Chapter One: Follow Your Gut

Now make sure you grab the eggs from that nest marked on the map. Only that one! There's another pair in the area so make sure you don't get them mixed up or you're not going to get paid.

Alistair narrowed her eyes slightly as she remembered how firmly their client had been and how he'd emphasized that they grab eggs from this particular nest. Then he said he had men who had been watching the nest carefully. She had been a hunter long enough to see clearly that he was hiding something, but she was getting paid to deliver these eggs not to psychoanalyze the man who wanted them. As long as he wasn't breaking any Guild rules then it wasn't up to her. Besides she had already accepted the quest so there wasn't much point in going back now.

Shaking her head, Alistair looked down and examined the map in her hands to make sure they were heading in the right direction. Brushing her black bangs out of the way she looked up to check the sun's position. They were on a quest to grab three fresh eggs from a local rathian and rathalos nest and transport them back to Loc Lac City where they would then be handed off to some rich businessman who wanted to have them served at his daughter's wedding reception or so he claimed. Alistair highly doubted he was telling the truth.

More importantly though were the wyvern parents. If the mother and father didn't see them climbing up to the nest then it should be simple enough to grab the eggs and get them back to the base camp. If they were spotted then it would be a nightmarish run back to base camp while evading sharp fangs, large talons, and blazing fireballs.

Alistair had her armor prepared and her switch axe newly upgraded. She had been doing this for a few years after all. This should be fairly easy if all went more or less according to plan.

Her partner however was new. Very new. She had managed to outfitted herself in great jaggi armor and a pretty nice looking sword and shield so she clearly had skill. The equipment was actually pretty good for a rookie hunter. It was her lack of knowledge that was the problem. On a lower level quest Alistair wouldn't have minded giving the younger hunter some guidance. Unfortunately this was an egg hunt quest and two angry wyvern parents were nothing to take lightly no matter how strong a hunter you were. Now the pressure of keeping her companion in one piece was starting to fray her nerves.

I couldn't reconsider though. Once I found out the other two hunters previously assigned to this quest had abandoned it I couldn't just let her go out alone and get killed, Alistair silently cursed. This quest in fact was one she had picked up after someone else dropped it. Normally she might have avoided a clearly shady client but leaving a rookie hunter to possibly get attacked by a rathian and rathalos just wasn't the hunter way. Helping to teach less experienced hunters had used to be a hobby of her's. In a profession this dangerous you never knew who might be watching your back in the future and she wanted to make sure everybody that hunted with her knew exactly what they were doing. Most other hunters didn't want to be bothered spending the extra time training some rookie when it could be spent making money or gathering materials they needed for new weapons or armor.

"Do you even know how to make a potion, Amai?" Alistair asked suddenly.

The white-haired teenager looked up from polishing her sword and thought for a moment. "Umm... herb and... antidote...?" she asked hesitantly. Alistair groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. She was only in her mid twenties but being around this 17-year-old teenager was already making her feel ancient. Her optimism, enthusiasm and energy just had no limits.

"Seriously Amai? How is it that you've taken on a great jaggi and a barroth but you can't make a potion?" she questioned honestly mystified. Making potions was one of the very first things you learned as a hunter.

Amai grinned at her response. "I just buy them in town before going out for a hunt and if I run out I just chew some herbs. Besides the quest boxes are usually stuffed with items anyway so I can always go back and grab some if I really need them," she said flippantly. Taking a deep breath Alistair folded her map carefully and considered how she wanted to word this. Going off on how Amai was going to end up impaled on the sharp end some monster's claw one day probably wasn't the most effective method of conveying her point.

Instead she said, "That may work for now, but when you start taking on creature's like barroth or gobul you aren't going to have that opportunity. What if you forget? Or there aren't any herbs readily available in the area you've been assigned? Not only do you need potions on hand, but you need herbs and blue mushrooms. Together those will make more potions. Besides potions are only good for minor injuries, cuts, gashes, or bruises. They speed up your bodies ability to recover but they aren't a cure all. You need to be fast on your feet and avoid taking serious damage whenever possible. If you get a serious injury while on a quest alone people may not know you're missing for days or weeks," Alistair sharpened her voice to make sure the girl got the point.

