Fiction by Rachel Racette

The Wolf and the Bird

         There was once a bird and a wolf.
          The wolf was a strong and proud creature, determined to prove its power, regardless of its smaller than average stature. As such, it was often alone, for all who knew it feared its wrath.
         Except for one.
          A large bird with silken black and crimson feathers, known for her swift wings and sharp wit. She had bested many creatures greater than her with her cleverness and became well known and respected. Few dared to face her.
          For her talents, she was often sought out, many hoping for personal tutelage. And so, with a passion, she became a teacher, but only to those she felt deserved her knowledge.
          Unfortunately, rarely did her students last. They did not heed her words, becoming over-confident they thought themselves more powerful than they truly were. So with a heavy heart, she watched many youths fall to their own pride and ignorance.
          But still she taught, hoping to find someone who would become a worthy pupil.
          One day, as she was flying through the vast forest, she called home, she came across a young grey-furred wolf fighting a much larger wolf. Not an uncommon occurrence, but something told her to stop. Curious, she landed on a tree nearby and watched.
          To her surprise, the smaller, and clearly wounded wolf was winning. Using its size and surroundings to its advantage, she watched it lure the larger into a corner, her own eyes sparking as she took in the younger’s bright sharp eyes.
           By the time the larger noticed it was cornered, it was too late, the other pounced, and using the larger wolf’s weight against it, pinned it, teeth sinking into its neck, and with a twist of its powerful jaws, it killed the larger.
          The bird stared in awe. Never had she seen a creature use such cunning and win a fight, especially one clearly weaker than its opponent, aside from herself of course. Yet, that was the one that stood victorious.
          Impressed, the bird flew over to the wolf as it stepped away from the now dead opponent. She called out as it began to limp away.
          “Wait!” She cried, settling onto a nearly bush as the wolf spun around to meet her. Exhausted yet piercing eyes bore into her. She gazed back unflinching.
          “What do you want?” The wolf growled, crimson staining its dark grey fur. He panted and trembled, confirming her suspicions of being more wounded than it appeared. Yet, his muscles were tense, head held high in defiance, ready to fight to the last breath with everything he had. Intelligence shone behind rapidly dulling eyes.
          “How rude,” She huffed, feathers twitching. “Don’t you know how to properly greet someone?” The wolf growled in response, hackles rising.
          “I’ll ask only once more bird,” He sneered, shifting closer. “What do you want?”
          “I saw how you fought.” She nodded to herself. “How you took them down was incredible. You’re smarter than you look.” The wolf tilted his head in surprise before puffing his fur, soaking up the praise. She continued;
          “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such skill of the mind, aside from my own, of course.” The wolf smirked.
          “Oh?” She nodded again. The wolf stepped even closer. “And, who are you to compare yourself to a creature such as myself, bird?”
          “Twilight.” She answered with a smirk. The wolf paused, ears twitching.
          “The infamous skilled hunter and fighter?” She nodded. Her companion scoffed. “The same Twilight who has never lost a fight, who presents herself as the cleverest creature that ever lived?” Twilight fluffed her feathers.
          “Well, I wouldn’t say cleverest. There are a great many out there who may very well be better than me.” She said, tilting her head. “This is a big unusual world we live in.”
          “But—but you’re just a bird.” He sputtered.
          “A very clever bird.” She retorted. He pressed his snout into her personal space, she did not flinch. She smiled to herself, his response predictable.
          “Prove it.” So, she did.
          With lightning speed, she evaded his snapping jaws. Fluttering just out of reach, as he made many attempts to catch her. Swinging around him, watching in amusement as he nipped at her tail-feathers as time and time again she landed hits. Drawing blood with her sharp talons and beak.
          More than once she had to stop herself from laughing, it had been too long since another had challenged her, and even longer that one had lasted so long, never mind the fact he was already tired and injured. For as many blows as she landed, there were nearly twice as many she did not.
          This wolf, despite his injuries, was quick and light on his paws, backed by the power expected of such a creature. The combination of her own skill and his own exhaustion were what kept her from being harmed. Had he been at full strength…
