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In The Shadow of the Watch by Barbara E. Walton

In the Shadow of the Watch

by Barbara E. Walton
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Page 4

“Try to burst it!” a sailor yelled, drawing his dagger and etching an unmistakable sign in the air—one lethal jab, followed by a drag to the right. A cut appeared, then healed, on the serpent’s neck.

“Get below!” the captain yelled. “You! Get below!”

Alitza scrambled backward until she hit a barrel then pulled herself up on it, trying to keep her feet on the wet and thrashing deck. The serpent caught her movement and turned its head toward her, baring its teeth. Its neck was narrow and writhing, its claws lashing at the ship.

A sailor leapt onto the serpent’s neck and brought his dagger down with great force, but it bounced off the scales with a loud scree of metal on metal, twisting out of the sailor’s hand and onto the deck beside Alitza. She picked it up as the sailor was thrown like a rag into the water.

More sailors jumped from the rigging, and Alitza could see Milek crawling up it again, looking for a chance. The serpent saw them and began to slosh its way onto the deck, rocking the ship, tipping it to starboard almost far enough to turn it. Alitza was thrown against the rails, and the serpent’s tail passed above her. The scales were latticed on its underbelly, like the riggings above, and suddenly, she knew what she had to do.

Ignoring the motion of the boat and the creature, she leapt up and grabbed the tail. Bringing her feet up to wrap around it, she let go with her hands and pulled herself along the underside, using the serpent’s own scales for leverage. The sailor’s fallen dagger, she held firmly between her teeth. As the serpent’s belly grew wider, she had to strain to keep the hold with her legs.

“Alitza!” someone yelled. She couldn’t have responded if she’d wanted to, and didn’t try.

Instead, she pulled herself, scale by scale, toward the serpent’s head. It tried to shake her free, and her hands were bleeding, but she held on, hand over hand, shimmying up the creature with her legs to brace her. It couldn’t reach her with its claws or its teeth.

At last, she reached its forepaws, and it rose up, beating uselessly at her. She dug the fingers of her left hand tightly around the edge of one scale, and, with her right, put the dagger under the edge of another and pried it up, ignoring the outraged, agonized screams of the serpent.

It came away with a rush of blood and flesh.

A dagger flew from the deck, burying itself in the weak spot she’d made. She turned her head, but only saw a blur of white moving toward her.

The serpent fell back toward the water. There was no time to leap for the ship. Alitza felt herself going under, saw the water close over her head, and only then did her hands and feet find permission to let go. She kicked and thrust wildly against the drag caused by the sinking monster, but she couldn’t find her breath. The world was going red and black, and then there was a strong hand on her shoulder.

She passed out as she was dragged above the waves at last…


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About the Author

Barbara E. Walton

Barbara E. Walton is a writer and librarian living in New Mexico. Her Amazon page is here.

Story Discussion

Stories by Barbara E. Walton

In The Shadow of the Watch by Barbara E. Walton

In the Shadow of the Watch

Alitza scrambled backward until she hit a barrel then pulled herself up on it, trying to keep her feet on the wet and thrashing deck. The serpent caught her movement and turned its head toward her, baring its teeth. Its neck was narrow and writhing, its claws lashing at the ship.

“Alitza!” someone yelled. She couldn’t have responded if she’d wanted to, and didn’t try…

Will Alitza survive? Will she earn one of the coveted Apprenticeships? Find out in this new original fantasy story by Barbara E. Walton, author of Quantum Leap: Odyssey.

Read More

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