Zarina straddled her Alpha Froabas, leaving Riesco at the stable with his friend Nuro and the safety of Zox and Jascuan. In truth, she would have preferred to leave Alqasas there too, but without the mistress the beast could prove to be a problem, especially if something happened to the beastmaster. The dragon led the herd of tuskers in the air, with An Zenui as their destination.
The duo of human and dragon split from the herd as they approached An Zenui, as to not alert the authorities, but also to provide Zarina with the privacy she needed. A stony plateau that had a view of the city and was decently elevated would have to do. The mount found its footing and rested where it could find the last golden glimmers of sunlight. Meanwhile, Zarina sat down at the edge, legs hanging want shoeless. In fact, most of her clothes were folded under a shrub barring a few light pieces ton her. Her few goods were put in a sack with a long belt tied to it, placed next to the clothes. And finally, her shield remained by her, just in case. On her lap, she pet Nibbler who was enjoying a fruit from Jascuan's garden.
Zarina pouted, lips flapping. “Ipte darn it, I would've liked to see some of that festival.” she swung her legs and waited, her eyes flicking up to the clear skies from time to time. Soon, the moons would provide beautiful, natural lighting to the event.
“Wh-at a mess.”
Blood surrounded the girl. No longer was she the soft-skinned Virangish girl with a bit too much money, hiding behind a pristine armour of platinum and dragon scale. Now, she was a beast. One the word had not see in so, so long. Curved, goat-like horns twisted just above her scale-ridden ears. She still resembled Zarina Al-Nader, right down to the eye colour and facial features. But she was distinctly Tryannus Horrifer too. Most of her body was covered in scales barring portions of her appendages and her abdomen. Her arms were abnormally long with a membrane still forming between them and her sides. The nine foot humanoid dragon loomed over the desert and once again grew familiar with this wretched form.
She whistled, prompted Alqasas to take flight, while Nibbler casually hopped onto her shoulder. By the time she was ready, satchel tied to her waist and shield slipped on like a perfectly tailored shoe, the message was received.
“It's g-go ti-me.”
And she vanished, while Alqasas was ordered to circle the skies of An Zenui until called upon. The four-moon Horrifer remained static above the city itself, witnessing the chaos unfold below. Her peers were successful, and she could even feel the Ayla's power - a power that even dissuaded an Alpha Sand Wyrm from rampaging.
Then, she felt it. Her instincts captured the signs of imminent danger, and then her energy senses confirmed them. With people dying by the hundreds, she had to act. She had to save. And she had to kill her enemies.
Time slowed down to a near stand-still. Only briefly, in her own timeline. She could see the inevitable coup de grâce reaching for the precious Centaur. In a small fraction of a second, the black dragon stood before the girl, arm-wings wrapped around her as a shield. The spell was not going to pierce through the black scales.
The dark curtain opened, liberating Classa. Nibbler hopped into her arms for comfort. The transformed teen smiled, showing off sharp teeth that rivaled her Froabas'.
Zarina looked over her shoulder to witness what had happened as her long, wicked tail sporadically whipped in the air and obliterated the occasional piece of debris.
How they writhed and contorted. Blood poured from their mouths, their ears, and their eyes. Their teeth fell out and their skin fissured, crisping, cracking, peeling, a red mist hanging in the air. Bones cracked and hair caught fire. The unholy sound of their dying screams filled the night and the would-be revolutionaries fled before a fell power they could not begin to comprehend.
The blood hung there, thickening, and then came the bones, the skin, the flesh. Twining together in vile tethers, it snaked across the burgeoning hellscape at the heart of An Zenui. These rivers joined and grew, steaming and hissing. The ground trembled and heaved, swelling and burning.
Then, there were veins, threading through the night sky, rising a hundred feet in the air - two hundred. They twisted and solidified and... began to move. The circulatory framework of a great hand plunged into the ground and pulled out a chain of screaming, wailing demons. It raised these to its mouth and then there were bones, congealing, building, hardening: teeth that tore them to shreds, skeletal fingers, arms, legs, and a vast ribcage, within which beat a molten heart. Steam and smoke rose from the growing monstrosity as flesh began to entomb it. This vented through the air, whistling and hissing. Atop the head formed a gnarled crown of bone and then, from its back, sprouted vast, skeletal wings that dripped a foul black mist and sheets of flaking skin as they spread. Its bones groaned and crackled with every step. Its flesh seared and one could smell the sickening sweet stench of cooking meat.
Then, came the noise. Its toothless mouth unleashed a warbling scream that held enough force to tear back the curtains on the battered stage and send people running for cover. Skin now covered the demon, and it was a lithe, towering female figure with a lumpen, misshapen crown growing out of its head and yawning eyeless black sockets. The bones of its fingers extended beyond what its blackened, pestilent, and peeling skin could cover, ending in gnarled, branching talons. White smoke seeped and vented from fissures as it moved and burning black blood dripped from where the bony crown and vile wings emerged from its tortured skin. Its feet were massive and thick, like an elephant's, and they pulverized the ground wherever they touched it, burning and scorching as they went.
