For seven days, or maybe it was seven years, or even seven lifetimes, the girl and her young former soldier journeyed. At first they started down a well-worn path through sun-dappled woods. Then a gust of wind blew the white feather from the girl’s hand and it drifted away from the path and into the darker woods. Without hesitation they followed to retrieve the feather though they went far and farther off the path, deep and deeper into the woods. They found the feather and found themselves they knew not where, knew only that they journeyed.
Always as they journeyed the girl held the white feather close. Always at night, by firelight or moonlight or even starlight, the girl wrote their story with the quill. There was no shortage of ink, for always was some blood from their trials, always a tear could be wrought from their travails. They were wind whipped and sandblasted across barren plains. They climbed jagged mountains of sharp cold stone that tore at their feet and hands as they crawled its craggy paths. They traversed a swamp that sucked at their feet and pulled at them, threatening to mire them forever. Then one day they found themselves in a wood so thick with thorned brush and branches they feared they could not go on.
“I wish I had my trusty sword”, the soldier lamented. And as soon as he had wished it, the sword was in his hands. He smiled broadly. Now he knew what to do, now he would get them out of this entanglement. Boldly he slashed and fiercely he sliced at the branches but every time he cut one away it grew back three-fold, the branches becoming ever thicker. Finally the girl cried for him to stop.
“Let me try”, she said, and held forth the white feather quill. She held it up and laid it against a branch and the branch was swept away. Again and again, one branch at a time she wielded her feather quill until finally they emerged into a clearing at the foot of a steep hill. They crawled into a cave that was there and fell in a heap of exhaustion. Clutching the feather, clutching each other, they slept. They slept without stirring for three days, or three years, or maybe even three lifetimes, until finally dawns’ light and birds’ song drew them out.
Blinking in the light the soldier exclaimed when he looked upon the girl. “Why, you have transformed again!”
“What?”, laughed the girl, “Am I a bird again?”
“No, you’re a wise old woman. I mean you are a beautiful young woman. I mean… you’re…”
“She is all of these. She has always been this and more.”
“The bird!” Both the girl and the young man turned and there was the great bird that she had freed.
“So surprised? Wasn’t it I that you sought?”, said the bird. “I see that you still hold the feather. I see that it is stained and worn; well used.”
The girl looked at the feather that she yet held in her hand, even after their long time in the cave. Gently the great bird took it from her and tossed it into the air. Then all her words that she had written with the quill gathered and began to flutter and flit like damselflies, then gathered and grew into feathers and finally swirled into a flock of colorful birds that darted into the trees singing and chirping.
“These magical birds will take you wherever you wish to go. They will lift you up and you will soar with them.”
“So now we live happily ever after?”
The great bird laughed. “It’s never that easy”, it said. “The magic of the quill will last forever, but magic is not a miracle, though they do happen too.”
Just then a flock of ducks flew overhead, and the girl and the young man thought they might as well go in the direction the ducks pointed. And they did.