Chapter 15

Ducky's Playmates


'Some mothers have them ... and they live'.

Mama Swimmer never understood that saying, passed down to her by her mother. That is, until the hatching of Ca and Nona. It was a known fact that two dinosaurs hatched from the same egg seldom survived. There was a chance that one would make it, but both? It was unheard of. However, Mama Swimmer was overjoyed to see her largest egg hatch to reveal a healthy pair of twins ... even if one had the other in a headlock for no discernable reason. That didn't last long though, as the victimised twin broke away and pounced her sister. The two hatchlings rolled about, giggling and wrestling as if there were nothing else of interest in their vast, new world. It took them a few minutes to even notice their massive mother's incredulous face looming above them. Even so, the brief distraction was quickly taken advantage of by the twin who thought to do so first.

Finally, Mama Swimmer plucked apart the brawling hatchlings and their newborn muscles finally went limp from the exertion. For the first time, they glanced about the wider world in awe, tilting their heads at the stunned faces of their siblings. Why was everyone staring at them, they wondered? Not a clue. Realising for the first time how hungry they were, the hatchlings opened their mouths to be fed, which was usually first on a baby swimmer's agenda.

Mama Swimmer chuckled as she set the hatchlings down on either side of herself, separating them from each other with her body as she reached for some fresh algae from the river to satisfy their hunger. She'd only looked away for an instant. By the time she returned her attention to one baby, said hatchling had disappeared. Checking on the other one, she was just in time to see the missing hatchling ambush her unsuspecting twin.

Shaking her head, Mama Swimmer assured herself that they'd learn to behave after a little parental guidance. This was just a phase, right?

Right?


15 Years Later ...


"I gotcha now, Ca!"

"Oh, do you?"

"Yes, yes, yes! OOOF!"

"Eat those words, Nona!"

"NO, NO, NO!"

"EAT 'EM!"

"Do your WORST!"

"Gladly! Wait ... what're you-? Mmmph?! MMMMMMMPH!" *Bubbling protests*

"Eat WATER, Sis! MUHAHAHAHAAA!"

"Mmph- *Gasp!* You can't eat water, genius! That's like saying 'drink green food'!"

"You are in NO position to nitpick me!'

"Oh YEAH?"

"YEAH! H-hey! STOP THAT! MMRRRMPPH!" *Aggressive bubbling*

Mama Swimmer and her children lazily munched the river plants, casting the plashing, water-foaming ball of fury that was Ca and Nona wary glances every now and then. They'd grown used to the fact that the twins spent 80% of their waking time wrestling ... and often 100% of their time asleep consisted of cuddling in a suspiciously aggressive manner. Engrossed in their routine roughhousing, Ca and Nona usually didn't drag their siblings into the chaos.

So long as everyone stayed outside the danger zone.

A rule of thumb: the infamous 'White Circle' of frothy water generated by their frenetic fray demarcated the danger zone. As the circle moved, everyone was mindful to keep clear of its edges, but on that particular day, one brave soul broke the protocol.

"Ducky?! What are you doing?!" snapped one of the young swimmers in a whisper. "You're going into The White Circle!"

Marching towards the twins, Ducky stopped to sigh before turning to her concerned brother. "It's not like I have a choice, Tyde, I don't, I don't!"

"The last guy who waded into The White Circle was Ebb, and he was never seen again!" Tyde warned.

"Guys, I'm standing right here," Ebb stated.

"That's not the point!" Tyde exclaimed. "The point is, they'll kill you!"

"It's either them, or a sharptooth," Ducky argued.

"Why would it be them or a-?" Tyde gasped. "Wait ... what happened to your back?"

"Precisely!" Ducky blurted. "We've encountered so many sharpteeth, and today one almost got me! I was powerless to protect my brother and my friends!" She pointed to the twins. "Those two are the only swimmers I know who can fight! If they don't teach me how to face sharpteeth, one of these days someone could die because of me ... if that 'someone' isn't me, anyway ..."

Tyde gave a solemn nod. "You're a brave one, Sis. You will be remembered, like Ebb before you."

Ebb placed his paws on his hips. "I'm still standing here."

"Best wishes, Lucky Ducky," Tyde bade.

