I have something nice for you all, in the last moments of this year’s Valentine’s Day: a short story about love. And related to this story, I want to say that I may sometimes use the name Anafina. It is song, and it is feathers, and it is an homage to two good friends, one of them lost to me. Also a play on words. 😉

I hope you enjoy!

A Sky Full of Stars

©2013 Ashlyn Anafina

 

A lone figure sat on top of a log next to a fire, chewing some trail jerky, and occasionally taking a sip from a canteen. This person, for personhood is typically known by smarts and wit, had a name that couldn’t really even be pronounced in a human tongue, perhaps even fully understood in a human mind. But for the sake of argument, let’s call that person Lee, or maybe Leigh. Or perhaps we can split the difference and go with Li. That syllable might’ve figured in the unspeakable name, anyhow…

Li sat on the log, legs stretched out, legs pulled back, wings spread, wings tucked in. Long flight took a lot out of a body, and Li had flown a long way today. Not merely across cities or countries, but through worlds. And given that travel was not always predictable — even taking the same route may produce very different scenery and a very different schedule — there might be quite a wait.

The fire crackled, and the watcher waited. It wasn’t a bad kind of wait, nor a boring watch. Outside of the little cubbyhole of red rock where the fire and watcher were cradled, a magnificent view spread below. Quite some distance down — enough to rightfully call this space an eyrie — a canyon floor spread out in the distance before being bounded by a far canyon wall. It, too, was made of red rock with patterns of lighter and darker stone running through, but the moonlight painted it a dim blue. A lonely wind pushed through the plants below, briefly creating a sound almost like water. The canyon floor was filled with brush: sage, mesquite, cholla. And the call of a coyote at one end, followed shortly by the howling of a wolf from the other, showed that it was not uninhabited by animals, either.

Li’s ears pricked up in pleasure at a sound that would have hardly been recognisable by even canine ears. Far in the distance, the light rush of wind, and the occasional sound of wing flapping. Another person could be seen in the sky, coming closer and closer.

And then there were two.

“Howdy, Li,” the newcomer might have said.

“Hey, stranger.”

The two quickly closed the gap with smiles on their faces and hugged, their arms wrapping around each other’s torsos, and their wings wrapping around each other, blue and black feathers enclosed by yellow and white.

The newcomer had a name as complex and lyrical as Li, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it was Erinn, or Aaran, or perhaps we can split the difference and go with Aerin.

Aerin sat on another log across the fire from Li, and the two spent some time catching up.

“How long has it been?”

“Oh, eons, I’d say.” A smile. Time had less meaning for these two than for most.

“And how goes the Song?”

“You know as well as I” — another smile — “as harmonious as I’ve heard in years.”

“Please tell me you brought your typically stupendous fare for us to dine upon.”

“Yes, of course!”

A parcel was unwrapped, and something that a human would probably see as the most delicious and desirable food imaginable was revealed to sight; the moonlight shone upon it, and as it was wrapped into foil and placed near the base of the fire, a smell that might cause the heavens to weep wafted upon the breeze.

Li inhaled with closed eyes, and then sighed in contentment. Aerin nodded, feeling the same way, as it cooked.

As the two ate and reminisced, laughing, smiling, occasionally looking down in sadness, small shapes began to creep up the slope leading to the back of this cheerful eyrie. Wolves, coyotes, rabbits, deer; all crept up quietly, with heads bowed, in an obvious sign of peace and friendship. Neither wolf nor rabbit expected to fight with each other this night, in this place, and none did.

“Come, little one,” Li called out quietly when the animals were seen. “This is a feast of plenty.”

Each animal that came to the fire as called was given a piece of food. Li and Aerin rubbed their heads and scratched their ears, sometimes tricking the animals with an empty hand, then surprising them with the real thing. Somehow, the food didn’t diminish from this giving, and it seemed to last exactly as long as the animal was hungry. The wolves would curl up by the fire’s warmth briefly, and the deer would lay down, staring at its crackling embers without fear. After a time, one by one, they would nuzzle Li or Aerin, and then walk away quietly.

When the animals who came had had their fill and walked away quietly, and the fire was starting to burn down, Li said, “It feels like you’re so far away, and I’m getting cold without the tall fire.”

Aerin smiled fondly and walked around to sit on the log next to Li. The two embraced, head on shoulder, wings wrapped ‘round like blankets.

Tears ran silently down Li’s face. “Why does it have to be like this? Why does it have to be an occasion?”

Aerin’s voice caught briefly as well. “I don’t know… I don’t know. It doesn’t seem fair.” Aerin’s head shook briefly. They both knew it had to be this way. There would be a time, a glorious time when all things would change, when everything was possible, that the distance would not be there. But it was not now.

Li reached over gently, but not hesitantly, and ran a finger lightly along the top of Aerin’s wing. Aerin shuddered lightly, a shudder of pleasure. The gesture was returned, and then Aerin started kneading the skin and down around Li’s wing shoulders. A kiss was joined hesitantly, then not so hesitantly.

A Song of blinding beauty rang through the valley, bringing rings and waves of colour, and the animals who had paid them kindness earlier howled, hooted, chirped, and sang.

When the two were once again still inside, having shared and loved as only liminal, luminous beings of whimsy, magic, and glory can, when silence fell upon the valley but for the lonely coming and going rush of wind below, Li and Aerin sat upon their log once again.

The fire had long since burnt to embers, and the moon had passed on to another part of the sky, invisible to their sight. They stared up at the sky full of stars, nearly infinite numbers, far away, burning brightly, far away. The two knew that they would have to go on their way soon. They would have to return to their paths, their journeys, looking forward to the next meeting.

But there was still time, yet. They snuggled tightly and warmly. Still time for one more story.