Rules of Observation, Part 3

Characters: Miina Awenata, Beltrann

It didn’t take Miina long to realize that the landing pad for their shuttle had been carved out of one of the Huka village’s fallow fields. Other fields and orchards, rich with all manner of plants, quickly surrounded them. Huka working the fields paused in their work to wave as the little party went by.

This was one area where Miina was uncomfortable. She could not remember if she had been told what the accepted custom was on waving. What if she waved back and made some unknown gesture? Or what if it was rude not to make some kind of acknowledgment? She noticed Lamaho especially making what appeared to be eye contact with the workers and nodding, and the workers a deeper bow in return, but they kept right on waving. She figured she was safe with looking and smiling and decided not to nod. Besides, if smiling wasn’t appropriate, she could always say it was a muscle tick.

She looked to Beltrann who was smiling widely as he walked. Maybe he remembered a memo that she had missed. Oh well, at least if they were going to do something wrong, they may as well be united in error. The Minbari was walking very slowly, almost stopping completely from time to time as he took in the agrarian panorama. She saw the same look on his face that she had seen at home-strong soul who rejoiced in the beauty of the natural surroundings.

“I have not been so close to home since I left it to join the Anla’shok,” he explained, speaking now in English. “I was a farmer my entire life — almost fifty cycles. So much of being an Anla’shok is new and strange to me, but this … ” he waved one hand to take in the fields on either side, “This, is a world I know well.” Now Miina nodded to Beltrann and wondered what she might say to draw a little more information from him.

Ahead of them, they could see four long, low buildings, arranged in a rough square — the Huka village.

Suddenly, they could see a young Huka, running toward them. She skidded to a stop in front of the group and spoke to Lamaho, the russet-furred Huka, in her own language. It seemed to consist of many purring and clicking sounds, and although Miina couldn’t understand the words, she could pick up that the young Huka was quite excited.

Lamaho turned toward them and spoke in Interlac. “My friends, the hatching has begun! Come quickly, and we will welcome our new sisters into the world.” Something else that had not been covered in their preparations. Miina wondered what kind of ceremony they might be asked to take part in.

The inside of the building was largely open space, with only small sets of screens to divide some parts of the area — save for one wall with a large set of doors at the far end of the building. Many of the Huka were heading toward the door, laughing and chattering excitedly to themselves. One group of youngsters was being shepherded away by another male, a bit younger than the one who was in the visitors’ escort.

Lamaho paused and spoke to another Huka who seemed to be watching the door. She then turned to Miina and Beltrann. “There are places being held for us inside,” she said. “It is a simple thing, really. As many of us as there is room for join our sisters in the nursery, and we sing for the hatchlings. You may sing with us, if you wish, but there will be no offense if you do not.”

They entered the room. At the center, several Huka were tending to about a dozen eggs in an enormous basket. Each was long and narrow, about two feet long and nine or ten inches wide. They had reddish-brown shells, and looked almost leathery. One was starting to rock back and forth.

The Huka in attendance sat on piled cushions in a ring around the basket, filling the room to the walls. As they noticed the egg starting to rock, the chatter died down, and the stragglers — including Miina, Beltrann and their escort — hurried to find seats.

They had just settled down when one of the Huka, on the opposite side of the room, stood up and began to sing. Miina couldn’t understand the words, of course, but she could follow the rhythm easily enough. It reminded her, somehow, of her home, and her Grandfather.

One after another, seemingly at random, the Huka stood and sang. In the basket, more of the eggs began rocking, and Miina could see cracks appearing in the shell of the first egg.

Copyright (c) Judy Caswell and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.


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