Actions

Work Header

Just Like Budapest

Chapter Text

What? You want a story? What kind of story?
Hmm. Okay. You want to hear about how your Mama and Papa met?
No, she didn’t win me in a round of poker! Who told you that?
Hmpf. Well, that’s not how it happened.
You need the bathroom? Okay. You got your Teddy Bear? Of course, I’m sorry, Bucky Bear.
Okay, so here’s how it started. Long ago and far away.


The Archer


Once, a long time ago in a far away land, there was an Archer.
Now, he was pretty brave, and bold too. But he wasn’t all that bright. But still, his heart was pure. Well, kind of… true. His heart was true. Also he was lost.

I mean, it wasn’t the dog’s fault, right? He saw a bird and went charging off into the Forbidden Forest. And no amount of ‘Come back here you little sh - uh - here, Lucky!’ would bring him back. So the Archer went after him, getting scratched by thorns and snagged on branches as he went deeper and deeper into the trees.
So of course by the time he found the dog, he was lost.
It wasn’t like he could shout for help. Well, he could shout, but he couldn’t hear anyone answer. Yeah, like Papa.
So he kept walking through the forest, round and round in little circles until he found a path, Lucky chasing after wood pigeons and getting underfoot.

So the Archer couldn’t hear the wind in the trees or the the Firebird singing. If he’d heard the song, he probably wouldn’t have done something so damn stupid.
Or maybe he would, I don’t know.

He saw a flash of her tail feathers, red and orange and gold among the green leaves.
So he pulled out an arrow from his quiver, drew back his bow and sent an arrow after it.
Yeah, well Papa was an idiot.
He didn’t hear the bird crying out, but he saw the arrow hit its mark, and the Firebird fell like a stone.
It crashed into the trees, and every branch that it touched, every leaf and twig and clump of moss, burst into flames.
“Aww, Firebird, no,” the Archer sighed, and followed Lucky through the trees in search of the fallen bird.

Most of the flames licked out after a few moments, but on the higher branches the fire caught hold. The Archer looked up and saw a bird’s nest up in the topmost branches, and said several bad words. He took off his cloak and wrapped it around his arm, and started climbing the tree, patting out the flames as he went until he reached the nest.
There were four baby birds huddled up in there, their Mama flying overhead, calling for them.
So the Archer picked up the nest, tucking it under his arm, and climbed back down to the forest floor.
He carried the nest to a nearby tree where the Mama bird was waiting, and went off to find the Firebird.

The Archer followed the smell of burning and found the Firebird in a clearing, lying on a bed of smouldering moss, Lucky running in little circles around her.
“Aww, fu - uh - fudge,” said the Archer, and shook out his cloak. It was torn and still smouldering in places from where he’d climbed the tree, which was really annoying because it was new, you know? And good cloaks don’t come cheap.
The arrow was buried deep in the Firebird’s side, so the Archer wrapped her up in his cloak, even though she squawked and pecked at him, and picked her up. She was much too big to carry in his arms so he took off his bow and positioned her on his back, using the cloak as a sling and tying it in place before picking up his bow again.

“Okay, this looks bad,” the Archer said to himself as he carried the Firebird through the charred and blackened trees.
“Bro,” the trees seemed to whisper in his head as they smoked and crumbled to ashes.
“Bro,” they crackled. “You f***ed up, bro.”
“Shut up,” the Archer told the burnt out trees.
“Bro,” they rasped. “You in so much s**t, bro.”
The Archer kept walking through the Forest, the last of the fires burning out around him.
“Bro, the Rusalka, bro,” the trees laughed. “Rusalka gonna get you, bro.”
Lucky barked at the trees, leading the way back to the path.
“The Rusalka gonna kick your ass, bro.”

The Archer reached the path at last. “Alright, bird. Just… try not to die, okay? I’m gonna fix this,” he promised. “I’m gonna take care of this.”
Lucky’s ears flattened against his head and he let out a low whine, and the trees started to shake.
Something screamed, low and piercing. It flew right past the Archer’s ears and sliced straight through his heart like a burning arrow.
“Aww, crap,” the Archer sighed, and started running.

