Excerpt: In The Woods
When the path reached a thick part of the woods, William suddenly led her several yards off of it, into a hidden stand of trees. She had no idea how he knew where he was.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked.
He didn’t answer; he just kept walking. About a hundred yards later, he put his finger to his lips and pointed.
At first, Quinn couldn’t tell what he was pointing at, but as her eyes adjusted to the dimmer light in the thick trees, the shapes became sharper, and a few feet ahead of them, nestled in a tree branch just above William’s head, she could see an enormous nest. She looked at him in surprise, and he smiled.
He made a low chirruping sound, and a second later, a familiar gray-feathered head popped out of the nest, shiny black eyes blinking at the two of them in interest. It was Aelwyn, William’s Seeker bird. He made a different low noise, and she rose from her spot, hopped neatly over the edge of the nest, and glided down toward him, landing only about a foot away.
Now it was Aelwyn’s turn to talk, and she made a strange noise, halfway between a squawk and a whistle. William laughed, and reached into his pocket, retrieving a package of beef jerky, which he opened and tore off a piece, holding it out to the bird.
Quinn had to smile at the intricate dance between William and the bird, as Aelwyn first turned her head away from the offering, and then reached to snatch it once he knelt down low to her. As soon as she’d swallowed it, she walked right up to him, butting her head against his pocket where the rest of the treat was hidden.
At that moment, there was a loud call from overhead, and then Thomas’ bird, Sirian swooped down and landed gracefully near his mate. William withdrew the meat from his pocket, and tore it unevenly. Aelwyn eyed him warily until he tossed the larger piece in her direction. Sirian waited until she had hers, and then accepted the smaller piece.
After a few minutes, the birds had warmed up, and were strutting comfortably around the tiny clearing, and both of them even allowed Quinn to stroke their smooth heads. Up close, she was always startled by how gentle they were around people, though they were quite large hunting birds.
Once he was certain that they’d both let their guards down, William stood again and motioned for Quinn to follow as he walked toward the tree that held the nest. They’d almost reached it when Aelwyn and Sirian suddenly simultaneously flew up into the nest. Quinn shrank back, startled, but William shook his head.
“It’s okay,” he said.
Inside the nest, the two birds chattered in voices that seemed somehow amiable, and then a moment later, four smaller heads peeked over the edge, their black eyes shining curiously as they turned to examine the newcomers.
Quinn sucked in a breath. “They’re beautiful,” she said softly.