Something was happening to the phoenix. When he stopped for the night, he lay his head in a valley with a waterfall, at the edge of the forest of stone blades. He felt like he was dissolving, but not in light – it was far too soon for that. A muddy pressure was filling up his heart and veins slowly until he couldn’t fly. On his second day in the valley, he hopped over to the water, but instead of leaning down to clip it up in his beak, an arm extended from the slit in his skin, and he felt his mantle clenched in his other hand. He dropped to his knees, and felt the intrusive coldness of the stone on his soft skin.
He opened his mouth to sigh, but tears came instead. The magic in the waters was dead, and there was mud seeping around his shoulders. Thoughts of the sparrow flitted into his head, but he crushed them incrementally, made them so they were not real. The tears angered him, but he knew not how long he knelt by the water there, where the dragon had lifted herself, steaming, when she found him half-dead and so tired. When he pulled his fingers from the water, they were turning purple from the alpine chill. Snow started drifting down on him, and he shivered, bare skin under his threadbare mantle dancing as the muscles quaked under them.
‘I’ve always known more,’ he thought, ‘I’ll always know more.’
When the girl with the nightmare resonating in her skull rose from the ground, she nearly tumbled down again, from the unsteadiness flowing behind her eyes. She felt a compressing feeling near the center of her chest and pressed her hand to it, not realizing for a few long moments that what she wanted was to feel her heart beat. Instead, there was the suction-like pressure, like she was continually breathing out. Inhaling the cool air of pre-dawn morning only caused the pulling feeling to become more taught. She imagined a thousand little birds and lizards pulling on ropes tied to the space around her heart, trying to close it back up. She couldn’t remember whether the dancers or the man in the shadows had put that feeling there, and wasn’t certain she wanted to know. She pressed her hands to her head and scrunched her eyes up, to press the dream into her memory and out of her thoughts, then looked around.
There were only two ways to go, if she wished to see a change, back to the charred spot on the ground where she had woken from the last time she had that dream, or into the forest. Either way, she didn’t know what she would find, or if anything would find her. Either way, she had nothing which could be stolen from her. ‘A dragon earns her wings’ she thought, and started her walk over the forest’s mossy undercover.