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Book 8, Epilogue - An End and a Beginning

 Selene Cloude had decided to leave.

Although her father tried to dissuade her, the question of the godslayer - where he was, if he was still alive - burned too hot for her to ignore.

Baldur maintained that the ability to selectively erase the memory of a single man across an entire species went far beyond the capabilities of any ordinary being. Whoever, or whatever the godslayer was, he was a truly unique thing. One that wanted to be forgotten. Her to hide something or protect everyone, the truth was that information on the godslayer had to be dangerous, even just his name.

Say that Selene managed to learn something about this man, then what? If the godslayer really did defeat the God King and erase himself from the universe, he could do anything. He had power that mortals couldn't even comprehend.

Despite her young age, Selene had grown stronger even than Arcturus. If she remained in Skycloud she would be the greatest representative of the Cloude family in history. A living legend! Why throw all of that away on an impossible journey to find a man who didn't want to be found?

But Baldur's pleas fell on deaf ears. Selene was obstinate by nature, she would not be convinced. Once she made up her mind no force on the planet could change her mind. She was strong enough that no one could stand in her way.

So before long Selene set off on her lonely journey. Clad in simple traveling garb, a patch over her right eye and a sword on her back, she once again took to the road with the wind at her back.

There was a familiarity with this life. A connection she had to the wilderness. Ten years ago, maybe earlier, a young Selene had made the same decision. When she thought about it she figured that was when her doomed bond to the godslayer was really set in stone.

Things were different this time.

With every passing day the wastelands returned to the vitality of a thousand years ago. Arcturus, Skye, Ramiel... everyone who was lost in the long voyage to freedom was restored. Just like the wastelands, like some great power had given everything a new lease on life.

All the familiar figures in Selene's memory she encountered, all except the one she was desperate to find. She had no clues to follow or leads to explore. She didn't know what name to call or what face to look for. Even though she knew nothing about this man, it was a quest her soul demanded of her.

Confusion, loss, pain, determination... All of these emotions followed her as she set out.

Maybe she didn't have any information to grasp onto. Maybe the quest was doomed from the start. All Selene knew was that she had to make this journey, even if just for peace of mind.

So she would search. Forever, if she had to.

**

The wastelands.

A caravan of modified vehicles sped along the grasslands. Sitting in the driver's seat of the head vehicle was a rotund man with a pair of pistols strapped to his waist and a burning cigarette in his mouth. His foot pressed the gas pedal down as far as it would go, urging his buggy faster.

Suddenly something caught his attention and he wrenched the steering wheel to the side. Brakes squealed in protest but eventually the buggy ground to a halt. Long, deep tracks marked this gradual and dramatic stop. The modded buggy's engine clicked from the heat like it would explode at any moment. Black smoke belched from the exhaust. The rest of the caravan pulled up and came to rest as well.

A burly dark skinned man leaped from another one of the vehicles. He was covered in scars from head to toe, the worst of which was an ugly jagged line that bisected his face. The combination of his imposing physique and frightening appearance made for a fierce presence.

The big man called out. "Fuck, Slyfox you goddamn maniac. Why did you stop the caravan?"

Slyfox didn't answer. He pulled his sizable girth from the car and looked out over the plains. At last he shouted, a note of surprise in his voice. "Mad Dog! Get your ass over here. There's a fuckin' kid out here, he looks lost."

Mad Dog stomped over with a glower on his face. A few feet in front of Slyfox's car was a kid laying in the grass, mostly hidden by the weeds. "Goddamnit Slyfox. I know you always think with your cock but you're gunna start chasing half-dead little boys now?"

"I'll fuck your mother, asshole. Tartarus needs new blood, you know that. Kid may be half dead but he's gotta be tough to have made it all the way out here alone. Let's take him back, make him something useful."

Mad Dog took a second glance at the figure. He was young, maybe eighteen, dressed in little more than rags. He had a flop of black hair on his head that looked like it had never been combed, but otherwise he was in good shape. Not like most of the runts they came across who were frail and malnourished. No wonder Slyfox thought he might be useful.

"Your call, but let's get going. We're losing sunlight.

