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CH 3 | Of Change (Part 4)

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  1. Asha pulled her long wool coat around herself tighter, the wind colder than it had been for the past week. The Autumn Equinox was soon upon the Great Forest, and afterward the winter season. Despite the growing cold, however, Asha walked along the path towards the ruined tower, eager to visit Darrah again. Her pace was quick, not wanting to be in the cold too long and knowing that once she was inside the tower it would be at least marginally warmer. She was so focused on her destination, however, that she almost missed the weak caws of a crow just off the path. Asha stopped and looked for where the sound came from. When it cawed again, she found the crow underneath a small bush. It weakly cawed at her as it moved away from her. She smiled softly at it before saying soothingly, "You poor thing, just how long have you been like this?"

    Another caw and Asha wished she could understand the crow like Darrah could - her expression then brightened at the thought. With care, she held her hand out the crow, though slow so to not startle it.

    "Come on," Asha encouraged it, "Let's get you to Darrah. He'll be able to help you."

    The crow tilted its head like it was surprised, and stared at her for a few seconds before it slowly shuffled towards her hand. Its wing dragged across the ground, and Asha's heart went out to the poor bird as it clambered with unsteadiness onto her hand. Then slowly, she used her other hand to gently lift the lame wing and cup the crow in both hands securely. After that, Asha held the crow close to her and ran the rest of the way to the tower and only slowed when she reached the stairs. She sighed with relief upon seeing Darrah. At the sound, the Crow Lord turned and paused when he saw the crow in her hands. It gave him a pitiful look, and Darrah then asked Asha, "What's wrong with him?" as he held out his hands to her for the crow,

    "I think it's his wing," she told him as she gently handed over the crow, "I heard him on my way here."

    Darrah held the crow in one hand as he used the other to gently stretch and inspect the wing. The bird was quiet as he did this, likely knowing better than to make a fuss while the Crow Lord did his job. After a few moments, Darrah returned his gaze to Asha's expectant one and said calmly, "He will be fine."

    "What happened to his wing, though?"

    "There are only a few fractured bones in a few places," he assured her, "No complete breaks, which is good."

    Asha smiled as she said, "That is good news."

    Darrah had started to turn away towards his little table when he then paused. He looked back at her, and to his own surprise he asked her, "Would you like to help me with him?"

    She was stunned by the offer, but her bright smile revealed itself as she joined him at his side. Asha watched him as he worked, occasionally looking for and retrieving the things he asked her, and followed his instructions carefully. She was in awe the entire time he splinted and wrapped the crow's wing. It wasn't just duty for him, Asha realized when Darrah was finished and his mismatched gaze met hers, it was sincere care. He loved the ravens, crows, and even the magpies of the Great Forest, and cared for them as fully as he had cared for Corvus himself and this was why she loved-

    Asha paused there, the last part of that thought nearly tangible to her. She loved him, the Crow Lord, a god of the forest and she loved him.

    "Thank you for bringing him to me, Asha," her heartbeat picked up a little, "He would have been in greater danger when night fell, and his call was too weak for me to hear."

    "It's your job to help them," Asha gestured to other birds in the room, "And I don't mind helping you, Darrah."

    She did not voice this new feeling, having decided to think more about this feeling in private. After that, though, Asha did know what she would do with it should it still be as true as it felt now.

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