Besso, a young woman short in stature, reaching 5'3" just barely, had lived by the river all her life. All she knew was based on how the water moved. Was it still? She could remind herself about her image--fair skin, blue eyes, orange hair--and go swimming in the gentle current. Was it stormy? Besso learned to sail a boat without capsizing, an important skill, because her entire family was made up of fisherfolk, and she expected that to be her fate as well. If it rained, Besso went fishing. She learned how to judge the days, the months and the years by how the river rose and ebbed.
But this time it was the water that hid something from her. The simple fisherfolk that lived by the river that emptied into the ocean were always in danger, so much that no dragon wing could save them all the time. The deathly Tabriz lurked in the water when it was high, and Besso was the lookout.
Besso had tried numerous ways to protect the people against the Tabriz. She also sported numerous scars, advertising her plans' failures. Still, Besso tried harder with every failure, intent on saving the noble fisherfolk.
A cry of pain called Besso from her reverie, and she looked up. A few docks down, a Tabriz was lifting itself from the water. A terrified trio of old men were yelling frantically as the Tabriz clutched one of their ankles in its monstrous jaws. Besso glanced around, to see if there was anything to use as a weapon, a better one than the little dagger she kept belted around her waist. Seeing nothing, not even a stout stick, Besso ran, her feet lifting from the ground as if flying fish were attached to them. She reached the dock just as the Tabriz succeeded in gaining a toe, and was about to submerge.
"Not today, tabriz scum!" Besso screamed, and stabbed the tabriz repeatedly between the eyes. It groaned loudly and scrabbled on the deck to find Besso's feet so it could drag her underwater with it. Besso knew the tabriz tricks, though, and her feet were dancing nimbly around the tabriz's claws. With a final stab, the tabriz screamed and sank beneath the water. Besso let go of her dagger and it went, too.
As Besso's shift drew near its end, another pair of lookouts came to do the night shift. Besso headed home.
Home was a small white houseboat on the the edge of the river. Her father was an artist, and although Besso's rather plain mother had insisted on painting their home white, Besso's father couldn't resist adding a little artistic flair. And so the little white houseboat was covered in varying sizes of blue polkadots.
Besso climbed the short flight of stairs attached to her dock and swung herself over the rim of her houseboat. She opened the door quietly, not wanting to disturb her baby brother; it was his naptime by now. Besso's mother, Vessy, was humming gently in the cooking room; rich, delicious smells wafted across the air to tantalize Besso's sharp sense of smell. Besso's father, Belko, was nowhere to be seen. Besso guessed he was probably in his studio on the lower story of the houseboat. Besso walked into the cooking area, sneaking up behind her mother and hugging her waist. Vessy jumped, and then turned around and laughed weakly.
"You scared me there, honey," Vessy admonished, and turned back to her cooking, which smelled like seafowl sauteed over riverside herbs and wild rice. Besso smiled.
"I'm sorry, maman," she apologize, reaching her hand out to snatch a piece of meat from the pan. Vessy grinned and smacked Besso's hand with a wooden spoon.
"That's for dinner," she said, shaking her finger at her daughter. "Oh, and speaking of dinner, will you get your father up here? He's been downstairs, painting the day away, and it's time to eat. And get your brother, too, please." Besso nodded and descended the stairs to the studio. She could hear her father yelling ecstatically, sometimes cursing, sometimes praising his paint and the image that he was working on.
"Papa?" Besso said, and her father whirled around, an excitement blazing in his eyes. Paint covered his clothing and skin and hair, and he had painted his feet yellow with red polkadots. Besso rolled her eyes and grinned.
"Besso, my dear! How was your day?" Besso shook her head.
"Old Balley and his friends weren't being careful while they were fishing, and Balley lost one of his toes to a tabriz. I killed it, though," she ended with some satisfaction. Belko kissed Besso's forehead.
"I'm very proud of you, m'dear. Now, do I smell dinner?" Besso giggled.
"Yes, but with those feet Maman wouldn't let you upstairs!"
Besso herded her father--who had washed his feet by opening the back door and sticking them in the water--upstairs, and then walked into her little brother's room.
Besso's eyes softened as she saw her little brother, his curly, orange hair matted to his damp brow with sweat. His little toes were curled up, and his hands clenched and unclenched. Besso wondered what he was dreaming about.
"Vasser," she cooed gently, smoothing his hair. Vasser rolled over and mumbled in his sleep, and Besso picked him up, cradling him carefully in her strong arms.
"Vasser," she sang, bouncing him on her hip. Vasser's eyes opened, and he started to cry. "Shh, shh," Besso whispered. "Time to have dinner." Vasser stopped crying and smelled the air. He smiled, revealing a few tiny white teeth, but mostly gums. "Dinna," he said, and chuckled. Besso grinned, and carried him into the dining room.
"So, lovely, tell your mother what you did today," Besso's father said, pride tinging his voice. Besso smiled, and turned her attention to her mother.
"I really don't like the idea of you going after tabriz, dear," moaned Vessy.
"Nonsense," chided Belko. "She's as brave and tough as any ol' Protector. And we fisherfolk owe her a lot." Besso smiled gratefully at her father, and all four of them ate. It was quite a messy dinner, as Vasser was more interested in, say, flinging his food at the walls and ceiling and his family members than eating it.
The next afternoon, Besso was at Balley's houseboat before her tabriz-watch shift started.
"We need to think of a new way to fight tabriz. The way it is, a dagger or a sword isn't going to do the trick." Balley thought for a moment.
"Well, I'm coming up empty." Besso rolled her eyes.
