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In honor of the Chinese New Year, Wendy Russo has organized the Year of the Snake Blog Hop, posting something connected to snakes from our writing. I took Wendy’s prompt for “something to do with snakes” a bit more liberally than I suspect she intended, but I do have a snake-like predator native to Rakal in War’s End, the WIP I’ve been blogging excerpts from. (There’s another excerpt just below this.) To start with Coralie, stranded with her month-old baby and a few others on the planet Rakal, is wondering what the local predators are like.

Trifid NebulaNothing looked edible, and if there wasn’t anything to eat near the ground, there wouldn’t be any animals there. Except for water — but would local animals have to come down from the trees for water? Could they lick enough off the leaves to keep going? How about the predators? “Audi,” Coralie added, “would you show me how to use the reader to access the information on Rakal once we find the cave? And what kinds of predators are there? I don’t see anything for the prey animals to eat, down here.”

Audi groaned. “The reader’s packed in the kit, and I don’t feel up to getting it right now, but I think the top predators are snakelike. Uh—you do have snakes on Horizon, don’t you?”

“Snakes?” She’d seen the word before, in texts on off-planet biology, but it meant no more than “felines” had before Zhaim had imported the pumas. “I don’t think so. They’re some kind of legless animals, aren’t they? How do they get around?”

“They get around,” Ginger broke in. “Quite well. I think we’d better check how those here attack.

But before they can find the cave, they find out a bit more about those snakelike predators. The hard way.

Coralie moved forward, and looked more closely at the overhang now clearly visible. She hadn’t been this far before, and even Bounce had turned back before reaching this point. From here it was apparent even in the limited light that the area under the overhang was darker than it should have been. “That’s Bounce’s cave,” she turned to call back. “Don’t know how deep, or if it’s occupied.” She started to turn back toward the cave when something slammed into her shoulder and upper chest.

It burned like fire, and when she looked down she saw a sort of tentacle, apparently coming from a tree clinging to the bank of the stream. She screamed. Ginger echoed her, shrugged out of the harness, and sprinted forward. The baby! Whatever it was hadn’t touched Michelle yet, but it surely would. “Ginger!” she managed to scream, “Catch!” When Ginger paused and lifted her arms, Coralie flung the infant toward those arms. She followed with her eyes just long enough to be sure that the baby was safe in Ginger’s grasp before turning her attention back to the tentacle dragging her toward the tree.

She tried to grab it and pull it away, but it seemed welded to her flesh. The burning sensation was getting worse, and her vision seemed blurred. Were the trees here predatory? She tried to claw at the section of tentacle between her and the tree, only to discover that one side was covered with needle-like projections that left her hand as agonized as her shoulder. She was getting dizzy, and staggered as she tried to brace herself against the relentless pull. The tentacle jerked, and she realized that the Maung was atop the tentacle, between her and the tree—but she felt as if she were spinning farther and farther from a body that would no longer obey her commands. As her vision faded she clung last to the knowledge that Ginger had Michelle safe.

To find the other participants on this blog hop, click on the links: