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A New Era Hatches

rhombus

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Fanfiction link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11964771/44/Mender-s-Tale

The following is a bonus scene of sorts from Menders Tale, which Historian1912 and I did not feature in the story itself for pacing reasons, but we think it works as both a bonus scene or as a standalone story.  Though readers of Mender's Tale will have added context for this scene, I think it works as a slice of life story and prompt response.  In any case, I hope that you enjoy!

This story is a response to the following requested prompt:  "Imprinting is an amazing thing.  In many species, a new hatchling will form a permanent emotional connection with the first thing it sees upon escaping from its egg. Write a story where an odd case of imprinting forms part of the narrative or premise."


A New Era Hatches
“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever will be born must destroy a world.” ~Hermann Hesse

Darkness.

Truth be told, he had never experienced anything else.  There was no place but the place he found himself in, and nothing to see, hear, or do.  Existence itself was a new experience, as was even having experiences.  From the eternal void he had entered an actual void, and he was content…

Until he wasn’t.

The experience was different now though he could not quite process how.  There was a steady sound now.  Sound being a new sensation in itself.  The sound seemed to echo in his head in time with his forward movements.  Suddenly the void seemed too small.  He had to escape!

That was when the void cracked.

The sound stopped for several moments as he stared in shock at a new sensation.  Pain now radiated on his face as the darkness was pierced by light.  He could not make sense of this new reality, but something deep within him told him that this was the right thing to do.  He had to enter this new world.  This new reality.

Instinct demanded it.

He began to peck at the egg’s interior once more, but this time with increased resolve as the initial ray of light grew into a growing crack in his unseen prison.  His young eyes could not make anything out of the blinding light, but in the end that did not matter.  It felt right. 

That was when he felt a welling in his throat.  This was new, but his instincts had not let him down thus far, so he allowed his body to do what felt natural.

Chirp!

He froze again.  That sound came from him!  He could make sounds!  He had no idea why, but making more sounds seemed like the right thing to do.  So between trying to peck away the annoying void he made more of these Me Sounds.

Peck… peck… peck…

Chirp!

Peck… peck…

Chirp!

And so he continued on for several moments, driven by an unexplainable desire to peck away what had been his home and to enter into the great unknown that was the outside.  The ‘me sounds’ continued as the light expanded.  But that was when the light began to change in a way the hatchling could not understand.  The light began to dim in one area, taking on a different ‘light’ than the bright light around it.  In fact this new light seemed to almost be dark, but not quite.

Chirp!

The dimmer light appeared to stop moving for a moment, which allowed him to examine it more closely in between his attempts to escape from his egg prison.  This dimmer light appeared to have two brighter lights at its top.  Two lights that appeared to tilt as the top of the dimmer light tilted.  It was then that he felt something odd burn within him… he had to get to this dimmer light!

“Let’s get you cleaned up...”

The hatching did not understand the sounds coming from this dimmer light, but he did recognize them as ‘me sounds’.  So this dimmer light had to be a ‘me’ as well!  He did not have much time, however, before he felt sudden wetness touch his beak.

In a sudden burst of activity he jerked in surprise, sending the remnants of the egg all around him.  When he finally regained his senses he found himself staring upwards at the other face.  It was only then that it finally clicked.

This other face was not another ‘me’… this face was…

Mama!

---------

The predator looked down upon the little hidden runner with the yellow eyes of her kind.  Though on this day no predatory intent showed through in those unreadable orbs.  Those who had laid these eggs were no more, victims of a conflict that was not her own, but that did not mean that this youngling or his soon-to-be siblings would be without parents.  This fastbiter had made a promise to these eggs and herself, and she would not violate her oath.

I’m not going to let anything happen to you, she promised once more.

Mender watched as the little hidden runner excitedly chirped once more.  Then, with unsteady steps, he began to waddle closer to her feet.  Saving the little one additional trouble, she moved closer.  Within moments he was snuggling with her underneath her sickle claw.

Well, that’s a first, Mender thought with a laugh as the little hatchling cuddled with her killing claw. She bent down to get a closer look. I guess that’s as safe a place as any.

The small child was now chirping softly as he leaned into the warm foot.  It was then that she remembered two rather obvious facts: this was a hidden runner youngling and she did not have feathers.

“Okay, so how do I get you back in the nest?” Mender wondered aloud, “Gotta keep you warm.” It was hardly any distance at all, but she was suddenly unsure how to move the hatchling. He was so small, and she, well, wasn’t.