          Soon though, he could no longer continue. There was only so long you could fight your own body. Their dance soon came to an end. She fluttered to the ground, watching as the wolf slumped to the earth, breathing heavily. She hopped forward, stopping just before his nose.
          “Do you believe me now?” Twilight asked. The wolf wheezed.
          “…Yes.” He rasped. She nodded once more to herself.
          “Good. Now wait here.” She said raising herself back into the air. His dull gaze followed.
          “For what?”
          “While I get some food, of course.” She paused, then added. “And something for your wounds.”
          “…Why?” He called quietly. She looked down at him, meeting his dulled gaze. Her own softened instinctively.
          “I can’t very well leave such a promising youth out here all alone and wounded, now can I?” The wolf huffed. “Besides, I need you coherent to answer my question.” He blinked at her.
          “What question?”
          “Of whether or not you’ll accept my tutelage, of course.” Without another word, she flew off. Missing the bright gaze that stared at her fading back. The wolf smirked to himself and laid his head down and waited for her return.  
          She spent the next while caring for her new student. Bringing him food and tending to his wounds; he was a fast healer, as she quickly discovered. She helped him find a new, better home – the sad hovel he called his own would simply not do, Twilight had standards after all.
          She offered her wisdom, which he soaked up like a sponge. She had been right, he was clever, quick and eager to learn despite the way he held himself. He was a predator, and acted as such, and while he did as she instructed, he often twisted her techniques to fit his own… vicious mannerisms and brutish tendencies.
          But sometimes, they would not be teacher and student. Sometimes she would join his hunts, or they would waste the day away simply speaking. Spend hours chatting about whatever thought crossed their minds. Or simply sitting in silence, enjoying each others presence. She’d come to love those moments of peace, and though she would never admit it, found herself enjoying cuddling in his thick warm fur from time to time.
          But, as they say, everything comes to an end.
          She eventually ran out of things to teach him, she gave him all her knowledge, and a few things she hadn’t meant to give.
          There was one rule above all else she had made for herself when she begun teaching; never care too much, because you never know what the next day may bring.
          She broke her rule.
          She spent many nights convincing herself that she wasn’t getting attached to her new student. That she wasn’t caring more than she should. She deceived herself because she didn’t want to face the cold merciless truth; that she had fallen for the wolf.
          Eventually, the day came when they would have to part ways. He had learned everything and was preparing to leave the woods, move on to something better, a bigger challenge that she could no longer provide. She gave him her best and with a heavy heart, bid him goodbye.
          She could not leave these woods, she knew she would not survive well on her own, as clever as she was she was too easy a target for larger predators to ignore. Leaving meant death. So, she sat on her perch, a heavy weight upon her shoulders, and watched him turn his back on her and walk away.
          She sighed, she would miss his company fiercely. He was her best student, and a worthy opponent.
          But then, the unexpected happened; he stopped. Something stirred in her gut as he turned back to her, sharp teeth flashing in his trademark smirk. And said the one thing she hadn’t expected;
          “Why don’t you come with me?”
          She froze, voice caught in her throat. He wasn’t serious, he couldn’t be. She chuckled nervously.
          “You know why I can’t.” He shook his head and laughed.
          “Yes, but you wouldn’t be alone.” Her little heart began to pound, she swallowed. He couldn’t mean…
          “Travel with me.” He said, ears twitching as his smirk widened. He could probably hear her heart beating. “Stay with me.”
          She paused, silence swallowing the space between them. A moment passed, and she smiled in return.
          “I’d love to.” She flapped her wings and flew to his side as he began walking again.
          She smirked and flew faster, urging him into a run. As he moved ahead, she allowed herself a small gentle smile. She breathed, and pushed herself, leaving behind all that she’d ever known. Her home, her life, her reputation. She’d be throwing it all away when they crossed the treeline.
          She didn’t stop, eyes trained on his form.
          As they burst through the treeline, his laughter echoing through the air, she found she didn’t care. She would follow him anywhere if he’d only ask her. For he was the one whom held her heart and soul.

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