"Ready to Fly"

by Hailie Jade S

Rated: K+ It's got nothing remotely bad in it.

Summary: An owlet thinks she's ready to fly when her parents go out hunting, but is she? Oneshot.

Status: Complete

Disclaimer: I don't own Ga'Hoole or the owls. In fact, I've only read up to The Burning, and so if I got anything wrong in the story, I'm terribly sorry.

Author's Notes: Hi, all! This is my first story on ffdotnet, and since I liked the Guardians of Ga'Hoole books, I figured, why not? This is just a little story about an owlet who's not ready to fly, but... Please feel free to review with concrit.

Ailily woke to hear her mother swooping out of the nest. She lifted her small, dark face up, still sleepy. The cool night air breezed through the hollow. She blinked, looking up at her father. His splendid, pure white face was tipped up, his coal-black eyes staring unblinkingly at the sky.

"Da?" Ailily said, clacking her beak in annoyance when she found her voice to still be sleep-thick.

"Good evening, dear," said the large male barn owl, swiveling his flat face around to look at his daughter. Next to her, Sadenand stirred.

Yailara, their nest maid snake, hissed. She caught a roach, snapping it in half and eating it quickly. "I am most sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to disturb you."

"It's no problem, Yailara," said Dalanor, aiming his dark gaze again at the sky.

"Is something wrong, Da?" asked Ailily hesitantly. She got to her feet, hopping over to him, her as yet unfledged wings spread for balance.

"It's a full moon tonight," he said. He paused, then shook himself, turning his head to preen his feathers. "It always sends a shiver through my gizzard."

Ailily craned her neck down to look at her belly feathers, knowing that it was the approximate location of her gizzard. She was quiet for a moment, focusing hard to see if she had a shiver in her gizzard, but, as always, it sat still within her. She sighed, shaking herself, and swiveling her head around one hundred and eighty degrees to look at Sadenand, who was getting to his feet, clicking his beak and grumbling.

"You can't sleep now, Saden," said Ailily. "It's night."

"So?" mumbled her younger brother – not too much younger, but still smaller.

"When your mother returns, you shall have your First Fur ceremony, Sadenand," Ailily's father said to his son.

Saden perked up at once. "Really?" he asked eagerly.

"It tickled and itched the first time," Ailily remembered, giving her as yet unnecessary feathers a shake.

"When will Ailily get her First Meat on Bones?" asked Saden.

"Not to long from now," their father said seriously, and Ailily hopped from foot to foot in eager anticipation. She couldn't imagine what it would be like. Her parents always ate the whole animal, fur, bones, and meat, and then yarped up pellets. After Ailily had begun to take fur, she had begun to yarp, but it wouldn't be the same if there were bones to yarp up, too.

"Da, how long until I have my flight feathers?" asked Ailily impatiently. She spread her wings, examining the down.

He smoothly rotated his head to look at her with deep, dark eyes. He hopped over to her, his finely speckled body finely formed and his face pale and smooth. Ailily longed to be fully fledged. A mature barn owl was a truly amazing sight.

Dalanor ducked his head to gently run his beak through her feathers. He stepped back, cocking his head at her, considering. "You are to begin branching soon," he said, not answering her question, but making her considerably excited all the same.

"Branching?" Ailily gasped eagerly.

"Branching?" Saden whined jealously.

"Don't worry," Dalanor said, an owl smile in his eyes as his son longed to begin hopping from branch to branch, preparing to fly. "You'll get your chance."

"Da, when will I begin branching?" Ailily asked quickly.

"Most likely tomorrow night – your mother and I have yet to decide," said Dalanor, slowly aiming his face to the moon once more.

Finally, Ailily's mother returned, a large vole in her talons. Saden eagerly hopped across the hollow, knowing that the vole would be for his First Fur ceremony.

Merealy, their mother, landed wearily. She wasn't a great hunter, she always said, and so she always came back tired.

"Is that for my ceremony?" asked Saden, watching as Merealy placed the vole in the center of the nest.

"Yes," she said, spreading a wing to preen herself, her feathers having been ruffled during flight.

Saden anxiously watched as Dalanor began to strip off a piece of meat – with the fur on it. Ailily didn't really care to watch – after her own First Fur ceremony, Saden's didn't seem so interesting – but, remembering how her brother had dutifully watched hers, she settled herself to look on attentively as Dalanor began the familiar speech of how Saden was becoming something or another, blah, blah.

Finally, Dalanor held out the strip of meat to Saden, and the young barn owl snapped it up, gulping to swallow it whole. The chick sat back, blinking big, dark eyes, ruffling his baby plumage. He gave a slight little watery burp. "That's it?" he asked, seeming somewhat disappointed.

"What were you expecting?" asked Merealy, churring her owl laughter.

But now, the rest of the family needed to eat. Dalanor and Merealy carefully extracted the bones from the carcass, and fed Ailily. They gave Saden some more, too. But when they were done, there was only a single beakful for both Dalanor and Merealy to share. And Ailily was still a bit hungry.

"Here, loves, you may finish it," said Merealy, pushing the chunk of meat toward her young. "Your father and I will go hunt for some more."

Saden and Ailily thanked their parents, then tore eagerly into the tidbit.

"Yailara, you'll watch them?" said Dalanor as he spread his tan wings. Merealy hovered just outside, waiting for her mate so they could leave together.

"Of courssse," hissed the blind snake, twisting and coiling her body in a graceful S shape. "You know they will be safe."

"Many thanks," said Merealy. Dalanor took off gracefully, and the two parent owls swooped in their own figure 8s, tipping their wings in a goodbye to their chicks. "We'll be back soon!"

Ailily settled herself. She couldn't wait until she learned how to fly. What was there to do otherwise? Her nights were mostly spent in boredom. Saden promptly resumed his counting of all the leaves above his head. As he couldn't count very high, he always had to start over.

Maybe that entertains him, but what am I to do? Ailily wondered.

Her head slowly swiveled to the edge of the nest. She began to walk over to it, almost against her will. She felt her talons shuffle along. Suddenly, she was there. A cool breeze blew through her immature feathers, stirring something deep inside her. She tipped her head back, letting the moon bathe her in its bright light. Her coal-black eyes closed slightly, as she let herself become engulfed by the spell that the night cast.

She was to begin branching soon – even the next evening, maybe. What would it hurt to just begin one night early? Normally, such thoughts would never have occurred to her, but the curious feeling was still stealing through her.

Ailily turned her gaze to a nearby branch. The leaves around her rustled and swished. Behind her, Saden's babbling melted into a lulling murmur. She spread her wings, tensing her muscles. Her talons, not yet long and deadly, relaxed their grip on the nest. She leaned forward, excitement coursing through her body. She trembled. Was she feeling this need in her gizzard? Maybe!

That thought was exciting enough for her to leap from the hollow with explosive energy…

But she really wasn't ready.

Really wasn't.

But she was really falling.

She really, really was.




It was a long