Amai nodded and Alistair could see that she was seriously taking that information into account. Satisfied she turned around and pointed towards the distant hills. "Over there between those two peaks is where the rathian's nest was spotted. Locals say that in that valley is a large waterfall that pours into the local lake. Behind the falls is cavern that will take us up closer to the nest. They'll have pulled out all trees and uprooted any boulders near the nest to provide a clear landing site as well as to enhance their range of sight," Alistair explained referring to the rathian and rathalos parents as she grabbed her helmet and slipped it on.

"At this time of day her rathalos mate will be patrolling the area from the sky. Rathian prefer to hunt from the ground so she's the one we need to pay more attention to," Alistair added as she carefully scanning the sky.

Getting there would only take about half an hour on foot if they hurried so they needed to get going. The sun was rising fast and rathian were unusual in that they hunted in the hottest part of the day. Most prey animals were sluggish and prone to sleeping then so they were easier to sneak up on.

"She might be resting right now, but by the time we get there the mother should have flown off to go hunting. If not then we'll wait until she leaves, understood?" Alistair asked as Amai stood up and grabbed two potions and a few paintballs to round out her equipment. Everything else would stay here at base camp.

"Yep! Get in, stay quiet, and get back out without being seen. The sooner we get in and get out the better," she responded affirmatively her eyes set seriously.

"Good now let's get going."

Amai was starting to fidget; not that Alistair could blame her. They had been crouching down in this stand of trees for the past 30 minutes. After finding the nest they also found a rathian sleeping there, unfortunately her stomach showed that she had eaten as recently as yesterday so it probably wouldn't be flying off anywhere as Alistair hoped. Wind direction was towards them and the waterfall was just a few hundred yards to their left. A stand of small bushes stopped a few hundred feet before the edge of the nest which was situated on a small rise off to the right and just behind the waterfall. That's where they were currently hiding.

I can see the eggs from here right under her wings, but how do we get to them? Alistair frowned and mentally reviewed her inventory. She did have a dung bomb, but that would choke them out as well so it wasn't very useful. A trap was too risky and took far too much time to set up. Besides the wyvern would be on them the moment she freed herself.

Gritting her teeth she took a deep breath and cupped her hands to her mouth. The screech she let out made Amai yelp and even the rathian jerked up and rolled to its feet, hissing and spinning around in surprise before checking her eggs.

"What the...!" Amai looked over at her impromptu mentor in shock, but didn't get a chance to finish her sentence.

Alistair didn't let her finish and instead grabbed a large piece of wood next to her and flung it as far as possible. Thankfully it went over the edge of the nest and crashed down bringing some loose rocks tumbling down with it as it rolled off into the river.

Letting out a roar that made both of them cringe the rathian spread its wings and launched itself up into the air. It hovered in the air for a moment and immediately launched a short blast of fire at the spot where the log had crashed down. Alistair grabbed a large rock and sent hurtling down over the side of the nest. The protective mother was staring too intensely for danger to notice the rock go flying right over her tail. Yelping angrily a small jaggi popped its head up and nearly got it taken off when the rathian swooped down and snapped at it. Apparently there was more than just rocks lurking on the gentle slopes near this waterfall. Another jaggi darted from its hiding spot and started running away in the other direction.

With a load squawk the first jaggi took off at top speed away from the nest with the furious wyvern in hot pursuit. She wouldn't stop until it was at least a few miles away from the area. Summoned by his mate's call a massive rathalos swooped in by her side to help drive off the intruders. When both were out of sight Alistair looked over at Amai who was clearly struggling to catch up with what had just happened here.

"When all else fails, improvise," Alistair smirked and jumped to her feet. She headed straight towards the eggs and a second later the younger girl was right behind her breathing hard from the sudden shock she had received. Well besides the shock she had just received it was obvious from the moment they arrived that Amai had never seen a live rathian before. It had taken a harsh elbow to the ribs to get her to focus.

