It was not a pen. It was a gleaming construct of shiny new metal, vertical poles placed so closely that nothing the size of a Malii would ever be able to force its way through the bars even had there not been a lighter lace of metal woven between the bars to discourage any such attempts. While the outside of the enclosure was the same as most of the kennel, the ground sterile and hard, the ground behind the bars sported a large patch of weeds and grass on which to run, the dirt beneath enough for only around a foot of digging had a creature attempted to escape that way. And the ceiling was what defined it firmly as a cage, not high enough for a full grown wiurn to fully stretch its wings, not that the ceiling or the kennel was more than a foot or two above the roof of the cage in this room, and mirroring the walls down to the same lattice of metal that filled the space between the bars.
The size of the cage, the skill with which it must have been constructed, was not the reason Haix was in that room. No, the target of her attention as she watched from a doorway, resting her arms from the weight of the bloodied sack of still cooling meat she had carried so far, was tearing mouthfuls of plants from the cage floor. 1
A grass-eater. When she had purchased the creature, she had failed to ask a few questions she should have, confident in her own answers. It had obviously been part wiurn, if not some custom wiurn that a soft-skin had ordered, its winged forelimbs not found in any of the other normal crafted species. It was a little smaller than the new versions of wiurn the labs had released, but the sheer bulk of the beast hinted that the decrease in size certainly was not a decrease in weight. The scales were thicker, the crest that replaced the headplate a still and bland mockery of her own, and even the tail-blade had been replaced by a string of spikes running down the then of its tail. It had to be related to wiurn in some way, and yet, here it was gulping down plants as it there was no other food for it, just waiting for some hunter to stick a spear in its side and wear its thick hide as armor. 2
Perhaps it would not be much of a hunter on its own, no drive to track and kill prey on its own, but surely she could train it enough to at least have it present the illusion. It looked very much the predator already, though she rarely saw predators as thick and heavy as it was at such a size. The amount of meat it would have required might have kept her constantly butchering creatures just to keep it from turning on her.
Oh, but it was a crafted beast. Those rarely attacked their masters, much less viewed them as food, and with the food free and plentiful within the boundaries of the soft-skin hive, there would never be too much time lost securing food for it. It was not as if any of the inhabitants of the so-called city were allowed to take any of the beasts beyond the fenced boundaries, where the food was not so plentiful and easy to secure. 3
Rather than sling the sack of ‘plentiful’ meat over her shoulder and find out whether or not the not quite a wiurn would consume meat, she leaned against the doorway to watch it. It pulled at the shallowly rooted vegetation without any great show of force, consuming even the dirt-covered roots as they were pulled free from the floor with its chewing. It made no move to seek out only specific morsels among the plants, instead steadily stripping away its chosen patch with the mindlessness of a mining familiar digging for a gem. Even its long tail was left to drag on the ground, its spikes tangling in the stems of the longer weeds and dragging a furrow behind it whenever it decided to take a step.
She was certain it had not even seen her yet as she remained still against the door, watching for any sign that it might be more than a simple grazing beast for all its interesting appearance. 4
A few more stomps as it dragged its bulk across the striped ground, mor sounds of loud chewing that made her thing of the horned grass-eaters she thought the murps were based on, and the only things she had determined about the beast was that it was lazy. It lacked the nervous energy of Hopper, who would have fluttered around the cage even had food and gems been left out for her. It lacked even the slight curiosity of Walker, who would have at least dug around the cage or inspect its walls after waking up in a strange new cage only a few minutes before.
The thought of training out that laziness, training it to be somewhat less disappointing brought a small flutter of movement to her frills, and she grabbed the sack of meat tightly before slinging it over her shoulder. Better to find out what it would eat before it finished sating itself on greens, or if it would eat anything else. 5
It heard her. The slapping sound of the bag of meat jostling against her back as she hop-skipped to the cage door, the sound of claws clicking on the hard ground as she made no attempt to sneak her way closer, was enough to halt its incessant chewing. A half-chewed glob of mud and leaves fell from its mouth as it twisted its neck to look at her, its body unmoving except for the head now staring her way.
