Authors note: Originally a Christmas/Holiday/Yule-story that grew into a general Winter-story. I've tried to correct my spelling errors, or atleast the most terrifying ones, and I could keep editing this for possibly forever but am posting it now for you to read. This started out as a short dialogue (the end part) I wrote down but my imagination & fingers took it and ran, sprouting out new plotbunnies and accessing my Dream-project for scenery, creating a character out of one random dream about owls. I've written this in tiny parts over a little under a month, so there might still be some inconstacies. Will try to fix them later.
Hope you like!
The little owl was quite disgruntled.
It was few days after Yuletide, the whole forest was quiet and humming in contentedly, yet the little owl was restless. The night had fallen many hours ago, stars were twinkling lazily behind the silhouetted tree branches and the owl was gazing at them from the warmth of his home tree. His mother, a beautiful and kind grey owl, was fussing over his brethren, wiping their beaks and feathers that had been dirtied by generous feast of field-mice earlier in the evening. The little owl humphed at the sight as it was already all grown up, had strong, able wings that could already carry him as far as he pleased. Or at least as far as he'd been allowed, held back by a doting mother who was constantly worried.
The little owl, sharp for his age, had deducted it had something to do with their missing father, who he barely remembered but was sure had been strong and noble of character, for their mother barely mentioned him expect when warning them not to stray too far. Even then she did not say where he had gone, but instead told the little owl he should not go alone to the woods like his father did.
"Your father was a brave owl and I know you are too, little one" his mother would say "but he flew to the trees alone and never came back. I do not wish to lose you too my dear, please do not venture further than the chestnut tree where the three fae-folk used to live."
And for the little owl loved his mother dearly and did not wish to see that faraway, sad look in her warm amber eyes he did not stray. He kept to the familiar trees and patches of blue grass, light colored mossy stones that the fireflies sometimes rested on in the dusk.
But the little owl had grown even more restless and the longing to fly further. He glanced over to his already droopy eyed brothers with distaste. Even though the days had grown short for it was wintertime, the darkness was way too mysterious and inviting to lull one to sleep, it invited to have an adventure in the deep shadows. To uncover secret hideouts, to see sights unfathomable, to smell foreign air, draw lungful of it and fly through the tree tops so high that you almost can feel the stars kissing your cheek !
The little owl made himself dizzy just thinking about all the adventures he could have. He had had enough of waiting. It was too much for his young, curious soul to bear. He hatched a plan while pretending to heed it's mothers request of letting the Dreaming take him. Tucked neatly to his mothers side, astride his brothers he waited, almost too excited to pretend the calm that only came upon the unconscious, praying his own breath to deepen and his feathers to slacken. Quite masterfully he stayed still, even if his very soul was almost vibrating off his body with excitement.
Finally all was quiet, light snores filling the air and even his mothers ever watchful eyes sealed shut with sand of the shores of the Dreaming. Carefully, as not jostle his kin awake, the little owl started to stir his wings and claws into full alertness. Ever so painfully slowly he crept away, mourning the warmth of his beloved mothers side only in passing, all the way to the round opening of their home. It did not stop to glance back before elegantly - in his own humble, if biased, opinion for he had always thought this specific act to be his bravado - spreading his white wings and diving fearlessly into the night.
The cold air ruffled the little white owls feathers like an encouragement as he passed the chestnut tree. With little remorse and more pride it flew towards the unknown, past a glowing pond alight with strange purple fish, walls of blue vines sprouting flowers and vilting them as an afterthought, a pack of tree-deer that did not seem to even notice him and always further and further from the hometree. The sights made him drunk with their beauty, but he was so thirsty for more, more, more that he could not take the time to look at them more closely. Freedom rushed through his veins like fireflies past him, hurrying towards his starting point. Giddy with the adventure he almost felt pity for them for there was nothing exiting there. Why, there were only trees and grass, not all the secrets to be unravelled in the deeper forest.
Time had lost it's meaning to the courageous little owl in it's joy. It only noticed that it was indeed the darkest hour of the night as the shadows grew so deep they were almost black instead of blue and the fireflies and glowing fauna had grown so scarce that he was flying through the trees as if guided by a string of stars. The little owl did not mind in the least for it liked to think the trail led to somewhere, drawn like a map on the ground, maybe by the Fate itself.
But alas, the little white owl had never flown so very far and so very fast and it was only natural that he should start to feel a bit strained by the length of the journey. He told himself, the clever little thing he was, that it would be wise to have a small break rather now and not when his wings would quiver with the exertion so he decided to stretch and see the sights for a while. Finding a suitably crooked tree branch he carefully landed, curling claws securely around the cerulean oak, still young and supple for a tree.
