Maldore stood atop a shallow hill overloooking what most other creatures referred to as the harsh badlands. To Namicans, it was home. Steaming pits dotted the landscape, thick yellowed clouds billowing skyward from vents in continuous plumes. The only vegetation present were a few sturdy patches of grass.
The young Namica, though nearing adulthood, wasn't distracted by the different sights of his species' paradise; he searched between plumes toward the east, squinting at the rising sun for a pair of figures; as yet, no one was in sight. He chanced a glance toward the south, a great mound rising just above a mass of fog. The faint trail leading there was largely obsure for most of its distance, but Maldore could see some movement contrary to the wind; He groaned, quickly darting down the hill toward the small figure materializing from the mist.
"Palluck! What are you doing out here? Get back to the den!"
His younger brother only showed a mask of concern. "She's moving funny. I don't know what to do!"
Suddenly Maldore too was concerned. He followed the waving motions of Palluck, who reversed course back for the den. Within heartbeats, both brothers pushed their way in through the wood door, heading for a sight that would appear peculiar to any other species: A small stocky trunk hung to one side, against a dimly-lit wall. It was like an overly wide grapevine rooted to the earthen floor, except rather than a mass of branches with fruit, there was only a single branch with a translucent sac hanging from it. Through the membrane, the stooping Namicans huddled close, watching a figure not much smaller than Palluck curled inside, floating in this otherworldly suspension.
Maldore scoffed. "She's not moving funny, that's just her kicking. That's normal for any unborn whelp."
Palluck visibly relaxed, though his brow was still furrowed. "When will she be born?"
Maldore shrugged. "I dunno. Mother would be able to tell you."
"When will Mother be back?"
The older Namican shrugged, his eartips twitching. "She'll get back when she does."
Palluck glanced back toward the form of their unborn sister. "I hope it's soon. I don't know how to help her be born. I don't even know what to call her."
Maldore gave a slight shake of his head. "If Mother isn't back in time, I'll do it. I saw what she did for you. And as for a name, well, Mother will figure that out eventually. But if you want our sister to be ready to communicate with the rest of us, you'll need to keep talking with her now."
Palluck stooped closer to the sac, opened his mouth, then hesitated. "I've run out of things to say."
Maldore inwardly sighed. "I could do it, but I'm supposed to be watching for Mother and Father. I dunno, just... make up a story. It shouldn't be too hard."
Palluck nodded, opened his mouth once more, and then paused again. "A story about what?"
"How about... an adventure in a jungle."
His younger brother shuddered. "Jungles are scary."
Maldore pursed his lips. "Well, you could pretend you were another species. Jungles aren't scary to them."
Waiting to see that his brother was invested and uninterrupted, Maldore only stayed a moment. Within the sac, their sister moved slightly in response to Palluck's voice, her eyelids closed. Maldore turned back outside, sealing the door behind.
Their sister would be born soon. That, and a few other thoughts scared him.
Their mother and father were visiting their dying grandfather. The old Patriarch had summoned his offspring together to give his final words before he joined their grandmother in death. How long he would be keeping them, Maldore didn't know. But it was three-day's journey there. Their mother had been gone two weeks now. She was supposed to be taking care of their unborn sister; she was supposed to be talking with her and teaching her things before birth.
What if something had happened? What if mother couldn't return?
Mother had to return. The nutrients in the soil would feed their sister until birth; but only Mother could feed her immediately after. Maldore didn't know much about working with newborns, and didn't know if there was a good alternative for food. He just knew she couldn't ingest solid fruit and grasses like he and Palluck could, not for a few months.
He reached the top of the hill, searching intently once more. The sun had risen higher on the young world, Maldore using a paw to shield his eyes. Still no sign of movement out east.
Where was she?