“Now loose the dipper from its golden chain!” cried the small gray bird. “It is no longer needed here, for the last draught has been drunk. A place awaits it in the sky.”
As if fully understanding what was to be done, the boy unhooked the cup from its leash and raised it over his head. For a moment he held it there, flashing and sparkling in the shift and play of the mottled light. Then without a word he reached back and hurled the dipper into the sky. I watched it go like a streak of lightning through the morning air, surprised to see its speed apparently increasing the further and higher it flew. Straight through a gap in the ranks of marching clouds it passed, out to a place where the sky was of a particularly clear and deep blue color. There it stopped and affixed itself to the ceiling of the world. From where we stood we could see it twinkling down on us serenely from its seat in that pure and lofty dome, glowing with an ever greater intensity, a bright new morning star.
As this star passed momentarily behind an advancing line of fleecy clouds the small gray bird leapt suddenly upward from his perch at the margin of the well. In the air above our heads he burst into flame and became the terrible Firebird once more. I heard his voice as I had heard it long ago, like the roar of many waters, calling me to follow his leading. Turning, I saw the red and flickering light of his blazing wings reflected in the smooth, calm, expectant face of my young companion. I slipped my hand into his and together we began to walk up the slope, toward the dark eaves of the outermost trees, never taking our eyes off the fiery figure in the sky.
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