Wordcount: 677 words
Summary: Please note, this is currently a very rough draft. There will be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, flat out contradictions, and uneven characterization and pacing. (Content is also subject to constant change as I take an editing chainsaw to the story.)
The hatching grounds are inside a massive cave, sandstone carved partially by water but mostly by man and foxhawk. The ground is layered thick in a mass of long grasses, straws, and left-over hay and the cave is warm from the decomposition. There are benches built along the walls from rock and wood and there’s plenty of room for spectators to stop for a bit of rest while wandering the fair.
The foxhawk hens are not aggressive, as long as everyone stays outside the nesting area there’s no danger. They come over, now and then, to greet the various visitors. These are unbonded foxhawks, aged past the years of service and willing to talk to anyone.
Their mental voices have an odd tinny echo to them, but sound as if they were actual speaking. It was hard to remember that not everyone could hear the conversations. The foxhawks could talk to one as well as too many and the only indication that the entire crowd was included was an increase in the echo.
May had spoken to one of the hens once, when she was younger and had a short lived attack of envy at those who had been chosen. She’d asked the hen what it took to be a rider, something normally asked of riders or hatching masters. The hen had been intrigued by the question and took the time to answer her, in a roundabout fashion.
Riders were chosen because they were riders– which meant nothing to May at the time. In fact it meant nothing now, other than those who were picked seemed predestined after the fact. Not something she was good at picking out beforehand, although there were some who had a knack for guessing which children would grow up to be foxknights.
Now she sheltered in the cave, to escape the heat and a sudden rain shower, and new better than to ask questions she could not understand the answers to. But she’d been right, in a way, only riders were chosen to be riders– and May was not afraid anymore.
Cybil dragged her out of her thoughts and towards the front of the crowds at the edge of the massive nesting area.
“Come on, I want to see it!”
After some polite apologizing, they managed to wedge in where they could get a look at the nest. There were more eggs than she had remembered from past hatching and the largest of them was easy a third as big as any of the others.
The golden egg was much larger than the others and May was pretty sure they’d get a golden foxhawk. She’d wondered once, in a fit of spite, if trouble brought on the golden foxhawks or if the foxhawks caused the troubles.
“Well that puts a damper on things.” Cybil sighed. “No one’s going to be thinking about anything else once the hatching is over. Looks like I am going to Oak Grove to find a husband.” She made a face. “I hate getting looked over like a meat cow, they always make such underhanded comments.”
To be fair, Cybil was not the prettiest girl in the town, but she had an incredibly sharp grasp on politics and governing. There was a long running joke that the Lee’s breed for brains first and everything else second, but Cybil was not ugly, just slightly more angular that tradition demanded. She had her father’s face and her mother’s smile, not a bad combination all things considered.
May did not think she’d be husband hunting long, not with all of that focused energy directed at the task. Nothing stopped Cybil for long and she could not see this being any exception.
“Well, we’ve still got a bit before the actual hatching, let’s head out again—the rain’s stopped and there’s that delegation in from Simon’s Peak that we have not talked to yet.”
The delegation had been made mostly of concerned adults, but parents were parents and there was always a chance they were keeping an eye out for future daughters-in-law.