Suffer the Little Children
Two of the prey stood at the mouth of The Ship. One of them, Tliuk had tasted before. An arm had been taken, erased from the rotting web of temporal mnemonics the little Time Lords had lived for. Raising a white forelimb, Tliuk examined his own arm, pinching gingerly at the flesh in one motion. Then he rent it, scratching through to the muscle and bone beneath with an exquisitely formed claw. Only moments had passed since he’d changed the shape of the digit. He’d done it without thought, nearly without intent. But there had been intent. That much intent, at least, had fueled the taking of the strange human’s arm. The taste had been exquisite. Much beyond that, however, was a disconcerting blur. So long had it been since the birth of their kind, reflected in fragments from the twilight of Before. So long, millennia, upon millennia, upon millennia, it had been. And now, these two humans and the Time Lord known as the Doctor stood at the threshold of the Ship, waiting for their fate. The Time Lord was in distress, screeching its body pain like a keening star.
Lifting with grace from his perch in a soft needled pine, Tliuk reveled in the drink of wind that splashed across his white skin as he drew closer to the Ship. Never had Tliuk found occasion to consider anything. Never before had he cared. His only concern was to consume the flaws that seeped through what remained of the Web. At least it had been. But the taste of his last meal had made him aware of mindlessness, of the hunger for temporal anomaly that was even now driving his brethren to claw at the shield surrounding the Ship. They wanted to Consume. Tliuk could feel their wanting in the back of his mind. And the Time Lord was there, too. Affected, distracted and in pain from contact with the hungry hoard of Chronovores, but there. An idea formed, and Tliuk landed, his decision made before he had left his branch. He would meet the prey, and take a pleasing form to speak with them as he was. The Time Lord, were he not too weary to fulfill his piece, would do the rest.
Tliuk changed form as his naked feet touched the grass in front of The Ship, where the two humans and the Time Lord were waiting.
Suddenly, the Time Lord stumbled, slipping into unconsciousness even as he leaned against the strange-smelling human whose arm Tliuk had eaten. The Time Lord smelt of blood. Of blood, and death, and most recently, birthing. He had been with child a short while ago. Tliuk flew down, aiming his lithe effeminate body toward the three of them. The humans could not breathe, so swift was his entry unto their personal space. With a chortle of pure exuberance Tliuk swept the exhausted Time Lord up in his arms and lifted him some feet into the air, a distance once and half the height of the paler, impassive human who stood a ways apart from the other. Brushing thick brown hair away from the Renegade’s blanched face, Tliuk planted a calculated kiss at the point which humans called the crown chakra, and, having felt the strangest urge to linger, moistened the Time Lord’s forehead two more times. But then, Tliuk was new to sentiment. The bipedal, humanoid form he had taken, waifish and white and winged, was called beautiful by many names and races. He had never noticed or cared, before. Was it his last meal that had done this? Tliuk thought that he might question the Time Lord on it, when the man woke again. His meager bulk, as with all Time Lords, was deceptively hyper-dimensional. But the Doctor, now, his biochemistry was unique, even... temporally fluctuant. Still, his dead weight was no hardship to Tliuk, and through the mechanism of his newly-discovered foresight Tliuk knew himself quite unwilling to leave his new charge to the fate desired by those more gruesome of his brethren.
“Be safe before me, oh children of Sol,” he called, singing in his twenty voices, his very breath a chorus as he whispered down his proclamation, “... I am Tliuk. And this man, this...Lord of Time, asleep in my arms, was once my enemy by default.” Tliuk then drifted one foot toward the softly swaying grass and landed there, his multi-planar vision casting the humans and their surroundings in a haze of sparkling prisms and rainbow-mists.
“Funny...” muttered one of the humans, the one Tliuk had tasted of, “... the Doctor had a run-in with some angels here a while ago. They sent a girl back in time in order to feed on her temporal signature. You get me?”
Tliuk gave the merest incline of his head, and then bade a crystalline laugh erupt from his pasty lips.
“I am certain of it. The Doctor is more than just a Time Lord. And through the taste of your temporally-static flesh I have grown to share purpose with compassion. My brothers and sisters will not feed upon this world to-day. Of this I am also certain.”
One-Arm did nothing at first, only stared Tliuk down. Such panache... in this man, and the time-scent of the others nearby, Tliuk could finally see why the Doctor loved them so.
“Let me get this straight. You think you’ll survive the countless billions of your kid brothers and sisters long enough to attend the after-party? Ha.”
The Chronovore simply smiled at this, and settled the Time Lord against his chest.
“No. But when my Master the Old One awaketh, we shall not need to quarrel. His power is great, great enough to halt the wars of Heaven. And lo!”
He paused, exalted as the Doctor roused himself within the cocoon of Tliuk’s cool embrace.
“He is waking. The touch of my kindred upon his brain has opened his eyes to his true nature.”
What happened next was an almost worshipful silence. Tliuk knelt in reverence on the grass, and laid the Doctor’s body out upon the moist green blades. The Time Lord was indeed stirring, gleaming with a kind of presence that had before been absent. Naked, curled on his back like an unborn child, slowly he unfurled himself unto the watching eyes and stood, eyes still closed, as three red wings grew out from his back and dried in the air. Then he opened his face to some form of wakefulness, and his eyes shone with the brilliance of molten gold, like two doubloons baked to a sheen in the hot sun.
But to two men’s eternal sorrow, there seemed no trace of the man beneath.