Poz caught himself on the line he’d secured before detonating the bell, slowing his descent enough to avoid injuring himself when he landed. High probability I killed Nicandros with that explosion. The Alohym hybrid creature, on the other hand, is an unknown variable. The only abilities I’ve seen from it is the ability to fly and shoot unlight from its hand. It might have been able to save itself or Nicandros. Poz considered the thought and shook his head. The idea an Alohym would save another was a variable not worth considering.
You killed Nicandros.
There should be some emotion attached to that thought. Sadness at killing an old friend, satisfaction at achieving a victory and eliminating the only threat that could educate the Alohym on Poz’s current abilities, but at the moment all he really felt was a need to move to the next stage and prepare for the Alohym’s likely counterattack.
Every time it’s come at me before, it’s done so from the air. It favors rushing in and letting loose with a large burst of Unlight, then follows that up with moving into close combat when I’m exposed. His mind worked furiously, trying to find a way to counteract the advantages the Alohym posed. Forcing it underground would neutralize the advantage it had in flight but doing so would also give him little room to outmaneuver its beams. Engaging it in the open would give him room to evade, but no means of counterattack while it remained in the open. The only remaining option was engaging it within a structure. It would give him some room to maneuver, while limiting its flight. Except it would have no reason to not just bring the structure down around you. Human hostages were considered and discarded. The Alohym would not hesitate to slaughter any humans that stood between it and victory.
And, even if he engaged it in a structure, he currently had no means of injuring it.
Poz grimaced. Assuming the bell hadn’t ended the conflict before it even began, Poz was in an uncomfortable position. Enhancing his intelligence really only served to make sure he knew exactly how low his odds of success were against the Alohym.
Except it’s not an Alohym. It is a hybridization of some kind. Approach the problem from that direction. Also, the stonework on this structure has erosion patterns that indicate it’s at least a century old given average precipitation and weather patterns in this area. I wonder if there would be some way to increase its longevity. It occurred to Poz that some kind of coating over the stone could reduce the weathering from wind and rain, a sealant of some sort. Perhaps something based off of oil. If he could find a way to solidify it, the sealant would prevent water degradation due to oil’s hydrophobic properties…
Poz shook his head, trying to clear away the distraction. There were important things to focus on. His life was in imminent danger, and there was a very real threat of failing to find somewhere safe to feast on new flesh before his brain overheated and left him comatose and dead.
He felt the Songstone in his pocket. He still had a card to play. If he used it properly, it would create just enough chaos to escape. If he did not use it properly, it would result in the pointless loss of human lives and still leave him trapped. Too early, and the chaos would be subdued before he could take advantage of it. Too late, and he’d already be a smear on the cobblestones.
The only possible option for the hybrid is a human. So…what weaknesses does a human have that an Alohym would not cover? That was a more interesting question, because it was solvable. Alohym had a hardened carapace that made up for humans comparably thin skin, inherent sensory dampeners that made up for most of the human sensory flaws, and an extended thorax that provided additional mass…
Mass that has to be supported by the human knee and spin.
The two major structural weaknesses in the human frame. Knee and spine. The Alohym’s hardened carapace would help protect it against attacks focusing on the spine, but the knee…it was a joint. Joints were weak points. A plan began to form. It would be risky, but it was viable if he could just-
A faint sound reached his ears and reflex drove Poz to leap to the side, rolling with the motion. A beam of unlight lanced down from the damaged bell tower and tore a chunk of cobblestone from where he’d been standing, digging a furrow as wide as Poz was at the shoulders through the streets and sending stone flying into the air. Poz kept moving as the beam started to chase him. He could see the Hybrid above him on the edge of the ruined tower – might as well use its name, Ashliel – and dove into the tower she was standing on before she could catch him in the solid beam of destruction.
He’d been so focused on solving the problem he’d forgotten to move. A flaw of manflesh. An easy one for it to figure out and exploit. Light and Shadow, it probably hadn’t needed to know it was a weakness – all it had to do was check to see if it could see him from the elevated altitude. Now he was in the tower and had blocked his escape path with his own debris. You’ll hear her wings when she starts moving again. Then you can-
A motion in the darkness of the room. Poz leapt back, his mind racing through the possibilities. Before he could figure out the most likely threat, pain blossomed in his left bicep. Sharp pain, sudden warmth. I’m bleeding. There’s a metal object inserted into my arm right now. His attacker had thrown three blades, along the primary assault path and the only two spaces Poz could reasonably move to in evading it.
Poz realized he was shouting in pain and made himself stop. Instead he lashed out with his hand, catching the fourth dagger before it could impact him in the chest. He hurled it back into the darkness but wasn’t rewarded with any sound of pain or drop of a body hitting the floor. Poz pivoted, heading towards the entrance.
A beam of unlight blasted down inches in front of the door before he could exit. If he’d jumped to the other side, he would have been moving through it at that exact instant and would have been vaporized.
Poz leapt into the air. It was an absurd move, one he never would have tried normally, but had the benefit of moving him out of the path of the daggers that were coming out of the darkness.
Another weakness of manflesh. Pitiful vision in the darkness. His attack knew that and was exploiting it.
Poz leapt again, ducking behind some rubble.
“Nicandros,” Poz said. “It appears I had miscalculated your odds of survival.”
A damaged arcell flew over the pile of rubble and landed next to Poz, pulsing and glowing with unlight. Frantic calculations told Poz he had five seconds before it detonated. Four now, it had taken him a second to calculate it. At three seconds, his fingers closed around the arcell. He had to reach out of cover to grab it, and this arm sprouted a dagger as well. He ignored the pain. Two seconds. He tossed it wildly towards the entrance. One second.
It detonated just after passing through the entrance. The explosion rocked the street outside, but Poz was spared from the blast.
Poz had escaped certain death and traded it for an uncertain survival.
It appeared there were other odds he’d miscalculated.