Emeeki dove off the cliff, spreading her silver wings wide to catch the current of air, flying over the Sacred ground. This would put her quite a distance from her earth locked predator, whose yellow mane she could see moving in the grass on the golden plains.

The Sacred ground was a beautiful preserve and Emeeki wished she could spend more time here. Her partner, Brekki, had always wanted to explore the preserve in depth, but their diplomatic work had kept them off world, and away from familiar comforts.

Today was their consummation; she would be one with Brekki at last. They had almost given in to temptation once, during a diplomatic conference held on the flagship of an alien Coalition. It was late and they were meeting in her room to iron out a few last details of the presentation they would give to the Coalition. They were defining zoning lines in space, and territory was one of Brekkis passions. They had been tired, but filled with enthusiasm, about to bring back a contract that would create peace and understanding between the alien omnivores and themselves. It was a landmark, and perhaps, after this, they might join the powerful Coalition. Emeeki, only in her second molt, a bustle of red feathers, had hopped from her perch and spread her wings in the small room.

“We’ve done it Brekki! Joy! Joy!” she chirped, and without thinking, bounced close to him, putting her delicate wings around his tawny, powerful shoulders. He growled, and moaned in a low tone. Emeeki squeaked, realizing her mistake, and tried to pull away, but it was too late, he had already put a paw on her wing. He bit her shoulder, breaking the skin, the rush of his intoxicants spreading into her blood through his saliva, his tongue lapping at her tiny shoulder, she was falling under, into the black tunnel and then suddenly, he was across the room, running for the sliding door, scratching the carpet as he left.

They spent a few days apart after that, trying to regain a sense of control. Emeeki was terrified that Brekki would leave her. He had been a choice partner, and they had accomplished so much together, for him to leave would be devastating, and yet she felt a hanging guilt for putting him in a terrible position. She did not know how to apologize, but as always, Brekki was there to help her. He came to her with his claws clipped, a sign of shame, and begged forgiveness, after which she pulled out fresh feathers, and presented them to him as a sign of her guilt. They were both awkward for season, but this passed and they moved on with their career.

Emeeki flapped her wings, feeling the air slide through her feathers, savoring the feeling of lift and fall, the glory of the burn in her wings. She should have made the time for this. The tips of her wings tingled. She was told that she wouldn’t feel the effects of the little vial her family gave her, but she had never felt her wings tingle like that before. Emeeki saw the grove of trees, a traditional spot for her family, and descended gently there. Brekki was far behind her, he did not run as fast as he used to.

She could leave right now and he would never catch her. She could take flight from here, or run to a different, more shaded grove. She examined her options, and imagined what her ancestors would have done. She may have a few seasons left in her, and she would very much like to see her daughter’s hatchlings. She pecked at her feathers, and dismissed those thoughts. She had been spending too long off world, and those alien ideas were starting to infect her. Her people were not obsessed to silly notions of infinite life; it was the seasons, to which all things were committed. Emeeki waited.

“You always arrive first.” Brekki pawed at the ground. “I believe the sacred script calls for something specific at this point. I did memorize it for you, if you would like to follow it.”

“I thought about the sacred script.” Chirped Emeeki. “But we’ve never followed any script in our lives, I don’t see why we should start now.” She hoped that the poison she had taken would not be painful for Brekki. Of course, even if he did suffer, she wouldn’t have to see it.

Brekki pawed the soft dirt. “Are you scared?”

“Not anymore.” She hopped down from the tree. “Now that you are here.”

“I was trained to do this while you were running away,”

“Ah, yes. Well, see that you keep up with me, Elder.” she teased; Emeeki was a full season younger than Brekki.

Brekki folded his front paws and touched his nose to the ground. “I want you to be inside me, before I surrender to the planet.” He was always the somber one.

Emeeki cocked her feathered head. “That’s from the sacred texts.”

“So it is.” Brekki stretched his paws and waited for her reply.

“Catch me Brekki. I am ready.” She opened her wings, and hopped between the trees. Brekki growled and followed. It was, like all life, very swift.