The soft crunch of snow beneath tiny webbed feet speckled the silence. A great march was coming to an end; hundreds of sharp shadows fanned out and away from each other in a synchronous exodus. Her path was no different from the others, lost in the cacophony of bellies gliding upon snow and the slap of feet against ice. She glided across the sparkling surface with grace and ease, propelling herself across the frozen landscape with a quiet and unsuspecting determination. One last mound carried her down into a shallow basin of snow and ice. Her slender beak balanced perfectly on the ice as the muscles in her neck tensed and she righted herself with the fluidity of the ocean. She kept her distance from the others but didn’t stray too far as she could feel the fear of solitude clawing under the ice beneath her.

One by one, the others cleaved through the group, making their way to the perimeter of their crystal home. They formed a living wall against the outside world, chests puffed proudly skyward and sharp eyes watching the breathing mass below them. Slowly, they each bent their heads down, long streamlined onyx a piercing shock against their soft white torsos.

A chaotic chorus of noise erupted from the bowing sentinels. Their cries resonated throughout the basin and fell on the rest of them like a howling storm. The corralled shadows began to stir, lending their ears to the courting songs, waiting for the tune that harmonized with their hearts. The singing barricade circled around as they too searched for their other half. So many sounds assaulted her ears, she barely knew what to make of them. She considered ignoring the calls, leaving her foolish desire for companionship there in that frozen prison, but every time she entertained the thought, the piercing scratch of fear cracked through another layer of the ice below her. It threatened to swallow her, casting her into the ocean under leagues of ice. Panic had snaked its fingers into her chest and plucked at the secret passages to her heart. Her eyes grew wild and frantic as the jagged scratching was soon the only thing to fill her ears; the sound reverberated in her mind until it consumed her. She hadn’t noticed that she had pulled away from the group, straying close to the exit of the basin and looking to the endless sheet of white to somehow save her from her despair.

A sharp cry pierced through endless white noise. For an instant, everything stopped and the world dimmed, the ambient sounds of the others becoming a dull mumble. She strained to hear the cry again, her sharp beak slicing the air as she turned her head back toward the bowed heads surrounding her. Moments dragged their tattered feet through time as she held her breath, waiting. The call came again, sharper and with greater urgency than before. Her body tensed as she narrowed her gaze to a handful of sentinels sounding off. Her heartstrings sang the echo of his cry, waiting to complete his sonata. Her eyes searched desperately, unable to see which one was calling her. At first glance, none looked unique enough to cut through her fear like one so obviously had. Her doubts began to return to her and the rumble of the crowd grew louder as she regained her senses. She prepared to return to the shuffling mob when again the cry shot through her, halting her before she could.

This time she knew.

Her feet moved before she could tell them to. They gripped clumsily at the snow as she bridged the distance between her and her reason for being; her small, firm wings flapped slightly, righting her balance in her haste, though she wished that just this once they would carry her through the sky to him.

She stopped inches in front of him. His song ceased when he saw that she had answered his call; his eyes locked with hers as he slowly raised his head from his chest, two piercing orbs of jet wrapping her in warmth. He shifted closer, crossing his beak gently with hers like a dueling sword. Forgetting the fear that scratched at the ice, she raised her own beak slowly to the sky as he traced the gentle arch she created with his own, completing it. They joined as one, the tips of their beaks resting upon each other, the world around them fading away into a quiet expanse of gentle white.

They waltzed without stirring a single snowflake.