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Old Apr 15 2006, 02:21 AM   #1
Spaceman Spiff
Aspiring Dragon Anatomist
 
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Gender: M
Fan of: PERN!!!
Now Reading: Lord of the Rings
Default Untitled watch wher story

This is unfinished, I have writer's block where this leaves off So if anyone has any suggestions or constructive criticism, it's VERY welcome. I'll PM the details of the rough line of the rest of the story if anyone has any ideas on plot developments. I'd just really like to get back to work on this, but I'm stuck




Alyssa peeked through a narrow crack in the rear entrance door of the watch-wher den. That tunnel was used to bring in food and other necessary supplies during the day so that the daylight needn't enter the front door to irritate the already moody animal. She crouched low to the ground, shifting her head back and forth across the crack to try to get a good view of the den. But it was very dim, she couldn't make out more than dark shapes within and the wher's agitated, swirling eyes. The old female wher was snappy even with her handler, she couldn't imagine how she'd react to a stranger... no wonder they were such effective guards in a Hold.

Alyssa had never caught the name of the beast, she was never able to sneak these glimpses for very long without her absence being noticed by her foster mother, or her presence being noticed by the watch-wher - which fortunately had never happened so far. It was months since she first dared to sneak into the back tunnels to peer into the den, and since then had done so as often as possible whenever she felt she had the spare time to go unnoticed. She learned the shifts and schedule of the Wher handler so she wouldn't be caught spying unawares.

Dragons abounded in the Weyr, it was a very healthy time. She had even stood as a Candidate for several years, and now at 16 she was a prime age. But she was never that disappointed when she failed to Impress; despite her awe of the majestic creatures she saw every day, she was more enraptured by the residant watch wher, it was her true calling. They were so much more elusive and mysterious - therefore more interesting to her. So she sought this one out, trying to gain as much knowledge about whers as possible without being conspicuous, yet almost feeling guilty for learning about them, for fear of spoiling the fascinating veil of mystery surrounding them.

She continued to stare inside. There was very little activity, but her heart pounded at the thrill of catching a peek, even though she had seen her many times on these voyeuristic visits. She was huge! She lay on her side right now, and from what Alyssa could discern, she was not quite the size of a small runnerbeast. But her body was much more thick and massive, without being fat. The girth of her abdomen was made even larger by late pregnancy. Alyssa wondered how wonderful it would be to witness the hatching, to be able to Impress - no, they didn't Impress as dragons did, she must remember that - to bond with one of the hatchlings and become its trainer. It was a dangerous job, she knew, but oh how thrilling it would be! To be one of the few people to obtain the secrets of these hideous nocturnal beasts. Although it was just as much being one of the few who wanted to learn about them. But to her, in some strange way, whers were beautiful. They would always have a replusive appearance - deformed, gnarled and the fathest thing from sleek - but that inexplicable attraction made them appeal to the deepest part of her heart.

The thin sheet of pale light that did filter into the wide den from the narrow crack in the front door, lit a very wrinkled and dull gold hide. A line of rough ridges jutted out along the top of her nack and tail, looking almost like short, jagged extentions of vertebrae than the smooth curved ridges of dragons. Sounds of labored breathing snuffed through her wide nostrils, stirring dust on the ground; and the rather stumpy, ungraceful tail swished and thumped on the dirt floor. She heard a faint clinking of the chain encircling her beefy neck, as her grotesque head shifted on the ground. The Handler slowly approached and rested a hand of the wher's side. At first she thought it was just an affectionate caress, but his hand stayed in place. It had been oddly quiet this visit, usually they were significantly more active, despite her slowing with advanced age. The Handler shifted his hand a bit and pressed more firmly, then slumped back. "So erratic," Alyssa heard him mumble.

The wher snuffed a couple more times, and her head raised slowly and awkwardly, she could almost hear the creak of joints in her neck. The nostrils flared, and Alyssa's eyes widened in sudden panic. She slunk away from the door very cautiously. She couldn't see anything now, but she heard the Handler raise to his feet and mumble something. Suddenly something snapped with the wher and a barrage of painfully loud, hoarse barks and snarls erupted from within the den. Alyssa jumped and toppled backward, clapping a hand over her mouth. She scrambled to her feet and took off down the dark tunnel, hearing the rear door fling open behind her. She took a sharp right turn and rigidly flattened herself against the cold stone wall. Rapid footsteps came running up, barely noticeable through the echoing screams of the startled wher.

