Willow reached the end of the row she was weeding, stood up, and stretched. She looked across the river to the west and squinted at the advancing clouds that had blocked the late afternoon sun before it could settle behind the forest. A storm, definitely, though at this range she still could not tell if the advancing clouds signaled a natural storm or something more sinister. She decided she had time to weed at least one more row and turned to her task.
She hoped that it would just be rain; any sane person would, of course. She wasted a happy moment at the thought of standing in the cold rain and letting it run over her, and of pulling a comb through her hair as the water poured through it. "I ought to hate rain," she thought, but knew better. Nature's rain had not burned rivulets of scar tissue into her skin; the Dragon's rain had done that.
She finished another row and looked across the river to gauge the progress of the storm. There was still time for at least one more row, and she was still unsure if nature or dragons drove the storm. Willow dropped her gaze from sky to forest, and sighed sadly. If only...
If only what? All of her life, those woods had meant freedom to Willow, freedom from a life where no one valued her as anything other than a field hand and a joke topic. She was known as the tallest man, the ugliest man, and the hardest-working man in the village, that she was not a man at all not withstanding. Across the river (assuming she could make the swim, which was doubtful) there were no chores, no villagers, no Haskalad overseers... no certain food, and no shelter. But there was freedom.
Another row finished, Willow stood to check the progress of the storm and gasped in horror. The storm front was galloping across the river in red and blue draconic fury at the speed of a fast horse. Willow wasted a quick glance toward the village--impossible minutes away even at a dead run-and charged straight into the storm. If she could submerge herself in the river, she might avoid the worst of the storm's hostile magic. She closed her eyes as she hit the storm front, hoping that the rain would not be too hostile. Dragon's rain could be anything: boiling hot, freezing cold, acidic, mud laden; it almost always carried the magical disease called the Tox.
She had one foot on the riverbank when the lightning struck her, and then she was in the water and impossibly tangled in her clothing and her limbs didn't seem to be working properly. Her face broke the surface, and she watched herself gulp air through the long snout...
She had been transformed into a wolf! She was a shapeshifter! Willow took a deep breath and allowed herself to sink while she tore free of the remains of her clothing, an easy task now that she knew what limbs she was working with. That done, she returned to the surface and swam resolutely toward the west bank of the river, and freedom.