Rist sat quietly nibbling on his latest pigeon as he watched another one of the Great Towers collapse in upon itself from the after-shocks of the latest tremor. The merchants from the Botanica-Souk had mumbled warnings to one another about another quake hitting Talibarr and many of them had cleared their tents and folding pavilions from the inner plazas, moving to more secure locations closer to their ships and the dirigible tethers along the Wet Wharves. Rist wasn’t sure what an earthquake was exactly, but the little egg he wore told him that he would be safe in this spot so he watched so he could learn. Rist was going to become smarter. He was a professional now. The dark lady Komeedra had said so. She had also given him the little egg that he wore. Rist liked the egg-thing. It was warm to his touch and it spoke only to him, whispering secrets and teaching him many useful things like how to make his pitiful little sling much more accurate and powerful by bending some wire and scrap metal into a frame that fit around his forearm and using a length of the stretchy spider-silk he had been using to climb down gullies and trenches with as the elastic part. The oily bit of sharp metal he had killed his first pigeon with had now delivered his fifth and he was as proud as only a drijj with a full-belly could be.
Massive clouds of dust rolled upwards into the otherwise still, oppressively hot air as the great structure fell to pieces. There’d be a lot of scavengers in the area soon. They’d want to grab anything uncovered by the falling building, loot anything spilled out of the upper sections that might have survived the ancient riots behind once impregnable armor-doors. Then there’d be the ones who preyed upon those in a hurry to loot the debris. It was no place for a self-respecting drijj to be and Rist had learned how to respect himself. It had been one of the first lessons the egg-thing had taught him. He was worthwhile. He was a living, breathing, walking, talking, thinking being in his own right and the egg-thing was teaching him everything he asked for and then some. Rist’s brain was rapidly assimilating everything the egg-thing fed into it, creating hundreds, then thousands of new synapses, pathways, connections in a feverish frenzy of intellectual development that no child of the Tower Arcologies had ever matched. The egg had identified Rist as a prodigy and continually upgraded the lessons it streamed into the little creature’s cortex and consciousness, talking to his unconscious even as it spoke to his waking mind. Rist was a fast learner.
Finishing with his pigeon Rist wiped his clever little hands on the rags he wore and repositioned himself so as to best watch the place where the Broken Tower had once been. He felt safe in his high perch across the wide plaza overlooking the garbage-strewn and rubble-mounded boulevards that ran in-between the regularly spaced dead husks of the Great Towers like the one that had just collapsed. He settled in and watched intently. His nostrils flared and itched with the scent of opportunity. Maybe someone would uncover something that they couldn’t take away before something got them. Often the best spoils came to the third party to appear on the scene, after the finders got eaten or run off. It paid to pay attention to such things, especially for a drijj that no one would give a second thought to and no one in their right mind would try to eat. Drijj were poisonous to most predators and tended to make scavengers painfully sick. Things might kill them, if they noticed them at all, but for the most part drijj were rarely noticed, like the beetles crawling all over the dusty broken walls or the geckos that hunted the beetles. They were tiny, moving parts of the background, not anything to worry about or pay any attention to and Rist liked that. It made it so much easier to pluck shiny-bits from under the noses of other looters and debris-pickers.
Warm, snug and well-fed Rist fell asleep watching the ruins across the plaza from his perch. He dreamed of lovely, easily-climbable trees without any owls or strixae to hunt him. He imagined a place where no one was allowed to hurt a drijj ever again. Rist slept deep and only awoke when the reverberating thunder shook his perch and the rain began to fall in a cold, dark late Summer or early Autumn torrent. Rist still wasn’t sure how to tell the seasons apart yet.
To be Continued...
Ristdex / Index Page for Rist