10
Flight of a Thousand Ravens

In his haze it seemed like no time and he was back at the entrance of the cave. There was great commotion. Thousands upon thousands of white ravens stood at the entrance of the cave awaiting him. When he appeared they all burst into their lovely song of joy.

"We saw the snake flee and we knew you had won!" Grandfather Raven told him happily. "Well done."

"Thank you," it felt good for Falling Rock to finally say it. He was still in a stupor over what he had accomplished.

"Hurry," Grandfather Raven's beautiful voice woke him slightly. "We still must place the sun, moon, and stars back in the sky."

"Here," Falling Rock offered the cloaked sun to the raven.

"No," the raven refused. "I cannot place the sun back in the sky. Only one of the same species that removed it may put it back in its rightful place. I will carry you to where you must go."

"What?" Falling Rock asked stupidly. "Haven't I done enough? I retrieved the sun from the mountain and defeated the giant snake."

"No," the raven told him somberly. "It isn't enough until you have rectified what your people have done."

Falling Rock's shoulders slumped at hearing this. Just when he thought that the quest was over he learned there was still more yet to come. He sighed and pulled the cloak close to his body.

"Let's go," Falling Rock said, not noticing all of the ravens taking the moon and stars from the rabbits and turning to watch him, waiting for him and Grandfather Raven to take off.

"Have heart, dear son of Standing Stone, you are nearly done," Grandfather Raven told him gently. With that the raven crouched low. Falling Rock was to fly on the raven's back.

Gripping the cloak in one hand Falling Rock clambered up the raven's back. It with the whoosh of thousands of wings the enormous flock of ravens took to the air, moon and stars in their beaks.

If he hadn't been too tired to even look Falling Rock would have enjoyed the sight below him, thousands of white ravens on wing with shining bright stars in their beaks ascending into the heavens. Below them craggy peaks of stone mountains crusted with pure white snow.

They flew higher and higher into the lightening sky. Soon it was so cold that even the cloak covered sun was barely sufficient to keep Falling Rock warm. The air was so thin that it was hard to breathe.

"Now!" Grandfather Raven called up to him. "Falling Rock, throw the sun as high as you can into the sky, it will find its own place."

Falling Rock stood up straight, the biting wind ripping at his exposed flesh. Using the cloak like a sling he flung the sun up into the sky. The sun flew away from him, and then came to a jarring stop in its track.

With a gasp Falling Rock saw the sky change from black to light blue in a sudden wash of light. The warm sun radiated warmth down on them and the wind suddenly became tolerable.

Then Falling Rock noticed something was wrong. The cloak he had borrowed was no longer white but obsidian black. He looked down and saw to his alarm that the same was true for Grandfather Raven. He peered about and saw that all of the ravens were the same, black as ash.

The ravens cawed happily. The sun was back in the sky, but it had come with a price. The sun and stars had burned the feathers of the ravens and burned their throats, turning their sweet songs into harsh caws. A tear streaked down Falling Rock's face, something special had been lost this day.

"Hold on," Grandfather Raven called back to him in his now harsh voice. "I will take you home!"

Falling Rock's thoughts turned to home. He hoped that his tribe had been able to survive the terrible time of no sun or stars. He clung to the raven's now black feathers. That reminded him of something, but what?

"No!" Falling Rock suddenly called out. "Don't take me home! You must take me to Sister Swan!"

"Whatever you desire!" the raven agreed.

The mere moments it took for them to retrace their path seemed to stretch on for hours for Falling Rock. He hoped that Sister Swan was still alive. If she was, how was he going to explain the blackened cloak her?

Suddenly they were descending in dizzying circles and then alighted on the ground. Falling Rock stepped off dizzily. He couldn't seem to regain his balance. He stumbled about for a moment, and then stopped. The dizziness passed. He searched for Sister Swan.

She was lying on the ground almost exactly where he had left her. Even with Grandfather Raven landing so close to her she had not stirred. In alarm Falling Rock raced over to her.

She was even paler than when he had seen her last. He took her head into his scarred and beaten hands. She was still breathing, but shallowly. Moving with a speed he didn't know he still had in him he took the black feather cloak and wrapped it around her.

Nothing happened.

"Come, you have to get better," Falling Rock pleaded with her. He glanced about and then an idea struck him. He gathered her up in his arms and lifted her up. Falling Rock walked her over to the stream and stood in it. With great care he slowly lowered her into the stream.

There was a sudden flash of light and he thought he heard a flapping of wings, but he stumbled and fell to the edge of the bank. He struggled to stay awake but everything went black.

Falling Rock opened his eyes slowly. Hunger and thirst gnawed at his stomach, but something else gnawed on his mind. Had it all just been a dream or had his quest been real? He looked down at himself. His hands were scarred, but that could have been from climbing the mountains. He was exhausted, but hunger, thirst, and lack of sleep would do that to you.

He sat up and knelt at the stream, taking deep gulps of water. The cold water felt good on his aching puffy throat. He stopped suddenly.

A single black feather floated past him. He quickly glanced around. A lone black swan flew away from somewhere just up the stream. Falling Rock smiled to himself and went back to drinking.

THE END