The hawk, one of the last quickwings, left the place where the toobigtocatcherchick slept and flew over the other toobigtoocatchers. He flew over all of the wet until he came to his favourite perch. He was Ungiar Hegreksul of the Vistervester baurt and in the time when the number of all the baurts in the world couldn’t be counted, the Vistervester were the noblest of all baurts. But there were no baurts left. The great wet had taken away all the runnerhiders, shrubsneakers, holesleepers and almost all the weaksquawks. But the hawk, Ungiar, could still find scraps so he remained and he wondered, as he perched, how much longer he could remain. Just lately he felt that it was coming to his time. The scraps were less and he was always tired. He had been flying less too, taking instead to sleeping on his favourite perch and thinking about before the wet and how great his baurt had been.
The perch was the rim of a near fully submerged cooling tower. What remained of the power station were eight rings of grey brick. They were stone calderas but there was nothing waiting below to erupt. The hawk tucked his wings in and listened. He was listening for hunger. The air was quiet. After a time the burning worldmaker sank into the wet and the worldtaker rose and the hawk listened.
He woke and he wasn’t sure how long he had slept. It was still dark and he wondered for a moment why he had woken. Then he heard the hunger. His talons scratched the brick. He extended his wings and rose. He hovered there above the eight rings and he listened. The hunger was quiet, barely a whisper of hunger. But there was hunger. He circled. He found the place where the hunger was strongest and he hovered above it. He peered down at the black water and the grey ring of bricks. He listened to the hunger and he scanned the bricks and then he saw it. It was a weaksquawker nest and he dived to it. His talons tore into the first blind chick and the others squawked their hunger as he sated his. When he was finished he was still hungry because it wasn’t enough for a hawk like Ungiar to live on weaksquawkerchicks, all bones and downy feathers and blind jelly eyes. He wanted runnerhider. He wanted just one runnerhider and then he wouldn’t have to remain anymore. If he had one good runnerhider he would be happy and he would go to his perch and sleep until he was with his baurt.
But there were no runnerhiders. Maybe far away where the worldmaker hides there were still runenrhiders but not in his world. The wet was too complete and what runenrhiders there had been on the rising land had been long scoffed by the toobigtocatchers.
Ungiar the hawk flew back to his perch. He wanted to sleep. If he was still hungry when he woke he would go back to the weaksquawker nest and pick at the bones and then he would fly and find a runnerhider and if he didn’t find a runnerhider he would sleep.
He was sleeping very deep lately and there were always dreams. This time the dream came quickly. He was back on his baurtland and he was in his tree, his favourite tree, and he was hungry so he flew. He flew all over his baurtland and as he flew the sky was full of quickwings. It wasn’t just the Vistervester baurt who were in flight, it was all the baurts. He saw the greatwing baurts of the Fadriktalleks and the Uslelhowpens, he saw the fleetwing baurts of the Rikatirriks and the nightwaker baurts of the Gauwis, Tooeneens and Auswausels. All the great baurts were flying. And below them there wasn’t any of the wet and everywhere there were runnerhiders, the world was covered in runnerhiders. He cried out to all the baurts and as one swift, dark mass, they fell from the sky on to the runnerhiders and even when they were full and not hungry they kept diving and feasting. Hours passed, days passed, years passed and still the world was covered in runnerhiders for the baurts to dive on to. He could feel his talons rip into long ears, dig into plump hides and everywhere there was the sound of dying runnerhiders. It was glorious to Ungiar the hawk.
And when he woke he knew that soon he wouldn’t remain. It was coming. The dream wasn’t simply a dream of hunger; it was a dream of beckoning. The baurts were calling Ungiar Hegreksul, last of the Vistervester baurt and they were saying ‘Come and join us Ungiar Hegreksul, Most Fine of All the Quickwings, come and join us and feast no more on weaksquawkers, come and join us and see the world blanketed in runnerhiders, come and join us and let the wet remain.’
He called out to the rising worldmaker. He said yes. He said he was coming.
He took flight for one last time. He saw the bones of the weaksquawkers but he didn’t go down to them. He saw the mother weaksquawker watching him and he could have dived to her but he didn’t. It didn’t matter anyway if he ate, that would make no difference. He had made his choice and he was happy so he circled over the eight rings and then out over the wet. He saw how the wet was everywhere and when he was tiring he saw a great line of wetwalkers. The wetwalkers carried hundreds of toobigtocatchers and their chicks and he circled above them. He counted the wetwalkers but he didn’t know how to count so many. The wetwalkers sailed towards the worldmaker and he flew back to his perch and tucked his wings in.
He could hear the mother weaksquawker calling. She was asking him to dive for her but he was tired. He closed his eyes and he thought of when he had first flown, when his father had given him the choice; leave or stay, go into the world or leave the world now. And his father had scratched a talon along the branch. Ungiar remembered the feel of that first flight. It was raining. His father flew ahead of him. His brothers watched in head bobbing awe. His mother cried. He dropped and he rose and he flew twice around the old bell tower. That had been a fine day.