The night was dark. All creatures were hiding in their burrows, and caves while the nocturnal creatures of the night, the blood-sucking bats, the prowling wolves, all stalking through the night, be it walking under the darkened trees like a shadow, or flying like a silhouette in the sky. Darkness seemed to shroud around every corner, and put fear into the hearts of many forest creatures.
But the owls... oh, the owls love the night. And while to the other creatures, the nighttime may seem like an unsettling environment, blinding them in the dead of night, the owls can see the true beauty of the night. What seems like a dark, and eerie forest is dappled with beautiful silver moonlight to the owls. What seems like an empty void of blackness in the sky is a soft, black sheet grazed with the brightest stars, and the roundest moon to the owls. Owls, be they Elf or Long-eared, Great Gray or Scops, Fish or Burrowing, consider themselves the essence of the night. They rise each night, and soar to heights than many creatures can't even begin to imagine. They can see crystal clear, penetrating the darkness as if it was daylight, which would almost blind an owl. Owls are the eyes of the night, and the silence within the wind.
On this gorgeous night, the sky alive with stars, and the full moon riding high into the midnight sky, a family was witnessing an amazing scene unfold in front of them. A Barn Owl couple, one tall, and dark brown, with a round, white face, and the other a ruddy color with emerald green eyes, watched as their little orb began to rock. At last, their first child was going to hatch.
Inside the egg, a little owlet curled up inside, curious about the outside world. She pressed her face against the shell, curious about the dull silver light that seeped into the egg. Just barely, the little owlet could make out two tall, dark silhouettes. This scared the little owl. Who were these owls? What did they want from her? Were they waiting for her to emerge? All these questions kept the little owl from breaking free of the shell that contained her.
Then, just as she was about to turn around in what space she had left, another shape flickered in the dull silver light. This silhouette was curiously paler, and almost see through. The little owlet looked curiously at the pale silhouette. Who was this owl? Somehow, she felt enticed to go toward it, to find out what it was. This owl seemed different from the others. It seemed... welcoming, as if it was trying to gently persuade her to leave the protection of her shell so that it could introduce her to the world.
Suddenly, the little owl clacked her beak violently against the wall that confined her. It cracked. Another hit made the crack spread farther, like a spider spinning a larger web. The silhouette was still there, waiting patiently for the little owlet to emerge. Finally, with all the strength she could muster in her tiny, young body, the owlet rammed headfirst into the egg, cracking it into pieces. She tumbled head over tail feathers out of her nest before finally settling sprawled out on the ground. She had her eyes closed, protecting them from any debris from the egg. When she was sure she was safe, the little owl lifted her head, and slowly opened her bulging, but extremely beautiful sky blue eyes.
There was no owl in front of her, but instead, she was looking outside her hollow at the night sky. For her first sight, the little owlet was utterly amazed. She gazed up at the midnight blue sky, alive with bright, twinkling stars surrounding the biggest moon she has yet to see. The little owlet sat there, staring into the night sky with her beak dropped open, and her eyes wide before closing them, and resting her head on the ground, allowing herself to slip away into sleep.
Fog surrounded the owl as she flew. She had no idea where she was or how she even got here. And what was she doing in the air? Hadn't she hatched just moments ago? What was going on? Dark fog rolled over her wings, and to make the situation worse, snow blew into her eyes, hurting like frozen blisters on her face. Where was she even going? Why was she here? The owl kept flying as the storm gradually began to wear off, and the fog began to lift. The owl could feel herself steady out as the wind died down, allowing her to fly easily.
Then, something caught her eye: a bright light, trying to peak its way out of the fog as if it wanted to meet the owl. Allowing the wind to carry her, the owl flew toward the light, curious as to what it was. Could it be a way out of this... this... whatever it was? Could the owl go back to her hollow with the other owls? Slowly, the light grew brighter, and the fog began to fly away, as if the light was chasing off, clearing a path for the owl. She looked below her. Water, far below her, glimmered in the golden light, dazzling the owl in a euphoric way. Captivated by the dancing lights, the owl began to lose her balance. When she caught it, and looked up, her final breath was taken away.
