The bluebird fluttered, thrashing around in its cage before managing to work itself out the open door. It flew circles around Fritz and Theodore, cheering.
“Ohh! Ohh!! It’s good to get out of there! Wow!” She found a perch on Theodore’s shoulder. “Thank you! A whole lot of thank yous! You’re the first person who even tried to let me out! It really sucked in there, but you’re really nice! Do you want to be friends? I want to be friends. I hear nice people make good friends.”
“Great. Now you’ve done it,” Fritz said. “It wants to be your friend.”
“W-what should I do?” Theodore was too scared to move.
Fritz grabbed a stick and prodded it off Theodore’s shoulder. It toppled off him and fluttered into the air. That was their cue to make a break for it. They sprinted along the trail, only for the bird to fly after and alongside them with great effort.
“Whoa. You’re in a hurry!” She was chipper. “Where are you going?”
Theodore glared at her. “Home! You ought to do the same!”
“Okay! I’ll come with you.”
Fritz slapped his own face. “Argh!” They slowed to a walk once it was clear they weren’t going to escape, and the bluebird reattached itself to Theodore’s shoulder.
“Don’t make eye contact,” Fritz said. “Maybe it will go away.”
“That’s mean!” She said. “No one ever wants to be my friend! Don’t mess this up for me!!” She turned back towards Theodore, leaning to look him in the eye.
“Do you like apples?” she said.
Theodore said nothing, trying to take an intense interest in a fern growing on the side of the trail.
“What’s your favorite sort of apple?”
Theodore shooed her away. “I hate apples.”
The little bird gasped and plopped onto the ground like a half-inflated ball. “Whoa!” It hopped to its feet and skittered along the ground after him. “That’s so weird!! I thought everybody liked apples! Me, I like green ones, but also red ones. How do you feel about bread? Do you like bread?”
Fritz took this opportunity to stomp on the bird.
Theodore bit his lip. “You didn’t have to kill it.”
“Had to be done,” Fritz said, and pried a flat mangled blue disc off the bottom of his boot. “Creatures can play friendly but there’s no telling what they’re capable of.”
Theodore looked at the mess with a mix of disgust and pity. Then, to his surprise, there was a twitch and it popped back to is normal proportions. The little bird wobbled, disoriented, and shook itself back to sense.
“Ow! That hurt! Be more careful!!”
Fritz groaned. “Oh Mother of Magic, what did you get us into?”
“I’m sorry!” Theodore said, not even sure of what to feel anymore. “I thought it was just a normal talking bird!”
“Oh hey.” The bird perked its head towards the end of the trail. It opened onto a clearing. “Is that where you live??”
The two men looked. Ahead sat a stone cottage with a thatched roof and a yard drowning in weeds. Fritz waded out into the overgrowth. “Here you are. Home sweet home.”