"Did you know that jaggi was there?" she asked with wide eyes. Alistair nodded, "Two things you always need to remember about jaggi is that they have a very hard time staying quiet and they almost always hunt in packs. It ran away the moment it recognized us as hunters, but when we didn't move for a while it decided we weren't a threat and went back to try and steal an egg away. I could hear it calling to its hunting partner, but you were closer to the waterfall and probably couldn't make it out. Rathian have sharp hearing, but she was sleeping. Actually hitting it on the head wasn't something I had planned on though," she explained as she crouched down next to the group of eggs.

All of them were just slightly smaller than her upper body and would be heavy to carry. Making quick calculations she grabbed the switch-axe off her back and put it on the ground. Strapped to her weapon were two large pieces of cloth that they would use to carry the eggs.

Talking quickly Alistair outlined their plan by saying, "Your armor and weapon are lighter so you'll carry two eggs." When the younger hunter frowned she added, "Unless you want to be stuck trying to fight if the parents catch up to us..." she let her threat hang and Amai swallowed hard.

"No thanks I can carry two... I think..." she mumbled the last part as she carefully pushed one egg on to the blanket. Alistair put another one on the cloth and together they carefully folded it. When it was tied up they grabbed one more egg and put it on the other large square of cloth.

First they would get the two eggs away from here. Amai stood up and Alistair hefted the bundle up against her back and tied it over one shoulder, under the other and wrapped the other two hanging straps around her waist. Checking all of the knots carefully she finally nodded in approval as Amai checked the weight and shifted it slightly to make it easier to carry.

"There. You can run if necessary and you'll still be able to reach your weapon if you need it to fend off any creatures," Alistair explained grabbing the last egg. She slipped it over her shoulders in the same way and tied the two loose ends around her waist before grabbing her axe and quickly jogging back to the stand of trees. Amai could be seen tramping ahead just ahead of her and within a few short minutes they had reached the jagged moss-covered opening that led down under the waterfall and back to the lake side below.

Getting here had taken half an hour, but lugging these eggs on their backs meant the trip would take a whole lot longer.

Several times they had to stop when a rathalos swooped overhead above the trees. A couple missing eggs were definitely something it would notice so they needed to be careful. Alistair paused for a moment and turned around slightly, but only saw a small family of aptonoth and some jaggi that were fishing in the river. Flapping wings were still clearly audible, but they got across the shallow river without incident and back to the sheltered base camp in one piece.

Amai groaned loudly in relief. "Man I thought for sure we were going to get caught! Rathian have excellent eyesight I do know that much," she said as Alistair leaned over to untie the knots around her stomach. When they were undone she helped the girl take off the other strap and put the eggs down on the ground. After that Alistair unloaded her own and slipped a hand under her armor to rub her shoulders.

"Excellent eyesight and hearing but a poor sense of smell thankfully. Once you grab eggs from any beast you have to remember to keep moving. It doesn't matter how tired or worn out you are. If you've got eggs in your arms then keep moving even if it's just at a walk. Not only will the mother come after you for as long as possible, but some monsters actively will track you down and jaggi are notorious opportunists. A large enough pack won't hesitate to try and steal them," Alistair explained as she bent over and ran her hands over the egg in front of her to make sure there were no cracks or other damage. Amai nodded and took out her hunter's notes and wrote a few things down before putting it away.

"So how do you check to make sure they're fresh? I mean our client was really specific on that point," she reminded her. Alistair thought about that for a moment as she tied the eggs back up.

Looking up at the sky Alistair frowned and said, "The best way is to use a torch to light it up from one side. Then you look at it from the other side to see if it's fertilized. Unfortunately it's not dark enough for that right now and we don't have any other means of doing it. Going by the quest information we've been provided is the best we can do although it's not always the most accurate. Keep that in mind. Details can get fuzzy when it comes to non-hunters since they tend to exaggerate or they don't follow through on complete monster surveying," she said. Taking the switch axe off her shoulders, Alistair collapsed next to the eggs.

