Today, she raced into his lair and found him dozing in the nest. Without hesitation, she climbed in and burrowed under his wing, taking comfort from his warmth and the steady rumble he disdained to call a purr. His feathers rustled around her as he pressed her close to his side.
Good even, Caledonia. It’s late for you, Child. What brings you here? Brandion’s welcome rumbled in her mind.
Callie stretched her arms up around his neck and sobbed against him. “Oh, Brandion! It’s almost my birthday! Is it true? I don’t want you to leave me!”
Brandion lifted his head to peer down at the little human child. Had it already been five years since she first came? So little time. He would miss her, as he did the others from years past.
Aye, child. It is true. After your tenth birthday, you will no longer have any sense of me, no sight, nor sound, nor touch.
Callie sniffed and rubbed her face against his feathers. She stood to face him. He remembered how tiny she had seemed when he first found her sleeping in his nest. Now, she stood almost to his elbow when he was standing. As he now lay, she could easily touch his face. She laid both palms against his cheek patches, gently stroking the delicate feathers under his eyes. He closed his eyes and rumbled his pleasure.
“But why, Brandion? Please don’t go! Why can’t you stay?”
I do not wish to leave you, child. It pains me to see your sorrow. This is my curse, Caledonia, not yours. I thank you for the gift of your friendship these five years past.
Her fingers stilled as she thought. “A curse? Can it be broken?”
Brandion shook his head, brushing her arms with his long, curved beak.
No, child. It is an ancient curse, for ancient wrongs I can never repay. Although I have changed greatly since then, I am still responsible for many terrible deeds in my proud and foolish youth.
“But surely you have changed, Brandion! You shouldn’t be punished forever! Tell me, please. There must be something I can do to help you.”
Brandion’s round golden eyes widened in surprise. Never had a child offered to help him before. He had known from the start that Caledonia was different. Her heart shone with pure joy. Although the others had loved him, when it was time for him to go, they always cried for their own loss, never his. Until now. He looked down into the somber brown eyes of the human girl who had been his only company for the past five years.
Pride proves the curse’s merit, dear child. I do not wish to tell you this story. I fear the change I will see in your eyes, in your heart.
“So you would rather leave me forever? Brandion, if you love me as I love you, tell me your story. Let’s fight your curse together! I know I’m just a child, but I swear I will find a way to help you!”
The power of her words swept through him, and Brandion’s wings ruffled in surprise. For the first time in hundreds of years, he felt a frisson of hope. He stood to his full height and stretched his wings to their full span, tips touching the trees on either side of the glade he had lived in for so long. He looked down at Caledonia, who stood facing him with her hands on her hips, sure in her faith that together they could conquer any foe. Could he find a remnant of such faith in his own heart. Could hers be enough to carry them both?
So be it, Caledonia. I accept your oath. Together, we will fight my curse.
He bent down and solemnly touched her head with the tip of his beak, then one shoulder and the other. She shuddered this time, as she felt the power of his own words, but she did not turn away. She looked up as he lifted his head.
“So, tell me your story, dear Brandion. Nothing will ever make me love you any less.”
Dogs in house:
Sergio Calu, Celtic Music with Harp
February word count: