Alfonso looked up the tree, squinting to focus on a nest near the top. He flexed his arthritic fingers. One phoenix feather was all he needed to finish the youth potion. Some of the younger wizards probably could levitate there or perhaps wish the feather down. Not Alfonso. At least not anymore – his magic was as stiff as his body.
The old wizard’s world spun before he even began to climb. He cursed while testing the rigidity of the earth, wondering if the moss and needle-covered ground would provide a soft landing. He filled his lungs with the pine-scented air and gripped the first branch. One branch, then another, he urged himself up. One feather to make all the self-centered young wizards envious.
Sweat stung Alfonso’s eye as he glanced down to see how far he had gone. Another wave of dizziness slammed into him. His knuckles whitened as he clung to the tree. Halfway there. Leaves crunched below him but he wouldn’t look. He hoped the noise wasn’t from a climbing bear.
The tree narrowed as he pushed himself up – the nest was in reach. He shook out each of his arms and legs to ease the fatigue. He then stretched one arm into the nest, felt around, but only pulled out sticks. A branch snapped as he climbed further. Despite his dancing stomach, he pulled himself up enough to peer inside. His hopes fell to the earth. Phoenixes didn’t lose feathers often.
Empty-handed, he lowered himself down, branch-by-branch, feeling blindly for secure foot placement.
An ear-piercing screech came from behind. A phoenix. He hurried down, branches scraping his skin as the bird dived at him. Alfonso hung on tightly as the phoenix talons pierced his back, pulling him from the tree.
Then the talons released and he fell. The earth, that was so far away, came rushing closer. Alfonso squeezed his eyes closed as he fought the dizziness. Wind whizzed past his ears and caused him to gasp for breath. This was how it would end. He pulled the chords of magic that still were connected to him but the once elastic strings were now unforgiving. Struggling for another gasp of air, he allowed his mind to empty. No regrets.
He felt his body sink gently into something soft and then lift towards the sky, jolting his eyes open. A cloud of air supported him a small distance from the earth. The distance slowly disappeared, leaving Alfonso on the ground.
The clapping of a young man focused Alfonso. “Bravo! Great show!”
“You saved me? How did you make the air cloud?”
“I’d love to teach you,” the young wizard said holding out a feather for Alfonso.
Written by: Joy Schultz
Photo from: https://www.morguefile.com/ (Thank-you)