DISCLAIMER: The concept of Artistic License has been taken advantage of. Muchly. I heard in class that ravens were born white, but I've found no pictures. So, even if this is false and totally incorrect in basic facts, I don't care. And yes, I realize that the name "Ronald Raven" sounds like "Ronald Reagan" - that was not intentional, and was realized after his minimal role was finished.

)O(O)O(

"Oh, look Ronald! Three of them!" Rheannon Raven was very excited about her first nest of eggs, iridescent black feathers almost dancing with excitement.

Ronald Raven shook his own feathers and cawed. "Yes, three."

Rheannon jumped up and down and said, "I'll name the first one Ron – after you, dear, our firstborn! – and then Robby, and then Rachel! Oh, I can't wait! Their tiny black claws, down coats, shiny black beaks… they'll be so handsome!"

But wait she did, another few weeks, until the first one began to hatch. "Ron! RON!" Rheannon shrieked, forgetting that he was out hunting. "IT'S HATCHING!" Rheannon watched enraptured as Ronald Raven Jr. enter the world. Then she paused, lost for words. Meanwhile Robby came out of his shell, and finally Rachel. Rheannon couldn't even bring herself to clean the shell fragments off their heads – they were white! Rheannon was heart-broken, and in denial. "No…" she muttered. "My children cannot be white, they'd be… they'd be doves! There's no way…" A solution to her problem came to her, as she ignored the hungry cries of her newborns. "Those evil doves! They switched out my eggs for theirs, to spite me! These are not my children!" She burst into the raven equivalent of tears, and flew off to mope.

Ron, Rob, and Rachel were still hungry, still dirty, and very confused. Being birds, they were born already matured, to a certain extent, and so they stopped crying when they saw their mother fly away.

"Well that's odd," complained Ron. "Isn't she supposed to feed us?"

"Yeah," said Rob, "I'm hungry! MAMA! FEEEEED MEEEEEEE!!!"

Rachel snorted as best she could and tried to bat Rob on the head, but failed through lack of muscle strength. "Oh do be quiet, she's not here to hear you!" She sulked, as hungry as the other two. Just then, a fly buzzed lazily past her beak, attracted by the scent of drying eggy-stuff. Rachel cocked her head at it, then snapped at it, catching one wing. Faintly, a high-pitched voice said "Heeeeelp meeeeeee!" as the fly tumbled to the floor of the nest and wriggled in pain. Rachel giggled and snapped it up, swallowing it.

"Hey guys!" she yelled. "Eat the bugs!"

Ron and Rob looked at each other and shook their heads disgustedly, dislodging shell fragments. "Ewwwww!"

"Oh come on," Rachel said, eating a mosquito. "They're not that bad and it's the only food we've got. Deal with it!"

Ron and Rob looked at each other again, but finally went for a mosquito each. They looked at each other yet again, in surprise, when they found they like the taste of bug. Being males, they made a competition out of it - who could attract the most, and eat the most. Rachel simply settled for the bug that flew her way.

Eventually they were full, and starting to itch where their feathers and shells had dried. They could move around now, and scratched themselves against the side of the nest, using the sticks to break away the crusty covering.

The sky grew darker and Rheannon had yet to return. Rob glanced lazily at Rachel and said, "D'you think Mama will be back soon?"

Rachel looked at him silently, then said, "How would I know? I've been here just as long as you have!"

"Less, actually."

"By a few hours! Who cares?"

"I do, I'm older!"

"It doesn't matter!"

"Does too!"

"Does not!"

Ron glared at them. "Shut up, you two, I'm older than both of you!" They shut up.

)O(O)O(

Rheannon was still convinced that the three chicks in her nest were not hers. She flew by every once in a while, to see if the doves had given in to her demands to switch her chicks back, but there was no change. The chicks in her nest were still white.

Ron, Rob and Rachel grew up in the months following their birth, learning to walk and caw and flap their little fuzzy wings on their own. Then one day Rob was scratching his back against the side of the nest – it was itching – and saw a bit of white puff floating by his beak. He blinked at it, cocked his head, and said, "Hey guys? What's that?" He kept scratching, as he still itched.

Rachel hopped over, and inspected the bit of fluff caught in some twigs. "Hmmm… I dunno… it looks like part of you…" She looked up and saw more fluff coming out from behind Rob. "Turn around, hey?" Rob did, mystified. "Hey, you've got black stuff on you! Under your feathers!"

Rob started doing a weird little dance, trying to see over his shoulder. "What? Let me see, let me see! What black stuff?"

Ron came over at the noise. "Hey, you're molting!" The other two blinked at him. He blinked right back. "What? That's what it's called! When your feathers fall off and new ones grow." The other two still stared at him. "WHAT?"

"How did you know that?" Rob ventured. Ron didn't deign to reply.

)O(O)O(

Over the next few weeks they all began to molt. The nest was soon covered in clumps of white fluffy feathers, and the chicks wore new coats of shiny black feathers, with only a few stubborn tufts of fuzzy gray. It was in this state that Rheannon came back and found them.

"MY BABIES!" she shrieked, landing on the edge of the nest. The three no-so-young chicks huddled on the other side of the nest, trying to get away from the madwoman mantling and dancing about on the rim.

"Is that… Mama?" whispered Rob.

"Uh-huh," said Ron. "I recognize her."

"Yeah, that's her all right," said Rachel. "Although why she's here…" she was interrupted as Rheannon finished up her rant.

"…But you're here now, the evil doves gave you back, finally, and we can be a family again! And I can teach you to eat and fly and preen and molt and…" she trailed off. "You're already molting?"

The three looked at each other, and Ron stepped forward. "Yeah, we are. Where were you when we needed you?"

Rheannon looked hurt. "What do you mean? The doves took you, didn't they? When you were born! They took my eggs and gave me some of theirs, to spite me! Doves are evil!"

"What are you talking about?" Rachel asked angrily. "We've always been here! You abandoned us when we were hatched, you flew away without even feeding us! We had to figure it out for ourselves! We've been living on our own and teaching ourselves what we can, and you weren't there to reassure us! Why did you leave? You're our mother!"

Rheannon blinked at the small tirade, getting more and more confused. There were never her babies in this nest! Her perfect black babies, with iridescent feathers and shiny beaks, they had been stolen from her, and usurpers had been raised in her nest! But now, when they had finally been returned to her, they scorned her love and care, tossing it away like offal! Didn't they understand the pain she had gone through? Didn't they know what she had endured to remain faithful to them? It struck her to the core and cut at her heart.

"Oh, my children, you wound me! I've been faithful to your memory all this time, watching for your safe return! And now I have you again, and you don't want me? You ungrateful little hatchlings!" She flew at them in a flurry of feathers, before vanishing over their heads into the distance.

Ronald Jr., Robby and Rachel watched Rheannon fly away, silently. There was nothing in them for her; she had left them to die. They had survived, and were stronger for it. Still, she had hatched them…

Rob was the first to turn away. "So! Anyone up for a little friendly hunting practice?"

)O(O)O(

EL FIN. Two and a half pages, one inch margins in Ariel 10pt font. A little long for the forum, so I posted it on FP.