High on the gray cliff above the Feather River, a browngold falcon sat beside a silvergray falconess warming her eggs. Looking down, he saw three ducks skimming the river and he instantly leaped, flicking his curved wings, diving upon the blueflashed ducks. They heard hissing speed and immediately leaped across emerald water, splashing up silver footprints, honking frantically, their incurved faces hard with anger. Quickly they slid beneath a harbor of low silver rocks ledged over the water. The browngold falcon veered away at the last whisper of a wingbeat and headed downriver to find food for his mate.
On the cliff, the female arose fluffing her silver feathers, repositioning herself upon two pale eggs, as she watched her heartshaped mate disappear far down the river canyon.
Now the rising sun warmed her niche in the high cliff, and the breath of morning wind fluffed the delicate feathers on her creamy speckled breast. Later she would fly down and cool herself in the stone pool by her emerald river and preen her wing feathers drawn one silver plume at a time through her sharply hooked beak.
Hunting seldom took very long, so she began looking downriver for her browngold mate.
Beyond the hushing white rapids, beyond where green river curved silently into silver mountains, she watched and she waited. And she grew hungry.
A moment later she felt a strange booming up the river an instant before it struck her. “Choof! Choof!” Like a huge snake stomped on hard, expelling its pellet. The shock penetrated her delicate feathers sending a cold thrill up her back. The sound held the force of thunder, but there were no black-bottomed clouds, no yellow talons of light. Here was bright clear morning pleasant with warmth after long white silence of winter. Here was the Eyah, the greenbrown earth bird now warming herself below the long yellow feathers of skyfather, Yahee. But she had heard the false thunder before, and she feared it.
She swiveled her head back and forth scanning river and sky for her quick flying mate. Nothing. She tilted her head all around listening for her mate, but heard no familiar skirling cry. Her only terror was that one day she might watch those browngold wings disappear on the wind and never see them again. For some reason, she knew that day of terror had come.