Poz was able to find a resting place in a ruined building. The windows had long ago been broken and taken away, and the interior was a mess of spider webs and rotting wood. There had once been furniture here, but that had been taken at some point. Only ghostly outlines on the floor marked where it had once been, spots where the sun hadn’t bleached the floor as strongly. It was the kind of place that was abandoned and forgotten.
Poz still sniffed the air, wanting to make sure he was truly alone. There were a faint stench of waste, but it was old and faded. No other evidence of humans remained. The only smell was dust so long undisturbed, it had gone stale.
He crept through the window, careful to ensure no one was watching him move with a spryness that would have betrayed his fake aliments. Once inside he still made sure to listen carefully for a few moments, wanting to make certain there were no footsteps creeping closer, no gentle hiss of knife or sword drawn from scabbard, and no low hum of arcwands charging.
For a half second that felt like an eternity, Poz waited. Only when none of those sounds reached his ears did he dare let himself breathe.
You’ll have to travel at night. Those were the words of Man-Poz, some of the coherent pieces of advice he’d left behind. And sleep during the day. Awaken at dusk, bed at dawn, and avoid grubs.
Poz grimaced at those last words. There was an erroneous belief among humans that spiders would climb into their mouths while they slept. It was a legend, something with no basis in reality. Only two or three Underfolk had ever gone to sleep in one flesh and awoken in another, and they were so exceptional Pox could recall their names from childhood stories. Ulk, who had fallen asleep after three days march and landed face first on an anthill, Kol, who later discovered the change in flesh was a trick by his brother to ensure Kol would be too stupid to help on the day his brother staged his revolt, and Bon, who had been so near death he could barely breathe and so a spider had felt safe seeking refuge in the open mouth of a predator.
No, Manflesh Poz wasn’t trying to warn him against the dangers of accidental ingestion. He was, as was often the case, condescending to himself. Don’t do the stupid thing you believe to be noble and self-exile into grubflesh again. That was what those words had meant.
If there hadn’t been a reason to, Poz would have ignored the warning. But he had things to do. Things that required grubflesh.
Things that were outlined in the book.
Poz settled down to the floor and leaned back against the wall, unwrapping the book from its bindings and unfolding it to the page he’d marked before.
To the north you will find the town of Gildsroot, to the south Gremsburg. Head north. Gremsburg has a larger Alohym contingent, and if Nicandros is expecting you, he’ll send people there first. Gildsroot will fly past his notice because of how long the trek here is. I give this a seventy-three percent probability, based on norms established for Nicandros. Grief may have changed his behavior, and he may now be an adversary, but that shouldn’t have changed his tactical decision making too much. The other twenty-seven percent accounts for the possibility Nicandros will expect that I have outthought him – which I have – and selects Gildsroot based on its unassuming nature or through using some sort of randomized determination factor.
It’s vital that you do not rest in the wilderness for any period of time. The Alohym have new fliers of multiple varieties, their half-Alohym, half-Human hybrids and some sort of manta-ray like creature that can traverse the air at immense speeds. Given what I’ve seen, and the overall lack of organic Alohym technology, it’s likely these rays are creatures brought from some other world they have conquered.
This is important. The Alohym must have faced rebellion before. If they are bringing in creatures from across their empire, that means one of two possibilities exist. In the first, they are secure in their knowledge that they have defeated the humans so thoroughly that this world is entirely under their dominion. Given that this occurred after the Princess slew Rephylon, I find that unlikely. More likely, and more important, is they are growing desperate.
On the stone over the firepit – and here Poz had included a note to himself that he’d transcribed the passage that was on that stone on page eighty-three – you’ll find a diagram for a device that should allow you to take one of these creatures down from the sky. You’ll need to get specialized components made from a blacksmith, and the diagrams you’ll need to provide them are there. Engage them in the woods over Mistwafe, and place it among the trees.
Remember. No one thought to forbid the flesh of these strange flyers.
Poz sighed and settled deeper into a slump. The idea was solid, and the design had carefully been laid out so even Wolfflesh could understand it. However the “specialized components” would require custom blacksmithing that he could not afford, from a blacksmith that would have every reason to kill him and hand his body over to the Alohym, and Man-Poz had not included any ideas for how to lure these fliers into the forest mentioned.
Plus, there were concerns beyond just the practical.
These fliers, if they were truly creatures from another world the Alohym had brought with them, could be intelligent. True, they would not be among the Forbidden Flesh, but just because the ancestors had not thought to explicitly forbid creatures from another world did not mean it was something that should be ignored. Intelligence, when added to Intelligence, would override something else. For Manflesh, it was empathy. Poz had never dared taste Dragonflesh or Sylvaniflesh, but he had concerns about what those would do.
Flesh from another world? What might that do to him?
He turned his eyes back to the book. One of the flaws of our consumption of flesh is that our mass does not change. As such, Crowflesh, Henflesh, and other avian fleshes grant some degree of wings, but they are proportional to the much smaller base forms. We cannot fly with them – even you know this. The only flesh that grants flight is the Aeromane. Likely Dragonflesh as well, although we cannot prove that. These creatures are larger than us, and they fly through the air via some manner of organic combustion that allows them to attain great velocities. Their flesh could grant us flight. It is imperative you seek them out.
Ignore your outdated morality. We are at war, and casualties must be allowed for. The fate of this planet is greater than your sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’
Poz closed the book and sighed. Was that true? Man-Poz was convinced it was, but he had let an entire town be slaughtered to secure his own safety. What point was there to freeing the world from the Alohym if it burned in the process?
A low growl slipped from Poz’s throat, an involuntary reaction born of this flesh. These questions were too much to handle, and he had a sense that no one person should be the one to answer them.
He would have to find the Resistance. They could debate what was right and wrong. He could listen to their arguments and decide for himself.
For now, he had to rest. Sleep came moments after he closed his eyes.