Suzume was experiencing the same nightmare for a straight week, and she didn’t know what it meant. At first, she didn’t tell anyone about it, because it started out as only slightly unsettling images and feelings in her dreams. However, the more attention that she paid them, the more the dreams returned, until the images overtook everything, clear and haunting.
Lucci is trying to tell me something.
Or, maybe, he wasn’t. Maybe she was seeing these things by accident and he didn’t know. Whatever the cause, Suzume couldn’t stay put any longer. She couldn’t be plagued by the terrible dreams for another night.
A familiar chirrup met her ears. Suzume looked at the window just above her bed. A soft white shape perched there, outlined with a quiet glow in the night shadows.
“Zeni?” Suzume whispered.
The tiny white bird hopped once. Then twice. Then fluttered down to land on the bedcovers next to the girl. -You are restless at night. I feel it.-
“I’ve been having dreams,” the girl admitted for the first time to anyone.
-What sort of dreams?-
“Dreams about Lucci.”
The bird flipped her tail a few times, hopping about in a tight circle. Then with a flutter of wings and a tilt of the head, she focused on the dark haired girl. -Tell me what your dreams show you.-
“So they ARE important? I knew it!” Suzume declared, fists balling around her blankets.
-Dreams are always important to their makers. Arweinydd do not sleep and do not dream. So we rely on the dreams of Earthians for what we cannot hear.-
The girl took in a deep breath, then slowly began to explain, “I see Lucci. But I never see him very well. I just know it’s him. Something about him is different. It’s wrong. Everything feels really cold. There’s this heavy mist everywhere, but it’s not exactly mist. It’s scary, sort of like ghost mists.”
Zeni pruned through her wings a bit, standing on one leg. -Yes. You are describing something that does exist.-
Suzume didn’t know what that meant, but she continued, “Well, it’s not really so much about Lucci as it is about this sword.”
“Yes. It’s a really long sword. Silver and black. It’s the clearest thing I can see in the whole dream,” the girl continued with a nod.
-Is there a reason why?-
“I think because the sword is something really bad, Zeni,” Suzume lowered her voice to a soft, frightened whisper. “I mean, like evil-bad. I think it’s starting to do something awful to Lucci.”
Zeni sat very still for a long time, working to digest the girl’s words. Never for a moment did the Arweinydd show a hint of doubt at what Suzume said. Never for a moment did she act as if it was nothing but a silly dream to be discarded. Instead, her response was straightforward and solemn.
-What do you think we should do?-
“I don’t know if Lucci understands that the sword is evil. Or, if he does, he is still keeping it. He has a good reason for it. I know it. Lucci isn’t evil, but the sword could influence him,” the glittering hint of tears shone in her dark eyes. “I don’t want Lucci to become the Bane! Please, Zeni, can you help him?”
-I’m afraid that I don’t know if there is a lot that I can do for him directly. You can do much more than I can. You are his closest friend,- the tiny bird replied.
“But how?” Suzume sniffled. “I’m sick. I can’t leave my room without help.”
-If you could fly to him, would you have the courage to?- came the quiet question.
“Oh, yes! Yes I would! I would do anything to help, Lucci!” the little girl nodded vehemently.
-I understand.- Zeni paused before hopping across the blanket and fluttering down to the floor with a chirp. -Then I will help you to help him.-
Suzume watched as the bird hopped around the floor in a wide circle. After the full circle was complete, the area within began to glow in a soft rose-colored light, sending trickles of energy floating up towards the ceiling. The girl held her breath as everything in her room began to shift and change, the world seeming bigger than it was before.
The Arweinydd tilted her head, hopping into the center of the glowing circle. -Come to me.-
“I can’t, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to walk,” Suzume sucked on her bottom lip with a furrowed brow.
-Have you tried to walk?-
“A few days ago. I fell and Aunt SaRa told me to stay in bed until I was stronger,” the girl answered somberly.
