I hop and hook my claws onto the rim of the bright red box, my back feet scrambling against the smooth surface. I feel the stretch in my wings as I flap them hard, wanting a peek at what is inside. The world tips and I land back on the floor, the box tumbling and the contents spilling. Bright creatures roll loose in all directions, escaping across the gleaming hardwood! I chase them, stumbling over my feet and skidding into furniture, intent on catching and killing them all.
“Ky’Elli, what did you do, mikros?” My Kiri’s bare feet step into my path and I run headfirst into her legs, sitting back on my butt and looking up at her. “Ky’Elli, do not break those. They go on the tree.”
“I did not break them, Kiri. I freed them! And then I hunted them!”
Nemesis laughs softly and bends down, picking me up, she snuggles me close. I butt my head against her chin and then wiggle to get down, wanting to explore more of these boxes and see what else I can hunt.
She gently sets me back on my feet and goes to gather up the round things that had scattered in fear of me, Ky’Elli, the great huntress! In another box, I find long vines with small thorns. I grip one in my teeth and wrestle it from its box burrow. It twines around me, fighting back! It locks down my front legs and tangles around my back, holding my wings tightly to my body. Nemesis shakes her head at my predicament and comes to help. She catches the tail of the vine and tries to untangle me from the death grip. She is victorious and I am freed! She gathers up the long length, dragging the corpse of it across the floor behind her. She plugs the teeth of the vine into the wall and the thorns light up brightly. Oh, no! It is still alive!
“Kiri, watch out! Do not worry, Kiri! I will save you!” I pounce on the wily creature! How dare it play dead to trick us! I am smarter than that and I will save my Kiri! The vine wraps around me again as I roll it, snapping my fangs at it. I struggle with it, rolling it over and over as it tightens around me. Panting for breath, I wiggle and writhe in its grip, trying to free myself. I feel my magic course and the ancient language appears on my body, pouring more power into my muscles and cells. Through the haze of anger, I hear Kiri’s voice, infused with laughter, soothing me. She calls my name and orders me to be still. Her touch firm but gentle as she works at freeing me once more from the grasp of this dangerous foe.
“Ky’Elli, this is not a predator. This is a string of lights. It goes on the tree. It is decoration.” I go limp and look up at her, confusion filling my mind. I do not understand this.
Kiri and some of these customs are just so strange. Earlier today, she had hidden my wings beneath a piece of cloth she called a jacket. She warned me to not let anyone see them and we had gone out into the cold. She had said that we were going out to get a tree. This just seemed silly. Trees are for climbing or perching. You do not hunt trees; trees do not run. They just sit there. And what are we going to do with a tree anyway? Trees belong outside.
As we made our way through the streets, Kiri explained about Christmas and what it was. She said it was officially a religious holiday when members of one of the most popular religions celebrated the birth of their God. I found this odd as well; how do they know when their God was born? But Kiri went on to explain that for many, even to those that do not celebrate or worship this God, this holiday has come to mean something. It has taken on a magic all its own. It is a time of year that people gather to celebrate family and friends. They decorate their houses, share a big meal, and give each other gifts. She said that it is a moment when people take a break from everyday life and allow themselves to believe in miracles. It is a time of kindness, joy, and peace.
At the nursery, we had walked through the trees, Kiri going straight to the ones in big pots. The tree she chose was not very big. Almost not big enough to climb, but I was pretty confident that I would find a way. It was just a little taller than Kiri, but it was a beautiful tree. It seemed to preen as it stood there, so proud, green, and full. It smelled odd, not bad, but odd. I thought I had smelled that same tree in the forest.
The nursery was very busy and I drew a lot of attention. Small humans that Kiri called children approached and asked to pet me. Kiri only agreeing after I said it was ok. She showed them how I liked to be scratched behind my ears. Nemesis watched them in their family clans, seemingly unaware of the longing that filled her.
As she paid for the tree we had chosen and made arrangements to have it delivered, she told the man that she would pay for all the trees purchased over the next 2 hours and to please place her normal order to have 20 potted trees delivered to homes and businesses of his choice, just to send her the bill. I did not really know what that meant, but the human seemed unsurprised by this. Thanking her, the look on his face nearly worshipful, he responded with, “I will send last year’s message, to be sure to plant the tree after the holiday, Ms. Zephyrus.” Kiri had smiled warmly and nodded her thanks.
