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“I just finished it!” he said, moving toward Magpie with the ease of a born bird. “I was mad shivered it wouldn’t be done in time!”

“In time?” she asked, confused.

“Aye, in time to come with you! I couldn’t ask anyone to carry me across the whole world!”

“I’d’ve carried ye, lad!” croaked Bertram.

“Thanks, feather,” said Talon. “Now you won’t have to.”

Magpie looked closely. The glint and gleam of traceries wove through the wings, giving away its magical origins to her eyes alone. To any other eyes these wings were as true as the crows’ own. “This is what you been doing?” she asked, flummoxed.

He nodded. “Night and day,” he said earnestly. “I can’t stay behind, Magpie. I’ve already told my father. I need to see what’s out there. Look, I can keep up!” He spun on his wings and surged high like a raptor shooting after prey, then dropped back down to her in a graceful glide. “I don’t have to use my arms or anything. I used the glyph, the one from my dream.”

“You been planning to come all along?” Magpie asked.

“Sure, and you had to be in such a great hurry! I haven’t slept a wink in three days!”

“But Talon, you eejit, why didn’t you just say so? We’d’ve waited for you!”

Surprised, he said, “You would?”

“Sure,” Magpie said gruffly. “I guess I don’t mind having you around.”

“So . . . I can come?” he asked hesitantly, and they both grew bashful.

“Skive.” Magpie scowled. “You want me to invite you nice? Course you can come!”

Calypso swooped in and jostled Talon cheerfully with his wings. “Good lad! Let’s be off, then. The wind and world await!”

And Magpie and Talon shared a look that both could feel like a fizz of magic in the air. The sky unrolled before them like a path, and with burning cheeks and full hearts, side by side, they followed it.

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