Dawn. The lake was shrouded in a swirling mist, being disturbed by the occasional gentle breeze. A tiny sliver of milky morning light illuminated the mist, penetrating its blanket. Slowly, as the sun rose above the horizon, the mist dispersed, revealing the glassy flat lake, broken only by a flick of a tail, sending ripples all the way out to the edge. If anything, the grass swaying around the lake in the morning breeze was more like water than the water itself, rolling along the ground and up the hills in the distance.
The Nidoran, Nidorina and Nidorino were just waking. Shinen was the first out of her burrow, pausing, fanning her ears to sense for any danger. Of course, the trainers wouldn’t start arriving for a good two or three hours yet, but there were still others. She lifted her nose to the fresh morning air and scented for predators. Sensing nothing but her own species, she swung herself slowly and carefully out of her burrow, closely followed by Musta, the head male of the mob, and her mate.
Shinen was a pretty average Nidorina. She was an ordinary blue, the same length horn as all the others, average size. But what made her special was Musta, the darkest male of the group. The darker, the stronger, the lighter, the weaker. That was the way with the Nidos, and Musta had been blessed with a coat as black as the night. His spots were even blacker. The other Nidorina were envious of Shinen. How had she managed to get him? She of all Nidos? Still, she was his, and for the moment, that was that.
Shinen hopped delicately through the grass, her large feet padding softly on the dirt. She clamped her teeth around a few blades and tore them from the ground, but instead of eating it, she turned and squeezed back down into the warren, turning into a largish burrow with a developing nest she had begun the night before. Just a few more blades and she could begin to make it comfortable. Musta didn’t help at all, but that didn’t really matter. He was the darkest Nidorino around, he didn’t need to do anything.
Just minutes before the first trainer of the day had been spotted, Shinen had enough grass for her nest. She padded into the burrow and began plucking her fur out, lining the nest to make it more comfortable and warmer for her kits, then she was finally able to lay down and rest. She cringed occasionally when a foot went astray, kicking her from the inside, but she had littered before, she was used to that kind of thing by now.
Musta, hearing no more rustling noises of nest preparation, walked tentatively into the nesting burrow, laying his head comfortingly on her neck, avoiding her barbs. Shinen snuggled into him, and the pair dozed quietly off.
Just as the sun had reached the highest it would that day, Shinen convulsed very suddenly, and Musta jerked awake. Knowing she needed her space, he left the burrow and hopped outside, checking as always for any trainers or predators. He searched hard for the most succulent and green grass blades he could find, and tore them out of the ground. Carrying these with him, he bounded down to the water’s edge and lapped up a drink, keeping his eyes up and ears flared. There were rumoured to be massive sea serpents living in the waters, and although no rabbit in the warren had seen any, Musta was not willing to be the first, black though he was.
He licked his lips dry, picked up the grass again, and wandered along the edge of the lake, finally finding a beautiful bright yellow flower, beautifully fuzzy in its centre and with hundreds of delicate yellow petals adorning its edges. It was perfect. Musta carefully nibbled it off at the base and lifted it between his teeth. He sauntered back to the burrow with his gifts, smiling when he heard the tiny squeaks of the newborn Nidoran. He turned into the burrow and saw his mate, out of breath and completely flaked out in the nest, along with five tiny kits, struggling for a place to feed.
One was absolutely tiny, the runt of the five, who was already behind in the ‘first come first serve’ idea, being pushed away by her brothers and sisters. She wouldn’t last long at all, Musta could tell. But one was at least one and a half times the size of the other three, and although the kits were completely bald, Musta was quietly confident that she would be dark.
Shinen smiled weakly when she saw him. Musta placed the flower and grass at her nose and nuzzled her gently. Shinen returned the gesture and ate his gifts with pleasure, leaving just the head of the flower uneaten. In two days, when the kits would have fur, they would be named, by then, their futures would be determined, just by their colour. The darker, the stronger, the lighter, the weaker.
For the next day, Musta carried grass down to the burrow to feed his mate, who was in turn suckling the tiny kits, each growing larger by the day. If they were fed well enough, they would start to grow fur by the next day. Night fell and Musta cuddled up with his kits and his Shinen. The burrow fell silent but for the gentle breathing of the rabbits and the occasional shift of a muscle.
Dawn broke, and the kits had begun to grow fur. As expected, the tiniest, the runt, was almost as pale as they came, with just a tinge of blue, but no spots as yet. Neither Nidoran would grow spots until they were at least a week old. She still struggled for milk at her mother’s stomach, but, simply because of her colour, Shinen did not bother to help her. She was pale as the winter sky, nothing would let her live. She would be called Kalpea.
One of Kalpea’s brothers was almost as dark as his father. Shinen and Musta looked down on him with admiration. He would grow up to be the head male, no questions asked. Already, only two days old, Musta could see how he was overpowering his brothers and sisters, pushing at them to get the most and best milk. He would be a strong fighter for sure. He was Voimakas.
His brother was just an ordinary bright pinkish purple, nothing too special. He was not the largest, but he was pretty close, in comparison to the others. Like his mother, there was nothing too special about him. Kani would do for a name.
The Nidoran only slightly smaller than Kani was a rich, dark blue, dark as the back of the sky at dusk. She was not half as dark as Voimakas, but still dark enough to become head female, or at least second in charge. She would be Neula.
But even Voimakas lost all the attention of his parents. His father and mother stared in horror and disbelief at the largest of the kits. How was it possible? Musta had been so sure about her, after all, he was the darkest male in the whole mob, but no. Despite her size, her obvious fighting abilities and the colour of her father, Aurinko was pure white.