The Leader of the Seven Sand Dragons, who was called Moeqhu-Qaz, had a very beautiful daughter, named Chope. Men came from all over the Land to seek the hand of Chope, the Sand Dragon’s Daughter. First came Mawlgi-Tsath, the Enemy of the Forest, but he was turned away. Then came Mask Behind the Sky, from whom all the stillness had been carved, but he, too, was turned away. Then came Kop-Kop-Tep, the Emperor of the Five Rivers, but he, too, was turned away. No man was good enough for Chope, to the eye of Moeqhu-Qaz.
Fiery-Feathered Phembu, the First Among Pheasants, who is a trickster and a mischief-maker, came to the Desert Manse of Moeqhu-Qaz, where he administered the traditional bribes to the Minister and the Head Servant, and sent the traditional persimmon to the Record-Keeper, and then was he sent the traditional blue slippers, admitting him to an audience with Moeqhu-Qaz, the Leader of the Seven Sand Dragons.
Said Moeqhu-Qaz to Fiery-Feathered Phembu:
“Why come you to my home?”
To which Fiery-Feathered Phembu replied:
“I come for the hand of your daughter!”
Moeqhu-Qaz laughed, and said:
“What can you give me, O Honored First Among Pheasants, that the others have not given me in thousands?
From Mawlgi-Tsath, the Enemy of the Forest, I recieved seven thousand great huge logs, five thousand talents of dragon’s glass, eighty jeweled swords, forty golden breastplates, and nineteen beautiful slave-girls.
From Mask Behind the Sky, I recieved nine hundred firey jewels, nine hundred moon jewels, nine hundred talents of black jade from the East, and nine hundred doe-eyed handsome slave-boys.
From Kop-Kop-Tep, the Emperor of the Five Rivers, I recieved twenty thousand Tiger Warriors, twenty thousand pochui of good riverland, four thousand fine bales of rainbow silk, and the mummy-corpse of a sorceror, containing much power. What can you give me, Fiery-Feathered Phembu, that I do not have?”
Fiery-Feathered Phembu hid his eyes behind his wing and feigned grief.
“Alas,” sobbed he, “That was not the answer I had hoped for.”
Moeqhu-Qaz, the Leader of the Sand Dragons, nodded and curled his long whiskers around his blue-enameled talons, and said:
“Yes, truly. But, as I am not a bad host, we shall take a bowl of Young Monkey Tea in my garden.”
So Fiery-Feathered Phembu and Moeqhu-Qaz retired to the Sand Dragon’s Garden.
Fiery-Feathered Phembu said, as he sipped Young Monkey Tea from his tea-bowl:
“Perhaps I have one thing that may be good enough for you.”
Moeqhu-Qaz gave him a sideways look and said:
“What might this be?”
Cleverly, Fiery-Feathered Phembu said:
“You will see.”
And this he repeated until he noticed Chope, the Sand Dragon’s Daughter, enter the garden. Then said he:
“I will show you now.”
Fiery-Feathered Phembu, who was very vain, had tricked the Sun out of some of his gold in order to brighten his plumage, wherefore he shone with rainbow colors, and was called Fiery-Feathered. All knew that Fiery-Feathered Phembu would never give up one of his brilliant feathers. But, to Moeqhu-Qaz’s astonishment, Fiery-Feathered Phembu grasped some shining feathers from his breast, and some from his splendid long tail, and some from his crown-crest, until he had a great many brilliant feathers, and these he wove together with a crown of grass and blossoms, to make a beautiful, rainbow head-dress.
When he was done, he said:
“This I present you.”
Moeqhu-Qaz felt humbled by this gift, but still said he:
“No, say I. It is not enough.”
Yet Chope, the Sand Dragon’s Daughter, gasped, and said:
“Father, look how beautiful it is!”
Moeqhu-Qaz was devoted to his daughter, but would not budge and they began to argue. As they did this, Fiery-Feathered Phembu, the First Among Pheasants, crept up behind Chope and placed the splendid head-dress upon her beautiful head.
When the crown was placed upon her head, Chope, the Sand Dragon’s Daughter, grew wings, and plumage, and her face became a beak, and her feet became claws.
Then, together, Fiery-Feathered Phembu, the First Among Pheasants, and Chope, the Wife of Phembu, flew away from Moeqhu-Qaz, the Leader of the Sand Dragons, who cursed them bitterly as they flew away.
Fiery-Feathered Phembu’s Better Feathers is a great feather head-dress, made from such feathers as one has never seen before. The feathers are a rainbow of colors, iridescent and shining, and brilliant. The head-dress, when worn, cascades like a cloak down the wearer’s back.
The power of Fiery-Feathered Phembu’s Better Feathers is immediate and powerful.
The wearer may transform himself into a very large, brilliant bird, with a wingspan of about 5 feet, and strong enough to carry a small child or a large dog.
One may remain in bird form for one day and one night, and afterward will become normal form again, and, being quite exhausted from their journeys, will almost immediately fall asleep.
In bird form, one may fly as fast as the swift river may flow, traveling from city to city, mountain to mountain, forest to forest, within moments.
The sense of freedom and happiness felt when in this bird-form is mighty, and irresistable. The first time the transformation occurs, one is addicted.
Eventually, the wearer of the Better Feathers will become a bird entirely. Instead of a magical transformation, the wearer’s skin with peel away, revealing a brilliant avian beneath. The feathers that are left behind as this bird flies away remake themselves back into Fiery-Feathered Phembu’s Better Feathers.