The little white owl was a stubborn creature, but even it had to admit it's wings were weary with travel.
He peered down into the darkened forest. The colours had been drowned by the shadows and everything seemed black except for the tree he had taken temporary residence in and the one glowing flower on the ground that seemed miles away. The little white owl tucked his wings even tighter to his body that started to feel smaller and smaller under the seemingly endless roof of trees.
The little white owl shivered, looking in to the darkness that seemed to be almost alive. Tired eyes snapped back to full alert at a loud rustling sound echoing in the silent grove. He told himself not to be afraid even as a cold stole through his veins. Was that glint of sharp tooth behind the opposing tree? Was there yellow glow of an eye, or was it just his own eyes playing tricks orchestrated by the little part of him that just might be a bit startled by the alien surroundings?
There was a sound like soft paws treading on soft grass and the little flower, the only light visible, was snuffed out. The little white owl, to his pride, did not make a sound and if it was because he was too terrified to do so, well, that was beside the point. A snarl broke through the still air, emanating just from under the tree. The young oak wailed under what could only be sharp claws and the little owl looked around wildly, trying to decide whetever it was more dangerous to make an escape for it blind or wait for possibly quite sharp and hungry teeth to close around him if he waited. Was it a creature that could climb? Or was it just trying to frighten him out of the tree?
Another snarl came from the shadows and the creature under the tree sounded back, as if conversing. Now the little owl was truly in terror. It was dark, he was tired, almost blind and was possibly going to be eaten by a pack of nightmare creatures, likely shared by their kin in little pieces. He could not bring himself to regret his adventure if it might have an abrupt and painful end, but he still berated himself for leaving in the darkest of times without any means to bring light.
Suddenly menacing snarls turned to frightened whimpers and the little owl, his mind clever even in it's rattled state, wondered whetever he should thank his luck or curse it as he heard scrambling paws retreating from under the tree. Free again from the shadowy figures of the creatures the little glowing flower shone bright from the forest floor again.
The little white owl felt relief against better knowledge, the little sarcastic voice in his head whispering that great, now we get to see what is going to eat us!
A soft padding of feet against grass sounded from close by. The little white owl looked around frantically, trying to see the oncomer and at the same out wondering which direction it had come for incase he'd need - and succeed- to escape this time.
The very air seemed to swell as the footsteps grew nearer. If it was foolish and ill-timed bravery or something else, the little white owl did not know, but he was not scared like before. It seemed as if the shadows were moving again, but this time they were round, soft and slowly bleeding away the black in favor of gentle midnight blue. It was not light of the early dawn, not the brightening of the day yet. The little owl wondered if this was how one went mad with fear, not feeling it anymore and starting to see things.
He was startled from his thoughts with a sight so baffling that there was no room for anything else.
A creature emanating soft, dancing light like sunlight echoed by pristine shallow ponds in the springtime, stoop in to the grove. The creature was of fair naked skin and elegant angles that were strangely soft in the light that pulsed back and out of its body curiously. It was lithe like the young faefolk that rode butterflies in the summer, but it was almost as tall as a deer and hairless expect for its head. Golden locks of hair like spun gold cascaded down the shoulders of the creature, strands so long that it almost met blue of the grass under its feet. Almost hidden by the waterfall of hair was the most puzzling thing of all: the face of the creature. It was small and shaped like the leaves of wood strawberries, a mouth pouty red pucker, a small nose not like a beak at all yet strangest of all were the eyes. Two white almond shaped diamonds, as if unseeing but alive with something intangible.
The little white owl had not seen anything like it and he was mesmerized by the strangeness of the sight before him. He was comforted by the illuminating strings of light and the dream-like demeanor of the creature.
Being as taken as the little white owl was with the appearance of the stranger, it was no wonder it was startled when a clear voice cut through it’s enchanted state.
“Did no one ever tell you of a little thing called politeness? I might not be as familiar with the protocol of being saved from mantis-fiends, but I believe it would fall under the lines of common courtesy to at least thank your savior and not gawk like a fool, don’t you think?” the creature said in a surprisingly sweet tone as a contrast to its words. The little white owl in his rattled state of mind could only think it best not to mention that it only now realized the creature was a her and not an it, which it might also take as an offence.
“I’m sorry” the little white owl stuttered, finding his voice cracked and his mouth dry with disuse “I’m most thankful for your help, I was quite in…” he trailed off, trying to decide whetever it wanted to admit to his impromptu adventure turned almost wonderful freedom turned mortal peril. It was quite shameful how unprepared he had been to leave the hometree in other places than his imagination.
