She raises her head and gazes up at the sky. Returned. The desert glows around her, the colours a shock to her eyes, even behind her cloak, after the white of the snow on the mountain and the glowing of the Guardians’ light.
Together they stood there, bathed in the welcoming light. The mountaintop--their destination--they were finally here. Their long scarves twisted and turned in the wind, the breath of the Guardians, intertwining, playing, just as they had played in the water and air. Now all that was left was to wait, for the climax of their long, hard journey. Together they had travelled, and together they stood, their red cloaks flapping into one another. She looked across to find the eyes of the other - her companion. Her friend.
The light took them, together.
Now, the desert. She stands, slowly, and lets out a long, mournful chirp. Her other is gone... she is alone, her scarf gone. Nothing to show for all their hard trials but another line of gold thread, twisting around the bottom of her cloak. She chirps again, softly. Gone. For she hoped, secretly, that they would be returned together, back to the beginning.
Still, she must journey on. She begins the trek through the sands, reaching the summit where her scarf is returned to her. Despite her loss, despite her sorrow, she cannot help but chirp with joy as she feels the first gusts of wind beneath her cloak, and takes her first reborn flight.
But wait! There, in the dunes - was that a flash of red? She chirps again, hope in her song... but there is no-one. No friend awaiting her, new or old, it seems. She slides down between the ruins and frees the flying fragments in the central column, and hurries through the gates. There is no point in lingering here.
She is on the final stage of the bridge, barely aware of the sands below, looking only to get to the next stage of the journey, when she hears it. A call, far below. She chirps, long and loud, trying to reply. I am here! Find me!
There is no answer.
Still, she leaps from the bridge and floats to the desert floor, scrambling up onto a rock and calling and calling. Are you there?
Still, no answer.
Chirping less now, she looks around for a last time, listening for any sound that might be a distant response. When she hears nothing but the wind, whistling around the stone columns of the bridge, she sighs, and heads back to the first stretch of carpet to make her way back up to the top. Perhaps, she simply imagined it.
She crosses the desert and enters the tunnels, fear and trepidation building inside of her. The first time through here had been easier-- she didn't know what was waiting inside. The first time through she had a friend by her side. This time around, she knows the horror awaiting her--the searchlight, and the fright of it turning red, swooping down, destroying her scarf and her freedom to fly, eating part of her soul. And this time around, she must face it alone, no friend chirping by her side.
She chirps, nervously, hoping the sound alone will be enough to reassure her trembling legs. I will make it. Bravely, she steps forward, skirting around the edges of the pit, hoping against hope that the monsters that lurk here do not feel like hunting for travellers today.
She is close to the end when she misjudges the slope and slips, sliding helplessly into the pit. Help me! She cannot help herself; she calls out for a friend, even though she knows by now that no one is there.
Desperately, she tries to right herself and run back into the shadows, but it is too late--the light is coming. The monster has found her. She cannot move. Her breath comes fast and sweat drips from her brow. Her scarf had lost all light. She cannot fly away. She sinks to the floor, waiting for the inevitable attack, the ripping and tearing of her scarf, the pain and loss.
The light goes red, and she feels as if her heart has stopped in her chest. This is the end. She closes her eyes, and wishes she were back on the mountaintop, flying free with her friend by her side. In that moment, it is as if she can feel herself there, their scarves twisting around each other, the wind and water through her cloak, her friend playing bumping into her as they fly...
... And she opens her eyes with shock as she feels something push her aside. She screams. Caught!
But then... Then she realises. Her scarf is whole, and she is whole, and she is not damaged beyond repair. The monster did not capture her and tear her apart. Another took her place. No... Her chirp is scarcely more than a breath, as she sees the other, red cloak torn, scarf all but destroyed, glyph barely growing, half-covered in snow. She throws herself across the pit, not caring now about monsters or shadows or her own scarf. She knows that glyph.
Chirping frantically, she falls to her knees, her heart pounding as she recognises the other traveller. You came, she calls softly. You did not leave me!
She cries out, hoping to give her friend strength, though little of his scarf remains. With bated breath, she waits, until his eyes slowly open and he stands and chirps in reply. She runs around him, chirping all the while. We will journey together. She cannot replace his scarf, or repay what he has done for her, but she will stay with him until the end, whenever their journeying should finally cease.
He turns to her slowly. She can see his eyes, still glowing with the mischevious spirit she has grown to know so well, even above the tattered remains of his cloak. He winks, and she knows, finally, that when two souls meet on a journey, they can never really be parted.
Just before the light takes them, on the mountaintop, she feels his scarf tangle with hers.
I will find you. Always.
Their calls dissolve into the glow. Time to be reborn.