There, looming up in front of her was the biggest tree she's ever seen, its huge trunk twisting into the sky. Stone cliffs rose from the water to surround the tree in a watery valley. The owl could see what looked like a magnificent golden gate, possibly the entrance to this enchanted tree, silhouetted against the beautiful golden sky. What was this place? And how did the owl get here? She shook her head. No matter. She didn't care about how she got here, or where this place was. All that mattered was that she never wanted to leave. She wanted to reach the tree, and live there. It felt so real... almost too real... almost... like a dream...
When the owlet awoke, she was surprised to be back in the hollow. What had happened to that gargantuan tree, and the dancing lights on the water? Where had all that gone? The little owl looked down at her talons, and saw a squirming little centipede on the ground. Interested, she picked it up in her beak, crushing it before swallowing it, amazed by how good it was.
Then, she noticed the other owls in the hollow with her. Two owls, one dark brown, and lean, the other with reddish feathers, and a lovely heart-shaped face, were standing beside each other, gazing at the little owl. The little owl stared back, tilting her head to one side, curious as to who these owls were, and why she felt a sense of familiarity toward them. And furthermore, where was the third owl?
The larger owls were busy talking to one another. The little owl looked out toward the entrance of the hollow, her eyes rising up to the night sky once more. Carefully, she crawled out of her nest, and wabbled toward the edge of the hollow until her tiny talons were hanging off the ledge, gripping the trunk. She smiled up at the heavens, wondering how those twinkling little lights got up there. She wanted to join them; she wanted to fly with them around the moon. Almost unconsciously, the little owl spread her fluffy, stubby wings, and slowly rose to stand on her toes, unaware that she was leaning dangerously forward; she was far too captivated by the wonderous lights in the soft, black sky.
A screech from behind her broke the owl out of her daydreaming. "Nyletak!" Then, talons wrapped around her tiny body, and pulled her away from the ledge into the safety of the hollow. The little owl looked angrily up at the ruddy colored owl, who was staring down at her with angry green eyes. "Nyletak, that is too dangerous for you! You must never ever do that again!"
The little owl was confused for a moment as two questions whirled in her mind: Who was Nyletak, and why wasn't she allowed to do that? The little owl screeched in defiance at the ruddy owl.
The ruddy owl blinked, her eyes softening before she spoke again. "One day, you'll be able to fly. I promise," she murmured, brushing her wing feathers on the little owl's back.
Fly... The word echoed in the owlet's mind. It sounded grand, euphoric. What it would be like to fly with the stars... The little owl turned to look outside once more. She would wait... Yes, Nyletak Sorenette Alba would wait for the stars forever.
"Mum! Mum!" Nyletak came running around the corner, screeching at the top of her lungs.
Her mum, Renae, was sitting on a nest, brooding a new egg. Nyletak's da, Wayne, was nowhere to be seen. Out hunting, most likely. Renae turned her russet colored head toward her daughter. "Yes, what is it?" she asked in her soft voice that Nyletak loved so much.
Nyletak was bouncing up, and down in front of her mum, wearing a little battle helmet made of leaves. "Tell the story of Mist! Tell it, tell it please!" she demanded enthusiastically.
Nyletak had grown up listening to the stories that her parents told her, legends that they called, "The Legends of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole". Over time, Nyletak soon came to realize that the giant tree she had seen when she had hatched was Ga'Hoole, home to the Guardians which protected the legendary Owl Kingdoms. That image was still fresh in her mind, as was the owl she had seen silhouetted against her egg. She sees that owl regularly now, right before she goes to sleep. Nyletak will be in her room, ready to fall asleep when suddenly, she'll see a tall, handsome owl standing on the other side of the room, a gentle smile on his beak, and a loving look in his golden eyes. He would often show... not tell, but show Nyletak stories of the Guardians while she slept. She realized after a few nights that that owl was once a Guardian of Ga'Hoole, and she knew exactly who that owl was: Soren Alba, her great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, the owl whom Nyletak got her middle name from. Her parents have told her that some owls may not believe them, but they are indeed true descendants of the legendary Soren Alba. Her parents, most often her mum, would tell her stories about Soren, and the battles he fought with the Band against his brother, Kludd, leader of the evil owls called the Pure Ones. Nyletak loved the legends, and even swore an oath that one day, as soon as she learns how to fly, she'll go, and find Ga'Hoole, and become a Guardians, just as Soren did.
