Xigbar picks up a stray. Slight crossover reference.
The world was on its last legs. Out in the distance, the rim of air and water that should have glimmered pale azure trailed off into blackened, torn edges as though a giant torch had eaten away at the scene. The waters were still despite the roaring gale that sprayed sand into a wet, abrasive mist, and rocks and debris either spun in the wind or hung motionless above the sea.
Xigbar sent the unvoiced commands to the last of the remaining creatures he'd brought. Their frenzied assaults had calmed down now that they'd run out of prey. Though some of them had fallen by the wayside or been destroyed by the locals, there were still more of them than when they'd first appeared. Convenient property, he supposed. And now it was time to go.
Picking up a shell that was still whole, Xigbar held it up to his ear, hoping to pick out the sound of the waves that were now gone. What he heard, instead, were the chimes that had become strangely familiar to him in the several days he'd had to stay in this world of sea and sky. The same seven notes, in an endless rhythm, that had sung beneath the pulse of every rock, every tree, every grain of sand. He hadn't been able to figure out what it meant, though it was unlikely that anybody would now. A job well done.
As he carelessly tossed the shell aside, it bounced off of something that wasn't quite sand. Sand, at least, didn't throw things back at him.
The muddy trail down the shoreline was evidence that it'd come a fairly long way. Whatever it had once been, the creature half burrowed into the sand looked like an unfinished doll, bumpy seams running across its body in stark black lines and head featureless save for the loose, gaping mouth. It whimpered as he approached, a low, wordless sound.
There was something like an incubation period, although they'd only had the one successful case. There certainly hadn't been much of a chance to observe with the last addition, he recalled, and chuckled at the memory. The new initiate had appeared on their doorstep fully functional, taken one look at the inside of Vexen's lab and made it quite clear that scientific research wasn't part of the deal. There'd been a lot of reconstruction that week.
The fact remained, though, that newborn to the world they needed time to adjust and gather the shattered shards of personality, memory and reason. Some failed, remaining mindless zombies; they could understand simple commands, enough to be useful, but were about as bright as a dog no matter who or what they'd originally been.
Xigbar considered the creature. It had been strong enough to make it this far, its world crumbling around it. A will to survive, then. Sometimes that was the most important thing of all. Lifting it up by the leathery skin at the back of its neck, Xigbar settled it into the crook of his arm like an oversized cat, and slipped into the Corridor heading home.
What he should probably be doing, to further their research, was take it down to Vexen's lab and let the scholar deal with it. He could almost visualize the scene. He'd walk in, and say, "here, I think this one's gonna make it" and the scientist would take the creature off his hands and put it in a cell to be poked and studied and documented.
Instead, he watched as it sat in the middle of his floor, tapping thin claws against the edge of a vase. It poked and prodded the raised patterns on the object, and, lacking the strength to lift it, eventually succeeded in rolling the container onto its side. Xigbar reached over to yank it back before it could craw into the vase.
As his hand made contact with the creature, a spark of something leapt across its skin and stung his fingers like a static shock. Quickly withdrawing his hand with a loud curse, Xigbar stared down at the critter occupying the center of his floor.
Skin that had been white and leathery a few hours ago was gaining color, and the lines of its body were beginning to fill out. He'd been right. Shards of something iridescent crystallizing across its skin, it looked up at him and made a noise somewhere between a hiccup and a squeak.
The substance enveloped the creature, winding into the shape of a thick, spiral shell. It wouldn't remember him when it came back to reality, of course. The window of time between awareness shattered and reformed was chaotic, and even as carefully controlled as his own long-ago transformation - ascension - had been, he couldn't recall a damned thing between being human and waking up not.
That didn't mean he should leave the chrysalis in the middle of his room. As he set it down in an unused, undecorated chamber of the castle - and there were way too many of those - it clinked with a crystalline chime, and for a moment Xigbar considered research of the variety that involved xylophone sticks.
Curiosity wanted him to stay and watch. Something else recalled the time when he had first awakened, crawling out of the cradle disoriented and confused. The voices and the lights had been bordering on the painful as he'd tried to find a place to hide.
Twisting the fabric of the void, Xigbar dimmed the pervasive white light in the empty room and masked the outside of the door with an illusion. As an afterthought, he summoned a robe of the same black material they all wore, and left it in a crumpled pile on the floor. The castle was cool and dry at the best of times, and the emerging creature would get the idea soon enough.
Satisfied at a job well done, Xigbar returned to his room. When the confused yelling began the next morning, he was just in time to watch the show.