Chapter 2: Birds of a Feather
“Where have you two been?” Little Feather demanded, when Sora and Jos returned well after suns down.
“It’s not any of your concern Little Feather,” answered Sora before Jos could say anything.
“Stop calling me that. My name is Eadle. Only the Elders can call me Little Feather,” she screeched back, holding her little wings to her sides.
“Ok E-a-d-l-e, if you really must know, we…were flying,” Jos chimed in proudly.
“Flying? But you’re not ready yet to fly. None of us are.” Eadle hopped up into her nest and perched herself on the tip of a twig sticking out from the top. “Anyway Mother is annoyed at you Sora for wandering off. She asked me where you were and I said you went off with…him…without permission!” she said pointing at Jos, adding, “and your Pappa is really mad at you Jos. I’d be getting back to your nest if I were you.” Eadle twitched her little head sideways, eyeing them both, her beak upturned and her wings folded.
Sora ignored her little sister and turned to Jos. She ruffled her feathers and stuck her chest out. She fanned out her tail, which was not yet fully developed and went to snuggle her cheek against his. Jos pulled away slightly. “Is my Jos, my Proud Crest embarrassed?”
“Yuk!” Eadle said scoffing. “I’m telling.”
“Don’t you dare Eadle or I’ll—“
“I’ll tell everyone about your upturned toe,” Sora said, pointing at Eadle’s feet.
Eadle suddenly looked worried.
“Oh yes I would. In fact, I might just go over to the other nests and tell them all now,” Sora added, before turning around and making out she was about to hop away.
Eadle jumped back down from her perch and hopped over to her sister. “Please don’t,” she said, clasping the tips of her wings together in a pleading gesture. “I was only joking. Please don’t tell, I promise I won’t tell about you two. P-L-E-A-S-E?”
“Alright, I suppose I can keep your little secret…for now.”
Jos watched on curiously as the two sisters stood facing each other. He had observed them growing up from the comfort of his own nest for a long time. he’d seen them from a distance, squabbling over food, chasing each other around the top of the nest, teasing each other. For the longest time he had been amused by their constant bickering. Sora had been born many days before Eadle. The word around the nesting site was that her parents were worried she would never hatch at all. When Eadle was finally born, there was a huge celebration and much relief. But she was small, the tiniest little creature in the whole world. Always last to be fed, she had not grown a lot bigger and her true feathers were only just beginning to show. But as for the rest of them, they were all starting to venture from their nests, prune their growing feathers and practice take offs and landings. Eadle had been desperate to join them, but her parents had kept her from trying until one day she snuck past them and much to everyone’s amusement, though she tried so desperately, she only managed to hop about, rapidly flapping, but never once got air born. Exhausted, she returned to the nest, where she hid from view for some time.
Meanwhile, her older sister had grown into the tallest, slenderest and most beautiful creature. Her proud crest was full of feathers and her tail, though smaller than the adults, was equally proud when fanned. her claws were long and slender and her wings, though not fully developed, were full of white feathers as white as a Northern snow. Jos had never imagined for a moment that he would pair with her. She was born in a nest amongst the Elders. She had royal blood, but he was born on the outskirts and not one of their kind. But pair they had and as far as Jos was concerned, nothing could change that.
“I’d better be going,” Jos said finally. Sora wandered over and took up his wing. He let her stroke it for a while with her own wing and then he turned, with one eye on Eadle, who was scowling and hopped away to his own nest.
Sora turned to her little sister. “Now remember what I said. You keep my secret and I’ll keep yours.” Eadle didn’t answer. Instead, she turned and hopped back up into the nest and resumed her perch, careful not to make eye contact with Sora, who had her head cocked in a knowing gesture.
In the distance she heard a familiar screeching and whistling, as Jos neared his nest. A flush of something like love filled her heart, which she could feel beating rapidly when she thought of him. The wonderful sound was interrupted with another familiar sound, that of her mother returning from the Sea.
“There you are White Dove. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Where in the lands did you get to?”
“She—“ Eadle interrupted, forgetting herself, before Sora shot her a look. “Never mind.”
“Well, you’re here now and that’s all that matters. Now hop up into the nest you two, it’s going to be a cold night and I’ve got a long day tomorrow. Their mother, who was now perched on the nest, motioned for the two girls to follow her and they dutifully obeyed. “Come on, I have a surprise for you both.” With that she brought up two small fish and Sora and Eadle eagerly gulped them down. Their stomachs satisfied, they nestled under the protective wings of their mother and were soon fast asleep.
Sora was flying high above the Tundra. She was no longer a small bird, but very large. her wings were stretched out wide and she sailed on the currents of cool air pushed up from the icy land beneath. The sky was filled with the sound of her mighty screech as she called out through the thin air. The ice below her returned her call, echoing off the solid white frozen water. She flew so high she was above the low clouds. In the distance she could see a plume of cloud she had never seen before. It billowed upwards above the horizon, black and menacing. She heard a distant sound she also did not recognise. It thundered through the air so long and loud that it seemed to vibrate through her. Using her telescopic vision, she searched the source of the sound. The cloud was coming from what looked like a large wedge shaped rock which appeared to float in the sea. On the front of the rock there appeared what looked like sea lions at first. She zoomed in again and saw something she did not recognise. Not sea lions, no, they were not like any creature she had ever seen. They stood, like birds, but instead of wings they had what looked like feet where wings should be, only thin and long. Their skin was pale and most of their bodies were covered with some kind of webbing, instead of fur or feathers. She flew towards them. As she got closer, they watched her from the large rock. The rock was rising and falling in the water and it moved forward with tremendous force, cutting a path through the icy water, breaking chunks of ice as if they were twigs. One of the creatures held something long and shiny and was pointing it at her. Suddenly there was a burst of sound like thunder and something hit her hard in the chest. It shook some feathers from her body with the force and she fell from the sky, twisting and turning as she plummeted towards the sea.
Sora awoke with a pain in her chest. Her heart was racing and she was afraid because of the nightmare. She sat up and squinted in the early morning suns-shine. She was pleased to find she was in her own nest. She sat up and peered under her mother’s wings at the suns for a moment and then turned her attention towards the Southern Sea. In the distance something strange caught her eye and she was horrified when she realised what it was.