Tythel slumped back to the ground after the burst of ghostflame.
You’re not done yet, Tythel reminded herself. Her vision in her good eye was blurred, but she could see Rephylon. The Alohym laid on its side, its spindly legs twitching spasmodically in the air. It was reaching out towards her, the hands clenching and unclenching.
More importantly, it was speaking, but its mandibles weren’t moving. The voice was coming from inside its chest. You heard this before, Tythel realized. Back in the prison. She’d heard the voice emanating from the thorax. It hadn’t registered at the time, not as anything important. Now that the Alohym lay dying, the voice coming from inside its chest took on a sick importance.
Tythel began to limp over to the Alohym. She could barely walk. The earlier cut in her leg was throbbing with each step, although it was a minor pain compared to the other ones. The ringing in her ear was beginning to fade, but she still couldn’t see out of her right eye. Her left arm was clutched to her chest at an awkward angle, and Tythel knew she needed to heal it at some point. Every step sent pain through that arm, pain that also radiated out to her shattered ribcage. She didn’t think they were actually broken – Tythel was certain she wouldn’t be able to walk if they were.
It didn’t matter. She had to finish this.
She could hear voices from inside the houses that lined their battle. Faces came to windows. People were whispering in confusion and shock. The song notes of those shells began to chime as the few who had the ability to communicate long distance began to share what they were seeing. Part of Tythel thought that might be important, but the rest of her was too focused on her next step to really think about it.
“Tythel?” a voice said. Tythel turned towards it. Eupheme stepped out of a shadow, her eyes wide. “Light and Shadow, you look…is that an Alohym?”
Tythel could only give Eupheme a cut nod. “The army?” Tythel croaked.
“On it’s way back.”
Tythel turned back to Rephylon and resumed walking. “Need to finish…not done.”
If Eupheme objected to Tythel’s course of action, Tythel didn’t hear it. Step by plodding step, she finally closed the distance between herself and the Alohym.
Now that she was close to Rephylon, she could almost hear the individual words coming from its chest. It sounded like it was railing at Tythel. “I’m sorry,” Tythel said to it, bending down to one knee, “I can’t quite make that out.” She slashed with the talons of her good hand to tear open the Alohym’s thorax. “You were saying?”
The last three words came out as a furious growl.
“You will not survive this.” Rephylon hissed through its pain. “Everything will collapse. Your people will call you a monster, a liar, a child, they will turn-”
The Alohym’s words reverted to its native language as soon as the final plate of the thorax was torn away.
Beneath the thorax was not a mass of internal organs. Instead there was a chamber, in which sat a creature not much bigger than a cat. It looked like a segmented, plated worm. One that had been badly burned. Metal cables connected it to the rest of the chamber, and with the thorax gone it began to scream wordlessly.
Tythel reached in, wrapping her talons around it, and yanked it from its chamber. It wiggled and writhed in her grasp, and the sensation was so disgusting, Tythel held the creature as far away from her body as she could.
Gasps began to sound from the houses around her.
“What is it?” someone whispered.
“Where did it come from?” another asked.
“It’s horrid,” a child’s voice said.
Tythel, for a moment, stood there dumbly. They need to see this. She could hear the army was returning – if not for the ringing in her ear, she would have heard them much sooner. They all need to see this. Tythel stood back up, carefully. Someone was at her side. Eupheme, one hand under Tythel’s arm. “Can’t have you passing out now, your highness,” Eupheme whispered. “It’s your first public appearance, after all.”
Tythel did her best not to lean too noticeably into the assistance until she was on her feet again, the Alohym still trying to escape her grasp with frantic struggles and cursing Tythel in that hideous, shrieking tongue. Or maybe it was begging. Tythel had no idea what the Alohym was saying, and didn’t care.
“What the flath is that?” Tythel heard. Armin’s voice. The army had returned. That’s good, Tythel thought.
She held the Alohym aloft, making sure everyone could see this pathetic, mewling thing. Making her voice as loud as she could manage through the pain, Tythel shouted, “People of Dawnchester! Behold your gods!”
Silence as realization settled in, silence only broken by the Alohym’s continued screeching.
Certain she had everyone’s full attention, Tythel ignited her hand in dragonflame.
Rephylon gave one last shriek and fell silent.
In the distance, alarms still blared. In the distance, fighting still raged. But right here, all was silent. If it wasn’t for Eupheme, Tythel would have collapsed right then. As it was, she stood there, leaning heavily on her friend.
“Light Shine on Princess Tythel!”
Tythel looked to the voice, and was shocked to see Haradeth had started the cheer. “Light Shine on Princess Tythel!” He repeated. This time, the chant was picked up by others. It began to spread through the army, and then through the people watching from their windows. They were cheering. The words “false gods” and “death to the Alohym” began to mix in.
You were just worshipping them, Tythel thought. Are you that fickle? Or were you just that desperate for a crack in their divinity? Another, uglier thought followed that one. Or do you just fear what could happen if you didn’t cheer?
It didn’t matter. They’d seen their gods bleed. They’d seen them die. They’d learned the truth – and thanks to Alohym devices, the whole kingdom would know soon.
Tythel tossed the charred remain of the Alohym to the pavement. The cheering surged again.
It’s a start, Tythel thought. Eupheme prompted Tythel to raise her hand for another round of cheers. “Now, your highness, I think you should rest before your people see you collapse.”
Tythel didn’t protest as Eupheme led her away.