Ducky gave a meek smile before wading towards the twins. The increasingly agitated river around her did little to ease her nerves as she stepped into The White Circle.

"Hello, guys," Ducky greeted.

Amid the churning water and battle cries, Ca and Nona didn't seem to notice her. Clearly this wasn't the best time, if there ever was a good time with these two. After a few more unsuccessful calls, Ducky turned to leave. She'd approach them tomorrow. More than anything, she wanted her nest after a day like that.

The wrestlers went silent. Not a splash. Not a grunt.

Ducky froze. That didn't sound good.

She heard them rush up behind her before stopping, going quiet yet again. That definitely didn't sound good.

Tentatively, Ducky peeked over her shoulder to see Ca and Nona's eyes fixed on her back. What on Earth? They looked very impressed!

"Umm ... Hi?" Ducky began.

She turned to face them, but they quickly hustled behind her to continue examining ... whatever it was. Ducky self-consciously touched her back with her tail, only to wince when her wounds stung on contact. Ohhhhh ... that explained it, but why would they be so interested in a couple sharptooth scratches?

"Whoa! Sick battle scars, Lucky Ducky!" Ca exclaimed. "Looks fresh, too! Where'd you get it?"

"Um ... fighting Screech and Thud," Ducky answered meekly. "Or trying, anyway."

Nona's jaw dropped while Ca shook her head in amazement.

"Lucky girl," Ca commented. "I'd be fortunate to get so much as a tiny bruise from this knucklehead."

"Oh yeah?" replied Nona.

"Yeah!" Ca bantered.

The fight between them instantly reignited with renewed vigour.

"Um ... actually Littlefoot, Cera, Chomper, Petrie's uncle, Ruby and her dad defeated them, along with Red Claw," Ducky clarified, though she wasn't sure if they were listening anymore. "Screech almost killed me, he did! I do not have any fighting skills, unlike you guys, which is why I was wondering if you'd ... y'know, teach me?"

The two froze. Their eyes fixed on Ducky.

Ducky felt her knees buckle as she began to back away. "Nevermind, forget I said that."

The twins moved towards her.

"EEEEP! No, no, NO! PLEASE don't KILL me!" Ducky begged.

Ca shook her head in disapproval. "This is not what I expected."

"Not what I expected at all," Nona agreed.

"W-what do you mean?" asked Ducky.

Ca painted the word picture. "You're 'Lucky Ducky': the 'Fearless Challenger of the Mysterious Beyond'! You've been facing sharpteeth since you were ankle high, always coming out on top!"

Ducky felt her ego inflating.

"We call you 'Lucky Ducky' for a reason, you know," Nona added, placing a paw on Ducky's shoulder.

"Yes, I think she got that impression," Ca criticised, resting her paw on Ducky as well. "Honestly, this isn't like you. I mean, we're crazy. Clearly our egg got dropped before we hatched, but even we have never done the things you do!"

Nona frowned. "Mostly because you never tell us when you go adventuring, so we can't tag along. Speaking of which, please start telling us. OW!"

Ca had slapped Nona's ankle with her tail underwater, reminding her sister to focus on the subject.

"Are you okay?" asked Ducky, who hadn't seen it happen.

"Just peachy, I have a wonderful sister," Nona grumbled, giving Ca a deadpan look.

Nona tried to headlock her sister. Ca responded in kind. The only problem? Ducky was between them. After nearly suffocating, Ducky managed to slip away.

"It's been fun!" Ducky lied, waving a goodbye as she tried to leave.

Nona quickly seized her arm with a vice-like grip.

"Hold up," Ca requested civilly. "What we're trying to say is that we're surprised you're so scared of us when you face down sharpteeth every other week! Are we worse than sharpteeth?"

"Well ... no," Ducky admitted.

"Would we bite, scratch, dismember or eviscerate you?" pressed Ca.

"I think I've seen Nona bite you a few times ..." Ducky noted.

Nona snickered to herself.

Ca ignored her sister. "Maybe, but would we ever try to end you?"

"Uhh ..."

Nona rolled her eyes and took over from there. "Look, Lucky Ducky, we're not forcing you to do anything. We're just ... really excited about sharing what we do with another sibling."

