It took precisely three months of peace, quiet, and interspecies lovemaking before the small utopia Avery and Lakshmi had made for themselves was shattered.

They had taken a small, mostly untrodden Way, one that led to the dreamings of a long-grown psychic child (though neither of them had any way of knowing that. They had simply stumbled across it, as with the discovery of most beautiful things).

"She's wondrous," Lakshmi whispered. Before them, the gyrfalcon, tall as the surrounding ancient evergreens, bent to touch her beak to Avery's nose.

"Hello Duchess," Avery said. "I've brought a friend."

The falcon shook her feathers, then sneezed. Lakshmi's startled expression made Avery chuckle. Smiling and other happy expressions were hard when you didn't have lips, but there were a few key gestures - a twitching of the ears, a tilt of the head, a shifting of weight back onto the haunches - that served just as well. Lakshmi had learned where to look. The falcon cheeped, tilting its head to match Avery's. "She likes you! I thought she would. C'mon in."

"Wait, what -" Lakshmi was cut off as Avery ushered her into the falcon's chest feathers. They stepped into a room