Snippet from The Edge of Worlds
Moon climbed in through the window and dropped to the floor. He shifted to groundling; though Delin had never been afraid of Raksuran scales and claws, it seemed more polite in this confined space. In soft-skinned groundling form, Moon was tall and slender, with bronze skin, dark hair, and green eyes. His clothes were simple brown pants and shirt, dirty now that the mud and moss that had been on his scales had transferred to the cloth, and the only jewelry he wore was his red-gold consort's bracelet. The ability to make the shift and take objects with you from one form to the other was something fledglings learned very young; Moon had been lucky his foster mother Sorrow had taught him before she died.
The other reason for shifting was the number of groundling species who resembled some version of this form, though with varying colors, shapes, and textures. If someone else stepped into the cabin unexpectedly, Moon would pass for an ordinary groundling, and cause a moment of confusion that might buy him time to escape, rather than immediate terror and screams for help. Moon said, "Delin, did these people steal you?"
"Not exactly." Delin patted his arm. "But I am happy to see a friendly face."
The cabin was small but high-ceilinged, and the heavy rafters that supported the deck above crossed it lengthwise. They looked like the stems or stalks of a large plant. There was a bed space built into one wall and a basin for water, and various shelves for belongings, though Delin didn't seem to have brought many. There was only a small pack and a basket, and not much in the way of paper and writing materials. Knowing how many books Delin normally traveled with on his own wind-ship, that in itself was suspicious. The door was fan-folded, light enough that Delin could probably have battered through it. But this was a flying boat and there was nowhere for a groundling to escape to.
"How do you mean 'not exactly?'" Moon asked. Delin looked the same, though it had been more than two turns since Moon had seen him. He was elderly for a Yellow Sea groundling and his gold skin was weathered by turns of wind-ship travel, but he smelled like he was in good health. He wore the kind of clothes Golden Islanders usually wore on their ships or for outdoor work: a loose shirt and pants cut off at the knee, of a light fabric.
"The story is long and somewhat fraught." Delin sat down on the bed and Moon crouched on the floor. "The thing you must know immediately is that these people are of Kish-Jandera, one of the coastal territories of the Imperial Kish. They wish to find the Indigo Cloud court. I have said I would tell them the way, but after we entered the Reaches, I have willfully misremembered the route for these past few days, in the hope that I could warn you first."
"All right." If this was anybody but Delin, it would have been alarming and suspicious. It still was, but Moon had seen Delin navigate his way through some tricky situations. "Why do they want to talk to Raksura?"
"Not just Raksura, but you in particular."
A faint sound outside the door warned him, a footstep on the cork floor. Moon shifted and leapt for the ceiling, sinking his claws into the moss, curling his body up along one of the big stems that supported the structure. The door rattled and a voice said, "Delin?"
Delin stood and faced the door. "Yes?"
The folding door was pushed open and a groundling stepped through, passed under Moon as it crossed the cabin toward Delin.
The groundling was about Moon's height, with a dark cap of short, tightly curled hair and reddish brown skin that was rough and almost pebbly; it wasn't scaled, but it looked thick and tough. He was probably male. He wore a loose jacket of red-brown with figured designs in dull gold, open at the chest, and tight pants that went to the knees, with knee-high sandals with elaborately wrapped straps. The materials looked rich and carefully worked.
Moon dropped lightly to the deck, and shifted back to his groundling form by the time his bare feet touched the floorboards. He pushed the door shut.
The figure turned and fell back a startled step. His dark eyes opened wide, revealing a second lower eyelid.
Behind him, Delin said, "He is Moon of Indigo Cloud, a consort of the Raksura. So be very careful what you say and do."