By all accounts I had been an extremely docile and obedient child up until the day we went to the Elak farm for my brother to select his Elak. He was 7, just the right age to take on a young Elak and bind for life. I was only 4, nowhere near ready in anyone’s mind to be selecting my Elak. Many girls did not choose one until at least 8 or 9 years old, and some little girls found the sheer size of the growing Elak rather scary.
We had walked through the rows of chambers, each with a female Elak warily watching us and we came and stood quietly in the door while my brother walked among the young Elak, talking to them, patting those brave enough to come up to him. He had already chosen, and he and the young Elak were together on the floor, him stroking the head and the Elak crooning as they do when they have found their human mate.
Apparently it took a few minutes for anyone to realise I was not standing between my parents as I had been. Then everyone was scurrying around looking. They found me in the last chamber, with an Elak too young to be a mother, and too large to be one of this year’s babies. The farmer stopped suddenly with a sharp intake of breath, my mother collided into him, while my father who had been ahead was stopped when the Elak stood up with its wings outstretched and hissed. The farmer said “Oh Shit!”
There was much hurried discussion and the farmer set off to get help, while my parents watched (helplessly) as the Elak and I bonded. When the farmer returned with several burly men and some stunners, my parents explained it was too late, we had bonded. “Impossible” was the farmer’s comment, despite the obvious fact that it had happened.
We all walked out into the sunshine, my Elak and I walking closely together, she about twice my height already. My brother and his Elak, that only took him up to his thighs looked quite disconsolate. After all here was I his YOUNGER sister, already bonded where he would have to wait about two years for the magical moment of bonding, after he had spent most of his time caring for the youngster.
The farmer sat us all down on the grass under a tree and told us the story. One of the female Elaks in the previous breeding cycle had apparently died giving birth. The baby was found in the passageway between chambers, the tiniest Elak they had ever seen. It went from chamber to chamber, with each mother giving it some care. The bigger Elak foals all allowed it to share their mothers. The farmer and his workers decided this foal would probably never bond with a human as she hadn’t learned how from her mother. That was why today they were so worried over her selecting me, a rather underage child.
She had grown faster than any of the other foals born around the same time, and was already larger than some of the Elaks two years older than she. In all an anomaly, not likely to fulfil a role with a human, likely to die young was their considered opinion. They had been wondering what to do with her. My parents were worried, as children who had bonded would fade away and die if their Elak died. Adults fared little better.
By the end of the day we were all established at our home, though transporting a half-grown Elak was not an easy task, especially when a small child refused to be parted from it.
However soon we settled for the night, my Elak and I in the room that had been intended for my brother in a few years, and he with his small Elak, in his normal room. I was aware when my parents came in a few times to check on us, but really no child is safer than curled up against an Elak.
She and I quickly settled into a routine, together all the time, she learning to fly, me watching and laughing with delight at her antics. We could sit together for hours, learning each other’s minds. I discovered that as she had no mother alive, she had learned from each of the mothers on the farm, and seemed to know so much more than any Elak I had heard of. But then I was only 4, so what did I really know? But by all accounts I had changed from that docile child into one who would try anything, dare anything as long as we were together.
When my Elak was three years old, she was as advanced as other Elaks at 4 or 5 years old and the Elak-master who visited said she was ready for the naming ceremony. Up until then, I had just called her Elak, as did every child with their Elak. But on the day the child and Elak were to take their first flight together, the Elak received its name and the child the name it would have as an adult. Some senior family member would suggest names, until the Elak and the child felt the names mentioned were their adult names.
On the day decided I was up early, now a full 5 years old and ready to step into my adult role as an Elak partner. My father’s uncle, as the oldest family member came to perform the solemn role of finding us names that suit.
My Elak and I walked out to the garden where the whole family stood, my brother obviously annoyed that it was I the focus of attention and not him. My father’s uncle looked at us and said very loudly “That is a pretty dubious pair!. And immediately my Elak and I began singing together “Pretty Dubious”. I lept onto her back and shouted “My name is Pretty” and the Elak sang in my head “My name is Dubious”, so I shouted that to the family.
Then we took off together, forever a partnership.
Pretty Dubious for ever.