Part two of Flight
The king was angry, very angry with the sorrel-maned girl who had freed the great bird. The king was quite unused to being defied, of having anything taken from him, even things he had no right to.
“Throw her into the bird’s stall”, he commanded. “Melt the key in the forge.”
The thin morning light that slanted through the barred window illuminated her tear as it dropped. Remembering the bird, the brave and stoic bird, she reached for the white quill pinned in her hair. Her tears would be her ink. No sooner had she dipped the nib into her own teardrop than she was transformed. As a small white bird she was able to flit through the window of the stall door. Unsteady with her wings, she perched on a shelf in the stable, uncertain of what to do next.
“The spell will wear off soon. Fly down from the shelf.”
She fluttered to the straw strewn floor and sure enough, as soon as she did, she was herself again, a girl holding a white feather, facing a sorrel horse that spoke to her over the half door of his stall. “Good timing”, he said.
“But shouldn’t the magic of the quill last forever?”
“The magic does last forever”, replied the horse, “but do you really want to be a bird forever? You’re too young yet. You don’t get out so easily. But I can help you with the next part of your journey.”
As the kingdom was just beginning to rouse and attend each to their roles, the horse carried the girl rapidly away, she clinging to his mane, her own sorrel hair winging behind her. Finally the horse stopped in a wooded glade and they rested. Only now did the girl ask how it was that a horse could speak.
“Every creature speaks.”
“You know what I mean. I know horses, and I have never known one to speak in human language.”
“I need to tell you that I can carry you no farther.”
“I can’t thank you enough for carrying me this far, Horse. If only I could repay your kindness in helping me get away from the king.”
“Tell me, Girl, if you could, would you carry me?”
“Why of course I would, Horse.” And she meant it. And then before her startled eyes the horse was a man.
“I was under a spell”, he explained.
“Oh, no, you’re not a prince, are you?”, she asked, for he was handsome and strong, and stranger things had happened already.
“Ha! No not I. I was a soldier once, in service to the king. When I became injured he no longer found me useful. I was loyal, and thought that he would think kindly of those who had battled for him. I suggested that he, who has so much, instruct his royal physicians and magicians to take care of the soldiers, even those who no longer rode to battle. He had his magician turn me into a horse to silence me. Until you came with the white feather I was unable to speak.”
“I am glad you are not a prince. The king may not have use for a brave soldier, but I do.” Together they continued they knew not where, she clutching the white feather, he clutching her hand.