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Alex gazed at the teeming city spread below him, with its lamps and stonework, its bazaars and curiosity shops and hole-in-the-wall taverns. Stone houses, three to five stories tall, connected in seamless neighborhoods, punctuated by stairs, bridges, and jagged alleyways.

"I'm surprised this isn't some kind of elite hang-out spot," Margo said. "It has such a great view." She savored a dish of sweet scream, garnished with truffle shavings.

The first time Alex had leaped to this hidden pocket in the main cavern's ceiling, he'd found it coated by grime from slugs and other cave critters. The balustrade was crumbling and so flimsy, he might break it by accident. He'd used his powers to scrub the ancient stonework clean. 

"No one else can get up here," he admitted.

"So." Margo snuggled closer. "Am I the first person you've brought to your fortress of solitude?"

Alex put aside his dish, and wrapped his arm around her. He figured her intimacy was a genuine invitation, not like chambermaids who begged to do "favors" for the messiah. He had sought a nearly inaccessible cleft in the ceiling for a reason. Gossipers and worshippers hounded him almost everywhere else.

If only his powers included invisibility. He kept returning to that impossibility, wondering how he could secretly rescue Thomas, and hide him, when he couldn't even hide himself.

Far below, a couple of albino maidens stood at the apex of a bridge, giggling and waving to him. People always knew where he was.

"Do you know those two?" Margo sounded like she was trying to force casualness.

"Nope," Alex said.

One maiden made lewd, suggestive motions on the bridge balustrade. Her distant shouts were bawdy. Alex looked elsewhere. The Alashani had a notable lack of shame when it came to sexual matters.

Margo began to say something. She stopped, cut off by a piercing, mournful blast that echoed throughout the city.

A horn.

The pace of the traffic changed. Rickshaws halted. Pedestrians knotted into groups, surging in or out of doorways and stairs. The maidens on the bridge straightened, and looked towards the immense outcrop at the heart of the city. That was the grand plaza. Its wall loomed over the arena where citywide events were held; where Chaniyelem had introduced Alex as the messiah, months ago.

Alex felt like cursing. What if Thomas had used his Yeresunsa powers in the dark? That could incite the fury of a Yeresunsa mob.

"We have to go." He owed Thomas his life. At the very least, he owed Thomas protection.

He scooped Margo into his arms, and prepared to jump several hundred feet to the thoroughfare below. 

"Why don't we wait until the rush dies down?" Margo suggested, nervous as she gauged the bustling streets. There was a lot of unpredictable motion down there.

Alex focused on his own body; a marvel of balance, weights, and counterweights. The first time he had jumped to this height, he had felt like a treed cat, terrified of smashing himself upon leaping back down.

That was because Jinishta was tireless in warning about the deadly dangers of power exhaustion. According to her—and other warriors—Yeresunsa who pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones were likely to die young.

"Everyone has a limit," Jinishta often insisted. "Even you. Push yourself past it, and no one can save you."

They said power exhaustion started with a sudden, intensely excruciating headache. The "warning headache" seared focus and caused a Yeresunsa to lose track of whatever he or she was doing. If the exhausted Yeresunsa ignored the headache and kept forcing themselves to use their powers, they would either drop dead, or else drop into an irreversible coma, and die later on.

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