"We estimated that we'd be done by sundown so there should be a felyne cart coming to the nearby outpost in a couple hours to take us and our cargo back to edge of the desert where we'll catch a sand ship back to Loc Lac. It will take a couple days of travel to get back to the city so we'll have to keep these eggs wrapped up tightly. Too much warmth will promote fertilization if they haven't developed already, but not enough will make them spoil," Alistair said as she pressed an ear to the side of the egg. It was too thick for her to hear much of anything, but the fact that there wasn't any shifting or chirpping was a good sign.

"We'll rest here for a few minutes to ease our muscles and eat some food rations, but then we have to get moving. It will take about three hours on foot to get back to the outpost carrying these eggs and if we miss the transport then that's another day we'll have to wait," Alistair said as she stood back up and went to the quest box. She had left their food in there for safe keeping while they went out hunting. Cooking raw meat would put out too much of a smell so they would make do with hunting rations as well as fruit and berries that would give them the energy they needed to get moving again.

"Take only as much as you need to get about half full. We can't travel as effectively on full stomachs," Alistair said as she took her portion and then handed the satchel over to Amai who accepted it with a grateful smile.

"Gotcha. Thanks for helping me out. There's no way I could have gotten all three of these eggs back here without having to fight that rathian at some point," Amai said with a slight bow.

Alistair brushed it off. "It's no problem. When I first started out as a rookie it was in a small fishing village. It's a thriving trade post now, but at the time I got there it was just a small fishing community and I didn't have the slightest idea of what I was doing. Everything I know now I learned entirely on my own. I might have avoided a brush with death several times if I'd had another hunter with me," she explained pausing for a moment to take another bite before saying, "Hunters will always repay a favor. That's just the way it is in this business so helping others out will almost always pay off for you in the end," she added and Amai's face fell slightly.

"And here I thought you were helping me out of goodness of your heart," she muttered under her breath.

Alistair just shrugged. "I may be nice, but I'm not a pushover. Remember that as you learn more about hunting. Hunters do help each other because we wouldn't survive otherwise. But don't assume that all of them will have good intentions. This isn't an easy profession for anyone much less for women. You need to be able to stand on your own two feet in the heat of battle if you expect to get anywhere," she said finishing her small meal. Amai hummed and chewed on a few berries as she thought about that.

"So what about your armor and switch axe? Those look like pretty nice ranking stuff," Amai asked and her eye drifted down to the large weapon resting in the short grass beside Alistair.

Alistair's jaw tightened visibly and she looked away before answering with, "They belonged to someone else. Someone close to me. I got their hunter inventory from the Guild after they died." Clearly it was a sore spot and Alistair stood up quickly and grabbed the two eggs before anymore questions could be asked.

"Break time is over. I'll carry most of the weight this time so we can make better time getting back to the outpost," Alistair said as Amai stuffed the last of the rations in her mouth and then hurried to her feet to come and help get the eggs settled on her back.

Once they were both outfitted and both hunters had picked up all of their gear they trudged off through the thick forest. Sunset was coming quickly.

They should have arrived early. Unfortunately a pack of jaggi had ambushed them and with expert teamwork they had nearly managed to drag the eggs away from them before Amai took them out with her quicker speed and Alistair finished them off with a single swing of her axe. The delay was just enough to keep them from reaching the felyne cart that was supposed to take them to the awaiting sand ship. As they left the forest and entered the outpost at the base of a large mountain canyon the dust trail fading off into the distance was all they needed to see. After checking in at the hunting post set up in the small town they received confirmation that it was already too late and had summarily been directed to the only inn there was in town.

Alistair grimaced and paid the grinning inn-keeper the nightly fee which was far more then anything she would normally be inclined to pay. Grabbing the key she turned to Amai who was trying to ward off the attentions of some guy who couldn't get it through his head that she wasn't interested. Judging from the way her fingers kept twitching over her blade it wouldn't be long before her firm words turned into firm actions. Taking pity on the girl she said loudly, "Grab your stuff and let's get to our room for the night. We can't afford to miss our morning transport." Alistair reached down and grabbed the two eggs sitting next to her as her partner gave the guy a nice smile and hoisted the eggs wrapped around her back higher.

