Part 2 of 7
A year after Cody met him in the flower shop, Kenny burned for the first time.
He knew it was a possibility, but it still took him by surprise. It was common knowledge that phoenixes burned when they died, from old age or otherwise, and were reborn from their own ashes. What wasn’t common knowledge, was how long it took to happen.
Cody sat at his desk, doing his homework, when he was startled out of his focus by a loud whooshing sound behind him. He spun around to find a ball of flame where previously Kenny sat, looking out the window. His heart shot in his throat. The flames licked at the glass and spread over the windowsill. He took a step forward, but the heat of the flames held him back like an impenetrable wall. With one last flare that reached all the way to the ceiling, the flames vanished.
Cody stared at the left-over pile of ashes in shock. In the silence left behind after the loudness of the fire, he heard his heart pound in his chest. Kenny wasn’t there.
The ashes shifted. Faint confusion trickled in through their bond. His mind kicked back in and he realised what happened. He sat back in his chair, a shaking hand pressed to his chest to calm down his racing heart.
The ashes moved again. The tip of a beak popped out of the pile. It cheeped. Cody let out a shaky breath. He stood up and walked to the windowsill. Apart from the ash, there was no evidence left of the fire. Not even the wooden window-frame was damaged. He picked Kenny out of the pile and brushed the ashes off him, careful not to hurt him. He was so tiny, so light. Cody turned him around in his hand and examined him.
He was the ugliest creature he’d ever seen.
Round bulbous eyes on a head far too big for his thin neck. Plucks of red fluff scattered over wrinkly skin. Kenny flapped the little flesh stumps his wings had become and chirped loudly. His gaping beak seemed bigger than his head. Cody had the impulse to put him right back in the ash and only take him out again when he was back to normal.
As if he heard Cody’s thoughts, Kenny’s eyes squinted open. His head swivelled around until he settled on Cody. The venomous look he sent him was only accentuated by the emotions flowing through their bond. Cody quickly thought about the neighbours’ kittens to hide his disgust. “You are one cute little baby bird, Kenny.” In spite of the stilted tone, Kenny closed his eyes again, ego satisfied for the moment. Cody would have to be careful not to let his disgust show from now on.
Luckily, he didn’t have to hide his disgust at Kenny’s appearance for long. Kenny grew fast. In a few days, he was recognisable as a bird again. Within three weeks, the fuzzy baby feathers grew back into long adult plumage. Anyone who didn’t know he’d burned, wouldn’t be able to tell anymore.
There was only one little thing… off. Cody could swear Kenny had one more tail feather before he burned. But, by the time he noticed it, almost a month had passed so he could have remembered wrong. He was probably mistaken. Kenny wasn’t worried about it in any case, and his easy manner reassured Cody that nothing was wrong.
He burned again a year later.
Cody woke up that morning not to the usual bright notes of Kenny’s singing, but to a high pitched cheeping. Ash was spread all throughout his room by Kenny’s uncoordinated flapping about. He found the ugly chick under the windowsill. His mind raced. He checked over Kenny to see if he’d been hurt when he fell. He seemed fine.
He didn’t understand what had happened, why it happened, why Kenny burned again. It didn’t make any sense. He burned a year ago so he couldn’t have died of old age.
But that didn’t mean he couldn’t have died of something else.
He frantically thought back on the last few days. If Kenny was sick, he hadn’t noticed it. How could he not have noticed? He glanced at the window. It was intact. Nothing had hurt him from there, and he hadn’t been hurt yesterday. Right?
Doubts swirled in his mind. Could he have been so blind as to not notice his own familiar being sick or hurt? Not just sick either, but fatally sick.
Kenny squirmed in his hands. He cheeped. Cody sat him down on his pillow. Kenny was calm, not bothered by whatever it was that happened. Cody didn’t like it. Kenny should be worried about this. He might be immortal, but that didn’t mean dying wasn’t a big deal. If Kenny was any other creature than a phoenix… would he have woken up to a dead familiar?
Worry finally made itself known in Kenny. He shuffled on the pillow and cheeped at Cody. Concern was clear in his eyes. Cody shook his head. “You shouldn’t be worried about me.” He should be worried about himself. He teared up at the thought of losing his familiar. Concern from Kenny trickled through their bond, turning the fire of their shared magic a deep red. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing that bond, of the fire extinguishing forever.
The exact lifespan of a phoenix wasn’t recorded in any book Cody could find and the approximations varied widely; ten years, a hundred years; two hundred. No one agreed and Cody didn’t know what to think. A hundred years was a long time, but birds were long-lived creatures. Crows could become forty-years-old with a bit of luck, and Kenny was about the same size. On top of that, phoenixes were magical, which would probably only increase their lifespan.
With all this in mind, Cody hadn’t really expected it to happen any time soon, if at all within his own lifetime. But it did happen. And then it happened again. In the end, it didn’t matter that no source could agree on the exact lifespan, because there was one thing they did agree on: Phoenixes didn’t burn every year.