Vajra Chandrasekera lives in Sri Lanka but prefers to write in English. His speculative poetry has won him a Rhysling Award.
That was the day she first tried putting her paws aside for hands. Father didn’t like that, either, he sighed from his corner of the burrow. His glade magic was strong, but unlike hers. He could not change. Or perhaps he just refused to.
“The glade magic is a curse for sons,” Father would say. “Only for sons, my daughter.”
She didn’t understand why he called it a curse when it was so powerful. He made weather mild, food plentiful: voles, squirrels, even hares. She had just cracked a lizard open, noisily slurping it, when she smelled Tien approaching.
He was not the first treasure hunter to find the glade. Anyone except Jack could enter or leave. But Father’s magic hid the treasure from strangers, and kept them from bringing harm to the glade. She had no fear of him.
But Tien wasn’t interested in treasure. He offered Jack cooked meat from his pack. She tore into the richness of it, overwhelmed by the spices. Tien stroked her neck and her ears flattened in pleasure.
“Stay away from him,” Father told her later, but he always said that. “The last human who was my friend was a king. He got me stuck here looking after his shitty shiny rocks for a thousand seasons. Why do you think I refuse to make sons?”
Jack rolled her eyes. The glade magic let him hold back monsoons and blow out forest fires. It was a gift, not a curse.