She tried to pull rational throught into her swirling mind crowded with fear and adrenaline. She couldn't get caught! What would happen if she was found to be slacking in her duties to spy on the watch wher and risk herself around a dangerous and unpredictable animal? After that she would be put to work double time and watched like a fire-lizard pot! She'd never be able to visit the Wher den again, and she'd never have a chance to be there when the eggs hatched. She tried to keep her breathing quiet, but her heart was throbbing so intensely she thought it would echo within the tunnel.

The running steps neared quickly, and sped right past without hesitation. Alyssa gasped in relief, clutching her chest. Once she got the stability back from her buckling knees, she swiftly exited the inner caverns and emerged into the bowl of Telgar Weyr. She walked along - a bit faster than she should have - needing to pass the front of the watch-wher den to get back to the Lower Caverns where her next duties were. A hand dropped on her shoulder and she winced, her stomach churning in fear that she'd been found out.

"And just where have you been, young lady?" Alyssa turned around to the voice of her foster mother, Thenalla. Her doughy face held a rough, stern look. "You're 15 minutes late for your chores, I came looking for you."

"Oh! I'm sorry, I got caught up and didn't realize I'd been delayed so long..." Her face tingled with the blood rushing to it, and wished she could hide her face which must surely be as red as a beet. She tried to continue fluidly, "And then I heard the watch-wher going berzerk and I came to see what all the commotion was about."

"You came to see what was wrong with that wher?" she voiced her contempt clearly. "My darling, you know how cracked they are. They'll shoot off at the drop of a feather, that's what they're trained to do, the beasts. They're dangerous, you should stay well away from that creature. Shells, this Weyr is disgraced by even harboring one. They're only fit for Holder folk." Thenalla urged her forward with a plump arm toward the Lower Caverns to resume her work. Alyssa was deeply relieved that she got off with such a mild lecture, that was too close a call. But just when she thought she was off the hook for good, she noticed the Wher handler leaning beside the den's door, the gutteral growls from inside finally mellowing down to rough coughs. His eyes steadily followed her with a distinct attention.

***

It was Alyssa's duty that afternoon in the deeper storerooms. The ones farther off from the main Kitchen tended to be a bit more neglected as they were seldom used. Alyssa had a reputation to do most of her jobs throroughly, and lately the boys had been slacking in the cleaning of the storerooms and focussing on chasing tunnelsnakes. Wretched creatures... both the boys and snakes. The floor was a mess, littered with tunnel snake feces and spatters of dried blood here and there. If the boys were to slaughter them, they could at least clean up after that mess at least. With their shoddy job lately, it was a wonder this had been left to the Candidates so long. At least their immaculate hunting had left it clear for her to work in peace.

She sighed, it would take all afternoon just to get the dust and debris off the floor. She shook her head free from the indignities and got to the grungy work of getting the place clean. It took all of an hour to dust off the tops of all the stacked material and gather the newly settled dust on the floor as well as the old. It had been left so long, the dust was almost caked into corners. Then she had to find and scrub off the various groups of tunnelsnake waste - more like chisel it free for some of the older settlements. She suppressed a gag at the filthy clumps. Another putrid hour.

Alyssa had been the only Candidate on duty in this section of the Weyr today, so a drudge had come by to collect the dust and waste pile to dispose of. She slumped into a corner with an exhausted sigh. She took in a few deep breaths, but coughed roughly at the grit and stale air she breathed in. This was not going to be a pleasant sevenday... a whole sevenday assigned to clean the store rooms! She certainly wouldn't have any spare time to visit the old wher. Hopefully she would be done before she clutched, she didn't want to miss that for the world - though she had no idea how she'd manage to sneak in to see her. If a dragon was intensely protective of her eggs when clutching, that hardened watch-wher would be even more broody, she doubted even the Handler would be bold enough to watch at that time.

