As you bed down for the night the buzz in the tavern below begins to quieten as the last patrons leave. You hear Urwin Martikov whistle a gentle and yet familiar tune to himself as he locks up for the night and retires with his family to their quarters. Minutes become hours as you each discuss what happens next and slowly but surely, one by one, you fall asleep.
Except for you. You lay they awake counting the footsteps of the city guards as they patrol the cobbled streets below. “All is well” one will say in passing another, and “All is well” is the response. Between these passings (which you now know to be roughly twenty minutes apart) the world is unusually still and quiet. You could be forgiven in this dark hour to believing there’s nothing wrong with Barovia at all, that all is indeed well.
Unbeknownst to you and your slumbering companions however is the murder of crows swirling like a vortex in the cold black sky just above the Blue Water Inn. Round and round they go like a jet black whirlwind against an obsidian black backdrop illuminated only by the faded light of another cloud covered moon.
Cawing and gnawing at one another with sharp black stilleto like beaks one seems to be the target of the others and like a swarm they fly past him with claws and beak at the ready. Swiping and slashing, over and over, the black bird tries to escape but the whirlwind of feathers blocks his path. Mercy holds no lands in Barovia and after a few excruciating minutes the black bird plummets downward, the other crows’ caws cutting through the silence like twisted laughter.
That’s how you’d describe it. A gentle, soft ‘thwup’ as the silken black body landed directly in the dead planter outside the inn window. Deathly still you waited. You’re not even sure why or what for but you waited. “All is well” said a voice below and again “All is well” was the response. It had been twenty minutes and if anything was going to happen to the body of that bird, it would have happened already. At least that’s what you told yourself as you made your way bare foot to the window and unhooked the tarnished brass clasp.
The window opened uncharacteristically without a sound. You wasn’t sure what you expected but the bird lay there lifeless and still, feathers pecked clean from its skin in a dark halo around its corpse in the dead flower planter. Something in you told you to pick it up, some uncontrollable urge forced you to reach out and touch it and with trembling fingers you inched ever closer, the sound of your heart beat pounding inside your chest and as you were just in reach of the creature the bird sprung to its feet. The complete surprise of this sudden reaction almost sent you sprawling but you steadied yourself as the birds black eyes set upon you.
“Madam Eva” it cawed roughly. “Madam Eva will see you now”.
And with wings outstretched the bird took to the skies and joined again with its brethren, feathers fluttering and wings flapping.
“All is well” came a voice from below and as you tuned in from your stupor to listen for the response you realised you were back in bed, the window firmly shut as it had been and no sign of any birds anywhere. “All is well” came the response.
“All is well.”
Mar 01 Craig
End of the Line
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