“Why did you decide to go with the whole… ah… half-humanoid theme?” The faun-showing had been enough to get Capri in the second gate, as a temporary member of the Refuge. The walls looked sound, and the people inside – none Masked, so Capri, pants back up, also stayed sans Mask – seemed relaxed, so it was possible that either the Fomoire hadn’t made it this far south, or they just couldn’t get into the refuge. For the moment, Capri was safe.
Even more of a relief, the giraffe-taur at the gate hadn’t cared what else Capri had under the pants, as long as the legs were – as they were – animal. Capri had gotten a bracelet that was supposed to be a gate-pass, and then the ’taur had called over an Urmahlullu, Holly, to act as tour guide.
The parts of Holly that were human – her torso, her arms, and her head – were beautiful, with olive-brown skin and long black hair. The rest of her, the lioness body and legs, was… very differently beautiful.
Not like Capri could talk, not with the lower half of a goat. “I mean… I’m not sure who decided, but I guess the sign at the door is pretty clear.”
Holly twisted her whole human torso to look at him, while the lion legs kept walking forward. “Have you lived among humans?”
“Yeah? Of course?” Capri found that slowing was inevitable. Something in the brain couldn’t cope with someone going two directions at once.
“Then you understand how cruel they can be.”
“I… yes.” Capri had encountered cruel humans, although generally the half-goat-half-human part had not been their first target.
“You have lived among purebreeds?”
“What, me?” Capri swallowed a laugh. “Just ’cause they think the fauns and satyrs are descended from the Daeva doesn’t mean they want to be our friend.”
“Then you definitely understand how cruel they can be.”
“There are other half-breeds, though…” Capri could already see where this was going.
“And they, too, have their cruel moments. Or would you tell me that they do not?”
“No, no. I haven’t met any group yet that isn’t sometimes cruel.” Capri thought fast. “And especially ’taurs, it’s got to be tricky getting people to understand.” I skid on linoleum, thanks had been hard enough for Capri to thump into people’s heads.
“So here we are.” Holly gestured around the complex. “A place where being half-human, half-beast, and entirely Ellehemaei is understood. Cabins that are built to accommodate us. A no-taunting rule strictly enforced. Meal schedules that allow for issues such as four stomachs or a hibernatory pattern. This is a refuge.” She sounded so beatific, Capri expected to see a halo over her head. “And we can truly be safe and protected here.”
“From, ah, things like the monste-”
“We don’t use that word here.”
“Of course not. Things like the – can I say Nedetakaei?” If that one was out, Capri better think about running, and hoping ’taurs couldn’t run faster than fauns.
“Nedetakaei, then, the creations the returned gods left behind, human hunters…”
The look the Urmahlullu was giving Capri was… worrisome. “We’re safe here.” Something about the way she said it rang of finality.
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