\aITEM 1658420522 312195799:The Fledglings\/a \aITEM 1658420522 312195799:The Fledglings\/a
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A Hooluk myth telling how they came to the Barren Sky and why they are wary of strangers.
The Hooluk are the least aggressive of the aviaks. This is their story of how they placed the islands in the sky.
In the long ago, the islands of the sky now known as the Barren Sky were once rooted to the world.
The Hooluk lived in seclusion, learning from the leaves and the small creatures. Their nests were kept neat and tidy by the ants who marched in and out, bringing fresh grasses and carrying away the old.
Many long lives of the Hooluk passed in peace.
One day, Zephya, one of the Hooluk, noticed the ants carrying something to the nests. It was an egg.
Though shaped and colored as any other Hooluk egg, it bore an unfamiliar scent. Zephyra questioned the ants, but they did not remember where they had found the egg. They remembered seeing similar such eggs in the Hooluk village and so decided to carry it there.
"I will care for it, then," said Zephyra.
She tucked the egg into her nest with the other two eggs from this clutch.
Through wind and rain, she warmed the three eggs until it was time for them to hatch. The abandoned egg hatched first. Zephyra helped the tiny chick peel back the hardened eggshell when it struggled to free itself.
Her other chicks hatched on their own soon thereafter and they cried for food, flapping their wings to dry themselves.
Zephyra kept a basket of fruit nearby so that she could feed the young hatchlings without having to leave the nest herself.
She choose the ripest fruit first and offered some to each chick. The hatchling from the abandoned egg wobbled over to her and gulped down the fruit eagerly, then stretched its long neck toward her.
"You are not like us," said Zephyra, pondering. "I have not seen a Hooluk with such a long neck before. Whose chick are you?" But the baby could not answer, of course.
in time, the young trio grew larger and more demanding. They were still much too young to fend for themselves.
Zephyra read to them and taught them the Hooluk ways. She introduced them to the other Hooluk, who would always tilt their heads and peer at them curiously.
"Lehiru is not like the others," they whispered. Zephyra always replied, "He is, inside his heart."
Lehiru's brothers stood up for him, too. Whenever someone mentioned that Lehiru was different, Warru and Kirvu would stand between Lehiru and the speaker.
"He is our brother," they said, fluffing themselves up in agitation. The Hooluk were peaceful and did not like to fight, so such display would be all that was necessary.
The village elders said to Zephyra, "He may be your son, but he is not like us."
Lehiru was taller than his brothers and slimmer. His feathers were long and sharp. His beak too was longer than the other Hooluk's.
Perhaps because he wanted to fit in, Lehiru was very respectful. Whenever the elders spoke to him, he lowered his gaze and spoke quietly. He learned the Hooluk ways quicker than his brothers.
After a time, the villagers forgot Lehiru was from an abandoned egg and accepted him as their own... just different.
Soon, the time of the fledglings' ceremonial first flight approached. There were many fledglings in the village that year so a grand celebration was planned.
In the afternoon before the day of the ceremony, Lehiru asked, "Mother, may my brothers and I go for a walk?"
"Yes, but do not tarry," she replied. She watched the three boys wander off into the woods, deep in discussion about something. Zephyra's heart swelled with pride.
"Three boys," she said to herself, "And all have turned out well."
When Lehiru, Warru and Kivru did not return at sunset, Zephyra began to worry.
The fledglings' flight was to take place at sunrise. If the boys did not return soon, they would not get enough rest. She paced the edge of the village in the faint light of dusk.
Rumors had grown lately of attacks on Hooluks in the wilds, though the attackers were never found. The skies darkened and her heart filled with concern for her fledglings.
Zephyra turned to head back to her nest, in case the boys had come home via a different route.
There were creatures in the world that were not as kind and trusting as the Hooluk. The boys had been taught to hide; were they hiding from something?
A line of ants marched towards her home carrying freshly harvested grasses and other soft objects for her nest. Amongst the items they carried, the ants carried a feather. And another. And still another feather.
They were Lehiru's.
"Where did this come from?" Zephyra asked the ants. They could not remember. Her heart pounded and the sound pounded in her ears.
She looked along the line of ants that stretched into the distance. More feathers, some Lehiru's and others more like a Hooluk's. Warru's? Kirvu's?
Launching herself high into the air, Zephyra realized the pounding she felt in her head was not her heart beating, but the sound of an army approaching.
Wings beating in the air, Zephyra hovered and stared. The air beyond the trees that surrounded her village was filled with aviaks. Aviaks who all looked like Lehiru.
She dropped quickly to the ground and sounded the alarm, rousing the rest of the village. Though the Hooluks were peaceful, they knew the arts of self-degense.
Were these attackers the same ones who had been in the wilds of late? How had they found the hidden Hooluk villages?
Messages were quickly dispatched to the other villages, who came forward to defend their brethren.
Talons and weapons were sharpened. Battles were fought in the skies and on the ground. The fighting waged on and on, breaking the ground apart.
With everything around them in ruins, the Hooluks took the only action possible.
Locking themselves together, they grasped the ground beneath their villages and flew.
The loose earth fell away, as the Hooluks rose higher and higher into the sky, pulling their homes upwards. They passed the known moons, the familiar stars and were soon safely away.
Zephyra, however, remained behind to find her children.
Panting with exertion, Zephyra fluttered from battle to battle, looking for Lehiru, Warru and Kirvu.
Why had she let them leave the safety of the village? What madness possessed her in that moment? She dodged from those she could and defended herself against the others. Where were her children?
Amidst the sounds of the battle, her ears finally heard that which she had been listening for: the faintest of voices.
"Mother! Mother!" came the cry. It was the voice of Lehiru.
Zephyra flew towards the sound. calling out, "I am coming for you, Lehiru!" In moments, she landed beside him.
"Thank you for teaching me the ways of the Hooluk," he said softly. Beside him lay the twisted bodies of his brothers. "Without your help, my people could not have found yours."Yes, the Hooluk fled to the skies and now you see why they do not trust outsiders willingly.