Wordcount: 457 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.)
Things Get Better
The black foxhawk hatchling stalked the fairgrounds, ears back and wings pinned tight against his head. Flame was wrong, he knew he was wrong. His rider was out there, somewhere, and it just meant he had to work a little hard to find him.
Still, even with his obvious discomfort, hopeful children thronged around him as he moved. He was a little larger that a large guard dog, but he was not as much mass. The fox and the hawk were both lightly built creatures and he was more fur and feathers than bone and muscle.
Baron met their eyes and with each connection saw all the myriad futures that each child possessed. Some of them were meant to be riders, but those were all spoken for by hatchlings still growing or in the eggs already in the nest.
Others were not riders, even on the very edges of their future trees where the probabilities waned off into the impossible. They were too timid, or too impulsive, too angry, too self-centered, too old, too young– the faire was full of people who were not quite right and those that might be right, but not close enough.
Nowhere was the boy he’d been dreaming about, the replacement that would bring him the redemption and that would show Flame and all the others who gave him pitying looks that he was so much more than they’d expected.
But there was nothing that he saw in any of the children that could compare to the future tree he’d lost and then after a moment of searching he pushed past them all, stopping only once to stare long and deep into and older teenager’s eyes.
The depth of longing and the grief of a rider missing its foxhawk was almost enough for him to break the laws and claim the boy as his own. Instead he did the one thing they were not allowed to do.
“Next year.” He whispered softly into the child’s mind. Such a light faint touch that no one could overheard them and walked away.
The boy stared after him in shock, and thankfully caught his breath before he spoke and gave them both away. The boy closed a hand that reached out after the hatchling, and slowly the despair lifted.
Behind him Baron felt the tree warp and reform, shedding the branches in which the boy had lost all hope and another foxhawk lost its rider.
Somewhat cheered, Baron was not as grumpy as he continued through the faire. He’d broken the rules and he’s helped, not hurt– who was to say he could not break other rules as well? He started paying closer attention to those whose trees could be bent into a better future.