"Sorry gotta go my hunting partner is calling me and she gets really touchy if I'm late!" Amai said and it was mostly true. The very first thing she had learned about her new hunting companion was that above all things she despised being late and secondly that she was could be prone to mood swings at times. Too bad this guy wasn't taking any of the hints Amai was giving him or the ones Alistair had been throwing as well which had been coming in increasingly firm glares tossed over her shoulder. He just kept pushing it.

Finally having enough Alistair walked over and roughly pulled the guy back by his shirt collar. "She's with me. Find someone else to turn your charms on or I'll be turning my blade on you," she snarled feeling no pity whatsoever for the scrawny teenager. Hurt feelings would be the least of his worries if he didn't back off. His constant entreaties were staring to annoy her and she wasn't even the one he was talking to. Letting out a stuttered apology at the sight of her armored form he quickly hurried away throwing glances over his shoulder the entire time.

Satisfied Alistair turned back to Amai and held up the key. "Here we go. We need to draft our mission reports tomorrow on the way to the edge of the desert. New regulations state that you have to hand them in on everything other then gathering missions. Some hunters will savage or poach every possible monster they come across instead of just going after their assigned target and its causing serious damage to the ecosystem in some areas," she said leading the way down the hall way towards their room.

Amai hurried to catch up. "Really? Well I guess since this is an egg hunt quest that makes sense. If there aren't any big predators like rathian hatching eggs then herbivores and smaller predators will grow out of control right?" she asked curiously and Alistair nodded.

"Hunting isn't simply signing up for a quest and then doing what ever you want. What you do in between matters just as much as the end result. I've seen plenty of hunters lose their Guild Card and even wind up with jail time for repeatedly using illegal traps or not reporting all their kills. Even those jaggi we took out have to be reported," Alistair added scanning the door plaques until they came to the right number. It took a couple twists and bangs to get the key to work but after a few minutes they were in. It was a pretty bare room with two beds, a wash room, fireplace, a table, and a large window that was open to help circulate some air.

Letting out a heavy sigh Alistair carefully loosened the straps around her waist and slipped the shoulder strap off. Carefully setting the eggs down in front of the empty fireplace she helped Amai with the egg she was carrying as well. As Amai lit the lamps in the room and put the glass covers over them Alistair checked their cargo once again for any damage. No cracks or soft spots.

Rubbing her eyes, Alistair yawned and stood up. "I'm going to get this armor off, take a shower, and then I'm going to bed. Today has lasted long enough," she said casually dropping her hunting supplies on the floor next to the bed. She picked the one closest to the door just in case someone tried to sneak in during the night. It wasn't entirely uncommon for some idiots to try and take advantage of hunters who were worn out after a long day.

Stripping her armor pieces off Alistair took more care placing them next to the bed. They would need to be cleaned, the metal polished, and the supple hide oiled to keep each piece in top shape. Not a task she was looking forward to but she never skipped any steps. When the last pieces were off she rolled her shoulders and headed into the wash room to get herself cleaned up.

Armor was clean, the eggs were in perfect shape, and she had sent Amai out to get them some food from the inn's kitchen. After a shower and a quick dinner it should have been a quiet night.

Key word being should.

"Wake up!"

Alistair jerked awake as a pillow hit her in the head like a bag of sand.

"Ow! What the...? Amai if someone isn't dying then I swear I'll have your head on a platter!" Alistair snarled as she shot up from the uncomfortable bed and even worse smelling sheets. Waking her up was asking for it on a normal day. Waking her up to this sweltering heat after it had already taken a full hour to fall asleep in the first place meant someone needed to suffer. The stifling heat had her sweating almost as soon as she stepped out of the shower and made it nearly impossible to get to sleep despite her just wearing a midriff top and shorts.

