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Book 7, Chapter 32 - Underground Vestiges

 Cloudhawk brought Idonea through dimensions to a foreign planet.

His plan was to bring her to her father. Furthermore, he had news of Kirin's death, a fact he wished to share with Phoenix.

Bruno and Phoenix were prisoners and enemies of the wastelands, but there was some understanding between them. Stormford's Master Demonhunter was not ambitious, nor was he a man of blind loyalty. His faith in the gods was built on how they treated his family and the people he cared about.

Idonea, as Bruno's daughter, was the closest person to him. Perhaps if he brought them together, Cloudhawk could use that relationship to win Bruno over to his side.

As for Phoenix? Her combat prowess was without question. She was the greatest warrior Cloudhawk had ever met outside of Arcturus Cloude. Only her mind was a storm of rage and her personality was violently explosive. With news of her younger brother's death, he wasn't sure what reaction to expect.

A short after arriving a the jungle planet, Cloudhawk and Idonea came upon a small base. Their presence was marked right away. Angry eyes and red faces followed him, the expressions of people harboring deep-seated hatred.

Idonea was at a loss. What was this place? Why did these people hate Cloudhawk so much?

He paid their glares no mind. Cloudhawk walked down the path at Idonea's side as though strolling through a garden. "Don't look so shocked. I defeated them and sent them here."

Defeated them? She felt it odd. So he captured these people and left them stranded on this strange world. If that was the case she understood why her father never returned home. But where was he? Why hadn't he shown himself yet?

The prison camp was erected by the prisoners themselves. Dumont, Natessa and the Cloude family had been sent here first. Bruno, Phoenix and their people arrived afterward. Over the past two years Cloudhawk had sent over two thousand prisoners of war to this place. Those who were exiled here were not ordinary soldiers. So this prison camp was home to a strong garrison of enemy troops.

A grizzled veteran of the Cloude family shouted at Cloudhawk as they passed. "You have the balls to show your face here! Aren't you afraid we'll bloody you?!"

"You think you can? As for being bloody, that's what showers are for. What I hear is you want to try your luck again." His response was flippant. He'd beaten them all before, and even though they had greater numbers Cloudhawk still paid them no mind. He continued. "You only used to be my enemy. All you have to do is change your stage of mind and pledge to fight with me. Then I'll consider letting you go."

A host of angry stares followed him, but they said nothing.

Cloudhawk had become very strong very quickly. He'd destroyed Arcuturus, conquered Skycloud and captured the other Masters in short order. They were no match for him, but even so they refused to give in.

Cloudhawk went on. "I'm not here to trade bullshit. Where are Masters Bruno and Phoenix? Why don't I see them? I brought Bruno his daughter."

Uncertain looks were passed among the others.

"Well? What happened?"

He could see that something was up by the way they looked at one another. Something was up, since he couldn't sense either of the Masters nearby. They weren't in the camp.

And not just those two, either. Natessa and Dumont were also absent.

It made him suspect there was some sort of problem. Had something happened? That shouldn't be the case. Phoenix and Bruno were strong enough to handle pretty much any issue. It wouldn't make sense for there to be some great danger that Master Demonhunters couldn't handle, but these third-rate warriors managed to survive.

"Spit it out." He wasn't in the mood to mince words. Cloudhawk narrowed his eyes and fires sparked in their depths. "Now!"

Another few seconds of silence followed until at last someone stepped forward. "The Masters brought a team with them to explore the vestiges of a civilization underground. Three days and three nights ago. They still haven't returned."

Cloudhawk glance at the sky, toward the white-blue sun. One day-night cycle here was like two on earth. So they'd been gone for five or six days. It was beginning to sound like they'd gone missing.

"Has anyone gone after them?"

"We haven't heard from those we've sent out."

Worry filled Idonea. How could this be, why would they lose contact? Her father was a Master Demonhunter! She'd never heard of someone so strong going missing just from exploring some old ruins.

Cloudhawk was equally perplexed, so to get to the bottom of it he began asking questions. It was revealed that this world was a very different place than it seemed. Beneath a thin upperworld crust was a world of old ruins.

Old tools and murals had been excavated, revealing that the vanished natives may have had something to do with gods and demons. With nothing but time, the prisoners set off to explore at Phoenix's suggestion. They found a way to get down below ground and the elite force went off to see what they could discover.

Two Master Demonhunters and a group of highly capable fighters. At worst they should have been able to flee any threat.

It was far past the time they were supposed to have returned but there hadn't been any word - not from the original team or any that went to find them. There was no other explanation other than something must have happened.

Cloudhawk examined the murals that had started the whole thing. Something was different about this world that made it unique from the others. First there was the dense vegetation, which immediately set it apart. Then there was the world beneath the surface.

"Well, it looks like I'm going to have to go poke around."

He took another glance at the murals as he made his decision. It was the right choice, whether to bring Bruno and Phoenix back or to discover whatever secrets these murals hinted at.

If he was going to go, he needed help. Idonea wasn't strong enough and taking her with him would only hold him back. So he returned to his home and called Dawn. Once she was made aware of the situation, she was also at a loss.

"Underground vestiges? Where?" She couldn't wait to dig up the mystery.

Cloudhawk appointed one of the prisoners as a guide. When they arrived and saw what remained, even Cloudhawk was without words. This was a place unlike anywhere else he'd seen.

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