The Lens of the Sky

It is not true that the hawk maidens of the moors have no hearts.  Although they come down from the moors only rarely to trade and to find fathers for their daughters, they wear their hearts on silver chains.  Hawk maidens are deadly hunters and far-seers, and to become an adult, each one must grind her glass heart with sand of her own choosing.

Once, a hawk maiden’s daughter came of age during a fine, crisp autumn.  Her year-mates in the village fashioned beautiful gleaming hearts for themselves, some shaped like light-splitting prisms, some shaped like tetrahedra, some shaped like slender convex lenses.  They chanted their adulthood names before the elders, and the village celebrated.

Then they turned to the last, nameless hawk maiden.  The chain around her neck held no glass heart.  They asked, “How will you know to choose a suitable mate without a heart to guide you?”

She said, “Perhaps the only mate I desire is the wind as my traveling companion.”

They asked, “How will you travel the moors without a heart to guide you?”

She said, “The sun and the stars tell me all I need in order to navigate the moors, as they have since my birth.”

At last, dismayed, they asked, “How will you make your way through life without a heart to guide you?  For nothing loves or moves in this world but for the guidance of a heart.”

The nameless hawk maiden smiled at them.  She stood straight and tall and unafraid.  “The sky is my lens and the world is my heart,” she said.  “I need no glass to guide me.”

They could not permit her to stay among them, for she had rejected the traditions of her people, but neither did they grieve when she departed from them.  All in all, she was as prepared for the rigors of her adulthood as her more conventional year-mates were for theirs.

On certain clear autumn nights, the hawk maidens of that village look into the lens of the star-ribboned sky and ask her to give their daughters the same fierce clarity she possessed herself.  They don’t know what name she uses in the outside world, but it doesn’t matter.  She is certain to hear them regardless.

For Kate Nepveu. Prompt: fierce clarity.