Now, Renae was staring at her daughter with curiosity in her eyes. "Mist? Who's Mist?" she asked.
"Hortense!" Nyletak screeched in disbelief. "Remember? She became Mist after she was rescued from St. Aggie's."
Renae stared at her daughter in confusion. Nyletak looked just as confused. Her mum had told her about Hortense before. She knew the legend of Hortense, and she could have sworn that her mum had told her about how Hortense became Mist. Just yesterday, when she had said good light, and gone to bed, Soren had shown her last night that Hortense survived the fall from St. Aggie's, and became known as Mist in the Kingdom of Ambala because her feathers turned gray like mist.
Renae tilted her head. "You'll have to jog my memory," she said. "What happened again?"
Nyletak took a deep breath, and began to explain. "Auntie pushed Hortense off of the cliff, and Soren and Gylfie assumed that she was dead, but she wasn't! Streak saved her, and took her back to Ambala. Her feathers turned gray, so she became known as Mist, and every other owl born in Ambala, boy or girl, was named Hortense because she was a legendary owl, though no one knew she was still alive as Mist. Remember?" she finished, taking another deep breath.
Her mum looked confused for a moment longer before blinking, and finally replying with, "Oh, yes, I remember. Hmm, yes... Nyletak," she added, "I'm sorry, but I'm trying to take a nap. I'll tell you another story before bedtime though."
Nyletak jumped with joy, and ran to her room, a little hollow connected to the larger hollow by a tunnel. Nyletak jumped up, and down in her nest, imagining that she was among the Guardians, fighting alongside the Band against the Pure Ones, and the hagsfiends. Nyletak's room was decorated with scratchings in the walls that she had drawn, drawings of the legends all around her room, and a picture of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree next to her nest. Above her nest, four little owlipoppen, each a different size, hung from strings as they spun slowly in the air, blown by the wind that came in through the opening in the wall above Nyletak's nest, allowing her have her own piece of the night sky to look at.
Suddenly, a thought came into Nyletak's head, and she stopped jumping. When she had asked her mum to tell her the legend of Mist, she seemed to have no idea what she was talking about. This has happened before. One night, Soren had shown Nyletak the story of Dumpy the Puffin, Dumpy the Fifteenth to be exact, the "smartest" puffin known to exist. When Nyletak asked her mum about Dumpy, she had no idea who she was talking about. But Nyletak knew about Dumpy the Fifteenth. He had overheard Nyra and the Striga plotting together, and flew off to tell the polar bears, and the Guardians before he began recruiting other puffins to fight. Her mum seemed to know nothing about that. Nyletak never tells her parents about Soren. They would think she was crazy, or they'd be scared out of their wits at the fact that there was a scroom in the hollow. No, Nyletak could never tell anyone about Soren's early morning visits before she goes to sleep.
After a moment of silence, there was a flutter of wings in the other hollow. Peaking around the corner, Nyletak saw that it was her da, Wayne, back from hunting, but he carried nothing in his talons. Instead, he turned to Renae, and said, "I found perhaps the largest rabbit in the forest. I can't carry it back by myself. It's too heavy!"
Renae nodded. "Alright, I'll come help you. Nyletak," she added, turning toward her daughter, "watch after the egg."
Nyletak smiled, and nodded. "I will!" she promised. This wasn't the only time she's had to look after the egg, which she hoped was going to be her sister. Soren has shown Nyletak the times he played with his sister, Eglantine, when they were children, both dreaming of one day becoming Guardians. Nyletak wanted a childhood like that, and just knew that her little sister was going to love the legends!
