Cuauhtemoc the cat sprinted alongside the Spirit of the forest, and his tail flapped behind him like a flag. Occasionally he would stumble–not just because the ground was uneven but because things kept erupting out of it. A fleet of deer, a flight of squirrels, mounds of loamy soil, mazes of dewy grass, a kitten crying out at the first light of the sun, a lion exulting over a meal. All the while, a chorus of golden birds followed them and sang a dizzy tune to the beat of their Mother. The Spirit. The charging wolf.
A glorious chaos to witness? Absolutely. Just like a volcano exploding. As someone who had raced through both, Cuahtemoc felt about the same in regards to each. He kept his paws to his face, wincing as he charged through the cloud of insync feather dusters. “Out of my face. Please. Guys, I won’t stop for any birds in the wrong mouth at the wrong time. ” “To answer you, my birds would have to stop their singing. ” The wolf with the silver eyes let her tongue hang out while she shook her mane. “And they genuinely cannot stop.
Do your people sing, Kallun? ” The idea of singing while his chest heaved like bellows made Cuauhtemoc’s eyes water. “Well, some of us, sometimes. Not me… specifically, but, Ma’am, 1-I have a question… ” Cranking his legs faster, burning heat, forcing himself to pull up alongside the wolf. “You know the Frostbird, right? ” The Spirit lifted her head and let out a howl. The chorus of songbirds trilled high along with it until Cuauhtemoc winced from the pain. “Darling,” said the Spirit, “Music is the light that brings green to this rock.
Everyone has a right–a duty to sing. ” “Speaking of singing… ” Cuauhtemoc curled an arm over the Spirit’s heaving flank. His legs thanked him with effusion. “The Frostbird’s song has been uh. Sad. Y-yes–very sad lately. ” As they ran, the wolf spirit curled her head against his cheek and looked him in the eyes. Her canine lips curled back in a smile, as she said, “You want me to give up the Frostbird’s secret. ” “Well. Yes. Yes, actually.
For good reasons, ma’am. I’m a travelling hero, you know? Helping out is what I do, and–” If my dear won’t tell you herself what ails her, I will not unearth any secret she’s planted in my soil. ” “Oh, well. That’s a problem then. ” “For you, I dream it is, poor hero. ” “Well, more for us, really. ” Cuauhtemoc’s footpads pushed off from the ground. His legs enwrapped his rival’s flank. Twirling, screeching, trilling, the birds danced in every direction–and the Kallun adventurer sank his claws around the Spirit’s ears. “See. Hero, right? So, I’m not letting go until you talk. ” Hackles raised, the Spirit laughed and dove into the challenge.
Trees like giants flourished while she bucked and rolled and shivered. She snarled. She yipped. Then the Spirit fell on her side, the Kallun’s arm around her throat. Cuauhtemoc’s tail curled around hers, and he whispered in her ear: “This bipedal thing isn’t the best for running, ma’am, but it sure does free up the arms. ” He stroked her fur with a thumb. “With them, we mortals can make any god do what we please. Now tell me what has so upset our friend the Frostbird, or I’ll uh. I’ll take your skin and hand it over to my bride as a wedding gift! The spirit of creation lay still for the first time since time unspun. The grass under her flank became ash, and a hole in the forest spread. Cuauhtemoc had a feeling that hole would remain for a long time yet. Gasping for breath, the Spirit lay her ears flat against her head.
Birds–golden and otherwise–had vanished, leaving them alone in a new silence. “The Frostbird mourns her children,” said the wolf, smiling while she choked, “Those born at night freeze under her wings. In the day, they burn in her lord’s heat. ” “Children. The kallun hero hissed out a laugh. “Wouldn’t it be just like that? Do you know how many mothers I’ve gotten to through children? Not goddesses, obviously, but–” Cuauhtemoc loosened his grip on the wolf. Truth be told, he didn’t really mean to let her go. She was a Delman divinity, right? Why not make her fur a prize, assuming her death didn’t turn the forest into a sea of flesh-eating slime or something? But he was tired as all Hell, and he loosened up. The goddess bucked. Cuauhtemoc flew at least fifteen feet across the ashen clearing.
He slammed against a tree-trunk–and by the time he came scrambling up to his feet, a fresh wave of emerald creation formed a hurricane of a hump on the horizon. “Well shit. ” Cuauhtemoc forced himself to sit. Checking for any sharp pains in any bones, he stood and stretched. “It’s almost like I scared her away. ” A golden breeze wafted words back on the groaning cat: “What a pup you are. A goddess could love a mortal like you. But hero, don’t be so reckless. This earth was a rock when light first found it. Take too much magic for yourself, and a rock’s all you’ll have left. “