The amulet glowed violet. The planets and stars on my pointed hat swirled until they became a single comet chasing its own tail. The required words fell to the ground next to the ramekins of herbs that powered this spell. A giggle resounded in the room, bouncing off rafters, pinging down corridors toward the far reaches of the castle.
And then, outside, the animals rose into the air.
The sound was a rhythmic whooshing at first, like servants sweeping the courtyard outside a bedroom window, but it grew in intensity. Let them arrive on their own time. Let them enjoy the view of the trees from above and stretch their new wings as far as they could. Soldiers as important as these needed to gain confidence; they needed to experiment with weapons and find talents on their own.
Through the window, the first of them dotted the charcoal sky. What is the opposite of a shooting star? That was them. They wobbled in the night, some drooped, some soared. But they all heard the calling and joined their brothers and sisters in flight, and their growls thickened the air like fog.
In the valley, lights came on in the village. The miners and lumberman surely grumbled about the noise interrupting their precious sleep. There was work to be done in the morning, of course. Forests to raze; minerals to harvest. The terrible ways men occupied themselves these days. They would see in the morning, however, that tonight’s commotion was only the beginning.
In an hour’s time, hundreds of dark comets loomed above the town. Those that the spell affected early were accomplished flyers by now. It’s amazing what creatures can adapt to when they have no choice. They flew higher to spiral in down-draughts, swerving past the newest of the airborn.
The first of them finally alighted on the sill of the largest window of the castle. She was beautiful: thick white fur, coal black eyes lit with interest, the delicate mushroom of her nose. Her front paws bent in front of her awaiting instruction and her wings were two columns standing behind her like balustrades.
The wind carried a voice from the village through the window in that moment as if to announce her arrival.
“Bears with wings!”
More specimens flew into the room. They arrived in a myriad of colors—golden, tawny, roan, black. Each with intelligence glinting in their eyes. They did not greet each other; they just found their own space, sat, and patiently waited. Well, that’s not exactly true. Having never been in a human dwelling before, a few poked at the curtains and candelabras. One tried to guzzle wine from a decanter on the table.
When the rafters were full and there was no space left to sit on the floor, I showed them four drawings. The first was of a group of red flying bears picking up rocks and plugging up the mouths of mines. The second was of gray bears stealing cows and pigs from farmyards and placing them safely in open fields. In the third, the bears dumped the red water from the streams and rivers near the butcheries onto the town, and in the fourth, the bears lived happily on the earth and in the sky with humans to fetch their berries and honey.
The bears nodded, wings aflutter, and with a hurricane wind, they were gone.
The amulet, still in hand, beamed emerald instead of violet. There was nothing to do now but clean and wait for a better world.