Rapidly losing altitude, Xefras banked for the City, using what little remained of his strength to fly faster, but it didn’t matter. He was too late. Knew it before he was close enough to hear the alarms and the Shields and the Barriers. The smoke from fires and sand-dust kicked up by thousands of feet gave it away. Those things had anticipated where he was going and got there ahead of him. And if he had just led them in a circle, not gone here, anything but what he’d done, and waited for Hythin and Xykra to bring help, the people of Ryphqi City wouldn’t be in yet another nightmare.
Exhaustion pulled a bit more of his true form back into his Dhaoinic, making his vision wobble and give out, as he lost hundreds of more feet of altitude. Screamed his frustration, sent the links between himself and his Others to vibrating with distress. Blinking rapidly to try and clear his vision he cursed loudly when he saw how close the City was. Growled and tried to correct course, to slow down, to take more air, but he had used every ounce of strength he had. There was none left. He was going to crash into the retaining wall and if he did at the speed he was going, he was going to take chunks out of it. Not that it mattered if he did, those creatures had proven that a City wall wasn’t going to keep them out. But still, he didn’t relish the idea of going through a wall.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck. No.
At the last second, he undulated his body in one great movement, bringing himself level with the top of the wall. He landed with a grunt, clawed hands scrambling for purchase as he slid across. Screamed when the rest of his body slammed into the stone, when he slid through blood and entrails and over into the yawning void of the City hundreds of feet below. Finally managed to get a grip on the mortar, managed to come to an abrupt, joint popping stop before he free fell. Sent up a choked prayer of thanks that his kind was one of the few in the Worlds capable of staying in a morbid amalgamation of true and Dhaoinic forms. Otherwise he’d have been royally fucked.
He didn’t pull himself up right away. Just hung there over the edge, the claws of his main set of hands dug deep into the mortar between bricks, eyes closed against the blinding glow of the City. The rest of his arms meekly pawed at the smooth edge of the wall his body hung against, not really searching for purchase but not giving up entirely on it either. His tail swung back and forth in a slow swish, split down the middle so that it was half his legs and half his tail. Gods only know the sight I must be.
It was hard to tell how long he hung there, listening to the shrieking of the Barriers and the Shields; feeling the heat of the fires so far below. Hearing that odd creaking noise those things made while the alarms roared, and he fought to get his vision to stop shaking, for his head to clear enough so he could think, before he pulled himself up. As the smell of death and too much blood registered, he gagged, thankful for once that he hadn’t had actual food in months. Never thought I’d be thankful for that. Taking as deep a breath as he dared, he pulled his legs beneath him and sat back on his heels.
He needed to feed and he needed to feed right now if he had any chance of surviving. If the City wasn’t overrun by those things, he wouldn’t be as worried about how dangerously low his stores were, how close to death he was. But there was no way he was going to be able to get out and to another safe location. Not if those things were going to follow him, especially if they were going to follow him. And he couldn’t get off this wall and into the City below without restoring some of his levels. That was a definite death sentence.
*Hythin… Xykra? Where the fuck are you?*
When no answer came, he sighed and scanned the bodies all around him. Looked for ones that were hovering just on the edge of crossing into the After. Looked for those with a spark of Self still on this side, filling the body it once ran with enough vitality to still hold a readable signature. It didn’t take him long to find one, after all with this much death and the stillness it brought, the emptiness of the bodies when the Self left them, any hint of magickal signature was loud. Never mind easily spotted.
Part of him flinched at what he was about to do but it didn’t stop him. He was too desperate to care for the moral ramifications, too hungry to care about anything except satiating that hunger. Instead he scrambled for the body, for the life force it held. Grabbed it tight and sank deep. Touched gentle, albeit insistent and hurried, fingertips to the torn and trembling Self at its core. Gave thanks to the Dhaoine for eir life both for him and for eir fellow warriors. Then with a roar like rushing flames, he dove into that Self and drank in long pulls. Tasted the Dhaoine’s memories and energy and power. Felt and lived good eir moments and fears and triumphs and failures. Learned the names of generations of eir family that had come before and of eir young that would never be born. When he felt em cross the River he let go. Resurfaced slowly, eyes blinking open languidly, and smiled at the power rush. Gave one last breathless prayer of thanks and turned to search for the next one.
What felt like hours later but was nothing more than minutes he finally pushed to his feet, staring with only a small twinge of guilt at the pile of bodies he’d drained fully. Pushing his hair out of his face, he took a deeper breath than before and tasted the fires and the blood and the gore on the air but didn’t gag as badly this time. Rolled his shoulders to release the tension in his muscles. Sent one last Call to his Others, waited for several heartbeats until he was certain that all he was going to get was silence as an answer. He knew he should wait for backup, should wait until he knew that help that wasn’t just him arrived, but he’d brought this nightmare here. It had followed him, had run ahead to catch him, and he couldn’t wait any longer.
So, for all that it was a stupid idea, he stepped off the wall into a free fall to the City street below. His laughter ricocheted around him, sounding too high and too sharp even to his own ears, the soft swish of hysteria at its edges. He always did love a good fight. Even if he rarely ever got one.
His true form exploded to the surface just as he landed, the force of its appearance blowing a crater into the cobblestones, sending debris flying in a dust cloud all around him. He was moving before the sound of his landing had even reached his ears.