Chapter Text


The Falcon and the Tin Man


The Archer ran, trying to keep from jostling the Firebird too much. She stopped pecking at him and curled up tight, her face pressed to his neck.
Lucky sniffed at the path ahead, stopping to turn and bark at the Archer when he started to slow down.
“Yeah, yeah,” the Archer huffed. “I’m coming.”
Finally, when the Archer thought his heart was about to explode, or his knees give way, the Forest fell silent. He leaned against a tree and gasped for breath. He looked at his shoulder, where the Firebird’s head rested, and stroked a finger across her head, ruffling the russet and gold feather.
“You still with me?” he asked the bird. She turned and pecked his fingers irritably. “Ow!” he yelped. “Okay, so you’re still with me.”
Lucky tugged at his leg and yipped nervously. “Alright, I get it. We need to keep moving.”

They walked through the Forest, Lucky letting out little wuffs whenever the Archer started to slow down, until the path ahead was blocked by a vagabond.
Okay, so vagabond might be a bit harsh.
So the path ahead was blocked by a hermit.
What’s a hermit? Well it’s a guy who lives on his own, but wanders around telling people what to do all day and always complaining that nobody listens to him. I mean, honestly. The whole thing with the lizards wasn’t even my fault, but oooooh no, guess who gets the lecture?
Oh yeah. Sorry
So the path ahead was blocked by a stooped figure wrapped up in a travelling cloak. The cloak was torn and dirty, made of patched rags and feathers.
“‘Scuse me, but could you step aside, pal?” the Archer called. “Kind of in a hurry.”
The hermit turned to look at him, raising a dark hand and pointing at the Firebird over his shoulder.
“What the hell have you done?” he cried out, though the Archer couldn’t hear him.
“Sorry pal, can’t tell a word you’re saying,” the Archer said.
The hermit stared at him like he was an idiot for a moment, then pointedly rolled up his sleeves.
What. You. Done. he signed, his hands fluttering like birds in the air between them.
“It was an accident!’ the Archer cried. “I need to get her to help but there’s some freaky assed thing chasing me through the woods.”
Lucky barked in agreement.
“You have awoken the Rusalka,” the vagabond said.
“What?”
R U S A L K A the hermit spelled out. “A vengeful spirit. You carry her heart in your hands.” he said, signing each word as he spoke.
“Nah, man. I’m carrying a bird. On my back,” the Archer said.
The vagabond scowled. “What are you, stupid? The bird is her heart!”
“Oh,” the Archer said weakly. “That’s not good.”
“The Rusalka will not rest until you are dead. She will hunt you to the end of your days.”
“Of course she will,” the Archer sighed. “That’s just great.”

A sooty-looking bird flew down and landed on the hermit's shoulder. it cocked its head and twittered in his ear. The hermit tipped his head to one side and listened carefully before turning back to the Archer.
“My friend tells me you saved its young from a fire? Carried the nest to safety?”
The Archer nodded warily. “Yeah, so?”
“So I guess I owe you one.” The hermit sighed. “You’re an asshole, but you’re trying to redeem yourself. That counts for something.”
He pursed his lips and whistled, and a bird spiralled down from the trees above. He stretched out his arm and the bird landed on his wrist. It was no bigger than a thrush, it’s body speckled black and white with red flashes on its wings.
“This is Redwing,” the hermit said. “He will lead you to the Scarlet Witch.”
“The what?!”
“The Scarlet Witch. She is the only one who can save the Firebird’s life, and your own.”
The hermit stepped to one side, letting the Archer pass him and continue on his journey.
“There are dangers in the forest,” he warned. “Try not to get your dumb ass killed.”
“Uh. Sure,” the Archer said.
“And if you do get killed, don’t let my bird get hurt.”
“I won’t,” the Archer promised. “Err. Thanks, I guess?”
He looked down at the bow in his hand. It wasn’t like he was going to use it, and the hermit had given him a bird. That had to count for something, right? So the Archer offered it to the hermit.
“Keep a hold of this will you?”
The hermit nodded and took the bow, along with the quiver of arrows at his hip.
The Archer took a few steps along the Forest path, Redwind flitting between the trees up ahead.
“Hang on,” the Archer turned back to the hermit. “What do you mean dangers in the forest?”
The man laughed and threw open his tattered cloak. It whipped around him, twisting and transforming into great wings streaked with black and silver and red. The wings spread out and the hermit launched into the air. He spiralled up and up until he was a distant shape above the trees.
“Hmph,” the Archer muttered. “Show off.”