Ca gave her sister a discrete, approving nod before pushing the point. "Especially one as cool as you, Lucky. If you don't want us to teach you how to defend yourself, that's okay. We just ..." she sighed. "We just thought you were brave enough to handle it ..."

With that, they released her and began to walk away.

Ducky's resolve hardened. "I am brave enough to handle it, I am, I am!"

When they spun to face her a little too quickly with grins a little too wide, Ducky immediately regretted her decision.

"Excellent! First we'll be showing you 'The CaNon Ball'!" Ca declared. "Nona, please demonstrate."

"CANON BALLL!" Nona roared, springing into the air, tucking her limbs and flattening Ducky rear first.

A thought hit Nona as she sat atop Ducky, whose submerged head and releasing a steady stream of panicked bubbles.

"You know ..." Nona began, "I don't understand why you get to have your whole name in the 'CaNon Ball' while mine is shortened at the end!"

Ca gave her twin a surly smile. "Nona, you don't 'get' a lot of things."

Nona blinked. "What's that supposed-? HEY! Now you're gonna 'GET' it!"

She pounced into Ca, who redirected her with a body throw. However, Nona managed to grab her sister in the process and they both went crashing into the water.

With Nona no longer drowning her, Ducky burst from the surface and sucked in a deep gasp before turning tail and running for her life. This was a horrible idea!

Trapped in a headlock, Nona noticed her. "She's getting away! I mean ... where yah goin', Lucky Ducky? I thought you wanted to learn!"

Nona's calmed tone was betrayed by the way the twins rushed their sister like Red Claw himself.

"I like breathing better!" Ducky screamed.

Ca laughed as she closed in on Ducky. "You're funny!"

"Mama, HELP!" Ducky shrieked.

Mama Swimmer loudly cleared her throat. "Okay, girls! That's enou-!"

"MAMA wants to PLAY with us!" Ca squealed.

Mama Swimmer's legs tore titanic splashes from the river as she frantically fled the water, nearly tripping over herself.

Ducky's loosened jaw quivered. Never had she seen Mama move that fast. She looked back to witness Ca and Nona wearing sinister grins, managing a high five as they barrelled towards her. Those devious monsters!

Most of the siblings made forced attempts to mind their business. A mildly wide-eyed Tyde took in the whole thing while munching river plants like a mouth full of popcorn.

"Shouldn't we, you know, DO something?" Ebb urged.

"I am," Tyde assured. "I'm fomulating a meticulous testimony so as to bear witness to the details of what transpires."

"That's called 'watching'!" snapped Ebb.

"It's what I do, it's practically my job," Tyde countered. "I observe the goings-on and relay them to those less informed."

"That's called 'gossip'!" Ebb spat.

Tyde shrugged. "Ducky's story must be told. I'm also providing encouragement. Move those legs, Ducky! Whoa, whoa, whoa, Bro, take a deep breath and think about what you're doing."

"I'm helping my sister, I am, I am!" Ebb insisted, resolute as he marched towards the conflict.

Tyde shook his head. "No ... you're getting yourself killed. Again."

"I'm coming, Ducky!" Ebb called out.

Ebb blazed a path of speckled waves as he plunged into the chaos. The moment he was within range, the twins burst into laughter as they grabbed and dragged their brother into the deep end. Once there, all three swimmers disappeared beneath the surface, with only a handful of bubbles to tell the tale.

"EBB! NO, NO, NOOO!" Ducky screamed, wading towards the scene of the crime.

Tyde snatched up another paw full of plants and stuffed them into his mouth.

Suddenly, Ebb erupted from the surface, shrieking at the top of his lungs as his body hurtled towards Tyde.

Eyes briefly popping, Tyde's expression fell into apathy as he accepted his fate with another shrug. Not a second later, Ebb came crashing into him.

"Bro! Are you okay?" Ebb exclaimed, picking himself up and offering Tyde a paw.

"Yup, yup, yup. And I know," replied Tyde, ignoring the paw as he floated on his stomach, indifferent.

Ebb withdrew the offer. "You know, you kind of deserved it."

"I said I know," Tyde repeated.

Distracted by her brothers, Ducky turned tail to run a little too late when she glimpsed the twins sneaking up on her like belly draggers slinking through the water.