It was then that her ears heard a familiar sound.  As if on cue one of the eggs moved.

“Great. Why don’t you all hatch at once?” she grumbled as she tried to figure out a solution to her first problem. Okay if I just move like this.... She took a small step with her free foot. ...and now like this. She drug her other foot extremely slowly, moving both it and the hatching towards the nest.

The little hidden runner let out a surprised chirp as he looked at the foot curiously.  This was followed by a chirp that sounded almost amused at being dragged forward.

“Having fun?” Mender asked, her second awkward move managing to get the hatchling back to the warmth of the nest. Maybe I should start making this a proper nest so you can’t wander off. Oh, I hope none of you turn out how Haven described herself and her friends as kids.

The youngling continued to hug the claw as he was dragged along towards the assemblage of vines and leaves which made up the makeshift nest.  It wasn’t until he was more or less pushed into the leaves that he took notice of the nest itself.

Mender watched the hatchling practically burrow into the leaves while trying to stay close to the claw. She wasn’t sure why he seemed to like it, but at least it seemed to keep him from wanting to go elsewhere. So how am I going to keep all three of you in the nest? Based on the movement of one of the eggs, she didn’t have all that long to come up with an answer.

“Alright, give me my foot back,” Mender said with amusement evident in her voice. She carefully tried to tug her foot away from the youngling.

Thankfully for Mender, the small hatchling now seemed incredibly interested in the warm leaves as he curled himself into a little ball in the vegetation.  Against its green hue the small hatchling was barely visible.

Barely hatched and you’re already good at hiding, Mender thought, Guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Now how do I help keep you safe? Let’s see. If I spread some sticks around I could keep anyone from sneaking up on us, but I still need to keep you in the nest. I guess I should start by making this more like a proper nest than a collection of leaves. Her mind made up, she started digging around the borders of the nest.

Okay, so how big does this need to be? Mender thought as she finished making a circle of dirt around the nest about the height of the hatchling, Mom made ours a bit taller than us if I remember correctly. She started adding more dirt. But what about tiny biters? I don’t want them seeing the kids, never mind getting in. She added even more dirt. And I don’t want anyone to really be able to see the kids from far off either. She flattened off the top of the rim a bit to keep it from collapsing easily. “That should do it,” she finally said.

It was then that she heard an audible thud behind her.

“Um, I got the berries you requested, Mender.  Is there a particular patient who needs these, or….”

The flyer’s words stopped suddenly as Mender’s gaze fell upon him.  Then, in a swift movement, his beaked face turned towards the nest and then back to Mender.  This movement was repeated once more before something in the flyer’s eyes seemed to grow more focused.  This was a focus that she recognized.  The same focus that made him a benefit to the pack.

“I will leave these with you.  I take it that you will want a sky watch?”

Mender watched the flyer land and drop the berries, managing to land close enough to be polite without being too close.

“That would be helpful. Thanks,” Mender said after a moment of surprise. Why didn’t I think of that?

The flyer took off without another word, as if he were about to be chased by a pack of fastbiters.

What’s gotten into him? Mender wondered as he watched him go. Her eyes then fell on the area surrounding the nest. That’s a lot of space to watch. Maybe a focus on the ground is a better idea... She started looking for small, dry sticks. It didn’t take her long to find several, and she started to spread them out around the nest.

I’m going to need more than that, but there’s not any I can see, Mender thought, Better check on the nest first.

She carefully peeked over the tall grass, only to see the hatling nuzzling deeper into the vegetation which made up the nest.  Against that backdrop he appeared to fade into the leaves.

Satisfied nothing was wrong, Mender concentrated on finding sticks until she felt like she had enough. Acting in what was now starting to become a habit, she glanced at the nest as she passed. Okay. No change on egg. The other’s starting to make a bit of progress. That’s good.. She walked to the far edge of the clearing surrounding the nest and started putting some of her sticks down. I guess a step apart would work.

Mender carefully put down another stick at her feet then took another small step and placed another stick there. Maybe a half-step will work better. I can’t give anyone room to walk easily without stepping on a stick. If I can’t always see anyone coming, at least I’ll hear them.

Finishing with one side, Mender started heading to the side to take care of that half. As she passed the nest again she glanced down. Okay, no change with the eggs. How’s the hatchling doing?

She looked at the massive pile of leaves which served as the nesting material and carefully looked for the downy feathers of her hatchling.  It took her a few moments of searching but finally she found him.

Or so she thought until the two leaves she was looking at shifted in the wind.  It was then that the cold realization hit her.  Her hatchling was missing!