The Archer, Lucky the dog, and the Firebird followed the redwing through the Forest, leading them away from the path and through the trees.
The Archer stumbled over fallen branches and tree roots, and the Firebird pecked at him every time he tripped.
“Ow! I’m doing my best, give me a break,” the Archer grumbled.
The Firebird glared at him and pecked him again.
“Ow!”
The redwing flew on ahead, and the trees thinned out until they reached a clearing.
In the centre of the clearing was a Tin Man.
He wasn’t a rusted, worn-down old Tin Man. He was tall and broad, his red and gold body shone in the sun. They weren’t the red and gold of the Firebird’s feathers, warm and rich like the changing leaves of autumn, but harsh and overbearing, too bright for the Archer’s eyes.
The Tin Man marched up and down the clearing, walking to one end, turning around sharply and then striding to the other. After a minute of shouting to get his attention, the Tin Man finally turned to the Archer.
“Hey, buddy!” the Archer called. “You’d better get out of here, there’s a Rusalka coming.”
The Tin Man ignored him, and went back to pacing back and forth across the clearing.
His face was made of pieces of red and gold painted metal fitted together, with narrowed eye sockets that glowed with an unearthly pale hue. Although there was a suggestion of a mouth there, it did not move, so the Archer could not even try to read his lips.
“Come on,” the Archer sighed, “Are you even listening?”
The Tin Man paused, and for a moment the Archer thought he was finally getting somewhere. Then he turned and resumed his pacing.
“Son of a…” the Archer shifted the Firebird in his grip, making her shiver and nip at his fingers. “Hey, pal! There’s a Rusalka coming! Vengeful spirit, does that ring any bells?”
The Tin Man didn’t even pause in his striding around the clearing this time, and the Archer stomped after him.
“Listen, man, you need to get out of here,” the Archer said, grabbing hold of the faceplate on the Tin Man's armour and pulling it up.
It flipped open like a lid, but inside it there was nothing. It was hollow. The whole suit of armour was empty.
“Oh, crap. Sorry!” the Archer yelped and snapped the faceplate shut again.
The Tin Man pulled away and adjusted the face plate with a shiny red hand until it slotted neatly into place. The unearthly eyes glowed indignantly.
“Never mind,” the Archer sighed. “I’ll just leave you to…” he waved his hand in a broad sweep around the clearing. “It’s not like you’re actually listening, is it?”
The Tin Man cocked his head, then lifted a cloth to his face and rubbed away the fingermarks the Archer had left on his faceplate.
“Yeah, well good luck and all that,” the Archer said.
He whistled for Lucky, who had gone off wandering ahead, and pushed his way through the trees, following the redwing deeper into the Forest.
The Archer shook his head, looking back between the trees at the Tin Man, still marching.

Chapter Text


The Summer Soldier and the Winter Soldier


The Archer walked deeper into the Forest, far from the path, following the redwing as it flew from tree to tree, Lucky trotting along at his heels.
He stopped to reposition the Firebird, and realised that she was getting smaller. Small enough to carry in his arms.
“Ooh, no. This isn’t good,” the Archer fretted, tucking the cloak around her and cradling her to his chest.
“Come on, stay with me,” he whispered, and the Firebird dozed in his arms, slowly getting weaker.
The further they walked, the darker the Forest became. For every green tree filled with flowers and leaves they passed there was another with bare branches, its trunk rimed with frost.
Ice cracked underfoot with every other step as the Archer walked, and Lucky pressed close to his side and whined softly.
The redwing flew up and up into the branches of a great oak tree, taller than any other tree in the whole forest, taller than any tree the Archer had ever seen. On one side of the tree the branches were stretched up towards the sun and thick with leaves, glossy and green. On the other side of the tree the branches were bent down low, dark and shrivelled. The spindly limbs were weighed down by heavy snow and thick icicles.

There were two soldiers, dressed for battle, stood beside the tree, each with a hand placed on its trunk.
On one side was the Summer Soldier, a giant who towered over the canopy, his hair golden in the sunlight. He wore a circular shield painted red and blue with a blazing sun at its center, the same emblem on his surcoat. Where he touched the tree green leaves unfurled between his fingers.
The redwing flew around him, but the giant ignored the little bird, staring down at the soldier stood on the other side of the tree.
Where the Summer Soldier was fair, the Winter Soldier was dark. His hair was as black as pitch, his armour - strips of torn cloth and leathers wrapped tightly around him - were black, save for his left arm which was moon silver from his shoulder to the tips of his fingers. His shining hand was pressed against the tree, and where it touched a silvery sheen of frost spread out from his fingers. He glowered up at the Summer Soldier, who frowned down at him in turn.

The Archer took a step back, hoping to find a way around the two soldiers, but tripped on Lucky who was hiding behind him, and let out a loud yelp. A manly kind of yelp, though, and definitely not a scream, okay? So don’t go listening to anyone who tells you I - the Archer screams, right?
Anyway, where were we?