Slyfox roughly pulled the kid out of the grass and put him in the back of the car. When the caravan pulled into Blackflag Outpost, the kid was jolted awake. He looked around his new surroundings with a confused expression on his face.

"Hey, kid. You up? You passed out in the wastelands. Lucky we found you, otherwise you'd be making your way through the guts of some mutant beast by now." Slyfox took a drag of his cigarette and appraised the young man. "I saved your fuckin' life. You're welcome. And as your savior your life belongs to the Tartarus mercenaries now."

The kid just sat there, unmoving, like some sort of idiot.

"Fuck, you soft-headed or something'?" Slyfox flicked away the butt of his cigarette and scowled at the boy. "Hey! You understand what I'm sayin'? Where'd you come from? Got any skills? A name, even?"

The young man's brows furrowed tight and he thought for a long time. He felt like his memories were all locked up in an electrified box. The more he fought to look inside the more it hurt.

He... didn't remember. He didn't know who he was, where he came from or anything that happened before. Besides whatever was in that box his mind was perfectly blank. No recollection at all.

"My... my name is Cloudhawk. I don't remember anything else."

Slyfox sighed in relief. At least he wasn't a complete idiot. "Doesn't matter, a lot of people don't remember shit anymore including me. All you need to know is that from now on you're a scrub in service to the Tartarus mercenaries. Got it?"

Cloudhawk nodded groggily in understanding. His head was killing him! While the memories were all locked up there were fragments that leaked out that came in flashes of visions and sounds. They troubled him.

The Tartarus patrol made their way into Blackflag Outpost. All along its walls and trees were signs that were variations of the same thing;

Who is the godslayer?

Looking for the godslayer, all information welcome.

Another stabbing pain dug into his brain.

"They were posted here by people sent by the prettiest and smartest lady in the whole wasteland, Boss Hellflower. Word is anyone with info on the godslayer will get a personal reward from Hellflower. Riches beyond your wildest dreams."

"Who is the godslayer?" Cloudhawk asked.

"Who the f-... you don't even know about the godslayer?" Slyfox looked at the kid incredulously. "The world used to be controlled by a group of gods. The godslayer led humanity against them, going all the way to their home on Mount Sumeru and killed their fuckin' King. Nobody remembers a tihng about him now, though. Just a legend."

The kid looked at the fat man and the signs, puzzled.

As they walked down the street there was a group of musicians, playing loudly to a group of onlookers. It was a story about the godslayer and his war with the God King.

"..."

"It was like this: The godslayer beat the God King, something no one else could do, and freed us all from imprisonment."

"Before, this place beneath our feet was a rough place out in the wilds where people fought and died for scraps. But once the gods were beaten the curse that kept the world barren was lifted. Endless sands became fertile earth. Dunes turned to green hills... Blackflag Outpost was rebuilt and here we are today, all thanks to the godslayer."

The kid sputtered a question. "W-where'd the godslayer go after?"

"No one knows. After the war the godslayer just up and disappeared. No one even remembers his name or what he looked like. Theory is that he was cursed after killing the God King so that the whole world would forget all about him."

"Hey kid, listen close - we don't forget heroes like him. Maybe we don't know what he looked like or anything, or even exactly what he did, but we know he did it and we can't ever forget."

"..."

The old minstrel's voice rose and fell, full of emotion and pathos. The crowd listened with rapt attention. This great man, who accomplished a feat no mortal man ever could, was now unknown to everyone. It was a pitiful consequence for a great deed.

Slyfox looked down at the kid. "what's on your mind?"

Cloudhawk jerked as he was wrenched from the allure of the song. "Nothing... nothing."

Maybe it was a trick of the light but Slyfox felt like something was different in the kid's eyes. There was pain and loneliness there that hadn't been a second ago, the kind you only got from a life of hard experiences.

"Let's move it. I'll take you to meet the others. You've got a lot to learn, scrub."

They walked off into the crowd and disappeared.

Meanwhile a wind kicked up across the plains. Blackflag's eponymous banner flapped and wind -chimes clanged as the gentle gusts swept through.

It was the end.

It was all beginning again.

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