“Don’t panic. Don’t panic,” Mender reminded herself. Not trusting her sniffer, she scanned the ground around the nest for footprints. All she saw were her own. The dirt rim around the nest was also undisturbed. This is not making sense. What am I missing?

She watched the surroundings closely, looking for anything else which could have been disturbed.  But then she turned her focus back to the nest, could she have missed something?

Already watching for movement, Mender noticed a leaf shift in the nest. She looked closer. At first she didn’t see anything but leaves. Then she noticed an eye looking back at her. Gotcha. “Found you.”

The hatchling did not move.  Instead he continued to peer out at his adoptive mother.  Though he did noticeably move his snout closer to the opening that he had made in the dry foliage.

“You can come out now,” Mender said. He’ll probably not understand that, but how do I get him to stop hiding?

The hatchling’s snout emerged a bit more from his little hiding hole, but his body stayed put.

Barely hatched and he’s already got more self-control than a fastbiter kid, Mender thought, Wait, that’s it. How did Mom tell us it was safe to come out? Sometimes she just told us when we were older, but that’s not going to work here, but I do remember feeling safe when she was close. Maybe that’ll work.

Testing her idea, Mender carefully got into the nest. If that wasn’t a signal that it was safe, she didn’t know what was.

Nothing happened for several moments.  But then, cautiously at first, the hatchling edged out of the leaves.  Then, with sudden assuredness, he half-walked, half-stumbled out of his hidey hole and ran into his refuge of safety: Mender’s large sickle claw.

He does realize I use that for hunting, right? Mender thought. “I guess I need to teach you that that is not a safe place.” She bent down to give him a lick.

This earned her a squawk, which she could only assume was the equivalent of a giggle.  In response the little one squirmed and settled down against her foot.  Well, it was progress at least.

But that was when he lifted his beak to the sky and opened it as wide as he could manage.  Mender needed no translation for that posture.

“Now where are those berries?” As Mender searched for the food she caught sight of the other two eggs.  Though one of them was merely shaking from the effort of its occupant’s tireless pecks, the other was rapidly cracking under its internal assault.  She had no doubt a second head would be peeking out soon.

“Found ‘em. Finally,” Mender said upon finding the berries after a longer search than she wanted to admit. Can he eat these whole or does he need help? I guess for now, better safe than sorry.

The hatching maintained his opened-mouth vigil as Mender carefully placed the sweet berries into her mouth and cocked her head back, sending them into her gizzard.  Within moments she could taste their sugary sweetness fill the back of her throat as they were quickly liquified.  The temptation to consume them was real, but her instincts knew what to do.  Within moments she could feel her gizzard’s content erupt back up her throat.

Without thinking, she quickly placed her mouth over the hatching’s beak and released the contents of her gizzard into his throat.  Within a few moments his frantic begging for food subsided and was replaced with calm acceptance of the berries.  He had finally had his first meal.

As if to punctuate this change, as Mender pulled away the hatchling finished swallowing his meal.  Then, with an exaggerated movement which caused him to fall on his hindquarters, he yawned, briefly expanding his beak to its former size.  It was then that he let out a soft purring-like sound as his eyes began to droop.

“Sleepy?” Mender asked, giving the hatchling a nuzzle. She was answered by the hatchling leaning into her foot before burrowing into the leaves right next to it.

“Heh… we should call you ‘Cover’, little one.” Mender cooed.  It took her a few moments before what she had just said registered in her mind.  Cover.  Yes, that really does fit. “Your name is Cover.”

She was answered by yet another yawn before Cover closed his eyes and nuzzled her foot one more time.  Then, nearly as soon as his eyes had shut, he began to breathe slowly as sleep overtook him.

“Sleep well, my dear Cover.” Mender hummed in something between a growl and a purr.  “You are my child.  And every child deserves a good childhood.” Nothing like mine. You won’t have to do too much running if I have anything to say about it.

Chirp!

Mender did not have to move her head far to see what had made that commotion.  For out of the second egg came a small green head, staring right at her.

Being careful not to disturb the slumbering Cover, Mender leaned down and inspected the hatchling for a long moment, before giving the newcomer a soft lick.  Just as before, the little one chirped approvingly before forcing its way out of the white orb.  Then, before the hatchling could scamper in her general direction, she gently gripped the bottom of the egg with her claws and carefully deposited the young one right next to her brother.

“Leave the running to Mother, little one.”

« Last Edit: April 07, 2021, 11:59:11 PM by rhombus »


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Menders Tale.