-You must try,- Zeni replied. -This is a choice, and a step, you must willingly make on your own. It is not something I can choose for you.-
Brow furrowed, Suzume rolled her legs out from under the covers. Her eyes were focused on the soft, warming light that bathed her room the color of warm spring. Her mind was bent with determination on making it there. Just two steps from the bed.
For Lucci… I have to…
Her palms flat against the blanket, wings unfolded and unresponding in an awkward angle, the girl pushed herself from the edge of the bed. Her legs felt like water as she struggled to gather her balance. The wings were too heavy. Her feet weren’t sturdy enough. Her legs gave way as she tottered forward with outstretched hands.
Frustrated at her weakness.
That she couldn’t make herself take two solid steps forward to save her best friend.
The warm light filled Suzume’s vision as she topped forward. She gave a cry, a sound that altered and changed, growing strange to her ears. The world twisted further, shifting and looming, growing huge. Her hands spread before her looked less like fingers and more like feathers. In fact, there were feathers all around her. Sleek, black feathers – similar to the ones on her wings, but different.
She found that she was standing now. Standing as if there was no weakness or illness at all. Though her legs did not feel like her own.
Her mouth opened, but words did not come. Only a warbling sound of a small worried bird. Suzume twisted her head to stare in amazement. Stunned, she found herself peering up at the white shimmering form of the Zeni-bird, who now stood before her, nearly twice her size.
With a startled peep, Suzume hopped back, wings fanning in alarm.
What happened to me?
Zeni’s voice was calm and cheerful. -You could not fly with your own wings. So I gave you a new form. One that is strong and enduring. One that can fly, tirelessly.-
Suzume bounded across the floor, quickly figuring out how to move on the two delicate stick-legs that were tipped with splayed claws. A flutter of wings and a few hops carried her to a perch in front of her little round mirror.
I’m… a… Sparrow!
The reflection was not her own. Yet it was, in some peculiar way. A tiny black bird sat, head tilted, staring into the mirror with amazement. Beaded black eyes blinked, searching the image in front of her for signs of familiarity. She was covered with sleek black feathers. In fact, she was all dark, except for a tiny white ring around the crook of her left leg. It looked like a symbol to her.
The mark of an Arweinydd’s power upon an Earthian.
-Do you like it?- Zeni asked, alighting softly next to her. She paused for a moment, regarding her own image in the mirror.
And it was. She felt so vibrant. Alive. Full of energy and vitality. It was a long time since she had felt so good and carefree — back before she was captured by men in Nefol, because she had wings, back before the awful ritual was performed on her, the dark magic that shredded her wings and changed her hair and eyes.
The shadows took a part of her that she was never able to get back. But now, suddenly, with the soft glow of spring-light sifting around her, Suzume felt like the child she once was.
It’s amazing! Zeni! I’m a bird!
Her wings spread wide and she trilled a warm, musical birdsong, hopping from side to side along the edge of the cabinet. It was the closest thing to laughter that she could make.
-Be careful. You must first figure out how your wings work.-Zeni suggested, observing with the straightest face a tiny white sparrow could have.
I already know how to fly!
Suzume launched herself into the space of the room to prove it, and found that she had a lot less control than she thought. With a little squawk, she spiraled and corkscrewed a few times before flopping down in the safety of her bed sheets.
Zeni simply gave a chirruping laugh, bouncing after her. -You must practice. We have a long flight ahead of us.-
We? Are you coming with me?
The white bird flipped her tail and shook out her feathers. -Yes. Of course. If there is something really that dangerous there, I will not allow you to go alone. You and I now have a connection. I will look out for your wellbeing.-
Something within Suzume’s spirit leapt at the Arweinydd’s words. It was just like the old stories, how the Arweinydd chose an Earthian to represent them. Bond to them. Become their Champion and companion.
It was hard to believe that a mere, black-winged misfit girl could be so richly befriended by one of the Trine. Chosen and gifted such a wonderful form.
Though as she hopped out on the heels of the white sparrow, one pressing question occurred to Suzume’s mind.
Zeni, I will be able to turn back into a person. Right?
The girl wasn’t sure she was so comfortable with the way that the Arweinydd paused.
-We… will… have to figure that out later.-