She chose the house for its windows.

More specifically, for its single window, which was positioned like a staring eye beside its entrance. It was cracked open enough for her to slide her tail in- and just possibly nudge open the door beneath it.

“How do you know there are even any eggs?” Joh said.

“Look at the yard,” she said. “See all the little mounds of sand? The mairo’s been practicing nests.”

“Oh.”

“She’s excited for a child,” Isela said. “But she can lay another. Quick, give me a boost.” With his dry hands supporting her left foot, Isela braced the other on a ledge.  She threaded her tail up through the window and thanked Phado for the shadows of the evening. Joh was more compromised than she. If anyone saw them she would easily be able to outrun him. Although she would never leave Joh behind.

Would she? She'd never taken the life of an innocent before. Perhaps it would change her.

The exterior corners of the window rubbed uncomfortably against her skin as she stretched her tail down, down to the handle beneath it. It was amazing how heavy a tail became when you needed to keep it aloft and silent. Finally her flesh caught the latch. She pressed, felt it give.

The latch turned.  The door opened.

“Got it.”

“Okay,” he whispered. He let her down, trying to disguise the difficulty of his breathing. She hugged him quickly and darted inside, closing the door behind her.

It was hot. The house was empty; no art, no plantlife, no pets, nothing. Just the naked architecture of the house. A winding staircase. A climbing wall. Some furniture built into the dividers between the rooms. There was a table, a sling, nothing more. Except for a sleeping Phyrnosian.

A female. She was large, her skin studded with growths. She breathed heavily, her lips clapping loudly with every exhale. The entire house was filled with her breathing.

Quietly, quietly, Isela climbed the wall. The nursery was on the second floor as she knew it would be. They always were.

There, in the center of the room, was a dust pile, large and carefully made. Within it were three eggs.

She took the smallest and went back down the wall, her body throbbing with excitement. Shadows slid across the floor. The suns were setting.

The big mairo slept on. Emboldened, Isela drew closer. Somehow she needed to see the mairo’s face. She needed to know who she was stealing from. She held the egg more tightly, as if to prevent herself from changing her mind and returning it.  Her toenails clicked on the hard floor.

The sleeper woke, her eyes groggy, unfocused. “Bu-o?” she said. “Are you home?”

She sat, saw Isela and grunted, confused.

Isela spun on her tail and ran. Closed the door, leapt up into the vines onto one side of the house, just as the big mairo bulldozed into the dirtyard, screaming. A cloud of dust followed her.

“Thief!” she said. “Thief! She’s stolen my baby!”

Joh trembled on the other side of the house. Isela tapped him from above. "Quick!” They ran from the yard and then slowed to walk casually to the gates of Phayara, where the guards, smiling blissfully, simply let them pass.

Isela kissed the egg. Its shell was soft and pliable. The baby inside was ready to hatch; perhaps it would have hatched tomorrow. Perhaps it would have hatched tonight.  No one would ever know.

Isela held it above her head and cracked it open. The liquid ran down her body, warm and dark.

“In the name of Phado,” she said, “this is the end of Phyrnos.”

Joh watched silently. She rubbed herself with sand, scrubbing away the egg-matter until her scales were burnished, glittershot in the fading light of the desert. He stared, remembering the song the human girl had sung to him. He wished the girl were here now to sing it again.

He looked out at the desert. There was something wild and strange always about the desert. As if it were waiting. Waiting for what, he could never decide. He watched Isela's silhouette as she stood on one foot working sand into her scales. Puffs of it blew behind her in the wind. He thought of the way she used to stand like that when she was young: on one leg, imitating the way the priests worked to create a breath-body.

“Come, Joh,” she said. “I need to buy a white skin.”

He nodded numbly.

Although white Krystacs were less common, they had no trouble finding one. Joh knew the market well. And so, the both of them wrapped in white and glistening from nose to claw, they went to temple, and were let in.

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