i. The Pheonix
Born? Don’t be silly, love, I wasn’t born. I was hatched.
Don’t laugh, I assure you it’s true. My mother was a sunbird, a phoenix whose wings cast no shadows, only firelight. My father, the poor bastard, loved her with all his greedy heart. He spent years following her fiery trail across all these lands, from end to end, until he had touched every place in this world with the soles of his feet.
At last, my mother the sunbird grew tired. When she landed to rest in a circle of flames, my father came to her.
Though she was a bird, she had the body of a beautiful woman not unlike your own. Her hair was all copper and sunsets, her skin all blinding sunlight, her feathers tongues of eternal fire. He burned when he touched her, but his heart burned when he did not, and everyone knows that it is better to die for love than to die of it.
They made love, and when it was done my father was naught but ash that my mother threw to the wind.
A writer witnessed the whole thing and told everyone he met about it. But writers are writers, you know, prone to bouts of wild imagination—it was no surprise that no one believed him. When, some months later, he found a burning egg atop his house, he didn’t bother to tell anyone.
My darling, what a good guesser you are. Yes, the egg held my own infant self, but you should let me tell the tale, hm?
So the writer waited and waited, and finally a baby boy emerged from the egg with fire wings and sunlight skin. He was afraid of what the people would do to such a thing, poor little half-breed, so he cut off the babe’s wings. His little skin turned quite human and all the fire faded from his body so that no one could tell the difference between him and a normal boy. However, when the feathers fell, they singed the floor so that the writer could not hide the shape of his deed.
He raised the boy into a man, telling him always of his fiery mother and unfortunate father, and so beautiful were the writer’s words that the man wanted very much to see her face. But the writer discouraged him from chasing the sun, for he knew that his adopted son was now human and could not withstand his mother’s embrace. Instead the man’s heart carried a hole, and he walked with his face upturned hoping to catch sight of the creature that made him, knowing he was meant to fly away and did not belong on the ground.
So the man longs always for the sky, and to this day hopes his wings will return to him so he may go to where he belongs.
Now, now, lass, don’t cry…
Hatched? Don’t be silly, love, who told you I was hatched? Whoever they were, they were a bloody liar.