“…ready to be served as a meal?” a feral smile tore across tore across the creatures otherwise kind features “Little owl, be a dear and tell me but the truth.”
The little white owl wondered if she were a mind reader but thought better of asking. It might not be appropriate to ask such a possibly personal thing from someone who was already cross with you to begin with.
“I was in terrible trouble and would have surely perished if not for your arrival. I am not familiar with these parts of the forest.” he admitted. The creature stared at it cocking his head. A movement unlike the one his mother gave him when he tried to get out of admitting to his lackings.
“I left my annoyingly dull brethren and my overprotective mother after dreaming of freedom all my life. They’ve never understood me!” he fumed, painfully aware how petty he sounded “I have nothing in common with them, I’m an outsider with my own kin. They are dear to me but…” he trailed off, trying to think of how to explain his reasons. “I wanted to be free and sometimes it’s too hard to hold back for someone, you know…?” The little white owl shuffled his feet, embarrassed. The creature stared, the light dancing around her now curling around her like a caress.
"I don't really know what it is like to have someone. Even if I did, it's been such a long time since I have not been alone that I've forgotten." she said with a little sad smile, casting her eyes downwards.
"But…you are not alone, you should know that” says the little white owl, trying to comfort to his it’s best ability. Tree leafs rustled in a sudden gust of wind as if to hum their agreement.
"You are right" a short and absolute silence follows, the whole forest halting as if listening, waiting "yet you also could not be more wrong." she sighs, youthful face crumbling and turning ancient, eyes all-seen and jaw already set in stony acceptance.
"Little one, you of the forest filled with creatures, trees, plants and pulsing with life...what do you know of loneliness?" The little owl cocks his head in puzzlement. He was not used to being asked such questions, strange and open and not at all about where or what or other as matter of fact answer needing.
"I know that the night can be cold and it can be silent. I know that without company for too long colours start to seem mundane and the song of wind sounds like a sigh." The little owl said, quite happy with his answer, even if half of it was a quote from his mother.
There was a flash of teeth from the shadowed face of the creature he was conversing with. "You are quite right little one. It does get cold and silent. You forget the beauty shown to you. You forget touch and caring." The little owl puffed his chest out proudly at the praise " Yet there is more to being alone. I wish you shall never know the more that your answer lacks, my friend." she smiled more gently at the owl and made to get up. She turned her strange head that sprouted long fur down her tiny back towards the stars and begun to walk further away from the owl.
"Wait!" at the owls screech, the creature turned around, finally looking at him. "How come you feel alone in the middle of all this life then, you who stand in the forest too?" The little owl was a bit scared of the strange two legged creature, but he needed to know even if the look his question was meriting was one so bottomlessly dark and sad that he was afraid to be sucked in to the pools crystal white that were her eyes.
"My dear little owl, you are a part of the forest as a fish is part of the sea and birds belong to the sky as it is their home. The rustling of the trees is your lullaby and groaning of branches your wake up call. As much as I love the forest, it is not where my mind is at peace and it causes me to be restless and not at home." "Where is home then?" "Far away and nowhere."
The creature turned to look at the stars. The little owl was puzzled by the answer that was more of a riddle than a fact. To his surprise the creature continued.
"I live in my mind and for there is only one of me, it is a lonely palace to haunt. I am alone in my head so I am also alone out of it. It is a blessing but more of a curse, even if I'll always carry home with me wherever I travel in this land. "
"Now I must bid you farewell you, little owl," the creature said, slicing through the gaping silence that had fallen again at the end of her syllables "and even though I do not take myself for someone whose advice is worthy to follow, I do hope you return to your family for as frustrating as they might be, once lost love does not return as miffed relatives do."
as if reluctant to follow the creature, a single tendril of light made its way up to the tree branch where the owl was huddled and kissed his cheek briefly, retreating hurriedly back closer to its kin.
The little owl watched the creature disappear through the trees till even his keen eyes could not see the willowy form of his conversation partner. He realized then that even if the creature had left, he could still see the forest as if the light was still present. The little owl did not think it was morning light yet, it was different and the shadows were still long.
It was more as if his eyes had learnt to pierce the dark. The little white owl wondered if the caress of the light accompanying the creature had gifted him this way home and if so, had it been by accident or by quiet kindness?
Huffing the little white owl took to his wings, setting course to home tree.
It was not yet wise enough to follow the unknown call of the wild, but as it was tucked under the wings of his mother after a relief under-toned scolding, it knew it had a direction and an agenda now.
The little white owl decided to befriend the creature and it was in middle of wondering if the creature was good at flying as it fell asleep surrounded by the pulsing, alive forest.