The Summer Soldier and the Winter Soldier turned at the sound.
“Aw, crap,” the Archer sighed and raised his hand. “Hey.”
The Summer Soldier bowed his head in greeting. The Archer saw his lips move, but he was so far away, towering above the trees, that he couldn’t figure out what he was saying.
“Uh. Great,” the Archer sighed before turning to the Winter Soldier. “Can you tell what he’s saying?”
The Winter Soldier shook his head, and went back to glaring at the Summer Soldier.
“Hey, pal? I can’t hear you!” the Archer shouted up to the Summer Soldier. “Can you maybe come down here a little?”
The Summer Soldier slammed the edge of his great shield into the Forest floor, crushing a handful of trees under its weight. He squatted down, still keeping one hand on the tree, the other resting on the rim of the shield. He spoke, and the ground shook under the Archer’s boots.
“Yeah, that’s great. But I still can’t tell what you’re saying.” the Archer points to his ear.
The Winter Soldier mutters something, and the Summer Soldier looked contrite, raising his huge hand to sign an apology. The Archer waved him off.
“That’s okay. Can you maybe be… smaller or something?”
The Winter Soldier laughed, and the Summer Soldier glared half-heartedly at him.
“I take it there’s something going on with you guys?” the Archer said.

The Summer Soldier sighed and sat heavily on the Forest floor, his back pressed against the great tree.
“We were like brothers once,” he signed and looked at the Winter Soldier with sorrowful eyes. The Winter Soldier kicked his heels and nodded silently.
“In my youth I was plagued by sickness. But I was strong, strong enough to fight.”
The Winter Soldier snapped something that the Archer couldn’t hear, and the Summer Soldier shook his head.
“So I called to the Sun to give me strength, and he granted my deepest wish. I became tall and strong, a defender of the Forest.”
The Winter Soldier snorted. “You were an idiot,” he said. “You could have gotten yourself killed.”
“I could have gotten myself killed? Are you serious, Buck? At least I-”
“Okay guys, settle down,” the Archer called out.
The Summer Soldier sighed. “Where I called out to the Sun, my friend called to the Moon, who took his arm in payment!”
“It wasn’t that bad,” the Winter Soldier insisted.
“It was!” the Summer Soldier yelled. “Your touch brings death! Look at this poor tree, you’re trying to kill it!”
“It does not,” the Winter Soldier huffed. “I am not, stop being so dramatic.”
“What the hell were you even thinking?”
“I was thinking that if I had say in what died I’d also have a say in what didn’t die!”
The Summer Soldier fell silent.
“I just wanted to keep you safe,” the Winter Soldier said. “You dumb punk.”
As the Archer watched, the giant became smaller, shrinking down and down until he was just a hair's breadth taller than the Winter Soldier. He reached out a hand to the Winter Soldier, who lifted his own hand in turn and pressed their palms together.
The Archer looked up at the tree, the green leaves and the frozen branches.
“Huh,” he said to himself.

“I cannot let you kill this tree,” the Summer Soldier said.
“Oh, for god’s sake Steve!” the Winter Soldier groaned.
“Guys,” the Archer pointed to the tree. “You know that thing isn’t dying, right?”
The two soldiers turned to him.
“It’s not dead, it’s just asleep. Trees go to sleep in the winter. There’s snow and ice, and the trees and plants go to sleep. They freeze, sure, but in the spring it warms up and they wake up again.”
The soldiers turned back to each other and started to smile.
“Everything needs a break, you know?” the Archer said. “So maybe you guys should stop fighting over that damned tree and take turns?”
The Summer Soldier gave the Winter Soldier a small smile. “We used to walk the Forest together.”
“We could do that again,” the Winter Soldier agreed. “You could lead an’ I could follow.”
“Then you could lead and I could follow,” the Summer Soldier smiled a little brighter before turning to the Archer. “Thank you, friend. We owe you a great debt.”
The Archer shook his head. “Nah, you’re fine.” Lucky jumped up and barked impatiently. “Oh yeah. I kind of shot this bird, can you help her?”
The Summer Soldier approached him, and reached out a hand to stroke the Firebirds head. She didn’t peck at him or grumble, just fluttered her feathers wearily.
“I cannot help her, I’m sorry. Only the Scarlet Witch can save her.”
“Yeah, figures,” the Archer grumbled. “Well, thanks anyway.” He whistled to the redwing, and it came fluttering down from the trees. “If you guys see a Rusalka, can you maybe tell her I’m trying to fix things? And maybe not kill me before that?”
As if on cue, the trees started to shake, and there was a distant shrieking.
“Okay, see you guys later!” the Archer shouted. He started running again, the Firebird gripped in his arms, Lucky at his heels.

