The wadi was transformed. All along the edge of the cliff, in the deep shadow where the grey tigers had lurked in the thicket, shelters were going up in the same bushes. The Nadumon had unpacked something that Kyrus hadn't realized would be their new homes. It had been a large, extremely heavy box that Da had initially wanted them to leave behind. Once they'd explained he was on at them to sell the idea to everybody else.
The rolls, each ranging from tiny three metre wide bundles to the bigger ones wide as the sledges were long and then some. Each shelter was rolled out in its proper place and staked down, then a double pump was attached and two people began inflating the bread-loaf shape. As the domes expanded Nadu, in protective clothing harvested and stripped the whippy eyebleed stalks and set them in channels in the structures where doors and windows were clearly delineated. Then the children were sent to fetch water in an atomizing pump that rolled between them, to spread the water to its maximum.
Kyrus sat, just watching the newest home go up. The roll was a dome full of concrete dust. Once inflated and soaked through, it was left to harden in place. Once it would maintain its shape without the walls cracking the doors and windows would be cut out. In the heat of the day a shelter could be inflated in the morning and by next day it would be liveable.
“Heya,” Werfas said. He settled down next to his wingbrother.
“They're putting stone designs into their new houses,” Kyrus said. “I never had a home that I wanted to make beautiful, until I was living in Milar.”
“It's a kind of fik you to the universe, I think,” Werfas said. “Or to Prime, even though he doesn't know it. Like saying 'You tried to kill us. You tried to burn us from the sky but we're still here. Fik you, you didn't take my life. You can't even make it completely ugly.'”
“Huh. I guess.”
Werfas nodded. “We Milar have something like it... We call them scarfs and don't mean the face/neck covering. The Rumon and the Hippefrey have the same kind of feasts that are kind of the same idea that they call woofs, like 'woof it down'. They're all a way of saying 'You tried to kill us, you didn't succeed. Let's eat.'”
Ky laughed. “Let me guess. You got taught that by Zon Elemfias.”
“Yep. It was human cultures class.”
“And this was just in the eleven years since we tried to force you into our culture.”
“Nah, it's an old class. Nothing to do with you Lainz egg-crackers.”
“Careful, wingbrother I'll spit my lung gunk in your tea.”
“Ew. I actually came over to get you. Director Sander wants us to saddle up to help the cuddly flock learn battle moves. He wants us to be 'it' and see if they can catch us.”
“Oh. All right. Sounds like fun. Where's the fathers?”
“In talking with the zon and the Head.”
“Oh enlightened, let's go do something useful, before Archie finds us.”
“He's not so bad, just kind of blunt.”
“Yeah, you didn't have him being blunt in your ear all the way here.”
They got up and trotted over to the bird-line. “Your ma's going to be one of the cuddle-flock chasers you know.”
Ky stopped dead. “No. You're kidding. My ma learning to fight? That's not right.”
“Sure it is. You don't mind the other girls who hatched their birds fighting.”
“But but but but --”
“--Just forget she's your ma. You wouldn't mind Hara doing this.”
“No, but. She's my mother.”
“OOOOOOOHHHHHHHhhh.” He kicked a rock over and watched the scarlet skitter away from where it had been hiding. “Just... never mind. Just. Just... forget it.