1.19 Meek

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To Kessa, it was if the dead city had vomited up their battle. Explosions roared but failed to kill enough of the toothy beasts.

They were skinny, filthy, naked, and Torth-like, with enormous mouths. The sea of skeletal hunger rushed towards anything, living or dead. Ummins were fast, but these beasts were faster, lunging with merciless intensity. Whenever one of the horde fell ... the survivors feasted on that corpse, too.

Kessa glued herself to a pillar and didn't move. She had to listen to screams for help and do nothing, because she was just an elderly ummin, and even Servants of All were fleeing in all directions. Their armor wasn't enough protection. Beasts chomped their exposed faces. Some Torth screamed in pain, and they sounded very much like slaves.

As the Torth fled, they left Alex unconscious and wrapped in chains. They abandoned the chained-up forms of Margo and Cherise, and even Thomas, despite all the effort they had expended in order to recapture their runaways and their renegade. They had to shoot blasts continuously in order to survive.

The tone of the battle changed as Torth fell victim to beasts or escaped. The explosions lessened and happened further away. The night darkened. The wet air grew colder.

Vicious shadows surrounded the fallen victims, slurping and gobbling. Kessa gawked as she realized that some of the beasts were violently copulating, mounting each other amidst the carnage.

These things could not be related to Torth. Mind readers were vile, yet they valued cleanliness, and they feasted with utensils in dainty silence. As far as anyone knew, Torth never did anything lustful. They did not mate.

And the Torth were gone. At least for now.

This is the only chance we'll get, Kessa knew.

The beasts gorged on heaps of fresh carcasses. That should keep them busy for a while.

Kessa crept out of hiding and tiptoed towards her friends, alert for the smallest change in chewing sounds. She would much rather stay safely hidden—but that meant shivering and waiting for death. This was not her world. She did not understand how to survive in pitch black coldness where carnivores lurked and Torth ruled, so if she and her friends were going to make an effort to survive, then she needed to take action.

Artificial light filtered through the broken ceiling beams, just enough for her to see by. Torth vehicles hovered in the sky.

Were they waiting? Afraid?

Kessa couldn't picture Torth allowing fear to stop them. Even if they felt fear, they would strive to prove to their comrades that it was false. So they weren't just waiting. They must be preparing another attack. And Kessa knew mind readers well enough to guess what they would do next. They would gather slaves—nussian troops, most likely—to slaughter the carnivores for them. And die.

The Torth would distract the monsters with fresh meat. Then they would return and grab their captives, and slaughter the beasts when they were overfed and gorged on expendable troops of slaves.

Kessa quietly knelt and released the chains on a captured ummin. "Don't attract attention," she whispered.

The freed ummin gave her a grateful nod and sneaked away, freeing others.

We can survive, Kessa assured herself as she removed chains from more refugees. Her dead mate, Cozu, had never let doubts stop him. The carnivorous monsters must have emerged from somewhere. This tower had hidden pockets; dark zones where Torth and their slaves would not venture without bright lights. And if the Torth relied on lights, then a bunch of hidden runaways would be able to see them coming.

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