I fleeted through the trees trying not to make a sound.
It was a game I liked to play in the morning after I finished my poses and recited all the prayers that promised me youth, beauty, health, and long life. I folded my white wings under her as I landed on a branch without shaking the blossoms. The overlarge white blossoms worked as a perfect cover. I drank the water from the glistening buds. No one would make out my feathers of moonbeams up here. I congratulated myself on finding the perfect hiding spot. This tree might be good for three or four days and then I’d have to find a spot higher up again. Being so close sent a thrill through my chest and I rubbed my wings together in anticipation.
I settled down to wait for the village children that came here to gather water for their mothers back at home. I loved to watch children the best. Perhaps because I was still so young, not having crossed the century mark yet. This spot by the river had become my current favorite since the weather had been so hot the children came more frequently for water, washing, and swimming.
I loved their songs of laughter and tried to weave it into my songs at night, but I could never capture the feeling behind them. So I spent a good amount of my days sitting and listening. I would try to sing them again in the night when the dark overwhelmed me with loneliness and the warmth of the sun had drained away into the stars.
She could hear the voices of the older children lecturing the younger ones along the path and the rustle of the trees as they pushed their way through. Rusta pushed through first nearly in tears, angry that she still wasn’t old enough to be given more adult tasks. Her white hair was pulled into a giant twist on top of her head in a sad imitation of her mother’s. Rusta wanted to grow up so badly that a burning cut through my chest. In the last few weeks I sensed that I would be loosing Rusta. She wasn’t even the most pleasant of the children but I admired how she led the children and kept the children from danger. If she was harsh with them she usually made up for it later.
Lana, the smallest, popped out of the trees next, her dark flesh soft and round. She was ordered to stay at Rusta’s side at all times. Lana smiled gloriously having just started this task this last week. It was still new and she took it seriously until the dragonflies skimmed across the water, but who could blame her. All the children would stop and watch before running in circles their arms flung out in imitation of the bugs flying skill. Chasing dragonflies on the water was still a favorite pastime of mine, so I understood. Flying was a joy and I wished I could take the children for rides. It was the one gift that I could give, if I could talk to them, but it had been forbidden always.
These people are dangerous and not of our kind. Her father’s words circled among all her thoughts as she watched from afar. He wasn’t here anymore. None of them were, not mother, or grandmother, or Tisha. So no one would pick at my feathers and send me to my nest. I didn’t even sleep in the old gathering places anymore. They were too haunted with torrential silence. I had always felt I would fly around a corner and see someone, anyone, but there never was. There had been tales of other flocks in different parts of the world, but a great sadness tore at my breast when she thought of leaving my lands. I followed the migration paths but took little detours to watch the humans, to listen to their words as they spoke to each other.
The Children shrieked and I snapped from my sad tales to see a man standing beside the stream. His skin was nearly as white as mine, but his hair was dark as the charcoal that the villagers burned. The children dropped their buckets and hid behind Rusta, who stood tall her dark face burning with fear that she masked as bravery. She shielded the children with her arms and watched the man. The children peeked around her unable to believe the sight of this stranger. How could there be such a man, the children cried.
Feathers ruffled along my wings. He would die before he could touch them. Taboo or no. He raised his empty hands to them and moved slowly. He crouched down and grabbed a bucket, which he filled with water and placed back down full. He pointed to the stream and motioned with a cupped hand his intention to drink.
Rusta nodded but stepped back. He nodded back and then bent down and drank several handfuls of water. A bow and a sword were strapped to his back. A sword I had not seen for many years.
He stood up and wiped the water from his mouth just as I shrieked from my hidden perch. My wings barely opening as she lunged with speed into his chest. The children screamed and even Rusta lost her brave front and they ran to their village to get the men with spears and arrows. My arms tore from the feathers. Her fingers splayed to destroy. My talons emerged sharper than teeth ready to tear through his leather breastplate. He deflected me easily with back of his arm. I screamed! Anger flashed white behind my eyes.
“The Sword!” I spat at him.
His face went a sickly white as his dark eyes bulged. He did not speak.
“That sword has been missing for twenty years from the sky temple. Tell me how it is yours and I will decide whether to fillet you where you stand or kill you where you stand!”
He began circling her drawing the sword slowly from his back.
“Were you planning on sacking this village? Slaughter its children?” My voice raged like wind in my ears. “Answer me or die!” My talons on my fingers growing. He swallowed as his eyes took in their horror.
He tried to form words, but stumbled. “I- I came upon this sword though I wish I hadn’t. It’s only been a curse to me. And I have no plans or desire to slaughter anyone.”
A song erupted behind me. The villagers had fallen to their knees. Their tune was rough and they stumbled through it. A song I had never heard before. It was a song about the angels. It was a song about my people and it broke my heart and tears fell freely from my cheeks. Rusta looked at me and then up to the tree I hid in and then the man. Did Rusta see me as a protector or a threat?
I used “rare bird” as my writing prompt today. Pick a prompt and write.