As her parents flew out of the hollow, Nyletak made her way over to the egg, which was snuggled deeply into the moss of the nest. Nyletak stood right next to the nest, not even daring to touch it. She once tried to brood the egg herself, and ended up almost smashing it. Ever since then, Nyletak hasn't stepped into the nest. Now, she stared wide-eyed at the little egg. It felt like an eternity waiting for it to hatch. Nyletak remembers getting up in the middle of the day, and asking her parents if it had hatched yet, to which they calmly replied, "Not yet, but soon, Nyletak." Nyletak knew that it would hatch any day now, maybe even any moment now. She gazed at the shell that contained her sister, waiting for something to happen. Nothing. When Nyletak saw her parents approaching the hollow, she felt a bit disappointed. Just be patient, Nyletak, she told herself. You're sister will hatch soon enou-
Her thought was cut off by a sudden click from inside the egg. Nyletak stared unblinking at the egg before... "Mum! Da! It's hatching! It's hatching!"
Her parents flew into the hollow, and seemed to forget completely about the rabbit at their talons. Nyletak was jumping up, and down in overwhelming excitement. Her parents rushed to her side, and the three owls watched as the egg rocked once, and a minuscule crack appeared. A huge smiled spread across Nyletak's gaping beak as the crack grew larger, and larger. This was exciting to watch. Was Soren here now, waiting for the little owlet just as he had waited for Nyletak? At the thought, Nyletak could have sworn that she felt feathers on her back, but none of her parents were touching her. She shivered in excitement.
Then, crack! A little owlet, its fluff plastered to its body appeared, its large head weighing it down, and its stubby wings draped over the side of the egg. Nyletak's wings hung loosely at her sides, and her beak dropped open. Though the little creature was slimy with yolk, and its eyes almost bulged out of its head, it was one of the most beautiful sights Nyletak has ever seen. She watched as her da reached forward with a talon, and helped the owlet of its egg before announcing, "It's a girl."
Nyletak's joy filled her until she thought she would explode. A sister, just as she had always dreamed of. She took a tentative step toward her little sister, watching as she tried to stand. She took another step forward, and another until her face was inches from her sister's. "Do you think she'll like the legends as well?" she asked quietly.
Her parents churred behind her. "Perhaps Nyletak. Perhaps," Renae replied.
Nyletak smiled. After another moment of silence, Wayne spoke. "Well, what do you want to name her?"
Nyletak spun around, realizing that her parents were staring directly at her. Her sky blue eyes widened until they were like two blue moons. "I... I get to name her?" she asked, flabbergasted.
Wayne smiled, and nodded slightly.
Nyletak gazed down at her sister as her fluff dried, and began to fluff up. She still squirmed on the ground like a centipede. Nyletak didn't know why, but the name "Eilyk" was coming into her mind. Her name, indeed, was "Katelyn" spelled backwards. Her parents had considered calling her Katelyn, but they wanted her to be unique. About one in one hundred owls these days didn't have names like hers anymore since Ga'Hoole, and the Owl Kingdoms had faded into legend once more. As far as the other owls were concerned, Ga'Hoole, and the old Owl Kingdoms never existed, or they did exist at one point, but no longer. Nyletak didn't believe that. How could she not when her own ancestor visited her every night? If Nyletak's name was as special, and unique as Ga'Hoole, and the Owl Kingdoms, then her sister deserves a name just as special.
Just as Nyletak opened her beak to say her sister's name for the first time, the newly hatched owlet's eyelids opened, revealing bright yellow-orange eyes just inches from Nyletak's sky blue eyes. "Eilyk," she finally announced without taking her eyes off of her sister. "I want her name to be Eilyk."
A sigh came from her mother before she said, "That's a perfect name for her. Eilyk..."
Nyletak gazed into her sister's eyes a moment longer before slowly leaning in, and touched her forehead to her sister's, closing her eyes gratefully. For a moment, an image flashed in her mind: two owls, one with golden-brown feathers, and yellow eyes, the other small, and fluffy. Both ran around the hollow with play-battle gear made from leaves, and twigs. Nyletak smiled as she watched Soren play "Battle of the Ice Claws" with Eglantine. Even though this was the umpteenth time they played it, it never got old. Nyletak could just picture her, and Eilyk like that, racing through the hollow, playing "Battle of the Burning" or "The Siege". Yes, they would be the perfect siblings, just as Soren and Eglantine were. And one day, when they can spread their wings, and soar through the sky together, Nyletak and Eilyk will fly off to the Great Tree of Ga'Hoole, and become Guardians of Ga'Hoole.