Worry and irritation mingled in Sylvie's mind. Ayu-Asra, the two-headed pet dragon she could not get rid of, had gotten her thrown out of an inn, and she had really looked forward to not having to sleep outside.
Not that she could blame the landlord. A glance at the animal trailing her by alternately running along the top of the fence next to the street and gliding a short distance showed her that its chest was still glowing faintly. Maybe she should have claimed this was normal and harmless, rather than admitting he had never done that before. The dragon didn't seem bothered, so maybe it was harmless, but what could it be? He was able to breathe fire, so maybe something going wrong there? Trying to remember if she'd ever heard of a dragon overheating and exploding, Sylvie flinched as Ayu-Asra whistled shrilly and veered off towards an orchard.
After a furtive look around, Sylvie followed to see what had him so excited, or what damage she would have to apologise for.
She found him chasing insects, his heads occasionally fighting each other for the fattest bugs.
Luminous fluid sprayed from the fat glow-worm corpses.
Nico had the vague impression that the impact crater was too small for the body that had caused it. She also had the distinct impression that the molten mass at the bottom, deep iridescent green like beetle wings, was not a meteorite, particularly when it started moving.
It flowed together and rose, like a slime mold attempting to take on a humanoid form.
A psychic message flooded Nico's mind, which put it in words as "Fear not!"
After a moment's pause, she answered, "If you're going to tell me I'm pregnant, there will be trouble."
Light played on the iridescent feathers of the Kingfisher mask. The huge, dark glass eyes looked strange. An enticing danger, a challenge. Or mockery?
Nico shook her head and looked around her room. It was small, the mask was bulky, and she was foolish for not re-selling it. Though she wasn't so short on either cash or space she couldn't afford a bit of sentimentality. That was all there was to it. Right?
There were people in town she could consult to find out if the mask was enchanted or haunted. But quite apart from the cost, she didn't want to. She was quite sure the feeling of being someone slightly different when wearing it was all in her head. It was the same in other situations where she had to, or wanted to, pretend.
And if she was wrong? Well, it would be rude poking into the mind of anything with a personality, particularly if you liked him. It. Whatever.
That was a better reason than, I like the little thrill of this doubt.
Elsa knew from experience that drowning in a storm wasn't pleasant, but she couldn't do anything to save the crew of the latest shipwreck. She had tried to warn them, but instead of listening, they had panicked. So, she sat on a rock that was mostly higher than the waves, and, rain falling through her, sulked.
Maybe someone would survive. Maybe at least a couple of rats. Or someone else would stick around after death. That kind of company would last longest.
Caor decided that as sorry sights went, a wet phoenix ranked pretty high. The specimen on his windowsill was soaked so badly its feathers had turned black, and puffed up to wait out the rain. The metal capsule on one long leg identified it as a messenger bird, and the fact that it had been employed during the rainy season identified its owner as someone with more pride than sense.
After spilling a handful of grains next to his uninvited guest, Caor went to the serious business of speculating who might have sent this bird to whom, and what it might be carrying. Deciding that it might be profitable to know, he caught the bird - who twisted its neck to continue eating, must have been underway a while - and removed the capsule. Deciding that trapping the bird in a basket was a bad idea, since, once dry, it might set the reed on fire to escape, he turned his full attention to the scroll. It was blank on both sides. Puzzling.
It could be an error. Or a very, very bad sign.
Caor put it back exactly as he thought it had been and performed a simple ritual that he hoped would erase any soul-trace of him opening the capsule.
The phoenix, now fuller and more happily tired, nipped him in protest about being grabbed again, but the capsule went back without issue. He left the bird to fluff up and preen indignantly. It showed some bright, dry down between the still dark contour feathers.
Caor left it alone as it steamed and slowly turned orange, and hoped the rain would end soon.