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CH 3 | Of Change (Part 2)

It was only a few days later, as Darrah checked on the birds, when Asha dashed inside with all suddenness. This spooked the ravens and crows and they cawed their indignation as she ran into him and wrapped her arms around his chest. Startled as well, it took the Crow Lord a few moments before he realized that she was sobbing. It was then with care that he put his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her as her small body shook.

“What has happened Asha?” He asked her quietly, the birds now calmed down and it made room for them to speak.

“I-It was a dream,” She managed to say, burying her forehead in his chest. “I was on the outskirts of the village, on top of one of the hills facing the distance. There were no sensations though. I should… I should have felt the wind on my face, heard the sounds of the village, but there was nothing. Everything was so unnaturally still - like the sun and moon had stopped moving!”

Darrah then lifted a hand, stroking his thin fingers through her light hair before he said gently, “Go on.”

After another series of sobs, she told him haltingly, “I heard a voice behind me, faint but there. It whispered to me - told me to turn around and witness what was there behind me. I didn’t want to, but in the end, I had to!” Asha buried her head deeper into his cloak, and the Crow Lord simply continued to stroke her hair.

“And what did you see?” He crooned, gave her the courage to continue, even though he believed he already knew what Asha had seen.

“I saw ravens, far more than those here, and wooden for the dead.”

Her small form continued to shake as she sobbed, and the ravens and crows around them ruffled their feathers as their caretaker comforted his young companion. Other than that there was silence between them for the minutes it took for her to more fully calm down. And once she was she then asked of him, “What does it mean, Darrah?”

“The dream?”

She nodded into his chest, and he released a long sigh as he knew he could not lie to her.

“Death comes to your village.”

Asha stilled against him. "Death? How do you know?"

"I know because it is part of what Corvus does as a Forest God, and as such another duty I aid him in."

Asha, still cursed with sniffles, pulled back to look up at him. Her eyes were reddened, her cheeks the same from the tears, and a pang of strange guilt struck him.

"What do you mean?"

The hand that had been in her hair moved to banish a fresh tear, though Darrah did not know the specific reason why he had done so - only that it felt right.

"Corvus is one of the few Forest Gods besides the Kings of Winter and Summer who maintain the cycle of life and death. He must be forewarning now if you have received such a dream."

"Forewarning?" Asha questioned, and Darrah nodded. "Some mortals can receive visions of events to come. I am sure your mother received the same dream?"

She quickly nodded, and Darrah then asked her, "And what did she tell you?"

"That sometimes Herb Witches get dreams of terrible events, allowing them to prepare for it so it isn't as bad."

Darrah gave her a soft smile and said, "It will not be as terrifying as the vision makes it out to be. Your mother is an excellent Herb Witch and I am sure you will be needed at her side."

Asha managed to return the smile, and asked, "What are you doing to help Corvus, then?"

"My part comes after it is all done. I help guide the lingering spirits back into the cycle to be reborn."

Asha gave him a confused look. "Lingering spirits?"

"Some become lost when trying to rejoin the cycle, and I have the power as Corvus does to help them."

"So why are you not the 'Raven Lord' if you have similar magic to Corvus?"

This caused Darrah to think a moment before he carefully replied, "I believe that is because my duties relate more to crows than ravens."

"How so?"

Though Darrah was startled by this new line of questioning, he found himself glad she was no longer shaking from the dream.

"Mortals have always believed ravens to be messengers of omens, good and ill, and crows come through after the omens to make sure nothing remains. This includes lost souls, though few villages beyond your own believe this."

"And what do they believe?"

The Crow Lord sighed. "That they are mere carrion birds."

He had pulled his gaze away from her as he said that, but drew it back to her was a small giggle. When Asha saw his confused expression, the small laughter died down naturally and she explained, "Well, then they just don't know you well enough to know better. Your crows are beautiful Darrah, and even I can see that they have an important job like my mother does."

Darrah stared at her, well and truly surprised, which sent Asha into another fit of poorly stifled laughter.

"Don't you know how to accept a compliment?"

"Not from you," He managed, and Asha's smile was bright when she replied, "Well, I plan to give more of them to you, so you'll have to manage somehow until you can."

Darrah returned the smile, though to a smaller degree.

"I suppose I will have to."

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Samantha England
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