We moved almost constantly, skulking through the night, watching the sky, our backs, and for anyone who might have followed us instead of scrambling for the glittering coins that Grif had scattered. I was still shocked she’d given up any treasure.
“Bah. Mere trifles, barely worth the metal they were struck on.” She waved away my shock. “I found a whole bag of them. Probably what she gave her staff on holidays.”
I licked my lips. “Still. Did you find the diamonds?” I asked.
“No, but I’m sure it’s in one of the bags we grabbed. I don’t have that itchy feeling.”
Well, that was a good sign. I sighed in relief and licked my lips.
Grif eyed me in the growing daylight. “Why do you keep doing that?”
“What?” I blinked, not sure what I was supposed to be doing. Mostly I was walking around, exhausted. I’d stayed female, but became shorter and stouter, my face rounded and cheeks pudged up to narrow my eyes.
“Lick your lips.”
“He always does that as a female. I think it’s their hormones. Makes him crazy.” Londe was resting with one back leg cocked, shaking the hoof periodically as his tail swished restlessly.
“What? No I don’t! I mean, I’m not crazy. I change my body, not who I am. It’s not like I’m really a woman inside.” They didn’t need to know anything else. “I’m not even a human, people, remember?” Much less a woman. It hurt, aching deep inside myself, to have to remind them of that.
“Did I hurt your feelings?” Londe asked. “I didn’t mean to do that.” He stepped close, draping his head over my shoulder and nudging me with his warm cheek.
“You didn’t,” I said as gruffly as possible. “My feet just hurt, and I’m tired. And hungry. I want out of this damn city.” We’d hid in the Being sections whenever possible, but there were enough humans here that my skin itched. “You have an idea for that, Grif?”
They let me change the subject.
“We walk right out.” Grif rummaged around in her ruff, pulling out a leather bag tied with a black cord. “Invisibility powder, right here.”
“What?” Lorde scoffed. “That doesn’t exist.” He paused, chomping his teeth a few times. “Does it?” he asked me quietly.
Grif cawed out a raucous laugh, way too loud for the hour and the corner of the city we were trying to hide in.
“Shh,” I frantically hushed her. “And, no, it doesn’t. What the devils have you got there, Grif?”
“Oh, just a little Toranian dervish powder. There will be such a commotion going on that we won’t be noticed sneaking out.”
Grif’s prediction was true, though it was a struggle getting her out of the gates when the two nobles who were coming in tangled with a merchant who couldn’t stop jerking and spinning. The resulting spill of goods into the road left many sparklies about for grasping fingers.
And we finally made it to a safe place outside of the city, and the hollow that sheltered us also meant no risk of prying eyes. I didn’t care about Londe and Grif’s, though, and I wasted no time stripping, dropping every bag in a pile at my feet, and ridding myself of both the feminine clothes and form.
The loss of the fangs was the biggest relief. I’d pricked my lips so many times I’d had to keep licking them to heal the wounds, but I’d had to shed the teeth and growing new ones would take a few hours. Embarrassing, but I’d just keep my mouth shut as much as possible.
I hated the oddities that came with being able to shift form, but when I’d had my horn removed and stolen, I’d lost my unicorn form. Only the shapeshifter magic gifted to me allowed me to change. If I could ever find a mage strong enough, I hoped to pair the shapeshifting magic and my horn to regain my true form.
Until then, I remained a Being unique in the world. The only anchors I had were Londe and the babies. Someone had stolen them, and I would get them back. Then I’d return to my quest to become whole again.
Plunking down on the cold ground, I shivered. Londe grunted, but he folded his knees and sank down behind me, providing an additional block to the wind and a backrest.
“We’ll split the bags, other than the red diamonds. You have majority share,” I said. Grif was nearly shivering in delight, or maybe cold. She’d already dropped her bags on the same pile.
“Sure, sure, yes, yes, whatever. Sparklies!” she crowed. She started opening things at a frantic rate, spilling out coins and gems.
“Careful,” Londe snapped. “We can’t afford to lose a single diamond.”
Grif scoffed, and the two were off, sniping at each other. I think it was to take Londe’s mind off the fear we hadn’t gotten the diamonds; Grif was just bitchy.
The fourth bag I loosened and spilled into my hand sent a cascade of bright red gemstones to pool in my palm. “Oh thank the spirits!” We had found them. I’d begun to doubt as Grif hurried through the bags.
She scampered around me. “Diamonds, diamonds, small and shiny. Came right out of Earth’s tight hiny.” She cackled and cawed.
“Oh do shut up for once in your life, you shrill harpy!” Londe sniffed. He was pretending like he wasn’t crying in relief, but I wasn’t fooled. Had he really been that afraid that we wouldn’t succeed?
Of course we would; I wouldn’t let anyone keep the babies. Those young were as good as traded back into our arms.
“Shrill? Pfft.” Grif made a gesture with one wing and her beak that was extremely rude. Her breasts heaved, the cloth she’d donned in camp barely covering them. She started separating out bags. “Coins for you, must better. Shiny blues and silvery grays for me… yes, yes,” Grif hummed happily.
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