"Gee, thanks. You were a lot of help," she replied sarcastically. "See you later, Balley. I'll tell you if I figure anything out..by the way, how's the toe?" Balley growled something best left unintelligible at Besso, and she laughed and walked out.
Besso found herself wondering if, perhaps, some kind of painful explosion would be best for eliminating the tabriz threat. She knew that when put together, fire and bulbo-powder had miraculous explosive power, but only in great quantity..or if the bulbo-powder had nowhere to go, if it was in a container or something...
"That's it!" Besso cried, snapping her fingers. Balley had plenty of bulbo-powder; in fact, nearly everyone did. And to light the fire to explode the powder, everyone had flint, including herself. She would make a bulbo-bomb to explode the tabriz..
Besso took the small orb she had christened bulbbomb, and stuck a string in it. Inside the orb was enough bulbo-powder to fill it completely, and the string hopefully reached that powder. Besso was by the river, and the water was high: tabriz would come. Besso had set a trap; she had placed dead fish a few feet from her, and she had her flint ready to light the bulbbomb if a tabriz did come.
A dark shape moved beneath the water, and ripples followed it. Besso gasped as a tabriz reared its ugly head, chomping down on the fish. Besso struck the flint together, and they lit the bulbbomb's fuse..the flame traveled down the length of the fuse, and Besso threw the bomb...
The tabriz snorted as a huge explosion rocked the water around it. Besso had missed..but now dead fish floated belly up on the surface. Besso sighed and smacked her forehead, and then threw the back-up spear she had brought--in case her plan failed--and ended the feasting tabriz's life.
"I need something..something to make my aim better, deadlier." Besso addressed the other tabriz-watch lookouts, who nodded. They each had their own stash of mini bulbbombs, but those only worked sometimes, and very rarely killed a tabriz, especially the larger ones. One of the TW lookouts tentatively raised his hand.
"Yes?" said Besso, crossing her arms.
"Well.." the boy began, tentatively, "what about a tube? Tubes worked exellently to blow darts..what if they had a little gadgety thing to light the fuse, made of flint, and then the.." Besso nodded. "Go on," she said.
"And then, the bulbo-powder would explode out." Many voices raised in unanimous agreement. The boy blushed and tried not to look too proud of his idea.
"Very good..and what if there was something..hard, I think, to shoot out? Anything going that fast would surely pierce tabriz flesh."
"Yes!" "Sounds wonderful!" "Of course! Why didn't we think of this before?" The voices of the council agreed: they would have a tube to aim better with a flint gadget to explode bulbo-powder to shoot a hard, round thing out at the tabriz.
"This is excellent," said Besso, "and we should begin immediately."
"Excuse me?" piped one voice.
"Mm?" replied Besso.
"What should we name it?"
"Hmmm..well..I think that it should have a fitting name that tells what it does. It should be..a tabriz-blaster, but we can call it a..."
"Well, the tube that shoots darts is called a dartgun."
"A gun! Perfect. A gun..a gun to kill the deathly tabriz."
Besso, creator of the tabriz-blaster, or gun, sat on the dock. It was her shift again..she waited patiently. She held in her hands a light-weight wooden tube, with a large handle-like thing to rest on her shoulder. She held her finger on something that she had dubbed the 'trigger', a curved piece of metal that moved, to move the flint together, to light the fuse, to set fire to the bulbo-powder. Inside her gun was packed a small amount of powder--and a bullet..
A ripple, a dark shape, and a tabriz reared its head out of the water, jaws open wide. Besso screamed and pulled the trigger, sending the bullet deep into the tabriz's throat..it shout out the other side, and with a gurgle, the tabriz sank beneath the water..
Besso sprang to her feet.
Besso was sitting on the dock of her houseboat. The tabriz hadn't returned for some time, even though the water was higher than usual. They had been warned away by the terrible weapon Besso and her comrades had made.
Besso's gun, which she had dubbed 'HideBiter', was lying in her lap. She held a cloth, which she used to vigorously rub HideBiter's wood and metal. Besso was very pleased with her invention, and the tabriz killings had already gone down 45% in the area that was patrolled by Besso's tabriz-watch lookouts.
Besso was daydreaming about the peaceful days ahead when she would go fishing and generally laze about. The last weeks had been hectic despite the downfall of tabriz attacks, and she was ready to take her life easy again. Besso heard wingbeats, and she didn't look up, because dragons flew so often over her home; besides, tabriz hated to fly if they could swim. It was only when Besso heard a splash that she went on her guard, HideBiter held tensely in her hands.
A copper dragon was swimming, with strong strokes of its feet and its tail acting as a rudder, down the river, towards Besso's house. Besso relaxed, and set her gun down.
"Hail ye!" she cried, and the rider of the dragon raised his hand in recognition. The large copper dragon stopped by the dock, and the rider hopped out, and smiled at Besso.
"Hello," he said, "I am Ambrek, and this big lug behind me is Undasheth." Besso bobbed her head briefly to Undasheth.
"I'm Besso." Besso didn't ask why the rider was there; he was most likely Hunting for candidates for some clutch. Ambrek smiled at Besso.
"Nice to meet you. I'm here on a Hunt--" -I knew it- thought Besso--"from the Healing Den, and Undasheth has taken a liking to you. The parents are all aquatic dragons, so it should be perfect for you." Besso moved hair out of her eyes and stared intently at Ambrek.
"Are you kidding me?" she asked suspiciously, her eyes narrowing. Ambrek shook his head. Besso gestured to the fisherfolks' homes.
"How am I s'posed to leave them alone like this?" she demanded.
Be sensible, girl! and Undasheth's voice was angry. This is the chance of a lifetime; don't blow it! Besso reconsidered.
"I've considered being a Rider before," she admitted. "Alright."