She woke to find a trembling body next to hers. Before Akazha opened her eyes she sniffed the air and focused on the pressures on her skin, taking in the situation. Her body was back to its humanoid shape, her fingers still feeling twitchy where the claws had slipped away. She felt no metal on her, no hawthorn or rowan. They hadn’t chained her down while she was comatose, then.
The ground beneath her was hard and cold. Something soft covered her from her feet to the shoulder — a blanket? Her clothes would have torn in the shifting, they always did. The teddy bear was still pressed under her hand, and there was not one but two bodies, a small one in front of her and a larger one behind her. The larger one was trembling.
Akazha let out a sigh and opened her eyes. A toddler lay pressed against her, looking out at the world. Not far away, she could see chair legs and booted feet. Behind her, the trembling body shook more.
“Well.” She recognized the voice of the town’s mayor. “You’re awake, and the citizenry of the town has declared that we cannot kill you. So… having ‘rescued’ us, what do you want?”
“Food.” The answer was out of Akazha’s mouth before she could recognize the tension in the mayor’s voice or pick a suitable, safe answer. “Food, please.”
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