The egg had been tucked beneath her shirt since she’d taken it from the nest. No matter how domesticated they say a Quetzalcoatlus
is, I don’t mind admitting I wouldn’t fancy taking an egg off one. Still, she had done it, this woman, and lived to tell the tale. Now, a week or so later, it was ready to hatch.
The egg cracked surprisingly fast... and then nothing. For hours we watched, all the village (and me and my crew, courtesy of a traded knife, a few crystals and some spare guardian parts) gathered around the hearth as twilight drew to night. It shuddered a little, rocked, and once I swear I heard a tiny squawk from inside. Eventually, careful as threading a needle, the woman peeled a tiny, cracked fleck of shell from the broken egg. If she got this wrong,
my neighbour whispered, she could kill the chick.
At once, a sharp wet beak shoved its way through, calling a vulgar little cry into the darkness. A few struggles later, and the damp monster was free, falling face-first into the woman’s outsteched hands.
Everyone held their breath, I knew not for what. I thought this would be the moment, the celebration, the release of tension, but if anything, the night was thick with anticipation, everyone poised for - something. The woman frowned in concentration, sweat already beading on her brow, as she carefully handled the tiny Quetzalcoatlus
, looking it over, lightly stroking it’s over-large head and delicate wings. We all leaned forwards, all of us around that village hearth - even those who knew what would come next. And then gently, so gently and with only the barest tip of one of those sharper than sharp talons, she lifted the chick in one hand, and etched letters into her other forearm, score by bloody score.
“She is Ama,” breathed the woman, when at last she was done. She swallowed, and turned to the watching crowd, tears in her eyes, as she held up the hatching. “She is Ama, and we are one.”
No wonder they have short bloody names,
I thought. Who’d want to carve Maximilian in their their damn arm?
But the crowd cheered, and stamped their feet on the soft damp ground so hard that the tiny Quetzlacoatus let out a little squeak of surprise, flappIng damp, membranous wings and waving it’;s obsidian-bright claws in the air.
“Not to worry, little Ama,” crooned the woman, cradling her like a babe. “Here, take your first meal from me.” The hatchling’s heavy head lolled a little as it put out a long, thin tongue to lap at the wounds carved in the woman’s arm. Yes, baby.” She whispered, rocking it back and forth. “We are blood-kin now.”