deceive people!"

"The gods would never abandon us! Skycloud would never do what they say!"

"A couple days, then everything will go back to normal. Have faith in your realm! We will fight these infidels together!"

Elysian soldiers were trained to respond quickly. They ordered residents back into their homes and told them to lock their doors. Sector by sector they locked down the city.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

As the soldiers worked to bring the city under control, attacks fell across different districts. Mighty blasts followed a keen tearing sound - nothing like the old weapons wastelanders typical used. These sounded more like energy cannons.

One squad was caught in the blast radius and hardly knew what hit them. A beam of light struck in the middle of half a dozen troops. When it detonated they were flung away as though made of paper, crashing through the walls of nearby structures. Their captain stared in open horror. What sort of weapon was this?! How was it so strong?

A contingent of Green Alliance soldiers came charging down the street. They bore crude black rifles which spat beams of energy each time they were fired. A single shot could blow right through a building. Concentrated fire could bring the whole thing down. The power behind these weapons far outstripped any armor-piercing ordinance the Elysians had ever encountered.

Even more frightening, these eboncrys rifles were automatic. No ordinary soldier could survive against them.

Thousands of Greenland invaders armed with these weapons surged down the street. They broke through the Elysians' defensive like it wasn't there. Between their new weapons and upgraded armor the wastelanders were like living tanks. Skycloud crossbows were useless.

Logic dictated that if long-range was intractable, then moving in close was the answer. But they were wrong.

This was the first brigade of Greenland Regulars. They were empowered by genetic engineering and steroids, which turned them into monsters on the battlefield. They were much stronger than ordinary humans, with speed and agility to match. In close combat one soldier was worth three Elysians.

"Surround them! Quick!"

The Elysians quickly discovered they were facing Greenland's crack troops. If they didn't match the likes of the Talons of God, they were at least among Greenland's elite. Faced with these odds, the best tactic was to try and surround them and attack from all sides. Demonhunters or advanced weapons could then mow them down.

But as the Elysian soldiers positioned to encircle their enemies, wasteland airships appeared overhead. From below they looked like enormous fish laying eggs as thousands of drones were released. This mechanical division was brought over from Ark Base, small in size but with varied abilities. They were also equipped with formidable weapons.

In no time the unmanned army reached ground level. They fired viciously and indiscriminately into the Elysian ranks, sending them running. Their already shaky morale took another hefty blow.

Where the hell did wastelanders get such high-grade equipment?!

"Attack! Everyone, attack!" The commanding officer waved at the soldiers near him, urging them on. He then turned to his personal guard. "Send the signal. Call everyone here, close off all the roads. Let none of them escape!"

Hefting shields, crossbows and other weapons, the Elysians rallied for another attack. The two forces erupted into a savage clash. As well-equipped as the wastelanders were, they couldn't roll through the city without opposition.

The Elysian officer surveyed the field with a grim expression. Suddenly, shadows crept in from all around. Before he realized what was happening, his vision was stained red as the throats of his subordinates opened up. His guards crumpled to the floor, dead.

"The.. the Court of Shadows!"

He was still trying to get a grip on the situation when the officer saw the dark-clad figures approach, escorting another in robes of crimson. At last he understood - they were going to cripple the soldiers by eliminating their leadership. By eliminating him.

Angrily the man ripped his sword from its sheath. "You think I'll be so easy to kill?!"

Before his words faded the officer thrust his sword into the red-robed fiend's body. To get to this position, the Elysian soldier had to be a capable fighter. But even still, what he saw next was something he could hardly believe. With the sword wholly implanted in his body, the man in red stepped forward as though it wasn't there - like he felt nothing.

"Monster! Die!" The officer pulled his weapon free and tried for another attack. The man in red did not protect himself. Several pieces of him were hacked off.

Bloodied segments sloughed down to the ground, quickly crumbling away into countless insects. They skittered across the ground, surrounding the officer. Bits of blood and gore on his sword gathered together, forming tentacles that slithered into his gauntlets. Stinging pain ensued as the tendrils bore into his veins.

"Ah! Ah!" He screamed in horror as mutant tissue invaded his body.

