Black Bird and Golden Bird
"There, now, little one, the worst is over, I promise." Sabhya held a cup steady so the gardener's child could sip a warm tisane, then wiped her tear-streaked face before settling her back on the pillow. "I think the next time you sample your papa's gooseberries you should make certain they're actually ripe. Or at least leave just a few on the bush for the birds."
He rubbed the poor, cramped tummy comfortingly.
"That tea will settle you here and help you rest, and when you wake up you'll be as good as new."
"Want a story . . ." came the fretful whimper.
"A story, is it?" The little mage chuckled and considered. "Very well. Close your eyes, please, and I'll tell you the tale of Black Bird and Golden Bird." He smiled reassuringly at her embarrassed mother and began.
One day, a hunter snared a black bird. Thinking to sell it at market, he clapped it into a box.
"It could be that a fletcher will take your feathers, or an apothecary your blood and claws, for I can see no other need for an ill-omened creature such as you," the man said, and left the box next to his pet, a bird with golden feathers in a shiny cage.
"Perhaps it is just as well," Black Bird sighed. "All I can ever be is a thing of ill-omen, as he said. People look at my ugly black feathers and see only a harbinger of death, something to be feared. Where is the worth in that?"
Golden Bird looked at Black Bird quizzically, first one eye then the other.
"Is that what you believe? How strange. I look at you and I see great beauty."
Astonished, Black Bird looked at itself, trying to see what the other saw.
At first, it only saw the same darkness as ever, but with Golden Bird's comment in mind Black Bird found the courage to look more closely. Bit by bit, it realized that its feathers shimmered with life: a velvety black with secret pockets of deep blues and violets; a glossy black that struck silvery highlights where the sunlight touched; a silky black that glowed under the moonlight's caress.
"You are right," Black Bird said in great wonder. "I am . . . beautiful."
"A fire's glow needs darkness to offer greatest comfort," said Golden Bird quietly. "And it is only at night that we can see the stars. You are no creature of ill-omen. When I look at you, I see strength and potential. I see Hope."
After a pause to strop its beak on its perch, Golden Bird continued.
"I can reach the cord tying down the lid on your box. If you wish, I will pick the knot loose so you can fly safely away."
Black Bird gazed at the other, almost afraid to hope, and saw how small Golden Bird's cage really was, how it prevented the bird from ever spreading its wings.
"If you do, I will open the latch on your cage in turn."
Golden Bird stared.
"You would do that for me? I did not expect . . .I have almost forgotten what freedom is."
"Will you trust me?"
"Can you trust me?"
They looked into each other's eyes, seeing the kindred spirits within, and spoke as one.
With that, Golden Bird picked loose the knot so Black Bird could escape the box, and Black Bird opened the latch so Golden Bird could leave the cage, and away they flew spiraling into the open sky. And they rejoiced in their hearts, for not only had they had found new strength in themselves, but discovered that together they made a far greater whole.
Sabhya rose from the stool to make way for the girl's mother, who pressed his hand gratefully before sitting by her drowsy child. Rolling the kink from his shoulders he crossed the room to where Zevran leaned against the wall with head bowed over folded arms. The elf straightened as his Warden approached, holding out Sabhya's coat with a smile.
"Should I be surprised at how well you understand this particular Black Bird?" Zevran said softly in Antivan as he helped Sabhya with the coat's fastenings.
"How could I not?" Sabhya replied in the same tongue. "But you have it reversed, querido." He shifted a stray lock of hair from Zevran's face and gently brushed the tattoo along the man's jaw as he dropped his hand.
"The Golden Bird was you."
The wonderfully talented and caring Suilven created this gorgeous illustration for this little piece, which you can find here: bunnygirl1022. deviantart. com/ gallery/ #/d4nsx9k Be sure to check her fiction as well, as it's just as beautifully done as her artwork.