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“You truly don’t eat meat at all?” Zane couldn’t believe of all the things to ask, he’d asked Danica that. She’d explained the reasons for the ban on cooked meat in the Tuuli Thea’s Keep only days ago, and now that they were there once again, he couldn’t help but remember it upon seeing the once more meatless spread for dinner.

Danica blinked up at him with puzzled golden eyes.

“You said your cooks don’t prepare any meat dishes.” He clarified.

“No?” She responded hesitantly. The confusion on his face must have been obvious, for she quickly continued. “Oh... I’d wondered if the abundance of cooked meat dishes truly was a difference between us.” She murmured. “It seems so.”

Zane made an impatient gesture, and she allowed a small smile to touch her eyes. “My great grandmother truly did despise the scent of cooked meat, yes. In this, she had more in common with a hawk than a human, and I’ve inherited her tastes.” Zane cocked an eyebrow. Her smile widened slightly. “The important bit in that sentence is cooked. It’s true that hawks eat meat. Raw.”

Zane stared. “What?”

Danica nodded, eyes suddenly bright. “Hawks are predatory birds, and as someone descended from them, I do like meat. We even need it, to an extent, but most of us find the taste of cooked meat to be... off in a way that is most unsettling. Raw meat, on the other hand, is exquisite.” Her eyes drifted for a moment, before returning to his. It was still a pleasure every time she ignored the ingrained fear of all avians and met his eyes, but for now his shock was too great to enjoy it.

“It’s considered quite a delicacy, and a treat, since keeping the fresh cuts from spoiling can be challenging.” Her smile was still small, but fond. “You missed my birthday, or else you would have known. It’s always served for important occasions, and they always have a great spread for my birthday, since the cooks know it’s one of my favorites.”

Zane blinked, stunned. “You... like raw meat?” The avians had always seemed to be far too civilized, and to find out that they openly enjoyed something even most serpiente considered somewhat barbaric was...strange.

Danica nodded happily. “There’s nothing quite like it.” She said, seemingly missing his discomfort. Then her eyes returned to his. “I actually thought perhaps the serpiente would be the same. You descend from predators as well, after all. It wasn’t until I dined with you the first time and you didn’t have any, despite it being a grand occasion that I thought differently.” Zane shook his head slowly.

“I’ve never heard of a serpiente eating raw meat before.” He responded.

“Oh.” Danica blinked, and then sighed. “Pity. I was looking forward to the next feast at the Keep. They always find the juiciest cows to serve, and I thought perhaps you would enjoy getting a taste of the finest avian cuisine.” Zane fought to keep the nausea from his face, but knew from her face he had not succeeded.

“I’ve unsettled you.” She observed quietly. Zane shrugged.

“I suppose I just never thought of it. We are, after all, more human than not, and humans cannot eat meat raw without becoming ill.” He explained, and then paused. “Eleanor never mentioned it, either.”

Danica blinked, before allowing amusement to glimmer in golden hawk eyes. “Well, of course she wouldn’t have. Eleanor is a sparrow.” He raised an eyebrow. “Sparrows may enjoy cooked meat as many humans do, but I’m afraid the stomach for raw meat is only found in those descended from predators. It’s the other reason we don’t serve it all the time- alienating part of the court over food choice is foolish.”

Zane nodded slowly. “I suppose that makes sense.” He said, more for something to say than any real understanding. Raw meat. The predatory avians ate raw meat without even a bat of an eyelash. Danica smiled suddenly, a flicker of sunlight breaking through her reserve’s clouds.

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen you so unsettled.” She observed. “Funny, the things we think we know about people.”

Zane had to agree to that.