Somewhere in Armenia.

Day One
Sparhawk alights on a branch, well-made nest, far into the wilds. She halts, makes camp by feel, keeps her eyes on it as much as possible. Late in the night, popping of the fire, quiet, friendly, she talks to it, invisible against the rocks. She conjures ghosts, ones she hasn’t seen in decades, swaps childhood in memory. Her back grows stiff and cold.

Day Two
She makes coffee, rationing her water. Digs through her backpack—just enough, she thinks, if she keeps on half rations. She needs the caffeine but it’ll dehydrate her. Sparhawk watches her cook. She pulls her mother out of the earth and makes her rehearse the long lines of her ancestry for fourteen generations. Sparhawk nods in the firelight.

Day Three
She is tired, so tired. Everything is illuminated, sharp-edged. Sparhawk is curled tight into itself. A touch on her shoulder. She keeps her eyes on the sparhawk.

“What would you have?”

She stirs, swallows. Seize the moment, her mother mouths. “Success,” she says, “and a commanding voice.”

Sparhawk spreads its wings and takes to the sky.