Zakariah shook his head in defiance and pointed at the star and said, “Training? I’ve been chasing that Star there ever since my Uncle Ezekiel entrusted me to finish his task.” The Six Storks turned their heads to see what Zakariah pointed at but they could not see what he could see. The Six Storks huddled and murmured to each other in grunts and whispers. Zakariah looked up at the Star and it began to move away. He picked up the Bundle in his beak and wanted to fly off and not wait for whatever it was they were discussing. It did not matter to him. “I have been through storms, crossed long waters and desert heat, and I most certainly will face worse things, but I have vowed to be a Bringer and a Bringer is now what I am. I will get this Bundle where it needs to be and that Star will continue to guide us.” 

The Six Storks turned to Zakariah as the Leader spoke, “This journey you are on seems to be out of our wings, valiant young Bringer. Please, follow your path. Four suns remain between here and your finish.” “Thank you, Six Storks,” Zakariah said, clearing away the mist in spirals with his wings and setting off into the sky. 

 

For hours Zakariah glided on thermal air toward the star, high above a rocky desert of unbearable heat. 

I have never flown over a hot and rocky desert, but you might know that crossing it on foot is not a pleasure. I wish that I had a robe or blanket made with the same cloth that a Stork’s bundle uses to protect it’s wards from the cold rain, oppressive heat and frosty nights. But Zakariah had no protection from the heat of the sun bearing down on him and he became dazed. His eyes began to cross and his vision blurred. Now three Stars hung on the horizon. The situation was dire but at least the three Stars stopped moving. Zakariah made a slow descent to the inhospitable surface below. Zakariah reached the burning sand and could do nothing but hold still and hope that his vision returned to normal. He was that exhausted, and the predicament he was in was life threatening. And that is when he saw the shadow on the scorching sand, circling around him and the Bundle. Zakariah looked up into blinding sky and watched the orbiting silhouette of a menacing Vulture flare and shimmer in the haze of heat. 

 

Even though delirious, Zakariah knew he was the only thing that stood between his Bundle and the Vulture. With the Bundle behind him and the Vulture swooping down, Zakariah readied himself for the unknown danger. It landed directly in front of him and paused, calmly still. 

And right before Zakariah’s eyes the Vulture’s shape melted away to reveal Athena, the young girl Stork, in its place. Remember? The girl Stork from the beginning of the story.

“It’s you!” he said, relived. “ My uncle told me your name is Athena.” Zakariah realized he had just seen something with his own eyes that was not there. That made him think of what Seth, the painter who was blind, had said to him on the boat. 

“I’ve been looking for you, Zak,” said the not-mirage Athena. 

Zakariah rubbed his eyes and admitted, “Well, you scared the living daylights out of me. You looked like a hungry vulture up there.” With all of Athena’s travelled miles of Bringing, desert mirages were nothing new to her. “I’m sorry. Sometimes in the desert you see what you fear, others times what you want to see,” she said. “Did I look like food to you down here?” he asked her. 

“I’m not out here for a mid day mean,” she said and peeked at his Bundle behind him. He looked around for hers. “Did you deliver your Bundle near by?” he asked, wondering if she was really there or not.

 

“Are you joking? I came here to see with my own eyes. Everyone back home is talking about you. And you’re just a kid,” Athena said excitedly.

You’re a kid, too,” Zakariah said frankly. “Zakariah, I’ve flown across seas of water and sand. High above the clouds and below the sea’s level all on my own. But I was born with the Bringing in me. I’ve known this world’s magnetic waves since I was a chick. But you? You just upped right in, wings first.” she said. “That’s right. Is there something wrong with that? First those Six Storks, now you,” Zakariah said as he kicked the sand. Athena laughed at Zakariah as she realized that he thought she was making fun of him. “It might not sound like I’m on your side, Zak, but I am... But you choose to take this journey and you don’t know the first thing about anything.” You sure are something.

“How am I suppose to think you are on my side when you say stuff like that?”Zakariah said. 

 

He looked at the barren desert over her shoulder and readied the Bundle saying, “It doesn’t matter to me what family you come from. I still have my first Bringing to complete.” Athena continued staring at him in admiration and said, “You don’t want to know how I found you?”