Once upon a time, there was a deep forest, lost in the countryside of a faraway kingdom. This forest homed many wonderful creatures. From the majestic deer to the tiniest of the river's frogs, each and every one of them had a unique story to share. This one was told to me, as I turned on a dirt path, to the flaps of a bird's wings.

Firo was a young raven who had left his nest not long ago. He was a simple and happy bird, who lived on seeds and fresh water and spent his time playing innocent tricks at the other forest residents. He never hurt anyone, he was just playful and loved hiding things, which amused his friends greatly. However, from each corner of the forest to the ends of men's world, he and his fellows were called unlucky, death messengers, bad omen and even, sometimes Devil's birds, all because of their pitch-black feathers. Firo didn't feel bad about it at all, to be honest. He was actually very proud of his beautiful black feathers that looked like flecks of a moonless night. What were those mean nicknames to him? As long as he loved himself, he didn't care that people thought he was a demon's bird. At least, so he believed until the day he met Shira.

It was a beautiful day of spring, one of these days when all winged creatures seemed to join to sing Nature's rebirth. Firo was no exception and his rough, sweetish voice sounded among the melodious chirps of his fellow birds. He sang arpeggios with the partridges, worked on his scales with the crows and even dared a young passing rooster into a screaming contest. And then, between two notes, he saw her.

He had already seen doves in the forest, from afar. Frail creatures admired for their spotless whiteness. Sweet and delicate, they said, as beautiful on the inside as they were on the outside. He didn't care, he wasn't one for prejudice. It was the first time he saw one so close. Her feathers seemed so soft, her eyes like two adorable black pearls, shining with intelligence and joy. The sweet Firo felt his heart leap at this wonderful vision and, like any young bird, immediately though she was the female of his life. He wanted to go talk to her, but the dove was already flying away, escaping the love-struck raven.

He watched her in secret for some time, hiding behind tree leaves, admiring the purity of the being he had just fallen in love with. He found out her name was Shira, and she didn't have a mate for now. She didn't do much all day, she just cooed softly on her branch. At most, she talked with the birds that approached her. Robins, tits, all sorts of colorful birds received her favors. She was lusted after but she was so beautiful!

One day, Firo grasped his courage and decided to talk to her. He approached slowly, so he wouldn't scare her, but in vain. Shira started trembling when she saw him. Doves and ravens didn't mangle well, even though Firo didn't care. She tried to flee but he caught up with her quickly, begging her to listen, to give him a chance. She said a bird of Venus, such as her, couldn't bare the darkness of a messenger of death, and flew away. Firo stopped, lost. He, who used to love his beautiful night-like feathers so much, started to hate the unlucky image it gave of him.

Sad, frustrated, he couldn't bare to lose the one he thought was his soul-mate. The very next day, he started a week-long journey to the building closest to the forest, a small flour mill that had been built a little away from town. He flew in through a window and rolled around wildly in the flour until the white powder covered his feathers. When he was happy with his new color, he went back home and immediately searched for his dear dove. Unfortunately, he didn't have any more success than the first time. The flour had partially fallen from his body, leaving only a dirty grey, even sadder than his usual black color.

Desperate, he searched all night for a way to change the color of his feathers. In the morning he had to admit there was only one solution: the forest's fairy.

Like everyone knows, beautiful forest like this one were usually protected by these ladies whose powers went beyond the human mind. This one was no exception and belonged to a short chubby fairy named Apple. When Firo came to meet her, she was busy making a flower crown out of daisies. He told her his problem and, without looking up from her work, she said:

"Are you really asking me to change the color of your feathers, black bird? It doesn't make sense! What could your appearance have to do with the love this dove could have for you? Love is blind, you know, they know no shape nor color. If this lady is vain enough to care about your color, then it isn't love."

"Maybe not yet, Miss Apple Fairy, but it'll come if I'm with her! For this, she needs to accept me, and the only way to do so is to have an appearance that will please her."

The fairy burst into laughter at his words and looked up at the young raven. "I can recognize your innocent logic! Alright, I'll help you but just this once."

"Oh thank you! Thank you, Miss!"

The fairy let go of her flowers and walked up to the bird. She took a small green bottle from her dress and poured a single drop of its content onto Firo's head, and he was filled with joy when his feathers became as white as snow. He immediately wanted to go find the love of his life but the Apple Fairy held him back. "Don't forget," she said maliciously: "Don't let any water touch your feathers or they'll turn as dark as night again."

Firo, only half-listening, agreed and flew away. He quickly found the gorgeous Shira, cooing on her branch. She saw him and cried out from the surprise of seeing him so changed, as white as wind beaten clouds. Not afraid anymore, she didn't flee and listened as Firo sang her a thousand praises, made her a thousand promises and courted her so well she consented to follow him.

They flew together through the forest, singing their newborn love. Firo was as happy as could be with his love, his heart thrilled and his head up in the stars. After a few hours of flying and singing, they were thirsty and stopped by the river. Shira decided to bathe and dived into the water to clean up her feathers. Inadvertently, a drop was thrown onto the poor Firo who immediately became as black as coal. Seeing this, Shira was scared again.

"Farewell, farewell! You are ugly, I don't want to see you anymore! I won't hear your flattery nor your promises, I won't fly with you anymore! Don't blame me, you are the one who agreed to change to please me and god strike me dead if I said I could love you otherwise. Farewell now! Don't approach me anymore, bad omen!"

She flew away and the poor raven started crying from being abandoned again. Who would love him, now that he was black again? Who would tolerate an ugly, sinister bird of death? His complaint sounded through the leaves, scaring all the surrounding creatures.

All of them? Actually, no! As he lamented, a sweet whistle made him look up. Up in the foliage, a charming skylark was watching him sweetly.

"Dear your tears, good raven, and don't blame yourself for her departure. Had you not thought your love was the same as this dove's? Would you have loved her if she wasn't beautiful? What did she do to win your heart? No kindness bonded your souls, no complicity bonded your actions. You loved a stranger from this perishable and futile thing that is appearance. Such love is dangerous. Now, now, try not to suffer too much, charming raven."

"But how may I, Miss Skylark? How can I be happy when nobody loves me?"

"Why do you care? You knew how to love yourself before meeting this dove, why would things be different now? Besides, if it can comfort you, many people love you for who you are, not what you look like. Stop crying and stand because the most import gaze is the one you give yourself."

So the raven dried his tears and watched his reflection in the river. His black feathers seemed as beautiful as ever and his heart felt lighter.

"It isn't my fault, you made me understand. Skylark, my friend, thank you so much. Would you stay with me for a while? You such comfort to me."

So the skylark, who actually loved the raven very much, agreed and stayed with him. I don't know how the story ends, it isn't my business after all. But yesterday, behind the grove, I saw them singing together, cuddling on a branch, as happy as I have ever seen any bird.