Tidings: Dark and Light (vignette)

Half Moon Bay Weyr - A Safer place than the Barracks

The rain pounded, wind howled farther outside the new, temporary 'safe spot' that housed the caniddates of Half Moon Weyr, and — tucked deep into her bed and wishing she could sleep as her three pets did, snuggled close — Leeta relived a nightmare.

"Just keep low, sugarbeet, and all will be okay. Yes?" She'd cautioned her three sevenday old green firelizard — christened Joy — to stay low and not fly to her unless Leeta was alone or in bed. The renegades she was being forced to serve on pain of her father's death would have a massive herdbeast if they found out she had a set of flying eyes and ears.

It was merest coincidence that she'd found the remains of a firelizard nest on one of her 'directed' forrays in Ista territory. It was the last egg in the abandoned clutch to hatch — most likely a green's clutch, of course — and the piteous calls for food from the babe drove her to take it under her own 'wing,' and damn the outcome. The little one was a lovely, silvery green-sage coloration with hints of gold at headknobs and muzzle, her eyes wide and wondering. It was her first pet since the beloved family canine had passed at the ripe old age of 14 in her 20th turn. Thought of that say still managed to make the woman cry, in the hard times. But *now* her heart filled with unexpressed joy, as 'Joy' gave her what no other could, in this time of terrible trial.

It was difficult to teach such a one as Joy to stay away — such an unnatural thing for a sociable species — but she was smart for her color, not often failing to keep her identity a complete secret. And when she was seen sailing above the renegade camp, she was mistake for a wild firelizard; unbanded and simply curious…and chased away. Safe from unkind hands.

Somewhere in the next two turns of hell, Leeta had forgotten about such 'trivial' things as mating urges in her fight to survive, and the now grow and pretty Joy's lustful heat surprised her one morning. It was almost impossible to cover up her own reactions to the green's calling of her wild suitors (out on the Istan beach hundreds of miles away), but she feigned illness, and managed to keep herself away from other (disgusting and vile) humans as her pride and Joy found her pleasure in the twining tail of a brown

Thankfully, Leeta knew that her pet would likely also clutch somewhere on her birth turf (it was what the green's mistress taught her was a safe place to go, hide, relax), so the outcome of the flight didn't truly concern her. If she was able to, she'd try to get down there and hopefully scoop up those precious eggs, when they were finally to be layed, and 'hide' them nearby, and gift her imprisoned father, her counterparts one each, so that perhaps, once day, they could use their abilites to aid their escape.

A month and a half into her pregnancy, 'Joy' sought out her human's presence more often, disliking how her body was growing larger, heavier, tougher to get and stay airborne. Moody. Leeta indulged her pet as much as she dared, often hiding her beneath the rough blanket that kept her barely warm enough at night. Firelizards needed heat, after all.

One particularly rough and distracted evening, when Leeta was finished with her ablutions in the rough-hwen renegade camp — the rain pounding unrelentingly outside — she hurried to her bed for an early 'sleep' and to call Joy from wherever she was back to her mistress. The green was needing more sleep these days, and her owner didn't begrudge her any longer times of no contact. It was only natural, right.

What greeted her upon the lumpy pillow of her cot…was NOT natural or right. The curled up form of Joy — her hide faded, breathing rapid and shallow, her eyes closed — lay daethly still, aside from her breathing. Leeta quickly dove into her covers, tucked the limp pet to her breast, and mentally begged for her to wake, to get better. The scent of something foreign, unnatural was rife on Joy's breath. She passed two hours later, her grey and lifeless form held tight and inwardly wept over by Leeta. She knew her pet had been found out…and poisoned.

It was a pair of days later that the renegades' second-in-command ordered Leeta to his tent in order to receive her latest instructions on where to 'enforce' their dictum. Hiding her emotions (and the burial site of her beloved pet and her unborn eggs) was difficult, but she did it out of fealty and caring for her father. It hurt like bitter hell.

The coyly smirking face of the man as she entered — his casual inquiry of "And how are *you* doing today, pet? You seem somewhat more out of sorts than usual. Cat got your f… tongue?" — was instant proof of who had discovered Joy in her vulnerable moment, the green also having been more hungry than usual.

It was in that instant that Leeta made up her mind to not simply bring him to justice, someday. That was much too kind.

In her cot later that evening, the woman wept into her pillow for her lost Joy…and plotted *her* form of justice in the darkness… Darkness within, without.

In her kinder cot inside the Weyr a few Turns later, Leeta gathered her sleeping trio of pets closer to her…and struggled not to weep again…mastering the impulse. Instead, she stroked the youngest, baby green Danae, and thought instead of how she would manage to request a dragonride for her father, who was due to get out of Crom's prison in three days.

It was much more satisfying and somewhat less painful than other thoughts, slowly moving her at least a little towards the light.

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