Mind-ridden. The felines were watching, serving as the eyes of the serpen.
Aerdin turned his head and looked up at Renji, a slow, incremental shift. "You see them?"
"Waste, medicus. Why aren't you umbras."
Because it would be impossible to resist the urge, to hide what he was.
Renji just shrugged.
"Half my new trainees wouldn't be able to see their hand in front of their face at night like this."
"And the other half?"
Aerdin straightened, standing in one smooth move.
Watching the man move made his idolon yearn to run. Been so long since he was in the company of someone who had an affinity anything like his.
"The other half can't see it during the day." He glanced back, offering a lopsided half-grin that creased the corner of his eye, as though only the left side of his face were capable of expression.
A glimpse of his teeth, and Renji couldn't help returning the spurt of amusement before turning to watch the nearest feline. Stretched out on its stomach in the dust, a scant thirty feet from where they stood. It flicked an ear their way, looked past them at the cook fire and licked its jaw, yawning.
He'd never tasted blood on his fangs, not even back home running patrols to keep the onusodio off the grazers. But he wanted, right then. And he would have, too. Would have pulled and shifted, torn out the throat of every last one, thick metallic hot sticky tang on his tongue.
If it wouldn't have meant exposing what he was.
To the serpen.
And to Aerdin.