Riffhawk went to the broad open window and stared out over the valley below. He sighed deeply.
Hearing a rustling behind him, he turned to see a small grey falcon emerge from his pack. She flew to his shoulder. He winced slightly as her talons gripped his sinew. Their minds met in the Talking Place.
“You know I do not like being cooped for so long.”
“And you know it was necessary. In fact, Bronwyn, you should not have shifted now. We are probably being watched.”
“We should never have secrets to keep. I will never understand humans.”
She lifted from his shoulder and flew around the rooms, her eyes missing nothing.
“There is a place for someone to watch the bedroom, but not where the desk is.”
This news surprised him. As the falcon returned to his shoulder, more gently this time, he picked up the long staff and went to the study, where he leaned the staff near another broad, open window.
He never tired of the transformation. The roundness of the wood blurred and, as if a flower were opening, a large eagle emerged into the room and sat on the stone sill of the window, the breeze ruffling her rich brown-and-white feathers. She stretched her wings wide, their breadth more than a grave’s length. She seemed to yawn and shook her head, swaying the corona of deep amber plumage. Her yellow feet, each a fistful of black knives, gripped the stone where she sat. Soon, she too was in the Talking Place.
“I am famished. Even you two are looking pretty good.”
“I am thinking you should both fly to the north and reassure Famdas and Felicia that I am not lost, just delayed, and that I will be along as best I can.”
The eagle cocked her tasseled head at him. “We cannot leave you alone. You know that. One of us must stay. For us both to go would break the promise.”
Of course, she was right. She was right more often than she was not.
The falcon looked up from preening her chest. “Melda, you should go and I will stay. You can move more air than I and small is probably best for this place.”
The eagle raised her magnificent head. Her golden eyes softened and she seemed to smile around the fierce curve of her beak. “So be it.”
She turned and launched herself from the window ledge. Climbing rapidly, she was soon a dark speck in the fading cloudless sunlight.