Chapter Text


The Swamp


The Archer ran until his lungs burned, until his feet ached, though he kept on running, following the redwing through the Forests, darker and deeper.
The ground became more slippery, the mosses and branches became rocks and slippery weeds, until they reached a swamp, deep in the trees.
The Archer had to pick his way carefully through the trees, his boots sinking into the stinking mud. He tried stepping from rock to tree root, keeping his feet out of the slime, but kept slipping on the wet stones, jolting the Firebird in his arms. She didn’t even try to bite at him, just closed her eyes and buried her face in his shoulder.
“Aw crap,” the Archer sighed. “Come on, darlin’, you gotta stay with me just a little bit longer.”
The bird sighed and chirruped in his ear.
“Okay, let’s find some water? You want some water?” the Archer asked.
He picked his way through the swamp, following Lucky until he found a clear stream feeding into the thick, green marsh. He cupped his hand in the stream and lifted a handful to the Firebird's mouth. She lifted her head and sipped delicately at the water, before trilling softly at him and lying down to sleep.
The Archer drank from the stream, the water sweet and clear, while Lucky drank and splashed in the shallows. He adjusted his grip on the sleeping bird and carried on walking.
He had company.

He didn’t notice that he was being followed at first, too busy watching where he stepped and checking on the Firebird in his arms and the redwing up ahead. But the hairs on the back of his neck tingled, and he knew that he was being watched.
There were eyes in the water, muddy brown and piercing.
The Archer kept his head down, moving between the trees and trying to keep the redwing up ahead in sight. The swamp was kind of creepy, and dark, and smelled kind of disgusting, and he wanted to get out of it as quickly as possible.
He heard an odd, squelching noise, and a figure rose up out of the mire.
It was huge. Really, really huge. And green. Really, really green.
“Hey,” the Archer said.
The great hulking creature grunted at him, so loud and low that it rattled his teeth.
“I can’t understand you,” the Archer said weakly. “Maybe you could write it down?”
The creature let out a roar, stinking breath and spit flying into the Archer's face.
“Nevermind,” he sighed and started running.

The Archer scrambled through the swamp, yelling at Lucky to get away and climbing one-handed up into the trees. He hefted the Firebird higher up onto his shoulder, freeing both his hands for climbing, and leaped from branch to branch.
The creature roared below, punching at the trunk of the tree the Archer was hiding in with its enormous fist, trying to knock him loose.
The Archer kept moving, climbing from tree to tree, moving slowly further from the swamp. The creature roared again, throwing its shoulder against the tree until it cracked in two. The Archer threw himself into the nearest tree and kept on climbing, one step ahead of the creature as it bellowed and raged and tore down the trees surrounding the swamp one by one.

Oh, hey! It’s okay, it’s okay. Shh, it’s alright.
No, the creature doesn’t eat the Archer. Everyone is fine.
Yeah, I promise.
He’s fine, he’s just… Grouchy.
You want me to carry on? You sure?
Okay, where were we? Yeah, thats right. He had just gotten away from the Hulk.

The Archer had gotten himself turned about in escaping from the creature, and he wandered the forest calling out for Lucky and the redwing, the Firebird in his arms, until he stumbled across a man looking lost.
“Hey,” he called out. “You seen a dog and a bird?”
The man looked surprised. “Yes. You seen a big red suit of armour?”
The Archer nodded and pointed back the way he had come. “It’s just walking up and down.”
The man rolled his eyes and pointed further into the Forest before walking in the direction the Archer had pointed.
“Hey, pal! Watch out for the Rusalka,” the Archer called after him.
The man gave a ‘whatever’ gesture and disappeared between the trees.

