The day came- longer than I thought it would, but of course swallows must fly more slowly with a rider- when Bluebeak appeared to have settled in for the winter. My scrying revealed a place of lush vegetation, jewel-toned flowers, and the deep blue sky that indicated great warmth. Quite different from what was outside my own front door, as winter continued its icy stranglehold. I would not need my wools or furs, at any rate.
As I stepped through the mirror into the scene before me, I felt a moment of resistance, as though I was attempting to step through molasses. Slowly I pushed deeper, until it seemed as though my entire body would be captured and stuck in the strangely thick aether that linked my cottage with the other side of the world. I fought down the panic that began to blossom in my belly- if I slowed enough, if I stopped moving, would I be trapped in the mirror forever?
But then, just as I felt my heel swallowed up by the resistance, my fingertips broke through, and my arm quickly followed. And then I was standing on top of a crumbling white building, surrounded by extremely startled swallows who exploded into the air like a expletive-spewing whirlwind.
For my part, I began to sweat immediately, and I realized that this place was hot as the hottest summer day in my woods. Well, Elisa would certainly appreciate that, as well as the cheerful golden sun that was sparkling off the white stone around me, although I shuddered to imagine what summer must be like. I needed to find shade quickly, lest I pass out. But first-
“Thomelisa!” I cried, setting the swallows into another frenzy of swooping and shrieking. “Where are you?”
She did not answer me- or if she did, I couldn’t hear it above the ruckus the birds were making- so I tried another tack.
“Bluebeak! I’m looking for Bluebeak!”
This shocked the flocks into momentary silence, and in fact a good many of them winged their way to a further off bit of the palace- for surely that’s what this enormous structure must have been. Those that remained chattered breathlessly amongst themselves at how strange it was that a human could speak.
“Which of you is Bluebeak?” I demanded, gritting my teeth at my lack of a Compulsion spell. “I have business with him!”
At last a single swallow came and hovered briefly in front of my face, then darted up to a little alcove above my head. He poked his face out to eye me, and as he did I noticed that his beak was a rather startling shade of blue.
“Bluebeak,” I said, letting my relief color my tone. “I owe you a great debt, my friend.”
“You…” he ruffled and then smoothed his feathers nervously. “You are a witch. Witches don’t like to be in the debt of anyone.”
“No, we do not,” I admitted. “But I would gladly indebt myself to you for the rest of all your descendents lives, for what you’ve done for me.”
“You’re her mother, aren’t you?” He hopped out to the very edge of the alcove, and I could see he was wearing a delicate little scarf, just right for a tiny woman to cling to.
“I am,” I said. “Where is she?”
“With her people,” Bluebeak said, and I thought I heard heartache in his voice. My own heart froze. To have come so far, only to have lost her again-
“What do you mean… with her people? I’m her people!”
“No, you’re not,” he said sadly. “No more than I. We can love her, and she can love us, but we are not the same as her.”
“The same as- are you telling me that there are others like my daughter?” I wasn’t sure if it was the sun, or the revelation, but I felt faint, and had to slowly lower myself to sit on the vine-covered marble. Bluebeak fluttered down and landed on my knee.
“Except they have wings,” he said. “But she tells me they’ve offered to make her wings, as well.”
“Make her wings,” I whispered, staring out towards the hazy horizon. “Wait-” my gaze snapped back to his, and he ruffled again in discomfort. “She told you? Does that mean she’s nearby?”
“Yes- just near that fallen pillar there,” he said gesturing with his beak. “I knew she wouldn’t be comfortable living in my nest, so I told her to choose a home amongst the flowers, which I know she loves. That’s where she met him-”
But I wasn’t really listening any more, because I was too busy looking for a route down off the roof.