Somewhere above me rose the high chorus of birds and I grinned at the man riding beside me. "I think they know we're coming," I said in a low voice and he nodded at me.
"What do you think, Roué?" I asked the baby boy I cradled to my chest. He let out a little baby giggle and clapped his hands together. "That's what I thought."
It was the first time Xuaneth and I had returned to the Owl Ladies. Koay and Carson had stayed behind at the Capital, preparing for their trip back to Earth. When Xuaneth and I returned, they would be gone, I knew.
Four years had passed since Rollay's death and Koay and Carson both believed it was time for them to return. Xuaneth and I had decided to remain behind, taking care of our young one, but we had promised that we would visit every once in a while – check up on them so-to-speak.
He chuckled. "You are strange," he said as he reached between us and touched our son's head with a gentle hand.
"I know I am," I replied.
"So how is the queen doing?" he asked.
As Tinsra's half-sister, I had been made an honorable court member, much to my distaste. She had ruled Solaria fairly for four years and I was now more than willing to lay my life down for her. Many wondered who was older. Neither Tinsra nor I were willing to admit that we were born the same day at the same hour at the same moment, and neither of us knew whose birth our father watched – nor did we care.
Queen Tinsra and I were as opposite as could be. She was light where I was dark and dark where I was light; she was compassionate where I was untrusting; she was angry where I was sad; she was passionate where I was murderous. Rollay's death had changed me in ways I couldn't have believed. I watched Tinsra and saw more of Rollay in her than she would ever realize, and I knew that it was possible a part of his spirit lived on that throne, which was fine for me.
I smiled and clucked to Lady, moving ahead so that he had to catch up. He laughed as he did so. "She is doing rather well as you can see every now and then."
"The public speeches?"
I nodded. "She acts on her promises," I said and looked up ahead at the two Owl Ladies awaiting us. "Galaxy, Xuaneth, Roué?" Do my old eyes deceive me?" the Mother asked.
Xuaneth and I dismounted and bowed before the Mother, smiles on our faces as we rose. "Welcome, my wingless ones. You are always welcome. Now bring me the Chickling so I may look upon one of our own."
Roué looked as happy as a clam as I passed him over to the Mother while Xuaneth and I gave each other confused looks. "Your own?" I asked.
She nodded and looked at us. "Did you not notice that we had gifted you two the last time you rode through?" she asked.
We shook our heads. "Well," she said. "We did. The scars on your shoulders, Galaxy." I ran my hand over the upraised marks upon my shoulders where Rollay's wolven claws had lashed me and marred my skin for life. "They are not fully healed, are they?" I shook my head.
"That is because, Galaxy, you belong to us. Out of those scars wings will grow now that you are among us – your kind.
"And Xuaneth?" she asked and he looked at her. "The scars from the accident. They haven't ever healed either, have they?"
He shook his head. "You two have been graced the hand of God to join our kind in flight. Your son was born with his wings. They will begin growing soon, as all the children's do once they are within the Owl Lady Wood, but maybe it is time you knew this wood's real name."
She led us into the camp now, still carrying Roué as we went forward.
"This wood is ancient and every twelve years, it receives a new name – one that only the flock may know. The name of this wood – and your new home from now on – is..." She whispered it in my ear and then walked over to Xuaneth and spoke it into his ear.
We looked at one another and he smiled as he crossed his arms across his chest. "That is a fitting name," he said.
The Mother nodded and handed Roué to her sister and our friend, Jopenal. "We thought so when we graced it with that name."
I nodded, half to myself as I gazed at the sky and the figures flying in the clouds. "I agree," I said. "He would be proud."