Dys, Melli, Scrapie, and Morquio watched from high above atop the lair as Thrax pawed at the ground in the graveyard below. Two tiny forms–Imperials, Dys guessed from the shape–lay curled up near him. Neither hatchling moved.
Crohn sighed, watching his fellow Fae hatchlings. The pearl-colored Fae knew what Thrax was doing. He understood what death was due to his adoptive mother, Betes. He knew what was wrong with the hatchlings, why they did not move or cry. He knew why Thrax was digging.
The mighty Imperial, the only one in the whole clan, was digging his sons’ graves. Riberi and Tulis, the limp hatchlings near him, were dead. They had been for several minutes now.
Nothing Ponti did could keep her rambunctious Fae children from sneaking out of the lair to witness the strange activity that Thrax was doing. At two days old, death meant little to them. They did not understand it. They wouldn’t for a few more days, if Ponti had her way.
“What is he doing to them?” Dys asked.
“Is that a new kind of game?” Scrapie questioned.
“It doesn’t look very fun, just lying there, all quiet and still,” Melli mumbled with a pout.
“Crohn? What is he doing to them?” Morquio asked, turning to look at the older hatchling.
Crohn had no right to explain it to them. But if he left it as a game, they might try to reenact it later. The last thing he wanted was for one of them to bury themselves alive.
“He’s burying them,” he finally said.
“Burying? Like what a mole does?” Scrapie asked.
“That’s burrowing, not burying!” Dys chirped, swatting his brother.
“What’s burying mean? Is that why he’s digging?” Melli asked, peering over the ledge to see Thrax cease digging. “Is he burying right now?”
“Burying is when you put something in the ground and cover it,” Crohn explained, looking away. “Like dead dragons.”
“Dead?” Melli repeated.
“Dead is when–“
“Dys! Melli! Scrapie! Morquio! Where are you?”
The hatchlings jumped at Pall’s voice. Before they could scramble away, the blue Fae zipped over the lair and jolted when he saw them. Spitting a curse, the adult zipped toward them. There was no time to scatter before the five were swiftly gathered up.
“What were you thinking? I told you to leave Thrax alone!” Pall scolded.
“I told them not to! They didn’t listen!” Crohn cried.
“Dad, what’s dead mean?” Melli asked.
Pall fixed Crohn with such a glare that the Fae wanted to fall through the stone and into the planet’s core.
“That is something to be explained later. Not now,” Pall said firmly. “Right now, you will all go back to the nest. You’re grounded.”
The trio of siblings, plus the adopted Morquio, made an instant ruckus. Pall herded them back down to the ground and toward the nest, where Ponti was waiting worriedly. Pall gave Crohn a swat and ordered him home before guiding his children to his mate.
Crohn didn’t dare tempt fate any further. He went home to huddle by his mother, who nuzzled him before gazing sadly at Remia across the lair. The Wildclaw was surrounded by her immediate family–her daughter Laria, son-in-law Malar, and her granddaughters Shior and Psitta. Once Thrax was through with his sons, he’d join them in comforting his heartbroken mate.
Crohn buried his face in his mother’s flank, guilt hitting him. He wished he was as innocent as Dys, Melli, Scrapie, and Morquio were. He wished he didn’t know what death and burial and such were.
The little Fae siblings likely wouldn’t be that innocent by nightfall. He’d destroyed that.