Beyond the edge of darkness, before the bright edge of the moon's smile, just in that place where the stars cast shadows and music is a tangible thing, a white owl soared through air as thick as damp cotton. It didn't belong there, but swooped meaningfully through the night—day—it didn't matter.

A screaming cry rent the night, and the owl ducked lower. Lower…lower…toward the ground below that the night-bird could neither see nor hear. No rustling trees. No trickling water. And it was in that moment that the bird's outline wavered, melted, blended into the outline of a tall man with blond hair, a man dressed like a strange cross between a rock star and a king. He was covered in stardust as, tall and pale, he strode across the black earth and bent to pick up a child.

The infant did not stop crying, and in that place where life and death have no meaning, the owl-man cradled the tiny being to his heart. He pressed the warm, wet body to his chest, held the too-heavy head in a gloved hand. So tiny…the tiniest he'd been called to take away. People sent away bigger babies, toddlers, even small children. They didn't believe in the magic enough to wish away adolescents, and he wouldn't have taken them anyway. But this baby was newly born, young enough that the parents should still be doting, young enough that the earthy-mineral smell of blood and placenta had not worn off and the eyes were not yet open.

"You should not even be out of a mortal hospital, little one," the owl-man said, and he rocked the newborn soothingly. "Hushhh, now," he crooned, a strange sound from a man made of ice and fog. His eyes closed, mismatched in color but identical in their pain, as he swayed his torso, swiveling, settling into soothing motion. Slowly the child stopped crying.

"Time to go," the man whispered. "Then we will find out what's to be done with you." He looked at the top of the infant's head, dark, silky hair matted down with the close, damp heat. "Beautiful child. Who could possibly look at you and not want you?" He lifted one miniscule fist and kissed the closed fingers. "So tiny…tinier than baby goblins." And with that his shape melted again. Instead of the owl, the wavering outline turned into mist…and then was gone.