"The eggs are hatching!" Amai screeched her eyes wide with panic, but it still took a second for the information to register in Alistair's sleep fogged mind. Staring at the girl for a moment she finally looked over at the eggs. Even in the moonlight that one had a large crack and the other was rocking back and forth wildly.

Heat speeds up hatching.

And it was well over the 80 degree mark in this room.

Jumping out of bed Alistair stumbled over to the eggs and tried to think of something to do but it was already too late. These eggs were going to hatch. Instead she turned her anger on Amai who was just standing there. "Don't just stare at me! Light the lamps!" she shouted waving an arm at the girl. Amai jerked to life and hurriedly lit all the lamps in the room providing plenty of light for them to see by.

With her mind racing Alistair could ultimately do nothing but crouch down next to one of the eggs. However, the biggest surprise came when a wing with dark fire markings broke through followed by a tail. A bright, shiny, metallic silver tail.

A loud wail interrupted her thoughts as a larger chunk of the egg cracked and the hatchling fell backwards with a squeak of surprise. Acting on instinct Alistair reached out and grabbed the baby as it kicked free of its confining shell. It rested there for a moment before looking up at her with bright blue eyes. It was a rathalos. A silver rathalos. One of the rarest kinds. Born as a result of a recessive gene that must have been in both parents.

Now everything made sense. The baby still trying to get out of the second egg let out a wail that was loud enough to wake the dead.

Speaking of dead that's exactly what that businessman is going to be when I get my hands on him! Alistair immediately pieced the information together. Civilians were not allowed to keep anything but Class 3 monsters and below as pets. The way monsters were classified varied depending on what area you live in different areas, but rathalos and rathian off-limits to civilians no matter where you went unless you obtained a special license. If this business man had one he wouldn't have bothered hiding it. He would have crowed about it to anyone within hearing distance.

Sure some hunters would take on monsters and train them up as hunting partners, but it was pretty rare in this part of the continent. Researchers were usually the only ones interested in that sort of thing and even then they only wanted the creature used to having a human presence around so they could study it more effectively. A hunter in good standing just needed to fill out adoption papers and they were set to go. Civilian's had to jump through a lot more hoops which resulted in some trying to find more and more ways to cheat the system.

Our client lied about the age of the eggs so that he could keep them as part of his personal collection! Alistair's senses had started to tingle when both her and Amai had arrived at his massive mansion and saw the Royal Ludroth swimming around in the giant aquarium their client had proudly shown to them. He also showed them a hypnocatrice that had preened and cooed at his attentions along with a dozen other creatures. She should have refused the quest then and there when her gut told her something was off but she just couldn't leave Amai to fend for herself.

Alistair was distracted when the hatchling in her arms wiggled around on its back. Sniffing slightly the silver rathalos blinked calmly before cooing softly to her.

Oh heck no.

"I am not your mother!" Alistair said futilely as it rubbed its wet little head against her arm.

A loud crack announced the arrival of the second hatchling as the egg split in two and fell apart. A red bundle tumbled out with a large section of the egg still attached to its back. It was another rathalos hatchling only this one was a more common red color. As soon as it was free it tried to get up on its shaky legs. Immediately it crashed to the ground and tried to get back up only fall over. Rolling over it kicked its feet out only to get its talons snarled in its wings. Crying desperately it started to panic in an attempt to get free.

Grimacing Alistair took the silver rathalos in her arms and carefully placed him on his stomach where he remained, eyes closed and sides heaving. Scooting over she reached down and helped the second baby untangle before he hurt himself. Sighing heavily the hatchling put his head down on her arm and closed his eyes. He was clearly exhausted from his attempts to get out of the egg. Glancing over her shoulder Alistair looked at the third egg but apparently it was a dud.

"I can't believe our client lied to try and cheat the system. He knew these eggs were about ready to hatch and was hoping we would deliver them without realizing the truth," Alistair stated through gritted teeth. Feeling something nudged her arm she looked down to see the silver rathalos pop its head in at her side before he promptly started hissing at Amai who smiled at the babies. Apparently that only scared them more and the red rathalos opened his eyes started humming deep in his throat as he pressed closer to Alistair.

