The Fears That A Friend Might Ease

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Gus looked at the chick, and the chick looked back at him. With one wary hand, the gnome boy reached into a pouch on his belt for the specially prepared owl-treat. These meetings could be tricky, he’d been warned. While the chicks were, as a general rule, fairly quick to imprint and friendly in their outlooks, there was no denying that they were carnivores.

Carnivores that were easily a head and a half taller than their new would-be riders.

To approach a new companion with a treat was a way to bridge the gap between species in friendship, solidify the bond between rider and mount, and offer respect.

Which was why Gus froze when his questing fingers found nothing but air in the pouch. His eyes widened, panic-stricken. Had he forgotten it? Had someone taken it?

The owl cocked its head to the side, studying him. Patient, but clearly curious about the delay.  

Thoughts racing, Gus did the only thing he could.

He burst into tears.

It was over. He’d messed it all up. He’d never be a clan scout. He’d never get to have any adventures. And worst of all, even if the owl didn’t eat him for this, it would never, ever, want him as a rider….

Eyes squeezed shut in misery; Gus tried to control his sobs.

A feathered head bumped against his shoulder, warm, indescribably soft, and smelling of equal parts nest and newness.

The small owl made a quiet sound chirp of both question and comfort.

Heart instantly overflowing with joy, Gus flung his arms around his owl (his owl!) and squeezed as if he’d never let go.

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