Kastiel should have been used to the constant commotion at his town house in Velaris.
There was this one time, when he was much younger, when his uncle brought him to the mountainside.
It had been snowing then, fat frosted flakes, falling on his poked out tongue. He had wanted to stop and play in the snow, but his uncle was taking him to see the sunrise further up the path.
He supposed it was kind of pointless to understand why his uncle would want to bring him to watch the sunrise.
But Kastiel did remember stepping on soft bits of snow, and his uncle trying to drag him playfully behind him so he would keep up. His uncle, laughing at that time, threatened to hoist Kastiel up on his shoulders if he kept on being silly. But Kastiel had been curious then, he wanted to play on the white, almost silver snow.
And just as his small, fat feet padded across a much softer part of snow, it caved in under him. The hole on the ground hadn’t been deep at all, but Kastiel remembered the feel of heavy snow falling on top of him. He remembered seeing silver, then nothing at all. But he felt the cold, all over his body, felt it seep deep in his bones, and he heard his uncle shouting, “stay calm, Kastiel. I’ve got you. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Much like today. He wished he could feel that cold now.
But Kastiel didn’t care about himself. He wanted to shout, “No. Not me, Uncle Cassian. It’s not me that needs saving.”
Seraphine has never known what it feels like to live outside of the dark. Ever since she was a small girl, she wished away the pity of the people’s eyes on her—dreamed away all their well wishes for her transformation to come quickly. But now that Seraphine was ignited from the inside out, she wished so hard that her father was there to control the fire raging in her heart. Seraphine let out a pathetic whimper at the feel of her skin burning, stretching, breaking, and finally falling away to reveal who she really was.
It had been his mother who thought of bringing Seraphine to a room in The House of Wind. “When I used to feel trapped, I would stay here for the openness of the room.” she had told Kastiel. His father murmured an agreement beside him. Now Kastiel sat on the ledge of the room’s window, listening to the sounds of Velaris at night. The Morrigan (his aunt sometimes allows him to call her Mor, but rarely) had healed him earlier, whilst his mother helped to contain Seraphine’s powers. He could hear the music of his people—no worries, no fears. Opposite of how he was feeling now. Where did Seraphine come from? What was she doing here? Those were the questions he should have been asking himself. Yet what he needed and wanted to ask were at war with each other. Kastiel remembers the sight of Seraphine’s face transform from beauty, to breathtakingly devastating. The fire she surrounded herself had stopped, calmed, revealing a stranger’s face—her, but not her from before. He couldn’t stop his lips from forming the words in front of his family. His silver jewel, his phoenix, his m– Kastiel nearly fell off the ledge, his wings fanning out, at the sight of Seraphine perch beside him. “It’s strange,” she whispers, “how the room is so open, yet I don’t feel the cold.” The look Seraphine gave him made his heart stop. Her eyes—turquoise with a ring of gold hadn’t changed when she transformed out of the fire. Yet, everything else had. Her face now freckled and smooth, her figure and mouth fuller, healthier, her ears, high and pointy, and her hair, an impossibly shinny silver. It was almost like spun silk. “It could be,” she says, breaking his thoughts, “my fire.” Unwillingly, he took his eyes away from her, into the mountains ahead. “Kastiel?” He shudders at the sound of his name on her lips—but he doesn’t meet her eyes. “Are you alright?” she asks him gently. “Is Fen?” Kastiel smiles at the thought of Fen. “One of my uncles has grown fond of your wolf. Don’t be surprised if you never get Fen back.” “And you?” Deep breath in—deep breath out. Again and again until Kastiel confesses, “I thought you’d never wake up.” The two sit in silence. “I thought I’d feel different,” he continues. “That it was wrong to want to get closer to someone I’d met once but—” “I feel it too,” she finishes for him. “Kastiel, listen. I wanted to tell you this before, back when we were flying out of the forest, but—” “Things happened.” “Yes, and I had no time to explain. No time to understand the fire I felt in my heart leak out of me, into you and I—” “I didn’t mind.” Seraphine’s laugh ignited Kastiel. “Will you always finish my sentences for me?” “Only if you let me,” he says.
Seraphine was barely holding herself together. She was using all of her strength to stop the fire from leaking out of her. The moment was too peaceful, too beautiful to ruin with her fire. Seraphine needed to learn to control it when her emotions were high—when she was about to make a confession. “I’m not from here,” she finally says. “Seraphine,” Kastiel replies, playfully nudging her shoulder with his wings, “I think I knew that, the moment you fell out of a dark hole in the sky.” Seraphine turned to look at Kastiel. She had wanted to see the emotion in his eyes. If only he would turn his head to look at her. She takes a deep breath. “I am from Erilea, in the country of Terrasen. You don’t know of the place, because it is not of your world.” Seraphine looked down at her hands. They were now longer—slimmer like her Aunt Manon’s. She takes a quick glimpse at Kastiel’s hands. They were much bigger and rougher compared to hers. Seraphine allow her eyes to trail up, past the thick cords of muscle in his arms to a delicate mark of a small full moon. She reaches out to touch where red leaked on the moon, like silver bleeding onto his skin. Kastiel’s hand reaches for her own—his strong, hard body now pressed behind the softer part of hers. If someone had been looking up at them, they would have seen two people—two lovers perhaps—leaning towards each other’s warmth, enjoying the view from the House of Wind. Kastiel takes the palm of her hand and folds it into his. “I want to see you, fire bringer.” She hesitates. “But, I’ll burn you.” “I trust you.” Bold, brave, stupid words, Seraphine thinks, as she let’s the fire unfold in her palm. The sight of his hand under hers, breaks Seraphine’s walls to rubble. “When I was born,” she says, recounting the troubles of her past, “I was ordinary. Nobody knew why my powers were hiding inside of me. My family, my friends, they had so much hope in me. They believed in me, and every day I felt like I was failing them. When I looked in the mirror—I was hiding my own self. So I left to find out why.” Seraphine watches her fire in silence, until she feels wetness appear in Kastiel’s hand seep into hers, turning her fire into mist in the air. With a small smile of wonder, Seraphine looks up towards the endless night sky, her eyes searching for the set of stars that lead to Terrasen. “But now that I’ve gotten my powers, how will I go back home?” “I could help you,” Kastiel offers, her hand still in his. “How?” “I’ll train you—to defend yourself, to fight, to master your powers while my family figures out how to get you back home.” Seraphine simply nodded—she should be happy to go home. Boldly, she asks him, “what are you thinking?” “If I meet your eyes again,” he says, “I’m not sure what I’ll do.”
