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Book 7, Chapter 69 - The Spare

 Selene and Dawn were ready to set out.

Having never been to Highmorn, Cloudhawk didn't have a spatial marker to send them there. That wasn't an insurmountable problem, however. Instead they would travel to Meadow where, within Oakstead's Temple, they could open a Boundary Portal and enter the distant Elysian land.

Opening a portal like that required quite a lot of energy. Luckily, sending through just a few people wasn't too much of a burden. What's more, thanks to the small amount of Source excavated from the desert, they didn't have to worry about energy constraints very much anymore.

Besides Selene and Dawn, two more were dispatched with them.

First was one of Cloudhawk's electric doppelgangers. It carried a Riftshard copy to make travel easier in the future. Once it was placed, Cloudhawk could teleport back and forth as much as he pleased.

The other had been an important figure in Sky Fortress before Cloudhawk destroyed it, Master Anan. His full name was Walrick Anan , which held quite a lot of weight in Highmorn's capital city Radia. Since his home had officially chosen to rise against the gods, he elected to offer his help.

The small party boarded an airship, destined for Meadow.

Cloudhawk kept catching Dawn giving him strange, absorbed looks out of the corner of his eye. She looked at him like an endangered species, or some sort of alien. It was making him uneast.

"What the hell are you looking at?"

"You can talk through this thing? No matter how far you are from your copy?" Dawn was floored by this new ability of his. "So now one Cloudhawk can become several. You can do several tasks at once. Study. Chase women. That's one hell of a skill."

"There are limits," he grumbled. "I can hold the form for any distance but only for one day and one night. Over that time it gets weaker and weaker. Besides that it demands my attention. Trying to be two places at once is not easy, much less three or four."

"Well shit. I thought I might be able to customize my own personal Cloudhawk to play with. Turns out that isn't the case."

A custom Cloudhawk eh? Like some sort of prostitute. Dawn was letting her true colors fly.

She stared at him for a little while longer before saying suddenly, "the copy really is exactly like you. Shit, if I stick around it for long enough I'll probably forget which one's real."

Cloudhawk had known Dawn for a long time. A lot about her had changed, but there were some core qualities that never would. She was and probably would forever be a devil woman who liked to stir up shit. Hell, he knew her so well he could tell what sort of fart she'd make by the way she lifted her ass.

"How about a code name for your copies. That way we won't confuse them." She didn't wait for Cloudhawk's approval and came up with the plan at once. "They may look like you but they aren't you. I think I'll call it Hawkling, what do you think?"


"Cloudhawk Number Two?"

"Even worse."

"You're so stubborn. Fine, we'll call it 'The Spare Cloudhawk!'" She had grown impatient with this game. "Like wasteland vehicles, right? They use spare tires. In a pinch when we can't put the real you to use, we've got a back up. Spare fits perfectly."

She didn't care if he agreed anymore. Instead she looked over to Selene, who was sitting nearby with her eyes closed. "Hey Selene, say something. What do you think of the name?"

She was quiet for a minute then ever so slightly nodded her head. "It fits."

Dawn triumphantly pumped her fist into the air. "Then it's decided!"

Who the hell was she calling stubborn? Throwing nonsense nicknames around like that. While he thought 'Spare Cloudhawk' was a shit name, who was he to tell her how to talk? He had to just go along with it.

"We've arrived."

While Dawn had been busy in the important work of giving Spare his nickname, their airship was nearing its destination. This vessel was specially outfitted for speed so the journey took very little time. They were drawing near the canopy of the enormous tree that was Oakstead and as the Temple pulled into view, Walrick Anan stepped up as their guide.

The Shepherd God was responsible for opening the boundary portal.

Radia, as Highmorn's capital, was also its largest city. It served as the political, religious and economic center of the realm as all capitals did. During the recent upheaval, this once orderly city had fallen into chaos. Thankfully Wolfblade had done a good job bringing it back to heel.

Dawn was looking forward to the journey. "I've never been to Radia. I wonder if there's anything fun to do. Hopefully this trip isn't all boring political shit."

"Hopefully you won't run around causing drama," Selene muttered. "We have to get to the Temple as quickly, retrieve the Key and get back to Cloudhawk. That's the mission."

"Cloudhawk said Radia's under control but there are still rebels. If I come across any I intend to make meat paste of their bodies." She nudged Spare with her elbow. "Right?"

Cloudhawk's copy just shook his head helplessly.

Selene turned to Walrick. "Master Ana, I'm afraid simply appearing in Radia's Temple will cause a stir. Perhaps you should go first and announce our arrival to the High Priest."

There was a glimpse of embarrassment in his face. "That... I don't believe the new High Priest has been selected yet."

After a brief moment of confusion they understood. Lucian Ambrose had been Highmorn's High Priest - until he was killed by the Cloud God in their conflict with the Avatar. Since then things had been turbulent in the Elysian realm. No replacement had been selected during this time of transition.

Walrick explained. "At present the Temple has two Oracles and an Apostle. I'll go ahead first and deliver the news of your trip then come and collect you."

Nothing could be accomplished without following the rules. The Temple's status might have declined with the collapse of faith, but they were still an organization built on precedent. Its priests and leaders were still its custodians. Although its external authority was no more, its internal strength remained.

If Cloudhawk wanted to get the realm's full cooperation, he needed the Temple to go along. While in theory he had control of the Elysian realms, they were spread far and wide. Distance made some things impossible, and since each of these places had powerful citizens it was wise to play nice.

He didn't want to present himself as a conqueror or dictator. "Alright. Please let them know we've arrived, Master Anan."

The Shepherd God opened her Boundary Portal without issue and Walrick Anan walked through into his home town.

1. His name means 'To Travel Through Clouds'. We know Anan means cloud. Walrick is a shortened version of Walarick, ancient germanic for 'powerful traveling king' - at least according to my source.

2. That is the literal translation.

3. Interestingly, a baby hawk is called an eyas.

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