An Unkindness At South Water

“Roarc!” A coarse cry sounded off somewhere in the distance.

Old Bramblefoot smiled and halted in his tracks. It couldn’t be, could it? The wind swept across Nen Harn, Bramblefoot’s robes swayed in the heavy breeze as he turned, looking for any sign of his dear friend. Nothing. Bramblefoot could not shake off the feeling that he was being watched. His search that day had yielded no clues, no signs.

“Roarc!” The cry came again.

Idle hands fuelled an idle mind in times like these, and Bramblefoot had started to think his mind was turning to madness. Could it have been his fear of the most terrible ravens? He went about gathering wood for the fire. Crack! His arm fell, beating his knife down with a stick to split a thin birch bough, it had fallen willingly of course. Crack! Another quarter for the fire. Roarc! Brigferth glared around and shook his head, he had expected to hear another crack. His arm froze in motion and he peered out from beneath his sun bleached hood. Up and down the banks of South Water. Not a soul in sight. The fire was ablaze, and Bramblefoot was due a hot meal. Nettle roots and leaves and dandelion greens sat in simmering water, stirred slowly with a stick. The old man exhaled gently and looked upon the old ruins which sat on the lake, he envisioned it full of companions, a fire burning, and around it a shared meal. A curious squint marred his otherwise thoughtful features as he spotted a small black shape atop a crumbling stack of stone. “Roarc!” The call seemed impatient this time and so Bramblefoot gave a short wave. Friend or foe, he wished to know, though that familiar call had been driving him mad, it couldn’t be who he thought it might be.

Powerful wings beat the air majestically as the visitor made its way closer. “By all the roots under the ground.” Bramblefoot gasped and lifted his pot from the fire. “Roarc.” The carrion bird cawed after his landing and regarded Bramblefoot, he beat his wings excitedly and his flitted his head from side to side as he looked Bramblefoot over keenly. “Thongryn.” Bramblefoot dipped his head to his dear friend and spoke in a hushed tone “Roarc, it has been too long not to see you, dear friend, where is your Unkindness?” The raven dipped his head in turn. “We thought you would have lay down and died, by now.” The raven spoke crude westron in a harsh tone but Bramblefoot knew his friend’s dark humor, and it drew a smile from him. Roarc continued, swiftly croaking “I will not stay friend, the others watch for me and I fear it is not safe. Fare well on your hunt.” With that, Roarc flew again, and his black silhouette disappeared quickly into the hills. Bramblefoot smiled his most sincere smile as a warm comfort filled his belly and heart.

Watching the embers burn low, Bramblefoot noticed in the corner of his eye that his friend had left the strangest of presents. “How do you quite manage it, old man? You have a way of finding things that should not even be there…” He picked up a large black feather, of a size and make he had never laid his eyes on before, and it most certainly would lead him further along the trail. His eyes looked to the skies for any sign of his careful allies, he offered a bow in deep gratitude, whether the raven could see it or not.

*             *             *

Far off upon a crevice, there sat an Unkindness of Ravens, croaking and rattling and cawing quietly amongst each other in their own tongue. Their wings barely beat, for going unseen and unheard was their uttermost concern. A greying raven watched out over Nen Harn, his rattling was deeper than the others, and he paused in his conversation to watch Bramblefoot take a deep bow, dipping and cocking his head of ruffled feathers in reply.