She halted then before opening the gate, though whether it was some ancient instinct screeching about the threat such a thing could pose to her even if the labs only tended to craft somewhat gentled beasts or if she was just curious to see if it could do anything beyond eating dirt and grass she did not know. What she did notice after a moment of staring at the unmoving beast that a part of it was moving, the crest seeming to twitch and blur as a hum began to emanate from the creature. 6
She broke the eye contact with a laugh, dropping the bag of meat to the floor with a squish, the blood that had once been contained within the butchered things body now seeping out to stain the ground. The bag was opened as the pitch of the hum rose, becoming painful enough that she looked back up at the crafted beast that was making the sound. Hunting with a creature that made such an annoying sound would be useless, she thought with an uneasy laugh, taking a step back from the gate as she debated leaving it to decimate the cage’s plantlife and trying the meat again when it would be a little more interested in the food she carried.
Then, with a sound like thunder, Haix was blind.
The light consumed everything, arcing across the woven fence and metal poles to form a wall of light that hid the beast from her view and her from its, She scrambled backwards, away from the afterimage of light dancing in her eyes as her vision returned to show her that the cage was still intact after the hit, the ringing in her ears barely disguising the return of the earlier humming. 7
This time she was prepared, and she turned her head before the bolt of light slammed into the fence, a sterile smell that she associated with the labs mixed with the smell of cooking meat permeating the air even as she was deafened yet again. She snatched at the bag of meat, missed as worms of light crawled and sparked across her vision, grabbed at it again with her hands this time tightening around its mouth, and dragged it back as yet another bolt slammed into the cage wall.
Though she could not see it, her mind provide a picture of the beast. The beast was as still as it had been before, tail drooping and it’s stance unconcerned even as its frills hummed and sang and screamed out once more to send a final bolt in her direction, a bolt that would not blind her if she looked away, but that might arc its way through the gaps in the woven metal and tear into her back as if she was frightened prey. 8
Frightened or not, Haix drags the sack of meat back to the doorway, the meager trail of blood sporting a jagged turn in memory of each bolt fired before making it back. One last hum is still building as she screeches something back at the beast and leaves to let it spend its fury on the cage she has put so much trust in. There would be information on the crafted beast somewhere of what exactly it was, and there were plenty of salves and powders she could use to render it a bit more pliable to an inspection. She still had plenty of what she used on her brown drakes to prevent them from going wild and attacking anyone after all.
As for the hum, it failed to rise in pitch this time dropping in volume as the beast stared at the doorway Haix had left through. A moment later saw the crest stop vibrating entirely, and the beast resumed tearing at the ground. 9
Haix poked her head back into the room a few minutes later, watching as the creature ate, the way it failed to look around at all as it did so, apparently content so long as it was alone and eating. It ate a lot, and its build meant she would likely have to feed it a good quantity of drugged meat before it would begin to feel the effects, especially if it ate a larger quantity of plants beforehand. The question was how to get the powdered meat into the cage without the beast frying her with a bolt of lightning, for that was all she could imagine the odd-smelling bolts of light were.
Then, as the creature drank from a trough inside the cage, slurping the water so loudly that she might have raced through the room without it hearing her, she chuckled at her own stupidity. The drinking ceased at one, the large head turning to the doorway even as a hum began to build in strength, but Haix had already ducked away. 10
A day later, and Haix had to admit water was not as easy to work with as she had hoped. There was no telling how much of the water the beast would drink, whether it would do so after or before gorging itself on grass, or even if the mixture would be left alone for too long and start to clump or gather in such a way that the beast would not consume enough to even slow it down a little. Not that she was sure it was possible for the beast to move any slower than it had when she would look in on it, grazing or sleeping or the one time it had rubbed itself against the bars before going to sleep.
