Zizny lowered its whole body into a crouch, until just its eyes and nostrils were regarding me over the wall. “You’re telling me,” it rumbled, “that your mother’s family are dwimors, and that, as well, that they are poachers.”
I could not meet its eyes at once – its head was simply too big. So I settled for looking it in one eye – and was suddenly thrown by the pronoun I was using to think about this creature, this person, my neighbor. “I’m sorry,” I asked abruptly. “You used ‘cx’za’ as, I believe, a pronoun for Jimmy. What pronoun is appropriate for you?”
The large head lifted, and Zizny showed me more teeth (very clean teeth; the ogres had had horrible dental hygiene) than it-she-Zizney had ever revealed to me before. “You are asking about appropriate grammar?”
“Well,” I shrugged uncomfortably. It would be very nice, right now, to back up, rub away, something. To put more distance between myself and this rather-irritated-seeming dragon. But Zizny was my neighbor. “I’m a student of the relations between the races,” I explained nervously.
“Academic curiosity, then?”
“Not at all! It’s really not academic to want to be polite to other people, is it?” For a moment, my pride was pricked, and I forgot to be nervous. “It’s not some scholarly study when these are the people you deal with every day!”
“‘People.'” Zizny settled back down. “For a grown adult dragon, the pronoun is ‘thez.’ But I do not object to you using ‘she’ for me and ‘he’ for Cthaiden. We have taken on those roles here, after all.”
“Aah.” I smiled ruefully at thez. “Thank you. It seems proper to use, well, the proper terms. It makes me feel more comfortable.” I took a long breath. “And it’s not a comfortable subject, Zizny. I can’t do anything about my grandparents and their family. I can’t do anything about their actions. Because, yes, they were poachers, hunters, and, I’m afraid, probably still are.”
Thez pinned me with a long gaze. “You are angry.”
“I am angry,” I agreed, “and Mortified.”
“I’m mortified that I have family that are… bigots. Worse than bigots. Relatively horrible people. And I’m angry about that, too.”
“And at the perceived assumption that you are like them.”
“And at that,” I agreed, very quietly.
“Anyone who would assume that, Audrey, has obviously not met you.” Thez set a finger on top of the wall, the claw curled around the stones. “If you were, indeed, a ‘monster hunter,’ you would be the most stealthy, hidden one ever. You have friends, as I have seen, with every race you have encountered.”
“Well, some people make it very hard to be their friends. But I do have a question for you.”
It tapped me on the shoulder very gently with a claw. “You call your family ‘self-hating.’ And you call them dwimors. You, I believe, are a dwimor?”
“I am,” I agreed. “We are.”
“Do you not risk, yourself, becoming a ‘self-hating dwimor,’ with the hatred and anger you are evidencing?”
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