Experimentally she stroked its scales and he settled down. Of course that made his silver brother bump her arm insistently when she didn't do the same thing for him. Jealously started early it seemed.

"Great. Just great. I just wanted to finish this quest and get back home," Alistair said sourly as she rubbed the silver one's head. This was not how she had envisioned her days going. When she got back to Loc Lac she was planning on taking a few days off at the nearest spa to help settle herself before going back out for more quests. Evidently that wasn't going to be happening now.

Amai sat down across from her with her legs crossed. "So what do we do now? I mean the Guild isn't going to let you keep them are they? How does that even work? Then again you are a hunter of a pretty nice ranking so they probably wouldn't care..." she paused for a moment as a big grin spread across her face. "How cool would it be to go hunting from the back of a rathalos?" she asked leaning forward with great excitement only to be brought up short by more hissing from the hatchlings.

"Hey! You're going to be stuck with me for the next few days at least so cut that out!" she chastised. Seeing that she wasn't going away and "mom" wasn't getting upset the silver one sniffed and curled up next to Alistair making a point of turning his back on Amai. The red one wasn't so sure and tilted his head back to look at up at Alistair and see if this person was really okay or not.

Alistair groaned and rubbed her head wearily. She was exhausted and in no mood to deal with all that this situation entailed. Maybe she would be more level-headed in the morning when her head wasn't so sleep fogged. Thankfully the babies wouldn't be hungry for at least a couple days. The egg yolk would sustain them for that long and they would be able to get some meat once they were on the sand ship back to Loc Lac. An image of her riding the back of an adult silver rathalos with a large bow in hand popped unbidden into her mind.

Taking a deep breath, Alistair shook her head. Don't go getting ahead of yourself. Researchers are going to have a field day with this silver baby. The best thing to do is hand both of them over so they can learn more about the species and they can live in relative freedom. Not in a crowded city with me and having hunters look in or poke at them every day, she told herself firmly even as the two little wyverns started going to sleep. One in her arms and the other at her side.

But they were just so cute.

Alistair closed her eyes. She'd already lost enough. Taking on these babies would only open herself up to that possibility again, but she couldn't just abandon them to some reserve could she? They might be powerful one day but right now they were helpless and needed protection.

Amai was quiet for several more moments as she leaned forward again and watched them sleep.

"So can I keep one?"


"Why not?"

"They don't even like you."

"They'll learn!"

"I haven't decided what I'm going to do with them yet so don't go getting yourself too attached."

"Oh, come on! You know you want to keep one for yourself. You know a ton of things about monsters! Definitely more than most other hunters who only care about the easiest way to kill a beast. You are the perfect person to raise them!"

Alistair opened her mouth and then shut it as her brain stubbornly refused to come up with a good argument to that until it got some rest.


"Ha! So you admit I'm right? I knew you had a big heart," Amai grinned at her.

Rolling her eyes Alistair leaned back and got comfortable on the floor. It was a lot better than that awful bed actually. "Go to sleep. I'm too tired to deal with this right now."

"What are you going to name them?"

"Amai I swear to all that is holy that if you don't shut up right now before you wake these hatchlings up..."

"All right, all right. Geez, just when I think you're pretty cool you start getting all uptight again."

The rest of the night went undisturbed except for one occasion when the same young man from before knocked on the door to see if everything was okay in their room. Apparently he was a member of the staff and unfortunately for him the knocking woke up two rathalos hatchlings that immediately started crying and putting up a terrible fuss. A half-awake Alistair answered the door and promptly served him a sharp right hook before shoving him against the wall and slamming the door in his face.

AN: I've started posting this story to Archive of Our Own and in the process I'll be revising all of the chapters here as I go along. No major revisions but cleaning up grammar, fixing sentences that make me cringe when I look at them now, and generally just cleaning things up.