They all woke up to the rumbling of the ground shaking. Children instantly began crying, pets scurrying for cover and shivering in fear. The adults knew better. When the ground shook, they had to get outside, in case the structures fell in upon themselves.
“Everyone, to the square!” A bellowing voice from outside, the town crier nimbly ran through the streets, shouting as loud as his ample lungs could carry. “Everyone, to the square!”
The square was already filling as the houses emptied. They needed to do a head count, so as they filed into the meeting space village elders organized them into groups based on the streets they lived on and had them count themselves and look for neighbors.
A cry went up from a far group of younger families. “Our child!” a mother cried out. “She was right there with us when we left, but she’s gone! You must find her!”
One of the elders, a tracker and law enforcer, ran over to the family and then took off the way the family had come, retracing their steps. He was alert for any signs of where she went, eyes sharp and ears open for even the smallest of clues.
Aside from that one missing child, everyone was accounted for. So the village leader ascended to the top of the small stage and addressed the crowd. The leader was small and frail next to the younger elders, but when he spoke it was with the gravity of his station.
“Something terrible has happened,” he said, looking over the crowd. “No doubt you felt the earthshake. This was not an isolated incident. It was not like other earthshakes we have felt in the past.
The tracker ran down the empty streets. There was nothing here. Nothing moved but the grass. He called out the name of the missing child. There was no response. He ran faster down the street, trying to search everywhere at once.
“The earthshake was not natural. It was brought down from the heavens, and with it comes a strange fire and storms gathering on the horizon such as we have never seen.” A murmur rose up from the crowd. The leader raised his thin arms to calm the village. “We are doing everything we can to find out what happened. We have already sent out scouts in the direction the strange fire came from, to ascertain the danger.”
The tracker stopped short when he heard a sound. There was something hiding nearby! He slowly approached, calling out the name of the child. There was a pause, the sound of breathing, and then movement. The child scurried out of the tall grass near a house.
“Whatever happens,” the leader said, “I assure you that we will confront it together. We are, after all, a tribe. And a tribe works best when it works as a unit.”
“Oh thank goodness,” the tracker said. The child looked up at him. “Your parents are waiting. Don’t worry, everything will be all right.” The child blinked its large eyes, one hand reaching up and scratching at a patch of scales near her head. She obviously wasn’t of age to speak yet, but she followed after him dumbly, tail dragging in chagrin.
“Now, if you’d like to wait and see what is going on, I encourage you to wait for the scouts to return with me,” the leader said, clawed fingers extended. One of the elders lit a fire, as the moon was being obscured by a sudden wall of clouds that had crept over the horizon. In the firelight, the leader’s feathered arms glowed resplendent. “I’m sure soon we will have our facts straight, and this will all be behind us.”
The crowd waited. The tracker returned with the child. The parents nuzzled they’re returning child. They were happy again. The tracker accepted their thanks gladly. He almost felt sorry for the haggard parents. Four children already, and the mother held an egg in her arms.
The clouds continued to thicken. On the horizon, there was a faint glow, red and threatening against the heavy cloud ceiling that hung over it. As inevitably as a sunrise, it approached the village, which watched on in wonder.