Chapter One

HALA

Hala flew lower over the water, hypnotized by the way the light shone off of it. The lake was clear, and Hala could easily see her reflection.

"Hala, what are you looking at?" asked Swift off to her left.

"Oh, I'm just looking in the water," said Hala casually.

"Well, don't waste too much time, all right?" Swift pumped his wings and flew on ahead of Hala, his reflection passing hers on the water. Hala looked at the two reflections and then stopped short.

The two looked nothing alike.

Which meant they weren't the same kind of bird.

Oh, there were the feathers, and the beak, and the large eyes. But that was where the similarities ended. Even their feathers were different colors!

Hala was confused with this. She'd always thought Swift and his mate, Elsu, were her parents. But apparently, she was wrong. The offspring of creatures did not look so different from their parents.

"Wait!" she called to Swift, who was now ahead of her.

He looked back and slowed, allowing Hala to catch up with him.

"What's up?" Swift asked.

"The sky," Hala said, looking up.

Swift looked at her curiously. "Why do you always say that?"

"Because it's true."

"Oh."

"But," she said, "what if something were to be not true, but you were told it was true. How would you react when you found out it was false?"

"Hala, I don't know what you mean — "

"Well, I'll tell you what I mean," Hala said. "I mean that all this time I thought you were my parents, and it turns out we look nothing alike!"

"Where'd you find this out?" Swift asked.

"The water. I saw our reflections, and we do not look like we're related."

"Oh. Well…you're right," Swift said hesitantly.

"Can you tell me the truth then?" asked Hala as calmly as she could under these circumstances.

Swift looked at his adopted daughter. "Come on," he said, "let's go back to the roost."

"Hey, you're back early," Elsu greeted them as they flew into the nook in the cliff the three birds called home.

"Yeah, um…Hala sort of…found out something," Swift said.

"What? What did you find out, Hala?" said a voice, but it wasn't Elsu.

Hala hadn't noticed before, but in the back of the roost was a bird that — Hala's heart leapt — looked exactly like her.

"How — how do you know my name?" Hala asked the strange bird, forgetting momentarily about her foster parents.

"You and I go way back," said the stranger.

"What do you mean? And," Hala asked, rounding on Swift and Elsu, "why did you tell me you were my parents, when you can't be?"

Elsu opened her beak to speak, but Swift said, "I think that Lhotse can explain that better than either of us."

Lhotse cleared her throat, and when she spoke, she said to Swift, "so you haven't told her."

"No. Not yet. But we were flying over a lake and she noticed we looked different."

"Ah, I always knew she was smart," Lhotse said proudly.

"What — " began Hala.

"Wait, let us explain," said Elsu, and her next words confused Hala. "Swift and I are peregrine falcons."

"But then what am I?" Hala wondered out loud.

Swift ordered, "Stop asking so many questions, and we'll tell you everything."

So Hala settled down, and waited for all her questions to be answered.