I "Moonlit Wings"
Hrothbert was silent, leaning against the wall, his eyes on his beloved, Gwenfrewi. To his sorcerer Sight, her power was silvery, quiet, unassuming. But he was no fool. His wife had magic enough to match almost any sorcerer he knew.
He couldn't raise a circle of his own magic to protect her for fear of disrupting her, but he could wait and stand on guard.
He envied her this spell. Some day she would teach it to him, but for now, all he could do was watch.
A smile crossed his face at that thought. He loved to watch her work. There were no windows in his -their- work room, but Gwenfrewi glowed as if lit by moonlight.
Although she remained seated, her spirit rose and tossed back a cloak of feathers. In the space between one heart beat and the next, a great white owl sat on her shoulders. Hrothbert extended an arm and the owl flew to him, landing on his leather covered wrist.
He could feel her amusement, feel her joy at flight. The sorcerer gently ran a hand over the soft feathers.
"Return to me safely, my love," he murmured.
She gave a soft hoot of agreement and gently took hold of a lock of his dark hair in her powerful beak. She preened him gently, affectionately, and then released his hair, turning away.
He raised his arm and pumped it, tossing her into the air. Walls and windows were no obstacle to her spirit form, and she vanished from his sight. She would probably be all night, meeting with her sister sorceress-priestesses, communing with the spirits of the land. Some day, he would fly with her.
For now, all he could do was wait and watch.
II "Learning to Fly"
The High Priestess had granted Gwenfrewi permission to teach her husband their ways of Flying. This was primarily because she did not believe a White Council Wizard would be able to depart from tradition enough to try something new. Gwenfrewi knew her husband better than that.
She had to admit, he cut a handsome figure in the ceremonial robe she had made for him. They had completed the ritual bath (and both enjoyed themselves thoroughly) and he had fasted for three days and meditated for one. While Hrothbert was not able to confess true faith and loyalty to the Lady, he was sincere in his prayers: he respected and honored her powers and would defer to her authority.
They had adapted the ritual as best they could, and now all that was left was to see if he could fly.
She Watched him. Her husband called it Sight, such a simple term for opening one's eyes to the beyond.
For several long minutes, nothing happened.
And then, he started to glow. As she watched, his spirit hovered above his body in a silvery orb, bound to his body by a thin line. She refrained from cheering, this was a perfect first step.
Gwenfrewi expected his spirit to return to his body after a few minutes, but her husband had other ideas. The orb wavered, shifted and expanded. With a shake, it resolved into the suggestion of a bird.
Her eyes grew as she watched his spirit shift into the form of... not an owl... but a falcon. He made an awkward leap onto the floor, blue eyes sweeping the room.
"That was wonderful!" she exclaimed, "You look beautiful, my love."
The falcon spread his wings, stretching. He gave a few little hops, trying to get airborne.
Gwenfrewi laughed lightly, "I guess I will need to teach you how to fly."
The falcon folded his wings and walked over to her.
"You will get used to it," she knelt down and lightly stroked his feathers.
To his disappointment, he couldn't maintain this for long. His wife caught him before he fell. Hrothbert lay in her arms for a few moments, catching his breath. "This doesn't happen to you," he said finally.
"It did my first few times," she assured him, "You did wonderfully."
He gazed up at his wife tiredly. He had not expected this to take that much energy, that much magic. Hrothbert had always respected his wife's talent and power, but now, even more so.
Falcons hunt by day.
Owls hunt by night.
This would present a problem for normal birds, but Hrothbert and Gwenfrewi's spirit-birds were not so restricted. His eyesight was just as good by night as it was by day.
It had taken a long time to master the transformation, but he was determined. Anything was possible with time, the right amount of power, and the will to do it.
After he mastered the transformation, his wife taught him how to fly.
Now the sky was theirs to explore. In the air, she was faster than he was, on silent wings. He had to race to catch her, chasing her through the clouds, into a world of white. He could see the cold fog, but his spirit-form felt nothing. Hrothbert liked this feeling, not being bound by the laws of nature. His spirit-falcon could pass through obstacles, never getting tired, never getting cold. He was an observer. Set apart. It made him feel powerful.
Gwenfrewi hooted softly, reminding him of her presence. He returned his attention to his wife, giving chase. Most birds of prey engaged in a courtship "dance", soaring and spiraling around each other. The lowers took a cue from the real birds and chased each other around the sky, a dizzying aerial ballet.
Harry entered his apartment via the store front. He was in a good mood. He was glad that the witch in question had just been an over ambitious hedgewizard, not the reincarnation of an ancient Druid priestess as she had claimed to be. She was a well researched fraud, but a fraud nonetheless. He had saved the world and been paid. It was a good day.
He stopped dead in his tracks upon seeing a new addition to his living room - a wooden stand with a sturdy perch, level with his shoulders. A handsome bird sat perched on it. Harry didn't know enough about birds to identify it, but it looked like some sort of raptor. A length of leather looped through dull silver bracelets around both feet of the bird, tying it to the perch.
"Where did you come from?" Harry addressed the bird.
The raptor regarded Harry with icy blue eyes, and then dissolved into smokeless fire. Bird and perch collapsed in on themselves and reformed into the shape of a man.
"Bob," Harry blinked, "You were a bird."
"Yes," Bob straightened his coat, adjusting his sleeves, "Everything worked out? The case settled?"
"Paid in full," Harry tossed his jacket onto the couch, "And I paid the rent this morning."
"Good," Bob approved.
"And I stopped at the bookstore on my way home," Harry continued, "Picked up a few of the novels on your list."
"Thank you," Bob said simply.
"Yeah, I figured since you did most of the work on this case you needed some sort of reward too," Harry grinned.
Bob gave a shrug, "I just happened to know a fair bit about the power and ritual of some of the more obscure tribes."
Usually, Bob was quickly to point out when he helped, and gloat over the fact that he was right. Today, though, the ghost was uncharacteristically modest.
Harry blinked, "Hey Bob, you alright?"
"As I ever am," the ghost replied.
"Uh...huh," Harry stretched out the word, "Bob?"
"You were a bird."
"You were a falcon," Harry repeated obediently.
"Why were you a falcon?" the wizard asked patiently.
"I was just thinking," Bob said.
"You've never turned into a bird before," Harry said.
Bob gave a shrug. "I was thinking about the case, and trying to see if I could remember anything else useful."
"As a bird."
"As a falcon," Bob corrected automatically, "Some of the priestess-sorceresses would send their spirits out into the world as a form of a bird."
"I didn't know that," Harry said.
"It's not in any text that I have ever read," Bob agreed, "They guarded their secrets carefully. Very few things were written down."
"But you know them," Harry said slowly.
Bob gave a shrug, and then straightened a bit, "Will there be anything else?"
Harry closed his mouth before he stuck his foot further into it. Bob was over seven hundred years old. All of his knowledge of the priestess-sorceresses would have come first hand... from someone who trusted him. It didn't take much to put two and two together.
"Did you want to go up to the roof?" the wizard asked.
Bob blinked, "Pardon?"
"Up to the roof," Harry repeated, "Stretch your wings."
"I don't fly," Bob turned away from Harry, "Not any more."
The ghost dissolved into smoke and vanished, leaving Harry standing alone.