Toria: Chapter 1, Episode 1 – The Shaggy Dog

heraldry-craft-healerWARNING: Other players should not read Chapter 1 posts until Chapter 2.

Music:  Chapter One – The Adventure Begins

“A shepherd’s life is the most humble,” the saying goes. Toria never believed it. Growing up at Katz Field was far better than living in a cothold. She loved her parents and her siblings, but she wasn’t born to be a farmer.

Katz Field was a fairly large hold situated on a long stretch of open plains running parallel to Keroon Bay. With plentiful water on one side and hilly forests on the other, it was the perfect place to raise fussy livestock.

Sheep were very fussy. They were smart enough to get into trouble but died within a day without rescue. They gave up easily if a predator attacked, couldn’t always tell which gender they were mating with, and gave birth in the middle of the night. It was easy to get tired of lamb chops.

Fortunately, Toria wasn’t born to be a herder, either.

Master Valora had recently begun instructing her in the ways of healing, the most important craft on Pern. At least Toria thought so. Most people said Harpers were the best, except for a few elders who claimed Dragonriders deserved the most honor. Healers helped the sick and injured. What could be more important than that?

Toria leaned against the railing on the ramp leading up to the fire-heights, looking out over the main courtyard. Beyond the courtyard was a field of wildflowers in full spring bloom, an absolute riot of color.

The wind toyed with her hair, blowing strands into her face. As she wrinkled her nose and tucked the hair behind an ear, she heard a voice calling her name.

“Toria! Toria, dear, I need you!”

It was the familiar voice of Headwoman Ranella. She was a second mother to Toria, generous to the point of spoiling the foster children in her care. Ranella was plump, with frizzy red hair, green eyes, and a round face with rosy cheeks. Her smile was infectious. She walked with a bit of a limp. She broke her hip falling down stairs Turns ago and it never healed quite right.

Toria made a mental note to ask Master Valora about hips.

“Yes, Miss Ranella,” she called back, hurrying down the ramp so that the Headwoman wouldn’t have far to walk.

“Honey, have you seen Shaggie? I’ve not seen him for three days,” the Headwoman asked with an expression of deep concern. “It’s not like him. Could you find him for me, make sure he’s not hurt?”

Shaggie was Ranella’s large, brown shepherd dog. Despite his intimidating size, he was the sweetest canine Toria had ever met — gentle, patient, and quiet. Shaggie never met a stranger, only new friends. He was slowing down lately and his muzzle had become speckled with grey.

Toria glanced up at the sky. It was still early, so there was plenty of time to look for the dog. Sometimes he got distracted chasing the white avians that stood on one leg in the creeks. He was probably just lost.

She nodded to Ranella, “I’ll find him, don’t worry.”

Ranella’s bright smile was instant. “Thanks, honey. If you go out very far, take someone with you. Dylan, maybe?”

Dylan was four Turns older than Toria and quite a bit taller. He was the drum apprentice who spent most of his time hiding in the heights where Ranella couldn’t reach him to assign chores. Dylan’s father had taught him the basics of knife fighting, so he was braver than the other boys. He was also kind of cute.

“Come back before dark,” Ranella warned, breaking Toria’s reverie.

Toria nodded, “Yes, ma’am!”

She hurried back to her quarters to pack a few essentials. It wasn’t often she had permission to wander away from the hold. There was so much potential, so much to see and do. This was going to be an amazing day.

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