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The Elvenbane

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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Quick now, before they change back –

He took his bits of skin and lacing and threaded the long, sinewy bits through the holes he had made, lacing the pieces at the side and shoulders so that he had a kind of crude tunic he could pull over Shana’s head. He knotted the lacings securely, thinking that it wasn’t pretty, but it was going to do the job.

Already his hands were wavering back into claws. Before they had a chance to sprout talons again, he picked up Shana, her head lolling on her weak little neck, and slipped the garment over her.

The talons started to grow again just as he put her down on the straw beside Hoppy. The two-horn nuzzled Shana’s new ‘skin’ curiously, but finding the scent familiar, paid no more heed to it. Keman sat back on his haunches as his foreclaws returned to normal, and admired his handiwork with pardonable pride.

The crude garment covered the child from neck to knee, but was open on the sides to her waist, so that Hoppy would be able to keep her clean. Shana herself seemed to appreciate the new protection. There had been an undertone of discomfort to her formless little baby-thoughts because of the prickly straw; now that edge of discomfort was gone, and she was completely content.

And so was he.

Keman moved out into the pen, spread his wings to the sun, and stretched out in the dust for his own sunbath. He ‘listened’ to Shana’s soft little mental murmurs, images and feelings, tastes of milk, the comfort of warmth on her skin, and a glow of general well-being.

They ‘sounded’ a lot like his new sister’s thoughts; nebulous, but nevertheless intelligent. Every day she was learning new things, making new connections, just like his little sister. That showed in her thought-forms, and her mind ‘sounded’ utterly unlike, for instance, Hoppy’s kid.

He had to wonder if maybe his mother had made a mistake. Maybe Shana’s mother was really one of the Kin, only she was stuck in a two-legger shape when his mother found her.

The more he thought about it, the more logical it seemed. It was an awfully good explanation for why her thoughts were nothing like animal-thoughts.

But if that was true, why wouldn’t Shana’s mother have said or done something to show Mother she was Kin?

He closed his eyes and put his head down on his forearms again. It was all very perplexing. He frowned with concentration, eased a cramp in his leg, and scratched idly at his wrist, trying to work the puzzle out.

Maybe she had gotten stuck in that shape, then got hurt, and she forgot she was Kin. And if she had been shifted for long, the baby would have been shifted with her, otherwise there wouldn’t have been any room for the baby!

He nodded to himself; it all made excellent sense.

That meant there was something else he could do, once Shana was older, something that would give her back her proper heritage. Once he learned how to shift right, he could teach Shana, and then she could shift back into Kinshape and everything would be all right!

And then everyone would know Keman was really smart to have figured all that out. He preened a little, thinking about the surprise of the adults, and how that would make them realize that Keman was as smart as his mother. Then they’d let him train as a shaman and join the Thunder Dance before any of the other youngsters!

That must have been why Father Dragon told-him to take care of the baby. The eldest shaman had guessed, but no one else had.

Keman decided to keep his discovery a secret, not even telling his mother. After all, she’d said that Shana was going to be able to study along with Keman; it wasn’t going to hurt anything to let her grow up for a while as a two-legger. And that would make the surprise all the better when he taught her to shift back to her real form.

He heard a little cry, and the baby-thoughts took on a tone of demand. He opened his eyes a moment and watched the baby with her foster mother, as the infant groped after a teat and began to suckle. He smiled fondly at her. After the past few weeks, he could hardly imagine life without her.

Keman dangled the strung gem over Shana’s head, and the baby made a grab for the bright object. Shana was growing much faster than his sister, Keman decided. She was smarter, too. Myre just wanted to eat all the time; Shana wanted to play.

He was certain of that, as certain as he was of his own name. His sibling had gotten the name Myrenateli on her Naming-Day; the name meant ‘Seeker of Wisdom,’ which Keman thought was not terribly appropriate, since the only thing Myre ever sought was the next meal. Between meals she curled up in the warmest place in her nest, sleeping, oblivious to everything around her. She wasn’t curious, she wasn’t alert, she wasn’t much more than an ever-hungry mouth.

Naming-Day was supposed to mark the day when a dragonet took on the attributes and personality she’d have as an adult. Right now Keman hadn’t seen anything to show that supposed change had taken place.

Unless she’s going to be just as greedy and lazy as a grown-up as she is now.

Shana, on the other hand, exhibited a lively curiosity about everything that went on around her. She was crawling now, and it was a good thing that dragon-hide was impervious to everything except dragon-talons, or Shana’s clothing would have been in shreds by now.

Keman’s sister was a very demanding child, and what time Alara had to spare was occupied with her shamanic duties. She hadn’t much more than a moment or two to give to the foundling.

So it was Keman who worried about training the child, and saw with relief that Hoppy was housebreaking the little tot, by nudging her over to the ‘proper’ place in the pen when she was ambulatory. She crawled very well, now, which was aiding Hoppy’s efforts.

And it was Keman, not Alara, who was teaching her to talk, as well as to eat solid food.

That much surprised even his mother. Shana was not supposed
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