It was as we were leaving that Kiri’s mood changed. She stopped, her body tensing just a fraction as she passed a man standing along the fence, watching the families, but most especially the children. Kiri’s eyes narrowed and went alight with gold flames. I felt her power flare around her, I could almost see the form of it, dark and powerful and so very ancient. I leaned up against her leg and touched against our bond, listening and seeing, feeling what she felt. My lip curled, this human was wrong and bad! He was evil!
Nemesis looked down at me, distracted by my distress. She tried to block my ability to feel what she felt, not wanting the taint of this being in my head, but she is mine! The best she could do is mute it. She turned her attention back to the human and walked towards him. Her entire body on alert and centered, but her steps smooth, graceful, and unhurried. She was stalking him. I knew how to do that. I had been practicing. I lowered my head and followed in her wake, my gaze focused on him. He looked away from the children playing among the trees in the lot and saw her. His eyes widened as he took in her dark beauty, stark against the grey of the day. She smiled, the expression not one of humor, but one of seduction. A temptress secure in her power, she stepped in close to him and her darkness engulfed him in smoky wings. She reached out to slide cool fingers against his cheek, her gaze met his fully and he startled at the amber glow. She turned and walked away. I watched him rub at his eyes as the slightest haze began to wash over the irises. I huffed my satisfaction; predators that hunt just to harm do not do well without their sight. Kiri is right, miracles do happen and she is a miracle to this world. She keeps others safe, especially the most vulnerable of beings.
Now in the quiet of our home, with music playing and the scent of peppermint and bacon in the air, I watch my Kiri. Her face is calm and contemplative as she wraps the nasty vine around the tree we hunted. The lights shining over her hair and reflecting back in the witchy swirl of her eyes. Once settled, the bright white thorns look like small fairies on the branches. She adds the shiny baubles, handling them with reverent care.
I touch on her mind. I am always a shadow there. She has become so accustomed to our link, I do not think she even notices my constant presence. I feel her sadness over what had happened when we went out earlier in the day to hunt the tree. I do not think she even knows that she is sad. There is so much that I do not understand about my Kiri. She feels so much! She longs for something that she will not even put thought to in her own mind. Maybe she will find magic and a miracle this Christmas.
I lie flat on my belly, stretching out my wings to either side of me, and listen quietly as her thoughts drift. An image of a blind goddess continuously fills her mind and then she envisions herself as blind. I puzzle over this; my Kiri does not deserve to be blind, she is not one of those bad predators. My Kiri sees way more than most. She is not blind to others, she just does not see herself clearly.
Nemesis does not regret her power or her usage of it. She regrets that her power will keep her from that nameless need. That it will forever keep her alone. On some level, she has come to accept this as fact. In herself, she sees the monster that no one can touch. She does not see that she has locked herself away behind walls to protect herself as much as to protect others. She knows the value of what she does. It is a driving force in her. It is, in fact, what has made her who she is. Her power is her. But she sees it only in the negative, never the good that it does.
But Nemesis has me now. I lift to my feet and pad on silent paws to her, I sit and look up at her, “Kiri. You are good. You are beautiful, dark chaos. You are the best predator I have ever known. I think you just need to find a stronger predator because you have not found anyone that does not fear you. You have not been alone because you are evil, it is because you have to wait to find the one worthy of all that you are. That one will not fear you, as I do not fear you. You have to find the one who will know you and see you. You have had to wait so long because I think that there can only be one of those big loves for you. But that does not mean you cannot have smaller loves.”
Nemesis settles to her knees before me and smiles warmly, the expression not quite reaching her eyes. Her hand strokes over my head and down to trace the arch of my wings. I can feel her instinctive rejection of my words.
“You sound so grown up, mikros. Thank you for your sweet thoughts.”
I rest my front feet against her knee and reach up to boop my nose against hers. “Kiri?”
We look at each other, our faces so close that we are both nearly cross-eyed. Nemesis’ lips curve in a real smile this time.
“Can we have bacon?”
My Kiri wraps me up tight and sits back laughing. “No more bacon tonight, mikros, but I will make you some food.” She lifts to her feet with me cradled close. “Come on, you. I swear you have a black hole for a stomach.”
I nuzzle my face against her cheek, satisfied for now. I have decided that her Christmas miracle will be me. It may take some time, but I will make her see what I see.