River of Time
by Luna Manar



The young child whimpered softly as he wandered through the thick brush. He didn't know where he was, who he was, or where he came from, but he was scared. He had to find someone, anyone. Anything would be better than being alone like this. Even in broad daylight, the death-like trees that towered above him were as menacing to him as a snake to a bird with a broken wing.

The boy cowered down as he walked through the dead forest, but did not stop. He had to find someone.

The young boy looked no more than two or three, but he moved along the brush with the stability of a child twice that age. He wore a small red shirt and blue pants, but bore no shoes or sandals to protect his already blistered feet.

Something moved to his left. He whirled around and in doing so tripped on an outstanding root and tumbled over backwards. He did not dare cry out for fear of the something lurking in the bushes.

The dead trees parted, and the young boy's ice-blue eyes grew wide with wonder, excitement, relief, and a little fear.

A short, stout figure stood before him. It was not human, but looked almost half-bird. Where its nose would be was a short, yellow beak. Its arms and feet were covered in dull, multi-colored feathers. Its fingered hands ended in short, worn talons.

But it walked upright like a man, and was clad in long, tattered beige robes.

Its old, tired black eyes widened themselves at the sight of the young child.

"Dear Mana," he whispered, "So this is why I had to come."

Slowly, carefully, the bird-man extended a clawed hand to the child, trying his best not to seem menacing.

"It's alright," he said, "I won't harm you."

The boy looked at the hand curiously, then carefully reached out his own hand and took it.

The bird man slowly picked up the child, held him face-to-face with him. The child was obviously exhausted, but he regarded the bird-man with a curiosity that fought his exhaustion.

"You are," breathed the bird-man, "It's...it's not possible, but, you are."

The bird-man started as the child grabbed hold of his shoulders and held on tight. Within seconds, he was asleep.

The bird-man held the child in his old arms, stroking the child's short, red hair.

"Well, you have had a long journey, haven't you?" he whispered, "But here, your journey ends, and will one day start again. Until then, you need a home."

The bird-man turned and carried the boy with him back into the dead woods.

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