Delevy pushed the platter, of what Tal’on could only assume was food, toward him with her handy broom handle. She had been in and out over the last few hours. The young dragon decided she had been assigned as his guard. She lengthened the chain that was attached to his neck by flipping a lever on the wall which allowed the ring in the floor to detach and rise up on its own length of chain. The young dragon could now stand and stretch his legs.
Tal’on reached out and fingered the ‘food’ on the platter. It was some sort of vegetation – multiple colors and textures. There was no meat visible on the tray. Nothing that Tal’on would actually term as food. He pushed the stuff around with a claw. He was ravenous. He had no idea how long he had been without food…long enough to feel a bit dizzy when he stood…long enough that if he were home he could have eaten a full grown Crazar without difficulty all on his own. He looked up into the green’s smiling face. She encouraged him by signing an eating motion with hand-to-mouth.
“It’s food. Eat it,” Delvey said.
She knew the lizard looking beast had to be hungry. It was captured over three days ago and no one had offered it anything until now. She motioned with her hands and rubbed her tummy with a satisfied grin on her face. She hoped she was getting her point across. It seemed reluctant. Of course, who could blame it? There were so many things running through her mind. What was it? Where did it come from? How did it get here?
It had appeared out of nowhere in the middle of town square during the Commission Day celebration. Every able bodied soldier advancing in rank had been at the Festival. The beast was lucky it lived through it. With all the soldier’s families there for the celebration, and all the soldiers in full military dress, they instantly went into a defense mode when it appeared. They used their stun batons to subdue it and then dragged it down here to lock it up until they could question it.
When it made a move against the Prime the first time they made contact with it again, his personal guard beat it unconscious.
Delevy was the guard for the Sandcor prisoners. She assigned herself to guard this thing when she found it lying in its own vomit. Nothing deserved that kind of treatment. She would not let a Valdare treat one of her Sandcor prisoners that cruelly.
She imagined the Prime was consulting with his staff as to the disposition of the beast. Delevy heard rumors their ruler thought it might be a creature genetically altered by their enemy and sent to assassinate him. The Prime was present at the ceremony to advance the ranks. Though if that was the case, it was a poor attempt on the Sandcor’s part. They should have sent more than one.
She sighed. Delevy wished she could talk to the beast. If the Sandcor had bred this thing in a test tube, why didn’t they give it the ability to learn the people’s language? What was the use of having a soldier you couldn’t command?
“You must be hungry,” she said and motioned again.
It was dull being assigned guard duty. Having this thing here was a bright spot in her day even if she did have to clean up its vomit.
Tal’on picked up something orange in color and about the length of his hand. He sniffed at it. It smelled of dirt, not appetizing at all, but it was obviously all they were going to offer him. He bit off a piece and chewed. It was absolutely revolting. As soon as the taste touched his tongue he ran to the drain and spit it out. It was all he could do to keep from dry heaving over the after-taste it left in his mouth.
When he turned back to the green, she had a frown on her face and was twisting a lock of the long black fur on her head between her fingers in what Tal’on could only interrupt as an agitated fashion.
He decided to make a point. He strode back to the platter, lifted it from the floor, took it to the drain and dumped all the contents into the hole. He knelt down and slid the tray back to her, then stood and dusted off his hands with a note of finality.
Well, Delevy thought, that was easy enough to interrupt. He didn’t eat growth. If he was a creation of the Sandcor, what had they bred? What gene pool did this beast rise from? What did he eat? Everything on Valdare survived, nay flourished, on growth except for the Knots the Valdare bred for sentry duty and bomb sniffing. They were bred to like flesh so they would bite and tear the Sandcor. Perhaps their enemy had developed this beast for the same service even though it walked on two legs instead of four.
She took her platter and went to the Klay to obtain some meat from the keepers of the Knots.
Tal’on watched the green leave. When he heard the door on the partial wall scrap shut he went to the wall of his prison. He could reach the back stone now that she had lengthened his chain. He ran his hand over one of the azure colored. It was like the mountains at home he could feel the vibration it made to his touch.
Where in all the stars was he? He couldn’t be on the clan’s home world. He had Jumped all over their planet. There were no beings such as what he encountered here. He tried to think of what was in his mind at the last Jump with Graf’tal. He shook his wedged head in frustration. His head hurt. He reached up to rub it and found that his horns were no longer knobs, but had acquired a pointed tip. He was Turning. Oh no…He couldn’t do this alone. He couldn’t make it through the Turn without his Great…without Graf’tal!
Tal’on scratched at the base of his horn with a claw. It did ache. He had to get out of here. He couldn’t remember any of the last Jump except for the landing…that was permanently etched in his brain. His body still ached from the odd weapons the red’s used. Or was it the weapons after affects? It could be the Early Turn coming on. What came next? What was it Graf’tal told him about the warning signs?
He would ache from the growth building within him. He would experience chills and headaches. The last thing he would feel before he drifted off into stasis would be intense pain in his back where his wings would sprout while he was unconscious during the long sleep. Graf’tal’s thoughts would soothe him through the worst of it. When he awoke he would be a fully fledged dragon.
He had to get home…He couldn’t do this alone.
Tal’on ran a claw around the edge of the azure stone where it joined with the other darker stones. His body vibrated with the sense of home. Vibrated…he ran his claw around it again and it hummed to his touch. His red eyes squint in pleasure. He could make a Sollen. If there was a dragon anywhere near his location they would answer the call, even if they didn’t belong to his kin. No dragon could resist the call of a Sollen. That was what Graf’tal taught him. For the first time since his landing in this horrid place Tal’on had hope. He had a plan. He might just get out of this pit. He began to claw at the stone in an attempt to loosen it enough he could carve a piece from its corner.
Delevy returned with a platter of meat to find the lizard beast clawing at the stone in the wall. It was desperate to get out. She had seen the Knots chew at the bars of their cages in the past. It was an unsettling sight. After all, they were meat eaters. It was only the fact they kept them well fed and their intense training using the stun batons and regular beatings that kept them in check. They had no loyalty to their handlers. They would turn on them in a second if not shown the dominating factor of their Valdare soldier masters.
It made Delevy question her leniency in giving the beast more slack in its chain.
The creature turned at the sound of her approach. Its ears lay back against its head making the nubs of its cream colored horns more visible. Delevy studied the beast for a few moments as it looked as though it were embarrassed it had been caught digging. Did its horns have a sharper tip then they had when she first cared for it yesterday? She could have sworn they were more rounded on the end.
The beast lifted its head and inhaled deeply. It smelled the meat and started slowly toward her. All of a sudden she felt as though she were being stalked. She stepped to the wall and brought the lever up to retract the creature’s chain. The beast was dragged back to the center of the room as it growled and struggled against the chain. It was yanked to the floor where the ring fell back into its hole.
It looked at her with fiery red eyes that seemed to burn her with their intensity. It grumbled out something unintelligible and yanked at the chain.
“No, not until you are fed and I am sure you won’t take a hunk out of me,” Delevy said. She put the platter on the floor and pushed it toward the beast with the ever handy handle of her broom.
Tal’on struggled against the shortening of the chain and the collar around his neck.
“I am not a Threat!” he seethed.
But, he couldn’t be angry for long. He could smell the food. When she pushed it toward him he fell on it like the beast she probably imagined he was. He didn’t care. He was starved. He would try to explain later, after he finished. A shiver ran through him with the first mouthful as the flavor caressed his tongue. He had only a fleeting questionable thought of whether it was a shiver of pleasure or a shiver as a precursor of the Turning before his thought went solely to filling his very empty stomach.