When Tokas woke up out in the grass and threw off his dewy cloak, he had to think a moment where he was. Then he went to the door of the small stone house, which stood open, and entered. Moving on to the bedroom door, he felt wind on his shoulders and the raven blew in past him, a small furry thing squeaking and struggling in its beak. Raven took the morsel to the bed where the seven little dragons were nestled in their mother’s hide. The two biggest dragons pounced and pierced the breakfast morsel’s throat, but before they could feed, the raven moved it over to the runt of the litter, who lapped hungrily.
The twin was propped up on pillows with a sheet of glass in her hands, evidently reading off it. She was unperturbed at all the goings-on. He had hung his squirming jerkin over a chair last night, but it had not taken long for the little dragons to work their way out and find their mother’s familiar skin. They were not particularly sentimental, but they liked their life and resented change. Of course, growing would change them no matter what.
“You’re out of luck,” said the Twin.
“The dragonlings do not have rabies.”
“They cannot cure the withering with their blood. I tested them and they do NOT have rabies.”
“Then I’ll have to expose them to rabies.”
“Good luck with that. What’s your plan?”
“Are there no villages near here? Villages always have pye dogs and pye dogs always carry rabies.”
The twin stared at him with her amber eyes. “You will look like all the other people in this village -- we all have amber eyes on this side of the ramparts -- but the pye dogs will know you are different. Especially if you go there wearing your jerkin full of dragonlings.”
“ I would go and catch the rabies and bring it back to the dragons, but I’ve been vaccinated.” They both looked at the raven. He said, “Ravens can’t catch rabies.” He thought a moment. “But he could catch a striped stinko.”
The key to rabies was night-time. Daylight killed the virus, the same as it shriveled vampires. The stinkos slipped around at night, which is why they had to make their warning a smell instead of a sight, though it took very little light to see its black and white checkered back.
The Twin sighed and put down her sheet of glass. She looked at the dragonlings, now fed and curling up together to sleep. “It seems a shame.” She rolled over and stuck her feet out. “I suppose you want breakfast.”
She stood up. “You can eat anything you can find. I have business.”
The writer took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She was getting too much into the fun of gender swapping and not paying attention to plot. If this thing were going to sell, it would need some sex, but the two two main characters are twins, so that won’t work unless one wants to mess with incest. There was another solution. The female twin could remember her lover, the Burly. That would be interesting.
The Burly was silvery and soft. His long digging claws were ivory and his nose was black leather. His eyes were big for a Burly and he looked at her kindly, though his sort were notorious for being remorseless and violent. He had come to her small stone house with an infected wound that looked to her like . . . well, she couldn’t quite tell what. They didn’t seem like sword slicings or big cat rakings.
To treat the wounds -- she assumed that’s what he was there for, since she was a plantswoman of sorts -- she had to shave his fur. When she shaved his belly, she found words written on his skin. The language was only semi-familiar, not so much like a foreign language but like an ancient version of the one she knew. She copied it onto her glass reader before she prepared an unguent for the burly’s wounds, so she could study the writing even after the fur grew back.
So many times she read the strange words that they began to appear on her skin -- sentences on her arms, paragraphs on her thighs. Finally there was a question that was not on the glass. It appeared written in large letters across her belly and she could read it: “Where is your Twin?” The burly was looking at her intently.
She was flooded with emotion. She had tried not to think about her Twin. They had been separated when they began to grow into their self-hood but she didn’t know why and she couldn’t remember how. Just the terrible stricken loneliness of the boy not being there anymore. She began to weep and the Burly licked her face, his broad thin tongue tenderly sliding over her cheeks and across her lips. She laughed. His spit tasted like turnips. But there was something pressing against her leg and it was quite humanoid.
Now she went back to her glass reader. There was always so much to learn.
That night the Burly and she lay together on the curvy brass bed. In those days she didn’t use conventional bedding, but heaped up the bed with hay of sweetgrass, sweet clover, horsemint and a little alfalfa. He clasped her to his shaven chest, he did, and she was surprised to learn that Burlies purr like cats, but she liked it. He was warm with all that fur, softer than one might expect, but firmly muscled. And after a week of nights like that, she curled up, he curled around her back, then she discovered what that humanoid thing was for. She wished she could purr. “Parsnip,” she said. “Sweet parsnip.”
Got to get this story back to the withering. This is just playing around. The main plot point is the withering and the rest is window-dressing. Maybe I should capitalize Withering.
One day she deciphered one word from the Burly’s chest: Withering. With that knowledge as her key, she finally began to unravel the words into sense. That’s about the point she had reached with Tokas showed up.
Now the dragonlets were growing quickly and outstripping what Raven could supply to eat, so that Tokas had to begin rabbit hunting. The wrestling and growing heat of the little creatures made too much commotion for her to think.