Several weeks later, Jenny stood with him beside the front door of a house he had never seen. His suitcase gripped between bone-white fingers, he squinted down at a tiny crack in the concrete porch beneath his feet.
He heard Jenny say, “Well, don’t you want to go inside?”
His feet felt as if they stood in hardening cement. He couldn’t move even when he heard the door creak as Jenny pushed it open.
Obediently, he followed the back of her brown, leather shoes over the threshold. When they stopped, he stopped just inside the foyer.
The scent of raisin, oatmeal cookies, just baked, filled his nose, making his mouth water as Jenny’s shoes disappeared, replaced by a pair of pink-glittered ones looped with white laces that pointed directly toward him.
Slowly, he raised his gaze to the girl’s blue eyes. Dark hair framed her pale face.
Around his one age, she smiled and looked questioningly over at Jenny. “Is this my new brother?”
“It is,” said Jenny, from the kitchen where she stood next to a smallish woman with blue eyes and dark hair like her daughter’s. Jenny cocked her head to one side, giving him and the girl a playful wink.
The girl’s face beamed toward him as she took his hand between her warm fingers. “I’m Maggie. I’ll show you to your room. It’s just down the hall, this way,” she sang out, guiding him toward the back part of the house.
As they passed the sliding glass door in the family room, he saw the backyard where a trampoline stood next to a porch swing, and a built-in barbecue pit. On the other side of the wooden fence, the woman watched through dark-colored glasses. Her rust-brown hair pulled into a messy ponytail beneath a black and gray striped ball cap.
“Leave them alone,” he whispered and narrowed his eyes in warning, though she stood too far away to hear him.
A strong gust of wind blew the ball cap off the woman’s head and she stepped back to retrieve it. Then she melted into the forest that grew a short distance away. A moment later, the cuckoo bird flew out from the same place the woman disappeared only moments before. The striped bird flew into the sky. When it did not return, he heaved a fleeting sigh of relief.
At the door to what would become his room, the girl rushed in and returned holding a set of acrylic paints and a paper pad out to him. She chirped, “Jenny said that you are an artist. What types of pictures do you like to paint? I like to draw birds, all kinds of birds.” The girl seemed to talk nonstop, barely taking a breath between sentences as she swung her body to and fro.
He took the offered gifts and smiled, genuinely happy for the first time since the baby magpies flew away.
That night he dreamed that the terrible cuckoo bird transformed into an angel, dressed all in white with flowing black hair and gentle blue eyes. And he knew upon waking that humans could decide their own fates. Only the birds and the beasts of the earth must follow instinct alone.
Hope you enjoyed the story!
Image above from “European Magpie” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pica_pica1.jpg manipulated with Photoshop filters.
Legend of the Tengu Prince — Finally Available on Amazon.com!
Fantasy Action Adventure set in feudal Japan.
During a time of civil war, Karasu Hinata is born the son of a powerful warlord. When he is still a child, his family castle is taken by a rival clan. His father and mother are murdered right before his eyes.
Barely escaping with his life, he is spirited away by the king of the tengu. The shape-shifting raven leads him to the hidden mountain retreat of a sect of mystic warriors. Mountain priests who practice the magic of Shugendo.
Ten years have passed. The time has come for Karasu to leave the mystic’s protective lair and face his demons in the world beyond. But the fiend that haunts his nightmares is also the one that shattered his life. More than a bad dream, it wants him dead.
In Legend of the Tengu Prince, nothing is as it seems. Shape-shifting creatures, both good and evil, populate the magical world of feudal Japan. And a young man will pay the ultimate price for a deadly rival spawned in the mists time. This riveting first volume of a epic fantasy adventure will leave you stunned and begging for more.