The two children looked at one another, then back to the small creature in the bundle of cloths on the doorstep.
“I think it’s a...baby.”
“A baby what?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen one before!”
The creature made a wordless vocalisation, and it’s skin turned a light shade of blue.
“Shh! Don’t speak like that. You’re upsetting it.”
Tomas reached out a finger, and stroked the creature’s forehead gently. Emanating out from the point of contact, the skin morphed to a warm shade of pink.
“What’d you do?” hissed Fara, “You turned it pink! Is that what colour it’s meant to be?!”
“Let’s get it inside from the cold,” said Tomas, reaching down and picking up the bundle carefully. The two children carried it back inside the house.
“Maybe it’s from Scale. They’re all different colours over there.”
“It’s soft though. No scales.”
“Maybe the scales grow later?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve seen Vazir’s brother, he has scales already.”
Fara mused. “I don’t know then. What are we going to do with it?”
“Well if the Matron finds it, it’s as good as dead, so we’d better keep it safe,” said Tomas.
A booming voice came from behind them, further down the hallway. “If the Matron finds what, Master Evans?! Hmm?” Matron Magdalen strode into view. There was nowhere to hide it.
“Nothing, miss, we were just—”
“Let me see that,” said the woman. She was young, maybe in her 30s, but she had a commanding voice well beyond her years. She grasped the bundle in Tomas’ hand, and tried to wrest it from him.
“No! Leave it alone—”
The Matron held the bundle aloft, regarding the strange creature in the light. It’s pink skin was beginning to turn dark. “What have we here, hmm?”
“It was on the doorstep, please, Matron, please don’t hurt it! Me and Tomas can look after it, p—” Fara blurted. Her outburst was interrupted by a swift crack from the Matron, and she whimpered. The Matron looked down from the bundle, oblivious to the change. Tomas watched with wide eyes.
“It will be dealt with as appropriate, Miss Hall, and as I see fit. Do not speak out of turn to me again,” the woman said.
“Y-yes, miss,” said Fara, “I’m sorry, miss.”
The Matron returned her gaze to the bundle, then her eyes widened. The creature had turned a dark shade of red, and it’s eyes had filled with star-peppered blackness. They widened, and began to glow, and there was a scream as the Matron dissolved into a puddle of red liquid on the floor. Tomas caught the bundle as it fell, now returned to a soft pink colour.
Tomas and Fara looked at one another, wide eyed.