A small shuffling sound brought her back to attention. The drudge wouldn't be back so soon. Maybe it was just an old stacked sack slipping out of position. She pushed herself upright again, wincing at cramped muscles. Now all that had to be done was mop the floor and she could rest from this particular chore. She'd only just dippsed the mop into a bucket of water and started slopping it on the stone floor, when a more pronunced sound, a sharp scrabbling, came to her ears. "Oh, please, not a snake..." she said in disgust. "This is a job for the boys." But they boys weren't there, and those creatures couldn't be left to taint the rooms. She leaned the mop against the wall and unsheathed the broad knife from her belt and waited until it moved again so she could find it.

Silence. She waited a minute, then two, still nothing to indicate where the stealthy beast hid. So she walked around, kicking the bases of stacks, hoping to scare the thing into action. There was a hollow behind one of the larger stacks, and she kicked her foot inside. A long dark form sprang out with a grating hiss and clung to her leg. Alyssa convulsed and shook her leg violently with a shriek, flinging the creature out into the open. She cringed at even being touched by that hideous beast. It has started scuttling with a surprising speed back toward cover, but Alyssa quickly ran over to block it off. She had to be swift to keep it from getting back into one of the crevices. But she couldn't bring herself to grab it and keep it in place. They looked so cold and clammy... they looked plain vile, and she was instinctually reluctant to even touch it for fear of contracting some disease.

It scrambled back toward the hollow it had first emerged from, weaving in a sickeningly swift slithering waddle. With the orientation of its limbs, it seemed amazing how it could move so quickly. Alyssa dashed after it, and stomped on its tail, catching it JUST before it was lost. She felt it writhe beneath her foot, and she reached out with a quivering hand to pull its body back out. Its entire length was about 3 feet, and over half of it was already behind the stacks. She grasped it firmly around the barrel of it, and pulled it backwards. She was just about to slash it with her knife when it recoiled and it's neck flashed back in a blur and bit her on her wrist. She screamed in pain, and her arm yanked back then let go of it, out in the open again. She winced as she felt the bite burn, but before she tended to it, she was determmined to kill that sharding vermin now that it'd bitten her.

With a vengeful, uncalculated swing, she slit its head clean off. She diverted her eyes quickly from the green fluid leaking out from the severed parts and the ugly head, frozen in a contorted, gaping snarl; she hated to think that she'd have to clean up this as well. She now looked at her wrist, it was punctured many times by the snake's gruesome teeth, and it was already getting a nasty swell. Before she was able to start tending to it, she heard hurried footsteps echoing toward her. The same drudge who'd been there before ran into the room.

"There were screams..." she said in a hushed voice, then she turned her head to the floor and saw the remains of the tunnelsnake. She approached then and noticed her wounded wrist. "Silly girl... you should know to be wearing thick gloves when dealing with snakes. Get to the healer quickly, it may be poisoned."

Alyssa shrunk back at being berated by a drudge. But she knew she deserved it. She SHOULD have known to put the gloves on, and she now realized how stupid it was to grab it where it would be able to strike back. Not to mention making an unneccesary mess when its neck could simply have been snapped instead. The drudge shooed her out the door, assuring her that the mess would be taken care of.

She hugged the wrist against her, now starting to throb achingly. The caverns seemed endless as her head started to pound as well, and she had trouble walking in a straight line. It shouldn't be like this... most bites just swelled a bit with pain, but this was taking over much more. She glanced down at her wrist, and the bloated skin around the punctures was starting to turn a sickly purplish green.

She finally came out of the darkness of the deep caverns, stumbling into the kitchen, weakly calling for help. She slumped into the nearst bench, and one of the stewardesses rushed to her side. She looked at Alyssa's wrist and and her eyes widened. "Oh, that's one nasty bite..." She called, "Metula! Fetch the healer immediately! This girl has one sharding tunnelsnake bite!" As soon as she saw her run off, she turned back to Alyssa. "What's your name, dear?"

"A... A... Alys..." she gasped for air, unable to even form her full name with her mouth. Her jaw went slack and hung open limply. She weakly shook her head and blinked her eyes repeatedly, trying to force her vision to clear. But it seemed that with each blink it only got more distorted, and this woman's voice for her to hold on until the healer came faded away more and more. The last thought she had was that this day was far too tense for her liking, before her vision clouded over and all went black.
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