It took the Archer a while to find Lucky and the redwing again, hiding in the hollow trunk of a fallen tree, huddled up together in the dark.
The Firebird was getting weaker, barely moving in his arms. He stroked her red and gold feathers and she didn’t peck or squawk at him once.
“Oh, this isn’t good,” the Archer said. “Come on, darlin’, just a little bit further.”
The trees around them shivered, and the Archer could hear the howl of the Rusalka, like a knife in his heart.
He turned around, and saw a flash of red in the trees. “Aw, crap.”
There was the Rusalka, perched in the branches, looking down at him. Her hair was red, red like copper and autumn leaves, red like the Firebird. Her clothes were torn, her skirt ragged at the edges. Her eyes were green, the colour of her moss. Her bare feet braced against the trunk of the tree she clung to.
“Hey, I’m sorry about your heart,” the Archer said slowly. “But I’m gonna fix it, alright?”
The Rusalka screamed, and leaped down to the ground. She landed lightly and moved towards the Archer like a cat preparing to strike.
“Aw, crap!,” the Archer groaned. “Run!”
He ran as fast as he could, the redwing speeding ahead of him, Lucky panting at his side, keeping pace, and the Rusalka on his heels.

Chapter Text


The Scarlet Witch


The Archer ran through the Forest, ducking under low branches and leaping over the thick tree roots that poked out of the earth.
But no matter how fast he ran, the Rusalka was just behind him, her outstretched hand just shy of catching him.
He burst out through the trees and onto the Forest path. After all his circling through the woods he had ended up back on the path.
“Aw, crap,” the Archer moaned, and Lucky whined and curled up in a ball.
The redwing suddenly banked sharply and flew in a wide circle around the Archer and the Rusalka, spiralling upwards. The Archer stumbled and fell to his knees, clutching the Firebird to his chest.
“I’m sorry,” he wheezed as the Rusalka came closer. “I screwed up, and I tried to fix it but… I’m sorry.”

A red mist rose up around them. It was not the red of the Rusalka or the red of the Tin Man, but the red of sunrises and ripe berries.
“What the hell?” the Archer said, and looked up.
Standing in the the trees was the Scarlet Witch.
Now, she wasn’t like the witches you hear about in other stories. She didn’t have a crooked nose, or a black cat. She didn’t have a cauldron for boiling up little children who won’t go to sleep. Her long, dark hair was covered in a cloth cap, the edges licked with flames, and wore a red gown that trailed along the grass. Wherever she walked, tiny red flowers grew under her bare feet.
The Scarlet Witch held out her hands silently.
The Archer carried the Firebird towards her. “Can you help? She’s hurt pretty bad.”
The Scarlet Witch lifted the Firebird out of his arms, cradling her like a child. The Archer stepped back, still clutching the singed and torn cloak. His arms felt cold and empty without the bird's warmth and weight in them.
The Scarlet Witch sat down on the path, the Firebird’s head on her shoulder, her claws gripped the folds of her skirt, digging into her leg. The Scarlet Witch did not flinch, but stroked her fingers through the Firebird’s feathers until they grew longer and longer, and shone like the sun.
The Rusalka took a wary step forward, and stood at the Archer’s side, her arms folded around her stomach.
“Will she..?” the Rusalka whispered, her voice rough from lack of use.
The Archer didn’t know how to answer, so he put a careful arm around her shoulders.
“You’re cold,” he said in surprise, and wrapped his cloak around her shoulders.
She tugged the cloak tightly around herself and gave the Archer a wary nod.

They watched in silence, the Archer and the Rusalka, as the Scarlet Witch held the Firebird, humming softly as a deep red mist raised up around her, twisting up like tendrils of smoke. They drifted higher and higher, too thick to see past.
There was a sudden burst of sound, a birdsong, high and sweet, that even the Archer could hear. Lucky raised his head up and wuffed, and the Firebird burst up into the sky, soaring high above the trees, vast and strong and alive. The beating of her wings chased away the red mist.
She was glorious. Her feathers burned like the embers of a fire, her tail behind her like a blazing comet.
The Scarlet Witched laughed as the Firebird flew down low again, skimming past her outstretched hand before taking off into the sky again.
The Scarlet Witch got to her feet and held out her hands to the Rusalka, who stepped forward and reached out to her, and they fell into each other's arms.

What?
No, the Scarlet Witch didn’t heal the Rusalka, there was nothing wrong with her.
Yeah, she was fine as she was. Still is.
What happened next?
Well, the Archer decided to stay in the Forest, I mean you heard about some of the idiots that lived there, right? Someone’s gotta keep an eye on them.
And the Firebird? Oh, she was fine. Got more beautiful with every passing day, she did. And the Firebird gave the Archer feathers for his arrows, so they flew further and faster than any other arrow in the land. And the Rusalka figured out that he wasn’t all that bad either and decided not to kick his ass.
Yeah, your Papa is very lucky.
Anyway, you little varmint, it’s long past your bedtime. Go to sleep, kid.
Yeah, I love you too.
Goodnight.