“So tell me, apprentice,” he said, indicating the walls and nest with a circling finger, “is everything as it should be?”
Vizan had been responsible for the arrangements in the chamber, so there was no reason for doubt. Was Kalis testing me, or was his question no more than the natural anxiety of any sire about to see his first offspring hatch? Either way, a swift glance around and a brief sniff assured me that all the traditions had been properly observed: sweet-smelling avalox had been woven into the nest, lit torches in ancient copper brackets spiralled up the otherwise-unadorned walls, winding in overhead to the ceiling’s central point. A single candle had been lit to mark the time, and a shard of Kalis’ own shell, brought from the Egg Vault, had been placed in the nest itself.
I flicked an ear to acknowledge Limar, the nest-nurse, who was sitting on the raised nesting platform, stroking the coarse purple shell and murmuring encouragement to the occupant within, then turned my attention back to Kalis. “It’s perfect, Lord,” I assured him with a little dip of my head. “All that’s necessary now are the traditional prayers.”
“You know them?”
I hoped that my doubt wasn’t too tangible. “Of course. Vizan is an excellent teacher.” I stepped closer to the nest and spiralled a paw across the front of my tunic. Spiral give me strength! I thought. Aloud, I said: “Great Spiral, look kindly on this hatchling. Give it the strength, the wisdom, and the stamina to learn well and fly far, as its ancestors have done. Let it be guided by your lights and look to your pattern for understanding and enlightenment. Let it grow to be a good and true leader, as its forebears have before it. So it has always been.”
“May it so remain.” No sooner had Kalis and Varna spoken the refrain and spiralled their paws over their tunics than a crack split the egg’s shell with a faint tearing sound. Around me, the odour of anticipation and excitement grew stronger.