Arlia hastily wiped the moisture from her eyes and squinted.
Her eyes widened when a tiny little head emerged from the flow of gold. Two blue eyes looked up at her curiously.
“Na’Ral” she whispered, half a question, half realization that it had worked.
The tiger raised a paw and playfully batted at the dust particles swirling around it.
Arlia’s lips curled into a smile while admiring the newly conjured life. She briefly felt disappointment the baby did not float above the ground, which would have been an unmistakable sign of wings. But the creature was too lovely, and so her disappointment was quickly replaced by pure joy.
She got to her feet and took a few steps forward. Then she remembered Muthra, and turned around to check on her. The old woman was just opening her eyes. She looked at Arlia, and then past her towards the marble podium. Arlia saw her hand flying up to her mouth.
“By the Gods,” she whispered, staring towards Na’Ral.
Arlia’s heart skipped a beat.
What had happened? Did something go wrong after all?
She jerked her head to the right, towards Na’Ral. With a look of shock on her face, she saw what had made her teacher gasp. The golden dust had receded, only a thin ring of gold remained. In the middle, the white tiger raised his head and looked at Arlia. With a high-pitched growl, so typical for young cats, the creature shook itself and then slowly spread two beautiful, golden wings.
Arlia could do nothing but stare. It was not until the little tiger growled again that the young woman rushed towards him. She picked him up as gently as possible and cradled him in her arms, her face reflecting nothing but joy and love. She lowered her head and kissed her companion on the tiny pink nose. Na’Ral looked up at her, stuck his tongue out and licked Arlia’s nose in return.
The news spread like wildfire. As soon as Arlia opened the door to her father’s house, Magra got up from his favorite arm chair and approached his daughter. There was no need for words. His eyes and the glow on his face gave away his emotions.
He patted Na’Ral on the head, and then stepped to the side so Arlia’s sisters and mother could greet the newest member of the family.
It was not long after that friends, neighbors and extended family poured in to admire the little cat. Each of them brought a gift for Arlia. Muthra handed her a blanket made of rose petals, and laughed when Na’Ral pounced on it, sniffed and then sneezed adorably.
Hours later, when all the food was gone and the guests had gone home, Arlia carried her new friend to her room and laid him gently into a wicker basket lined with soft pillows and the rose petal blanket that Na’Ral had instantly claimed.
The little creature looked up at her with sleepy eyes and snorted quietly. The his head sank down on to his paws, and he was asleep just a few seconds later. Arlia went to bed with a smile on her face, which would remain there for the rest of the night.