"This move is called 'The Ankle Biter!" Ca called. "Show her, Nona!"

Nona brought Ducky down with a dive to the ankles. And yes: she did bite her.


One evening of training / abuse later ...


Ducky just about collapsed into her nest, soaking in the cool, calm of the night. What a day. At least she'd learnt a lot ... probably. It was hard to sift through the traumatic tangle of memories constituting Ca and Nona's 'lessons' - the trigger-a-mild-migraine kind of 'hard'. Oh well, tomorrow was another day. This was Ducky Time: No sisters, no sharpteeth, no despairing over Chomper's departure. If anything so much as threatened her attempt at a good night's sleep, she didn't know what she would do. Probably something very unDucky-like.

Two heads rose at the edge of her nest, sinister smiles plastered on their faces. Then Nona broke character.

"She looks so peaceful. Are you sure we should do this?" Nona whispered.

"Hush," Ca quietly replied. "Some sharpteeth are night hunters. We should train her for that. You wouldn't want our dear, Lucky Ducky getting mauled in her sleep outside the valley, would you?"

"I don't think-"

Ca pinched her sister's beak shut. "Precisely. That's why I do the thinking."

"'tHaT's WhY I dO tHe tHiNkInG'," Nona mocked.

"Are you with me or not?" asked a frowning Ca.

Nona sighed. "Let's make this quick."

Ca smiled. "Okay. We'll pounce on three: one ... two ... three!"

Ducky's bloodshot eyes popped open when the 'three!' assaulted her ears. Something snapped. Her brain went from imploding under stress to effervescing it. No. More like erupting. It took a few moments for the reaction to transition from her mind to her body, though.

The twins' pounce ended in a dogpile.

Clearing her throat with a professorial air, Ca began: "You see, Ducky, if a sharptooth were to do that when you were napping in The Mysterious Beyond, things would get real ugly, real fast."

Ducky did not respond, her muscles practically limp.

"Hellooo? Aren'tcha gonna defend yourself?" asked Nona. "Ducky? Anyone home?"

Ca examined their victim. "Her eyes are open, but she's just lying there."

"I'm giving you ten heartbeats," Ducky declared in a sepulchral voice devoid of her signature pep. If either twin took the time to think about her tone, some alarms might have gone off.

Ca clicked her tongue and shook her head. "Ducky, I'm afraid that's not how this works. You have to fight your way from underneat-"


Three seconds later ...


A livid bellow.

A shattering nest.

Dull thuds of bodies hitting the ground repeatedly.

Screaming. Sooo much screaming.

Those were the sounds that pierced the night for at least half a mile around.

Ca and Nona were no strangers to pain. In retrospect, they should have been proud: Ducky was making good use of what they taught her. What she lacked in technique she made up for in incensed strength. Then why did this feel so wrong? So horrifying? Perhaps it was the sheer alienness of the situation. For the twins, being clobbered by someone other than themselves was an entirely new experience.

"MAMA, HELP!" Ca squealed, clawing at soil as Ducky yanked her back with the 'Ankle Biter', throwing in a belly dragger's 'death roll' for good measure.

Mama Swimmer (and the entire family, for that matter) had already awoken thanks to the ruckus, but it seemed Ducky was handling things pretty well on her own. Therefore, they had wordlessly, almost unanimously, decided to feign the appearance of sleep. Some even made a show of snoring. Only Tyde didn't play along. His crazy sisters were finally getting their comeuppance! He wouldn't miss this for the world!

Slowly, discreetly, he peeked over the edge of his nest to spot Nona being hurled through the air. That was the last thing he saw before she flew into his face, followed by Ducky, who wasn't quite done with her, and Ca, who wasn't about to let her noob sister get away with a solid victory. Rolling on top of him in a flurry of bodies, they decimated half his nest before Ducky managed to toss away the twins and treat them to a two and a half ton CaNon Ball. The resultant impact sent tremors through the ground.

There Tyde lay, his life flashing before his eyes. He was starting to think that maaaybe his busybody ways were somehow yielding laser-guided consequences ... but only 'maybe'. He pulled himself together and continued to watch.

Ca and Nona were struggling to regroup for a counterattack when the fight was broken by a familiar voice.

