Yes, Dove originally had ambitions for learning the fascinating art of falconry, but I argued with her until she agreed to cut it from her life. However, because all that work shouldn’t be “in vain for nuthin'” (name that movie), I’m posting those sections for you here. 🙂
On that same autumn afternoon, four hundred miles away, Dove arrived home to find Letty gone and rabbit stew simmering in the hearth. She stirred the pot, checked the bread, and added a log to the fire. The cottage was already cool.
Bertha’s voice startled her from the corner where the woman lay resting on the bed after a long night with a sick infant. “She’s doing better. Today she separated all herbs without a single mistake.”
“That’s good. This smells right.”
“She can make a stew now. That’ll leave you more time to dig your hole.” As an afterthought, Bertha added, “Oh, and she saved a few pieces of meat for that bird. I didn’t let her feed it.”
“Good. Thank you.”
Dove didn’t move. She stood next to the fire, the flames flickering in the growing darkness and reflecting in her face. From Bertha’s vantage point, the child looked evil—possessed. Times like that made her regret the compulsion she’d felt to save the child from fear-crazed villagers so many years ago. It was no wonder that people feared the child. If they saw some of the things that she did, no one, even Lord Morgan, could have protected the girl.
The child flipped her hood back over her head and moved toward the door. “Do we have enough water?”
“Letty took care of it.”
“Good. I’ll feed the bird.”
“You need to name that thing, child.”
Dove nodded. “I will.”
The door shut behind the girl, and Bertha sat up in bed. She stepped outside, wrapping a shawl around her shoulders and crept to the corner of the cottage. Sometimes she learned more about Dove from what the girl told an animal or sang than what Dove actually said.
An old fisherman’s net, staked to the ground like a tent, housed the young bird. Each morning and each evening, Dove let the bird out of the makeshift cage and with a string tied to its leg, tried to help it learn to fly by tossing meat into the air and tempting it to “capture” it.
“Come on, Talon, you can do this. You can fly! I have lots of string—lots of it. You can go far before it’ll stop you. Just try.”
She tossed piece after piece into the air, but the bird just trotted across the grass to retrieve it. Dove cajoled, encouraged, and then squealed with delight when, at last, the bird dove for a piece as it fell to the ground. His wings spread majestically for such a small creature. “You did it! Good boy!”
With a sigh that Dove would have heard had she not been congratulating her pet for his first attempt at flight, Bertha turned and slipped back inside the cottage. Little things such as her childish happiness when an animal did what came naturally for it were what kept Bertha from violating her own code of ethics. She couldn’t be responsible for the loss of a life when it was her duty—her calling—to introduce life to the world.
The falconer, Alwin, saw the familiar gray cloak between the trees, and slowly made his way toward them as if unaware that he did. His voice carried as he spoke to the bird. “You seem a little jittery today. I think we’ll use the hood for a bit to calm you.”
On and on he talked, telling the bird how to fly, when to return, and what was expected. It all seemed very silly to Dove; after all, the bird couldn’t understand. Then comprehension dawned. The falconer knew she was there and was training her. It must be Lord Morgan’s orders, and that must mean that someone told the Earl of Dove’s bird.
At first, she was tempted to leave. Something about the man’s deception bothered her, but reason triumphed. It was silly to let pride override good sense. If he wanted to teach her how to train a falcon without her having to interact with him, so be it.
It didn’t take her long to realize she’d done the opposite of what she should have. She’d encouraged the animal to fly rather than trust her to give it food. Just as that thought occurred to her Alwin told the bird to eat the fur too—for health. I won’t have to skin Talon’s food anymore. That’s a little less work anyway.
Not for the first time, Dove wondered why she’d taken on the task. After all, it would have been easy to carry the injured bird to the castle and leave it for Alwin to nurse and train. However, the work seemed interesting, and with her pool nearly finished, what else was there to do? She was forced to sleep in her bed half the time now, although she’d considered the cave in the Sceadu. The warmth would have made it a comfortable place to be, but Jakys would have found her.
As the falconer rambled on about jesses to tether the legs, bewits to hold bells to the feet, and other such nonsense, Dove lost interest. She’d learned the most important lessons of the day. The bird needed fresh meat with fur, and the best way to learn to calm the animal was to use a hood. She’d have to make one immediately.
Dove wasn’t in the clearing. Philip spun in circles, debating whether it was worth the few minutes to dash to the cottage to see if Talon was tethered to the tree or if maybe his friend had taken the bird out for training.
His mind made up, Philip sprinted toward the cottage. If the bird was there, he’d look for the shovel. Dove might have decided to work on the pool. She was constantly transplanting new flowers and plants to enhance the beauty of it. The bird’s cry reached his ears just as he reached the yard. Couldn’t be that. The shovel was not on the pegs at the side of the house. She was planting.