In the end, she added perhaps a little bit too much, exhausting her stores and dumping it all into the pump that carried water into the cage. The water turned nearly opaque as she added the powder, hoping that it would be enough, and that the crafted beast would drink enough of it and before the pumps diluted the poisons she had added too much. 11
The sack was back, the blood it had been leaking congealed and scabbing as if the bag had been a living thing, and she kept it by her side as she watched the beast stand in the center of the cage chewing the same mouthful it had scooped up minutes before. While she was kind of glad it was nowhere near as ravenous as it had been after the first time it woke in the cage, she was quickly bored of watching him chew and do nothing else. After nearly half and hour had passed, she was tempted to throw herself out there in hopes of it getting thirty after trying to kill her a few more times.
After another thirty minutes, she did just that, mopping up the crusted trail of old blood and leaving the sack in the cold box. She finished quickly, for that was all the time her protesting ears and eyes would allow her, and left the room in a slightly more dignified fashion than that of the previous day. 12
Only then did the beast amble over to the water trough, ropes of muddy drool hanging from its mouth as it began to drink. Had it not had a mouth coated in dirt and plants, had it been a little less thirsty, it might have noticed the thickness of the water, the almost chalky texture as it gulped it down and stopped itself with whatever instincts the labs had built into it warning that something was wrong. It did not stop until it had drank more if it than even Haix had counted on, only stopped in fact because its mouth had begun to numb and its limbs felt ever heavier.
When Haix returned a little while later with a sack of cold and somewhat cooked meat, popping a small bloody morsel into her own mouth and ready to wait even longer with a book in hand, she found the beast quietly snoring. 13
The book was thrown to the ground with a loud clack, followed by a few inquisitive chirps and a screech as Haix hop-skipped her way over to the gate, a short pause following each sound to see if the beast would respond. Upon reaching the gate and unlatching it, she threw a small bone at the sleeping beast between the small open gap, a fragment of meat streaming behind it like a flag as it spun through the air and landed on its wing.
Bolder now, she opened the door wider and threw several more pieces of bones and meat, some landing in the dirt and others scoring hits on its think, slowly rising then deflating hide. Another screech of challenge was given, clawed hands ready to slam the gate shut if the beast so much as twitched, but it failed to do anything more intimidating than breath. That was not the greatest sign, considering that she was not sure the dosage it consumed would not prove to be a fatal one, but it was enough that she opened the gate wider and slipped inside with the meat. 14
The first thing she did once inside was to pull the cage door shut, sliding the latch into place so that only something with some decent level intelligence of intelligence and hands could open it. She would not have enough time to regret doing so if the beast was faking its lack of interest, but she was not going to let it escape even if she was no longer around. The door was tested, held, and the beast failed to move as she quietly walked over to it, careful to avoid stepping in a pile of waste or into a hole from some plant that had been determined not to be torn apart.
The sack of meat was dumped out unceremoniously by the trough, the sack then rolled up and tied to her belt as she looked at the water. The pumps had already replaced most of what it had drunk, the water almost perfectly clear if not for the slight haze that bits of leaves and dirt floated in. 15
Renathan: You certainly did a great job on the gummy texture; they practically look edible!
Sept 29, 2021 14:47:21 GMT -6
Yang: I'm happy you like em! I loved the outcome too; they were a treat to make 0: gradually getting the hang of the gummy-texture shading, baha
Sept 29, 2021 14:26:44 GMT -6
Renathan: Thank you for the pseudo-puppers, Yang! c: They made me grin!
Sept 29, 2021 14:00:10 GMT -6
Silver: I'd be happy to help you set up a mini species guide maybe? :3
Sept 27, 2021 23:03:57 GMT -6
Xentus: Yea, the smaller guides are included in the update project. I suppose a little reformat would be needed to the guides match the stat blocks if anything. Or misc species can have individualized mini guides but i havent thought of how to format that
Sept 27, 2021 21:20:10 GMT -6