Sosondowah stood by the entrance to the Goddess of Dawn’s lodge and kept watch. He watched the stars wheel overhead. He watched the owls fly silently through the night air. He watched for foes that he knew would never come. The only thing he truly guarded was Dawn’s vanity.
But she was as powerful as she was vain, and his punishment would be severe if he displeased her.
He watched as a woman crept out of her longhouse and slipped through the forest.
His attention sharpened.
The woman stopped in a clearing. She glanced around, making certain that she was alone. Then she started to sing in a voice so pure it reached the heavens.
She turned her face to the moonlight. Her voice held Sosondowah’s heart, and her beauty pierced it. Then her song faltered. She looked around again. "Hello?" She glanced around again, then up at the sky, once. She rubbed her arms, as if chilled, then hurried back to her home.
Gendewitha and her sisters helped their mother plant corn. Spring birds flitted from tree to tree, singing their sweet songs. Gendewitha tried not to envy them as she trudged through the field.
At least the feeling of being watched had finally passed.
A bluebird landed on her arm, and she dropped her bag of corn. The bird stared at her, its black eyes uncommonly intense. It sang a few notes, then flew away.
Gendewitha stared after it. How did it know her song? Who had been watching her last night?
Sosondowah stood at his post. He hoped that his turmoil didn’t show on his face. Spring had stretched into summer, and he had only dared to slip away once. At least he had managed to overhear her name.
He watched Gendewitha whenever he could, but he longed to do more. He wanted to speak with her, to woo her, to marry her. If anyone had tried to invade Dawn’s lodge while she was within view, he would never have noticed them.
Dawn was within now, asleep. She could wake at any moment. But she usually slept through the day.
Gendewitha was alone, fetching water for their crops.
He couldn’t wait any longer. He transformed into a blackbird and flew to her.
A blackbird landed on Gendewitha’s water pot and stared at her with the same intense eyes that the bluebird had. Shivers ran down her spine. "What are you?" she whispered.
In response, the blackbird sang her a song.
It was the song she sang to the moon, subtly altered, edged with longing and magic.
Then the bird flew away.
"Wait!" she reached out for its black wing, but it was gone.
She stood in the moonlight for a long time before she sang that night. But when she sang, she sang the bird’s song.
Sosondowah could hear Dawn tossing and turning inside her lodge, but he couldn’t wait any longer. Summer had deepened to autumn. Gendewitha still sang his song every night, but by day her father was entertaining suitors for her hand.
If he didn’t act now, he might lose her forever. With one final glance back, he transformed into a hawk and flew down to her.
Gendewitha stood next to her father, looking modestly at the ground while men argued about her worth. She fought against resentment–against a feeling that something greater was being stolen from her.
Where was her bird? She could still sense him watching her while she sang–why didn’t he come to her?
Then she heard wingbeats, and great talons wrapped around her arms and lifted her into the air.
She looked up at the giant hawk, and it looked back at her with intense black eyes.
Joy spiked through Gendewitha’s heart, and she sang.
Sosondowah landed outside of Dawn’s lodge and transformed into his true shape. "I am Sosondowah," he said.
Gendewitha’s eyes widened–she recognized the name. "Why have you brought me here?" she asked.
"I would wed you, if you would have me," he said.
She looked him up and down, then nodded. "I would."
Dawn swept out of her lodge, her eyes dark with rage. "How dare you!" She slapped Sosondowah hard across the face, knocking him off of his feet. A great weight pinned him down.
She turned to Gendewitha. "You do not belong here, woman."
Gendewitha raised her chin. "Perhaps not. But I was invited."
Sosondowah struggled against Dawn’s hold. He had to protect Gendewitha.
A slow smile spread across Dawn’s face. "I suppose you were. But inviting you was not his place. It is mine."
She grabbed Gendewitha’s arm. Pure white light spread from her hand, turning skin and flesh to shimmering fire. Gendewitha screamed as Dawn transformed her into a star. "It would be rude to turn you away," Dawn said.
Dawn threw Gendewitha high into the eastern sky. The new star flew away, growing smaller and smaller, until she was a twinkling point of light. For a moment, she hung high overhead. Then she fell. Sosondowah screamed her name, and she froze just above the horizon.
"She will herald my approach, be my Dawn Star." Dawn smirked at Sosondowah. "And you will forever be able to watch her without having her."
Dawn let him go and reentered her lodge.
Sosondowah stared at the door for a long moment, then at the bright star in the east. He imagined watching her for the rest of time. He wondered if she could see him, if stars could yearn for their lover or cry from loneliness.
He wondered if she could still sing.
He transformed into his hawk shape. He made his wings wide, for his journey would be long. He darkened his feathers, to hide better from Dawn, and grew his downy layer thick, for the space between stars was colder than any winter.
He left Dawn’s door unguarded, and flew into the sky.