Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Snippets From The WIP: Nidus

 It's time for sharing!

I've been hammering out some of the details on this current WIP (which unfortunately  lacks a permanent, snappy title as yet)  Fractured Wings is a high contender though. 

This is just a taste of the first chapter, which includes shifters, winged people, and dragons. What's not to love? 

Comments are of course, highly appreciated and never flamed. 


Poised and trembling like autumn’s final leaf, Lethe curled over the balcony railing. 

Keeping my voice as unhurried as my steps across the smooth flagstone, I advanced on him slowly, hands outspread, palms out. “Lethe. Stay with me. That won’t solve anything. Listen to my voice. Move away from there.” My fingers crept for my pistol crossbow, snug in its spine sheath. “This way. It’s Nidus. Your friend, remember? Come over here.”
Lethe turned his head to follow my voice, but his eyes never focused. That was both good and bad. In his current mental state, Lethe’s full attention could trigger his predator instincts ascendant.
Since Lethe currently measured three times my height and at least double the weight, playing cat and mouse with him would have a predictable outcome. A very dead Nidus-mouse.
I inched closer. “Just a few steps, Lethe. Just a little bit over here.” All I needed was to get between Lethe’s bulk and the long, icy drop on the other side of the railing. And one clear shot.
Resting my thumb on the crossbow’s safety, I flicked my gaze over Lethe’s form without pausing the smooth patter or gradual creeping forward. The tranquilizer darts had to penetrate his hide for it to do any good in slowing him down. 
The scales on his back, sides, throat, and belly were flexible and light for flight, but far too tough for the hypodermic needle. The odds of hitting the softer underside of Lethe’s wings or tail were lower than those for the genetic glitch that had robbed me of my Wyvern heritage. That only left in the snout. Point –blank in his face.
I am going to die. I am going to die.
Sweat slicked my hand as I gripped the butt of the crossbow tight. If the concentrated blend of animal tranquilizer was strong enough, if Wyvern immunity didn’t neutralize it the moment it reached his bloodstream, then maybe—just maybe—Lethe would be down long enough to reach his human consciousness.
I took another step. Another. Now, just a quick dash along a diagonal to get squarely between…
Lethe’s eyes, which had been a vibrant cat-green, faded to a smokier shade. The translucent inner eyelid had slid into place in preparation for flight.
“No! Lethe, no!” Shoving the crossbow back into the sheath, I tucked my arms close and broke into a run. “Lethe!”
Dark wings folded back to his sides, shoulders trembling, the old dragon etched a new row of claw marks in the already-scarred stone as he leaped over the edge.
With his bulk, Lethe would plummet in a dive, reach velocity, and with a flare of wings sail off into the horizon. As the oldest and largest dragon in the entire Wyvern enclave, Lethe could fly for miles in that form before his energy reserves depleted. Miles in any direction that would make him impossible to find. Miles past this Tibetan valley and its shielded protection, deep into human-inhabited territory with cameras and missiles and traps.
I raced toward the edge of the abyss. I’m insane. Certifiably. Thanks to this gene hiccup, I could not not shape-shift horns, talons, or—most important—wings into existence. Oh dear God, let him hold to his pattern.
The railing loomed closer, as menacing and formidable as Titanic’s iceberg from the fog. I threw my hand out and vaulted over the edge. My stomach lurched downward sickeningly, followed by the rest of my body in a helpless free fall. No sign of Lethe.
The sheer cliff zipped past in a blur of snow and stone. Falling from a height would not kill me—as long as pulverized bone didn’t pierce heart, lungs, or cranium—but the jagged needles at the base of the gorge would.
“Curse you, Lethe!” I arched into a swan dive, plunging toward the snow-clogged depths. My useless inner lid slid neatly into place, giving an all too clear view of the dark mass rising up at the end of this first, and only, voluntary flight. “Curse you!”
The mass punched against my chest. With a sound similar to popcorn, several bones fractured. Pain flickered through me, spiraling white sparks behind my eyes and stealing my breath as effectively as the impact had. A sudden but not unexpected warmth spread across my right side, my chest, and along my collarbone. Regeneration had already started, which I would have impeded if I could; the damage was sure to worsen. 
Already, I could feel my body sliding along the ledge or overhang I had hit, for the gorge’s floor was still below me, half-shrouded in mist. My body sprawled aside as one hip left stone for empty air. No, not I—the stone had shifted beneath me—no, not stone but smooth, warm flesh.
I scissored my legs frantically for a handhold, an edge of talon, anything, and clawed at Lethe’s ebony hide. Nails ripped to the quick against the glossy scales. Skin tore on their sharp edges. With a sickening lurch, one hand seized an unevenness in scale at the crease where hip met belly. Agony roared through my arm at the sudden jerk of my full weight on that one support. But my slide stopped.
The ache in cut and torn palms competed with the dull adrenaline-softened throb of my earlier wounds. I clenched my teeth against it and worked both hands to seize my make-shift anchor, before snaking my legs around as much of Lethe’s hind limb as possible.
“Lethe! Go back!”
He didn’t respond. Not surprising. The wind of their passing choked my voice. That, or he was ignoring me. Which was just as possible. Lethe had been the Uni for at least five centuries, and an alpha Wyvern for longer than that. People did not tell him what to do; he did, and expected obedience.
There was nothing to be done but hold on, and wait for him to tire. Though this current place left something to be desired.I shifted my hold slowly and wiggled one hand free. The ripped nails and bloody palm had nearly healed. Regeneration and a few other Wyvern characteristics had been passed onward to me, for which I was thankful. Well, for most of them. The dietary requirements for blood and meat, without fangs to eat it or claws to catch it, placed meals somewhere between frustration and torture.
Which would cause problems for me today too. Under-fed meant less resources for regeneration; it would take at least twelve hours or more to mend the fractures alone, not counting any other injuries that might have occurred in the fall and gone unnoticed. 
My healing has always taken longer than any of my fellow Wyvern. At least when they were well-fed and healthy. When that wasn’t the case, or when things went wrong, then….well, then they come to me in Eyrie.
The terms have changed over the years, from healer to herbalist to medic, but the need for such has never completely waned. Most of the time,I tended to the human villagers’ various ills and injuries, but sometimes a full Wyvern would end up in the infirmary.
Bones could regenerate crooked and need to be re-broken to heal properly; jagged scars might need to be cut cleanly open for a straighter line. And rarely, a so-called ‘vampire’ hunter would get his hands on revlis. The mineral, mimicking silver in the same manner as pyrite resembled gold, disrupted Wyvern senses heavily. Worst of all, a wound with revlis in it healed agonizingly slow, if at all.
I switched hands. The wounds had healed. Just in time to re-inflict them. I followed the line of Lethe’s rear leg with my eyes. Staying here would be risky. The thinning air was not a problem, but the chill creeping through my clothes would be. The jeans and long-sleeved shirt donned this morning had been adequate inside Eyrie, but definitely not suitable for an upper-altitude flight.
Lethe would be fine. The exertion of flying and his own upped metabolism, compliments of a shift, would keep him cozy in his blanket of scales. In fact, the warmest spots on his body would be directly between his wings, and the wings themselves. Oversized heart and lungs kept hot, oxygen-rich blood flowing through the hard-working flight muscles, and funneled through his wings themselves for cooling.
That would make as good a destination as any. I hooked a hand on a slender gap between one scale and the next. Its edge sliced through palm with the bite of a scalpel. Oh, this climb is going to be fun. 

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