Theria crept close, belly to the ground, in her best stealth pose. Whether it was working or not was debatable. At least her red coloring blended in with all the rot and decay in the Wandering Contagion.

Unlike her maize-colored sister, who stuck out like a light bulb in pitch black.

“Theria, this is a bad idea,” Rosi hissed. “Big brother told us to stay away from her.”

“Well, why should we?” Theria shot back, annoyed at her sister’s un-stealthy pose.

“Because big brother said so.”

“Well, good thing I don’t like listening to him.”

Two days old and Theria was already butting heads with her older brother Malar. He had told her and her sister to stay away from mother, that something was wrong with her. It wasn’t safe to be near her.

Theria didn’t care about safe. Mother was mother and they needed her. Theria wanted to be with her.

She wasn’t going to let her older sibling’s cowardice infect her as it had Rosi. The other was already cowering, having stopped inching forward almost fifty feet away from where mother sat.

Theria couldn’t help but be disgusted. She carried on alone despite her sister’s distressed squeaks.

She moved slow, creeping forward without sound. She was as quiet as an owl. No noise emanated from her tiny frame.

Except a broken twig.

And her growling stomach.

And her pounding heart.

And her sister’s noise.

…Okay, so she wasn’t silent at all. A hatchling could dream, though!

But mother wasn’t reacting to any of that. The blood-red Guardian was seated amongst the bones and rot, head tilted back to stare at the darkening night sky. Stars twinkled above pleasantly. If she heard her daughter approaching, she made no outward signal of knowing so.

Theria wondered what was so interesting about the sky. Did mother like the sky?

She crept forward until she reached the tip of mother’s tail. Then she began to work around it, slowly creeping close until she reached a curled hind leg. Further along was a foreleg.

This was where Theria stopped, slowly bunching herself up into a sitting position, tail curled around her tiny paws. She tried to avoid looking up. Mother would see her eventually. Maybe they would talk. Maybe they’d just sit there quietly and enjoy each other’s company.

Theria watched the sky, copying her mother. Mother still wasn’t acknowledging her.

That was okay. They had lots of time to bond. No worries.

Theria looked down to yawn. If she had looked up a moment faster, she would’ve locked eyes with her mother, who scrutinized Theria with an expression of cold fury and utter confusion. But when Theria lifted her head again, her mother was back in position, staring at the sky.

It really was a beautiful night tonight.


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