"Hi, guys."

The twins gasped before spinning to face him with sweet smiles as they spoke in unison: "Hiiii, Littlefoot!"

The longneck returned their smile with a touch of awkwardness. He'd seen their brand of 'training', and wanted to make sure Ducky at least got a good night's sleep. The twins always seemed so innocent around him. He would never have guessed they could cause so much chaos if he hadn't seen if often enough for himself ... although the way they giggled and batted their eyelashes at him always made him uncomfortable.

"I'm really glad you're training Ducky," he began.

Ca blinked. "You are? I mean, it's a pleasure!"

Littlefoot nodded. He kind of figured they were enjoying it a bit too much.

"Try not to take things too far, though," he requested. "Besides, she's had a hard day, fighting Screech and Thud and having to say goodbye to Chomper."

This was news. Ca's eyes widened before she stared at the ground in quiet dismay. Nona's dismay was much less quiet.

"Chomper's GONE?!" Nona exclaimed. "NOOOOO! He was our second choice in 'Pretend He's a Swimmer and Fight over Him'!"

One of their siblings couldn't help but crack his eyelids, mouthing a disturbed "whaa?"

Ca scolded Nona with a glare. Littlefoot slowly nodded, deciding it was best not to ask, although that statement was fairly self-explanatory.

Nona quickly tried to mitigate her mistake. "I ... uhh ... actually, he's our first choice! You're not our first choice! You're not even one of our choices! MMFFF!"

Yet again, Ca had squeezed her sister's beak shut.

"Okay, well ... um ... goodnight, then," Littlefoot bade farewell, turning to leave.

"Goodnight, Littlefoot!" they chirped with bashful waves, before sighing.

Once he was too far to hear, Nona blurted: "Seriously, why'd he have to be a longneck?"

"It's probably for the best," Ca shrugged. "Otherwise, I'd have to eliminate the competition ... that means you, by the way."

Nona gave an eye roll. "I'm not that dumb."

She briefly considered punishing her sister before declining. Maybe she was too tired, or too dejected over the news about Chomper.

"Hey, Lucky Ducky," Ca began. "What's it like to spend all your time around such a cool guy?"

She turned to see that Ducky had fallen asleep, the exertion of the day having caught up with her.

Nona shook her head. "She wouldn't know her luck if it fell from the sky and flattened her."

"Speaking of flattening ..." Ca grinned, geared up to pounce her sleeping sister.

Remembering Littlefoot's request, Ca aborted the impulse as the two came to a quiet agreement to honour it.

"Well, I guess we better join her," Nona suggested.

"We should probably join her," Ca yawned.

Nona gave her a look. "That's what I just-!"

Upon seeing her sister's sleepy face, she decided to drop the subject.

"Whatever. G'night, Miss Know-It-All," Nona concluded.

"Goodnight, Knucklehead," Ca replied.

The two huddled into their nest, mildly tussling for the best position until they settled into a deep sleep, with Ca's arms around her sister in a gentle headlock and Nona bracing with her paws as though trying to escape. It was their most comfortable position since before hatching, and they never felt quite right sleeping any other way.


'Some mothers have them, and they live' - something my grandfather used to say ... which my dad subsequently used on me when my antics got a tad outlandish XD. Ca and Nona pretty much embody that statement to a T. The first part was based on a common British phrase, apparently. The 'and they live'? I have no idea. He might have come up with it on his own.

In real life, a pair of chicks who grew in the same egg very seldom survive. If not, chances are only one will make it. It is possible for both to survive, but one usually 'out-competes' the other for survival, which is ... sad, but it meshes interestingly with the story of Ca and Nona. As you can see, even though the twins managed to hatch without incident (sort of), they've been trying to 'out-compete' each other since day one.

As you can see, Ca likes to lord it over Nona as the semi-dominant twin, being slightly bigger and more quick-witted. Contrary to Ca's claims, Nona isn't dumb, but any marginal I.Q. shortcoming is amplified by her lower confidence and acceptance of the belief. However, she exhibits a higher E.Q. in some areas.

Their sleeping position is somewhat inspired by two conjoined twins (whose names escape me at the moment) who were separated, though they find comfort in the position in which they were attached.

Stay tuned for the final chapter!