Tegu body condition, or: but they’re SUPPOSED to have huge cheeks!!1!
Tegu lizards can make fantastic reptile pets for the experienced owner, but because of their stocky build and highly developed pterygoid muscles (those are the jowls you see), it’s often really difficult to assess their body condition. I took these photos at a reptile show recently. The jowls of a tegu are the first thing people see, and that’s usually all that ever gets talked about. Somebody says “he looks fat” and then somebody else says “he’s supposed to have those cheeks,” but friends, let me tell you a secret: tegus store fat in places other than their jowls. So what I’ve done here is taken a couple of pictures that show you some other ways to assess tegu body condition… without using the jowl size alone as an indicator of obesity!
These pictures are of a female. She’s ½ black and white, ¼ red, and ¼ blue. Phenotypically she has a mix of traits- because she was under a red light, it was very hard to get a picture of her showing her true colors, but she does have the blue’s “burnt” nose and seems to have mostly red coloration. She is three years old, she is not gravid, and her breeders had her for sale for one thousand dollars.
The casual observer would probably say something like “dang, that’s a fat lizard!” The well-meaning tegu enthusiast would probably say in response “actually, no, tegus just look like that!” But that’s not true. We shouldn’t be promoting unhealthy animals and spreading misinformation. These pictures are a good example of some hallmarks of bad body condition in a tegu. To show you what those are, I’ve gone through and marked them in these edited versions. This tegu is basking, meaning she’s all spread out to maximize her surface area and soak up the warmth- but even in this position there’s hallmarks of ill health.
1. A hallmark of obesity is the ear being obscured by fat. When a tegu is basking, the jowl rises to cover a little bit of the ear- but when the ear’s completely covered like that, it’s a bad sign.
2. The mouth should close all the way. If the mouth doesn’t close all the way, the owner should know what caused it and have taken appropriate steps to correct it if possible. Obviously for some congenital things, there’s nothing you can really do- and it can frequently be an injury or the scars of a poor diet that you can’t correct. You’ll see that in rescue tegus a lot. But that’s something a responsible owner is on top of! Jaw deformation can occur in the form of a lateral malocclusion (a side-to-side crossbite), an overbite, an underbite, or a droopy lip that’s dragged down by the massive fat pad the animal’s carrying.
3. There shouldn’t be folds of fat over the wrists and elbows. There should be a clear delineation between the upper and lower forelimb, but these should be strong and muscular.
4. This is a very tricky one. Tegus are supposed to have a ridge of skin called the lateral line. When they’re obese, it shrinks and sometimes flattens against the body. However, it will usually flatten against the ribs while basking (that’s what it’s supposed to do, it maximizes surface area to let them take in sunshine) and when gravid. I include it here because the lateral line is something that you might not see on a healthy tegu- you have to consider a lot of factors when looking at an animal! This is especially true for females. If they’re gravid (pregnant), they’re going to be VERY pear-shaped and look really obese around the abdominal area. Tegus can lay up to 70 eggs at a time- of course she’s gonna look bulgy! But this girl? Not pregnant. I asked, and the breeder just kinda stared at me for a second, wondering what kind of clueless halfwit would ask if she was selling a pregnant trihybrid.
Let’s take a look at this gal’s back half.
5. The tail shouldn’t be… for lack of a better word, puffy. A regenerated tail is another story, those can take a number of weird shapes- but this tail is way too fat.
6. There shouldn’t be fat rolls around the limbs. There should be a clear delineation between thigh and calf- there should be an actual joint there- but there shouldn’t be a bulging roll of fat.
7. The feet and toes shouldn’t be swollen. While the front toes- the digging claws- should be fairly stout and strong, the back toes should be slender and long. The foot itself should have a solid appearance and shouldn’t have dimples or rolls of fat going over the toes.
There are many other markers of health that you can see in tegus- some that show good health, some that show poor- and just as many that you can’t see. For a viewer who’s not super familiar with lizard body shapes, a tegu can be very confusing. They’re built for power, not speed or maneuverability. But when you are looking at an animal, these are some of the things that with a little observation, even the most casual observer can look at! Remember, the animal’s a complete being- it’s not just the jowls!