The herd has settled on the riverbank. They are still shaken and still wary. Instead of the usual spaces between nests, the dryosaurs huddle together, sheltering for warmth and protection. Quickfoot maneuvers her brood to a spot under a bushy shrub, where her chicks can eat without venturing out of cover. Longtail sits guard as his mate feeds. His eyes rove ceaselessly, searching for any signal of danger.
A flicker of motion, then a splash and a squeal on the herd's left flank draws his gaze. A crocodile has taken a careless young male. Longtail winces in sympathy at his bereaved mate's bitter cries. Poor thing, I hope she has a small enough brood to care for on her own. He must have been only just grown, he thinks, to be so foolish as to go down to the water alone like that. Makes you stand out, and if you stand out you're easy pickings. He is thirsty himself, but he does not dare drink without many others with him.
Ironically, it is best to drink right after an attack, while the predator is sated. A bevy of dryosaurs make their way to the water's edge, well clear of where the brute struck. Longtail checks with Quickfoot, and at her nod he proceeds to the river. He drinks quickly but deeply, then returns to his mate.
"Go, drink," he tells her. "I'll mind the chicks."
She nods gratefully. "Thank you. Mind the males, they're getting rambunctious."
"Nothing I can't handle," he replies. She leaves, and he sees that she's right. His five sons are much more energetic then his three daughters. They are exercising the newfound stability of their legs and are eager to play. He wishes that he could indulge them, but they don't have that luxury here. Dimly he wonders if they should get names now that they're out of the nest. That's when it's traditionally done.
His littlest daughter, the one Quickfoot keeps such a close eye on, ventures over to him. Looking up at her father she gives a questioning chirp, her eyes soft. She's concerned, he realizes. She knows I'm worried and that it means something's up. Smart chick.
"We're going to be all right, little one," he tells her. She seems reassured, and settles down on her belly, sleepy from a belly full of leaves. He snorts affectionately, then turns to chase after two of his sons who have run out from under the shrub. He herds them back as Quickfoot returns. They settle for jumping at the higher branches of the shrub, trying to get at the berries there.
"What are we going to name them?" Quickfoot asks.
"I was thinking of the same thing," he replies. One of the chicks spots a low-hanging berry, and reaches up with her little hand to pluck it and pop it into his mouth. Her brother, who was watching her, bends his knees and shoots upward. He too earns a berry, from halfway up the bush. He lands solidly, and munches his prize with pride.
"Berrypicker and Highjumper you will be," says Quickfoot. Longtail nods. Names are simple. They tell your most defining feature or trait. He glances behind himself. True to his name, his tail is long, and it gives him exceptional balance.
Throughout the rest of the day, Quickfoot and Longtail observe their chicks and choose names for them. There is Fidget, and Toughbeak, and Sweetchirp, and Fargazer, and Listener, and also Riser, who's the first to get up every morning. Finally, only the littlest chick is left.
"It would be easy to just call her Tiny and be done with it," says Longtail.
"No!" says Quickfoot, indignant. "Surely we can do better."
"Better, but no."
"Well, she's not physically gifted, she's not a big eater, she's at the bottom of the chicks' pecking order, and she doesn't make any unusual noises or gestures. We're running out of attributes to pick from. The most distinctive thing about her is that she's small."
Quickfoot huffs in frustration. "I know she's small! She's going to grow. You said that she was smart. She will learn to make up for not being as strong and fast as the other chicks."
Highjumper has been jumping at berries all day, enjoying his newfound game. Unfortunately, when Berrypicker tries to copy him, she aims for one a little too high. As she lands, her foot twists, wrenching her ankle. She goes down hard on her side and gets the wind knocked out of her. Stunned, she starts wailing.
Quickfoot rushes to soothe her, but finds that her tiny daughter is already there, burbling and cooing to her sister. She sniffs at the injured foot and chirps sadly, then helps Berrypicker ease herself onto her belly and tuck her good foot underneath her to rest.
Quickfoot smiles. "You will be Kindheart."
Longtail nods. "Fine with me."
With the entire brood named, Quickfoot and Longtail feel a stronger sense of connection to their little family. As they settle down to rest until morning, they call each of their offspring by name to say good night. Quickfoot stands for the first watch. Longtail lays down next to the main pile of chicks. Off to the side is Berrypicker, with her now-swollen ankle, flanked by Kindheart and her other sister Sweetchirp, who snuggle against her and keep her propped up, so she doesn't have to use her bad foot. The family falls asleep amid the sound of running water and the soft burbles of sleepy chicks.