Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Feathered Things
Peering through the slot in the door, the portly one said, “I can’t see a blinkin’ thing for all those feathers.”
The tall one’s mouth thinned in disapproval. “So, what? We’re going to tell them that she ate her breakfast like a good girl - again? How long you think we can get away with that, genius? She hasn’t eaten for a week. When she dies of emaciation, our heads won’t stay atop our shoulders for long.”
“Every day we keep our skulls attached to our bodies is one day longer than we thought possible. Isn’t that so, my friend? Now, let’s get down to more important matters. Would you like her eggs or shall I save your girlish figure by slopping ‘em onto my plate?”
When the voice outside the door faded away, the crow flew into the open window and curled his talons around the captive girl’s slender fingers. “Seven days of purification have brought us to this moment. Today you will fly or fail.”
Lenny scowled at him. “Judging by the flurry of feathers, I’d say fail.”
Poe dug his jagged claws into her tender skin. “You need to focus.”
She shook him off her hand. “What I need to do is face reality. I listened to your stories and starved myself for the promise of wings. But guess what? I’m still trapped in this room, so all you and your magic mumbo jumbo managed to do was turn me into a featherbrain.”
He perched on the iron footboard. “Somewhere out there is a boy who loves you. Are you going to turn your back on him?”
“There is no lovesick boy, anymore than there is true love or magic.”
His bright beady eyes fixed on her. “Are you sure about that?”
“So, that’s it? You’re done with hope and possibility?”
“Yes,” she said, voice petulant, arms crossed.
His dark eyes flickered. “Very well.”
The morning breeze ruffled his glossy black feathers. One drifted to the floor. Another followed. And another, until so many feathers swirled around him that he was obscured from her sight.
When the tornado of feathers died down, a young man stood before her, ebony hair falling about his shoulders, midnight eyes peering at her from an elegant face.
He opened his mouth to speak but her scream drown out his words, though the noise tapered off as her body shrank into the form of a white dove.
The sound of clambering boots echoed down the hall.
The young man shooed her with his hands. “Hurry. The window.”
She tried but her wings wouldn’t cooperate.
He scooped her up with gentle hands, pushed her beyond the curtain and set her on the outer sill.
When the door flung open moments later, the guards found him lounging on the bed, alone.
The tall one said, “The queen will be most distressed to find you here, boy. Possessing the Princess Lenore solidified her hold on the kingdoms. She will not take this betrayal lightly.”
The portly one grabbed the young man by the scruff of his neck, yanked him off the bed and dragged him out of the room.
Out on the sill, Lenny clung to the brick ledge, tiny heart beating wildly beneath her white feathered breast.
The crow had been telling the truth. Magic did exist. Perhaps everything else was true too, but she couldn’t think about those things at the moment, because somewhere in the castle, someone was torturing her crow.
Her crow. He’d flown into her window every morning since she’d been locked up in the tower, and stayed until she fell asleep every evening. He’d kept her entertained with stories, brought her news from outside the castle and told her the legends of the land. He’d explained the rites of the feathered …
His shriek pierced her ears. Her wings fluttered in response. She tried moving them again, and they lifted in a concert of feathers, in harmony with each other.
If she could manage to fly, she could get to him, but that would mean leaving the safety of the ledge. She wouldn’t have the luxury of a test flight or safe and easy flight conditions.
Today, she would indeed fly or fail.
How did one move from the tangible to the intangible? Getting her talons to retract from the brick ledge and her body to launch into an invisible air stream took all her willpower.
Fortunately, her wings did their job as instinctively as she drew breath, and she found herself in a lazy spiral around the castle.
When next she heard his voice, she’d made three passes around the structure, contemplating how to accomplish landing. Her talons skid along the brick and she smashed her beak into the glass, but that turned out to be fortunate, since it cracked the window.
Inside the room, her crow was fastened to a metal bed and the queen was alternately admonishing and whipping him. “Not only am I your queen, I am your mother! How dare you interfere in my plans, boy!”
Anger burned through her and she pecked at the crack in the glass until the piece shattered. She flew into the room, beak poised, claws unsheathed, and every ounce of raw fury focused on the queen’s face.
When the queen lay whimpering and bleeding on the stone floor, Lenny regained her human form and retrieved the keys from the royal chatelaine.
She sat beside her crow as she freed him from the wrist locks. “Are you strong enough to change?”
His eyes met hers. “I haven’t the heart.”
“You’re all heart, my prince.”
He turned away. “You only believed after I changed.”
She kissed his cheek. “That’s where you’re wrong. I always believed in you. It was myself that I doubted. Forgive me, my crow.”
A feather floated into her lap, lustrous and dark as his midnight eyes.
A second feather joined it, fair and silky as the pale waterfall of her hair.
Together, they vanished in a torrent of raven and flaxen feathers …
A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.