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Book 7, Chapter 95 - Genocide

 Chapter 95: Genocide

Skies brightened in the east. Once again, light fell upon the land.

The blue shroud that hung over the earth was a striking aurora that persisted as the dawn came, but dulled. Warmer hues took over the wastes.

A graveyard of wrecked airships surrounded an outpost near Skycloud's border. Plumes of black smoke rose from the town itself. Silence prevailed. No signs of life. No sound. Only stillness and the smell of death.

The air rippled, but like the waters of a still lake they were quickly suppressed.

Cloudhawk stepped out first. Using his own scouting relics he scanned the area for threats. As far as he could tell, there was nothing here. It was strange, though. What had happened? What was this uneasy silence? Despite the risks, he had to see for himself.

Indeed the enemy was at the gates. They could pretend to be deaf and dumb, but that was weakness. What they faced now was only a fraction of the larger threat. It meant whatever waited for them out here should be tolerable. An opportunity to test what the enemy had in store.

Still, Cloudhawk was cautious. He elected to teleport here first, alone, and assess the situation. If it was safe then he would bring the others. On the other hand, if something went wrong it was easier for him to escape alone.

Immediately upon entering, Cloudhawk slipped between dimensions. He concealed his power and presence, ceasing to exist in this plane. He even curtailed his will in order to hide his mental signature.

Before even entering the settlement he knew things were bad. Yet even bracing himself for what he might find, the truth shocked him. It was like everything had been scorched clean by a storm of fire.

The roads, homes... everything was covered in a black coating like asphalt. What sickened him most was what happened to the people. He saw them everywhere, frozen in place like onyx statues. He saw the panic on their faces, the fear of their last living moments. Their agony was perfectly preserved in black stone. A forest of grotesque, genderless victims populated the dead city.

What had they suffered? A glint of silver flared from his left eye as he grappled with the question. The town's doom had occurred not long ago, recent enough that his Eye of Time could reveal the calamity. Half a day was the extent of his view into the past.

His eye glimmered. Cloudhawk peered into what was.

To his eyes it was as though everything were flowing backwards. With incredible speed the city was restored to its original state. He saw three gods descend from the sky in fiery impacts, a hundred times the speed of sound. The intensity of their landfall gave rise to a shock wave that devastated the town.

Its denizens stood around, mouths agape and appalled at the destruction as the three gods emerged from their craters. Each produced a box, seemingly from nowhere, and opened them as one. Together summoned a creature of smoke and ash.

Thus the terrible slaughter began.

The smoke monster swept across the town, sometimes long and thin and other times a roiling orb. A constant flood of dark energy poured from it and enveloped everything. People started to run, but were not fast enough to escape.

Nothing survived. Once the smoke touched them, its power entered every orifice. It drilled through their pores, infecting their skins and muscles and organs, turning everything to stone. This nightmare scene was what remained of their genocide.

It happened in the blink of an eye. Were Cloudhawk here, he doubted even he would have time to react. No signs of life could be felt from these statues, however there was still the faint hum of whatever energy consumed them.

What were the gods planning?

He watched the gods as the terrible process unfolded. They paid the human cocoons to mind. When the job was done, they called back the monster, rose into the air, and moved on. Probably to rejoin the other gods.

Was he too late? What was that terrible creature they commanded?

Cloudhawk approached one of the statues. He slowly made himself corporeal and extended a hand. The moment his fingers touched it, the poor soul's features cracked and the whole thing fell to pieces.

"Aggghhh!!!" A terrible wail emerged, together with a translucent figure. It detonated near Cloudhawk, but the sudden attack was no threat to him. He blinked to safety.

The fuck? Spirits? Gods can turn living humans into these things? But why?

Cloudhawk scowled. Things were bad and the people were all beyond saving. He teleported away.

It seemed the gods had a way to transform humans into mindless, energy-dense spirits. That was a problem.

His next stop was the capital itself. Before even arriving he knew he was one step too late. Skycloud, the once glorious city, was a thing of the past. Everything was now encased in the black stone that remained after an attack by that hellish smoke beast. The city's millions of inhabitants were all dead.

There was some evidence of combat that he could see. Some had tried to fight back, some had tried to run. A handful managed to survive the opening attack but were quickly silenced. Lurking on the outskirts, Cloudhawk remained invisible. He could sense a group of powerful beings within. Gods.

A couple dozen gods had erased an entire realm in less than three hours. While the best of the realm was safe back in Greenland, this was still an unmitigated tragedy.

Cloudhawk was weighing whether to engage his enemies when he saw a group of humans fleeing across a distant hillside. They were being pursued by a group of spear-bearing divine soldiers. The survivors were about to be overtaken.

With a wave of his hand, Godslayer appeared in Cloudhawk's grip.

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