Falling DownMature

As he fell away from the Headwind Noman dared to hope that something might happen, that some stroke of luck would save him. Maybe the very end of the rope would catch on something, hold just enough to let him get a handhold on the side of the ship. Maybe a gust of wind would push him back to it. Maybe Esme would use a spell to keep him from falling. Maybe Airea herself would reach out to save him. None of those things happened, but he found his stroke of luck anyway. 

Above him, having missed it's prey, the demon spread it's wings and prepared to glide away. Those wings caught the downdraft from the Headwind's rotors and the beast found itself rapidly plummeting towards Noman, pushed down faster than he was falling. He grabbed desperately as it fell past and managed to get a handhold on something. He pulled himself in, anchoring himself onto the demon's back as it tumbled. The spines on it's neck provided a perfect place to cling as the world spun around him. The sight was so nauseating he had to squeeze his eyes shut.

Finally the demon stabilized it's flight. As Noman felt the spinning stop he opened his eyes to see the Headwind in the distance, leaving Marsten - and him - behind. The demon had not yet cleared the city walls. In fact, it was banking in a turn that would take it back towards the Ivory Tower. 

"No you don't!" Noman objected. He yanked hard on the spines, trying to get the demon to stop turning. Instead it arced it's head around to regard him with one baleful emerald eye. It snarled, gargantuan arm reaching around to try and grab him. But the wings were in the way, and it as it twisted to get at him it nearly tumbled from the sky again. This gave Noman an idea. Carefully adjusting himself he grabbed the edge of the right wing where it attached to the creature's back. With the wing held firm he pushed hard, preventing it from moving and dipping it down below the demon's body. The creature let out a shriek of protest, but Noman's interference had an effect - the demon tilted to one side and started to turn, left wing pumping madly to try and keep it aloft. He let go of the right wing, allowing his impromptu mount to level out. When it tried to turn again he pushed down again, forcing it back towards the edge of the city. In this way he clumsily steered the best away from the Ivory Tower and Marsten.

But he couldn't hold on forever. The demon was struggling against his interference, jerking this way and that as it tired to shrug him off. It wasn't long before they were passing over the edge of the city and off into the countryside. The further they got the more resistance the demon gave, until at last it had had enough. With a great bellow it folded both of it's wings back and rolled over, diving towards the ground with Noman dangling from it's back. 

Though he held tightly to the spines on the demon's back he knew he couldn't hold on forever. Already his grip felt like it was starting to slip, and when it did he would go tumbling to the earth. He wasn't sure he could survive that, even with the resilience Airea's "gifts" provided him. With one and anchored on the spines he let go with the other, reaching up to wrap an arm around the demon's neck. When that was secure he wrapped his other arm around and clasped his right hand on his left wrist, holding tightly. 

As the ground rushed up to meet them the demon turned in a tight spiral, trying to throw him off. He held tight as nausea made him want to vomit. The ground rushed up to meet them and the demon threw out its wings once more, catching the air and lifting off into flight at what seemed like the last minute. It soared up into the air, once again rightside up, wings beating desperately for altitude. Noman wasn't about to let it try the same trick twice.

The safety rope was still lashed around his waste, frayed end trailing out behind him in open sky. Taking a risk he released one hand to grab it and whipped the end around the demon's neck, pulling tightly, trying to choke the demon into unconsciousness. At the least it served as a distraction; the demon stopped gaining altitude and reached up with both hands to claw at the rope. It tore at it's own flesh, but the claws severed the rope. 

Desperately searching for other options Noman looked to the wings. It would be a reckless, dangerous thing to do, but he couldn't let the demon get any higher. Hands once again anchored to the spines Noman drew one foot back and aimed a kick at the right wing. The attack connected just as the wing was drawing up for another beat, his boot slamming into it with a solid crunch that spoke of breaking bone. 

The wing crumpled immediately under the pressure of the wind amid a chorus of snaps and pops. The demon shrieked, this time in pain and panic rather than rage. They began to tumble from the sky in an uncontrolled spin, the demon's one good wing flapping frantically. It's efforts managed to slow their descent, but by no means controlled it. 

They came down hard in a field full of grass and rocks. He was thrown from the demon's back, hit the ground in the most inelegant way possible, and finally skidded to a stop covered in dirt and bruises.  For a moment after he just lay there and marveled that nothing felt broken - most especially his neck. 

With a groan he rolled over and levered himself up onto one arm. Nearby lay the demon, crumpled into a heap with the dust of it's landing still settling around it. Both of it's wings were  a loss now, broken and mangled well beyond use. As for the rest of it... he stared for several seconds, watching for the slightest movement that would indicate the creature still lived. Nothing, not even a twitch. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead and dropped off the top of his nose. 

"All right," Noman told himself. "Step one... stand up." Slowly, eyes never leaving the demon, he pushed himself to his feet. A sharp pain in his side got his attention. Feeling with his hands he discovered a number of small spines from the demon's back had gotten lodged there and gone unnoticed during the tumultuous flight. With a grimace he plucked them out, thinking it a small favor that at least they weren't barbed. 

"And step two," he winced, "Kick the hornet's nest." He limped his way over to the fallen demon, stopping to pick up a fist sized rock along the way. How much good it would do him as a weapon was debatable, but it was something. Looking down at the fallen demon he again waited for some sign that it was still alive. When none came, he pushed on it's shoulder with one foot. There was no reaction. He kicked it on the back of the head, ready to spring away should that awaken it. The demon's head rolled limply with the impact.

"Step three, make damn sure," he said, and brought the rock down on the demon's head enough times to make himself feel certain it was really dead. With that done he tossed the rock aside and looked towards Marsten. There was no sign of pursuit coming from the city. In the opposite direction was the storm, grey and impenetrable. Neither option looked particularly appealing.

He turned his head to the sky and winced into the sun. "Just so you know," he told Airea, "I'm blaming you for this."

The End

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