“I am no longer a crow who turned into a man, Aly Bright Eyes,“ he told her soberly. "I am a man who can be a crow at need, but I am still a man, and I love you. I have seen so many people die since I left you. I do not want to wait for priests to say words or for you to want chicks. If I go to the Peaceful Realms tomorrow, or the day after, I want to go with the taste of you on my lips.”
She took a step forward, reaching for his jacket lapel. Nawat took another step back. “I have been thinking,” he said. “You will let me kiss you and preen you, but you will not mate with me. I think you are a mixed-up human. You think that mating is not important if you have kisses and preening. If I do not kiss you and preen you, I think you will want to mate with me. To have nestlings. To be with me all our days.”
“We could mate. In a year our nestlings would be large enough to mob anyone we like…Should I begin to court you? Do you like grubs or ants better?…I will be here. In case you change your mind about mating.”
I mean, hey, you know, I like Nawat as much as the next person. You know, clearly I have feelings for him, but feelings don’t mean love! You know, I mean, I have loving feelings for Nawat, yeah! But I have… I have, you know, continuing feelings of love, but that doesn’t mean that… that I’m in love with him, you know? I have… I have sexual feelings for him, but I do love him… Oh! Oh my god! Oh my… Why didn’t you tell me?
“Goddess save me,” she whispered in awe, picking up a feather as long as her forearm, stippled in a pattern of gold and soft black. “This is a griffin feather! And this one, and this … How did you get these?” she asked. “They’re worth a fortune. Everyone knows you hit what you shoot at with griffin fletching.”
“They are sparkly,” Nawat said. “The griffins shed
them. I thought if I brought you a present that was made
of discarded things, no one would punish you for having
Steel glinted through the heap of shimmering griffin feathers. Carefully Aly pushed them aside. At the bottom of the pile she found strips of metal, shaped like bird feathers. She gulped. With a trembling hand she lifted a feather a handspan in length and drew its tip along the corner of the cloth satchel. The corner fell neatly away, as if sliced by a razor. “Stormwing feathers?” she whispered, meeting Nawat’s deep-set gaze. “You’re carrying Stormwing feathers?”
Again that shrug. “They molt,” Nawat replied. “The feathers are shiny. I collected them and washed them,” he added.
Is this lovemaking?” Secret inquired.
“No. It is kissing. Lovemaking comes after kissing,”
“That is true,” Nawat said. There was a look in his
eyes that made gooseflesh ripple over Aly’s body.
“Please go away, little friends of Aly.
“We could mate,” Nawat suggested eagerly. “In a year our nestlings would be large enough to mob anyone we like. In two or three years we could have still more nestlings, until no hawk will venture near our territory. Shall I court you? Do you like grubs or ants better?
Aly smiled, finding him both silly and lovable. “It takes longer for human nestlings to get big enough to mob,” she explained, wondering if Aunt Daine’s conversations with animals were like this. “And I’m too busy to court. I’ve the goats to fetch, for one.”
“I will be here,” Nawat said placidly, returning to his work. “In case you change your mind about mating.”