by Alvin Maker
Intro to a fantasy novel. Thanks for all the reviews!
|They had traveled too far for his wife, the man knew, but the baby was going to come any day and they needed to find lodging of some kind. Everybody knew a child born outdoors in the dead of winter stood as much chance as the snow of making it to summer. Not that it was his fault mind you; first the damn sickness down south pushed everyone out of the city, and then the barn they had stopped at to let her give birth had caught on fire.
So here they marched two days from the nearest city and his wife long past ready, until she spoke the words he had been dreading.
“We have to stop, Ethan. The baby is coming.”
“Not now,” he pleaded. “We are only two days off Plymouth, surely the hospital would be a better place to have the child?”
“Of course it would” she cried, the obvious pain making her voice nothing but a harsh whisper. “But this boy is coming right now, whether we want him to or not!”
“Boy?” the man asked confused.
“Yes, boy. The bird told me I am going to have a boy, and he is to be born right here.”
Only then did the man notice the bird in the tree above them. “Oh my word, take a look at that!” The bird had a fiery red crown and rainbow colored tail feathers. “Helen, is that a Phoenix?” the man wondered out loud, even more confused than before.
“Like I have any clue,” she snapped at him. “When was that last time anybody actually saw a Phoenix?”
Ethan couldn’t think of a very good response to that, so he simply just stood there staring up at the bird until it lept from it’s perch and glided gracefully to a large oak tree a short ways off the path.
All sense of worry now gone in the presence of the majestic bird. Ethan slowly helped his wife off the path and through the deeper snow to where the tree was. It took them a couple minutes, the fresh snow making it tough to get anywhere; it was like navigating through quick sand. Once they finally reached the tree, they found it had a hollow in the base, and feathers had fallen just right to make a neat bed big enough to fit three people comfortably.
“Would you look at that! The bird knew it would be having company,” Helen said as she slipped into the makeshift bed. “What a perfect place to have our baby.”
No sooner had the words left her lips then the great bird came swooping down into the tree to sit next to the woman, a small egg clutched firmly in its talons.
“A baby,” she said locked in absolute awe.
Even Ethan knew she meant the bird’s baby and not their own. Unlike humans, a Phoenix only has a baby once every ten thousand years. Since they are born from their own ashes, reproduction is worthless. But old stories speak of a time right before the Phoenix burned out for the very last time and heads into the afterlife it lays a single egg, which hatches and spends the first hundred years around the human it was born with. The bond between bird and human is said to be unbreakable, and that the human life is blessed and destined for amazing things.
“Our baby is going to be special!” Ethan said very matter-of-factly, still piecing together all the old stories in his mind
“Honey it’s time,” his wife stated for the second time that day and he knew it was true. He began to make her comfortable, gently brushing her hair and humming her the Song of Soothing.
In the hour it took for the child to be born, the bird sat quietly radiating its heat into the hollowed-out tree, keeping it’s egg safe and warm. Until the very moment Ethan's baby took its first breath the bird stood its vigil.
Then the most amazing thing Ethan or his wife had ever witnessed, the bird began to sing. It sang of the long and amazing life it had lived, and of all the great works it had done. When it reached the end, the Phoenix gave one last note, held out like an opera singer and beautiful beyond words, and burst into flames. Not just oranges and reds, but blues, greens, purples, yellows and whites, all the brilliant colors of its plumage.
When the smoke and colors cleared, all that was left was a tiny egg with a crack running down the whole length. After a few seconds, the egg started to slowly vibrate, and all eyes were held to it, including the new born child who hadn’t cried once since the bird started singing his song, and just sat still and quiet, watching things he could never understand. Slowly, it poked its beak out and took its first breath of air. Ethan reached out and removed the top of the egg shell revealing a tiny little mess of colors and fuzz that gave out a little squawk. Immediately Ethan knew he was in love. He knew it was his job to take care of these two little precious lives and make sure whatever the future held, they made it to the day they would fulfill their destinies.
“What shall we name our boy?” he asked his wife, though he already knew the answer.
“I want to name him Nathan, like my father.”