Last of all, came the eyes. They grew into those empty sockets, hundreds of branching veins, hardening and blackening and burning. Yet, instead of forming into two complete eyes, each stalk formed a little ball of its own that moved as it wished. There were hundreds, each fist-sized and, from behind them, came a hungry orange glow that licked and snapped and flared with eager malevolence.
Thus, for the first time in a thousand years, was summoned the Grand Demon of Cruelty:
It commanded an awful, inhuman voice, multitude joined as one, in truth. Immediately, for dozens of individuals present and nearby, their manas began drawing energy uncontrollably, filling them with it to bursting point.
The beast merely glared, expelling copious amounts of heat as it was forced to draw.
Fire everywhere. None burned as hot as the unrefined rage inside the Wildblood. The instinct to lash out at the unnatural was strong, and the indignation for all the deaths and desecrations she had just seen was even stronger. The immense violence she was about to usher into this world was going to be the justice both sides implied in their own, animalistic ways.
Her allies minded the people and the fires, while Zarina charged head first into the monster. The blows, as mighty as what at least two of the others could muster up together, made her better for this role anyway.
An utter slugfest with the amalgamation of flesh, and yet it hardly hit back. Was it ignoring Zarina? Or did it not see the point in taking down the resilient dragon first, and aimed for the weaker ones? None of these thoughts crossed Zarina’s mind. It didn’t matter. All she wanted was to destroy this thing in particular, no matter what it did.
Then, it took a particular aim toward Josca with a concentrated blast of energy - one the cazenax could not stop alone.
Driven by both a desire to devour the energy but also the human portion’s instinct to channel the will of Oraff-Zept, the half-transformed wildblood appeared before the girl and halted the blast with some light aid, and then returned it to the demon.
Nothing. Not even a scratch. If anything it claimed the flames to use later.
The dragon was vexed. Any thank you or call was zoned out. All that mattered was hurting that tower of flesh.
The struggle was real. Her blows hardly scratched the mass, and the efforts of her peers merely chunked a few insignificant pieces of flesh. Something had to change, NOW.
Taking to the air again, the Horrifer inhaled slowly, syphoning in energy with the help of Gorge and its own special organs to contain the specific conversion and transformation she was doing. Arms opened, a ball of green energy began to form inside her opened maw. Then, she fired. A loud screech that rang for many hundreds of metres. A beam of energy got to the upper right of the beast, and with a simple turn of her head, was dragged horizontally down fast like a blade carving a piece of meat.
The grand demon recoiled, a massive burnt gash on its core and the first significant damage it had taken. It was vulnerable.
The dragon recoiled, overheated from the previous attack with steam erupting from her orifices and pores. She was vulnerable.
But she also had allies, and they capitalized fully, until Hetraxa’s fury grew into something new. For all of the devastation that this demon had wrought, those arrayed against her had struck back and struck truly. After eating a nuclear blast from Benedetto, bound by Ayla, she paused and released a colossal amount of scalding steam. Those surrounding her reeled back as she began to change …
"I CALL UPON THEE, OH CREATURES OF PESTILENCE AND FILTH. BRING FORTH THY DESTRUCTION UPON THIS WORLD!!!"
An enormous swarm of insects began to form.
Kneebiters and Sanguignats. None passed through the exorbitant heat around Zarina, and they quickly learned the futility of doing so. Instead, the others were prime targets, while the Wildblood’s position didn’t change.
The pounding continued, and the state of the group was starting to deteriorate. It gave Zarina all the more reason to prepare her next nuclear blast.
But then, as she readied her claws to gore a nearby portion of the demon, Classa was dragged before her!
“I... LET ME GO! LET ME GO, YOU BITCH!” the girl let out a terrified sound.
Zarina stared right at her with gold, feral eyes.
“Don't hurt me! PLEASE don't hurt me! I don't mean it!”
Then she looked at the demon. And finally to the nearby bugs. They were too close, and so she unleashed a stream of acid that morphed into a corrosive cloud to consume all the vermin. And with enough time, Ayla was able to clear the Dominion curse from the centaur, letting her scurry off so that the grown ups could end this.
The next big laser was in order: One that’d pierce through the core of the monster, leaving a bleeding hole in its place and causing it to stagger once more. Enough for Desmond to claim another significant piece with his special bullets.
Although not before finally getting a swipe off Zarina. The massive set of cleavers finally caught her off guard in overheat. Her reaction was slow and she had to catch the blade to hold it back, creating massive gashes on her palm, abdomen and forearms. Slowly, these would begin to heal, but now it was clear that even the Horrifer’s scales could not entirely stop this monster’s rampage.
Once again, Hetraxa was undergoing a change …
This time, a green mist surrounded the colossal creature and it sunk deeper into it.
"NOW YOU WILL KNOW MADNESS!!!"
It rang in ALL their heads. Madness from the Void. A sickening feeling. An enraging feeling.