Immediately he started to swell grotesquely, becoming a hideous monster of bulging flesh. This lasted only a moment, however, for quickly the engorged skin and veins began to retract. All at once the officer was back to normal with no visible differences - except for the look in his eyes.

It was a fantastically quick process, but Carnage had wholly taken over the body of the officer.

Moments later several hundred Elysian soldiers charged into the area, answering the alarm. They saw agents of the Court of Shadows surrounding their commander and reached for their weapons.

"Enough! Hold!" The Elysian commander heaved a heavy sigh. "Call the cease-fire."

"But sir, you-" A junior officer looked at him incredulously. He wanted to surrender? Elysians never surrender!

In Skycloud there was no shortage of warriors willing to put their lives on the line for their home. Things weren't hopeless yet. Although the Green Alliance soldiers had broken through their lines, they weren't an overwhelming force. If they gathered all their forces in a concentrated counter-offensive, they could retake the city.

"What they said is true," the commander retorted with a sigh. "Skycloud will never recover. Look around, you can see the state of this city for yourselves. We've got no food, no water and no medicine. Countless citizens have died. Better to spare lives than throw more on the pile needlessly. Tell the soldiers to stand down!"

The men were silent, but their mood was clear. Southaven's food reserves were nearly spent. If things did not change then this famous city would be done for. No one wanted to see that happen, but what were their options? If they gave in then what of Elysian dignity? If the city succumbed to riots and starvation, would they be any more dignified?

Carnage raised his voice. "You can pin all the consequences on me. Now give the order to stand down!"

A moment later the signal flare was released. All Elysian soldiers stopped fighting and fell back to the heart of the city.

"I am Grand Prior of the Temple and General-Commander of Skycloud's armies, Phain Mist!" A large man whose face was concealed beneath a wide-brimmed hat stood before the crowd. He held aloft a token proving his claim.

"Never have I betrayed my beloved realm, and I am willing to stake my life and reputation on this truth; that Mount Sumeru and its gods are fomenting war with the wastelanders by making false claims!"

When Phain appeared, whispers of shock rippled through the crowds. His name and deeds were widely known throughout Skycloud. To see him here, saying these things, came as an enormous shock to these troops.

"To this day the Cloud God's whereabouts are unknown. Governor Selene is under Mount Sumeru's control. High Priest Aquaria is gravely wounded, perhaps fatally. Is this not enough to make you see?" Phain's hoarse voice was accusatory. "The honor we once wore with pride has now become our disgrace. The realm today is not the realm you knew. For your friends and family, it is not worth dying in obscurity, at the behest of those who would deceive you. Come with me. Flee to the wastelands where we will fight for our lost honor!"

Clang! The officer who called the retreat threw down his weapon. "I will go with you!"

The other soldiers around him stared wide-eyed and slack-jawed. It was inconceivable to them that he would openly betray his home!

But indeed this is what Skycloud had become. If Skycloud was irreparably poisoned then why fight? As Phain continued to try and persuade the soldiers to see the truth, Greenland soldiers shouted the same throughout the city with megaphones.

Finally wills began to waver. More and more joined the officer in renouncing their loyalty to Skycloud. By the time their raid was finished, twenty to twenty-five percent of the city's population decided to defect. They realized that if they didn't leave now, it would be too late.

Military rule over the realm was becoming more severe with each passing day, while desperately needed resources continued to dwindle. Besides flee, what other choice did they have? Those who stayed in the city only did so because they were fooling themselves! Though they understood, it was hard to leave the place your family had called home for generations.

But what the defectors had witnessed over the last few weeks was unprecedented. Such famine was certain to inspire some to leave. These Elysian soldiers and citizens would find better luck in Greenland, or so they were convinced. Its population would swell.

In this way Cloudhawk and his people won victory without undue bloodshed. Droves of people left Skycloud and made for the wastes, expanding both its influence and power. It was precisely what Wolfblade was hoping to see.

Janus Umbra appeared by Phain's side. "Cloudhawk has attracted the domain's attention, but we're not sure for how long. We must leave immediately before we're discovered and contained."

Phain nodded. They'd done what they came here to do. Although he hoped to convince more to come with him, this was enemy territory. The longer they stayed, the more likely they were to get stuck. Besides, a quarter of the city's population was enough to send a message to Skycloud and inject new vitality into the wastes.

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