Zarina began to gather energy. An obscene amount, and concentrated the excess into her core, where her final Horrifer blast was to take form. All that had to be done was survive. Survive the plague mist that infected so many. Tku, some of the snakes, Marci … She could sense it - the sickness in them. Taking their skin.
This needed to end quickly.
In position, the Wildblood took aim. Everyone could now sense the obscene quantity of energy she had focused into one point. The madness had made her even more callous to the potential destruction she’d bring, but perhaps considering that angle was a ticket to death. Maybe this was necessary.
And just as she was about to attack, Zarina turned to her friends. No longer was she in control of her body.
“NO!” she screamed. “NO! WHAT! NO!”
No amount of rage could stop this. Her grand finale was no longer pointed at Hetraxa, but at her own sister. She could not even self-destruct, everything except the mind and speech was robbed of her.
And Marceline Hohenfelter-Escarra survived, nearly unscathed, to a Horrifer blast that even put the Nox Arcanum one to shame. With the Zox wall and some help, of course. The smoke cleared, revealing no casualties to the relief of the now burning dragon, exhausted from her last attack.
It was there that Benedetto came to deliver the coup-de-grace to the exposed dragon, with no way for her to defend herself. She looked Nyax-Acan right into the eyes - his furious and regretful eyes - and prepared for the end.
Except Marceline once again defied the odds and hurled her remaining wall to protect. But it wasn’t enough, Benny’s nuclear blast was going to push through …
Until a wailing Alaqasas tackled the blonde young man off his footing and redirected his attack to the sky. The Froabas had acted without Ayla’s command and intervened to save her handler. The animal stared down the possessed Benny, while Marci got to work.
The Cure-All in Zarina’s pouch was swiftly ripped out of the bag before Hetraxa could intervene and the vial shattered to coat the Wildblood with the stuff. In just a few seconds, the curse was lifted. Zarina was back in the game, right by her dragon. She layed a gentle paw onto the alpha’s snout as a thanks.
The hour was dire. The sickness was spreading further. Soon, they would all be dead. And Zarina was the last singular heavy-hitter with Benedetto still possessed. And she did not have the mind to strategize quickly enough.
But Tennaxi did.
She knew a new dominion was coming. The young raider-turned-close ally was more observant than most. Something had to be done before the many eyes glared once more unto game changers.
Josca and Desmond, in one coordinated assault, shattered the remaining barriers the demon had put up. It could not be stingy anymore and needed to put everything in its next attack. An attack it could not be allowed to have.
“It okay.” something called to Zarina. “Friend.” and then it came from behind. She recognized it as a shadowy aura surrounded the Horrifer’s body with a little, dark form grabbing onto her from behind, this time with legs.
“Together.” she said simply. The dragon understood.
To the heavens they took, and even higher. They did not move normally, however, and instead Zarina had rapidly warped to the stratosphere. A cold and beautiful place. She could see the stars, and all of Sipenta! But her eyes were on one, minuscule point: Hextraxa.
“T-T-Together.” she uttered before descending down. Gravity and her own immense power made exponential by Tennaxi’s influence made of a crashing celestial body that terrified many ages.
High up, it looked like a simple, red comet slowly making its way down. Dangerous, but far. However, as Zarina his maximum velocity and burned bright, she vanished.
And appeared right on top of Hetraxa with a single, darkened fist lunging right at its centre.
“I’LL STAAAAKE IT ALL! TO KIIIILLL YOU!”
Tried as she might, the creature’s defenses quickly crumbled and the Wildblood pierced right through her, leaving a massive hole that traversed through her body, to the point of rendering the body near-unusable.
Massive tendrils of thick, oily blackness snake up from the abyss. They entwine themselves about her arms and legs. They wrap around her waist and up over her shoulders and the bony crown growing from her head. The ground opens up, glowing with an unholy dark fyre.
""N O ! I W O N ' T G O ! I ' M N O T R E A D Y !"
Her eyes become sharp, black things that burn with fury and hatred.
""T H E Y M U S T S U F F E R ! Y O U A R E I N S U L T S T O C R E A T I O N !"
She thrashes and struggles and the tendrils begin to snap, but more emerge. She manages to break one massive hand free and her bale gaze settles upon…
""Y O U ! ! !" she roars, fist clenching Ayla tightly, with bonebreaking force. ""Y O U C O M E W I T H M E! T O W H E R E Y O U B E L O N G ! ! !"
It takes notice of the spell that was used.
The great stone pinnacle shudders.
Further towards hell, Ayla is dragged.
She sees the truth of it in that moment, below her, above her, all around her.
She is weightless.
She is everything...
Then, as the ground begins to close, the VOID of hell wavers and writhes.
This... THING that should not exist within reality is met with the world's fury, its disgust, its.... wrath.
All of this channeled through one boy - almost a man.
The great, desperate hand crumbles to ash and the ground... implodes.
The force is terrific. An Zenui rises and falls.
Great boulders and shards of rock hurtle in every direction.
Ayla, however, is not returned to reality.
For she is of it and also not of it.
She hangs there, in limbo.